Thursday, May 12, 2011

Worship for Easter 4 - 2011

Thursday after Easter 2
May 12, 2011

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday will be the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Easter 4). We will be using Matins (page 219) for our liturgy. Matins is one of the historic “prayer hours” developed in the monasteries. The historic “hours” are Matins (performed at night, often midnight), Lauds (done at dawn or 3:00 AM), Prime (early morning, about 6:00 AM), Terce (mid-morning, around 9:00 AM), Sext (mid-day, around noon), None (mid-afternoon, around 3:00 PM), Vespers (evening, “at the lighting of the lamps,” around 6:00 PM), and Compline (before going to bed, around 9:00 PM.). Lutherans have historically retained Matins and Vespers for public worship, moving Matins from midnight to later in the morning. The “Western” influence in establishing these “hours” is seen by starting the day at midnight instead of sunset or sunrise. For corporate worship, aside from Matins and Vespers, the Lutheran Service Book also provides a setting for Compline (page 253) and two services that are an amalgamation of the other unused services called Morning Prayer (page 235) and Evening Prayer (page 243).These two “new” services are basically modifications of services developed in the Episcopal/Anglican traditions.

The use of the prayer offices (hours) is once again growing in popularity. Many churches are now offering one or more of them at least once during the week. Many individuals have begun to incorporate them in their personal devotional life. These offices, which focus primarily on the book of Psalms, provide wonderful ways to begin or end the day. Can you think of a better way to begin the day that with the opening words of Matins, taken from Psalm 51:15: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise”? The opening versicles from Compline are wonderful to ponder as you prepare to go to bed: “The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and peace at the last. Amen. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to Your name, O Most High; to herald Your love in the morning, Your truth at the close of the day” (Psalm 92:1).

The Latin name for Easter 4 is Jubilate. It again comes from the first word in the historic Introit for the day, which translates into English, “Shout for Joy [to God]” (Psalm 66:1). The appointed Psalm for Easter 4 in series A of the three-year lectionary (which is what we are using at Lamb of God this year) is Psalm 23. So once again the old name does not fit the new lectionary. However, for the churches that are using the one-year lectionary, the old Introit is retained so, for them, the old name still fits. We will be using Psalm 23 Sunday. Our antiphon will be verse 1.

Our appointed lessons from Sunday are: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10. The sermon is titled “Your Resurrection Life.” The text is 1 Peter 2:21. We sing only three hymns when we use Matins. Our opening hymn will be the one we are learning this month, “This Is the Spirit’s Entry Now” (LSB 591). The sermon hymn will be “I Walk in Danger All the Way” (LSB 716). Our closing hymn will be “This Joyful Eastertide” (LSB 482).

The video below is of the boys choir of King’s College Cambridge singing "This Joyful Eastertide."

Our Sunday morning adult Bible study is continuing its study of the Gospel of Matthew. We will pick-up with verse 12 of chapter 4. Jesus has just finished his forty day fast/test in the wilderness and returns to Galilee. He hears that John the Baptist has been arrested, calls his first disciples, and begins his public ministry. Our Education Hour begins at 9:00 AM and everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Acts 2:42-47: These closing verses of Acts 2 give us a look at the life of the very first Christians. It was an exciting time. The hostility of the Jewish leaders had not yet come out and so the believers were still welcome in the temple. This time of peace would not last long. We are told that “they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching." Today we do that by attending to their writings. This is certainly describing a worship service, in part we know this because that was the only place they could attend to the teaching of the Apostles. The New Testament had not been written. However, the rest of the text also points to elements in their worship service. “Fellowship” can only happen when you gather together. “The breaking of bread” is a reference to the Lord’s Supper, again something that is shared in a corporate, worship, setting. Finally, we are told that they attended to “the prayers.” Some translation, like the NIV, loosely translate this “and prayer” but the ESV “the prayers” is correct. By sticking with the Greek it becomes more difficult to imagine Luke is speaking of private devotional time. “The prayers” is speaking of the corporate, public, prayers of the Church. May Pentecostals become enamored with verse 43 and treat it as a promise. It is not a promise. It is a descriptive passage, just like verse 42 is describing their worship service. This is also true of verses 44-46. These verses do not endorse communism. It is worth noting that the giving the believers did was all voluntary. Nothing was mandated by the Apostles. This group was easily identified by the way they loved each other, as Jesus said would happen (John 13:35).

1 Peter 2:19-25: This reading will form the foundation of Sunday’s sermon, so I’m not going to say much here. However it should be obvious to all who read it that the words are completely out of sync with the “health and welfare” and “name it claim it” doctrines so popular among some segments of American Christianity.

John 10:1-10: Jesus warns us against false teachers with a shepherd metaphor. Those who hear Jesus (attend to his word) are safe because they are not fooled by those who come to steel and destroy (the false teachers). In going over this text with the Greek club Monday I was hit by something I never noticed before. In verse 9 Jesus says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” In the Greek, the words “in” and “out” could easily have been “eis” and “eck.” Our English translations would be the same for these words are commonly translated “in” and “out.” However John records Jesus using compound words. The words “eis” and “eck” are joined with the word “luo,” which means “release,” or “loose.” “Luo” is often used in the New Testament in reference to sin, we are “released” or “loosed” from our sins, and so is often translated “forgive.” So, in the Greek, it becomes pretty obvious that Jesus is speaking of forgiveness of sins. The way to enter the presence of God is through forgiveness. As Jesus is the door through which we go in and out, forgiveness is found in Christ. Jesus makes it clear that there is no other way to go in and out. He is the one and only door. There is no other way to receive forgiveness of sin except through Jesus.

• Don’t forget that this Saturday, May 14, at 2:00 PM, we will be showing the video the “Spiritual Heritage” of America. It is a video tour of the Capital, reflecting on the faith that is reflected in so many of the elements there.
• Sunday we will have our regularly scheduled Voters’ meeting. While nothing earth-shattering will be decided (at least I don’t think so), everyone is still encouraged to attend. This is OUR church, after all.
• Our Women’s Bible Fellowship was unable to meet this past Wednesday as the power in the church had been knocked out by the storm. Their next meeting will be May 25, when they will begin their new Bible study.

Well, I pray I will see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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