Thursday after the Fifth Sunday of the Resurrection of Our Lord
Commemoration of Athanasius of Alexandria, Pastor and Confessor
National Day of Prayer
May 2, 2013
He is Risen!
This coming Sunday is the Sixth Sunday of the Resurrection of Our Lord (Easter 6), May 5. It is also the Commemoration of Frederick the Wise, Christian Ruler. We will be using the service of Prayer and Preaching for our liturgy, which begins on page 260 of the hymnal. This is a non-communion service. As is typical of our Prayer services, a Psalm is used instead of the Introit. The appointed Psalm is Psalm 67. The appointed lessons are Acts 16:9-15; Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27; and John 16:23-33. Some churches in the LCMS will certainly use John 5:1-9 for the Gospel lesson, as that is an option for Sunday.
The sermon Sunday is titled: The Wall that Separates. The text is Revelation 21:26-27. The lessons are very rich theologically and one could easily go a different direction with the sermon (as the summary from the LCMS reveals).
Our hymns continue to accent that we are in the Easter Season. Our opening hymn is “All the Earth with Joy Is Sounding” (LSB 462). Our closing hymn is “I Am Content! My Jesus Ever Lives” (LSB 468). Our sermon hymn breaks from the Easter theme, reflecting a theme in the message. It is “What Is the World to Me” (LSB 730). I have been unable to locate a video of for any of these hymns.
In our prayers Sunday we will remember Frederick the Wise. If you are not sure of who he was, the following link will take you to a post I placed last year on this blog about him: http://www.lutheran-in-sc.blogspot.com/2012/05/frederick-wise-christian-ruler.html.
We will also remember those trapped in slavery today, those who have been misled by our cultures advocacy of abortion and sexual immorality, the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, and our sister congregations in the SED (this Sunday: Immanuel & St. John’s, Alexandria, VA; St. Paul, Amelia, VA; Our Savior, Arlington, VA; Risen Christ, Myrtle Beach, SC). We also continue to remember believers around the world. This Sunday we remember the Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia and their Bishop, Rev. Arri Kugappi, the persecuted believers in Kyrgyzstan, and the African Immigrant Mission of North America, and our missionaries in Macau, Matt and Kim Myers.
Preview of Lessons
This is the account of the first known conversion to Christianity in Europe. I say “first known” because it is entirely possible that some saint, unknown to us but a shining star in heaven, brought the faith to Europe before Paul and his company. Be that as it may, this is a great “first contact” story because it accents how different the Christian Faith was from the prevailing culture (as it continues to be today). Paul was considering what to do next when he received his “Macedonian Call.” Macedonia is north of Greece and part of Europe. So far as history tells us, the Christian Faith had not yet reached Europe. As Christianity is so associated with European history, it might be hard for us to comprehend how 1st century people living in the Middle East, especially Jewish people, might view Europeans negatively in reference to evangelism prospects. Many Jews were not even convinced that Europeans could indeed be saved; in fact, they might not even be really human. So Paul’s call to go to Europe for the express purpose of sharing the faith (as opposed to simple economic reasons) was a bold move. Next Paul goes to a “place of prayer” by a river. (Corporate prayer could easily have been a focus of the sermon, by the way.) Such gatherings were typical in places where there were a few Jews, but not enough men to establish a synagogue (the importance of corporate worship could also have been the focus of the sermon). Among others, Paul finds Lydia. She is a “seller of purple.” The esv adds “goods” after purple, so we can understand what she did. This was a very profitable business, so Lydia was probably well off. She was a “God Fearer” (esv has “worshiper of God”). This was a person who was attracted to the Jewish Faith, but had not become a full-fledged Jew. Paul, an important teacher, teaches Lydia and the other ladies present. This may not seem remarkable to you, but in his day it simply was not done. Paul, of course, is following the example of Jesus (John 4:1-42; Luke 10:38-42) which was equally shocking. The Christian Faith has done more to elevate the lives and status of women than anything else in all of history. After Lydia’s conversion, she invites Paul and his company to stay at her place (another indication that she was finically well off). Paul and his troop agree. Again, we might not take notice of this, but another major cultural taboo was crossed at this point. This reading might well “fly under the radar” today, but when Luke wrote it, it would have jumped off the page, screaming that the Gospel was for everyone. The walls erected by humanity are broken down by the Gospel.
Revelation 21: 9-14, 21-27
John has another vision of heaven. The “bride, the wife of the Lamb” is the “Church.” As the text makes clear, “Church” should be understood as true believers from every age and from all locations. This “bride” is also “the holy city Jerusalem.” One of the main forces of the images (gates on all walls, the treasure of the kings being brought in, etc.) all accent that people will be brought to faith from every corner of the world and from every social strata. As the sermon will come from this reading, I’ll say no more.
Jesus is preparing his disciples from his upcoming crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The disciples are having a hard time understanding (no surprise there). As soon as they begin to get an inkling, Jesus reveals more and they are again confused. The reason Jesus is giving this advance notice to his disciples is so that they will not be troubled when it all happens. Indeed, through his bloody death and burial, as well as his resurrection and ascension, Jesus overcomes the world. Our Lord’s victory through suffering has been the model for his followers ever since (despite the loud denials of the prosperity preachers, who do not proclaim authentic Christianity). A second theme here is prayer. Jesus instructs us to pray in his name, that is, in faith in his atoning death and resurrection and according to his will. This is not a magic formula. Because of the work of Christ we are able to make our appeal directly to the Father. Of course, those who do not bring their prayers to the Father by the Son have no guarantee that the Father will graciously hear them. Because the Father loves them, He might, but there is no promise. There is much in this lesson that could be applied to the divinity of Jesus or to the relationship between the Father and the Son.
Jesus Turns Sorrow into Joy We Pray to the Father in Jesus’ Name
(Summary from LC-MS)
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus has opened the way to the Father, so that “whatever you ask of the Father” in Jesus’ name, “he will give it to you” (John 16:23). We pray, therefore, in the confidence that we will be heard and answered, that our “joy may be full” (John 16:24). We pray because the Gospel has been preached to us, and the Lord has opened our hearts to believe the Gospel (Acts 16:10, 14). We pray in the name of Jesus because we have been baptized into Him, as Lydia and her household were baptized (Acts 16:15). We have been healed, and we live and walk and pray in newness of life (John 5:8–9). For we stand upon the firm foundation “of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14), and our temple is “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22).
- As you probably have noticed, the May newsletter has been put on this blog. Sunday a print copy will be available for those without internet access. Calendars will be in everyone’s boxes.
- As far as I know, nothing is scheduled for Sunday beyond our regular schedule of Bible study at 9:00 and worship at 10:30.
- A prayer for the National Day of Prayer was posted earlier today.
Well, I pray we will see you Sunday.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert