New Revised Standard Version
Scripture Summary for Palm Sunday – Year A (April 5) by Rev. Shelley
Traditionally this Sunday has been known as Palm Sunday. With fewer people attending Good Friday services, many denominations are adding the Passion readings to this day. To go from a triumphal entry into Jerusalem on one Sunday to Resurrection the next, leaves out the crucial story of the Cross of Christ.
Matthew 21:1-11: Jesus and his disciples come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Passover. A room is secured, and a donkey for Jesus to ride on. People are caught up in the excitement of the day, lauding Jesus with branches and voices. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Yet in the midst of this triumphal entry, Jesus himself has chosen the mode of transport. Rather than a horse, the traditional animal for a powerful king, Jesus rides into the city on a donkey, a lowly service beast. He continues to re-write what power and glory will look like in God's kingdom.
Psalm 31:9-16: The Psalmist is going through a crisis. All have turned against him. He pleads to God for help, as he is in distress. As he paints his picture, we can see how well it describes what Jesus will go through in our gospel reading today. Yet the Psalmist's final affirmation is that “You are my God – my times are in your hand”. This is not only Jesus' affirmation, but it can become all of ours as we face the hardships of our own lives.
Philippians 2:5-11: St. Paul invites each of us to step into the identity of Christ. Christ has voluntarily left all the privileges of the Godhead to take on human form. Christ embraced this new calling and humbled himself to the point of death. By dying a sinless death he has now been exalted by God to the highest glory in heaven or on earth. His name is above all others and we bow before him out of love and thankfulness.
Matthew 26:14-27:54: Today we do a dramatic reading of Matthew's version of the Passion story. Betrayal, love, jealousy, kindness, belief and unbelief. All are represented in this morning's reading. We see the resolution and faith of Jesus contrasted with the duplicity and fearfulness of so many others. As we read the story today, try putting yourself in each character's part. We are all capable of playing all the roles. Matthew includes the detail that as Jesus gave up his spirit “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom”. This curtain was used to shield the glory of God in the inner sanctuary from those on the outside. Now that glory is present for all to behold; the glory of God shining forth in the face of Jesus Christ.
Scripture Summary For Maundy Thursday – Year A (April 9) by Rev. Shelley
Exodus 12:1-14: Here God begins a new work among the Israelites. It is a beginning that they are to celebrate in perpetuity. This is the day that God will rescue his people from slavery. He will do this through the gentlest of animals. If a lamb is slain and it blood put on the lintel of each household's door, those inside will be spared. This will become the Passover feast for the Jewish people right into 21st century.
Psalm 116:1, 10-17: The psalmist begins his prayer with, “I love the Lord because...”. In response to God's kindness, the psalmist outlines the many actions he will take in thanksgiving. “I will call on the Lord. I will lift up the cup of salvation. I will fulfill my vows”. The final action will be God's as God welcomes his precious ones in death.
I Corinthians 11:23-26: St. Paul reminds the readers of his letter that when they (we) celebrate the Lord's supper, we are doing it in obedience to Christ. Whenever we eat and drink we are remembering the fact of Christ's death and all that it means. As the Jewish Passover meal remembers the deliverance from slavery in Egypt; the celebration of Christ's death remembers that it was to deliver all humanity from the crippling effect of sin on our lives
Mathew 26:36-45: Tonight we choose a different Maundy Thursday reading. The disciples' feet have been washed by Jesus, the last supper has been eaten, Peter has declared his undying loyalty to Jesus, and Judas has left to betray Jesus. We are now in the Garden of Gethsemene. Jesus is at his moment of greatest agony. Three times Jesus asks Father God whether there is another way for the salvation of the world. The disciples sleep through most of this encounter. The scene ends with the arrival of the betrayer.
Scripture Summary For Good Friday – Year A (April 10) by Rev. Shelley
Isaiah 52:13-53:12: This picture of the suffering servant can be seen as the people of Israel. Isaiah's image of the suffering servant also takes on a new significance as early Christians begin to see in this a picture of the suffering of Jesus Christ. This servant would be raised up and many would be appalled at his appearance. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was pierced for our transgressions and wounded for our iniquities. We have heard this passage read and sung so often in conjunction with Jesus Christ that we forget that it was written 400-500 years before He was born.
Psalm 22: This well known Psalm was written by King David. It's opening words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” have become the cry of many who suffer great pain and lose. Jesus cries these words from the Cross. His mockers, knowingly or unknowingly even hurl the insults of verse back on him. “He trusts in the Lord, let the Lord rescue him”. As we pray for all those who suffer, and as we reflect especially on Christ's pain and sacrifice on our behalf, the psalmist also reminds us that the whole earth will ultimately be drawn to this suffering One.
Hebrews 10:16-25: Here the writer of the Hebrews reminds us that because of the sacrifice of Christ and his resurrection we now have full access to God the Father. This encourages us to persevere in the faith. Let us continue to meet together so that we can encourage each other with this message of hope and forgiveness.
John 18:1-19:42: John presents his version of the Passion story. The story is prefaced by “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him...”. This is a more serene picture of the suffering servant than the other gospels present. Jesus is fully in charge, even as He is the prisoner of both the religious authorities and the political masters. Read through this passage and compare it to the other three gospels' account of Christ's passion.
Scripture Summary for Easter Sunday – Year C (April 12) by Rev. Shelley
Acts 10:34-43: In this powerful sermon by Peter, he summarizes the gospel. The message of God began with the people of Israel, but the message has not stayed there. It is now available to anyone who chooses to listen and believe. And what is this message? That God in Christ was put to death. God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. We have witnessed this event. God has given us the message of reconciliation for the whole world; the forgiveness of sins for all.
Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24: This song of praise reminds us that God is with the righteous no matter what they are experiencing in life. The Psalmist wants to thank God for giving him salvation and allowing him to live. God alone delivers him. Therefore he will praise and sing. He longs to enter God's temple so that he can praise him. This psalm can also be seen as an anticipation of Jesus as the true temple of God, becoming the chief cornerstone of this new edifice.
Colossians 3:1-4: The writer of this letter reminds the readers that their reality has changed with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with the defeat of death, Christ has also liberated believers from the fear of death. We are hidden in Christ, safe to live a life of freedom. When's Christ's glory is fully revealed, our true nature will also be on full display. All will be new. Alleluia.
John 20:1-18: John's account of the Resurrection shows us the reaction of three of Jesus' closest disciples. Mary runs to John and Peter; upset that someone has moved Jesus' body. They run to the tomb and find it empty. We are told that John believed. Mary remains, weeping. She sees someone she assumes is the gardener. Yet when he speaks her name "Mary", she is filled with awe, and recognizes who it is. Her encounter with the risen Lord turns her into the first evangelist. “I have seen the Lord.”
Scripture Summary for the 2nd Sunday of Easter – Year A (April 19) by Rev. Shelley
Acts 2:14a, 22-32: At Here we see another Peter. His is not longer speaking impetuously, or denying Jesus Here is Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit-powerful and articulate. He is a witness to the resurrected Christ and he is boldly sharing this story with any who will listen. He sees Jesus as the fulfillment of all prophecies; bringing salvation to all.
Psalm 16: This is a lovely Psalm outlining the writer's very personal love for God. First he asks for protection by God from his enemies. He highlights the Lord's many benefits to him. He recognizes that apart from God, he has no good thing in his life. He is happy and content in body, heart, and soul. God's presence brings him joy; and he anticipates a future that will also be filled with pleasures.
1 Peter 1:3-9: This beautiful doxology that begins the epistles (letters) of Peter shows the disciple's ongoing love for his Lord. The great mercy of God that raised Jesus from the dead is now available to us. We have a new birth, a living hope, and an imperishable inheritance. We can therefore be joyful, knowing that our current hardships are for a short time only, and will bring glory to God.
John 20:19-31: It is now evening on Resurrection Day. Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them an awesome new assignment. It is a task that is so daunting that it can only be fulfilled in the power of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately Thomas is not present when Jesus appears. Jesus makes a special visit for Thomas, and gives a blessing to all of us who have believed in him without seeing him. The writer of John tells us that he had many more stories that he could have shared; but these were written down so that we all might believe and be given life in Jesus' name.
Scripture Summary For the 3rd Sunday of Easter – Year A (April 26) by Rev. Shelley
Acts 2:14a, 36-41: Peter continues his powerful sermon. He acknowledges Jesus as both Lord and Messiah. He says that this new gift is for everyone. The people are “cut to the heart” and ask how they should respond. Peter replies: Repent. Be baptized. Have your sins forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 3,000 people answer his call, and the church is born.
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19: In this psalm, the poet tells us why he loves the Lord. He loves the Lord because God hears his voice and saves him. God even leans forward and cups his ear so that God can hear better. This kind of care and devotion inspires the Psalmist to continue to call out to God. He will keep his vows and will delight in being God's servant. We are then all called upon to “Praise the Lord”
1 Peter 1:17-23: Peter outlines the sweep of God's loving plan for humanity. It started at the beginning of time and comes to fruition at the end of time. Our faith and hope are not in plans and things which will perish but in the ever present God. Christ has taken the defects and sins of humanity onto himself, so that we can live lives free from these chains. It is a new birth, born of that seed of faith in Jesus Christ. So live lives that are obedient to this high call, showing deep love for one another.
Luke 24:13-35: Our Easter encounters continue. The hopelessness of the disciples this first weekend is plain-they were heading away from Jerusalem, both sad and puzzled. Jesus joins them on their journey, bringing hope and clarity. As he breaks bread with them, they recognize him. They show three characteristics of a changed life: burning hearts, opened eyes, and a desire to share the good news of the gospel.