11 March 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3
Opening Hymn: 55 “To God Be the Glory”
Confession of Sin
Almighty God, Who are rich in mercy to all those who call upon You; Hear us as we humbly come to You confessing our sins; And imploring Your mercy and forgiveness. We have broken Your holy laws by our deeds and by our words; And by the sinful affections of our hearts. We confess before You our disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness; And all our failures and shortcomings toward You and toward fellow men. Have mercy upon us, Most merciful Father; And of Your great goodness grant that we may hereafter serve and please You in newness of life; Through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: 1 John 2:1
Hymn of Preparation: 329 “Come, O Creator Spirit Blest”
Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
New Covenant Reading: John 20:19-23
Sermon: Peace and Power
Hymn of Response: 278 “That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright”
Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”
OT: 2 Samuel 5:1-16
NT: Hebrews 12:18-29
The LORD Secures David’s Throne
Shorter Catechism Q/A #30
Q. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Monday (4/5) Read and discuss John 20:19-23. R.C. Sproul writes:
“Peace be with you” or “Peace to you” was the standard greeting of one Jew to another; even to this day, one Jew will say to his friend, “Shalom Aleichem,” or “Peace be upon you,” and the other will responds, “Aleichem shalom,” or “Upon you be peace.” It is interesting to note that Jesus extended this greeting to His disciples not once but twice. This repetition is a signal for most of the scholars who look closely at the text of John that Jesus was telling His disciples something. These greetings are very reminiscent of words Jesus spoke to His disciples in the upper room on the night before His execution, when He pronounced His last will and testament. He said: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (14:27). Before His death, He promised the full reality of the bequest of His peace on these people. Now, having been raised from the dead, He entered their midst and said, “peace be with you.” Then He showed them His hands and His side, as if to say, “I did what I said I was going to do, and I have won that peace for you.” Finally, He said a second time, “Peace to you!”
Read or sing 55 “To God Be the Glory” Prayer: Give thanks that Christ has established peace for you with God.
Tuesday (4/6) Read and discuss Read John 20:1-18. It was dark when the women arose in the morning and it was still dark when they came to the tomb. John focuses our attention on just one of these women – Mary Magdalene. Mary, like the rest of the disciples didn’t get up that First Easter morning to shouts of “Christ is Risen!” They didn’t sing the great Easter hymns we have today. For as dark as it was outside, it was darker still inside their souls. They had hoped. They had loved and been loved. Then they had watched Him die. What hope could be left? Still, they came to the tomb to honor their beloved Jesus only to find that the stone had been taken away. What did they make of this? They assumed the most reasonable and also the most appalling option – His body had been stolen. N.T. Wright picks up the story:
For the moment, the empty tomb is simply another twist of the knife, Chaos upon chaos. Someone’s taken him away. No faith, no hope, no ‘maybe after all …’ Just a cruel trick. Some gardener, some laborer, some soldier, someone’s servant. But we must find out. It’s urgent. She runs back into the city, back to Peter in his hiding place, back to the young lad she had stood with by the cross, the one Jesus specially loved.
They run too. (There is more running in these verses than in the rest of the gospels put together.) The younger man gets there first. Sure enough, the tomb is empty. And someone has not only taken the body away; they have first gone to the trouble of unwrapping it. Why on earth would you do that? Where has that happened before?
Peter, out of breath arrives at the tomb a few moments later. He acts in character: no waiting, no beating about the bush, no shall-we-shan’t-we. In he goes. And here’s an even more curious thing: the linen cloths are lying there; but the single cloth, the napkin that had been around Jesus’ head, isn’t with the others. It’s in a place by itself. Someone, having unwrapped the body (a complicated task in itself), has gone to the trouble of laying out the clothes to create an effect. It looks as though the body wasn’t picked up and unwrapped, but had just disappeared, leaving the empty cloths, like a collapsed balloon when the air has gone out of it. …
Then comes the moment. The younger man, the beloved disciple, goes into the tomb after Peter. And the idea they had had to that point about what must have happened – someone taking the body away, but unwrapping it first – suddenly looks stupid and irrelevant. Something quite new surges up in the young disciple, a wild delight at God’s creative power. He remembers the moment ever afterwards. A different sensation. A bit like falling in love; a bit like sunrise; a bit like the sound of rain at the end of a long draught.
A bit like faith. Oh, he’d had faith before. He had believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He had believed that God had sent him, that he was God’s man for God’s people and God’s world. But this was different. ‘He saw, and believed.’ Believed that new creation had begun. Believed that the world had turned the corner, out of its long winter and into spring at last. Believed that God had said ‘Yes’ to Jesus, to all that he had been and done. Believed that Jesus was alive again.
Read or sing Hymn: 329 “Come, O Creator Spirit Blest” Prayer: Please pray for the Session as it meets this evening.
Wednesday (4/7) Read and discuss Ezekiel 37:1-14. The following story is told from the old Soviet Union before the Berlin wall fell:
The communist lecturer paused before summing up. His large audience listened fearfully. ‘Therefore,’ he said, ‘there is no God; Jesus Christ never existed; there is no such thing as a Holy Spirit. The Church is an oppressive institution, and anyway it’s out of date. The future belongs to the State; and the State is in the hands of the Party.’
He was about to sit down when an old priest near the front stood up. ‘May I say two words?’ he asked (It’s three in English, but he was of course speaking Russian). The lecturer disdainfully, gave him permission. He turned, looked out over the crowd, and shouted: ‘Christ is risen!’ Back came the roar of the people: ‘He is risen indeed!’ They’d been saying it ever Easter for a thousand years; why should they stop now?
In this story we are reminded how subversive Easter is to all the tyrannies of this world. Tyrants all base their power on the ability to kill. “They claim to have the keys of death and hell, but they’re lying. Where the tyrants’ power runs out, God’s power begins. He raises the dead (N.T. Wright).” Today’s passage reminds us of the explosive nature of this truth. Even the Bible believing Church sometimes tones down and domesticates the explosive nature of Christ rising from the dead in the middle of history. We rightly speak of Easter as the source of our spiritual life and our hope for the future. Christ’s resurrection does mean those things, but it is also about far more than our private spiritual lives. Today’s passage speaks of the entire nation of Israel being nothing but dry dead bones. God steps in and sovereignly gives them new life. This new life is not merely individual and private – it is corporate and powerful. Ezekiel sees the whole house of Israel being reconstituted as a mighty army. It is a foretaste of the transformative event that crashed into the world when Christ conquered the last enemy and rose triumphantly from the grave. More than a rescue plan, Easter morning is the proclamation and the beginning of God’s new creation. “It declares that, after all, God is God, and that His kingdom shall come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Easter speaks of a world reborn (N.T. Wright).” It is easy to become discouraged when we dwell on our culture or the state of the Church in our country; but for God’s people the decisive victory has already been won. The pain of this world is real and so we rightly weep. Yet, because Christ is risen we can look forward in confidence to the day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will dwell in His house forever. And because He lives, we can courageously live as His people in the world today – paradoxically as a meek yet mighty army. Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at the OPC congregation in Jaffrey, NH.
Thursday (4/8) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:18-29. P.T. O’Brien writes:
The notion of Mount Zion as the city of the living God also evokes the idea of God’s presence with His people and with it the idea of the heavenly sanctuary or temple. The dignity of the city is enhanced by the designation ‘[the city of] the living God’. Our author has already used this description on two earlier occasions when warning his listeners of the peril of apostasy from ‘the living God’. Here, however, the designation assures them that the city to which they have already come is the one in which He is wonderfully and fully present with them.
Prayer: Give thanks for some specific people in your life whom the LORD uses to bless you.
Friday (4/9) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 5:1-16. Herbert Wolf writes:
In David’s time, Jerusalem was a hill covering about eleven acres, located on the border between Judah and Benjamin, making it an ideal neutral spot for one who wanted to unite the north and the south. Jerusalem was surrounded by deep valley on every side except the north, so it could easily be defended. According to verse 6, the Jebusites were confident that David would not be able to capture the city. Jerusalem also possessed an excellent water source, the Gihon spring in the Kidron Valley east of the city. But it may have been the water shaft running from the Gihon spring into the city which was used by David’s men to gain entrance into Jerusalem. Led by Joab, a few men make a daring and successful attempt to enter Jerusalem and enable the whole army to capture the city. Because of his courage, Joab remains David’s commander-in-chief.
David takes immediate steps to fortify his new capital. His building efforts are aided by an alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre and leader of the country of Phoenicia (Lebanon). Sending the famed cedars of Lebanon and skilled craftsmen, Hiram helps David build a palace. The Phoenicians were also excellent sailors who controlled the seas, and over the years the Israelites traded their crops for merchandise. Both sides profit from the alliance, which became even stronger during the reign of Solomon. David acknowledges that his success is due to the LORD, who is making Israel a great nation as He has promised.
Read or sing Hymn 278 “That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright” Prayer: Please pray for our Presbytery’s efforts to plant new churches.
Saturday (4/10) Read and discuss John 20:19-23. N.T. Wright comments:
Jesus’ mission to Israel, reaching its climax in his death and resurrection, is thus to be implemented by the disciples’ mission to the world. That’s why they need the Holy Spirit: Jesus’ breath, God’s breath, to enable them to do the job they could otherwise never dream of doing.
The theme of new creation goes deeper still into this passage. When God came looking for Adam in the garden (Genesis 3:8), he and his wife heard the sound of him at the time of the evening breeze. Now, on the evening of the new creation’s first day, a different wind sweeps through the room. The words for ‘wind,’ ‘breath,’ and ‘spirit,’ are the same (This is true in both Hebrew and Greek). This wind is the healing breath of God’s Spirit, come to undo the long effects of primal rebellion.
This takes us back to the moment of creation itself. In Genesis 2:7 God breathed into human nostrils his own breath, the breath of life, and humankind became alive, … Now, in the new creation, the restoring life of God is breathed out through Jesus, making new people of the disciples, and through them, offering this new life to the world.
The result is that peace, twice repeated here, which Jesus had promised in 14:27 and 16:33. With that peace, they are enabled to perform the extraordinary task [laid out in verse 23]. They are to pronounce, in god’s name and by His Spirit, the message of forgiveness to all who believe in Jesus. They are also to ‘retain sins’: to warn the world that sin is a serious, deadly disease, and that to remain in it will bring death. They are to rebuke and warn – not because they don’t like people, or because they are seeking power or prestige for themselves, but because this is God’s message to a muddled, confused, and still rebellious world.
Paul, twenty years later, asked, ‘Who is sufficient for such things? (2 Corinthians 2:16). He, like John, gave the right answer: none of us, but God enables us to do it by His Spirit.
Read or sing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.