21 April 2019 – Easter
Call to Worship: Pastor: Christ is Risen! Response: He is Risen Indeed!
Opening Hymn: 356 “Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain”
Confession of Sin
Most holy and merciful Father; We acknowledge and confess before You; Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good; And all our shortcomings and offenses. You alone know how often we have sinned; In wandering from Your ways; In wasting Your gifts; In forgetting Your love. But You, O Lord, have pity upon us; Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You. Teach us to hate our errors; Cleanse us from our secret faults; And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son. And O most holy and loving Father; Help us we beseech You; To live in Your light and walk in Your ways; According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Proverbs 28:13
Hymn of Preparation: 357 “The Day of Resurrection!”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 22:1-31
New Covenant Reading: Matthew 28:1-10
Sermon: He is Risen
Hymn of Response: 360 “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”
Confession of Faith: Q/A 1 Heidelberg Catechism (p. 872)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 367 “Up from the Grave He Arose”
OT: 1 Kings 3:16-28
NT: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 87
Q. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.
Monday (4/15) Read and discuss Matthew 28:1-10. Michael Wilkens writes:
The women heed the urgent directive from the angel to go quickly to tell the disciples of Jesus’ resurrection. They came to the tomb expecting to find the death of their hopes, but now everything is turned upside down, and even their wildest dreams pale beside the astonishing message that Jesus has been raised. Their reaction is one of “fear,” but yet of “great joy.” The empty tomb, the appearance and message of the angel, and the urgency of informing the disciples produce fear. Moreover, the uncertainty of the future also produces fear of the unknown. These women disciples probably only have a faint awareness of all that this means, but they have followed Jesus long enough to know where it has gotten him – rejection from his own people and death. Their own lives will never be the same.
Yet there is great joy. Something deep within them is beginning to recognize that all they hoped for in Jesus is actually beginning to come true. These women knew just enough of what the future now may hold, for the prediction of Jesus’ resurrection has been fulfilled. Jesus is alive. Their future now includes the risen Jesus, the long-anticipated and now fully realized Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world.
Read or sing Hymn 356 “Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain” Prayer: Please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in China.
Tuesday (4/16) Read and discuss Matthew 21:1-11. there is a profound irony in the fact that the Church has called this day Palm Sunday. In the church I grew up in, every year we would be given palms so that we could wave them in celebration of the Christ’s triumphal entry – when it turns out that the people waving the palms were missing the whole point of what Christ was doing. We have dueling symbols here. Jesus chose to ride on a donkey – yet many in the crowd were wishing that He had come on a stallion for war. Perhaps that is still true today. Perhaps many Christians really want a Messiah who will “make America great again,” a Messiah “who will defeat the communists,” and a Messiah “who will give them physical security and abundant crops.” The largest churches – if you can call them churches – the largest churches in many parts of the world, are those which are promising health and wealth. Beloved, those churches aren’t promising too much. They are proclaiming a Messiah who promises far too little. For Jesus would ride into Jerusalem so that … “though your sins be like scarlet, He would wash you whiter than snow.” Jesus came so that you would be forgiven, justified, and adopted into God’s family. He came so that you would be filled with God the Holy Spirit. And He came to establish a Kingdom that would never end. Those waving the Palm Branches wanted a Messiah who would merely trample the Roman occupiers under His feet. Jesus came to trample Satan, sin, and death under His feet so that you would be His sister or His brother forever. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he plunged the Roman Empire into a bloody civil war. Many people in and around Jerusalem would have feared a similar fate for their city if a Messianic King was acclaimed. But, as Jesus takes the dramatic steps towards His decisive battle against Satan, sin, and death; the only blood He plans on spilling will be His own. Read or Sing Hymn 357 “The Day of Resurrection!” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior who delivers His people from Satan, sin, and death.
Wednesday (4/17) Read and discuss Psalm 22:1-31. Today’s psalm begins with jarring abruptness: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from the cry of my groaning?” We are naturally drawn into the psalmist’s agony and wonder what he could have done that led the LORD to abandon him like this. Then we come to the cross and find these very lips on the lips of Jesus – the only intrinsically righteous man who has ever lived – and we are dumbfounded. Why? How could it be that He would suffer like this? The great sixteenth century Anglican, Richard Hooker, answers this question perhaps as well as is humanly possible:
Let men count it folly, or frenzy, or whatever. We care for no knowledge, no wisdom in the world but this, that man has sinned and God has suffered, that God has been made the sin of man and man is made the righteousness of God.
Why was He forsaken? Jesus chose to be forsaken for you. As we meditate on this prophetic psalm, written a millennium before the cross, we enter into the horror of what the King of glory suffered for His people. Yet that isn’t the end of the story. We should remember that Psalm 22 begins with our Lord’s cry of dereliction but that is not how it ends. Verse 23 calls the people of God to praise “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard (v. 24).” Indeed, the last nine verses of the psalm are a celebration of the Lord’s victory. Surely Jesus knew this when He cried in agony from the cross. As unfathomable as His suffering was; Jesus knew that it was a suffering unto victory. Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Amoskeag Presbyterian Church in Manchester as they seek a new pastor.
Thursday (4/18) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Do you need more wisdom? Before you answer that question, it might be a good idea to nail down just what is meant by the word wisdom in this passage. The American Heritage College Dictionary offers three main definitions of wisdom:
- Understanding of what is true, right or lasting; insight.
- Common sense; good judgment.
- The sum of scholarly learning through the ages; knowledge. Wise teachings of ancient sages.
That all sounds good but here is the rub: What if the first definition of wisdom is contradicted by the third? That is part of what Paul is getting at in today’s passage. Neither Paul, nor the Scriptures as a whole, diminishes the value of careful clear thinking. So what exactly is wrong with the “wisdom of the world”? In one word the problem is autonomy. Worldly wisdom makes a declaration of independence from God its starting point. As one ancient Greek philosopher name Protagoras put it: “Man is the measure of all things.” By making a denial of God’s being, sovereignty, and self-revelation the starting point for worldly wisdom such philosophers doom every part of their thinking to error. The Christian alternative to the rebellious thinking that permeates the wisdom of this world is not ignorance. We are called instead to faithful thinking that recognizes (and rejoices in!) our dependence upon the Living God. Read or Sing Hymn 360 “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family an whose gifts would be used to build up the body.
Friday (4/19) Read and discuss 1 Kings 3:16-28. Commenting on verse 28, John Woodhouse writes:
What a king they had! He has something “better than weapons for war (cf: Ecclesiastes 9:18). He had “the wisdom of God … to do justice.” The important word “justice” appears twice in this summary of Israel’s response to their king’s dealing with the case of the two prostitutes. Years earlier King David had done “justice and righteousness for all his people.” Now all Israel saw and understood that the LORD had indeed given their king a hearing heart to judge (that is, to bring justice in Biblical sense) to his people.
The peoples first response was to fear the king. No one can hide from the wisdom of Go. No one can deceive the wisdom of God. This king would do what is right, and he would put right what is wrong. A healthy fear of him was very sensible!
This relatively small and insignificant incident points us to the King in whom we perceive “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). As we learn to trust the heavenly King to bring “justice” not only to the whole creation but to our lives, we are learning to be wise and the very wisdom of God.
Read or sing Hymn 367 “Up from the Grave He Arose” Prayer: Lift up the Supreme Court of the United States and pray that they would rule justly in our land.
Saturday (4/20) Read and discuss Matthew 28:1-10. Easter is a time when everyone should feel good. At least that is what the world thinks. A generation ago it was common for many people to get new clothes that they wore for the first time on Easter Sunday. Churches are filled, familiar hymns are sung, spring is in the air, and the message is about victory over death. Who wouldn’t be happy on a day like that? The only problem is that this isn’t what happens when people first encounter the reality of the risen Christ. When an angel from the LORD appears to the guards, they become frozen in fear like dead men. Hagner puts it neatly when he writes: “The irony is not to be missed: the ones assigned to guard the dead themselves appear dead while the dead now have been made alive.” Rather than being a cool breeze across our face on a hot summer’s day, encountering an actual angel and experiencing the reality of Christ’s resurrection brought devastating terror to the guards. Furthermore, they had every right to be terrified. Not only were they sinners in the presence of true holiness, their pretensions to being in control were instantly unmasked. Having forgotten this truth, modern Americans expend an enormous amount of energy and money trying to convince ourselves that we really have everything under control. Sure, we need to tinker with the economy and health care from time to time – but for the most part we can manage just fine thank you very much. Today’s passage reminds us how deluded such a notion is. Once the illusion of being in control was stripped away the guards became paralyzed with fear. We should notice that the women were also afraid. The greeting from the angel is best translated “Stop being afraid”. Additionally, the first words of Jesus to the women after greeting them was “Do not be afraid”. Their world has also been instantly turned upside down. But there the similarities between the women and the guards would end. The fear of the women, and all true disciples, would soon be turned into joy that no one could take away. Easter, rather than being a great unifying event for all mankind, radically divides followers of Christ from the rest of the world. The proclamation “Christ is risen!” is indeed the greatest news imaginable – but only for those who have put their trust in Him. Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.