Series: The Greatest Commandment
Sermon: Love Neighbor
Scripture Readings: Romans 13:8-10, John 15:12-17
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
Monday April 23 — Leviticus 19:9-18
The Old Testament Book of Leviticus has been called the “manual of the priests” and was traditionally used as a resource for teaching Jewish children about the Jewish faith. It contains laws that encompass all aspects of individual and community life in Israel: everything from worship rituals to dietary regulations. In chapter 19, we learn about living a holy life. At the heart of the chapter are these familiar words: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). How might these words guide your actions this week? How will you love your neighbor today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for teaching me your ways. Help me to understand what is important to you. Give me courage to live the holy life you desire for me. Amen.
Tuesday April 24 — Deuteronomy 15:7-11
Leviticus 19 is not the only chapter in the Torah (the first 5 books in the Old Testament) that describes God’s intentions for relationships with neighbors. Deuteronomy 15 insists that God’s people not be “hard-hearted or tight-fisted” (Deuteronomy 15:7). Instead, we are to “give liberally and be ungrudging” (Deuteronomy 15:10). The message is clear: God desires mercy, compassion, and generosity. What do you think about this teaching? How will you respond?
• Prayer: Compassionate God, remind me of your amazing grace and inspire in me the desire to extend your mercy and compassion to my neighbors and people in need. Amen.
Wednesday April 25 — Luke 10:25-37
When Jesus was tested by a lawyer (an expert in Jewish law), he (Jesus) affirmed that God’s primary desire is that we love God and love our neighbor. But the lawyer asked a very important follow-up question: “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Like the lawyer, we want to set limits on God’s requirement that we love our neighbor. What we discover is that Jesus’ definition of a neighbor is quite different than ours. Remember: Samaritans and Israelites had a contentious relationship. They would more likely have been enemies than “neighbors.” So, how will you embody Jesus’ teaching in your life today?
• Prayer: God of Love, teach me to see other people the way you see them. Teach me to treat others the way you want me to treat them. Teach me to be a good neighbor. Amen.
Thursday April 26 — Romans 13:8-10
According to his letters and the tradition of the Church, the Apostle Paul took Jesus’ teaching and example quite seriously. Writing to the Church in Rome he insisted that all of the commandments “are summed up in this word: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9). What is the single commandment that guides your life? What would change in your life if “love your neighbor as yourself” was your primary guide for your words and actions?
• Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I do not always obey your teaching and love my neighbors as myself. Forgive me I pray. Transform my life according to your word. Amen.
Friday April 27 — Galatians 5:13-15
Being saved by God’s grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8) does not set us free from having to obey God’s law. Instead, God’s grace sets us free so that we can obey God’s law and live the life that God intends for us, a life of joy and abundance, a life of grace and peace: a life of love. Review your words and actions over the past few days. How well have you obeyed God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself”? (Galatians 5:14). What would like to do differently next week? What will you do differently next week?
• Prayer: Almighty God, do not let me use the gift of freedom for my own purposes. Instead, transform my life so that I can obey your great commandment to love my neighbor. Amen.
Saturday April 28 — John 15:12-17
In his final words to his disciples, Jesus gave them “a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). It turns out that the phrase “love one another” occurs four different times in Jesus’ final instructions. This means that it is important and that we should take it seriously. If we are Jesus’ disciples, we will bear the fruit of love. What is one way that you will “go and bear fruit” today? (John 15:16)
• Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for sending him to be my Savior and friend. With your help I will bear the kind of fruit – love – that will last. Amen.
Scripture Readings: Matthew 9:18-26, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, Philippians 4:4-7, Hebrews 10:19-25
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Monday April 9 — Ruth 1:16-19
Ruth is one of the heroes of the Biblical story. Her faithfulness to Naomi, poetically described in verses 16-17 have been used to inspire relationships of all kinds for thousands of years. Her decision to remain with Naomi was wrought with uncertainty and risk. As Christians, we believe that Easter hope gives us courage to do the right thing, no matter the cost. Easter hope overcomes our fear and our doubt. How might you follow Ruth’s example and do the right thing this week?
• Prayer: God of Easter Hope, inspire in me a desire to do the right thing, no matter the consequences. Grant me courage and fill me with resurrection power. Amen.
Tuesday April 10 — Esther 4:9-17
Esther, like Ruth, also makes a decision to do the right thing, no matter the consequences. The words of Mordecai’s challenge to Esther as she struggles with her future are timeless and speak loudly and clearly to our lives today. Who knows, perhaps we have been called for just such a time as this (paraphrase of Esther 4:14). The world desperately needs to see and hear the message of Jesus. Will you answer God’s call and live boldly as one of Jesus’ disciples this week?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for calling me to be one of Jesus’ disciples. Teach me your ways so that my life will be a witness to the world-changing power of Easter. Amen.
Wednesday April 11 — Luke 1:26-38
It is difficult for us to imagine what Mary would have been thinking and feeling as she heard Gabriel’s message. A young girl, not yet married, was asked to be the mother of the Son of God. What would she tell her family and friends? Who would believe her? Did she really want to say “no” to God? We don’t know what she thought, but we do know what she said: “let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). What would it take for you to have the same response when the risen Christ calls and sends you to be his witness?
- Prayer: Loving God, I have heard your call to follow Jesus and your commission to witness to all I have seen and heard. Let it be with me according to your word.
Thursday April 12 — Luke 10:38-42
Martha and Mary are important characters in the story of Jesus’ life. It is likely that Jesus spent considerable time in their home; they were his friends. When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus wept. When they were angry at Jesus, he consoled and comforted them and reminded them of the Good News of resurrection. (See John 11:1-44). In Luke 10, we read how Jesus commended Mary for her discipleship. It’s not that Martha’s concern for hospitality was not important, but that our relationship with Jesus is always our highest priority. How might you follow Mary’s example today?
• Prayer: Faithful God, help me set aside time today to sit at Jesus’ feet so that I can listen and learn. Help me grow closer to Jesus. Help me follow Mary’s example. Amen.
Friday April 13 — John 4:7-26
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well would have been controversial for many reasons: men and women did not have these kinds of conversations; she was a Samaritan (an enemy of the Jews); and she had a troubled past. But Jesus did something nobody else seemed to do, not even his own disciples. He saw her not by her labels (Samaritan, woman, troubled past); he saw her as a child of God. And as a result, she bore witness to Jesus and “many from that city believed in [Jesus] because of the women’s testimony” (John 4:39). How has your relationship with God transformed your life? What testimony will you offer today?
• Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for seeing me as one of your children, and not by the labels I wear. Transform my self-image so that I can bear witness to your love. Amen.
Saturday April 14 — Acts 18:24-28
Apollos was a coworker of the apostle Paul and a leader in the first-century church (see 1 Corinthians 3:5-9). But he didn’t become a powerful instrument for God’s Kingdom on his own. Despite his many gifts, he needed the teaching of Priscilla and Aquila to help him learn and grow. Like Apollos, we need the help of others to grow in our faith and serve the living Christ effectively. Who is God using to help you grow in faith? How is God using you to help others learn and grow?
• Prayer: God of Love, I am thankful for all the people you have sent into my life to help me grow in my faith. I am willing to be used by you to help others grow in their faith. Amen.
Sermon: A Morning Beyond Belief
Scripture Reading: Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 28:1-10
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. . . . The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” (Matthew 28:1, 5-7)
Monday April 2 — Matthew 27:50-66
When we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day, we begin by remembering that Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. That’s because the death and resurrection of Jesus are inseparable. Appreciating the miracle of resurrection requires that we experience the finality of Jesus’ death on the cross and burial in the tomb. Spend time today reflecting on the finality and certainty of death. What thoughts and emotions come to mind?
Prayer: Almighty God, grant me wisdom to understand how Jesus’ death and resurrection makes a difference in my life and in the world around me. Teach me your ways. Amen.
Tuesday April 3 — Matthew 28:1-10
The message given to the women at the tomb included these words: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Matthew 28:7). This is an amazing promise. The living Christ goes before us. Wherever we go, he is already present. Have you been aware of Jesus’ presence today? What might you do to increase your awareness that the living Christ is already present, wherever you go?
Prayer: Living God, thank you for promising to meet me wherever I go. There is no place I can go that you are not already there. Help me be fully aware of your presence. Amen.
Wednesday April 4 — Matthew 28:11-20
The final verses of Matthew’s Gospel describe two possible responses to the Good News of Easter. One option is to resist God’s purposes like the religious leaders who were afraid of Jesus and his followers. The other option is to, “Go . . . make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19ff). Most of us have a variety of responses to Jesus over the course of our lives. How will you respond to Jesus today? Will you resist his call and keep him at arm’s length? Or will you accept his commission to continue his ministry on earth?
Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for all the times I have resisted or even rejected your call in my life. Today, I choose to serve you and go wherever your Son sends me. Amen.
Thursday April 5 — Acts 10:34-43
For more than 2,000 years, the Church has proclaimed the Good News that God’s resurrection power has been unleashed in the world. Sometimes we forget that the resurrection of Jesus was an outrageous claim. In telling the story, the first disciples declared that Jesus’ resurrection not only validated his message and his ministry, but it also confirmed their own ministry. We believe the message of God’s forgiveness – salvation by grace through faith – because we are Easter people.
How does the Easter story affect your trust in Jesus’ Gospel promises? How does the Easter story affect your willingness to be one of Jesus’ disciples?
Prayer: God of Love, I believe that Jesus died and was raised from death to life so that I might experience your saving grace. Today I affirm that I will be a disciple of Jesus. Amen.
Friday April 6 — Romans 8:18-25
Christians are Easter people. We believe that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has defeated the power of sin and death. We believe that, through Good Friday and Easter, we are “set free . . . and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). God sets us free to live faithfully and obediently in the present as we look hopefully to a future that is securely in God’s hands. We are no longer limited by our fear of failure and our fear of death. In what ways are you experiencing God’s (Easter) freedom this week?
Prayer: Gracious God, with your help, I accept the freedom and power you give me to resist evil and oppression, to follow Jesus, and to serve him as my Lord. Amen.
Saturday April 7 — Revelation 21:1-7
The Good News of Easter is that nothing is impossible for God (see Acts 2:24 and Matthew 19:26). That means that we can trust God’s promises for a glorious future. We can believe that God will answer our prayer that God’s Kingdom will come on earth, as it is in heaven. The final chapters of the Bible describe how God is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). As Easter people, we experience the transforming power of God’s love and grace. In what ways have you experienced the transforming power of God this week? What difference has Easter made in your life?
Prayer: Eternal God, continue to transform my life today. Let your will be done in my life. Let your Kingdom come on earth. Make all things new, starting with me. Amen.
Series: The Jesus We Need to Know
Sermon: The Final Week
Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:1-9, Matthew 27:15-23, Matthew 27:27-31
So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” . . . Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:17, 20-23)
Monday March 26 — Matthew 21:1-11
Holy Week begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. All four New Testament Gospel writers describe the scene. It is a royal procession. The King is entering the holy city. During Holy Week, we finally discover the whole truth about the Jesus we need to know. We discover the nature of his Kingdom and what kind of King he is. Matthew gives us a clue in verse 5 (Jesus is a humble King), but we have to take the entire journey with Jesus to find out. Ask God to give you courage to follow Jesus to the very end.
- Prayer: Almighty God, grant me the courage I need to follow your Son Jesus wherever he goes. Reveal to me this week the Jesus I need to know. Amen.
Tuesday March 27 — Matthew 26:1-5, 14-30
Jesus’ final week intensifies when Judas agrees to betray Jesus to the religious leaders and the disciples begin preparations to eat the Passover meal. During the meal, Jesus connects the story of God’s salvation of Israel through the exodus with his own death. God makes a new covenant based on grace and forgiveness; the broken bread and the shared cup are signs of God’s faithfulness. When we receive the Sacrament, we experience the life-changing power of God’s grace for ourselves. Are you ready to renew your trust in Jesus through the Sacrament this week?
- Prayer: God of Salvation, I confess my sin and my need for your forgiveness. Prepare my heart and mind to receive your grace through Jesus’ body and blood. Amen.
Wednesday March 28 — Matthew 26:31-46
After Jesus’ final meal, he went to the Mount of Olives and then to Gethsemane, where he prayed a heart-wrenching prayer three different times (verses 39, 42, 44). This passage demonstrates the depth of Jesus’ humanity along with the depth of his trust in God. His prayer is a model for everyone who follows him: he pours out his deepest desires to God, while ultimately surrendering himself to God’s will. In your own prayers today, follow Jesus’ example. Tell God what is on your heart, then surrender yourself to God and affirm your desire for God’s will to be done.
- Prayer: Faithful God, thank you for hearing and answering my prayers. Help me pray like Jesus. My deepest desire is “not what I want but what you want.” Amen.
Thursday March 29 — Matthew 26:47-75
In many ways, the account of Peter denying Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of the life- changing power of God’s love and grace. To understand how this is true, we have to remember that Peter is the rock on which Jesus built the Church (see Matthew 16:18). The same Peter that denied ever knowing Jesus, was transformed by Jesus’ forgiveness and was used by God to change the world. The same love and grace and forgiveness is available to us. Are you willing to allow God to forgive you and use you to change the world?
- Prayer: God of Love and Grace, too many times I have denied you and your Son through words and actions and through my silence and inaction. Forgive me, I pray. Amen.
Friday March 30 — Matthew 27:1-31
When Pilate offers the gathered crowd (for the Passover Festival) an opportunity to set one prisoner free, he asks them to choose between the messiah they want and the Messiah they need. Jesus Barabbas was likely an insurrectionist who was actively trying to use violence to end the Roman occupation and set the Israelites free. That was the kind of messiah-savior-leader they wanted. But what we discover, as we follow Jesus (of Nazareth), is that he is the Messiah-Savior- Leader we need. In his passion, death, and resurrection, we meet the Jesus we need to know. Which Jesus will you be following?
- Prayer: Eternal God, today, I choose to follow Jesus. I believe he is the Messiah, Savior, and Lord I need. I will follow where he leads me and go where he sends me. Amen.
Saturday March 31 — Matthew 27:32-66
Unknowingly, the soldiers who mock Jesus are proclaiming the truth: Jesus is the King. There never was before – and never will be again – a king like Jesus. His throne was a cross and his crown was made of thorns. He rejected the trappings of human power and wealth, to rule with love and justice. He was, and is, a crucified King, a suffering servant. Can you, will you, follow the Jesus you have met in this week’s Gospel readings?
- Prayer: God of Love, thank you for loving me so much that you sent Jesus to live and die for my sake. Thank you for offering me the gift of new life through him. Amen.
Series: The Jesus We Need to Know
Sermon: Glimpses of God’s World
Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:23-25, Matthew 8:1-17
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25)
Monday March 19 — Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 4:23-25
The 4th chapter of Matthew contrasts Jesus’ refusal to give in to the temptation to use God’s power for his own glory and his own welfare, with his willingness to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom in both word and deed. The Gospel very clearly demonstrates the variety of ways that Jesus was a channel for God’s power and the many ways his life and ministry revealed God’s Kingdom. As a result, we are invited to look for signs of God’s power and God’s Kingdom in our own lives. Have you seen any signs of God’s Kingdom recently? What were they?
- Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for unleashing your power into the world through Jesus. With your help, I will look for signs of your Kingdom in my life this week. Amen.
Tuesday March 20 — Matthew 8:1-17
The Gospel’s healing stories not only reveal the capability of God’s power to overcome any obstacle, but also the breadth of God’s love for all of humanity. We are shown the wide variety of people that are touched (literally and figuratively) by Jesus in his ministry. Lepers were outcasts, centurions were Roman soldiers who were the occupying force in Israel. According to the conventional wisdom of the day, these people would have been excluded from Jesus’ ministry. The point is that if Jesus can minister to these kinds of people, Jesus can minister to us.
- Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for extending your love and healing touch wide enough to include someone like me. Touch me and make me whole in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Wednesday March 21 — Matthew 8:23-9:1
The 8th and 9th chapter of Mathew’s Gospel provides an important counter-balance to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus’ ministry is both word and deed. Jesus teaches with authority (Matthew 7:29) and his actions demonstrate that the power of God flows in and through him. He not only has power to cure disease, he also overcomes the forces of nature and the evil forces that are present in the world. Nothing is more powerful than the power of God. How have you experienced the power of God in your life? Where have you seen evidence of God’s presence?
- Prayer: God of Creation, your power at work in the world through Jesus is reassuring. I know that I will never face any obstacle that you cannot overcome. Amen.
Thursday March 22 — Matthew 9:1-8
The story of Jesus curing the paralyzed man connects God’s healing power with forgiveness and salvation. The point is not that injury and illness are consequences of our sin. The point is that God’s forgiveness is the ultimate gift of salvation, which is the ultimate form of healing. God’s Kingdom, which we enter by the grace of God, will result in a complete transformation of our lives – from the inside-out. We will be forgiven. We will be made whole. This is what God desires for us. This is what Jesus offers us. Have you accepted the life-changing power of God’s grace?
- Prayer: God of Love, I confess my need for your grace and accept your forgiveness. Transform my life from the inside-out. Make me whole. Make me a new creation. Amen.
Friday March 23 — Matthew 9:27-31, Matthew 20:29-34
The accounts of Jesus’ miracles not only reveal the scope of God’s power, they point beyond themselves to God’s ultimate desire for creation. Even when we do not experience a physical cure, we can still experience God’s healing power. Even when our physical senses fail, our spiritual eyes and ears can be opened so that we can see and hear the Good News and follow Jesus with confidence and faith. Which aspects of your life need God’s healing touch today?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I am too blind and deaf to the Good News of your Kingdom. Open my eyes and ears so that I can follow Jesus wherever he leads me. Amen.
Saturday March 24 — Matthew 15:29-38
Approximately half-way through the Gospel, Matthew once again summarizes Jesus’ ministry (see also Matthew 4:23-25.) He describes how the crowds were amazed and praised God because of what Jesus was doing. He goes on to tell how Jesus provided for a large crowd of 4,000 men, plus the women and children. (This is the second feeding miracle; the first is in Matthew 14:13-21.) This is the kind of miracle that God is continuing to perform through the present-day Body of Christ, the Church. He wants to turn our compassion into action. How is God using you to perform miracles in the world today?
- Prayer: Compassionate God, fill me with your love and create in me a desire to bless others. Use me to perform a miracle in the world today. Amen.
Youth Musical: Friends Forever
Scripture Reading: John 15:12-17
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
Monday March 12 — Matthew 13:1-23
Teaching in parables is one of the most noteworthy aspects of Jesus’ ministry. He is not the only teacher to ever use a story or a parable, but we believe that Jesus’ parables reveal God’s Kingdom in unique and powerful ways. In many ways, the story about the seed and the soil (also known as “the sower”) is Jesus’ signature parable. It describes both the universality of the Kingdom (the seed is sown everywhere) and the need for a faithful and fruitful response (illustrated in the four types of soil.) In other words, the parable is about both God and humanity. As you read the parable, what do you think God is trying to say to you? How are you responding to God’s Word in your life?
- Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his ministry and his message. Soften the soil of my heart and mind so that I can receive your teaching.
Tuesday March 13 — Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
The word “parable” means “to set alongside.” When Jesus uses a parable, he sets the story alongside our lives and our experience so that we can learn and grow. Almost every parable has an unexpected twist or turn that is intended to surprise and shock us, like when the master in the parable of the weeds in the wheat instructs the servants not to go and pull the weeds. We are supposed to be unsettled by Jesus’ words. That’s how Jesus transforms our lives. How would you interpret this parable for your life in the world today?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I am both challenged and encouraged by Jesus’ teaching. Help me understand his meaning and accept the life-changing power of your grace.
Wednesday March 14 — Matthew 13:31-34, 44-53
According to Matthew, Jesus’ primary message is: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17). Because God’s Kingdom is at the heart of his message, it makes sense that the Kingdom is the subject of many of Jesus’ parables. Jesus says that God’s Kingdom is often hidden and seems insignificant, but in reality, it is a great treasure. Like yeast, it leavens and transforms from the inside-out. This is what happens when we meet Jesus in Scripture. He gets into our lives and we are transformed – from the inside-out. How is Jesus transforming your life?
- Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me for the many ways I resist the transforming power of Jesus in my life. Give me the courage I need to trust you more fully.
Thursday March 15 — Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus’ parable about laborers in a vineyard describes the way God’s Kingdom challenges the conventional wisdom about “how the world works.” From a human perspective, the actions of the landowner are not fair to those who worked all day in the hot sun. But the point is that God’s ways are not the same as our ways. The landowners’ question to the workers is God’s question to us: “are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15). How does this parable of Jesus make you feel? Do you begrudge God’s generosity toward those who are less deserving?
- Prayer: Almighty God, I confess that I struggle to accept that your generosity to me is unmerited and undeserved. Help me to hear Jesus’ words as Good News. Amen.
Friday March 16 — Matthew 21:28-45
Several of Jesus’ parables are directed at the religious leaders who have been questioning and rejecting the authority of Jesus’ teaching. They should have been the most receptive hearers of Jesus’ teaching; but they were not. Through these parables, Jesus warns us about arrogance that makes us unable (or unwilling) to believe that we need to repent and live our lives in such a way that we produce the fruit of faithful and obedient discipleship. Are you open to Jesus’ message? What is preventing you from bearing the fruit of obedient discipleship?
- Prayer: God of Love, today I repent of my arrogance and confess my need for your grace. With your help, I choose to bear the fruit of faithful discipleship today.
Saturday March 17 — Matthew 25:14-30
The final three parables recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (the parable of the ten bridesmaids, the parable of the talents, and the parable of the sheep and the goats) teach us that we should expect Jesus to return and live our lives accordingly. Jesus wants us to be ready to account for our lives. In the parable of the talents, he teaches us that everything we have ultimately belongs to God and that we are expected to be good stewards of it all. Faithful stewardship is what leads to the ultimate commendation: “Well done, good and trustworthy servant” (Matthew 25:21,23). Given Jesus’ words, how are you doing with all that God has given you?
- Prayer: Gracious God, help me remember that everything I have ultimately belongs to you. Teach me to be a faithful servant and be a good steward of it all.
Series: The Jesus We Need To Know
Sermon: A Revolution of Grace
Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:9-13 , Matthew 26:6-13
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9: 9-13
Monday March 5 — Mark 2:13-17
The Jesus we need to know spent time with people who were among the most despised of Jesus’ time: tax collectors and sinners. The religious elite were afraid that eating with these people would make them dirty, impure, and defiled. But Jesus made it clear that he came specifically to heal and love those who were despised. Who do we struggle to love? How can Jesus’ example challenge our own stereotypes and judgments?
Tuesday March 6 — 2 Timothy 1:8-10
The most difficult and most powerful aspect of grace is that we don’t deserve it or earn it. This is hard for those of us who pride ourselves on working hard and find merit in that effort. But God’s grace is given to us in the person of Jesus Christ, whose life and death made possible our own. How can we receive God’s grace this week?
Wednesday March 7 — Luke 19:1-10
When Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus, he reached out to one of the most unpopular people in town. Not only that, Jesus insisted on going to Zacchaeus’ house. While others grumbled that Jesus was spending time with Zacchaeus, Jesus responded that he came to save the lost. And as a result, Zacchaeus’ heart was changed. He decided to change the way he lived and loved others. When we experience the love of Christ, it changes the way we live and act. How can we change the way we live to love others?
Thursday March 8 — Luke 21:1-4
When we experience the extravagance of God’s grace, we respond with our own extravagant grace. In this story, Jesus saw a poor widow offer two small copper coins. While the amount she gave did not compare to the gifts of the rich people, the extravagance of her gift far exceeded the offerings of the rich. Because she gave out of her poverty, she gave all that she had. Too often, we only give what is extra, instead of giving all of ourselves. How can we give out of our poverty, instead of our abundance?
Friday March 9 — Matthew 18:12-14
God’s grace looks like a shepherd willing to leave the 99 behind to find the one that was lost. God’s grace seeks us out when we are lost and rejoices when we are found. That is amazing love. How can we receive that grace this week? How can we celebrate the love that awaits us?
Saturday March 10 — Jeremiah 31:31-34 The covenant that God made with God’s people in Jeremiah looked different than the covenants that had come before. God emphasized a holiness of heart that transformed them inside and out. This new covenant was one written on our hearts and claimed us as God’s people. What does it mean for us to be part of this new covenant?
Series: The Jesus We Need to Know
Sermon: Extreme Discipleship
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:21-26, Matthew 7:1-6
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
Monday February 26 — Matthew 5:1-20
This week’s focus is on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In Matthew’s Gospel, it serves as Jesus’ inaugural address for his disciples and the crowds of people that were attracted to him at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 4:18-25). Like Moses before him, Jesus goes up the mountain where Good News about God’s Kingdom is revealed to all God’s people, including those who are named in the first 12 verses of Matthew 5. In the three chapters of the sermon, Jesus describes God’s high expectations for everyone who answers his call and enters his Kingdom. What do you think about God’s high expectations? Does that sound like Good News to you?
• Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for blessing all kinds of people, including me. Grant me the courage I need to answer Jesus’ call and do what he teaches me. Amen.
Tuesday February 27 — Matthew 5:21-48
In the second half of Matthew 5, Jesus interprets the Scriptures. (That’s what Jesus means by the law and the prophets.) He describes God’s will as being far more than simply avoiding wrongful acts. According to Jesus, God desires a transformed heart. As an example, it’s not enough to avoid murdering someone, God desires that we not harbor anger or hatred. It’s not enough to love our friends and family, God desires that we also love our enemies. When you read these passages, do you still want to follow Jesus? Are you willing to seek the perfection that Jesus demands?
• Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me for resisting the extreme discipleship that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount. Teach me to trust him fully. Amen.
Wednesday February 28 — Matthew 6:1-18
Jesus’ expectations for our discipleship extends beyond the six examples in Matthew 5:21-48. Jesus also has high expectations for the ways we practice our piety—our spiritual disciplines. His primary point is that we practice our piety for the reward of a life-changing relationship with God, and not for the attention and recognition of others. In the season of Lent, we emphasize giving to the poor (alms-giving), prayer, and fasting or some form of self-denial. In what ways are you practicing the kind of piety that Jesus describes? How are you being transformed?
• Prayer: Heavenly Father, let your will be done in my life today. Give me what I need: daily bread; forgiveness of my sins; and courage to live with confidence and faith. Amen.
Thursday March 1 — Matthew 6:19-34
The Sermon on the Mount addresses our human frailty. Jesus knows that we too often place our trust in our material possessions and accumulated wealth. And we worry that we do not have enough. In light of our humanity, Jesus teaches us that our hearts will follow our earthly treasures; when we invest our treasures in God’s Kingdom, our hearts will be in the right place. These are some of Jesus’ most challenging words. They require that we trust that Jesus know best. Do you believe that Jesus knows best?
• Prayer: God of Love, thank you for blessing me in ways that are beyond my comprehension. With your help, I will use my gifts to bless others in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Friday March 2 — Matthew 7:1-12
Christian discipleship is more than private piety and faithful stewardship. As Jesus’ followers, we are incorporated into a community of believers. In the first twelve verses of Matthew 7, describes God’s expectations for interpersonal relationships. Note that the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is a positive statement. We should treat others the way we want to be treated by them. It does not say that we treat others the way they treat us. Consider Matthew 5:21-48 through the lens of the Golden Rule. Does it help you understand Jesus’ expectations?
• Prayer: Eternal God, help me to live according to your will for my life. Teach me to behave toward other people (friends and enemies) the way you would have me behave. Amen.
Saturday March 3 — Matthew 7:13-29
Jesus draws his inaugural address to a close with a word of warning that is intended to inspire our faithful obedience. In Matthew 7:21-23 he says that simply making a profession of faith (by saying that Jesus is Lord) is not enough. Christian discipleship is about far more than an entry to heaven when we die. God desires that we hear Jesus’ words and act on them (Matthew 7:26) during our earthly lives. The Good News is that God’s grace sets us free to stay on the road that leads to life.
• Prayer: God of Grace, today I choose to follow Jesus. I choose the path that leads to life, no matter how hard it might be. I will trust Jesus and do what he tells me to do. Amen.
Series: The Jesus We Need to Know
Sermon: The Jesus We Need to Know
Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:54-58, Matthew 16:13-20
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)
Monday February 19 — Matthew 1:1-17
The New Testament Gospels were written so that future generations of Christians (and potential Christians) would have authoritative accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. The Gospels are far more than historical or biographical records. Each Gospel writer wrote an account of Jesus’ life that not only conveys what happened but also what it meant. The detailed genealogy in Matthew 1 not only outlines Jesus’ human heritage, it also helps us understand that the story of Jesus is part of the larger story of God’s people, a story that (according to Matthew) goes back to Abraham. Based only on the first seventeen verses of the Gospel, what does Matthew want us to know about Jesus?
• Prayer: God of Eternity, thank you for including me in your family. Help me grow closer to Jesus and find myself in the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Amen.
Tuesday February 20 — Matthew 1:18-25
The familiar stories of Jesus’ birth (found in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels) teach us that baby Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas is God’s Son. Jesus is the one for whom the people of Israel had been waiting. He is God’s Messiah and has come to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Matthew says that Jesus’ birth fulfills promises made by God through the prophets. Imagine today that you are a first-century Israelite: what kind of Messiah do you want Jesus to be? What kind of Savior do you want? What kind of Savior do you need?
• Prayer: Promise-Keeping God, I know that I need to be saved from my sins. Thank you for loving the world so much that you sent Jesus to be the Savior we need. Amen.
Wednesday February 21 — Matthew 2:19-23
The second chapter of Matthew includes the disturbing account of Herod ordering the death of the infants of Bethlehem, because he was threatened by Jesus’ birth. This required Joseph, Mary and Jesus to escape to Egypt until Herod’s death. (See Matthew 2:13-18.) In telling this story, Matthew accurately describes the kind of violent world into which Jesus is born – the violent, sinful, hate-filled world that Jesus came to save. He also tells us that God guided Jesus’ life. Do you see God’s hand guiding your life in the same way?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, I confess that I too often ignore your presence in my life and fail to let you guide me. Help me to hear your voice and follow where you lead me. Amen.
Thursday February 22 — Matthew 13:54-58
As we learned in Matthew 2:19-23. Jesus’ family made their home in Nazareth. This is where Jesus preached in the synagogue in front of his family and hometown friends. Matthew tells us that the people were astounded and offended by Jesus, because they couldn’t grasp who he really was. They couldn’t imagine that one of their own could be God’s Messiah. If we’re honest, we might wonder the same thing. Is it really true that a first-century itinerant carpenter’s son is the Savior of the world? What kind of Messiah could he be? What kind of Savior comes from first-century Nazareth?
• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for accepting me and forgiving me when I have doubts and am uncertain about what you are doing in the world. Help me see more clearly. Amen.
Friday February 23 — Matthew 16:13-23
In Matthew’s chronology, shortly before Jesus and his disciples begin their journey to Jerusalem, Simon Peter is able to name that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16.) But we quickly discover that Peter has no real conception of what kind of Messiah Jesus will be. He is astounded when Jesus foretells his upcoming death and resurrection. Part of the challenge of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is accepting that Jesus is not necessarily the Messiah we want; he is the Messiah we need. Can you accept a suffering Messiah?
• Prayer: Almighty God, fill me with your Spirit so that I will have both wisdom and courage to understand your ways. I want to grow in my faith and trust you more fully. Amen.
Saturday February 24 — Matthew 27:15-23
The choice Pilate gives to the crowd is more than just which accused man they wanted him to release. In addition to the fact that “Barabbas” means “son of the father,” it is also likely that Barabbas was a revolutionary, who was caught trying to lead an insurrection against the Romans. The Israelites were looking for a political savior, a messiah who would free them from the rule of the Romans. So, in the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, the crowd was asked to choose which kind of messiah they wanted. It’s the same question we must answer: what are we looking for? Do we really believe that Jesus is the one who will set us free?
• Prayer: God of Love, I am humbled be the sacrificial love you offer me through the death of Jesus and the promise of new life through his resurrection. Thank you. Amen.
Series: Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope
Sermon: Sickness, Growing Old and Death
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, John 11:17-27
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” (John 11:25-27)
Monday February 12 — 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, 51-58
Christians are Easter people. We believe that Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross on Good Friday, and was raised from death to life three days later, on the day we call Easter. And so, for close to 2,000 years, followers of Jesus have gathered together on the first day of the week to hear the Good News of God’s salvation – and be reminded that death does not get the last word and that because Jesus lives, we can live our lives with courage and hope. How will the promise of life after death affect the way you live your life today?
• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the gift of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Teach me to trust in your promises ever day of my life. Amen.
Tuesday February 13 — John 11:17-27, 38-44
Jesus’ resuscitation (which is not the same as resurrection) of Lazarus demonstrates that God, through Jesus, is more powerful than death. Jesus insists that everyone who “lives and believes in [him] will never die” (John 11:26). This points to a very important question at the heart of Christian faith: do we believe what we say we believe? If we believe that death is not something to be feared, do our lives reflect what we say we believe? Do you believe what you say you believe?
• Prayer: All-Powerful God, I believe you have defeated the power of sin and death. I believe that Jesus is my Lord and my Savior. Help me to face the future afraid. Amen.
Wednesday February 14 — Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Today is Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world reflect on their mortality, make a commitment to spiritual disciplines of prayer, self-denial (fasting), and generosity, and begin a 40-day season of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. (Lent is the name of the 40-day season of preparation.) How are you going to observe Lent this year? Will you make a commitment to grow closer to Jesus in the next 6 weeks? Which spiritual disciplines are you planning to practice?
• Prayer: Holy God, grant me the courage I need to look honestly at my own life and renew my commitment to grow closer to you through spiritual disciplines. Amen.
Thursday February 15 — Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, 28-29
One of the extraordinary themes in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible is that God calls all kinds of people: young, old, male, female, rich, poor, Gentiles, and Jews. The Bible’s call stories testify to the many excuses we humans use when we try to refuse God’s call in our lives. Abram and Sarai were too old, Jeremiah was too young, Simon Peter was a sinful man. But God has other plans. Through the prophet Joel, God offers hope for a new day. God’s Spirit breaks down human barriers and rejects human excuses. What excuses are you using to avoid serving God? How is fear related to your excuse-making? What do you hear God saying to you today?
• Prayer: Gracious and Merciful God, forgive my lack of faith. Pour out your Spirit and ignore my excuses. Grant me a clear vision of your preferred future for my life. Amen.
Friday February 16 — Psalm 51:1-17
Psalm 51 is attributed to King David. It is the prayer of confession David prayed after he sent Uriah to his death so that he could take Bathsheba (Uriah’s widow) to be his (David’s) wife. (Read 2 Samuel 11-12 for the whole story.) Even though our life situations will be different, Psalm 51 can be a model for our own prayers of confession. Not only does it teach us to be honest with God and confess our sin. It also teaches us that confession requires repentance – a change of heart and mind that leads to a transformed life. Find time to pray Psalm 51 as your own prayer today. Be honest with God. Trust in God’s grace and mercy.
• Prayer: God of Love, today I confess my need for your grace and mercy. Create in me a clean heart and transform my life so that everything I say and do pleases you. Amen.
Saturday February 17 — Matthew 17:1-8
The story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountaintop affirms Jesus’ identity as God’s Son and points to his death and resurrection in Jerusalem. The heavenly voice speaks to every one of Jesus’ followers who long to know what’s next for their lives and what it means to be his disciple: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). In order to grow closer to Jesus, we need to listen to him in worship, prayer, Scripture, and Christian fellowship. Are you open to what Jesus might say to you today?
• Prayer: Almighty God, open my ears today so that I can hear your voice. Grant me the courage I need to listen to you and to Jesus. Grant me courage to follow him. Amen.