Worship Helps for Easter 7

The Stoning of St. Stephen
Vittore Carpaccio
1520

Worship Theme: Jesus prayed for us the night before he died. He prays for us still in heaven, and God has answered his prayer.

First Lesson: Acts 7:54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

1. Where/how did Stephen see Jesus? (See 7:55)

2. Luke does not say that Stephen “died.” What does Luke say?

Second Lesson:  Hebrews 7:11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come-- one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." 18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.'" 22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest meets our need-- one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

3. Jesus did not ascend into heaven to retire and rest. What is one vital thing Jesus is doing for us right now?

4. Since Jesus rose from the dead, he lives forever. Since Jesus lives forever, what kind of priesthood does he have? (See 7:24)

5. Old Testament priests also interceded for God’s people. Why is Jesus priesthood better? (And why, therefore, should we never leave Jesus?)

Gospel: John 17:11b-19 Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-- the name you gave me-- so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

6. Jesus prayed these words on the night before he died. It is commonly known as his High Priestly prayer. For what things did Jesus pray?

7. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth”?


 Answers:
1. Stephen saw heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

2. Luke says that Stephen fell asleep. What comfort for us! In Christ, we have nothing to fear from death. We will rise again with Christ on the last day.

3. One vital thing Jesus does for us is to act as our high priest before the Father. He intercedes for us (7:25).

4. Since Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.

5. Jesus priesthood is better than any Jewish priest of old (and therefore we should never leave Jesus), because he was sacrificed for our sins once for all. He is holy and blameless, exalted above the heavens.

6. Since he was leaving his disciples visibly, Jesus asked the Father to watch over his disciples, unite them, and protect them. He also prayed that the Father would sanctify them.

7. When Jesus asked the Father to sanctify his first disciples he, meant to “set them apart” for God and for holiness. God through his Word, and the trust worked by that Word, sets apart believers for himself. In other words, we are in the world, but we are not of it. We are heaven-bound. Jesus prayed that God would continue to keep them from sin, the devil and the evil of this world through his holy Word. God continues to set us apart through that same Word of truth.



A reading from the Book of Concord for the Seventh Sunday of Easter
The adversaries condemn our statement that people obtain the forgiveness of sins by faith.  Forgiveness of sins is received not by the outward deed because of contrition, but by faith that sins are pardoned for him.  For this is the chief article that we regard is necessary to all Christians.

The adversaries say that faith comes before repentance. They understand faith this way: not that faith justifies, but that, in a general way, it believes that God exists, punishes the wicked, and so on.  In addition to this faith, we require that each one believe that his sins are pardoned.  We are arguing for this specific faith that asks us to trust in Christ's promise. This faith overcomes terrors and makes the conscience peaceful. We attribute justification and regeneration to this faith, since it frees from terrors and produces peace and joy, and also a new life in the heart.

We do not see what benefit Confession has without absolution. Paul teaches that the promise cannot be received except by faith (Romans 4:16).  Absolution is the promise of the forgiveness of sins.  If the heart doubts, it regards those things that God promises as uncertain and of no account.  So, it is written, "Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son" (1 John 5:10). – Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIIA, Repentance (59-62)


Text of the Closing Hymn: We All Are One In Mission
We all are one in mission; We all are one in call,
Our varied gifts united By Christ, the Lord of all.
A single great commission Compels us from above
To plan and work together That all may know Christ's love.

We all are called to service, To witness in God's name.
Our ministries are diff'rent; Our purpose is the same:
To touch the lives of others With God's surprising grace,
So ev'ry folk and nation May feel God's warm embrace.

Now let us be united, And let our song be heard;
Now let us be a vessel For God's redeeming Word.
We all are one in mission; We all are one in call,
Our varied gifts united By Christ, the Lord of all.


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