Worship Helps for Easter 4
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Worship Theme: Imagine if everyone on earth were a needle: there are well over six billion needles in a huge pile. How can God keep them all straight? How can God keep his eye on you in particular and hear your prayers? He has no trouble at all— and not only because he is Almighty. Jesus is your Good Shepherd. He knows you as well as he knows the Father, and as the Father knows you. That’s why he laid down his life for you.
Old Testament: Ezekiel 34:25 "'I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety. 26 I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. 27 The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. 28 They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. 29 I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. 30 Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the house of
Israel, are my people, declares the
Sovereign LORD. 31 You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are
people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.'"
1. In Ezekiel 34:23, 24, God promises to have his eternal Son, Jesus, a direct descendant of King David, tend his flock and be their shepherd. Describe some of the wondrous results. (See 34:25-29.)
2. What will God’s people know then? (See 34:30, 31.)
3. Why does God repeat this? (Why is this so important?)
Epistle: Revelation 7:9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" 13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes-- who are they, and where did they come from?" 14 I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
4. To whom do the people in heaven give the credit for the fact that they are there?
5. Why, in John’s vision, do the people in heaven who are coming out of the great tribulation wear white robes?
6. How many descriptions of life with Jesus before his throne does John give?
Gospel: John Then came the Feast of Dedication at
Jerusalem. It was winter,
23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade.
24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us
in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus
answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my
Father's name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you
are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and
they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never
perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has
given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my
Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."
7. What two testimonies should have convinced Jews of Jesus’ day that he really is the Son of God?
8. What great comfort does Jesus give to people who, like sheep, are prone to wander?
1. Some of the results: God’s people will not have to fear “wild beasts” (they will dwell in safety). They will have lots of fruit to eat. God will rescue them from slave masters. They will not suffer famine or the scorn of other nations.
2. When all these blessings come, God’s people will know that he, the LORD their God, is with them and that they are his people.
3. God reemphasizes that he will be our God and we will be his people, his flock, because our sin separates us from God and keeps us from being his sheep, his people. What grace that God would bring us back to him, all on his own! What eternal praise he deserves for his saving grace!
4. Heaven’s residents give all credit to God the Father and God the Son, the Lamb who laid down his life in our place.
5. The people in heaven had washed their robes and had miraculously made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
6. John gives 10 descriptions of life before Jesus’ throne. Just as when we say, for example, “That was ten times better than I ever hoped,” ten is Revelation’s number for a large quantity. In other words, life before the throne couldn’t be more beautiful for all who follow the Lamb.
7. a) Jesus’ repeated statements about his relationship with the Father and b) his miracles both testify that Jesus is the Son of God.
8. Jesus assures us that no one can snatch us out of his hand. He will keep us trusting in him as we keep hearing his voice, the voice of our Shepherd.
Putting your faith into action
If it’s true—and it is—that “the LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,” then why do I complain, feel greedy or jealous, worship things, and use people to get more stuff? My Old Adam, that’s why, which willingly follows Satan’s temptations and the world’s love of money. Forgive me Jesus, restore my soul, and help me follow the paths of your righteousness all my days until I dwell in your house forever. Until then, use me to share your shepherding love with as many people as possible!
A reading from the Book of Concord for Easter 4
The natural free will in regenerate people strives against God’s Law, even after regeneration. Was it not much more stubborn and hostile to God’s Law and will before regeneration? This is clear: (a) the free will, from its own natural powers, cannot work or agree to work anything for its own conversion, righteousness, and salvation, nor follow, believe, or agree with the Holy Spirit, who through the Gospel offers a person grace and salvation; (b) from its rebellious nature it resists God and His will with hostility, unless it is enlightened and controlled by God’s Spirit.
The Holy Scriptures compare the unregenerate person to a hard stone. It is like a rough block and an unmanageable beast. This does not mean that a person is no longer a rational creature, or is converted to God without hearing and meditating on the divine Word. It does not mean a person fails to understand outward, worldly things, or of his free will do, or abstain from doing, anything good or evil.
As Dr. Luther says about Psalm 90: In worldly affairs, which apply to the livelihood and needs of the body, a person is cunning, intelligent, and quite active. But in spiritual and divine things, which apply to the salvation of the soul, a person is like a stone, like a lifeless statue, which uses neither eyes nor mouth, neither sense nor heart. – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will (paragraphs 18-20)
Hymns for this Sunday: 766; 375; 360; 374; 432
375 The King of Love My Shepherd Is
1 The King of love my shepherd is, Whose goodness fails me never;
I nothing lack if I am his, And he is mine forever.
2 Where streams of living water flow, My Savior gently leads me;
And where the verdant pastures grow, With food celestial feeds me.
3 Confused and foolish oft I strayed, But yet in love he sought me
And on his shoulder gently laid And home, rejoicing, brought me.
4 In death’s dark vale I fear no ill With you, dear Lord, beside me;
Your rod and staff my comfort still, Your cross before to guide me.
5 You spread a table in my sight, A banquet here bestowing;
Your oil of welcome, my delight; My cup is overflowing!
6 And so through all the length of days Your goodness fails me never.
Good Shepherd, may I sing your praise Within your house forever!
Text: Henry W. Baker, 1821–77, alt.