Worship Helps for Easter 5



Title: I Am The Way
Artist: Lizbeth Gage

Worship Theme: I am the way, the truth, and the life.  Christ’s message is so exclusive that it rejects all others. There is only one way to the Father, and that way is a person.  He does not say, ‘I show you the way,’ like a second Moses, but I am the way.  Nor ‘I have the truth,’ like another Elijah, but I am the truth. Not only ‘I lead unto life,’ as one of his apostles, but I am the life. The exclusivity of salvation resting in the person of Jesus Christ is a rock against which the unbelieving world crushes itself, but upon which God builds his Church.

Old Testament: 1 Kings 18:16-45
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" 18 "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." 20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the LORD's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire-- he is God." Then all the people said, "What you say is good." 25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood." 34 "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD-- he is God! The LORD-- he is God!" 40 Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there. 41 And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain." 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 43 "Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there," he said. Seven times Elijah said, "Go back." 44 The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'" 45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.

1. What insights do you gain from this account regarding Jesus as the only way to heaven?

Epistle: 1 Peter 2:4-10
As you come to him, the living Stone-- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," 8 and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message-- which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

2. What description does Peter give of all who are joined to Christ by faith?

3. According to Peter, to what purpose did God call us, his own people, out of darkness? (verse 9)

Gospel: John 14:1-12
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." 9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

4. Why was Jesus' departure not a source of sorrow but a reason for rejoicing?

5. Must we wait for eternal life to be united with Jesus?

6. What is the comfort of knowing that a place in heaven exists with our name on it?

7. Jesus calls himself "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."  What is the significance of the three definite articles?


Answers:
1. Ahab and Jezebel had institutionalized idolatry and persecution on a national scale. To people worshiping a false god of the storm, God sent his prophet to announce his judgment: There would be no rain. After three years of drought, famine crippled the kingdom. Against that backdrop, God sent Elijah to a showdown with Ahab and his false prophets. In the context of this Sunday, the lesson shows the emptiness and impotence of all other ways besides the one way. No matter their outward show of power or prestige, 450 prophets and the might of royalty could not change the spiritual reality that there is one way, one truth, one life. Even today, a whole world of false teachers and TV bible scholars cannot change the spiritual reality that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. The drama of this narrative engages: as the water runs down and fills the trench, we wait. As the fire descends and consumes, we marvel. As the people’s hearts are turned back to God, we shout Elijah’s name: The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!

2. He describes them as living stones being built into a spiritual house.  Believers are like a temple in which God dwells and where living sacrifices are continually being offered to him.

3. God called us to declare his praises, that is, to tell the whole world what he has done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The world looks at God hidden in Christ and sees either a loser or a joke (1 Corinthians 1). The Jews rejected him because of his humility. The world today rejects him because of his claims of being the one way, the one truth, the one life. In neither case do they see Christ as the stone that should set their angles or head their corners. They would rather fashion their lives by their own design. This rejected stone, however, will ultimately be their downfall. For believers, though, this rejected stone is what saves and builds. Jesus said, “I am the life”. That living stone is Life, gives life, and makes living stones out of people who were scattered in darkness.

4. He was leaving in order to prepare for them a place in his Father's house.  And, he added, he would return and take them to the place he had prepared.  There they would all be together again!

5. In John 14:23 Jesus stated that he and the Father will come to us and make their home with us.  Thus, the mystic union is a reality already in this life.

6. Things in this life come and go, they change, they see decay.  But our God is our one constant in our lives.  What comfort to know that beyond this ever-changing world we have a place prepared for us by Christ in heaven.

7. It clearly points out that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  He is the world's one and only Savior (Luke 2:32).  Only through Christ our Savior do we ever come to the Father.

“He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.” Martin Luther’s Thesis 20, the Heidelberg Disputations, 1518 AD.

The context of these verses is Jesus bidding farewell to his disciples on the night he was betrayed. He tries to set their hearts at rest and tells them to trust God and him regarding this departure. But the disciples’ faith is clouded by doubt and false hopes. Thomas cannot conceive of a Messianic kingdom that involves death or departure. They did not want to see God in sufferings, but in glory. Philip, like us all, wanted to see the Father. Show us the glory cloud! Show us the fiery mountain! Show us the sapphire pavement! Show us the throne ringed by cherubim and seraphim! Show us the Father! Sinful man wants to look right past this man from Galilee. Sinful man fails to see the truth expressed in Luther’s thesis, the truth so crucial to the theology of the cross: the hidden God reveals himself by hiding himself. There is only one way, and that way is a person. Jesus points Thomas and Philip to the one person who reveals the hidden God to us. Note the definite articles in verse 6. We are tempted to think there must be more than this humble man from Galilee. Oh, there is! Look closer and see the hidden God. See grace in the flesh—the God of glory willing to hide himself unto death for me.


Putting your faith into action

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
1] That Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins, and was raised again for our justification, Rom. 4:25.
2] And He alone is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1:29; and God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all, Is. 53:6.
3] Likewise: All have sinned and are justified without merit [freely, and without their own works or merits] by His grace,through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood, Rom. 3:23f
4] Now, since it is necessary to believe this, and it cannot be otherwise acquired or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us as St. Paul says, Rom. 3:28: For we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law. Likewise 3:26: That He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Christ.
5] Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53:5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us. – The Smalcald Articles, Part II, Article I (paragraphs 1-5)

Hymns: 162; 145; 152; 529


1  Built on the Rock the Church shall stand Even when steeples are falling.
Crumbled have spires in ev’ry land; Bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest, But above all the soul distressed,
Longing for rest everlasting.

2  Surely in temples made with hands God, the Most High, is not dwelling;
High above earth his temple stands, All earthly temples excelling.
Yet he who dwells in heav’n above Chooses to live with us in love,
Making our bodies his temple.

3  We are God’s house of living stones, Built for his own habitation.
He through baptismal grace us owns Heirs of his wondrous salvation.
Were we but two his name to tell, Yet he would deign with us to dwell
With all his grace and his favor.

4  Here stands the font before our eyes, Telling how God did receive us.
Th’ altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice And what the sacrament gives us.
Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same,
And evermore, our Redeemer.

5  Grant then, O God, your will be done, That, when the church bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come Where Christ his message is bringing:
“I know my own; my own know me. You, not the world, my face shall see.
My peace I leave with you always.”

Text: Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig, 1783–1872, abr.; tr. Carl Döving, 1867–1937, alt.


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