O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Acts 17:22-31 . . . Paul’s address in a public forum to the curious citizens of Athens.
Psalm 66:8-20 . . . A Prayer from the Divine Abode
1 Peter 3:13-22 . . . guidance for all Christians, counseling a readiness to suffer patiently for doing what is right
John 14:15-21 . . . Jesus promises his followers that those who love him will be guided by the Holy Spirit and will also see him.
Does what you believe or not believe matter? Ryan Ahlgrim, pastor of First Mennonite Church, Richmond, Virginia, preaches from Acts.
Paul teaches in Athens where the temples/shrines to all the local gods were located and where the philosophers resided. Listen and learn what Paul teaches these philosophers and how we can apply his teaching today. Your beliefs really do matter. Why?
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Acts 7:55-60 . . . A deacon OF THE CHURCH, Stephen, preaches salvation history before the high priest and the council, culminating in a vision of Jesus standing at God’s right hand.
1 Peter 2:2-10 . . . a series of images from the Old Testament, describing Christians as a chosen people called by God to God’s service.
John 14:1-14 . . . Jesus speaks with his disciples shortly before his passion and tells them that he is the way, the truth, and the life.
Have you ever had someone tell you that you look like or act like your parents? This is true for Michael Renninger, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia. He says that the family resemblance is strong. In John 14:1-14, Jesus shares an intimate moment with his disciples in which he reminds them that if they have seen and heard him, then they have seen and heard the Father. The family resemblance is strong.
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Acts 2:42-47 . . . The new community of believers in the resurrected Jesus devote themselves to teaching and fellowship, to sharing in eucharistic meals, and to the prayers.
Psalm 23 . . . “A Song from the Flock of God:” a personal and individual expressed sense of human life in response to the divine Presence, which serves as guide and guard
1 Peter 2:19-25 . . . disciples are called to bear undeserved suffering with patience, even as Christ has set an example for us, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.
John 10:1-10 . . . two related images in which Jesus is first the shepherd in charge of the sheep and then the gate through which the sheep enter.
Ryan Ahlgrim, pastor of First Mennonite Church, Richmond, Virginia, begins by sharing how he was zealous for trying to convert people as a teenager. However, when asked how many he had converted, he was embarrassed because the answer was none. As he has grown older and gained more experiences, he now says that he thinks, “maybe this is the way it is supposed to be.” In Acts 2:42-47, we learn that we are not converted by a sermon, but by the Spirit of God, as it animates and empowers the church of Jesus Christ
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Acts 2:14, 36-41 . . . a summary of the preaching and other activities of the early Christian community in Jerusalem
1 Peter 1:17-23 . . . the price of Christian freedom from the old ways of futility has been paid with the sacrificial blood of Christ. Although now we await the judgement of God the Father in awe, we have the faith and hope of people who have been born anew.
Luke 24:13-35. . . the story of how disciples were met by a stranger on the road to Emmaus. That evening, as he breaks bread with them, they know the stranger to be Jesus.
Rev. Dr. Kristin Adkins Whitesides, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Winchester, Virginia, says, “Sometimes we miss Easter or only just catch a glimpse of it before it is gone. We need more time to digest what has happened, to let it all sink in…and we aren’t the only ones.” In today’s passage from Luke, Cleopas and a friend were walking on the road to Emmaus, when a stranger eavesdropped on their conversation. It took time for them to realize who was walking with them. Listen as Adkins-Whitesides explains how they recognized Jesus and invites us to recognize how Jesus appears to us today as well.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery hast established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Acts 2:4, 22-32 . . . Peter preaches the fundamental message of the resurrection.
Psalm 16 . . . A song of the Refugee: a sophisticated understanding of idolatry
1Peter 1:3-9 . . . the new birth Christians have received through baptism which brings them a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection and an imperishable inheritance
John 20:19-31 . . . two appearance of the risen Lord to his disciples
“Poor Thomas. He’s been called the doubter, the skeptic. Jesus seems to chastise him for having to see in order to believe,” begins MaryAnn McKibben Dana. In the Gospel reading, today, we learn about how Jesus handles a “skeptic” in the ranks. Dana says, “The word for faith and the word for doubt comes from the same Greek root. It’s as if they are two sides of the same coin. It’s as if you can’t have one without the other.” Listen as Dana explores the concept of wrestling with doubt and how normal it is to be like Thomas.
We thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death and brought us into the kingdom of your Son; and we pray that, as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Acts 10:34-43 . . . Peter realizes that good news of the gospel is meant for all people, and he proclaims the crucified and risen Jesus.
Colossians 3:1-4. . . Those who have shared in the experience of Christ’s resurrection are to set their minds on the things that are above.
John 20:1-18 . . . the discovery of the empty tomb and Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene.
Two priests enter a bar and see Jesus. It sounds like a good punch line for a joke. But Phillip Martin, pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church in Richmond, Virginia tells how he and a co-worker went into a brewery and actually saw a man dressed up like Jesus. Martin’s co-worker did not believe him until he actually saw the man with his own eyes. Then they took a picture with the man because they had “seen the Lord.”
Liturgy of the Palms
Matthew 21:1-11 . . . Jesus comes to the holy city of Jerusalem and is hailed as the promised Sone of David
Most of us like the comfortable and the familiar. Jesus, however, sometimes sends us ahead of him to places we have never been before. MaryAnn McKibben Dana, popular speaker, preacher, conference leader, and writer, preaches from Matthew 21:1-11. In today’s Palm/Passion Sunday passage, Jesus sends the disciples to the village ahead instead of the one they had already visited. Dana says, “It takes faith to follow Jesus. It takes blind faith to go ahead of Jesus into the unknown. It takes irrepressible faith to walk down a road your feet have never walked before. It takes intrepid faith to look back over your shoulder and see Jesus…” urging you ahead. Dana reminds us that it is not the crowd that followed Jesus, but the crowd that “prepared the way of the Lord” that made a difference. Are you a follower or are you preparing the way of the Lord?
Liturgy of Passion
Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Isaiah 50:4-9 . . . the servant who speaks for the Lord and suffers persecution, but still trust in God’s help and vindication
Psalm 31:9-16. . . trusting in the Lord’s mercy and protection
Philippians 2:5-11 . . . From one of the earliest Christian hymns we hear how Christ Jesus accepted the condition of a servant, was obedient even to the point of death, and was then given the name above every name.
Matthew 27: 11-54 . . . the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, his final sufferings and death.
Richard W. Voelz is an Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA. His sermon for this week draws on the eyewitness account of Egeria, an early pilgrim to Jerusalem, who marveled at the devotion of the all-day Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. What can we learn from those pilgrims?
O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Ezekiel 37:1-14 . . . The prophet has a vision of the bones of a dead and hopeless people being restored to new life in their homeland.
Psalm 130 (Tree of Life Version). . . waiting on God for forgiveness and redemption
Romans 8:6-11 . . . Paul draws a contrast between minds dominated by fleshly and worldly things and those in whom Christ lives and are set on Spirit.
John 11:1-45 . . . the story of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead.
“Can you smell that?” asks Scott Spencer’s wife. “No dear,” he replies, not to fret her, but because he genuinely doesn’t smell it. Spencer, author and New Testament scholar, says of today’s passage, John 11:1-45, “It features co-mingled scents of life and death, powerful odors, from the most pleasant to the most putrid.” By the end of the passage, “The spring-like fragrance of fresh life deodorizes the whole scene.” But, in the four days between Lazarus’ death and being raised from the dead, Mary and Martha say to Jesus, “If only you had been here.” Have you ever uttered that phrase?…”If only…?” Spencer offers an alternative way to think. Listen as he prods us to consider the “what now…” of Lazarus’ resurrection and the “what now…” in our lives.
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
1 SAMUEL 16:1-13 . . . the Lord sends Samuel to anoint David
PSALM 23 . . . The Lord is shepherd and guide. God is present in the time of danger and generous and merciful
EPHESIANS 5:8-14 . . . disciples are called to be a people of the light, forsaking all the works of darkness
JOHN 9:1-41 . . . the story of Jesus’ healing of a man born blind. Jesus brings light into a dark world
“There’s something holy and important about paying attention to our surroundings and to the people near us,” says Rev. Dr. Kristin Adkins Whitesides, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Winchester, Virginia. She invites us to journey with the blind man who is healed by Jesus in John 9:1-41. He must figure out what his life would mean now that he was no longer blind. Those around him must also figure out what their lives meant in response to his healing. Who is truly blind?
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Exodus 17:1-7 . . . the people are at the point of rebellion because they are without water in the wilderness
Psalm 95 . . . A Call to Worship and Obedience
Romans 5:1-11 . . . Paul bids disciples to rejoice in the reconciliation and hope which are theirs because of the sacrifices of Christ on behalf of sinners.
John 4:5-42 . . . the story of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well.
Reverend Amy Starr Redwine, pastor and head of staff at First Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Virginia says, “A long tradition of Biblical interpretation concludes that the woman at the well must be a prostitute. Many of us come to this text, John 4:5-42, preconditioned to see the shame the woman carries as surely as she carries her water jar.” According to Redwine, despite what we may have been taught, this text is not about shame. Instead, Redwine invites us to consider “what might happen if we engage one another as human beings created by God, inherently valuable and worthy of love and respect.”