According to Paul "the last enemy to be destroyed is death", (1 Corinthians 15:26), The Ester message throughout is that in the resurrection Jesus broke the bonds of death, freeing not only himself, but us as well. It is a life-giving message, that stands as a witness to the reality of death in our midst. We may not know or understand the mystery that lies beyond the grave, but hope is found in the promise of resurrection. In these three readings, each very different from each other, we find God reaching out to in deliverance. Two of the texts involve God reaching out to those facing the prospect of death (Elijah and the official's son). The reading from Revelation on the other hand shares a word of judgment on death itself. Death and Hades will give the dead to face judgment, while Death and Hades are destroyed in the lake of fire. They no longer have a hold on humanity -- death, the last enemy, is destroyed! As you consider what the Sixth Sunday of Easter will bring, consider the messages found in these texts chosen by David Ackerman for Beyond the Lectionary.
“God Delivers Us from Death”
Call to Worship: Psalm 134 NRSV
One: Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord.
Many: May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.
Gathering Prayer: God, we live in a world where death is all around us. As you bring us together today, we look to you to bring us comfort and hope in the face of all our losses. Help us to find the courage to bless you, even amid all the hardships of life.
Confession: Time after time, God, we have doubted that you would provide for us when we went through difficult periods in our lives. We have turned away from the good news of Easter, and we have denied your resurrection by the way that we’ve lived. Forgive us, God. Show us mercy and grace, so that we might know that you are with us, even when we go through deserted places and barren times.
Assurance: God has not abandoned us but has delivered us from every power that would keep us from the fullness of life that God has promised. As we look to the risen Christ today, may we know that Jesus’ victory is ours and that death and all the powers of evil will surely come to an end!
Scriptures: 1 Kings 17:1-6 – “God Provides for Elijah”
Revelation 20:11-14a – “Death Is Destroyed”
John 4:46-54 – “Jesus Heals an Official’s Son”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
- What images come to your mind as you think of God providing food and water for Elijah in 1 Kings 17? Have you ever been in a situation when you felt like you were going through a time of dryness in your life and God provided for you? What was that like?
- How do you think the words of Revelation 20 would have provided comfort to persecuted first century Christians? Do they give us hope today? How?
- Today’s selection from John 4 is Jesus’ “second sign”, which he performs in Cana of Galilee. What do you think this sign says about who Jesus is and what Jesus does?
- In what ways have you been touched by death? Are any of these stories hard for you to hear, given your own sense of loss in life? Do any of these stories give you hope in the face of death?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: God, you do not leave us in the dust of death. You deliver us into newness of life. With our whole lives, may we praise and glorify you for the victory that you have won through Jesus, our Savior.
Benediction: We have good news to share of a God who provides for us and delivers us from every evil that death can bring. Let us go now and share this good news as we joyfully follow our risen Savior. Amen.