Finding the Lessons

The latest blog post will be the bible study for the next week. Scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday. The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date. Enjoy.

Search This Blog by Proper and Year (ie: Proper 8B or Christmas C or Advent 1A)


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Proper 13B/Ordinary 18B/Pentecost 10 August 2, 2015

"Preachers may need to remind their congregations about last week's text and the feeding of the multitude because in today's text, John begins to unpack the meaning of that earlier event."

Commentary, John 6:24-35, Brian Peterson, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

"'The hymn powerfully portrays the plight of so many of God's children: "Across the world, across the street, the victims of injustice cry for shelter and for bread to eat, and never live before ...'"

Commentary, John 6:24-35, Craig A. Satterlee, Preaching This Week,, 2015.

"In this text, Jesus is trying to repair the faulty understanding the crowd took away from last Sunday's text."

Commentary, John 6:24-35, Ginger Barfield, Preaching This Week,, 2012.


To our stewardship, O God, you have entrusted the vast resources of your creation.  Let there be no lack of bread at the table s of any of your children, and stir up within us also a longing for your word, that we may be able to satisfy that hunger for truth that you have placed within every human heart. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on John 6:24-35

Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel

Oremus Online NRSV Text

We now move into the bread of life discourse in John's Gospel.  This passage follows on the heals of the feeding of the five thousand.
So the crowd of five thousand and more follow Jesus by boat across the sea.  And, there Jesus tells them that they are there because of their hunger and because Jesus fed them. He then reorients their hunger to the hunger for enduring life.  Here Jesus invites them into the deeper life of the spirit. The people were dealing with their physical need and Jesus invites them to lift their eyes to their spiritual hunger and the potential of a spiritual life. 

So, what is this work?  The work is clear in this passage. Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  They then demand more signs.  Jesus again reorients their vision.  He said to them that their religion relies on signs.  And, that as humans they are more likely to give credit to the one who performs signs; this is natural.  But Jesus is clear again that these signs are from God.  And, he, Jesus, is from God.  He is a new bread of life. He is the incarnation.  Those who come close and move beyond the simply physical will find God in the One who comes from heaven. 

Jesus is the living word that feeds the body and the soul.  Raymond Brown reminds me of the tradition in which this conversation about manna from heaven is taking place.  From the book of Wisdom 16:26 we may read, "That your sons whom you loved might learn, O Lord, that it is not the various kinds of fruit that nourish man, but it is your word that preserves those who believe in you."  Or, Nehemiah 9:20:  "You gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst." Of course the crowd seems unable to understand these links or even to see the revelation of God made man in Jesus that is standing before them.

The revelation of Jesus as Son of Man, the incarnation, is indeed good news. It is good news because it reminds us of our chosen nature. That we are built to love and to long for God, and that though we are constantly seeking to fill our love and longing with bread of this world, it is God who provides a manna which nourishes both the body and the soul.  Indeed, we are beckoned into a new life with God through the incarnation.  A very real Jesus who gives us physical bread is also the the very real living word who gives himself as manna from heaven. 

Today we find this living word not only in the community of faithful people who share communion, we also find the living word in the preaching and teaching of the church.  We are able to find the living word in bible study (private and corporate). We are able to hear the living word in prayer which is petitional and contemplative. We are able to listen for the living word in conversations with fellow church goers and with strangers.  We are also able to find this living word out in the world.

It is too easy to see it only in church. God has sprinkled the world with leaven and in its stories, in the lives of people (even those who do not share our faith), in the arts, in film and in music. If you look, listen, and are attentive you will see that the leaven of God is all around us speaking of revelation, of incarnation, of resurrection.

We thirst and hunger for the living word, some thirst and hunger for real food, the mixture of this physical and spiritual hunger is a nexus in which the incarnation may be experienced in our own day and in our own time, within the confines of a Christian community and without.

Ephesians 4:1-16

"This section of Ephesians begins a series of ethical instructions firmly based on the preceding three chapters."

Commentary, Ephesians 4:1-16, Sarah henrich, Preaching This Week,, 2015.

"God was making a body for Christ, Paul said. Christ didn't have a regular body any more so God was making him one out of anybody he could find who looked as if he might just possibly do. He was using other people's hands to be Christ's hands and other people's feet to be Christ's feet, and when there was some place where Christ was needed in a hurry and needed bad, he put the finger on some maybe-not-all-that-innocent bystander and got him to go and be Christ in that place himself for lack of anybody better."

"Eternal Life," Frederick Buechner from Wishful Thinking.

"We live in a time that tends to undermine any claim to truth out of fear of being divisive or intolerant. But Paul advocates 'speaking the truth in love' (4:15). In other words, our bearing witness to the truth is grounded in a deep humility (4:2)."

Commentary, Ephesians 4:1-16, Mark Tranvik, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

Resources for the Epistle

What seems powerful about the letter to the Ephesians is not only its focus upon unity but also the reality that it was probably meant as a circular letter among many early Christian communities. The communities are flourishing and growing. New members (new families) are being added to the community. Not unlike our own efforts with evangelism - when we add people the community itself changes.  

The church is growing and thriving because God is present.  Consuming this religion is not the only reason for participating though. The Christian community has work to do and membership comes with obligations. 

The obligation is to live a life “worthy of ... [their] calling” as Christians. Unity will be the essential ingredient to this work because it brings about humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance.

There are in fact, 7 ways in which we must work on this unity. 
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Paul reminds us that Christ himself did not wait upon our perfection, nor our agreement, to come and begin the work of gathering us in. The Church, the Christian community, is not perfected - though Christ through the Holy Spirit is even now doing this work. 

Often times as we think about our work of being unified and becoming Christ like we immediately exteriorize the process. We make it about others and about our community or about someone else. We say you should be unified while I go my own way. You should love while I enjoy my hatred and anger. You must put down your sword while I remain an instrument of division.  We put the work of Christ-likeness on others and remind them they are not fully ready yet. They are not worthy. They are not to be included in this community or that community. Their ways are not our ways. 

The truth is that Paul has a much higher standard than this - as does our lord. God is not interested in how others are at work undertaking their obligations of unity, transformation, and Christ-likeness. No. God is much more interested in my personal journey towards unity in the family. God is much more interested in your personal journey. 

So you might ask yourself today as you ponder and pray about this passage - how are you doing with that? How is that working for you?

Where are you learning humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance by unifying yourself (as did our Lord Christ) with those who are so foreign to you? How are you a person of unity and a person being transformed by living among and working with those who are so very other than yourself? 

The work of unity is not some simply nicety. It is at the core of discipleship because it requires a life lived under the power of the bond of relationship with another - setting aside your desires for them and allowing yourself to live in relationship with them. 

This was the work of Christ to come into the creation (though it was not his nature), to embrace its creatures (though they are not of his own kind), to love (even though they would not understand or return it), and to give of himself fully (even as they took his life from him). This seems the measure of discipleship. This seems the necessary ingredient to a thriving God like community.

So, as we think about all the ways we would have it our way we might pause to think of the obligation of following a God who models something quite amazing.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Proper 12B/Ordinary 17B/Pentecost 9 July 26, 2015

Proper 12B/Ordinary 17B/Pentecost 9

ordinary time,new revised common lectionary,Sermon notes,bible,lectionary,Gospel,sundays readings,RCL

"Love that feeds hungry crowds cannot be explained. Love that turns no one away cannot be explained. Love that causes one to sacrifice oneself for the sake of another cannot be explained."
"Chasing Jesus," William H. Lamar, IV, "Chasing Jesus," The Christian Century, 2003.


In the Sunday Pasch, Lord God, you call us to share with one another the living bread that has come down from heaven.  Fill us iwth the charity of Christ and stir us by his own example to break the bread of earth as well adn to share it generously with others, so that every hunger of body and spirit may be satisfied.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on John 6:1-21

Ok, so we now switch to John's Gospel.  Today's text is particularly interesting to many scholars because it is right in the middle of a hotly debated section which is arranged and rearranged and so much of the work here is concerned with order and sequence. I am going to leave that up to you if you are interested in going down that particular rabbit trail. 

Or, perhaps you may wish to think a little about why these two stories (last weeks and this weeks) are chosen together.

But here is a significant change in the ancient tradition that I do think has more to do with this lesson than last week's lesson, and that is the connection of this feeding with the Eucharistic feast.  This is also highlighted as we pause to notice the mention of the passover.  

Here in this passage we see (very differently from the synoptic tradition) that Jesus gives out the bread as he does in the last supper narrative.  "Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated.." (vs 11)

We might read the section on chapter 6 in Raymond Brown (John, vol 1, 348) to see the other places where there are textual parallels between this and the Didache- which was an early church teaching.

They respond to this revelation of who he is by wanting to make him King or by recognizing his prophetic nature. This of course accentuates the reality that he is the incarnate Lord, and that his work in feeding is transformative for the whole world. Jesus, like Isaiah prophesied, is the means by which God feeds the people with good things.  

Here then the walking on the sea is again part of the passover theme and offers a glimpse of the promise the meal itself will hold for those who follow Jesus.

In recent weeks there has been a lot of talk about the feeding of people bread.  Here is what is interesting to me, the reality is that we as Christians are called to truly give people good things to eat. We are called to feed the hungry.  It is an amazing thing that we spend so much time figuring out how to feed those who come into our church that we will miss completely the point of the meal here made in the wilderness.  And, that is, that is a meal made in the wilderness. We are called to go out and feed people. We are called to share and to multiply what God gives us. We are to be Jesus' hands in the world. 

This passage is echoing the Eucharist because the Eucharist leads to the feeding of the multitudes for Christians.  We are literally to make table in the midst of the community and feed people.  This uniquely Christian understanding of mission is tied into the Gospel. We are to feed their minds and their bodies. And, we are to do it out in the world.  

The church can be so very narcissistic sometimes, thinking that it is all about us! The reality is this is all about the world and our call to be agents of feeding in it.  We are the new Eucharistic symbol that is to literally feed people.

To flip this around means that we are completely out of sync with the narrative story and in some ways let off the hook for doing the right thing in the midst of a very private gathering and failing our mission as Christians. 

I hope that I will leave a Christian mission to the next generation that has walked across the stormy seas of change and the parting of our front doors out into the world where truly hungry and hurting people's needs are met by a eucharistically empowered people of God.  The multiplication of our efforts to change the world around us will be a miracle indeed.

A Little Bit for Everyone

John 6:1-21

6After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.7Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,17got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Proper 11B/Ordinary 16B/Pentecost 8 July 19, 2015

"The mission is so successful that one could be left wondering where it will end. Mark's hearers then and now know that this is not the whole story, but it does not change the nature of the mission: to offer leadership in teaching and in acts of compassion that bring healing and set people free from what oppresses them."

"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 7, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.


As we gather again, O God, to celebrate the weekly Pasch, grant your church the joy of tasting again the living presence of your Christ in the word that Jesus proclaimed and in the bread of life we break. Drawing apart on this day of worship and rest, of refreshment and renewal, let us recognize in Jesus the true prophet and shepherd who guides us to unfailing springs of eternal joys. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 6:30-56
Let us begin first with the meaning of the word "apostles."  I think when we hear this word we immediately think of the chosen and the first 12.  Am I wrong? Nope. That meaning, and that is certainly one way of understanding the word, is correct but it is applied after the church became the Church.  In our reading today we might better read it in the way the gospel means it: those who were sent out.  I think this changes things a bit as we read our text.
Jacopo Bassano, "The Feeding of the Five Thousand"
So, the ones who had been sent out gathered around Jesus.  They explain all the powerful work they have been doing. They had been participating in the building up of the kingdom of God. They had gone out and done work which Jesus himself had been doing. The power of God was now present in the world and flowing through them as well. They had been sent out to do God's work of building up and proclaiming the good news of the reign of God and it had worked.

So they gather and a great many people gather around, as if in a symposium or a teaching time.  And Jesus sees them like Moses, as sheep without a shepherd.  And, like Moses who see his people hungry and longing he provides for them. This is a miraculous story that synchronizes Jesus with the powers and vision of Moses to see his suffering and lost people and to come to their aid.  His followers do not all understand this, nor can they understand the fact that Jesus himself is to be the bread of life.  But here for those of us who are also sent out, who are also sent ahead, we are able to see God's compassion and love and care for his people. Neatly tucked in here is this notion that those who are sent and are able to do great things sometimes also need help seeing that those challenges right before them are also theirs to overcome.

Our text today has a one/two punch as we take two specific and different pericopes into consideration.  In the second part of our text the disciples, his inner circle of missionaries, are gathered and are sent out onto the sea to make their way to Bethsaida. It is another crossing and we should know by now that whenever there is a crossing and water that we are about to see again the creative power of God in Jesus. Indeed we do.

They are trying to make their way. The ones who have been sent out, are now sent ahead, and are struggling to make their way across the boiling sea. Again, they are challenged. We cannot dismiss this as simply difficult work.  The image of the sea is always in Mark an image of powers of creation and powers against Jesus. It is the place of leviathon and the deep.  Jesus walks out to them. And, they see him again as the one in whom all creation has its being and for whom even the waves obey.  It is an epiphany event.  In the midst of the feeding we are treated to a vison of Jesus as the bread of life and a new Moses, on the sea we see him as Moses walking through the waters to deliver his people.  This passage is filled with old testament imagery and the linkage of feeding in the desert and the Red Sea crossing should not be dismissed.  Jesus is the "I am."  Jesus is the lord of the Haggadah, the ego eimi, the one who is, and he is the image of God at work in Moses, and in the new law. (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 431ff)

Just as this motif of Moses and the Exodus looks back it also looks forward.  It looks forward to the reimaging of Christ as the crucified Lord who makes way through the sheol of death and brings us to a new banquet table which is set on the mountain top and not in the wilderness.  We are given images of Christ as the bread of life. He is our new shepherd and our new deliverer. He is our messiah who leads us all and forevermore out of death into life.

As we pause and think about this for our people today we must ask what are they hungry for? What do they need deliverance from?  

Moreover, we might ask as the church who is being sent...what are we being sent out to do?

How do we as church feed the masses with the Gospel of good news? Are we willing to not only change the world; are we willing to transform it through the proclamation of God in Christ Jesus? 

This is a both/and scenario.  Mission is at once the feeding of the body, shelter for the head, and healing for the sick.  But mission is also hope for the mind, guidance home for the lost, and restoration for the separated.  It is one thing for people to know that Episcopalians care. It is quite another for people to experience the caring of the Episcopal missionary and their story of transformational life.  

Mark's gospel is never only about the wind and the waves, it is also always about the spirit.  These two combined are the key to an incarnational message of the gospel which is apostolic and life changing.  

A Little Bit for Everyone

Mark 6:30-56

30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.35When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late;36send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”37But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”38And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”39Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass.40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.41Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.42And all ate and were filled;43and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.44Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

45Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.46After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.

47When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.48When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by.49But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out;50for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”51Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat.54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him,55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Proper 10B/Ordinary 15B/Pentecost 7 July 12, 2015

"Just in case we are getting too excited and thinking this business of being a disciple of Jesus is going to be a piece of cake, is going to be a story of ever increasing fame, miracles, and wonders, Mark gives a story of a good man being executed because of weakness, capriciousness, and vengence."
Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Mark 6:14-29, David Ewart, 2009.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons


Let nothing, O God, be dearer to us than your Son, no worldly possessions, no human honors; let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ, who alone makes known tot he world the mystery of your love and reveals the true dignity of every human person.  Grant us onlyt hre riches of your grace, and pour forth on us the full measure of your Spirit, that by word and deed we may prclaim Chrsit, in whom you betsow forgiveness and redemption on all.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 6:14-29

Jesus and the disciples have been and are on a missionary journey. We have taken a side trip here in this passage.  Jesus and his followers are making their way to the cross slowly and surely.  Here in the passage today we are told of the martyrdom of John the Baptist who was a "holy and righteous man."  This is a side journey in which we see the powers of this world rebelling and slowing the progress of the kingdom down.  We cannot understimate the thematic battle between the powers that is being shaped in Mark's gospel.  This very wierd detour is an example of just such a battle. Her there is death and martydom in store for the followers of Jesus.  Just like John the Baptist the message is clear that those who choose the way, choose the way of the cross and will loose their life along the pilgrim way.

In Mark's narrative John the Baptist has an important role to play. He is the one who is making way for God.  He is the Elijah of our story.  As the story goes a masterfully gothic tale unwinds itself in the eventual macabre beheading of John.

Again, we see here the powers of the world are rebeling against the mission of God.  This is a stumbling block a moment when the mission is attacked by the forces that would see the reign of God end in favor of a far more worldly reign of Herod.

In the other gospel accounts the story of John the Baptist and his death makes room for Jesus to take center stage. Something different is happening in this martyrdom.
Famous Actress/Dancer Maude Allen as Salome
John the Baptist, perhaps like all those whose murders go unavenged, dies unjustly at the hands of power, authority, and the pleasures of this world.  His death, and the death of the saints martyrered, shall be consumated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is rejected and dies a death as gothic and macabre as John the Baptist, as many of the saints; perpetua and her friends for example.  His death though is not rejected by God but is the redeeming act, the new cornerstone, of a new creation.  Jesus' death redeems and makes new the lives of the martyred saints.
This would have been powerful and hopeful news to a community not unlike Mark's own which was most probably in the midst of persecution. 

And, as we are immediately reminded in 6:30ff, out of death and wilderness places comes life and abundance. 

I pause to ask how are we dying today?  How are we dying in our lives? What is dyng?  I find that as I reflect on my own life experience typically what is taking place is that my true self is dying. My imperfect self which desires and hopes for love is dying. My soul which longs to belong and waits for community is dying.  The real me is dying. That is what is being martyred.  It is be martyred in the banqueting hall of my ego.  There my ego enjoys all the false appetites and fake symbols of life lived to the max.  It is the death of the ego that I resist; and it is my heart that I am willing to be pulled out of me.

I live a life where in my true self dies and awaits resurrection by the God who gives mercy and love.  I have hope that God chooses me, the real me, the martyred me.  I await the death of all the false banqueting halls of power in favor of the feeding of the thousands by the bread of life himself - Jesus. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Proper 9B/Ordinary 14B/Pentecost 6 July 5, 2015

"Would you agree that we are living in a world that is more and more characterized by unbelief? If so, doesn't it feel as if we are living in a Nazareth-world ? a culture that is, at best, disinterested in Jesus?"

Commentary, Mark 6:1-13, Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

"Whether among the travellers or among those who stayed in their community, Jesus called people to be and bear good news for the poor. No wonder the established power structures of family and land and religion saw only madness and did their best to tame him and his followers. The judgement of history is probably that they have at least succeeded with most of his followers to this day."

"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 6, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"By attempting over and over to make him ‘the Messiah,’ people were missing the point of his message, which was that the Reign of God was present and that they all were invited to participate in it."

"Mission Grounded in Rejection," D Mark Davis, raw translation and exegesis/questions, Left Behind and Loving It, 2012.

"Is there some area – some regret we can't get over, some grudge we can't let go, some hurt that has come to define us, some addiction that imprisons us, some anger that has taken hold of us – that we are having difficulty entrusting to God?"

"Something to Do," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2012.

Remove from before our eyes, O God, the veil that hides your splendor, and flood us with the light of your Holy Spirit, that we may recognize your glory shining inthe humiliation ofyour Christ and experience even in our own human weakness the sufficiency of your grace and the surpassing power of Christ's resurrection.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 6:1-13

Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel

Last week the crowds loved this guy, this week they reject him in his home town.  Those who knew him the best, who saw him growing up, those who he perhaps counted as friends - they reject him. He is not able to do any work there in their midst. He is completely "dumbfounded." (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 377).

There are several powerful themes. The first is that the gospel is not easily heard by the insiders. This is true in the religious authorities and in his closest relatives.  The second theme is that God is at work here, just like the prophets of old.  The third is Jesus' rejection. He is rejected by the demons. He is rejected by the religious authorities. He is rejected by gentiles. He is rejected now by his own people.

God is patient. God is at work. Even though he is rejected here he is not fully without power to do miraculous things.  God in Jesus continues to make his way to the ultimate rejection and crucifixion. But it will be at the cross that he is victorious. 

The message this week is clear to me. God is at work in the world around us. God is at work wether we see it or do not see it. God is at work outside the walls of our churches and outside of our communities. In point of fact some miraculous things are happening inside, but the great work is being done out in the world.  The whole of creation is marching steadily towards fruition of the kingdom of God and his reign.  It is at work and miracles and works of power are being done by God through the power of the Holy Spirit as we speak.

The question is not unlike the dumbfounded Jesus might have posed to his hometown family: cannot you see what I am doing here? Do you not know me?  Don't you want to come with me?

What would it be like this Sunday to preach the newspaper and illustrate where God is at work in the world? Or in music, art, or film?  Where is the language of grace breaking into the culture?  What would it be like to show and highlight those places where the church is following Jesus and is actually out there and working with his miraculous power to change creation?  Yes, that is the inspiration and call to see again for the first time that we need from the pulpit this week. Inspire us to get out there an stop looking for Jesus to be the tame Jesus of our sanctuary.  Inspire us good lord to follow you out into the world and help us to see you at work and to join your efforts there!

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

"And how long was the whole great circus to last? Paul said, why, until we all become human beings at last, until we all 'come to maturity,' as he put it; and then, since there had been only one really human being since the world began, until we all make it to where we're like him, he said - 'to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13). Christ's to each other, Christs to God. All of us. Finally. It was just as easy, and just as hard, as that."

"Paul," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"It may be timely for the preacher to focus less on individual experience and more on a congregation's collective experience."

Commentary, 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Sally A. Brown, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"Gratitude and generosity - two virtues that acknowledge we are not all strength and independence, but also (and very basically) weakness and dependency - prepare us for better adjustment in situations of loss."

"Declining with Grace," Robert C. and Elizabeth V. Roberts, (other resources at)"Aging," Christian Reflection, The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2003.

Buried in the reading for this week is a real gem. Paul writes, "'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.' So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong."

As an Episcopalian this passage from Corinthians reminds us that we are broken and fallen creatures. Our reason is deficient to understand the divine intent its fullness and that we are always powerfully controlled by our ego and selfish desires. In this I know I am weak. I do things I do not wish to do - Paul claims. So my weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions (done to me and inflicted by me) and calamities are so very real. So very real are my weakness that I am saved solely by the grace of God. God's grace is sufficient.

We has Christians struggle though because while we understand that God's grace is sufficient for me - it is rarely sufficient for you.

Today, as we think and ponder the culture all around us we might be challenged to truly accept God's sufficient grace for ourselves and for others. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Proper 8B/Ordinary 13B/Pentecost 5

"Jesus called a woman unnamed in scripture from the shadows of anonymity. He called her 'daughter,' a designation that signifies kinship, relationship and lineage."

Commentary, Mark 5:25-34, Deborah K. Blanks, The African American Lectionary, 2009.

"Who knows what kind of story Mark is telling here, but the enormously moving part of it, I think, is the part where Jesus takes the little girl's hand and says, 'Talitha cum' - 'Little girl, get up' - and suddenly we ourselves are the little girl."

"Jairus' Daughter," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog. "Funeral," from Whistling in the Dark.

"Can the Christian community alter the conditions of people's lives? Can it, too, bring healing into troubled circumstances? Must it not also cross boundaries -- whether they are related to ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, politics or any other boundaries that divide our society -- and advocate life-giving meaning and change?"

Commentary, Mark 5:21-43, Emerson Powery, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel

O God, in the paschal mystery of Christ, who became poor for our sake and obedient even unto death on a cross, you have chosen to enrich us with every good gift and to give us a share in Christ's exalted life.  Let us fear neither teh cost of discipleship nor the inevitability of sharing in the cross but gladly announce to all our brothers and sisters the good news of life healed, restored and renewed.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 5:21-43

This week we move from an act of God in Jesus' voice which stills the stormy sea to the work of God in Jesus as his power heals a woman and raises a girl to life.

This passage comes after the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac.  In our narrative for this Sunday we are on our way; and we might remember we are always in Mark on our Way to the cross.  Jarius, a man who led the local synagogue, approaches Jesus. We cannot help but see that in contrast to other religious leaders and other religious crowds, these are people flocking to Jesus and his teachings.

Jarius tells Jesus that his daughter is urgently in need of saving so that she might live again.  Urgency, resurrection, and living again are all very particular and clear words used in this passage.  We cannot but hear, perhaps as Mark's first readers, the parallel with the urgency by which Jesus makes his way to the cross, the death and resurrection which is to take place, and the opportunity we receive to live again.  If we read the Greek here what we discover, in keeping with many scholars, is that his daughter is not sick but dead!  (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 366)

Raising of Jarius' Daughter by Gabriel Max, 1878
As Jesus makes his way he is touched by the hemorrhaging woman.  She is aware of being made well, he is aware of the healing, and he tells her that it is her faith that has made her well.  Jesus looks at her.  We are reminded of his looking upon his followers and calling them his new family.  He looks upon her and he calls her daughter.  She becomes family, a follower, a believer, she is able to live life again; but in a new way.

The woman who is healed from her 12 year hemorrhage is paralleled in the new family by the other daughter of 12 years old who is healed and made to live again as well.  Unlike the pouring out of his spirit that takes place with the woman, Jesus' intervention here with the girl is more like the stilling of the storm or the Gerasene demoniac.  Here we see in the midst of the room, mourners cast out, death in power, a God of creation at work remaking the world.  Death is vanquished with powerful words and she rises.  (Marcus, 372)

This story is about Jesus' power and his authority.  It makes real his teaching that God is at work in the world and the reign of God is at hand. These works of power are creating, perhaps recreating, the family of God. While it is true that in the very next chapter Jesus is going to be rejected because of this work, we the readers and hearers of this Gospel lesson are perhaps set in a mindset of amazement at the power of God to make all things, all people, even myself, new.

As I ponder these things I have in my minds eye the congregation that will sit before me as I preach. I am mindful of my own self presented before these texts.  I am aware that Jarius sits before me.  He sits in the pew and he is hoping God will save his daughter; save her from drugs, or alcohol, perhaps depression.  He is sitting there and he is praying.  The hemorrhaging woman is sitting there praying for deliverance from her physical ailing; her cancer, or her auto immune disorder, her pain.  There will be people there who have lost their children, their parents, their brothers and sisters.  I will be there with my own pains and desires for healing. I will be there with those things I have done which I am sorry for. I will be there with those things which I have not done and am sorry for. I will be there with my failings and my fear.  We will all be there; the wounded and wounding brothers and sisters of Jesus.

It is an opportunity to be reminded that Jesus loves us and is with us in our suffering and in our wounding.  That God is with us and that this story is about a God who loves and whose mercy is sure and steadfast. This is a story about a powerful God - yes. It is also a story of a loving God.  As Dr. Paul Zahl puts it, this is a story about a God with one way love.  Powerful, forgiving, healing, resurrecting love.  This is a story about a God who looks at us as we reach out to him and calls us brother and sister. This is a story about a God who offers himself for the recreation of our lives in this world and the next. 

The narrative tale of Mark's gospel reminds us quickly that the final deliverance from our sin and physical brokenness is in fact to be redeemed upon the cross.  It is there in th midst of resurrection that the new creation of our lives springs forth. This one way loving, forgiving, and merciful God heals the world's wound.  God is present with us in our sorrow and he turns it to joy.

This week I hope I can offer a gospel of God in Christ Jesus that heals the sin sick soul, and binds up the wounds of the heart, mind and body.  May we all preach and teach a gospel that is healing and filled with grace!  That is what the world is longing to hear.  Yes. I think so. They are longing, as my own soul longs, to hear that God loves them and we are being gathered in as his family.  We are being embraced and held and loved.  We are being gathered in, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. 

From Psalm 42:
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

"The answer just might lie in churches that are begging - begging for the privilege of standing with those in need and applying a holistic gospel to the systems that deprive people of their dignity."

Begging to Give," Bill O'Brien, The Christian Century, 2003.

"...for Christians, equality and justice are measured not only monetarily, but also relationally."

"Pressed into Service," Daniel Harrell, The Christian Century, 2006.

"While this text certainly forces us to think about what we do with our resources and, therefore, should inform our stewardship drives, Paul's passion in this text relates first of all to the gospel."

Commentary, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Carla Works, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

What happens when people chose to fight over issues of great importance and neglect the mission of the church? We get a letter like the correspondence of Paul to the Corinthians.

It is typical for us to be culture-centric and believe that our problems are more severe than problems of the past. It is easy to believe that they really were not complex people in those days or that they didn’t understand what real difference means. When we do this or say these things what we do is create an argument that allows us to release ourselves from the call of unity in the apostolic age.

There are a lot of problems in the first one hundred years of the church’s infancy. People are arguing about a lot of substantive issues that they feel (I imagine as we feel) are key to the orthodoxy of the faith.

I imagine them saying if you believe this then you are redefining what it means to be a Christ follower. I imagine that they are saying if you follow that person or do these things you cannot call yourself a Christian. And, I believe they are desirous (as all human beings are) to have it their way and to go it alone.

Certainly this is the battle of wills that is essentially driving the correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians. Furthermore, Paul is not only trying to get them to come along he is pointing out in this passage that their using disagreements to release themselves from the shared and unified funding of the church’s mission is not faithful.

Paul is blunt, “Now finish doing it.” Finish raising the funds even if you disagree with the church in Jerusalem or disagree with me…

Paul is clear that the purpose of all that they undertake is the spread of the Gospel and that this work takes money and unity. Regardless of the circumstances and feelings about the wider church people in Corinth are to give. They are to give in accordance with their means, they should be eager and committed to the cause of the Gospel, and they should themselves seek a good balance in their own life helping others while not creating a financial crisis of their own.

Paul is very clear that the Christians, those who claim to follow Jesus, are to give such that people have sufficient to live on and that there are no huge disparities between the wealthy and those without.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Proper 7B/Ordinary 12B/Pentecost 4 June 21, 2015

"What are you afraid of? I ask that because I have a hunch that we're rarely aware of just how significant a role fear plays in many of our decisions, actions, and conversations."

"Faith and Fear," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2012.

"Crossing to the other side with Jesus may be a risky, unpredictable proposition, and in this passage, the wind and the sea create a visual manifestation of the dangers of being in the boat with him."

Commentary, Mark 4:35-41, Meda Stamper, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"Even when the seas threaten to engulf us and human imperial posturing threatens our home and the heart of our identity, the Risen One is always in the boat with us. Christ's words, 'Peace! Be still!' still promise to carry us safely through the night."

Commentary, Mark 4:35-41, Sharon H. Ringe, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

"People know what it is like to be buffeted. People know what it is like to have no control. People know situations where only the divine can intervene."

"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 4. William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.


Make firm, Lord God, the faith of your Christian people, that success may not fill us with worldly pride nor the storms of life lay us low.  Rather, whatever may befall, teach us to recognize your quiet but calming presence and to count on you as the unseen companion who faithfully accompanies us throughout life's journey.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Mark 4:35-41

In this passage from Mark we have the stilling of the storm.  Jesus has been teaching and teaching in parables.  The theme has clearly been the power of God and the coming reign of God. He then sets out with his followers in a boat.

William Turner, The Storm
The artist once lashed himself to a mast in order to see for himself the storm at sea.
In this passage we see the stories of God's power located in the person of Jesus. What seems important in the themes that have come before this event is the nature of God's power "hidden under an appearance of weakness." (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 335)  It is in Jesus that the power of God has entered the world and through him that the reign of God is taking shape.  His power, though in the weak shell of a man, is evident in his teaching, in his healing work, and in the miraculous work that bubbles up around him. 

Key to this understanding is the fact that Jesus not only stills the storm, but that he does so by commanding it.  In this story we see the image of God in Christ Jesus through whom all things were made. On behalf of his friends he commands and frees them from certain death at the hands of winds and a sea that is rising up against them.

The story is in some very real way an offering of revelation that God's mission is at work in the world.  God's power is at work in the world.  God's grace and mercy and strength are in the midst of the world around us.  Even though we see chaos God is present.

In the midst of our own lives we may even echo the words of the disciples: "don't you care that we are about to die!"  

We wonder about the meaning of our lives, and the day in and day out nature of life which is seemingly so meaningless.  We wonder about lives that are thrown back and forth in the midst of raging seas of politics, economy, and society.  Is fate and chance at work in this world?  Why do we even do this.  In a world driven by ego and my misplaced longing and love which is always perversed into some kind of consumation I find my life is in fact out of order. And, like so many of you and so many of my friends, I say in the dark hours when I lie awake and live with my fears and anxieties: don't you even care that I am dying?

That is the world. It was the world for the first followers of Jesus and it has been and continues to be the world today.  But Jesus says and questions us back: why are you so cowardly? why are you so fearful? Where is your faith?  I imagine he said even more:  have you not been listening? Do you think this is all about you? Do you think God is not at work?

We might remember God's words to Job from chapter 38ff:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

4 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

8 ‘Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb?—
9 when I made the clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it,
and set bars and doors,
11 and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?

12 ‘Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
13 so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It is changed like clay under the seal,
and it is dyed like a garment.
15 Light is withheld from the wicked,
and their uplifted arm is broken.

16 ‘Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.

And, I must answer: "uhhhhh, nope."  You and I claim a faith, an ancestral faith, that proclaims that God is at work in the world.  We claim that from the age of Abram when he set out from the land of the Chaldeans (Gen 12) that God has been at work and that as Paul tells us all creation is groaning towards its completion (Rom 8).

It is only when our human soul becomes miopic and focused upon our own ego needs that we close off the vision of the world of God's power and reign.  Jesus in this passage raises our eyes heavenward.  And, like the disciples we answer: who is this?

Jesus is our salvation, he is our grace, he is the one from whom all things were made but he is also the one in whom all things are being remade. 

What a different world  of possibility seems to be about me when my eyes are cleared from the storm of self-preservation and I can see the opportunities to participate in God's kingdom. 

It is our journey, our pilgrimage, that is frought with restless seas.  Mark's gospel is always pointing to the cross.  The demons on land and the demons in the sea are always defeated by Jesus, but the point of the narrative always raises our eyes to the defeat of these powers at the foot of the cross.  (Marcus, 340)  As Christians we proclaim the world renewed in the wake of the final Easter defeat. 

Yet, in the midst of life and restless travels we have difficulty in reminding ourselves of God's kingdom in our midst, of God's power at work in the world about us.  So as we come to this passage let us claim our place on the journey. Let us be honest about our faithlessness.  Let us groan and bewail our situations.  Let us wonder where God's power is.  And let us remember that it is in the weak, in our own weakness, that we discover God's power working in us.  Then let us also see that what is old is being made new, and what as died is being raised up.

This passage is an opportunity in the midst of a world in chaos to point out that God is at work. And, it is an opportunity to preach grace and mercy. And, it is a moment when the church might look outside itself into the world and see and name places where God is at work in stilling the storm.  Now is not the time for a cowardly church but a proclaiming missionary church which is at work offering a vision of a kingdom that is being built and a reign of God underway. Now is the time for bravery and commissioned missionary work where our hands join the hands of God to still the storm of the world and to heal the sick, help the blind to see, and the poor to have good things.  Now is the time for our voices to join the voice of God and still the storm around us.  It is our opportunity as missionaries to name God in the world putting down the forces which seek to destroy God's creation and the creatures of God. 

What would the world be like if our churches, upside down ships that they are, were to sail out and offer a quiet powerful voice to the fearful and hopeless people of God.  How better to be reminded as disciples of God's reign and power than out of our weakness to be his voice and hands in the world?

2 Corinthians 6:1-13
"For Paul, failing to love one another is a sign of accepting the grace of God 'in vain.'"

Commentary, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Carla Works, Preaching This Week,, 2012.
"In the ancient world, responsibility for initiating the mending of a ruptured relationship was understood to rest with the injuring party. In political contexts, this work was normally entrusted to an ambassador. Paul sees that in Christ, God completely overturns conventional expectations."

Commentary, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Elisabeth Johnson, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

We come back to Corinthians this week. Paul and others are eager for their friends to receive the grace of God and to do so for the sake of the work that is before them. This work is the sharing of God's love and the Good News of Salvation. No matter what comes: 
"through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true..."

Of course this letter is about the battle between false teachers and Paul. The letter is about supporting the Corinthians in their work to endure the bombardment of powerful preaching coming from the others. He urges unity. He calls for them to stay together. And, he invites all of us to be mindful that our dependence is not upon the best, brightest, or seemingly powerful. Instead we are always and everywhere to rely on Christ.

William Loader writes, "Much passes for religion. Much passes for Christianity. Much passes for spiritual success. Paul inspires us to keep returning to the way of compassion and vulnerability: Christ's - and also his own. The rest is idolatry."