Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

You will want to 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.

You can open the monthly calendar to the left and find the readings in order.

You can also search below by entering the liturgical date, scripture, or proper. This will pull up all previous posts.


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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent 2C, December 6, 2015

Quotes That Make Me Think

 "There’s an audacity to today’s Gospel reading that’s easy to miss. But if you listen closely and read between the lines just a little, you’ll hear a promise that at first is easy to overlook but ultimately is as transformative as it is outrageous."

"A Promise That's Easy to Overlook," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2012.

"[Paul] shows what thing we ought to chiefly desire, that is, first of all that we may increase in the true knowledge of God (so that we may be able to discern things that differ from one another), and also in charity, that even to the end we may give ourselves to truly good works, to the glory of God by Jesus Christ."

From John Calvin's the Geneva Notes.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

God of everlasting glory and eternal love, from west and east you gather the humble, leading them withjoy to the glorious light of your kingdom.  Make straight your path in our hearts; bring low the heights of our pride; and prepare us to celebrate with ardent faith the coming of our savior.  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 C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke  3:1-6
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

The opening words of our Gospel for Sunday give us  a reminder that Christ comes in the midst of the authority of the world: vs 1 "Fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius".  At the same time Luke is keen to show us that what is coming is nothing less than a divine rebelous God - the very word of God. This new authority is one inaugurated in very real time and is measured by grace and not power.  His teachings will challenge the historical peopel of God and the authority of the world.  It is a time of renewed salvation history deeply linked to the past and intimately connected with readers, and our own, present.

It is all enough to unnerve us if we take John the Baptist's words to be words for us and not only for a people long ago.

Who cannot relate to the feeling of "wilderness." While we might know of John's possible connection to Qumran and other wilderness communities it is not this that connects us but rather the feeling of being followers of Jesus in a strange land with competing stories about the nature and values of culture. We relate to the ancient Hebrews in Israel, we relate to the occupied Israelites of Jesus' own time. We relate to the gentile mission and what it will mean to struggle to have a place in God's kingdom.  We relate because we too struggle with a captivity which is hallmarked by consumerism and debt and recession; not to mention the stress and strains of family and relationships. We struggle perhaps wondering of the church is for me? And for many who have not church we struggle with the idea of not being welcomed to rest despite our desert wonderings.  The world is a wild place and we find our home in it as foreigners in a strange land, longing for the Kingdom of God present, and not yet fully realized. We long in that wilderness to hear the voice crying out.  We long to hear that we are welcomed.

We as Christians understand John the Baptist as the agent to fulfill the ancient prophesies: Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 4:5 (“Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes”).  He is the one who comes and baptizes but it is not the batism by water that Luke offers that God is most interested in. No, Luke is clearly setting the stage even in these early chapters for the Pentecost baptism that is to come.

Baptism we are shown in Luke's Gospel is at once seen as the ancient and present way of deliverance and entrance into the kingdom of grace with a prophet king and rebel named Jesus. To the Jews of the time and to Luke's reader John is proclaiming and acting out a preparation for the coming of Jesus. It made them all very uncomfortable to be sure; a discomfort that will be played out in Acts and the Epistle letters in the first Christian communities. John's is a proclamation being made to the whole world - a proclamation we know as the Gospel.  This preparation will lead to the greater manifest of God in the resurrection.  We will see that in the baptism of fire and spirit the whole of creation will be remade.  The world of authority will be turned upside down.  The word of salvation will raise up new children of God and even the stones will shout as the kingdom message becomes (post resurrection and Pentecost) not one of preparation but a message of embrace and love.  Rebelling against the order of the ruler and embracing a new order of family and kinship.

The expansion of the kingdom, the growing fruit tree which will bear great fruit, is to include not only the prepared historical people of God but the greater gentile world.

I will be thinking this week of how the time and the season of Advent offer us a time to connect with the real world wilderness of the people in and outside of our congregations. How do we as people already baptized, already living within a kingdom without walls, take a Gospel of grace into the world around us, proclaiming Jesus and proclaiming the opportunity of hope and joy and transformation that awaits those who choose to follow him and work under his Lordship? What are the real world differences we as Christians can make?  How is our rebellion to be staged and offered to a world hungry for good news.

Perhaps I will ponder the reality of what it means to prepare myself; having already received the good news.  I want to think about how my eyes and ears need to be opened to see God's ever broadening family of God.  God help me to see the oppression and the way in which the ways of authority and power pervert the intended kingdom.  The missionary church may even begin to see that God is already pouring his spirit out into the world and upon the "gentiles" of our day.  And, we might have cause to ask ourselves what are the things that keep us from embracing the other and the spirit work that is already underway.  We have a faith opportunity to see not a withering church tree in the midst of Egypt or a Babylonian captivity but a church that is being rebirthed and disturbed.

We are reminded in the words of John the Baptist, this Jesus is a rebel and is going to turn our world upside down.   It is a sobering notion to think that the babe we worship brings a ministry that will by a living word bring transformation and change.

A friend once reminded me of Jackson Browne's song Rebel Jesus. Find it on YouTube here. That has me thinking of the challenge we face. It has me thinking of how the mission field can really challenge us to be better at our work as a church.

Some Thoughts on Philippians 1:1-11
Oremus Online NRSV Epistle Text

This Sunday we read from Paul's letter to the church community at Philippi.  The letter itself is one of the most positive and encouraging letters of all the Pauline epistles. 

Paul's opening words to the letter are more formal than any Emily Post required introduction, yet there is something more here than simply a Helenistic introduction.  In fact Paul's words are powerful and visionary.

In the beginning Paul simply is saying, "I know who you are."  He is telling his readers, and those of us who read some centuries later, that as baptized members of God's church we are marked as Christ's own forever. We belong to God. God has claimed us. Paul is reminding us we are "the saints of God."

With his blessing (Grace to you and peace) Paul reminds us who he is.  he tells us that he is someone passionately in love with Jesus Christ. He is someone who enters community by means of the name of God.  And, it is as if out of the reaches of history he is calling to us as well. 

Who does not want to hear such words?  Who does not yearn to hear we are beloved of God and saints of God?  This is the formative vision of the community of the baptized.  It is a reminder that for Christians the hallmark of our community is to be grace and peace.  This is one of the unique monicers of Christian community rooted in the Gospel of Good News of Salvation.

We are inheritors of this Godly vision for community.  While we might all agree that we are nothing like the church in Philippi; for certainly we might all say the times have changed. Nevertheless, it is this eternal grace, this eternal peace, which binds us to our ancient faith ancestors and Paul. 

Philippi was Paul's first mission on the continent of Europe.  It would become an important satilite of the Gospel and of the emerging Christian community in a world that did not yet know the Christ or the message of salvation.  Not unlike a seed sown whose roots would spread, like a great maple or oak, our congregations today are the offspring and shoots of the grace and peace offered so long ago.  As the Philippians themselves turned to neighbors and offered the good news of belovedness so we recognize we are the individual inheritors of this Gospel. 

Paul writes, "this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God."

Paul, in his letter, offers us a vision of what church is to be - the very kingdom of God on earth. He believes in a world transformed and reordered by love and grace; in response to love and grace.  He believes that in Christ our love will overflow ourselves to one another. Paul reminds us that God is the one who bring plenteous redemption. God is the one who is watering and nurturing his offspring.  God is mulching and fertilizing his vineyard. This began with the incarnation and as baptized followers of this Jesus we are marked as his.  Paul encourages us to live in response to this beloved nature for in our response we will find the harvest.

It is less about us chosing and more about us recognizing we have been chosen.  Churches do not bring people into their community but rather recognize in people that they belong to God and they are saints of God.  Paul's vision of church is one wherein we the church recognize that Jesus is doing good work in the lives of the other.

Baptism is certainly a mark of membership in Christian community and fellowship.  But it is more than saying, "you are one of us now". It is the public recognition by the community that this person is God's.  How different would our baptismal instruction be if it were about the embrace of one of God's people? How different it would be if it were an act of grace for the person being baptized and an act of remembrance for the people gathered?

Some Thoughts on Baruch 5:1-9
Oremus Online NRSV Epistle Text

The book of Baruch is written during the time of the exile to Babylon. It is often believed that the author was the companion/secretary to the prophet Jeremiah. Baruch is crying out to Jerusalem in exile.

We might pause and think about the passage from our perspective of a church in exile. We are a church separated out disbursed across a culture not our own and we are also turned inwardly not unlike a people holding on to what they have left from the past.

Here Baruch has some words for us.  It is time he says to end the mourning. Reaching back into his own tradition Baruch speaks to the people and invites them to consider putting on their best. 

Would this not be true for us? Would we not profit from truly putting on our best within our congregations? Our worship and ministry, all to the glory of God, would be infused with energy. Our work would begin to shine out as work that was holy, that was just, and as work of reconciliation - brought about peace. 

Baruch is then prophesying a return to the city of Jerusalem. He uses words that harken to Isaiah's prophesies.

Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look towards the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God’s command.
Here then we might wonder what would we see if we rose up? What would we see if we stopped looking back and began to look forward? What pain and sorrow might be cast down while joy and life are raised up. We might indeed, in our work, in our renewal of mission, discover and find that God is in fact leading us. We might discover, if we were to look into the future and see - that God is even now with us, preparing a way, and eagerly awaiting our reimaginings. We might understand that God has forgiven us for our backward looking, God has raised us out of sorrow, and God has offered us a path of life.

In putting on our best, in the engagement of our context and mission, we would discover that, like the Israelites in Babylon:
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

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