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.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lent 1 Year C, February 14, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"I don’t think that a sermon on temptation needs to be either titillating or boring to be helpful. Rather, I think it needs to be both honest and realistic. In fact, I think that kind of sermon on temptation might be just the thing a lot of our people need and want to hear."

"Trust and Temptation," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2013.

"Wilderness was the wild place, the waiting place, the place of preparation. It also connected then, as it does now, to very basic spirituality: a place to grapple with God, a place to learn dependence on nature and its provisions, a place of extremes or contrasts, of wild beasts and desert. It is the Lenten space par excellence."

"First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Lent 1, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons


Through all their desert wanderings, O Lord our God, you led our ancestors from toil and oppression to a land of milk and honey.  Through forty days in the wilderness, the Spirit led your Son from the devil’s testing to victory as your servant.  Lead us through these forty days of Lent and make that victory of Christ’s our own, till at the font of living water the elect find new birth, the penitent find pardon, and all rejoice to serve you alone. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 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 4:1-3
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

On the first Sunday of Lent we return to chapters which came before our Epiphany readings.  This Sunday we go back in time to the chapter just following the Baptism when Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the desert. This pattern of reading the Gospel works well for our liturgical year, and helps to bring the modern Christian journey through Lent into perspective alongside the journey of Jesus in the desert.  Sometimes it isn't very helpful as far as the narrative is concerned.

In Luke's Gospel we are clear that it is the Holy Spirit who is the one who is leading Jesus from the moment of baptism throughout his ministry. Jesus is God’s son specifically and this “’sonship’ is mediated by the Holy Spirit.” (LTJ, Luke, 72)

Jesus is led then as God’s son into the desert, full of the Holy Spirit. He is led there specifically to be tested.  In the desert we find that it is Job’s tester who comes to Jesus, a little different personality than in the other two Gospels. This devil will offer much in a land without much. The idea is that here the devil is offering a different world to Jesus, a different reign. This reign is one filled with demons and minions. To many the “wilderness” is a place full of demons.  The reign the devil offers is not only contrary to but working against the reign of God. The testing begins long after Jesus becomes hungry. He is dwelling within this counter kingdom where scarcity rules.

He dwells there for forty days which is a holy number.  In Exodus 34:38, Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days; In 1 Kings 19:8, Elijah spent forty days on the journey to Mount Horeb. According to the northern tradition (in Deuteronomy 9) , Moses received the Law there, rather than on Mount Sinai, the location in the southern tradition. In Deuteronomy 9:9, Moses says “I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.” “Forty days” appears many times in the Old Testament meaning a significant period of time. Recall also that Jonah predicted that Nineveh would be destroyed after “forty days” if the citizens did not repent.

This is an interesting tie-in for the discipleship journey. We, as disciples, live in a world tempted daily by the demons and minions of this counter-kingdom. When we live in the world we are hungry and find little sustenance. When we leave the life lived within the reign of God we will be tempted and it will be like a desert with living water ever more scarce and our own thirst and hunger increasing.

Jesus is first tempted to turn stones to bread. I am reminded first of all of John the Baptist’s words that God can raise up sons and daughters of Abraham from these stones, stones may be living, stones may gush forth with water. But Jesus is tempted here with the opportunity to use his “sonship” powers to try and sustain life in the “counter-kingdom.” (LTJ, Luke, 74)

Jesus responds by reminding the devil and us who are traveling along this desert journey with him that we do not live on bread alone. (Deuteronomy 8:3.) The message Jesus offers in not unique and yet it is always timely. We enter into this time of year to help us intentionally remember that we depend upon the bounty and grace of God for all that we have. This was the lesson taught to Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to all the prophets, kings, and holy people of God. As humans it is so very easy to believe that if we just have this or if we simply could have that our lives would be so much better off than they are today. We so easily forget in our hunger brought about in a world of scarcity that God’s love and providence is already there to be consumed.

The devil then shows Jesus all of the kingdoms throughout the empire and says that he can have them if he will but prostrate himself. In Luke’s Gospel this is more than bowing before the devil, acknowledging his power and reign over the counter-kingdom. It is worship he desires.

As I reflect on this passage it reminds me of all the false hopes of prosperity that are offered on late night infomercials. The promise looks good and it is inviting. The promise of the counter-kingdom is subtle and you and I buy into it pretty easily. “If I just had this or that,” we might say to ourselves. Just recently I read an article talking about the unfulfilled hope promised by technology. Jesus’ response is to reorient the conversation towards God. Jesus reminds the devil of the words of the Sh’ma: there is only one God of Israel and him we shall worship.

The first two temptations not having worked, the devil takes Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. The devil offers a few quotes and invites Jesus to test his father. Surely the angels would save Jesus from stubbing his toe. Jesus of course “exhausts” the devil with his focus on the reign of God and his unbending mission to bring it to fruition. At the end of the day it is the tester of Job and Jesus who looses faith and withdraws.

Luke includes this phrase, “withdrew from him for a time.” The tempter will play an important role towards the end of Jesus’ mission. While the ruler of the counter-kingdom is quiet for most of the Lukan gospel, his minions are not. Luke Timothy Johnson tells us we should not pretend that the clash of the reign of God and the counter-kingdom of the world is over by any stretch of the imagination.

As we come to the end of this passage and I reflect on possible messages for the first Sunday in Lent, there are the obvious themes of desert and testing. There also emerges a theme on the faithfulness of Jesus to bring in the reign of God. Perhaps in our beginning of Lent we might not simply see our journey with Jesus in a desert or wilderness as a time to grow close to God, but rather a time to test our faith in God by stepping boldly forward into ministry and mission. Can we be driven into Lent by the Holy Spirit for the sake of the reign of God and see what it is that we discover along our own journey to Jerusalem? Can we fast, and pray, and be reconciled to the lordship of Christ in our lives?

Some Thoughts on Romans 10:8-13

In this lesson Paul substitutes the word for Torah with the word Christ.  Therefore what we are presented with is the transformation of living the law transformed into the Gospel of living out the Christ like heart.

We have a unique proclamation of Good News about Salvation and of Christ and his resurrection.  We cannot underestimate the reality that Paul's view that God's grace, mercy, and salvation preceded virtue was a radical notion.  The reversal of the economic nature of faith was powerful to the first century ears.  Today, most of us still live within a predominately exchange based faith practice; though a more subtle one.  We trade on "right belief" today or "right worship."  Paul's message is very important for us to hear.

Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is working God's purpose out in the world.  God as Holy Spirit is a spirit of love and grace which is breathing life into people.  They are receiving grace and this grace brings with it a deliverance from the old ways.  Shame is not God's way, though it was the way of the law.  We are freed now into a new life which makes all things and all people new.

This God is a generous God and Christ sees no distinction in the human family when he looks upon us with the eyes of grace.  Paul says it is no longer about marking the boxes and checking off your list of achievements.  Instead God has saved us.   Paul writes:

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

This is good news indeed and having heard it, we proclaim it, and we choose to live and be differently. We choose then to live out of our freedom and liberty a grace filled and virtuous life.  This is the new economy of faith, traded on grace and forgiveness from God to us and to all others.  Moreover, an opportunity to live life empowered by the Holy Spirit to give thanks for this salvation and to offer it to others; all the wile attempting a virtuous life of love.

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