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.

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Pentecost C May 15, 2016

Holy Spirit Window, Rome
Quotes That Make Me Think

…Tens of thousands of Christians who aren't waiting for denominational leaders to fix things. They're just getting on with it.

Brian McLaren

"Finally, Jesus challenged them to love him and to keep his commandments. I suspect everyone seated in that room nodded their head and thought, 'I do love you and of course I will keep your commandments.' But in a few short hours their teacher would be arrested and tried. In a few short hours his life would be ended and their lives filled with fear that the same thing would happened to them. Would they still love him? Could they keep his commandments?"

Commentary, John 14:8-17, 25-27, Lucy Lind Hogan, Preaching This Week,, 2013.

"Whether in the company of Jesus or, in his absence, in the company of the Spirit, what ultimately matters is recognizing God's action and becoming part of it. All else is subordinate to that."

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

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons


O God of the covenant, you revealed yourself on the holy mountain in fire and on Pentecost in the flame of the Holy Spirit, Let your mighty fire burn away our pride, consume our hatreds, annihilate the armaments of death, and kindle instead, within the whole human family, the welcome fire of your love.  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 John 14:23-29

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

In this the last of Jesus’ teachings to his disciples the topics focus upon the issues of leadership that will be present upon his leaving.

Jesus is concerned pastorally for his followers. In part because his followers can only understand death’s victory. We must remember at this time there is NO victory over death. They look at the oncoming trial and sure death sentence at the end. They perhaps see it as the end of the movement, the end of the work towards the kingdom, the end of their own ministries, the end of a friend’s life, the end of (dare we say) hope.

In the immortal words of Jim Morrison and the Doors:
This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again
It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end

This is a really creepy song but it captures and tells of the reality that life’s pleasures will not keep death from its work. So Jesus is combating the very real understanding of death’s finality. Jesus offers them this understanding, He “demands that they have faith in him” and that this is more than a request but a necessary piece of participation in the victory over death that is to come. (R. Brown, John, Anchor Bible, vol II, 624)

Jesus is saying, have faith in me. This is a very real living faith that unites them with God. In the victory of resurrection they will come through death’s door to dwell with God and with Son.  And, to do this, to make their journey, they must be prepared. Just as Jesus goes to prepare a place, the follower must be prepared too. (625)

They are to be prepared by doing the same work as Jesus, even greater works. Jesus tells them to ask for great things and he will on their behalf. God will be glorified in this relationship, this conversation between worlds. It seems then that part of the work, part of the preparation is prayer ad continued relationship with Jesus even after his death. The disciple must trust and engage in work, and do so in prayer conversation with Jesus.

The work they are to do is to follow Jesus’ commandments and love him. The commandments are simply to love one another, to love God above all else, and to love Jesus. This is the Maundy, the commandment of love within the apostolic community. A love for one another that mirrors the love of God. Love for one another that spins out action in the world at the same time as it draws others into community. The work of the disciple is to work and to work out of the empowering relationship of love with God - the Trinitarian community.

The family of God metaphor is revealed again in the paradigm of children of God who are united to the community of God when Jesus promises not to leave them orphaned. Jesus reflects that he is going away, but within this apostolic community he will never be far away and in fact will be one with those who participate in the commandment to love. Moreover, Jesus himself and God will be glorified and revealed in the uniting spirit of this community, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the perfect love of Father for Son, and Son for Father.

Raymond Brown writes so much better than I:

Jesus emphasizes that divine indwelling flows from the Father’s love for the disciples of His Son. In 3.16 we heard that God loved the world so much that He gave the only Son – if the incarnation (and death) of the Son was an act of the Father’s love for the world, the post-resurrectional indwelling is a special act of love for the Christian. In 2 we found the word “dwelling place” used for the heavenly abode with the Father to which Jesus would take his disciples; here [at the end of the lesson] it is used for the indwelling of the Father and the Son with the believer…in Johannine thought this was now the hour when men would worship the Father neither on Mount Gerizim nor in the Jerusalem Temple, but in Spirit and truth. (648)
Some Thoughts on Romans 8:14-17

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

This week we shift to Paul's letter to the Romans.  He is teaching about the Holy Spirit and how it participates in Christian life.  Paul believes that the Spirit works in two ways. The first is to draw people into the family of God so that we become children of God.  The second is to help individuals live a life following Jesus.

Those who follow this God through Jesus Christ are a new people.  Like Israel we are claimed and rescued by God. We are set apart in the midst of the world.  God is our Father, God is 'abba'.  This is the very strong theme of this portion of Romans.

What is so very challenging to us today is the very radical notion that we are not the one's being spoken to in Paul's letter.  We are today the ones who reside in the Temple. We are the ones who have already been chosen.  Like ancient Israel we are the ones who inherit participation in the family through the Holy Spirit.

But God is doing something even greater. Today the Holy Spirit pours out beyond the walls of the Christian Church just as it poured out beyond the Temple walls.  Jesus followers abound and God is working in their lives as they try and make their pilgrim journey.  We need to hear the words of Romans not as the newly invited follower of Jesus but as the stayed community who is not yet ready for the new interlopers.

What would it be like to open our eyes and see upon whom the Holy Spirit falls today? Who is it that cries out 'abba' but has not home?  Can we open our hearts and doors to welcome the sojourner in?

Even now the Holy Spirit is making new members of the family of God.  May the Episcopal Church open its arms to welcome brothers and sisters who are new and different.

Some Thoughts on Acts 2:1-21

This is the text that most people think about when they think about the story of Pentecost. Though is is important to remind the congregation there are different stories. Here in this text Luke weaves the time. The time is a particular time of God's acting. As in the incarnation or the crucifixion - this is God's day and God's time. The coming of the Holy Spirit arrives in the appointed time.

The Holy Spirit comes in wind and and tongues of fire. 

What we have here is the inauguration of the next phase of Salvation history for our author. Remember that Luke is telling a story that leads to our personal receiving of the faith of God in Christ Jesus. This final act of the creative God is an act of recreation - for Luke similar to the wind over the waters in Genesis. It is the inauguration of Christ's promise to with us to the end of the ages. It is the inauguration of the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.

It is the beginning, the creation story, of the mission of God through the apostles. Those who had been followers (disciples) now become (apostles) and are sent out to renew the face of the earth. The Holy Spirit is the empowering agent of God moving through out all the nations of the world. 

Many congregations will read out this passage in different languages - reminding the people that the mission is for all people. Unfortunately, this often stops there. 

The truth is that the church today is invited to share in the apostolic mission, to do great deeds of power by the influence of the Holy Spirit in the world. God is waiting for the church and its people to accept the spirit already poured out upon them. To go out of the doors of the church and out into the world. 

It is humorous that on this day where the spirit of God is so clear, that God will not be locked away behind religious closed doors....that literally thousands and thousands of Christians will hear this in churches across the world in huddled mass away from the world. 

The story of Acts inaugurates great stories of going out: 

In Acts 2 the apostles go out and 3,000 discover the Gospel. In Acts 8 Philip goes out to a city in Samaria and many Samaritans come to the Gospel. In Acts 8 Philip is take to meet the Ethiopian Eunuch who needs someone to help him understand the Gospel and he comes to know Christ. In Acts 22 Annanias helps Paul with his conversion by God - by going out to find Paul. In Acts 10 Peter goes out and bears witness to the Gospel and Cornelius comes to believe. AND the church is transformed and broken open for the gentiles regarding circumcision. In Acts 13 the Proconsul in Seleucia has the Gospel confirmed by Paul and Barnabas and is transformed by the Good News; as are many other gentiles soon after. There is Lydia the merchant who, along with her whole household, is baptized by Paul because he went you to the city of Thyatira and met her outside the gate. Later imprisoned there because of a healing the jailer would come to know God in Christ Jesus by their witness. Cionysius and Damaris come to know Christ by meeting Paul in his travels - Acts 17. In 18th chapter of Acts Crispus and his household come to believe in God through Christ Jesus along with other Corinthians because of Paul's witness. Priscilla and Aquila explain the Good News of God to Apollos and he comes to Christ in chapter 18 of Acts. In the next chapter 25 of the disciples of John are told about the Holy Spirit by Paul and come to believe and are baptized. 

Not one, not one of these, happens in a religious setting or behind the closed doors of a church. The witness of the Holy Spirit is that the apostles are sent out and in being sent out come into contact with others and through their conversations and witness people are moved to be baptized because they desire to participate in the Good News of God through Jesus Christ. 

Imagine the names that heard the news but where never confirmed. Imagine the names of those who heard the news and came to believe later outside of the narrative. What is clear is that the Holy Spirit sends people out. 

So on this day of Pentecost as we imagine what God was doing, let us be clear that God was not imagining that we would be sitting in church with the doors closed to the outside world. 

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