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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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Advent 1A/ November 27, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment."

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

"...God reveals enough about the future to give us hope, but not so much that we do not have to live and walk by faith day after day."

Commentary, Ben Witherington, Matthew 24:36-44, Preaching This Week,, 2010.

"Thank you for proclaiming the wild grace of this frighteningly merciful God, Working Preacher. Because sometimes I need to be startled out of the comfortable daydream in which I have unintentionally trapped the biblical God."

"The Undomesticated God," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2010.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from


Unknown the day and unexpected the hour when Christ will come at last: O God, whose word even now goes forth and whose house welcomes all the nations home, rouse our household of faith from its sleep. Strengthen us to beat our swords of war into plows that work in peace. Then nation will not lift up sword against nation and all your children will be ready to welcome your promised day of peace. 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 A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Matthew 24:36-44
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

We begin our new year and a new cycle of readings of Matthew’s Gospel at the end.  We are in a section wherein Jesus is telling his followers to be watchful.  And, he is giving them parables that challenge them. 

We begin simple enough: we will not know when God is coming.  Then we are reminded of Noah’s flood. And, we are told people will be taken up and some left behind. Then we have the parable of the householder and the thief.  This is normally where we get in the weeds with Jesus’ teaching. We typically want to spend all our time trying to either decipher how and when this is going to take place, or we spend our time attempting to understand how we get to be the ones taken away with the Son of Man.  However, no sooner have we taken steps down this road and we have missed Jesus’ message to his disciples: be watchful.  Be watchful and be ready.

It is actually just how well we are prepared for the coming of the Son of Man which will determine our being gathered.  This major shift in eschatological thinking and argument provides for the Christian today a particularly sharp message on this first Sunday of Advent: if you are not ready you must be ready.  Moreover, it is a rather big change from the Lukan readings of the past months.

In this one series of parables where Jesus calls those who follow to prepare and be ready, he unifies theology of the end times with theology of behavior.  Eschatology and ethics may no longer be separated. 

How we are in this world has an impact on our life in the world to come.

It will be easy to slip this first Sunday of Advent sermon into a discussion about preparing our home for Christmas, or preparing for the incarnation of God, and even preparing for a season of watchfulness.  The message from Jesus and this Gospel author are clear, we are to be ready through our actions.

As we seek to understand what is expected of us in regards to the message of Jesus here in Matthew’s Gospel we might be reminded of the theologian Origen’s comment: Just as Jesus is offering this grace he fulfills and embodies his own words and thereby becomes the model to be imitated.  If we look back we discover the unique qualities of Jesus that fulfill not only the prophetic message of Isaiah but also are the basics of Christian discipleship in the world.

Jesus was meek (11.29; 21.5)
Jesus mourned (26.36-46)
Jesus was righteous and fulfilled all righteousness (3.15; 27.4, 19)
Jesus showed mercy (9.27; 15.22; 17.15; 20.30-1)
Jesus was persecuted and reproached (26-7)

These qualities are clearly defined in the beatitudes and serve as a basic road map throughout the Gospel of Matthew.

As you and I begin again a time of reading a new cycle we must endeavor to understand clearly how our actions are part of our faithful following of Jesus.  We must now listen and read the Gospels together as we begin a year of discerning the message and proclamation of Jesus as given in the Matthean account.

Some Thoughts on Romans 13:8-14

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

Our Advent theme of preparation is sounded again in Romans.  In this passage Paul is focused upon love.  Followers of Jesus love others, in so doing they mimic the ministry of Jesus and the work of God.  In loving others they also fulfill God's law.

Paul offers a very clear view that not loving another will in fact lead to adultery, murder, theft, and covetousness.

Love others - this is the highest rule and the highest goal.

Adeptly he has moved from a discussion on what is owed to the authorities to what is owed to one another - which is love. (Joseph Fitzmeyer, Romans, 677)  Deeds are the way that a Pauline faith is lived.  Love lived creates the framework for all other questions about the law and quickly moves Paul from legality to grace in future discussions (Fitzmeyer, 677; Gal 5:6)

To understand Paul's full treatment of love you must go to 1 Corinthians 13.  In Paul's economic discourse of love we discover the following.  All other gifts are worthless without love.  Love is: patient and kind, not jealous, not arrogant, not rude, it does not seek its own interest, is not irritated, does not reckon things wrong, does not delight in wrong doing, rejoices in truth, puts up with all things, believes all things, and never fails.  Love lasts and is superior to all other things.  All of which is summed up in vs 13:  Faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul then ends concludes his reflection on love in Romans with urgency.  Now that you have become believers you can see that this is true.  There is urgency and we need to be about this work now and immediately.  Let us live in the light, and love in the light putting away the behaviors that will cloud and deform this love: drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy.

Let us instead do what Jesus Christ does and love.

Some Thoughts on Isaiah 2:1-5

As we begin our new year we start out with Isaiah who wrote some 760 or so years before the birth of Christ. Isaiah is writing prior to the crushing fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. You may remember that God has chosen not to save Jerusalem because the people and their leaders had forgotten God and so God will not save the nation from the invasion. People doubt God's power to do so anyway, and others are sure God is on their side. Many thought their nation would last forever and never fall - certainly not to another army.

Scholars have settled on the notion that what we see here in chapter 2 is evidence that we have multiple documents combined in the text. We see too some reflection of other prophets like Micah. 

What strikes me as the most important is the prophets commitment to the future and God's power and might to gather God's people. (Remember we just heard Isaiah 65 where God indeed promises this.) God, Isaiah speaks, will gather a new Zion on a holy hill and many will make a journey to the great mountain - they shall go up it says. Here God will place a holy people who will be examples of God's love and justice. They will accept God's message and be good leaders and depend upon the torah to guide them in all things. God will be the judge, not the people. This righteous living and Godly judging will in fact bring about a new age of peace.

This age of peace will come when the people are faithful. When it comes it will be a time of great harvests and people will babe in the need of plowshares and pruning hooks as farmers return to the work of the land and give up the study of war. 
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
The passage ends with an invitation. For Christians we see a prefigured Jesus here, a revelation of the incarnation. That God will bring about a time when peace is the highest good and people will follow a lord of peace, who feeds where there is scarcity and catches fish where there is none. Jesus is the one who brings about the new age and his work of feeding and catching overthrows old economies where people are owned by the king and work towards the betterment of the ruling class. They are nothing more than armies of workers like they were in Egypt. God comes then and frees them into a new life and new age.  

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