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.

Enjoy.

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

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2 B, January 4, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think

"For an alternative approach, rather than helping our hearers to see the light of Christ shining in the darkness, preachers might help them to hear Jesus as God’s love song, singing life into the world’s babble, chaos, and voices of death."

Commentary, John 1:1-14, Craig a. Satterlee, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.

"The gospel message does not go forward without witnesses like John, and one of the tasks in this sermon is to help show what it looks like to point our fingers towards Jesus. In the age of talk of missional churches, how does that work out practically? How can we point towards Jesus in mission in such a way that others come to know him and come to know and love God?"

Commentary, John 1:(1-9), 10-18 (Christmas 2), Ginger Barfield, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2010.



"It would be truly horrendous to be in the hands of an all-intrusive God who never left us alone, and who, when it came time to send his messiah, sent one who ruled the earth like some heavenly Mussolini. In the very unobtrusiveness of the light of Christ, God honors our finite freedom."
"Penetrating the Darkness," Ronald Goetz, The Christian Century, 1988. AtReligion Online.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com


Prayer

May we welcome this mystery of your love and thus delight in the joy that will be ours as children and heirs of your kingdom. 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 B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on John 1:1-18

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

I like how Raymond E. Brown approaches this text. There is first the Word with God (1-2). The opening verses of this Christ hymn used to frame an entrance into the Johannine Gospel is brief and it is completely, or I should say “seemingly”, uninterested in a metaphysical conversation about the nature of God. It is however very clear that Salvation history begins with the relationship between God, revealed through the living Word, and Man. Quite simply God reveals God-self to us in the work of creation – and by John’s usage here; creation also reveals something about the salvation of man as well. Creation is by its very nature a revealing act. (John, vol. 1, 23, 24)

Secondly there is the Word and Creation. “All creation bears the stamp of God’s Word,” Brown writes. (Brown, 25) Here we see the author reflecting and re-imagining the opening lines of Genesis. We can see that what is clearly of importance is that creation itself existed primarily for the glory of God and the revelation of who God is. The problem is that the creation is broken; it does not fulfill its purpose as God intended. It is not a sustainable creation. Instead it is one where there is a constant battle to supplant the power and revelation of God. We can return to the creation story in Genesis, certainly this seems on the author’s mind. However, it is not really that hard or difficult to see and imagine as we read the paper or watch television how humanity has created a non-sustainable kingdom for ourselves, and that we wrestle for power with God placing our needs above creations explicit purpose to glorify God.

The third portion of our Gospel selection is the portion where we are re-introduced to John the Baptist. I say reintroduced, because we spend several Sunday’s reading passages from Matthew that dealt with him and his ministry. Yet here we get a slightly different attempt to speak about how John responded to the living Word, the Light in the world. How he was clearly not the one everybody was looking for, but that he dutifully gave witness to the revelation of God. Moreover, that John the Baptist called everyone to a time of preparation and repentance for the light itself, the living Word was entering the world.

We come to the final and fourth portion of our reading and we return to the relationship between God and humanity; specifically in how the community of God (God’s people) responds to the living Word. God is dwelling with his people. He has made a “tent”, he is incarnated, and he is present within the community. (Brown, 35) The images here in this last section return not to Genesis but play on our remembrances of the Exodus and the idea that God came and dwelt among the people as they made their way in the wilderness. Here too is an expressed intimacy between God and people. God is not simply outside, having wound the clock tight and is now letting it run. On the contrary just as God was intimately involved with creation and the people of Israel, God also is involved in the new community post resurrection. God has come and is dwelling with the people in wisdom and in truth. God in the living Word is making community within God’s tent and is revealing himself and the purpose of creation to all those who would call him by name: Jesus.


Some Thoughts on Ephesians 1:1-14




Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"That vision of Christ is then a vision for the church and the whole world. It already shows itself where barriers and prejudice are broken down. The 'you, too' is part of the realisation of the vision."

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

"The infusion of God's goodness and the calling in Christ do not serve the purpose of proclaiming human triumphalism. The infusion of God's good work serves the purpose of proclaiming God's goodness, which ultimately benefits humanity."

Commentary, Ephesians 1:3-14, Kyle Fever, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2014.

Ephesians is about the Glory of God and the glorification of God.  The reality is that God reaches out across the cosmos and enters our lives and becomes one of us and then even provides a path by which we may become sons and daughters of God.  This is an amazing reality and as such we recognize that the greatest form of response is the glorification of God. In Ephesians this is the first response to God's might act of deliverance. We are to glorify God and our speech and living word is to glorify God.

God has been about this work for a long time and before time.  God's love is working its purpose out and the coming and incarnation of Christ is part of the manifestation of that love in creation.  Christ's work is to be complete and that is the salvation and reconciliation of the world.  HOWEVER, this is not for humanity or for the sake of humanity. Ephesians seems very intent on insuring that we understand that God is about God's business and God's business flows from the relationship of Christ and Father and from before time.  God's love is at work for the purpose of helping us to do the first thing: glorifying God.

All of this reveals to us the reality of God's heart and longing for humanity.  It reveals God's pleasure in the work of Christ. So we labor together for this work and we celebrate the revelation of God.

God's work is not over though.  This began in the past and continues in the present and future.  God continues to reveal God's self and God's intentions.  God is even now pouring more grace into the world and is about the work of reconciling all people to God's self.  The Church, the community which follows Jesus, attempts to listen to that grace, be a witness to it, and work in tandem to bring all things into union with God.

This is truly a lovely passage and one of my favorites as I believe it reveals the holy trinity at its best!





Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 9, 2014: Proper 27 Ordinary 22 Pentecost +22

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Our discomfort with the parable of the virgins likely arises from self-awareness. Most of us know ourselves as wise in some contexts and foolish in others."

Commentary, Matthew 25:1-13, Greg Carey, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2014.
    "...focus on the core issue of waiting and admit, quite frankly, that the kind of waiting Matthew is encouraging through this parable is hard. Waiting for something way over due, waiting for something you're not sure will even come, waiting that involves active preparation when you're not even sure what you should be preparing for. That kind of waiting is challenging."

    "Hope and Help for Foolish Bridesmaids," David Lose, ...in the meantime, 2014.


      General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

      Prayer

      Lord, give me grace to take my task from you seriously. Let me prepare so that when the crisis comes, the oil will be there on the day of reckoning. In Jesus I pray. Amen.

      by Stephen M. Crotts


      Some Thoughts on Matthew 25:1-13

      Jesus is teaching in parables about the Kingdom of God. We have just heard about a householder who leaves and the servant is blessed who lives a good, ethical life while left in charge. Jesus is telling his followers that they are to live a good life and a life worthy of the Gospel. They will be blessed upon the master's return. This was an important teaching within the Matthean community because they were trying to understand how they were different from their religious neighbors, and they wanted to understand how they could please God.  The image of the followers of God living a good life as opposed to a wayward life brings differentiation to the community struggling for identity in the first century.

      Carrying on this discussion we enter our passage. It is important to note that the Gospel tells us we do not know when the householder will return. Jesus again offers a parable, an allegory, which tells the Matthean community who they are, whose they are, and what business they are to be about in the mean time.

      In today's passage the master is delayed. Everyone is ready, but some are unprepared. Some have not brought enough provisions to make the long journey into the night. They don't have enough oil. Others do not share. The point seems to be that each is responsible for their own and not for the others. The follower of God is to be concerned with what is expected of us alone and not the other. I am to be prepared - I am not responsible for your preparedness.  I am to live a life which is goodly and seeks holiness. The message in this parable is clear. You need to be ready. You need to work on you and you need to make sure that you can make it through the darkness because when the bridegroom comes the door will be shut.

      Our work is to be prepared and we are to stay awake. We are to be ready for the bridegroom, responsible for ourselves, and watching so that the door does not shut without us.

      My first response is: YIKES! John Stott, the great Anglican theologian wrote, “We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” So let us wade into this disturbing parable and reflect a bit.

      I am thinking that there are several important images and thoughts bumping around in my mind after working on this. The first is that we are responsible for us. I am responsible for making sure I am living the life that I believe God has called me to lead. I am not responsible for others - that is their work. That is a good boundary to have. Sometimes I think I get caught in trying to police other people's lives because that is easier than policing my own.

      The second thought is that the master is late! The bridegroom is late. I was thinking that from an evangelism stand point we are the body of Christ, we are the bridegroom let loose in the world. We are late. There are people out in the world who are doing well and they have plenty of oil. There are others who are running low. They are both waiting for the bridegroom. They are waiting and expectant. They are waiting on us to bring good news. They are hoping that the door will be open to them. And, I am wondering shall we wait to go, as Christ's body in the world, as the bridegroom? Shall we wait and let their oil run out and the door be shut. Let us not hesitate to bring them good news.

      I understand that the Matthean community was trying to define itself over and against other religious movements. I get the reality of what it means to not worry about others and not be responsible for them. This edge makes this a very difficult parable. It grates against me. I get that we don't need to be in other people's business. This is a good teaching. However, I would like to think that the Christian community today might offer a bit of oil to our neighbors who are running low. We might offer a bit of encouragement to those who are losing hope. I would like to think that the Christian community today would make sure the door is left open as long as possible - even to the last minute.

      But here is the real twist. What if as (many scholars are now offering) the kingdom of heaven is not about the master or the ones with the oil. What if the parable is about those left out in the cold. What if it is about the reality that many other religions and many other traditions will want to offer the vision of the angry punishing God who is for the wealthy and the prepared. What if instead we saw that God's kingdom is actually made up of the people on the outside of the door? I hope that if we are the bridegroom we might hasten to our friends who wait for Good News.

      Some Thoughts on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18


      Our passage from Paul's letter to the Thessalonians is not unlike the invitation to live a Godly and goodly life as Matthew's Gospel.  The faithful are intended to live a life with God in the future.

      Paul then is confronted with the question: what about those who have died and we see no longer but were faithful and unfortunate enough to have died before Jesus came into the world? Paul says, "Look, don't worry. Don't believe what some say which is that when you die there is nothingness. That is not the way it is."  Paul says that we have a hope. We believe in Jesus who has conquered death and because of this conquering God is able to draw all of those who have already died into his company. The faithful today and the faithful who have died will all find their home in God.

      We might get caught at the end of the passage with Paul's understanding of the world and heaven. But this is a needless concern. What Paul is saying, I believe, is that God will come and connect all things and all worlds. The world of the living and the world of the dead, the world of heaven and the world of earth are all worlds that are connected by the creator of all things. We are connected to God and God to those who have died in a never ending relationship. We believe in God who is love and who brings us all together.

      Amy Peeler, New Testament prof at Wheaton wrote: "Here, at least, Paul does not get into a discussion of what happens to those who are not believers. That is because -- and this is the second assurance -- Paul is writing this in order to encourage his readers. “Therefore, encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18).” Anyone who uses the discussion of the “rapture” to scare people into faith applies eschatology in a way that Paul (and John!) does not. Jesus’ return should be a thing to anticipate and celebrate, not fear if you happen to return home one day and find no one there."

      The Gospel and this lesson from Paul can both spiral into sadness and hopelessness. They both can be used to convict others that behavior is linked to getting into heaven. I believe Paul is clear it is the creator God who connects all things, it is Jesus who does the saving work for all, and it is grace that in the end pours out from the cross and redeems the world reconciling us to God. Our response says Paul is that we are live a hope filled life which reflects our thanksgiving for what God has brought about. So, live with hope and not with fear for yourself. Live with hope and not fear for your neighbors. Live with hope and not fear for those beloved ones of yours who have already died and even now rest with God.



      Monday, October 27, 2014

      Proper 26A/Ordinary 31A/Pentecost +21 November 2, 2014

      Quotes That Make Me Think


      "To what extent their positions were shaped by the social and economic status of their members, and to what extent those positions stem from particular readings of Torah, we can never know for certain. Suffice it to say that we heirs of Matthew's community soon adopted the culturally more comfortable view that this text is opposing."

      Commentary, Matthew 23:1-12, Sharon H. Ringe, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

      "The bottom line for Paul, as for Jesus, is that none of us should be treated a certain way in Christian community because of blood ties. ALL of our relationships are defined first, last, and always by our relationship as children of one God."

      Dylan's Lectionary Blog, Proper 26. Biblical Scholar Sarah Dylan Breuer looks at readings for the coming Sunday in the lectionary of the Episcopal Church.

      General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

      Prayer
      Reveal to us the beauty of your image in each of our brothers and sisters, so that, respecting every person as our equal in your sight, we may show not only in words but in deeds that we are disciples of one Master, Jesus Christ, your Son. 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 23:1-12

      Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

      Resources for Sunday's Gospel

      We continue our "dialogue" with the religious authorities of Jesus' day in this passage.  I pause here again to warn the preacher to be careful to remember our Abrahamic family and our healthy relationship with our Jewish brothers and sisters.  Words can easily be used to create a division between us and can even more easily lead to continued hatred.  Furthermore, historically we need to recognize that while Jesus is speaking to these groups; these groups really are the leaders and religious authorities of Matthew's time - some 40 years later.  

      Leaning into the text we tease out Jesus' important teaching.  Honoring the role of the religious teacher he tells the people to clearly hear the words and teachings about God.  One can imagine these teaching are about the importance of life lived in God and how the body itself, animated by the soul, is for encountering God as is all of domestic life.  Teachings that would have been normative in the tradition of the day.  That being said though Jesus then offers a very clear distinction between listening and acting.  

      A rule for Christian community is being laid out before us; so don't get hung up on the foil of leadership being used.  The message is clearly for us.  The message is for those who hear Jesus' teaching. The message is for those who wish to follow Jesus and live in a community of disciples. 

      Disciples of Jesus are to listen and follow the Gospel imperatives.  We are not to be a people who are more interested in getting others to follow while we remain hypocrites of our own teaching.  You can spend a lot of time getting it right and telling others how to get it right - and still miss the piece that is of the utmost importance to God - love. It is this very real piece that seems to me to be essential to Matthew as it is certainly repeated in different ways throughout the Gospel.  Transformation begins with the individual in relationship to God in Christ and it is the transformed life lived (not hypocritically avoided) that is the most powerful witness to the Gospel -the Good News of Jesus.
      4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
      We cannot read this passage without understanding that we are to be transformed by our relationship with God. Our bodily, physical, spiritual, soulful encounter with God. That we are to have as intimate a relationship with God as Jesus did; who called him Father.  That we are to have only one teacher and that is the Messiah - Jesus Christ. And, we are to act out his teaching. We are in the words of C.S. Lewis to become little Christ's in the world - so intimately tied are we to the Godhead. Our wills and our lives are to be shaped and informed by our relationship with God in Christ.

      In Lauren F. Winner's book Mudhouse Sabbath she talks about the ancient sabbath rule that a blind man is not to light a candle on the sabbath.  One wonders, she muses, why a blind man would need to light a candle.  She then goes on to relate a story about a rabbi who walking down the street in the evening comes upon a blind man making his way with a torch through the night. He stops and asks him why he is doing this (with the assumption perhaps we all make which is he needs no light).  The blind man says, it is so that others will see me.

      It is funny how what you are reading engages a conversation in your heart and mind with the scripture for the week. As I read that I thought of this Sunday's passage and the reality that the light of Christ so burns inside of us that when we are attentive to our own transformation; when we polish the lens of our own spiritually disciplined life the light of God shines more brightly about us.  

      Chris Webb of Renovare reminded us recently at clergy conference that outreach and service always flows out of our relationship with God and it's health and vitality.  So too does Jesus caution. It will not be the phylacteries and fringes we wear, it will not be where we sit, or our titles of ministry that will reveal the Son of Man to the world. Rather it will be our deep relationship to him which in turn creates in us a servants heart enacting Christ's work in the world around us.

      What a brightly burning torch would burn should our episcopal church family take up the challenge for renewed relationship with Jesus.  

      Some Thoughts on 1 Thessalonians 2:9-20


      Paul continues from where he left off in our last reading last week. He is defending his manner of planting the church and he is telling those who read the letter that they must work as hard as he did.  They must give equal time to the work that they do to make a living and the work they do in proclaiming the Gospel.  Like Paul, he urges them to spend time tent making and then time on the proclamation of the Good News.

      He encourages them to walk in the ways of Christ. To be nourished and to nourish others.

      Then he reminds them that it was not hard work that saw the seeds of the Christian community grow it was the Spirit.  Paul says to them do not think that by shear hard work and labor you will bring in the kingdom and grow your community. Instead known and remember that it is the good news rooted in you from God and he authority God places in you that is even now doing the work.

      I am struck at how often we think and feel like we are the ones doing the work. Don't get me wrong I work hard. You work hard.  What I am saying though is that when we work as hard as we do it can easily begin to feel as though we are the ones doing all the work, we are the ones who deserve the credit, we are the ones who need to be recognized. I think this short passage reminds us that there is more here than our efforts alone. God is working his purposes out in us and in others. There is in fact a whole lot going on that is God's work and God's spirit.