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.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Liturgy of the Palms A April 9, 2017

Quotes That Make Me Think


"Thus Jesus' approach to Jerusalem has become for many a symbol of the confrontation they must make, including the confrontation with themselves."

"First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages in the Lectionary: Palm Sunday,"William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"Now Jerusalem is not a large city. And what the authors of the Bible take for granted and fail to mention is that while Jesus is parading in on a donkey through one of the back gates, on the other side of the city Pilate is parading in on a war horse accompanied by a squadron or two of battle-hardened Roman soldiers. Do you think anyone at Pilate's parade heard about Jesus' parade? Heard what the crowd had shouted? Let's see what unfolds in the week ahead."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Matthew 21:1-11, David Ewart, 2011.



Prayer

You Servant, Lord our God, speak the word that all the weary long to hear. Your Son humbles himself to carry the cross that your people long to embrace. As we enter this holy week, let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. Empty us of ourselves, and draw us close to his cross, that, comforted by his word of forgiveness and gladdened by his promise of Paradise, into your hands we may commend our spirits.  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 21:1-11

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

The triumphal entry has been recast from the Markan story and it makes clear the importance of this event as a sign of both who Jesus is as the Mesiah and the importance of the event in the continuing story of Israel. (See Zechariah 9.9, Psalm 118:26 and the image of a shaken city welcoming the prophet king Deut 18:15-18)

In Matthew's narrative these are the very first encounters with Jerusalem and the Temple. It is of eschatological significance, though I really do believe that for Matthew the emphasis is on the prophet king's entry and the importance of connecting his life's journey with that of Israel itself. 

Jesus is fulfilling the scripture's prophetic witness. He is the "meek and humble king." He is the one to guide the searching Israel. He is the Lord and he is the Son of David. 

This witness comes to us as we enter as a church family Holy Week and make ourselves ready to witness to the last days of Jesus' life. So often preachers will spend time on the passion narrative also characteristically read on this day. However, to do so is to arrive at Good Friday too soon. 

I encourage you to preach on the event of Palm Sunday. Use the drama of the liturgy and the lesson from Matthew to draw you ever deeper into the journey yet to be made - the journey to a common meal, a trial, a crucifixion, and a burial. Bear witness to who this Jesus is. He arrives on the doorstep of Jerusalem and the Temple with a life's journey behind him. He arrives there and we join him bearing witness to who he is and what he has done. This is a moment for us to be present with Jesus in his sacred footsteps towards the cross. For us to proclaim and worship our meek and humble King who fulfills all righteousness and makes his way to the Temple of our souls.


Passion Liturgy 

Quotes That Make Me Think

"The killing of love, the killing of Jesus, becomes the would-be killing of God. It is paradigmatic for all time." 

"First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages in the Lectionary: Passion Sunday,"William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"How do we relate a story that much of our audience already knows by heart?" 
Commentary, Matthew 27:11-54, Eric Barreto, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.


General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com


Prayer

O God, for whom all things are possible, you have highly exalted your suffering Servant, who did not hide from insult but humbled himself even to death on a cross.  As we begin the journey of Holy Week, take our sin away by Christ's glorious passion and confirm our worship and witness, so that when we proclaim the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend and  every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. 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 26:14-27:66


Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

All scholars will remind us that the passion narrative that Matthew offers a very close story to the story of Mark.  If we look at the variations what emerges is a very important twist.

The first is the idea that the world and powers are working intently to deliver Jesus unto his death. (M 26.16.  There is a focus upon those that betray the Son of Man.  (M26.24)  Peter is played up as one who is faithful (M26.35) but who will end the end deny him.  It is clear that it is the power of the state and sinners that have betrayed Jesus. (M26:45-46)   Jesus also clear that God is in control but that he will not beseech him to deliver him but rather that he will be faithful even if it brings death.  (M26.53-56) There is a reality here that Jesus in Matthew reminds us that this is the ancient tradition of the prophets of Israel. We should remember that Matthew has a theme of Prophet King and here in this passage we are reminded that we shall always kill the prophet that comes to us... this is our nature.  This, like Peter's betrayal, is highlighted in Matthew by the fact that even the disciples flee.  Before Pilate Jesus is quiet and committed. (M27.13, 14)  In Matthew Pilate exonerates himself from culpability over Jesus death. (M 27.23-26)  The crucifixion and death are the responsibility of the people - of all people. While it is humanity that is responsible for the death of Jesus it is also the broader humanity that is the first evangelist - the Centurion and others say, "Truly this was the Son of God." (M27.54)  

What is highlighted is that we have in Matthew a clear conflict between God's work and humanity's work.  There is a sense that the governance of the realm by Pilate is different (and obviously so) from the governance of the kingdom of God.  That humanity and human ways of judgement and forgiveness are considerably divorced from God's.  William Loader writes:
Matthew reworks the scene with Barabbas. It becomes Pilate’s initiative (not the crowd’s) to bring Barabbas into the equation. Choose Jesus Barabbas (Aramaic: son of the father) or Jesus (Son of God). The effect is to lay the blame squarely on the crowd. By inserting a report about the wife of Pilate and her dream (27:19), Matthew suggests that she, like Joseph and the magi of the birth stories, has a special connection with the divine. It could even indicate that he wants to exonerate Pilate. Washing his hands and declaring Jesus innocent (27:24) might point in that direction. Matthew certainly points to the bloody consequences for Jerusalem and its inhabitants (27:25). But, standing back from the picture, we cannot overlook Pilate’s role. Whatever game he is playing in the narrative, as such leaders are wont to do, he does not escape responsibility. The fundamental conflict remains: God’s way and Rome’s. 
...With these new swathes of meaning on the canvass, Matthew now has the centurion joined by his companions witnessing not only how Jesus died (Mark 15:39), but also the earthquake and its sequels and declaring to all the world that Jesus is truly the Son of God (27:54). As in Mark, here the Gentile response gets it right, but in Matthew the focus is primarily on the fact that Jesus is ‘Son of God’, a designation he has added in both 27:49 and 40. That drives the poetic and had already done so in Mark who surrounds the moment of death in darkness. 
...The killing of love, the killing of Jesus, becomes the would-be killing of God. It is paradigmatic for all time. ‘Son of God’ is Matthew’s way in part of claiming that what happened here happened to God in some sense. This event became a point of revelation of God and evil, of love and hate. It will be mythologised far beyond Matthew’s earthquake and Mark’s darkness and spawn the imaginations of faith. Some will be helpful, some, unhelpful; some, fitting the event back into the values of deals and transactions, some, simply allowing the blood to flow and finding it in all violence and sin; some, putting it into competition with others’ insights, some, seeing it as a light which seeks its companions universally.
This powerful image of Matthew's gospel along with the images from Philippians will make for a transformative message of the Gospel and God's dying love for humanity.  If not we will slide into an old understanding of God's requirement of Jesus to die for our sins type message which is neither scriptural nor revelatory.


Some Thoughts on Philippians 2:1-13


Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"Like Timothy and like Paul's audience, leaders and members of our own congregations are called to imitate Jesus by refusing to insist on their own prerogatives or status, whatever they may be, and serving others in humility."

Commentary, Philippians 2:5-11, Elisabeth Shively, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.

"This revision of a hallowed text throws a monkey wrench into the inner workings of Christian theology. So, let's do it."

Commentary, Philippians 2:1-13 (Pentecost 20), David E. Fredrickson, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2008.

David Fredrickson has an interesting take on this passage which has influenced me a good deal. He uses this quote which I think is a good place to begin:

Out of love for that likeness, His son took on my limbs, was conceived and born of a virgin, bearing all the attributes of men, and though He is the Lord of all He became a servant to undertake in one body the burdens of all. He who dwelt on high took the likeness of a slave, though he was reigning as God with the likeness of God, in company with His regal Father. He took on the likeness of a slave, and destroyed that guilt by which man of old was a slave to punishment and death. Bearing the form of slave, the Lord became our flesh and restored His servant to freedom, so that through Christ's plundering of the earthly Adam on the cross, my heavenly form might return to me. (tr. P. G. Walsh, The Poems of St. Paulinus of Nola, 310-311)
What lies at the center of this passage is this: did God in Christ Jesus come across the abyss between God and humanity because of God's love for us? Or, did God in Christ Jesus come across in order to show us how to live life as servant?  The problem with the latter is that it makes the figure of Jesus into a kind of guiding spirit who pedagogically teaches us a thing or two about faithfulness. In the end this way of living type offering undermines the very core of Christian theology on the incarnation.

Therefore, lets go for the first version!

So the passage for today certainly is Paul's teaching to the good people of Philippi that they should be encouraged to continue in their good life together - after all this appears to be the only one of Paul's letters where there is not a conflict raging.  He writes: "If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others."  Paul is clearly making the case for those who follow Jesus are to be obedient to God by loving, by being unified, by serving and working for others - putting self aside, and to be humble.

Who is this God that we believe in? Paul continues... God in Christ Jesus, though he has no need to do so because he is God, loves and so snatches (ἁρπαγμὸν - harpagmos - see scholarly definitions here) out of eager desire humanity. God reaches out and takes hold of humanity by taking on humanity like a lover.  The slavery that he takes on is a slavery of love. This is rooted in the latin tradition of servitium amoris. (Fredrickson)  Here is an interesting essay on this. This is an idea that the lover is tied intimately to the beloved.  Fredrickson here is helpful in this, he writes, "he emptied himself [the phrase in Greek always refers to a bodily occurrence preceded by melting; liquefaction of the body and subsequent draining away of the once solid self was the poetic way of describing longing, the desire for union with an absent beloved.]."  God empties himself ἐκένωσεν (ekenōsen) out of this longing and servitude to humanity whom God loves and desires.  God in Christ Jesus does this even unto death on the cross.

This is an important and radical shift. Certainly it is one that is hinted to in Martin Luther's theology of the cross.  Yet, it has also been lost in years past.  Here we are able to see that God in Christ Jesus himself gives himself completely over to us even though his love for us means that we will ultimately kill God - as we do. This reorients and changes the action of the sacrificial center of the cross to God's love and human response.  This hermeneutic shift is and can be a powerful one as we walk into Holy Week.

Some Thoughts on Isaiah 50:4-9



The passage from Isaiah is one of the shortest readings in the lectionary, and yet also one of the most profoundly influential in our understanding of the unique revelation of Jesus Christ.

We have not been reading Isaiah for a bit so remember this is a piece of his writing that is most likely brought forth during the Babylonian captivity. It is part of what is commonly called the “servant songs” by most scholars. These are sections that speak of the suffering servant of Israel. It is broken up into an introduction, the abuse of the servant, and the discipline of the servant.

The servant imagery, in the sections in which our passage today is apart, is clearly a reference in Isaiah’s writing to the suffering of the people of Israel at the hands of their captors. Later as the prophecy grew in revelation it would be seen as an image of the new David, the Messiah, who would restore Israel.

What is most important for the Christian reader is to understand that the Gospel authors, especially Matthew, understood Jesus in the light of these servant songs. The trial and the day leading to the crucifixion are seen in this light.

With catholic/universal mission in one hand and the suffering servant songs in another, the authors of our Gospels reveal the person of Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah. A Messiah who does more than the resuscitation of Isreal, but instead creates a whole new Israel – creates a whole new lineage of Abraham- that stretches around the known world. It is not the fortunes of an old Zion that is being recreated, but instead a new community of Spirit and truth.

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