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 also can simply search below by entering the liturgical date, scripture, or proper. This will pull up all previous posts.


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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Proper 9A/Ordinary 14A/Pentecost +4 July 6, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think

"It is not that Jesus invites us to a life of ease. Following him will be full of risks and challenges, as he has made abundantly clear. He calls us to a life of humble service, but it is a life of freedom and joy instead of slavery."

Commentary, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, Elisabeth Johnson, Preaching This Week,, 2011.

"In the end, I am tempted to the same kind of apathy and indifference as the people in Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida. The problems are too big, too complicated, other people don't seem to be as bothered as I am, so why don't I get on about my business and fish?"

"Are You Paying Attention, Capernaum?" Tod Weir, Bloomingcactus, 2011.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from


To the childlike, O God, you reveal yourself, and on those who are meet and humble of heart you bestow the inheritance of your kingdom.  Set our hearts free from every burden of pretension and refresh our weary souls with the teaching of Christ, that with him we may shoulder the gentle yoke of the cross, and proclaim to everyone the joy that comes from you. 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 11:16-30

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

There are several sections to this reading; and in fact many will only read portions of the whole series.
The first section begins with the end of a discourse on John the Baptist (11:16-19). The second section is made up of a prophecy of "woe" (11:20-24). Then we have a series of praises to God for his revelation (11:25-30).

We know that John is Jesus precursor, that he decreases as Jesus influence and power increases, and we know that John's career runs parallel with Jesus. This framework gives way in the end to our text today wherein it is clear that Jesus' work and mission is not being responded to and our verses this Sunday offer a key crossroads for the community. (Allison & Davies, Matthew, vol 2, 294ff)
16“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
For those hearing Jesus they have a decision to make will they follow Jesus or John the baptist. For those hearing Matthew's Gospel there is some question as to whether they will follow Jesus or the old ways of their community. For us today we stand at a perpetual crossroads in our daily life, in our communications, and in our relationships wherein we are challenged to follow Jesus.  We are not given a utilitarian outlook on life when we choose to follow and love Jesus. We are changed by the Gospel and changed by those whom God embraces.  When we embrace and choose the path of Jesus we are choosing a more difficult yet very interesting road.

The next section is a prophecy from Jesus about what happens when we do not respond.
21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
The last section is a section that deals with a thanksgiving to God for revelation. I found it interesting in Allison and Davies commentary to read these words, "...11:25-30 is a capsule summary of the message of the entire gospel."  This passage is as important a text as John 3.16 - famously known as the Gospel in miniature: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.."

In this passage Jesus is clear:
  1. He is the one who is responsible for revelation to the family of God who are in their infancy growing into the discipleship community they were created to be.
  2. He is the meek and humble one (fulfilling the sermon on the mount's blessings) - he is the servant of Israel; he is the Messiah.
  3. He is the embodiment (the Word made flesh) of both the law (he is the righteous one) and wisdom (he is the revealer).
  4. He has come to make know and to act out the perfect will of God, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It is interesting how our 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and our Rite One service use these two passages together.
They both reveal to us who Jesus is and who we are called to be. His message is profoundly different than that of the baptist; it is for both the old and the new Israel. In this manner we remember the mosaic motif of the evangelists words in describing Jesus and his ministry. He is the one who reveals God's holy law to us and it is similar to the law revealed by moses and it is given to us on a mount not unlike Moses' own delivery. Jesus, like Moses continues the tradition of righteousness and wisdom inherited from the great mosaic tradition. Matthew is clear Jesus is the living word that revealed to Moses the law; now in the flesh he fulfills it. But the new Israel is an expanded version of the old. There is more to it, not in that it is new to God, but rather that it is new to us. In Jesus the purposes of God are more fully revealed. We are to learn and study that with Jesus provides for us but we are to be meek as we become more fully aware of this revelation and we are to be transfigured and transformed by our experience of this revelation.
Not unlike the Matthean Gospel in miniature we are to live out the revelation of Jesus Christ and become the discipleship community creation was intended to bring forth.We are to be servants of all if we are friends of Jesus. We are the meek. Our lives and relationships are to be different than those around us for the purpose of God's revelation. The words we receive we are to proclaim and enact for others, receiving the weary, carrying their heavy burdens, giving others rest. We are to take Jesus' yoke and to learn and while being humble and gentle we are to help others find rest for their souls.

"The tone of these chapters is reflective, meditative. Yet, no portion of the epistle is more challenging to understand than these four chapters."

Commentary, Romans 7:15-25a, Marion L. Soards, Preaching This Week,, 2008.

"Paul's dilemma is the human dilemma -- all of us struggle in the battle between good and evil, right and wrong choices, thoughts and actions."

"The Blame Game," Bill O'Brien, The Christian Century, 2005.

So lets take a look at Romans.  Paul has been setting up this conversation over the last two readings and today it becomes a bit clearer to understand if not a bit more difficult to undertake.  There are essentially two ways of being in the world.

The first way of being is the old way. This is the way of the law.  The problem with the law is that because of sin humans are constantly breaking it. In point of fact humans cannot keep the law fully; the only thing that one can expect for sure from a life lived by the law is a life of sin and continuity in its breaking.  What this means is that humanity is therefore dependent upon God to help reconcile them.  This dependence comes from the understanding that without God's intervention humanity, a community of law breakers, will have no spiritual life upon their death.

The second way of being in the world is the way provided by God in Christ Jesus.  This other way of making our way in the world is attained through the sacrament of baptism, where in we participate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  By doing so we have life in Christ Jesus.  This new reality formed in the grave and redeemed means that upon our death we too will be raised like Jesus.  The craziness is that after baptism death brings life - instead of simply death.

Paul then explains that the problem here is not the law itself - important to understand - but it is humanity who is at fault.  Here is how it works.  Humans live in constant tension between their action and their inner self - the mind or will.  Humans desire good and to be good; they desire to live by he law.  As creatures we are created to live by God's ways explains Paul.  YET, and it is a big yet, humans understand that what they do is not what they will to do. There are many things you can will yourself to do and still fail to do them.  I bet you and I could come up with several things right now on our list of "I will do but don't do."  This is sin - that I do the things I do not wish to do - no matter how hard I will it.  Paul says this is sin.  You and I can will ourselves to obey God but in the end we just aren't very good at overcoming the sin that is in us.

This is a key element in theology because what it offers is that humanity is not going to get better - we are continually going to be at war with ourselves and one another. We will do things we should not do and we will leave things undone which we should have done. We will hurt others, hurt ourselves, and even allow others to hurt others on our behalf.  

We might well remember that this does not negate our action to try and be different; this does not negate our response to God's grace, love, and mercy.

Paul is highlighting for us that we are utterly dependent upon God to save us. We are dependent upon God in Christ Jesus to forgive us. We are dependent upon God to be a power greater than ourselves to restore order and sanity into our lives. Our response to this sorry state of affairs and God's salvation is true gratitude.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Proper 8A/Ordinary 13A/Pentecost +3 June 29, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think

"What would happen if we stopped expecting people to come on their own initiative through our church doors, and instead took seriously our calling to bring the gospel to them?" 

Commentary, Matthew 10:40-42, Elisabeth Johnson, Preaching This Week,, 2011.

"Who knows how the awareness of God's love first hits people. Every person has his own tale to tell, including the person who wouldn't believe in God if you paid him."

"Salvation," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from


Pour forth into our hearts, strong and faithful God, the wisdom and daring of your Spirit, that we may take up the cross and follow Christ, willing to lose our lives for his sake and to manifest to the world the hope 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 A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Matthew 10:40-42

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

It is important when reading this text that we read the word which come just before as they are intimately tied together; the one giving way to the other.
34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
There was in the Jewish tradition of the day an understanding that in the last days of "tribulation" households would be divided. This is the reality of the time.  Allison & Davies write, "The absence of peace and the presence of the sword is a sign of the great tribulation. And it is in this great tribulation that the Matthean church must carry on its mission." (Allison & Davies, Matthew, 219ff)

Our text for Sunday expands upon this theme bridging and fully quoting Micah 7.6.
4The day of their sentinels, of their punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. 5Put no trust in a friend, have no confidence in a loved one; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your embrace; 6for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household.
Here too it is important to read what comes next in Micah's prophecy to understand the fullness of the words that Jesus is speaking to his followers.  Micah proclaims
7But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. 8Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.
Just as Micah looks to the Lord for guidance in the time of trial; so too the disciples must look upon the Lord and upon his example and come after him.  In a time of division one can not look for allies in the field but rather to be allied with Christ.  "For Matthew, the cross is, as 10.39 makes plain, the outstanding symbol of self-denial."  (Allison & Davies, 221)  Central throughout the Gospel the cross is this profound moniker of discipleship.  This text is universally attributed to Jesus. Irenaeus in Adv. Haer. 4.5.4 wrote: Righteously also do we, possessing the same faith as Abraham and taking up the cross as Isaac did the wood, follow Him (The Word)."

The purpose of the this challenge and call is linked not to violence but rather to service.  The disciples are to engage selflessly to Christian service.  This may include death as it certainly did for many martyrs.  But it is also about justice, food, clothing, and all of human life.  When one orients one's life to Jesus one chooses something more profound than a utilitarian manner of life which serves ego and bodily desires and hungers as the primary source for direction.  It is a profoundly different way of thinking about life. Rather than making a life based upon one's doubts, fears, or suspicions, one is choosing to affirm the life of Jesus and to choose intentional to try and live out a life which reflects the glory of God and immolates Jesus and his compassion and blessings for others.

To choose to live life as a follower of Jesus means to give meaning to one's existence. It is to live the life we were created to live: loving, caring, and creating community one with another.

Our mission is the mission of Jesus as so clearly stated in the Gospel of Matthew and exemplified by Jesus in Chapter 9.  We are to go about all the cities and villages. We are to gather people and teach.  We are to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God out in the world.  We are to be about the work of healing people's lives, their hearts, and their bodies. We are to have compassion on all we find out there, or who walk through our doors. Jesus says to all those who would do this work and come after him, taking up their cross, and denying themselves: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask teh Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."  (9.35-38 and 10.5-15)

We are given authority by God to do this work. (10.1)

We are sent out in the midst of crisis and a time of fear and injustice. (10.16ff)

We are to be like the teacher and have no fear and to live our Christian lives out in the open (10.26f)

This is our work.

Now that the missionary message is clear Jesus turns his attention to teaching about welcoming missionaries.  Returning again to Allison & Davies:
Those who welcome the eschatological messengers of Jesus in effect welcome Jesus himself and gain for themselves reward.  With this thought, which makes the decision for or against the missionaries equivalent to the decision for or against Jesus..." (225)
With these words Matthew closes Jesus' discourse on the life of discipleship and what it means to place one's mind on heavenly things even in the midst of living in this world.  The kingdom and reign of God is possible in this place. We are able to fulfill our purpose if we are courageous and deny that which "draws us from the love of God."  In some way we are challenged to make a decision about what the purpose of the earth and our place upon it holds within the schema of God's action.

Not unlike Joshua who chooses to follow the Lord, Christians make a decision that the purpose of creation is to fulfill God's will, and that we are to join in that work proactively and intentionally.Our work is not a utility that serves me, or to make life smooth and easy, but is to serve the utility of God. Jesus reminds us, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Mtt 6.24)

Take up your cross and follow me.

Some Thoughts on Romans 6:12-23

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"The passage reminds us that we are still vulnerable to sin and death, post-baptism. And so the issue becomes: which slavery do we want--slavery to sin that leads to death or slavery to Christ that leads to life?"

Commentary, Romans 6:12-23, Walter F. Taylor, Jr., Preaching This Week,, 2011.

"Christ followers in Africa, Asia and Latin America have no problem with the Christian metanarrative. The way they read the Bible leads to the marriage of word and deed, faith and action. Why do their churches look and act so different from churches in the West?"

"Slave Wages," Bill O'Brien, The Christian Century, 2005.

We continue this week reading through Romans. We might remember that Paul has been clear with his readers that baptism has given them a new life.  Even though humanity continue to try and use the law to be close to God all that did was empower false rulers and religious leaders. The law simply made it even more difficult for reconciliation between God and man to occur.  So God responds by loving even more - this is grace.

BUT, while they have this new life and sin/death are forever beaten by Christ and his cross - we are still subject to sin.  We are still going to be tempted and we will even fall to our passions.  But we must be focused upon the life that is in us - this righteousness.  Sin will not win the day - rather - Jesus' death and our baptism will prevail.  

He then returns to this idea of lawlessness. Can we do whatever we like? Nope.

He uses then the image of ancient slavery to explain the ways in which we make our course through the world.  You cannot serve two masters he can only serve the one or the other - life or death.  You are now, through your baptisms, servants or slaves (people bound to) God.  This bounded-ness to God is unbreakable and our hearts in thanksgiving for salvation seek to respond.

Paul says...look you were focused on the wrong things, things that didn't bring you life or liberty.  You payment for serving these things and these other masters was death. Now God frees you. God frees you to a new life without death.  God invites you to respond and to serve a different master.
I think we have to be very careful as we work through this passage given our western history with slavery.  But like our brothers and sisters in other cultures we should not shy away from speaking about how God frees us and we have an opportunity to respond. We should proclaim the reality that God's grace and love has forever linked us to the divine life and that there is nothing we can do to escape it.  And, should we wish to speak on how the meta narrative offers an ethical life - then engage by all means. But be clear that the narrative is not one that invites a new slavery to a new law which serves the empowerment of men and women and society.  Instead our ethical work is the just and proper use of creation, the freedom of captives, the visitation of the sick, the clothing and sheltering of the poor.  We have a new life of response to God's grace and that is to BE God's grace in the world.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Proper 7A/Ordinary 12A/Pentecost +2 June 22, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think

"We all know how to lose our life so that it is lost. The trick is to figure out how to lose one's life so that it will be found. And the key to that mystery is to lose our life for Jesus' sake. For Jesus' purpose, aim, or end."

Holy Textures, Understanding the Bible in its own time and in ours, Matthew Matthew10:24-39 David Ewart, 2011.

"...Reconcilers must remind themselves moment to moment to stay grounded in God's love. Remember just how much and how unconditionally God loves and values you, and you won't be thrown off-center by anyone's attempts to make you feel as worthless as they do. Remember just how powerful God's love is to heal, and you won't have to flee from things that remind you of your own vulnerabilities and wounds."

Dylan's Lectionary Blog, Proper 7. 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


Prayer written by pastor Kurt Struckmeyer on discipleship:

God of love,
source of mercy and compassion,
weave your dream for the world
into the fabric of our lives.

Remove the scales from our eyes
and lift the indifference from our hearts,
so that we may see your vision –
a new reign of justice and compassion
that will renew the earth.

Transform our lives,
so that we may accomplish your purpose.

Anoint us with your Spirit
that we might bring good news to the oppressed,
bind up the brokenhearted,
and proclaim release to the captive.

Give us a new urgency
and a new commitment
to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
shelter the homeless,
and visit those who live in isolation.

Help us to reach out to those
whom no one else will touch,
to accept the unacceptable,
and to embrace the enemy.

Surround us with your love,
fill us with your grace,
and strengthen us for your service.

Empower us to respond to the call of Jesus –
to deny ourselves,
to take up our crosses,
and to follow.

Make us your disciples.


Some Thoughts on Matthew 10:24-39

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

This week we move back in time in Matthew's gospel.  Jesus is preparing his disiciples to carry on his ministry of proclaiming the Good News of salvation.  He is here in Matthew's Gospel portrayed as wise teacher and also as a master of creation.  Remember in Matthew's Gospel Jesus is about the work of remaking all of creation.  The disciples, those both intimately connected and those loosely affiliated, are near him to learn - they are his students.  In-turn, as we read last week, they are to take on his mission.  

The great commission which begins our readings for the summer last week is the cornerstone and lens for all that is to follow.  

Those who follow Jesus though, while continuing the mission, are not to be like the authorities and teachers of the world. They are not to set themselves over and against others, but rather to be as guides.  There is a lot to learn after all.  

This form of ministry is very scary to the religious teachers and authorities of the day and they are even calling him names.  Jesus is clear - don't be scared. The love and mercy of God that is even now remaking the world will reveal in time the reality of these efforts and how they are not any good.  Don't worry about those who are against you - be focused on the work before you.  Everything will be revealed.

Jesus then interprets scripture for them. He uses a verse from Micah 7.6.  This was a prophecy that told the ancient Hebrews that society which is not of God and destroys the creatures and people of God is not only unholy but it is passing.  The gospel will prevail.  

Setting up next weeks passage we are told this Gospel of mercy and love will have repercussions. People will be against you.  You though must be clear. You must follow and be loyal to the call you have been given. You are already participating in part in a kingdom that is gaining its foothold in the world.

It is hard today to see the hope in some of this...  Yet here it is. God's mission will prevail. God's kingdom will win the day. Love, mercy, kindness, healing, feeding, clothing, sheltering, and caring are the eternal revelatory truths of the Gospel of God in Christ Jesus.  Anything that looks like something else probably is...

It is true that nothing will undo this mission.  Even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mtt 16)  I believe that what is falling away in the church today is the parts of it that do nor reflect this new creation.  It isn't that the kingdom of God or the church is dying but rather the human misrepresentation that has more in common with the religious institutions of Jesus' day is continuing its ever dying dance. 

"Lesslie Newbigin once said that if you do not see the kingdom it?s because you are facing the wrong direction."

"Dying to Live," Bill O'Brien, The Christian Century, 2005.

"When he spoke of what happened to him on the Damascus Road, Paul never knew whether to call it being born or being killed. In a way, it felt like both at the same time. Whatever it was, it had something to do with letting go."

"Letting Go Down Here," William Willimon, The Christian Century, 1986. AtReligion Online.

This passage from Romans is a classic conversation between the Romans and the Protestants even today!  In fact I was engaged in just such a conversation not two weeks ago.  Paul is clear God is a lover of humanity and creation. God gives us grace, grace, grace.  Christ's death was a final blow that released grace into the world freely.  Grace has a simple equation in Paul's writings: the more there is sin the more grace abounds!  This is good news my friends...this is THE GOOD NEWS.

So Paul says, rhetorically, so does this mean that we can or should sin even more in order to receive grace?  We need to remember that one of the charges against early Christians and their communities was that they were lawless.  This argument posed would certainly lead to lawlessness.  Paul's answer to himself is "of course not."  

He then makes it clear that through baptism we die to sin and become inextricably linked to Christ's death and his resurrection.  We are raised by God and we are made to walk in the world around us in new life.  Paul is clear that as we rise up into this new life we are to respond to God's grace with (what one scholar called) "conscience-based ethical conduct."  We would not want or desire to respond intentionally to God's love, mercy, and grace with behavior other than that which builds up the body of Christ and reflects well upon the God who saved us.

I believe that Paul was clear to himself - new life means new behaviors. Just as death with Christ is given so is life and so our lives will reflect this new behavior - our lives will look like the life of Jesus.  I think Chris Haslaam of Canada does an excellent job of capturing the Gospel of Paul as laid out in Romans with this "cliff notes version":

Just as we have been grafted on to Christ in his death, so we too will share with him through a resurrection like his (v. 5). We know that we ceased to be dominated by sin and divine wrath (“our old self”, v. 6) when we were baptised. This removed the effects of our waywardness, our enslavement to sin, but makes us ethically responsible for our actions. This is what baptism does (v. 7). Dying with Christ also includes living with him. Because Christ has risen, he will “never die again” (v. 9) – this is unique, once-for-all-time act, an anticipation of the age to come. And then the answer to the question in v. 2: Christ “died to sin” in the sense that sinless, he died rather than disobey the Father, and in the context of a sinful world. He was raised by the Father (v. 4) in order that he might live “to God” (v. 10, as he has always done.) So, as Christ is the model for our lives, and it is he upon whom our lives are grafted, we too must leave sin behind and be “alive to God” (v. 11) in Christ.
The miracle of life with Christ is that though we are never free from sin we are always one step away from complete forgiveness because our God continues to reach out to us with Grace.  Paul believes that those who follow Jesus will live an intentional life - though a grace filled one.  Moreover, that the grace received is the grace in-turn offered to all those whom we meet. We like Christ are to be forgiving and grace filled vessels in the world.  It is not enough to live a life full after baptism it is to reflect and be grace agents int he world around us - ultimately, enabling others to discover their grafted-ness into the life of God in Christ Jesus.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Trinity A (Pentecost +1) June 15, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think

"...if we want our people to get excited about, rather than feel guilty because of, the Great Commission, we need to commit to reclaiming Sunday worship and preaching as the God-given time in which to rehearse and practice the skills essential to Christian living..."

"Reclaiming the Great Commission," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2011.

"This is such an important text in the context of Matthew's gospel that there is a danger that its use on Trinity Sunday will lead to too much focus on its tenuous links with the Trinity, so I want to start with the passage itself. It has enormous significance as the climax of the gospel, drawing together major themes of the gospel..."

First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages from the Lectionary, Trinity A. William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from


St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the Cherubim;
The sweet 'Well done' in judgment hour;
The service of the Seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death-wound and the burning
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Translation: Cecil Frances Alexander

Some Thoughts on Matthew 28:16-20
[Some lectionaries may have Matthew's transfiguration - 17:1-9. Please see last Epiphany A for this text commentary]

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

As so many of you know I the doctrine of the Trinity is the primary doctrine that informs my theology and ministry.  So, I was struck by William Loader's comment, "This is such an important text in the context of Matthew's gospel that there is a danger that its use on Trinity Sunday will lead to too much focus on its tenuous links with the Trinity..."  This sense of the importance of pausing and re-engaging the text in a fresh was was reinforced by these words from the Matthean scholar Warren Carter, "The scene has significant Christological elements. It is the risen Christ who commissions the disciples."  (Matthew and the Margins, 549)  So let us look again at this passage with fresh eyes and seek the testimony being proclaimed by Matthew.

Let me begin by relying heavily on Allison and Davies (Matthew, vol III, 687):

"28.16-20, which was so important to William Carey and the nineteenth-century Protestant missionary movement, is from the literary point of view, perfect, in the sense that it satisfyingly completes the Gospel: we cold hardly improve upon it.  Nothing is superfluous, yet nothing more could be added without spoiling the effect.  The grand denouement, so consonant with the spirit of the whole Gospel because so full of resonances with earlier passages, is, despite its terseness, almost a compendium of Matthean theology:
Galilee fulfils the prophecies in 26.32 and 28.7 and creates a literary arch with 4.12 that spans the Gospel
Mountain recalls other mountain scenes, especially 4.8 (where Jesus refuses to accept from the devil what he will later accept from the Father) and ...(where Jesus gave them commands.) 5.1
They worshipped him, but some doubted has been foreshadowed by 14.31-3
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me echoes 11.27 as well as a prophecy (Dan 7.13-14) which Jesus has elsewhere applied to himself (24.30; 26.64); it further brings to completion the theme of Jesus' kingship (1.1; etc)
Make disciples reminds one of 13.52 (cf 27.57)
All the nations terminates the prohibition of 10.5-6 (cf 15.24) and announces the realization of the promise made to Abraham (cf 1.1; also Gen 12.3; 18.18; 22.18)
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit' in connexion with baptism reminds one of chapter 3, where the Son is baptized, the Father speaks, and the Spirit descends
Teaching recapitulates a central theme and gives the disciples a task heretofore reserved for Jesus
All that I have commanded you is a sweeping retrospective of all Jesus has said and done
I am with you always forms an inclusio with 1.23 and is similar to 18.20
The end of the age is a phrase used earlier (13.39, 40, 49; 24.3) and puts one in mind of Jesus' teachings about the end
...The climax and crown of Matthew's Gospel is profoundly apt in that it invites the reader to enter the story: 28.16-20 is an open ended ending.  Not only does v.20a underline that the particular man, Jesus, has universal significance, but 'I am with you always' reveals that he is always with his people.  The result is that the believing audience and the ever-living Son of God become intimate.  The Jesus who commands difficult obedience is at the same time the ever-graceful divine presence.
One can not more clearly see the power of the ending of Matthew's Gospel; it is almost and exclamation point to the driving force of the narrative.  Such connections can often only be seen when one reads the text in one sitting as so many people now are doing.  (This is a great Advent event which I cannot more strongly recommend!)

The literary import of this passage is very interesting. But so are the words of Jesus that all are sent (doubters in the midst of the believers).  That we who find ourselves in different places along the Way are invited into the missionary work of God for God's people.

We used this passage this week as our bible passage for the Executive Board of our diocese.  One of the people in my group had a wonderful saying.  He invited us to consider and hold precious our doubts, wrestle with them, and seek enlightenment; however, he challenged that we not stand on doubt as the guiding principle of life or the guiding principle of following Jesus.  We are challenged to make the Way and Jesus the road map of our faith pilgrimage along with the doubts that come as conversation partners along the journey.

Warren Carter wrote:
The small, minority, marginal community of disciples is commissioned to nothing less than worldwide mission in proclaiming obedience to Jesus and his teaching.  But this mission is carried out in a dangerous and resistant world as the passion narrative and the immediately prior scene in 28:11-15 have made clear.  There are rivals for human loyalty, who are, like this gospel's vision, intolerant of other claimants.  There are competing understandings of what God and/or the gods want from humans.  Post-70 Judaism struggles with diverse visions of its future without the Jerusalem temple, but many do not find the Matthean vision convincing.... [Jesus announcement and commissioning] calls people to recognize God's sovereignty as "Lord of Heaven and earth" (11.25).  And it proclaims that God's purposes are supreme. The future is not that of eternal Rome, but of God's just and life-giving empire established over all (chs. 24-25).  It is to this mission that the community of disciples is again sent by the one who claims "all authority in heaven and earth." (Matthew and the Margins, 550ff)
We are the inheritors of this mission. We have received it from all the mothers and fathers and grandparents who dared to give us the expectation and opportunity of faith. We have received it from as a sacramental blessing from all the priests and deacons who have given countless ours at the altars of God and at the altar of our dining room tables.  We are inheritors from the apostles who have gone before us: Wimberly, Payne, Benitez, Richardson, Hines, Quin, Kinsolving, and Gregg.  We are inheritors of this sacred journey from saints who with a Mother Teresan mixture of faith and doubt have paved the imperial road of God's kingdom for our pilgrim journey.

What blessings are bestowed upon us; to be brought into the divine community by Jesus Christ, commissioned and handed the privilege of serving as a missionary in God's plan. 

Some Thoughts on 2 Corinthians 13:5-14

"Genitives aside, verse 13 provides ample opportunity to rehearse the history of salvation: Christ who brought grace, God who loves, and the Spirit that creates the church and in whom believers live and serve."

Commentary, 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13 (Trinity A), Fred Gaiser, Preaching This Week,, 2011.

"Paul has expanded a traditional farewell to make it match a situation where community and compassion was largely missing."

"First Thoughts on Year A Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Trinity, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

I wrote my masters thesis on the Trinity - specifically on Johnathan Edwards' vision of the Trinitarian God in and through creation. I love the Trinity! I love Trinitarian theology!  But we will ruin preaching on this passage if we force Trinitarian thinking into lets take another look.

While last week's reading from Paul had a bit more Trinitarian thinking buried within it - this does not. As scholar Matt Skinner wrote,
... it does not adequately express the affirmations and nuances of the classical Trinitarian doctrine that was formulated in the centuries after Paul lived.  Notice that 2 Corinthians 13:13 (which appears as 13:14 in some versions, such as the TNIV and RSV) explicitly names just two Persons of the Godhead, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. A strictly Trinitarian expression would not assume that "the love of God" was fully equivalent to "the love of the Father." Also, Paul's ordering differs from the traditional Trinitarian sequence of Father, Son, and Spirit. All this is to acknowledge that Paul--as demonstrated not only here but also in the rest of his letters--was not himself "Trinitarian," as Christian doctrine came to understand the term and its implications. His aim was hardly to define God and God's nature in precise, abstract categories.
What happens when we get tangled in the Trinitarian knot by our liturgical reading cycle is that we miss a great opportunity to preach on Paul's actual message. 

Paul is dealing with a deeply divided community at war with itself.  Like many churches today (denominational and nondenominational) they are dividing and acting most un-church like!  Paul's message of unity and community is essential in understanding how the ancient church grew and became the global church of Jesus followers with many shapes and kinds in every part and corner of the world.  

What Paul is saying is this - God, the creator of all things, is the God of grace and love and mercy.  This is the foundation of community and community life together.

Paul challenges them to live together in harmony.  He tells them to restore order and peace.  Be the people of love, mercy, and grace that God has called you to be.  Paul is certain and clear - you are to share the grace you have received with ALL people.  You are not the sorting hat of God.  Paul lays out a litmus test for Corinth and for Christians today.  If you are a God fearer and Jesus follower then you will indiscriminately share the grace we received, leading us to love God and to have that same love flow into community.   

As it says in the Madeline books, "That is all there is, there isn't any more." All the rest is extra, all the rest is where humanity gets into trouble.  All the rest is how the church as community has routinely made a mess of a perfectly good creation!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pentecost Day A June 8, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think

"What is more, he keeps showing up. As he came back a week later for Thomas, Jesus keeps coming back week after week among his gathered disciples -- in the word, the water, the bread, and the wine -- not wanting any to miss out on the life and peace he gives."

Commentary, Elisabeth Johnson, John 20:19-31, Preaching This Week,, 2014.

"Sometimes I think we have more faith in our fears than we do in God, in the Risen Christ. Have you ever been locked in by your fears?"

"Locked In And Locked Out," Alyce M. McKenzie, Edgy Exegesis, 2013.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

O God the Holy Ghost
Who art light unto thine elect
Evermore enlighten us.
Thou who art fire of love
Evermore enkindle us.
Thou who art Lord and Giver of Life,
Evermore live in us.
Thou who bestowest sevenfold grace,
Evermore replenish us.
As the wind is thy symbol,
So forward our goings.
As the dove, so launch us heavenwards.
As water, so purify our spirits.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations.
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, so purge our dross

Christina Rossetti (AD 1830-1894)
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Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Some Thoughts on John 20:19-31
[Some lectionaries may have Matthew's transfiguration - 17:1-9. Please see last Epiphany A for this text commentary]

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

Our passage begins on the evening of the first day. Ignatius believed this was the moment when Christians began to associate Sunday morning worship with the resurrected Lord over and against the sabbath.  That the first day of the week was a day of work to begin with the work God has given us through the Holy Spirit.

Certainly, this is indeed what happens.  Jesus comes and in their midst.
Raymond Brown points out that this is typical of the Johannine resurrection pieces:
1. A bereft situation
2. The appearance
3. Greeting
4. Recognition
5. Command (John, Anchor Bible, 1028)

He tells his followers that he is sending them out and that they are to receive the Holy Spirit. The passing of the Holy Spirit over to the disciples is a giving of authority. They are representatives of the family of God in their proclamation, mission and service to others.

We spent time on this passage previously the Sunday following Easter and so I don't want to spend time on the resurrection appearance. I would rather focus on the powers given over to the disciples.

The Holy Spirit has been given to them directly from God.

Throughout the whole of John's Gospel he has refrained from talking about the disciples as apostles, in this passage he does this for the first time. (Brown, John, 1036)
We see that the grounding, the theology of the trinitarian community ad extra, serves as the grounding for the disciples being sent by Jesus.

They are holy, they are consecrated by the Spirit to bear the Gospel forward.  This breathing on them echoes the first breaths given to man in Genesis 2.7. This is a new creation that is being made.

We might remember our Holy Saturday Great Vigil and the words spoken in Ezekiel's prophecy (ch 37).  In it the "Son of Man" is told to prophesy to the dry bones: "Hear the word of the Lord...I will cause breath [spirit] to enter you, and you shall live." (1037)

I very much like how Raymond Brown speaks of this moment:
Now, another Son of Man, himself fresh from the tomb, speaks as the risen Lord and causes the breath of eternal life to enter those who hear his word.  In the secondary, baptismal symbolism of John 3.5 the readers of the Gospel are told that by water and Spirit they are begotten as God's children; the present scene serves as the Baptism of Jesus' immediate disciples and a pledge of divine begetting to all believers of a future period represented by the disciples. (Small wonder that the custom of breathing upon the subject to be baptized found its way into the baptismal ceremonial.)  Now they are truly Jesus' brothers and can call his Father their Father (20.17)  The gift of the Spirit is the "ultimate climax of the personal relations between Jesus and his disciples. (1037ff)
This Sunday we will all celebrate the great gift of the Holy Spirit. Some will call this the birthday of the church and many will wear read. It will be a festive and exciting time.

We must not loose site though that the gift of the spirit is a missionary gift. The recreation of humanity is not for the church alone but for the whole body of God's people around the world.

We should have a glorious celebration of the Church's new creation, but as the first fruits of the great community of God, the reign of God yet to be fulfilled; and the mission of God in which we have the privilege to participate.

A Sermon on Pentecost

Who are we? We are forgiveness bearers.

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

There is this great scene in one of my favorite movies, Joe Vs. the Volcano; where Joe Banks (played by Tom Hanks) receives credit cards to help him begin a journey to the Volcano island Wapponi Whu (which means island with a big volcano). He is going to jump in the volcano because he has a “brain cloud;” and doesn’t have anything else to do with his last days. He hires a limousine and driver to take him out to buy things for his journey. The driver asks him where he wants to go. Joe replies, “Shopping for clothes.” The driver asks what kind of clothes and where would you like to go. Joe answers that he doesn’t know; and then asks the driver, “Where do you go for clothes?” To which the driver quickly pulls over the car and says. “You don’t know who you are. You don’t know where you want to go. You don’t know what kind of clothes you want to buy. And that is a very personal thing. I believe clothes make the man. I have spent my whole life trying to figure out who I am, and I am tired. I certainly don’t know who you are.”

I have spent my whole life trying to figure out who I am.

I used to believe that I knew who I was and where I was going. But when I arrived at that destination I found that my vision wasn’t large enough to encompass who God was calling me to be.

I have spent my whole life trying to figure that out. I don’t believe we really know who we are.

If we spend our lives trying to figure out who we are then who has time to figure out who Jesus is. After all, like the limousine driver says: “I am tired.”

I really believe our lives are frustrated by the fact that we don’t really know who Jesus is either. As a Christian this poses an major identity crisis. Because I primarily understand myself in relationship to God above all other relationships and so when I don’t understand who God is and who this person of Jesus is; I am just a little confused. If I don’t understand who God and Jesus are, I really can’t understand myself.

In her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott writes:

As we sat there on the runway, the man with the book about the Apocalypse commented on the small gold cross I wear.

“Are you born again?” he asked, as we taxied down the runway. He was rather prim and tense, maybe a little like David Eisenhower with a spastic colon, I did not know hot to answer for a moment.

“Yes,” I said. “I am.”

My friends like to tell each other that I am not really a born-again Christian. They think of me more along the lines of that old Jonathan Miller routine, where he said, “I’m not really a Jew – I’m Jew-ish.” They think I am Christian-ish. But I’m not. I’m just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian. And certainly, like the apostle Peter, I am capable of denying it, of presenting myself as a sort of leftist liberation-theology enthusiast and maybe sort of a vaguely Jesusy bon-vivant. But it’s not true. And I believe that when you get on a plane, if you start lying you are totally doomed.

So I told the truth: that I am a believer, a convert, I’m probably about three months away from slapping an aluminum Jesus-fish on the back of my car, although I first want to see if the application or stickum in any way interferes with my lease agreement.
That is kind of the way I approach my life. Before I decide I am anything I want to know how this impending choice is going to affect my lease agreement. How will this Jesus affect who I am? What will I be asked to do if I follow him?

I think that is why many churches don’t ask much of you; they keep Jesus just far enough away that you can’t get a good enough feeling about who this is. In this way our lives and choices are not complicated and a whole life of complicity can spread out before you.

The disciples were exactly the same way. They were in the midst of an identity crisis. Their leader, teacher, friend had led them into the city of Jerusalem and been crucified. Now he was no where to be found and they had locked themselves in a room for fear that they would be rounded up and caught and crucified.

Jesus comes and stand in their midst and they receive him. They know him. They recognize him. They are transformed by his presence in their lives.

His presence tells them who they are. They know him and they know themselves. He says to them: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

They find out they are forgiveness bearers. They find out that they are bearers of God’s peace to the world. Peace and forgiveness bearers that is their identity in the risen and transforming life of this “Resurrected Jesus.”

Now of course Thomas wasn’t there and he has to come along and see Jesus for himself. And, he does; and then he knows who he is. Thomas finds out he too, through his belief, is a peace and forgiveness bearer to the world. That is his identity.

What I love about the story is that the disciples and Thomas come to know the risen Jesus in two different ways. They require different manners of knowing. Both ways are all right, and both ways lead to understanding themselves. Their belief helps them to know who they are and what their purpose is.

Their experience informs their belief. Their belief transforms who they are.
Richard Rohr in Hope Against Darkness, writes:
Everybody looks at the world through their own lens, a matrix of culturally inherited qualities, family influences and other life experiences. This lens, or worldview, truly determines what you bring to every discussion. When Jesus spoke of the coming reign of God, he was trying to change people’s foundational worldview… When Americans speak of money as “the bottom line,” they are revealing more about their real worldview than they realize.

We would do well to get in touch with our won operative worldview. It is there anyway, so you might as well know what this highly influential window on reality is. It’s what really motivates you. Your de facto worldview determines what you pay attention to and what you don’t notice at all. It’s largely unconscious and it drives you to do this and not that. It is surely important to become conscious of such a primary lens, or we will never know what we don’t see and why we see other things out of all perspective.

Until we can allow the gospel to move into that deepest level of unconscious and touch our operative worldview nothing substantial is going to change.
What is your operating worldview?

What is your operating core?

What is your lens?

Is there room in the core of your being for God’s peace? Is there room in the heart of your heart for God’s forgiveness?

That seems to me to be the radical call of the Gospel: Peace and forgiveness. Supernatural grace: peace and forgiveness.

We say that we know and can see resurrection all around us. We see transformation in ourselves and in others. We know Easter is real. Easter has ontological value in our world. There is resurrection and transformation. There is peace and forgiveness.

But do we know this peace and forgiveness ourselves? Is it the lens that we view the world through?

When it becomes your lens, life changes for us. Gordon Cosby of the Church of Our Saviour in Washington, D.C. says:
“…We come to know that God’s grace is surrounding you and you rest back in it. You know you have been loved with this sort of love. And simply because you have entered into this love you are able to splash it around so that it touches anybody who comes close to you. For this is a supernatural grace and there are people who love in this way. I have seen them. I know them, and you recognize in them just enough of Jesus to make you uncomfortable.
“Love one another as I have loved you.” This is what it means to be a Christian. And if we do not love this way, we are not Christian.

Who am I today? Who am I tomorrow? I am a bearer of Christ’s peace and forgiveness. That is how they will know I am Christian; that is how I know I am Christian.

Who are you today? Who are you going to be tomorrow?

Some Thoughts on I Corinthians 12:3-13

"I would have fit in well in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians' struggles, which Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 1?4, resemble my own: jealousy, striving, arrogance, and a propensity to measure one's worth through comparisons with other people."

Commentary, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, Matt Skinner, Preaching This Week,, 2008.

"... [Paul] is thinking about people who make claims that their actions flow from the Spirit. In effect it is indeed possible to curse Christ by what we do and think, even when we are claim to be acting and speaking by the inspiration of the Spirit."

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

On this Pentecost we attach Paul's writing on the gifts of the spirit.  Of course Paul is writing because there is an argument over whose gifts are most important and who is more important and what gifts are acceptable...blah blah blah.  It is typical of Christian community to argue not only over who is in and who is out but also what the hierarchy is once you are part of the group.  I think this is not unique to Christian community but the problem with community in general.

While the community is focused on the spiritual gift of speech, Paul reorients them to understanding that there are many gifts.  Deep within the text is a bit of important trinitarian theology.  Paul writes: “same Spirit ... same Lord ... same God” The Spirit is a gift of the Father; Christ was to serve or minister; and the Father is the creator of all things. This is where and how the gift giving is rooted in God. Nothing is for personal use all of it builds up the kingdom, builds up the church, and does God's work in the world.

There is the speaking but also wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracle working, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.  We each receive gifts for this work - the work of the church.

Because baptism is through the Spirit these gifts are through the spirit as well. Everyone no matter what their background, family of origin, or place within the roman social hierarchy - all are given gifts for ministry.

I believe that the place where these sermons go wrong - including my own in the past - is when we narrowly define the purpose of the gifts.  I think we do a good job of telling people they have gifts, that God receives them all into his kingdom, and that they are each blessed and chosen by God for his work. We fall down on this message when we so narrowly focus the gifts so as to imply that their use is only within the four walls of a church building.  When we do this we create a separate world apart from the world that God came to save.

God does welcome us all into his family, regardless of who we are and where we have been, he radically forgives and welcomes the prodigals.  He does this so that the world may know him and be reconciled.  The work takes place out in the world. The kingdom gifts are given to each and every person so that in their families, in their work, and in their life - in general - they may be a witness.  God has not raised all of us up, gone through this extraordinary ordeal, sent his Holy Spirit so that we might figure out how to keep the lights on in an empty church.  Our gifts are give for evangelism - spreading the Good News of Salvation through the unique witness of God in Christ Jesus AND our gifts are given that we might serve our neighbor and in so doing serve the God who created and has made all things - who gives life and light and love.  That is a much more important mission and it is the mission for which these gifts have been given.