Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

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The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Third Sunday after the Epiphany B January 21, 2018

Quotes That Make Me Think

"How ready are we to encouter people, share our truth and then instead of manipulating, cajoling and trapping them, allow them the freedom to re-enter the waters of life and make up their own minds about the truth we have shared?"

"Hooking up with Jesus," Peter Woods, I Am Listening, 2012.

"What would make you drop everything and pursue an entirely new life?"

"The Call of the Disciples and the Decline of the Church," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2012.

"People in the New Community would derive their identity not from their present economic condition or their past familial relationships, but rather be given a new identity as followers of the 'way' of the 'kingdom of God' as taught and lived by their leader, Jesus of Galilee."

Lectionary Blogging, John Petty, Progressive Involvement, 2012.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

In your Son, O God, you have given us your word in all its fullness and the greatest of all your gifts. Rouse our hearts to grasp the urgent need of conversion, and stir up our souls with longing to embrace your gospel. May our lives proclaim to those far away from you and to those filled with doubt that the one Savior of us all is your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, 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 Mark 1:14-20

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

We begin this passage as Mark clearly breaks from the testimony of John the Baptist and focuses directly on the work of Jesus. Jesus is now the focal point of the Gospel and of Mark's witness.

A second theme emerges directly as Galilee. We are beginning to read Mark more regularly in this year's cycle of Gospel readings. In Mark's Gospel Galilee is the "land of salvation" while it is contrasted throughout the story with Jerusalem; which is the place of rejection. (This was pointed out by such great New Testament scholars as Lohmeyer and Lightfoot; and has been repeated throughout most Markan commentaries.) In Galilee great and miraculous things happen. Healings, exorcisms, teaching, and the growth of the Jesus movement all hallmark Galilee as the place of salvation. Mark as a Gospel author so focuses on this theme that it is the primary and driving force behind his confused geography. For the Gospel author the story and miraculous works are more important than factual place.

In our passage, John is handed over, Jesus comes from Galilee, and he proclaims "good news." I love Mark's Gospel and I have studied it quite a bit. What stood out for me in this reading is Joel Marcus' point that this is "good news" really stood out. In his exegesis of the text (Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 171) Marcus points out that the word "God" and "kingdom of God" were later added and not necessarily part of the early Christian witness to Jesus' ministry. Marcus even reminds us that John's Gospel does not even use the term "euangelion," or Good News. This is Good News! It is not good news +; or good news but. The early Christian testimony preserved in Mark's account is that what we have is Good News.

Then Jesus teaches our response. Our response to the Good News that God is near, that God claims us, that God reinserts himself into the world, that God invites our relationship is to discover that we are in a new age of God; we are now in an age of the kingdom or dominion of God...our response is repentance and belief.

What seems very inspiring here is the notion that this is not a one time event. We are not to repent and believe; but rather we are to live a life of repenting and believing. These words of good news and repenting/believing are words that would have resounded in the ears of the newly baptized Christian. They are words deeply connected with the earliest Christian tradition. We are a people who recognize our relationship with God; we celebrate the grace of God and the goodness of God. We then are constantly responding attempting to glorify God in this world by moving our lives closer and closer to the life of God.

We are a people who are not satisfied with the old age or the past; we are a people who want to come ever closer to God's kingdom. We are a people not satisfied with the world as we experience it for we know that when we try and work and repent and move ever closer God's love and grace transforms us and the world around us. It does this through kindness, charity, and good works. This is the center of living a life virtuously. The virtuous life is one that is constantly trying to remove the old and dead life; letting it fall away. And, consequently attempting to live a life where belief matters and affects how I am going to act in the next moment.

This opening reading from Mark's Gospel would have reminded the first hearers of the first moments when they followed Jesus. (Marcus, 176) As we read it today and think about our words for Sunday morning we must recognize that we have the opportunity to stir up and reinvigorate our discipleship. We have the opportunity to see again for the fist time what it means to turn and follow Jesus.

Good News of our salvation and the unique proclamation of God's kingdom and our invitation to be a part is good news indeed!

Some Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"Paul's word may jolt us into asking whether we have in the process lost God and lost ourselves - let alone the real interests of others."

"First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary: Epiphany 3,"William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"And so, the challenge for us today who are in the world is not merely to divorce ourselves from it. And I use the word “merely” intentionally here."

Changing the Form of the World, Amy Allen, Political Theology, 2012.

"In the end, the primary message of this text is that nothing in this world can compare to the eternal fellowship we have with God and Christ."

Commentary, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Arland J. Hultgren, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

Almost all of our historical understanding of Corinth points to the fact that it was a major port during Jesus' time. Because of the Peloponnesus peninsula it also was an essential land route. It was a commercial center, a center for the arts, and the crafts of shipbuilding, and trade.

Into this cultural mix we know that the church there has asked for help and is having some troup. So it is that Paul sits down to write.

The point of the passage seems to be at first glance centered on the relationships between husbands and wives.  Marriage is important and somehow their faith is causing problems within families. Based on my own experience my feeling is that people are in each other's business and have asked Paul to intervene. Paul has done so BUT he is desperately trying to redirect their attention from what he believes are cursory matters.

Corinth is caught up in issue conversations. They are important but for Paul they are not as important as the mission.

So it is that Paul reminds them they are living in an in between time. They are waiting for Christ who is to return. Their work is clear - the few Christians in Corinth are to work hard together to share the Gospel and teach others about Christ. They are to bring people into the family. They are to work with God to bring salvation to as many people as possible.

Paul certainly believed this was all going to be over before he himself died.

How often we look at and focus upon those things which really are the things of this world and issues of our time, instead of being attentive to God's reconciling love and his ministry of grace.

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