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.


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

Friday, March 16, 2018

Easter 3B April 15, 2018


God of Abraham and Sarah, God of Isaac and Rebekah, God of Jacob and Rachel and of all our ancestors in faith, you have glorified your servant Jesus and made him the atoning sacrifice for our sins, the source of peace and reconciliation for the whole world.  Open our hearts to true conversion, and as we have known the Lord in the breaking of the bread so  make us witnesses of a new humanity, renewed, reconciled and at peace in your love.  Send us as heralds of the repentance and forgiveness you offer to all.  We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord 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 Luke 24:13-49

"For Luke, to fulfil the hope of the resurrection is to tell the story of Jesus (testimony). That means telling what he did, how he was rejected and then vindicated; and it is at the same time to live it by the power of the same Spirit, by doing good and bringing liberation for all. This includes forgiveness of sins. It is radically simple."

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

"I believe that although the two disciples did not recognize Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus recognized them, that he saw them as if they were the only two people in the world. And I believe that the reason why the resurrection is more than just an extraordinary event that took place some two thousand years ago and then was over and done with is that, even as I speak these words and you listen to them, he also sees each of us like that."

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

"Our experience of life in this world is such that we always have to keep learning what it means to have faith. That doesn't typically happen well when we try to go it alone. Faith is something that thrives and grows in the context of a community."

"It Takes a Village," Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer.

This Sunday we shift from John's Easter message to Luke's resurrection narrative.  Commonly called, The Road to Emmaus, our passage this week comes in both our reading cycle for Year A and Year B.  So if you are having Easter flashbacks you are not alone; and, that may be on purpose!

Jesus appears to two disciples outside the walls; some seven miles from Jerusalem. They are talking about all the things which have happened. In this particular testimony we are watching the transition from the crucifixion and the Easter resurrection become the mission of a new community. In Luke's Gospel we must remember we are marching always towards Pentecost and Acts. We are given in today's lesson a memory of the events. We are reminded of what our story is; and in the author's own way he gives us permission to be somewhat concerned and curious about the past and what lays ahead.

If we remember that this Gospel is written that we may believe and in believing be transformed so as to offer and communicate the same Gospel for others then the purpose of the author is clear. Luke Timothy Johnson captures well the event of conversion in Lukes' testimony. Conversion has a particular meaning for Luke and his community:
The Word of God demands the acceptance of the prophetic critique and a "turning" of one's life. Conversion is an important theme in Luke-Acts, closely joined to the pattern of the prophet and the people. Jesus' ministry is preceded by the Word of God spoken through the prophet John, which called people to repentance. Acts opens with the preaching of Peter which also calls for repentance. Those who enter the people that God forms around the prophet must "turn around. (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 23)
This reception of grace and turning from the course you are walking to a pilgrimage with Jesus births faith in the follower of Jesus. After hearing one comes to believe and one seeks to mold one's life to the shape of the prophet's life - Jesus' life. Here is what Luke Timothy Johnson writes about faith:
In Luke-Acts, "faith" combines obedient hearing of the Word and patient endurance. It is not a momentary decision but a commitment of the heart that can grow and mature. Essential to the response of faith is the practice of prayer. Jesus prays throughout his ministry; and teaches his disciples to pray. Luke also provides splendid samples of prayer, showing a people for whom life is defined first of all by its relationship with God. (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 24)
In the Gospel story we are seeing these two disciples, who have converted, who are faithful, move through the enduring walk post Easter.  They are not unlike all of us wondering and maturing as we make our way with Jesus.  Just as we seem to loose ourselves from the Gospel, Jesus meets us again and calls us back.

So...they are walking and talking about all the events. They are wondering and one might even say wandering. As they do this (reminding me always of the prayer of Chrysostom, "when two or three are gathered in his name you will be in the midst of them...") Jesus is present, physically with them. He engages with them.

The disciples do not recognize him, the text implies they aren't able...perhaps not allowed to know him. We do not know why, it may be that their sadness and sorrow prevents them from seeing who is with them. They are sad because they had hoped in Jesus. The words seem here to play out two meanings. The first meaning certainly is the idea that Jesus was the new Moses to lead his people out of bondage. The second meaning is found deeper in the text and is rooted in the idea the the words used are of a more spiritual nature. Israel, the Abrahamic family of God, was hoping to be delivered. This reluctance to believe, this inability to see the triumph of prophetic revelation in the resurrection of Jesus is a failure of heart - Jesus says.

And, he opens up for them the story. He retells the story. One can imagine if we sat and read Luke all the way through in one sitting that we would hear and rehear the teaching that Jesus had indeed fulfilled all the scriptures and in and through his death onto the other side of resurrection had delivered the people of Israel from bondage.

In this retelling of the whole story from creation until Emmaeus, in the breaking of the bread, and in his very presence with them their eyes are open to recognize him. He then vanishes, he is no longer visible. In an instant realization, and in another moment gone.  Or is he? Are they really left alone?

They then quickly tell others.  Jesus is present in a living Word though as the Gospel itself becomes sacramentally carried by the human vessel - the mouth, the action, the embrace, the love.  In Luke's Gospel the Holy Spirit is coming to help with this work.

So the work of conversion and faith begins its cyclical manifestation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Luke Timothy Johnson remarks on Luke's writing, "As people tell the story to each other, they also interpret the story." They make, in their telling, Jesus present.  And, they have the opportunity for their own lives to be held up against the Gospel message. So then both those who receive the message and the messenger are transformed.  He writes:
Luke shows us narratively the process by which the first believers actually did learn to understand the significance of the events they had witnessed, and to resolve the cognitive dissonance between their experience and their conviction. The resurrection shed new light on Jesus' death, on hi words, and on the Scriptures. The "opening of the eyes" to see the texts truly and the "opening of the eyes" to see Jesus truly are both part of the same complex process of seeking and finding meaning....Luke shows us how the risen Lord taught the Church to read Torah as "prophecy about him." (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 399)
I have leaned on Luke Timothy Johnson a great deal in this passage as I think he does the very best with it. The preacher has many opportunities for topics. I encourage you to think deeply about speaking with your people about how we have come to understand and to know the witness of Jesus both through others, and through our texts. For Episcopalians we read the text in community. It is in our prayer book, it is in our scripture readings, and in our hymns.  We read the texts of scripture on the road to Emmaus, struggling together and inviting Jesus to be in our midst revealing the truth, the way and the life that lies before us as people of the resurrected Christ.

People in church on Sunday, or reading this (like myself) know the business of life.  How many of us, like the disciples, will leave church not to think about the meaning of the good news for our life until next week.  I wonder what would happen if this week we challenged our people to walk in life this week, with their eyes wide open, looking for the risen Lord.  How many times a day will they see him this week?  How many times an hour?  Can our sermons, our preaching, praying, singing open our eyes to the risen Lord in our midst?

Some Thoughts on I John 3:1-8

"The church's integrity wells up from, and is channeled by, God's calling (3:1b; 3:3). To be a saint is to live in the same love by which God has loved us (3:16-18; 4:7-12)."

Commentary, 1 John 3:1-3 (All Saints A), C. Clifton Black, Preaching This Week,, 2011.

"We get Christian hope confused when we think that our hope is based on now nice we are, or how well we behave, or on some hidden piece of us called 'the soul' that will survive through death and destruction."

Commentary, 1 John 3:1-7, David Bartlett, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

"The author might say today: no amount of doing good deeds and no amount of having impressive spiritual experiences will count for anything if it is not connected to a real change that is relational."

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

In this second section of John's first letter to the beloved community we find that we turn our attention from the work of the pious individual to the nature of the beloved community itself. Using the ancient words we are reminded by the author that we are intended to be called the children of God the sons and daughters of Abraham - made heirs by the work of our savior Christ Jesus. God loves us and has given us this status through the ministry and work of Jesus.

We are promised, no matter what this age brings, that in the end we too will find our place wiht God in the heavenly kingdom. We will come into our fullness and hope becoming like Christ in his glory - perfected. So it is that we believe we are to live a life fitting this promise and in such a manner as it emulates the life of Christ.

The reality is that we are to be working towards the relationship with others. We are to strive for a righteous love of others and we are to undertake to follow Jesus' commandments to love God and love neighbor. We are to be reminded not to judge but to love.

Love One Another:
John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 
Believe that Jesus is in the Father:
John 14:11 "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves." 
Feed My Sheep
John 21:15ff "Do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep."

In John's Gospel these are the key commandments: Love one another, have faith and see the work God is doing, and feed my sheep. Well, we all know that we will fail. We will fall short of the kingdom and this perfect life. So we depend upon God and throw ourselves back into life, confessing, accepting forgiveness, and attempting to live anew. This is what is meant by walking the way. Attempt righteousness with all your heart mind and soul. Fail righteousness. Confess. Receive forgiveness. Start over.

For human beings we tend to hear the word of righteousness and show how other people aren't doing it. We rarely immolate Christ's life of non judgement, forgiveness, sacrifice, and reconciliation. Yet this is the challenge that the Johnannine community felt was their call - their work. We must become like Jesus and work and be in relationship like Jesus.

Some Thoughts on Acts 3:12-19

"As far as I know, there is only one good reason for believing that he was who he said he was. One of the crooks he was strung up with put it this way: 'If you are the Christ, save yourself and us' (Luke 23:39). Save us from whatever we need most to be saved from. Save us from each other. Save us from ourselves. Save us from death both beyond the grave and before. If he is, he can. If he isn't, he can't. It may be that the only way in the world to find out is to give him the chance, whatever that involves. It may be just as simple and just as complicated as that."

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

"God healed through the power of faith in the name of Jesus. This does leave open a very significant role for us as participants in all healing."

Commentary, Acts 3:12-19, Mitzi J. Smith, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"The challenge for preachers in the 21st century, then, is to break this biblical text. To preach against the blame that Peter wrongly, no matter how graciously, assigns. To preach against all the othering and blaming continues today in so many forms and so many spheres."

The Politics of Acts 3:12-19, Amy Allen, There Is Power in the Blog, 2012.

Oremus Online NRSV Epistle Text 

Here is the set up.  Peter and John were out and about and went to the temple to pray. This was normal daily practice for them. There is at the temple, as there were most days, people in need. There is a man who is lame from birth. He is asking for alms. He sees Peter and John and asks them for alms. Peter says, "Look at us.... I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Peter touches the man, takes him by the arm, raises him up, and he walks! The man jumps up and is walking and leaping and praising God.

A lot of people see this and the miracle that has taken place. The man is there with Peter and John in the great porch or portico and people are gathering around astonished.

Now, before we go on with the story let us be clear that part of the story of Acts up until now is not simply a story of how the Church received the Holy Spirit and became the church. It is about how the followers of Jesus, the disciples, became apostles and went out every which way and did good work among the people. They are raising the people's standard of living, they are feeding the least and lost of the community (widows and orphans), and they are healing people. All of this takes place outside the upper room where they gather and it takes place outside the temple. This is not religion as we have come to make Christianity, this is a movement of spirited relationships that is literally changing the world in which they find themselves.

Then we get to our passage. Peter sees all the people gathering around the man who has been healed. So he tells them the arc of the story. God called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to go and be a blessing of peace to God's people. Then God in Christ Jesus came and became one of us and did the same. We are doing what God's missionaries have done since Abraham and Sarah left Ur of the Chaldeans.

Being a blessing, changing the way community works, feeding, and healing people is the work of God's messengers. And, it is threatening to the powers that be.

People out in the world proclaiming the Gospel willy nilly and without any supervision, improving people's lives, and giving real food to eat with out the government's help, and healing people without the medical establishment's supervision is what the community of Jesus is all about. The powers and authorities of this world do not like it. This is why the religious and political powers of the world will react negatively to those who do the work of Jesus.

They do what they have always done - they kill the messengers of God; wether it is Jesus or the prophets or those who go and work in his name today.

Peter Continues, God raised the one who became weak, even unto death, from the grave. In doing so God  redeemed all the weak, all the lost, all the least. God did what God has been doing since the tower of Babel, God has opened up the community to more and more people. God has invited us, as God invited Abraham, to be a blessing to the world around us. God has expanded the descendants of his people to include everyone - all means all. We are in fact all invited to not only follow this Jesus but to go in his name and be a blessing of peace to the world in which we find ourselves - healing, feeding, and sheltering God's people. We are to make our communities more like God's family and more like the reign of God than the reign of worldly powers that take advantage of the weak.

"So, yes." I imagine Peter saying. "I healed this man and we do this work all the time because that is the community of God at its best. You can join us if you wish." Mic drop.

[A NOTE: This passage and others like them in the bible have been used to do violence against the Jewish people and others. I chose a long time ago to refer to the "powers" and "authorities", "religious" and "political", rather than using words like Peter does. Part of this is because of the terrible record Christians have in doing violence - a violence which is not of God. Part of it is also to help us understand that it is the powers and principalities in every age that seek to keep the people subjugated. This is not a new story and it is present in our own society as it was in the land that Noah leaves. The Gospel reverses the way of the world of religious and political exchange. The Gospel reverses power and greatness and instead offers service and leastness in their place - as the highest models of sacrifice. When we put this story in words that lead to the demonizing of a people, or use a people to scape goat we disassociate ourselves from our present day realities that all of God's people face (Jewish, Muslim, Christian) and we allow the world of violence and memetic sacrifice that is not of God to continue. We allow religion to be a pawn in the game of violence and oppression. Does Peter miss this? Maybe. Maybe he is forever intombed by his context and language. The real issue though is that religious leaders and political leaders make dangerous companions that usually have very little to do with their faith or ethnicity and most often serve one thing - a principality's power. This is true for Christians as it has been for every world religion that has decided the state was a friend. So, to sum it scape goating a people or other religions. Keep the main thing the main thing.]

Previous Sermons For This Sunday

No comments:

Post a Comment