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)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Easter 4B April 26, 2015

"This is part of what it means to be the Body of Christ -- to remind each other of God's promises and speak Jesus' message of love, acceptance, and grace to each other."

 "Abundant Life," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2012.

"Then Jesus said, "Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep;' and you get the feeling that this time Peter didn't miss the point. From fisher of fish to fisher of people to keeper of the keys to shepherd. It was the Rock's final promotion, and from that day forward he never let the head office down again."

"Feed My Sheep," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

"These are wonderful, comforting images, but this passage includes one other challenging thought. The good shepherd decides who is in the sheepfold, we do not."

Commentary, John 10:11-18, Lucy Lind Hogan, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"This is part of what it means to be the Body of Christ -- to remind each other of God's promises and speak Jesus' message of love, acceptance, and grace to each other."

"Abundant Life," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2012.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Creator God, you make the resplendent glory of the Risen One shine with new radiance on the world, whenever our human weakness is healed and restored.  Gather all your scattered children into one flock following Christ, our Good Shepherd, so that all may taste the joy you bestow on those who are the children of God. 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 John 10:11-18

It comes as part of an overall scriptural unit.  Chapter 10: 1-21.  Most New Testament scholars break our reading up into two sections. The first section is made up of verses 11-16 where in the reader discovers the nature of the shepherd.  The second section is made up of verses 17-18 wherein we read about the specific work of this Good Shepherd.

Jesus is the model of the good shepherd because he is willing to die for his sheep - this is a unique Johannine theology.  This model is a shepherd who cares for all the sheep and for their very lives. This shepherd is willing to lay down his life for all; and all means all.

The hired hand and the wolf prey on the sheep. They care only for themselves.  They steal and consume the sheep.  What is interesting here is the parallel drawn by scholars to those religious leaders who betray their flock.  Certainly, in the early tradition there is a notion of being sent among wolves.  In Acts Paul reminds church leaders they are to feed their sheep.

I think that the next section is important as a defining boundary for the care and tending of sheep.  The shepherd here does not only know their work, but also knows their sheep intimately.  They know all their sheep intimately.  They recognize the shepherd's voice.  And, that there are sheep who are being added to the fold (the gentile mission).  Therefore the shepherd knows his sheep and knows sheep who are to be gathered in.

This tradition falls in the long line of prophetic witness wherein the leaders of Israel have been seen as shepherds of their flock.

As I read through a number of texts on this passage (including my own preaching) I am ever mindful that the Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep; and that God takes up his life for him when his work is done.  Resurrection, new life, transformed life, comes to the shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep - those in his fold and those without.

Today we live in an age where we protect ourselves at all cost. We do this by projecting out into the world our own desires. We disguise this protection by gathering around us like minded people.  So we get our cause (political, religious, social) and we gather with people who have the same interest in maintaining ego protection on any given topic.

Paul Zahl reminded me in a recent podcats (PZ's Podcast available on Itunes) that one reason why when people accomplish what they set out to do on any given agenda and they usually feel unfulfilled is because they set out based upon ego protection and not based upon their own true nature's need for salvation, grace and mercy.  They set out to change the world because they were sure everyone else was wrong not because their own heart needed transformation.

The shepherd is in need of resurrection when the life is laid down; this mimics the Good Shepherd's own death and resurrection.  The individual who truly lays down their life and loses it will in the end find it.  But it is real life that is lost, a costly ego death, that must be allowed to take place.

This means more frequently a non-heroes death and/or the failure of perfection.

What does it really mean to be one of the good shepherds, serving the One Good Shepherd?  It will mean being shepherd to all.  A leader must lead and be a shepherd for all the sheep.  All the sheep include: those who agree and those who disagree; those who love you and those who hate you; those who are pleased with your action and those who are pounding down the doors of your fortified ego castle; and the unseen sheep not in our fold.

So as I prepare to preach this week I have a lot of questions running through my mind.  None of these questions have much to do with the loving shepherd finding me in the darkness and carrying  me off to the sheepfold.  Rather, the questions I am asking are based upon that redemption already being underway:  What part of myself must die in order for me to be shepherd (in the mold of the Good Shepherd) for all the sheep?  How shall I lay down my life for them?  Am I willing to die a hundred thousand deaths (not as vanquishing hero) but as a lonely herdsman in the midst of a valley of wolves and thieves?

Ah yes, perhaps that is the real work after all.  You and I if we brave this sacred journey we should be prepared for the silence, the lack of followers, a shameful death, the end God's hand snatching us from the grave.  It is the silent waiting of the dead in which God's love, grace and mercy resides.  That is the meaning of life as a good shepherd; would that we had a church full of such men and women!

Some Thoughts on I John 3:14-24

"The whole idea behind this week's reading from 1 John, and indeed the entire book, is that in the sacrificial love of Christ we see and experience God; in doing so we are compelled to live out that love in word and deed."

"What's the Catch?" Sharron R Blezard, Stewardship of Life, 2012.

"This epistle, really a sermon, was written for a community that defined itself over and against the world around it."

Commentary, 1 John 3:16-24, David Bartlett, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

"The writer clearly envisages a relationship with God where people are not diminished but encouraged to stand on their own two feet with confidence."

"First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Easter 4, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

Powerful words from my fellow blogger who encapsulates the beginning of this passage very well. Here it  is from Chris Haslam: 

1 says “For this is the message ... that we should love one another.” Abel’s godly deeds (Genesis 4:8) stirred Cain’s hatred for him, even to murdering his brother, so don’t be surprised if the “world hates you” (v. 13). For a Christian to hate a fellow Christian is equivalent to murder. “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another” (v. 14).
God is love and Jesus is our great icon of God's love. True love lays down one's life for the other. For the author of John this meant real action.

This is so very unlike a lot Christian behavior today. We tend to tell people what to do and how to be. We expect them to lay down their life for the Gospel. We tell them how they are to act and what they are to do and not do. We make lists and we judge them unequal to the task.

This is all a way of masking our own lack of love for them - our own inability to follow God's second commandment.

The Christian Gospel says that we are to lay our life down for the other. We are to lay our life down for the neighbor. We are to lay our life down for the one we disagree with. We are to lay our life down for the one different than us.

Only, when we do this are we truly moving closer to God. Only when we lay down our expectations and our life do we find it. This is the cross and this is the commandment. As a good friend says, "As soon as I hear the 'but' we have moved away from grace." How true!

There is a lot of hatred, there is a lot of fear, there is a lot of anxiety all of which moves to anger and violence very quickly. This is the evil in our midst and it is deeply rooted in our inability to lay down our lives willingly for one another. What evil schemes we will deploy which kills our brother all in the name of protecting ourselves. It sounds reasonable - but it is not the Gospel. 

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