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, November 23, 2015

Advent 1C November 29, 2015

Quotes That Make Me Think

"...this week’s passage is peculiar and hard and odd and wonderful because it announces to us a promise that itself is peculiar and hard and odd and wonderful, a promise, that is, that is big enough to save us."

"A Promise Big Enough to Save Us," David Lose, Working Preacher, 2012.

"We turn the page to start the new calendar of our church year, whisper a prayer of thanks and hope, roll up our sleeves and get back to work."

"Raise up your heads," Melissa Bane Sevier, Contemplative Viewfinder, 2012.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Eternal God, ever faithful to your promises, hasten that long-awaited day when you will establish justice in the land.  LIft from our hearts the weight of self-indulgence, and strengthen us for holiness. Amid chaos and confusion, let your people stand secure. Raise our heads to greet the redemption that is drawing near, the coming of our Lord Jesus Chrsit with all his saints.  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 C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 21:25-36
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Moreton Bay Fig Tree
Stay awake and be alert. This is the message of Advent, and this is Jesus' message to his followers in Luke's Gospel reading this Sunday.  This week we begin Advent a season of preparation wherein Christians globally make themselves ready for the coming of the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus. We also begin a new year of new readings and this year we will be focusing upon Luke's Gospel; as always peppered intermitantly with Acts and John.

So we might begin in the beginning.  Luke begins his story in the first chapter telling us he is writing to help the reader understand the life and work of Jesus and what it will mean to follow him. In the first part of the Gospel Luke tells the story of Jesus in relationship to those things that have already happened. They have been foretold, and come true in the incarnation and in the events of Jesus’ life.

But here, this week, we move to the latter part of Luke to a time of speaking about the signs. Luke draws our attention in the words of Jesus to understand how the past shows us the reality of Jesus Christ in the present - to the reader. Just as the Jews received signs before their deliverance so the Gentiles receive signs for their inclusion. We know that Jesus’ kingdom became a partial reality in his ministry as it was expanding and growing, it is about to become a full reality and as his followers we should be looking for the signs.  This is the point of this section of Luke's Gospel.

For example the fig tree comes as a sign and is offered as a witness that those who follow Jesus will know by looking at the sings around them.  He says, "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near."  So, see for yourselves.  As they, and we, wait and watch we must be diligent and careful so as to be prepared.

If they are prepared, both in watchfulness, prayerfulness, and in their work on behalf of others then they will have nothing to fear in the presence of the Son of Man. In fact they will be able to stand up straight, unbound from dwelling in this world, and for they are fully participate in the kingdom of God.

“Those who endure, who bear witness, who remain alert in prayer, have nothing to fear from the coming of the Son of Man. For them there is not distress or confusion or dread. For them it is the time of ‘liberation.’ And they can therefore stand up straight, hold their heads high in happy anticipation before the Son of Man.” (LTJ, Luke, 330)

“Be awake in every season, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” V 36.

So it is that we in this season begin to think of a new kingdom conspiracy.  As Christians we dare to do a counter cultural thing - to prepare not for a passing season - but for the coming of an eternal season of God.  In Advent we are to be watchful.  See the moments of the kingdom and see the face of Jesus present in our midst.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in one of his Advent sermons would say to us: see the poor the humbled and the oppressed and there you will see Jesus.

Christians challenge themselves to wait and be prayerful instead of scurrying around.  This is an important time to be contemplative. To whisper the words of Jesus and his followers in the quiet time of prayer.  "God is with us."  "Christ the savior is here." 

Christians in their seeing and in their praying in Advent chose to conspire against the powers and so we are attentive to our ministry wherein we act on behalf of others. As we recognize Christ in our brothers and sisters, the poor and those in need, we chose to act on their behalf.  This is the diligent work of Advent, this is the work that Jesus says brings us liberation from the coming of God.

Some Thoughts on 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

"Paul's letters have a way of engaging us and inviting to be part of sensitive and transformative relationships, full of joy and pain. When we hear his letters as part of his human story, they are never just words; and they are never just his story."

"First Thoughts on Passages on Year C Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Advent 1, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

Oremus Online NRSV Epistle Text

Paul's visit to Thessalonica proves to be a long one (much longer than the short preaching tour described in Acts).  Moreover, he seems from his letters to spend a great deal of time with the gentile community there.

This is important and perhaps Paul's excitement about this new evolving community of God's people (where Gentiles are included) is part of what we hear in his voice as we read today's Epistle.

In the letter that we read this Sunday Paul is offering a vision of hope to those who are still waiting the Lord's return.  What seems essential here are several points which Leander Keck makes plain in his text on Paul and his letters.  That Christ is still working in the world.  Christ our Lord is directing us, and directing our ways; even in the meantime as we wait for his return.  That our life together is marked with love for one another and for all as an outpouring of the love God has for the world.  And finally, that we are to be focused upon our work and not worried about what will come.  (This is an interesting correlation with the Gospel for Sunday.)  Paul offers the Thessalonians this notion that they are to be marked by holiness, by their work which flows out of love received from God and which encapsulates their love for the others.  This is the obedience, the vulnerability, and weakness that marked Jesus' life and is to mark our own as disciples and followers of the Christ. (47,48)

So we might ask the preacher, as you stare out into the congregation from the high and lofty perch, are you looking upon them with joy?  Does that joy pour out of the prayers for each whose face you have kept before you?  Do you see in them the way God looks upon them?  Do you see how they have tried to be faithful? Do you love them?

As we read and think about our place in the midst of our office, our family, our friendship circle - is our place marked by joy and love?  Are we holding one another up in prayer and seeking to see them face to face?  Are we at work in the world? Are we vulnerable to Christ's presence? to Christ's presence in the other?  Are we weak and making way for the other?

This Advent One Epistle selection offers an opportunity for the Christian community to begin a season of Advent where we start with a pause.  In that pause we look and we see the beloved in the other and we see our own beloved nature.  In that pause we see the face of Christ in our brother and sister.  In that pause we give way for the other.  For it is there that the Lord Jesus comes with all his saints.  IT is in that meeting where the divine and the human become one - a community bound in love.

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah 33:14-16

"The same proclamation is given today to us, inheritors of Jeremiah's task. We are called to speak a word of hope and promise in a world often filled with fear and uncertainty, even despair."

Commentary, Jeremiah 33:14-16, Kathryn Schifferdecker, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

Oremus NRSV online Text

One would do well to remember that the majority of Jeremiah is not particularly good news if you are in Judah or Jerusalem. The powers of the empires of north and south are taken to task by this troubled prophet. The book itself is a collection of oracles and prophecies against the mishandling of God's community.

However, the passage we have today is good news. In the midst of how bad everything is, there is good news for the people of God. Despite the poor conditions God does dream again of a land redeemed. God dreams for the wastelands of Israel that one day they will be green again, pastures, and sheep and shepherds will walk the land. There will be a rebirth of the land and of the people - for these are intimately tied.

And, the prophet goes on to say, God will bring forth new shoots from the tree of David. Not only will there be a successor there will be a succession! God will bring about justice and peace - and the house of Israel will be restored.

Christian's read this prophecy as not only meaning the fruit of God's blessing will fall upon the ancient people of Israel but that the successor is himself Jesus the Christ. God in Christ Jesus will bring about, and is bringing about, this new restoration of a kingdom. This reign of God is quite different from the Christian perspective as it is the ultimate building up of a kingdom of priests and people who will themselves take their places as a reborn Israel.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Christ the King B November 22, 2015

Quotes That Make Me Think

"In the end, Pilate attempts to crucify the Truth. He places a placard nearby mockingly announcing Jesus as The King of the Jews. The irony is thick, of course, because Pilate has unwittingly announced the truth."

Commentary, John 18:33-37, Jaime Clark-Soles, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"Jesus spoke unashamedly of the impending reign of God and embodied its reality in his ministry through his behaviour. Visionaries, particularly those who let their visions be the agenda for their lives here and now, inevitably confront the forces which want to control the present and mostly resist change."

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

Lord God almighty, you have anointed Jesus as the Christ not to rule a kingdom won by violence but to bear witness to the truth, not to reign in arrogance but to serve in humility and love, not to mirror this world's powers but to inherit a dominion that will not pass away.  Freed from our sins by the blood of this faithful witness, shape our service of others after the pattern of Christ' self-sacrificing love.  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 18:33-37

Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel

As we come to the last Sunday of year B's cycle of preaching we arrive with Jesus before Pilate.  On this Christ the King Sunday we are given an opportunity to proclaim faithfully what we believe and to be challenged by what we say.  We hover on the edge of a season of expectation.  Who is it we await and prepare for?  This is the purpose of this Sunday's lessons.

Jesus arrives at the praetorium and is immediately confronted with the question regarding his reign.  This title is at once connected in context with a liberator; someone who has arrived to set the Jews free from Roman rule.  Jesus responds asking where does this questions come from, and Pilate tells him from the people and religious leaders of the day.  Jesus then answers the first question by saying that the kingdom he has been preaching about, teaching about, and leading people into is not of this world.  We are reminded immediately of last week's prophecy that the kingdoms of this world are passing away as the kingdom and dominion of God takes root.

In the end Pilate will call him king and Jesus will say, "You have said so" or "You say that I am" depending upon your translation.  The reality we face in John's Gospel is one where we see Jesus again and again testifying to the truth.  In these final words and throughout this brief conversation, regardless of translation, we see that what is taking place is the revelation of Jesus as Christ the King.  It is a prophetic and revelationary moment brought by the Pilate (a ruler of this world).  Even the kingdoms of the world will end up confessing the faith of God in Christ Jesus. 

In John's Gospel we remember that the trial itself is a statement that brings forth the truth of John's theology.  In the beginning of this conversation Jesus differentiates between worldly kingdoms and the religious implications of the kingdom of God.  Then we discover what is the kingdom like. Jesus' kingdom, according to John's Gospel, is a kingdom which affects the world.  The kingdoms of the world will fall away as those who follow Jesus transform the world through their faith and proclamation of the truth.  (Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol 2, 869) This kingdom of God will not be of this world but will be from above.  It is a kingdom of the spirit rather than one of the body.  It shall be a kingdom ruled by love and truth.

Pilate misses the point.

But the point is not missed on those who sit in our pews this Sunday nor by those who will dare and proclaim this fact.  We are Christians and we proclaim a unique Jesus and a unique kingdom. This is our work this Sunday: to clearly state the faith of the church in a God who is God of all, his son, and the Holy Spirit.

We are called to preach the gospel of good news of salvation: that the kingdom of this world is passing away and that a kingdom of God based upon love and truth with one another and God is taking root. We do this in all places and in all times. Sometimes our church has done it well, sometimes we have not.  We are to positively engage and dialogue beyond a tolerance of others.  We offer a view of the social and human condition that locates all humanity in the embrace of a loving and caring God.  A God who is revealed corporeally in the person of Jesus; and so incarnationally in ourselves and neighbors.

We are to, on Christ the King Sunday  especially  (and all the rest of the time as a matter of fact) to offer a vision of a new familial order which is rooted in our faith in a Trinitarian God, the outward sign of baptism, and discipleship based upon what we believe - our catechism.  We are Christian and unabashedly Episcopalian on this matter. 

Does this mean we do not have questions? Of course not. Who has not found themselves in Pilate's seat trying to understand?  No, we are to engage in a society of friendship and build a community of relationships where by the wealth of our common searching AND our common faith helps us to understand the singularity of message: God loves the world, so much so that it is not judged, but embraced and drawn closer into God's bosom by the ministry of Jesus and his followers.

This is a great Sunday to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ Jesus, particularly through the reality of this new dominion not of this world, but of heaven and the holy spirit, which is even now taking root.  This is a most important Sunday in which the preachers of faith may stand up and proclaim boldly the reign of Christ and at the same time show that this truth engages with the world and all its Pilate like questions.  This is the community of faith which is uniquely Anglican and Episcopalian. This is a dominion where all questions are welcome and truth is proclaimed.

Revelation 1:4-8

"These are living words of great theological depth too often neglected by some Christians or poorly interpreted by others."

Commentary, Revelation 1:4b-8, Eric Barreto, Preaching This Week,, 2013.
"Charis recalls the patronage system of the early Roman world, in which a patron displayed generosity to his clients, and expected loyalty in return.Eirene reminds one of the Hebrew shalom, the notion of wholeness and peace that is often associated with a deep and meaningful relationship to God."

Commentary, Revelation 1:4b-8, Valerie Nicolet-Anderson, Preaching This Week,, 2012.
"The elaborate imagery about Jesus comes from the world of courts and kings, and the rituals which accompanied them. It was a way of saying: God has underlined that this Jesus really was the valid exponent of what God's being and doing, his going and his coming, is about."

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

Oremus Online NRSV Text

Here is what is about to happen: we are about to have a series of lessons from the Book of revelation. This is it; there is nothing this long or this sequential at any other time in our preaching cycle. I am not yet sure I am brave enough to make it the topic of my preaching for the next couple of weeks but I am beginning to think it is worth it.  

The background is the tradition that this is written by John on Patmos and it is addressed to the "7 churches".  Of course this means that it is written to all churches (as he is at the time writing to all the churches).  A number of good commentaries will make this and other observations about the context.  
In the introductory verses we have a words quoted from Isaiah 44.6, "who is and who was and who is to come." This God is the Alpha and the Omega.  The seven spirits are from Isaiah 11.2ff.  The author bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead and ruler over all the earth.

Then there is the witness that Jesus loves us, that he frees us from sin, that we are made into a new community, and that we are (like priests) to serve him.  We are being, even now, drawn into a worshiping community which eventually will move from the world of time to everlasting glory forever and ever. 

These are the very themes of the whole text.  They make the mission of Jesus upon his return the event which will bring all of this to pass.  Upon his return all shall be transformed. "Amen.  Amen." This is the way it is going to be folks.  It reminds me of that Duck Dynasty picture I saw last week.

God is God and he has come, he is coming back, and he intends to bring about the recreation of the world.  

Walter Taylor, of Lutheran Seminary, writes:
"The Revelation lesson gives us an opening to talk about Christology in ways we may not have had on Easter. All or any one of the many titles of verse 5 could be explored. Taken together they outline a full Christology that includes life, death, resurrection, and present lordship. The Christological emphasis continues with the love of Christ and his freeing action by means of his death (verses 5b-6), and in verse 7 we look forward to the coming of Jesus as the final judge."

This is a great opportunity to think about with the congregation who this Christ is that we worship and what does he have to do with our living of lives in this particular world.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Proper 28B/Ordinary 33B/Pentecost 25, November 15, 2015

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Apocalyptic eschatology is essentially about God working on behalf of humanity, and that is what is introduced in the beginning of this discourse. It leaves God alarmingly free and open to the future."

Commentary, Mark 13:1-8, Micah D. Kiel, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

You keep vigil, O God, over the fortunes of your people, guiding their destiny in safety as the history of the world unfolds.  Increase our faith that those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall rise again and give us your Spirit to bring forth in our lives the fruit of charity, so that we may look forward every day to the glorious manifestation of your Son, who will come to gather the us into your kingdom.  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 Mark 13:1-8

God makes me nervous. Can I just be honest about that for a moment. When I sit quietly and think about the nature of God, God's unfolding work, my human place within his cosmos, I am aware that I am very nervous about God and how "alarmingly free" the God I believe in actually is.

In our passage today we begin a series of teachings by Jesus which make clear that God's purpose is both great and forever.  At the center of the events unfolding is Jesus in relationship to the Temple.

Not unlike the prophets who offered a vision of Jerusalem's future, or the future of the kingdoms, Jesus offers in our passage today a clarity about nature of the Temple and the downfall which is part of the cosmic plan. 

For our comfort we might easily want to remove the power of these words from taking hold of our hearts by locating the passage historically within the writing of the Markan Gospel following the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 a.d.  Though I agree with this scholastic and critical view, we must always caution ourselves to keep from removing the prophetic voice from our own ears by making this passage simply about the past. Jesus has spoken but the living word also offers us a challenging word today.

The purpose here in Mark is to clearly not speak about the Temple. That is not the point of the text at all! The point of the text is to reveal that the old world is passing away.  Not unlike the passage from Revelation we read last week where in it is clear that a new heaven is already rooting itself in the world and upon taking root is forcing out the world of man.  The point of Jesus' words and the prophecy is to show the reality that this is the new age of God and this is an age that is to be marked by faithfulness and following the living God and Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells us: be careful though because humans will always build new temples and new religions and new teachings.  People will come and they will be false prophets and false leaders. They will tell you a truth that you will want to hear - the church is ruined.  They will seek to lead you - follow me for I know the truth. They will offer a vision that the things of the past are not fading away in the midst of a new future.  What is rooted in Jesus' warnings is not so much that there will be these false teachers but humans out of their desire to be comfortable will seek after them hoping to extinguish the discomfort of God's unfolding destruction of the age of man. 

When human beings get uncomfortable we follow instead of disciple.  When we are feeling the very foundations turn into ashes below us we want a new stronger foundation; and we rarely look forward but look to those who will comfort us with the past. We look for false teachers who offer us a shelter from the storm, the safety of a castle keep, and the island home.  We look for teachers and prophets who will lie to us and tell us that God is safe and predictable and not free.

I am reminded of the Grand Inquisitor in Doestoevsky's Brothers Karamazov as he questions the Messiah upon his return. The Inquisitor is a cardinal and promises that the world the church is creating is better than the world Jesus promises.  He says to the Lord, "So we have done. We have corrected Thy work and have founded it upon miracle, mystery and authority.  And men rejoiced that they were again led like sheep, and that the terrible gift that had brought them such suffering, [your gift of freedom] was, at last, lifted form their hearts.  Were we right teaching them this? Speak!  Did we not love mankind, so meekly acknowledging their feebleness, lovingly lightening their burden, and permitting their weak nature even sin with our sanction? " The temple is passing away even as we speak and it shall be rebuilt as the new heave takes root in our midst.

Nostalgia is after all the idea that we look back at a time that never really existed and make it into a reality which can be compared to the reality we experience in the here and now. It is a way of looking back to a time and place that keeps us from facing the time and place we inhabit today.

Christians have always lived in between the earth which is falling away and the heaven which is not yet fully revealed.  We live in a time which calls not for seeking shelter in the storm but rather for being the shelter in the storm for the world's fearful.  We are the ones, like Jesus, to see the times and the seasons, to know that the what we cling to as humans is passing, that heaven is coming and that safety is not guaranteed but adventure is promised.  This God we worship is free and alarmingly so. This God we worship has a plan and the plans of men are falling in the wake of its eternal progression.

We are as a Christian people invited to cling to Jesus and his love and to counteract the seasons of change.  We are invited to counteract the seasons of change, not by clinging to the temple which is crumbling, or by following every fad that promises a return to a golden age - but rather to counteract the world with love.  So let us endure the birth pangs for the kingdom that is to come requires disciples and apostles to midwife its labors through a mission and proclamation of love.

Some Thoughts on Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18), 19-25

"What is new about the New Covenant, therefore, is not the idea that God loves the world enough to bleed for it, but the claim that here he is actually putting his money where his mouth is."

"Covenant," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.
"As the author grounds his goal for church participation in the eschatology of Christ's session, he grounds the guarantee of Christ's session in the character of God. They can hold their confession without wavering, because the one who promised is faithful."

Commentary, Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] (Pentecost 25B), Amy L.B. Peeler, Preaching This Week,, 2012.
"An intimate and frank relationship with God, openness with one another, and bold public witness that perseveres in the fact of opposition these are the characteristics of the confident community portrayed in today's lesson."

Commentary, Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] (Pentecost 24B), Susan Eastman, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

So it is that we come to the end of our readings in Hebrews. We understand now clearly from the author all that is meant by Jesus as our great high priest. We understand that he has transformed the ritual sacrifice of other religions of the day by making a one time offer.

And, we are given a revelation of Christ as king of heaven. That he is seated at the heavenly throne. He has completed his work.  He has completed his faithful work. 

Here the author then turns to make it clear that this image he offers is none other than the suffering servant image of the old testament. The author is doing a quite remarkable job of weaving the story together. We get a sense here then not simply of the continuation of ancient ritual and sacrifice but a greater theme of a creative trajectory. 

The author then invites us to respond to the eternal movement of God and the high priestly sacrifice. We are invited to respond with a clarity of purpose and livelihood crafted as a gift in response to God's work. We are also invited to hold fast to our faith. We are marked as Christ's own forever in baptism and our reciprocity is to express this faith through love and good deeds. We are no longer to be bound by other sacrifices, but instead a response to God's mercy and love with mercy and love. 

And, in case you were wondering if the author of Hebrews was an are correct. This work is always to be yoked to a worshiping community!