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.

Enjoy.

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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reflections on the Scriptures for the Triduum

Below is a shortcut to the different services and reflections which will now make up the Christian journey to Easter Sunday.

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, Year B

"It can be easy to "see" the risen Christ in a packed Easter Sunday worship service, or perhaps even in a sunrise or the spring flowers blooming; but where is the risen Jesus when the people return home -- to the drudgery of the same old things? The risen Christ has gone there ahead of them. They will see him."


Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks.
Prayer

This is the day, Lord God, that you have made!  Raising Christ from the dead, and raising us with Christ, you have fashioned for yourself a new people, washed in the flood of baptism, sealed with gift of the Spirit, invited to the banquet of the Lamb!  In the beauty of this Easter set our minds on the new life to which you have anointed us;and ready our hearts to celebrate the festival, with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 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 16:1-8

Key to the resurrection story in Mark is that Jesus has once again focused on mission.  Unmoored from the cross and tomb he is making his way now to renew Christian mission.  He is on his way to Galilee, that place in Mark's Gospel where the gospel and all good works take place.  All works of power and deliverance happen in Galilee.   No one will be able in the end to keep this movement of the good news of God in Christ quiet.

So as you preach this Sunday I encourage you to encourage your people to break the silence.  To courageously invite, risk loving, and try reaching out with the Gospel message of love.

I encourage you to speak about how the church, the global family of God, the Episcopal Church, too must come unmoored from the tombs of our buildings and the cross of our budgets to take a powerful message out into the world.

We must stop weeping about the empty tombs where we worship. God has gone before us out into the world to do the good work, the loving work, of the gospel.

God loves us and we are freed to love God in return, and to do so abundantly.  We must stop our vigil now, the light has come, Golgotha’s hill top is empty.

What was true of Jesus, the cross, and the tomb is true for our church and for us in this time. We are to give over ourselves completely.

We are invited to journey out and to venture down into the new Garden and new creation that God is rebirthing.  We have freedom and have been redeemed from the cross.  This freedom is purposed for the renewal of God’s relationship with his people and with all creation.

I hope on this Easter Sunday, as you marvel at children in their dresses, boys in their seersucker suits, as you and yours relish the spring day with an abundance of hunting of eggs, baskets, and flowering crosses.  That you will be inspired to allow Easter to be more than a one day event.  That you will inspire your people through your preaching, that we as a church may be inspired to realize perhaps it is all Easter.

This is more than an informative part of your Christian life – your faith.  The message of Mark is that it is a living.  It is a reawakened hope.  It is a part of your being…In other words Easter does not remain a thought but becomes an act, performative.  And, that you and your congregations will
see that as you are freed to love, that you are freed to love generously, that you can risk loving out of abundance, that you can dare to love without regard of what you will receive in return.

I hope your life and your hearts are lifted up on this Easter day. That you will be blessed and that you will love fearlessly and that the world will be changed by our love.

A Little Bit for Everyone



Mark 16:1-8



16When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Liturgy of the Palms B, March 29, 2015

"This Palm Sunday can we get beyond a scrap of palm we never know what to do with, & a feel- good procession that leads to nowhere?"

Marginally Mark, by Brian McGowan, Anglican priest in Western Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Special Resources for the Reading of the Passion


Prayer

O God, for whom all things are possible, you have highly exalted your suffering Servant, who did not hide from insult but humbled himself even to death on a cross.  As we begin the journey of Holy Week, take our sin away by Christ's glorious passion and confirm our worship and witness, so that when we proclaim the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend and  every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. 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 11:1-11

Online NRSV Text

"Let us remember, by turning our hearts and minds to the actions of God’s dearest Son, who went not up to joy but first suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified. May God bless us in these days, that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace."

How will you bear witness to Jesus' passion and resurrection?  How will you walk the way with Jesus this week?

One of the first things I want to encourage you to do this Sunday is to really pay attention to the triumphal entry and its narrative offering.  All too often we rush to the foot of the cross! While we certainly have a long tradition of reading the passion this Sunday, we also have a long tradition of bypassing the triumphal entry.

Encourage your people to attend the pilgrim journey through Holy Week.  Dare to preach the passion narrative as it comes. Resist the "cliff notes" version of preaching Good Friday's message Sunday.  Invite people back and invite them into the life journey of Jesus as experienced in our liturgy this week.

So then, what to do with our passage from Mark 11?  This carefully constructed passage parallels 14:12-16; and provides for an understanding that what is taking place is of central importance to Jesus ministry.

He has been very clear from the beginning of his ministry (in Mark's Gospel) that to walk the Way (the reoccurring theme of this Gospel) is to walk towards the cross.  This is true for Jesus' own ministry. It is true in the life and ministry of all those who would follow him.  Here in this passage the pilgrim way of walking leads directly to Jerusalem and to the Temple.  Therefore the way is tied inextricably to the faithful traditions of our Abrahamic ancestors and will in the end unleash God's presence in the world, God's embrace of the world.  The triumphal entry is the point at which walking the way TO the cross arrives on the doorstep of Jerusalem to become the the way OF the cross.

The entrance rite is royal (see Genesis 49:10-11 and Zechariah 9:9).  This is an eschatological and messianic reign that is being unfurled into time.  The stage and the plan are underway and the unfurling of a new creation and new order of living is at hand.

From Psalm 118 comes the imagery of a new Davidic reign.  The gates are open and the people fervently receive their king; yet as the reader know this crown will be laid upon the king not in victorious triumph but complete and utter powerlessness.  The worlds undoing and recreation will come from an explicit rejection of power as this world deals it out and an embrace of forgiveness and grace of which the world had yet to behold.

Note in this Gospel there is not cleansing of the Temple but only an embrace.  Jesus enters, and retires to rest.

And, so we begin. We make our journey. We choose to follow Jesus along the way of the cross. We pledge fidelity not to power which overcomes, but a power which will yield unto death.  Unlike those who met Jesus at the gate, we greet him this Sunday knowing that only complete submission and not a powerful revolution brings about the creative cataclysm.  And, we rehearse, remind, and remake our way to the foot of the cross as a reminder that our Christian way is clearly marked by grace, mercy, and forgiveness - and not by authority, power, and abuse.

So, I charge you to remember, Walk with determination turning your hearts and minds to the actions of God.  A God who went suffered pain, and entered was crucified. By walking in the way of the cross, may you find a blessing, and a way of life, and a way of and peace.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lent 5B March 22, 2015

"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.

"John alerts his readers to the seductive powers of the world. There can be no compromise."
Commentary, John 12:20-33, Marilyn Salmon, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.

"During this season of Lent we follow him all the way to Golgotha, all the way to the cross, where we will stand beneath it, together with those followers who asked at the beginning of his ministry, "Where are you staying?" (1:38). It is there, in the face of the world's many ways of death (e.g., poverty, economic collapse, hunger, sickness, war) that we are drawn even closer to Jesus. It is there, in the light of the stark reality of life at its end that we begin to catch a glimpse of life at its fullest."
Commentary, John 12:20-33, Audrey West, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2009.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Prayer

Hear, O God, the eternal echo of the prayers and supplications your Son offered when, to establish the new and everlasting covenant, he became obedient even unto death on the cross. Through all the trials of this life, bring us to a deeper, more intimate share in Christ's redeeming passion, that we may produce the abundant fruit of that seed that falls to the earth and dies, and so be gathered as your harvest for the kingdom of heaven. 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 12:20-33




Jesus has finished his public ministry. The arrival of the Greeks reminds us of 3:14ff: that the world is being saved through the lifting up of the Son. Even sheep not of his own fold are being drawn near as the time arrives. We ourselves, reading through John's Gospel arrive at the essential truth that the mission of the cross is not to be stopped. God, in Christ Jesus, is recreating the world. The grain is replanted, and new fruit is to grow and thrive; a gospel fruit of salvation. The cross is itself forever changed such that it shines a light on the disciple's life and upon the world revealing truth and making known that which has been hidden: God will not stop the drawing to himself of his creation or his creatures.

There is a great deal of debate over the Passover imagery between scholars. Yet, for the Christian there is ultimately a clear understanding that it is we who are passing over through the sheol of death into a promised land by virtue of Jesus (like Moses' own staff) being lifted upon a cross, descending into the dead, and rising on the third day. This is the vulnerability of courage and the power of love overcoming death itself.

As Jesus' ministry comes to an end so ours in the mean time begins. Our work is to begin the sowing of the seeds. To scatter the birds, to remove the rocks and weeds, and to make sure that the seeds of individuals are carefully planted within the earth that they may truly be transformed and reborn; growing and bearing fruit. We are to create safe spaces for people to become vulnerable to the workings of God's love. And, we are to do this for ourselves first; making sure we are planted carefully and fed upon the wellspring of the waters of life.

I was touched today at the opening of the Texas Children's Pavilion for Women as one of the primary philanthropist spoke passionately about her desire to be apart of projects which are transformative. I was touched by the transformation through vulnerability spoken about by Brené Brown in her TED talk which can be found here or here. Both women speek to me of the challenge of transformation and being involved in transformative work where "vulnerability is itself the birthplace of innovation and change."

We are to be at work. We are to allow the work of the cross to first shine a light on our own arc of transformation and pilgrim journey. We are to engage and embrace our own vulnerability. We are to follow its direction and seek our own change by the grace of God. We are then to preach to, lead, and help organize a mission which itself transforms the world around us. This is the kind of organization we wish to be part of. This is the kind of church we long to be.

We are to be the one's - through the proclamation of the Gospel of Salvation and the witness of the uniqueness of God in Christ Jesus - bear fruit from the deep nature of our own vulnerability that is worthy of our salvation.

All of this begins with us, our own vulnerability and our own willingness to be vulnerable to others, and to the Gospel and cross. Only then does our old life end and our new life begin. Perhaps only then will others be drawn to our witness.

For it is the world of false courage, a lack of vulnerability, and a willingness to reject transformation and rebirth that allows and leads to abuse, the crucifixion of others, and ultimately the shaming of the week and poor.
Some Thoughts on Hebrews 5:1-10




Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"In actuality, the history of the high priesthood was an inglorious one, the office having become highly politicized, especially in the Maccabean and Roman periods that led into the time of Jesus. Opposition to the corrupt priesthood was one of the factors that led to the formation of the dissident Qumran community, locus of the Dead Sea Scrolls."
Commentary, Hebrews 5:1-10, Susan Hedahl, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.

"Why does salvation depend on a high priest who is subject to weakness, who prays in crisis, who learns what the human lot is like? Why does Jesus' service as high priest require his identification with us?"
Commentary, Hebrews 5:1-10, Pentecost 21, Bryan J. Whitfield, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2009.

"...right in the heart of God there is empathetic love for each of us on our life's journey."
"First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 21, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

Each Sunday I remind myself that we have a great high priest in Jesus. This prayer, commonly said before receiving communion (BCP 834), is rooted in this particular passage of scripture from Hebrews.

The author is responsible for giving us the metaphor that Jesus has taken the place of the priest's office and is our great high priest.  While we have chosen priests to help us and represent us before God, Jesus is the priest who is to intervening on our behalf before God. When it comes to the offering and sacrifices for the removal of sin (which would have been normal in the temple of Jesus' day) now Jesus is our offering and sacrifice.

The priestly role that we humans fill is always limited because of our own humanity. We are indeed to strive before God to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek (that ancient Canaanite priest who ministered to Abram and Sarai - blessing and feeding them) but we are limited. We fail, we sin, we are all too human. Jesus is our high priest.

Yet, Jesus suffers, prays that his task may be removed, has the human qualities of weakness and fear. Our author tells us this is because of his humanness. It is this humanness that enables him to know our suffering and fear - and then to take it truly into the heavenly kingdom and lay it at the altar of God.

In Jesus we see the culmination of worship, sacrifice, and offering. We have in him perfect oblation and satisfaction (as the prayer used to say) for the sins of the world. Jesus has made the offering once and it is eternal. He remains our high priest and it is he that intercedes on our part before the great throne of God. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lent 4B March 15, 2015

"Nicodemus had heard enough about what Jesus was up to in Jerusalem to make him think he ought to pay him a visit and find out more. On the other hand, as a VIP with a big theological reputation to uphold, he decided it might be just as well to pay it at night. Better to be at least fairly safe than to be sorry, he thought, so he waited till he thought his neighbors were all asleep."

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

"As a small minority, the Johannine community did not have the power or influence to marginalize others or cause harm by excluding them. In the western world, Christianity has been the dominant religion for centuries, whether supported by the state or not, and it has the power to marginalize and exclude those who do not conform."

Commentary, John 3:14-21, Marilyn Salmon, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.

"Whatever our own solution to the issues of inclusion and exclusion, John?s gospel asks us to recognise that to reject the love and light and truth we see in Jesus is to choose death ? wherever and whenever we do it, and to receive it means life, life our world which God still loves desperately needs."

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


General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Prayer

God of mercy, who sent your Son into the world not to condemn it but to save it, open our eyes to behold Jesus lifted up on the cross and to see in those outstretched arms your abundant compassion.  Let the world's weary and wounded come to know that by your gracious gift we are saved and delivered, so immeasurable is the love with which you love the world.  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 3:14-21







Raymond Brown wrote an article with advice for preaching John, he wrote in the article, "The Johannine World for Preachers," is the necessity to enter into the world of John and its symbolic universe. Brown advices, "Do not domesticate the Johannine Jesus. It is his style to say things that border on the offensive, be puzzled and even offended; but do not silence this Jesus by deciding what he should not have said and what your hearers should not hear." (Commentary, John 3:14-21, Marilyn Salmon)  With this in mind then, what are we to do with this passage?

So let us begin by remembering that these words come from a conversation that Jesus is having with the Pharisee Nicodemus.  He has come to believe in God and in Jesus because of the many signs.  Key to John's Gospel are not the signs themselves but the revelatory power of Jesus who happens to be performing them.  The purpose of the signs is belief in the Gospel.  So it is no wonder that Jesus in our passage has moved from a previous discourse about spirit to one about God's intentions: the salvation of the world.

Second, the passage we read today follows directly upon Jesus' teaching about being born again.  The baptismal conversation is important.  How it plays out sacramentally is one discussion that I will not go into; nevertheless, it seems that the basic idea here is that one is born both by the spirit and through water.  (Raymond Brown, John vol 1, p 142ff, has an excellent discussion of the details surrounding this particular piece of Johnanine liturature.)

What Nicodemus has heard so far is that while coming to believe through signs, entrance into the kingdom is not something humans can accomplish on their own.  In other words your faith does not save you, only God saves you.  Moreover, one is brought into the Kingdom of God through God's outpouring of the spirit.  We believe in the Episcopal Church that such an outpouring is measured in the sacrament of baptism.  Nicodemus then asks, "how does this happen?"  He fades into the background as we move into the monologue we have for today's passage.

We receive the Holy Spirit, we are are welcomed into the Kingdom of God, only through the power of Jesus' work on the cross (vs 14), his resurrection, and his ascension (vs 15).  Leaning on Isaac typology (Brown, 147) Jesus explains.  The purpose of not allowing death to be the final answer (just as Isaac's death was not required)  is for the gathering in of the world and its people.  God intends the embrace of God's people; and their freedom to live and be who they were created to be.  The creation story will be successful.  We enter the reign of God only through Jesus' work.  The incarnation and Jesus' presence in the world will necessarily create a decision point for individuals: to either live life following Jesus; or to live life not following Jesus - perhaps against him.

What is interesting here at this point (vs20-21) is what we typically do with this passage.  While Jesus is not here to condemn the world - we do.  Our human nature is to immediately divide up the world into working groups we can get our minds around.  That typically means we go to the save and the not saved. We move quickly to do the judging.  But it is (according to our Nicene Creed) Jesus in his second coming that will judge.  It doesn't seem to stop us, so we typically take what comes next to decide who is in and who is out.  I also think we do this in a way that automatically removes us from the sinning proposition and into the category of people who "do all kinds of good works."  Such a missionary mindset is hardly one I think Jesus would recognize.  Raymond Brown writes:

"...the purpose clauses which end vss. 20 -21 are not to be understood as giving the subjective reason why men come or do not come to the light, that is, a man does not really come to Jesus to have it confirmed that his deeds are good.  Rather, the idea is that Jesus brings out what a man really is and the real nature of his life.  Jesus is penetrating light that provokes judgment by making it apparent what a man is." (John, vol 1, 148-9)
Before the cross we are all judged.  And, instead of condemning we are to engage in a conversation not unlike the one between Jesus and Nicodemus. We are to let people come to the cross for their own judgment and make their own faithful pilgrim way into relationship with Jesus.

Our work is the invitation.  We are to invite people into this sacred relationship.  Not unlike Jesus, we are to make the Gospel message known:  "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.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

As a Christian we believe that this is the only way to salvation.  To believe anything else is essentially to not be a Christian but to be a henothiest; that is believing there are many gods and many salvations.  We have one language and one cultural story to tell and that is of Jesus, his cross and his resurrection.  We are to engage the world in a conversation that allows people to be listened to, and invited into, a deeper profoundly transformational relationship with God in Christ Jesus.

The world will be drawn into this relationship not by condemning the world but by disciples living transformed lives.  Through the rebirth experienced in baptism, through the grace and mercy of God, and the empowering Holy Spirit, we are to live lives worthy of the cross and resurrection.  As we do this people will be drawn into life with Christ and may in turn be discipled.  They are drawn in by our example.  Subsequently, like our own, their lives are transformed by their own coming to terms with who Jesus is and his work.

When we as a church community move away from this singular proposition we are apt to argue over all manner of condemnations: sex, structure, liturgy, and polity.  When we begin with this singular proposition (that we are saved by grace alone) then we may all find ourselves truly transformed as we come to the foot of the cross together.  



Some Thoughts on Ephesians 2:1-10




Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"Even Jesus? name, as theologian William Placher reminds us, means 'the Lord saves.'"


"Just As I Am," Thomas G. Long, The Christian Century, 2006.

"To be a Christian, says the text, is to be crucified with Jesus, to die with him, to be buried with him, to be raised with him, to be enthroned with him. Spiritual? Yes. Mystical? Perhaps. Subjective? Partially. Will-o'-the wisp? Never. Experiential but inseparable from history? Always."

"From God, to God," Fred Craddock, The Christian Century 2003.

"And how long was the whole great circus to last? Paul said, why, until we all become human beings at last, until we all 'come to maturity,' as he put it; and then, since there had been only one really human being since the world began, until we all make it to where we're like him, he said - 'to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13). Christs to each other, Christs to God. All of us. Finally. It was just as easy, and just as hard, as that."

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

"The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you."

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


Paul begins by speaking about those who received their faith, baptism and the Holy Spirit. He prays that they will receive wisdom and revelation as they continue their journey.

The reality is that the following of Jesus is a journey, a process, by which people come to understand more and more their inherited faith.

I always feel Paul is buttering them up for the one-two punch. And, here he goes...he reminds them of their life before faith. You must remember that the world in which they live is diverse and filled with a plurality of beliefs and different religions. He reminds them that this faith is typically a faith which is self-centered and focused upon their own needs - their own life.

He uses powerful language about being spiritually dead and living apart from God and under the wrath of God. This language reminds me in my time that Paul is correct that living a life focused upon my needs is to live a life oriented around a god of my own making. When I focus on my needs as the primary directing power of life not only am I the god at the center of my universe - I worship other gods in order to control my world - money, sex, social standing, pleasing others, and many many more.

Then we get the grace! Even though we were far off God loved us. A fellow blogger, Chris Haslam, Anglican Diocese of Montreal, wrote:

God loved us greatly, so greatly that he brought us life together, raised us together and enthroned us together – "with Christ". Christians have been given a new status, a new life, and new freedom, in order that, by living in this way, we may be channels through whom God shows his gifts to us to the world. We are saved by God’s freely given inestimable gift of love (“grace”, 2:7). Our salvation is already happening through the medium of our “faith” (2:8), but even “this” (salvation) is a gift from God, rather than a result of our efforts (“works”, 2:9). God’s plan has always included making Christians what we are: “created in Christ ... for good works” (2:10): being saved, we do “good works”.
I once learned that when emotions are deep and high it is easier to get angry than it is to get sad, or feel the pain of loss, and suffering. Sadness, loss, and suffering can be so painful that avoiding them with a bit of anger is an easier way to go. 

Sometimes when we get to a passage like this we are tempted to do the same kind of avoidance. We will find it easier to focus on how we were far off and worshiping other gods, etc, and etc. "Let's have a shame fest" is always an easier answer...even better with a touch of anger. We can go to anger rather than to a place of reality where we recognize, name, and honor our deeper selves, our deeper emotions, and our deeper pain. We have tremendous guilt for what we have done and left undone. Shaming people for being beyond hope will never give them the hope they are looking for now.

I dream of a church that is preaching, teaching, and living a grace filled life. I dream of a church that is hopeful and redemptive. I hope for a church that can be honest about the pain most people are sitting in, their hopelessness, and sense that everything they experience now is "as good as it gets". The message Paul is trying to communicate is one worth communicating today: even when we were far off God loved us. Even when we are far off God loves us. We are given freedom to write a new story. Everyday we are surrounded by grace and given the opportunity to move beyond our sadness, loss, and suffering. We are offered through the continuous recreative work of god the opportunity to put behind us the guilt of things done and undone. This is Good News indeed - we have a new life, even our failures are redeemed, and our loss honored with an opportunity of redemption. WE are forgiven, we are saved, we are resurrected, and enthroned with Christ Jesus.




Monday, March 2, 2015

Lent 3B March 8, 2015

Jesus' cleansing of the Temple, Cathedrale d'Amiens. 

"I read the cleansing of the temple as a stark warning against any and every false sense of security. Misplaced allegiances, religious presumption, pathetic excuses, smug self-satisfaction, spiritual complacency, nationalist zeal, political idolatry, and economic greed in the name of God are only some of the tables that Jesus would overturn in his own day and in ours."

"Subtle as a Sledge Hammer: Jesus 'Cleanses' the Temple," The Journey with Jesus: Notes to Myself, Daniel B. Clendenin, Journey with Jesus Foundation.

"Followers of Jesus confess that Jesus is King and the emperor is not. If the consequence of challenging the imperial powers is death, as it was for Jesus and many of his followers, so be it."

Commentary, John 2:13-22, Marilyn Salmon, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.

"Is the community good news for the poor or is it chaplain to the rich who oppress? Mark with telling irony contrasts the widow and her poverty with the oppression of the temple authorities who exploit widows (12:38-44). Lent is also a time for the church to take a good look at itself."

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

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

Prayer

O God, the living fountain of new life, to the human race, parched with thirst, you offer the living water of grace that springs up from the rock, our Savior Jesus Christ.  Grant your people the gift of the Spirit, that we may learn to profess our faith with courage and conviction and announce with joy the wonders of your saving love.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you int he unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on John 2:13-25





I guess I want to begin my reflection with, "Wow."  This passage never seems to get easier to read. It also challenges my thinking about who Jesus is for me...most days.  So, I think it deserves some very important reflection.

First, the cleansing of the Temple is a sign. It is a sign that the messianic age is upon us, and a call for purification in the presence of the Messiah.

Second, in the face of the authorities desire for a sign, Jesus gives them one by cleansing the Temple.

There are many mixes of imagery and theology. We cannot ignore the imagery that comes to mind about our own faith and religious traditions. We can imagine too the sacrifice of Christ's body in comparison the prophesy regarding the destruction.

But as I sit here on this particular day I ask myself what needs to be cleansed. It is Lent and I am wondering in a particularly reflective mood, what is it in me that I need to have cleansed by the Grace of Jesus, his mercy, and his forgiveness.

Not out of shame, believing that I will then be worthy...not out of a desire to be perfect...rather to ask myself the question where do I do things, or not do things, that need to be cleansed and transformed by God.

You see more often than not (I think - only you preachers can tell me) we spend time talking about how everything else needs to be cleaned out...our culture, our church, our politics, our...whatever.  On this day I am reminded of that habit I have of cleaning my desk before I do the work.  A necessary thing - sure - more often than not a diversionary tactic.

It is always easier to see the easy work of cleaning out someone else's temple than it is to clean out our own. Or to spend time shaking the fist at the organization, culture, or institution vs rolling up our sleeves, entering the arena and getting our hands, feet and face dirty with the sweat and blood of ministry.

Perhaps this is our way of dealing with the feelings and words of Jesus which are difficult to hear.

The tables that need turning over in my life are: my belief that there is no power greater than myself; that I can control people's reactions; that other people are responsible for my happiness; that cynicism is an appropriate response to believe there is no good in the world; that if I am allied with the right people I will be safe; that faithfulness means attendance; that my excuses are really pretty good; that what I most often do is my "best;" that I am right; and that politics will save us.

I have to drop my shields and move out vulnerably.

I guess I want Jesus to turn my tables. I pray for grace and wisdom so that my need for self-esteem is replaced with God's forgiveness and love.  I hope the tables are turned so that my sarcasm will be transformed into spiritual joy.  I hope God will help me replace my selfishness with self-giving and my dishonesty with honesty.  May I seek others instead of myself; seeing them as God sees them.  That my fear may be overwhelmed by God given courage.  That I won't blame but be accountable.  And that in all these things I will have a humble and contrite heart.


Yep, I need the tables turned cause there is work to get done.

Some Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31




Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"And how long was the whole great circus to last? Paul said, why, until we all become human beings at last, until we all 'come to maturity,' as he put it; and then, since there had been only one really human being since the world began, until we all make it to where we're like him, he said - 'to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13). Christs to each other, Christs to God. All of us. Finally. It was just as easy, and just as hard, as that."

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

"What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us and our own snowbound, snowblind longing for him."

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

"In this week's passage, he shows how the particular divisions plaguing Corinth can be given the same diagnosis. And here is where things might start to get a little more personal."

Commentary, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (Epiphany 4A), J.R. Daniel Kirk, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.


Paul tells the truth - the non-comoditized Gospel of free love and grace does not make sense in our culture. A Gospel without shame and plenteous forgiveness is nonsense in a world of commerce where everything from feelings, narratives, personal journeys, and real products are traded based upon a supply and demand basis. 

The reality is that no matter what divides the church at Corinth or divides our own church there is a pretty simple understanding of conflict - people who are willing to argue their own perspective vs a humble perspective that begins at the foot of the cross, offers one's whole self to God and others in response to the grace of Jesus, and opens themselves up to the movement of the spirit. There have forever been and will forever be great debaters in the church - but debaters rarely get much accomplished.

We will never know the Gospel through wisdom or some philosophical theological principle.  For all faith and belief is rooted in the context of hands on ministry. Knowing God is experiencing failure, guilt, brokenness, suffering, and rising in glory because of the hope that is in us and the grace given to us.

The very proof of this is God's saving work without the great debate! God acts. God depends not upon our theological wisdom. And, furthermore, God does not choose us because of what we know, understand, or are able to convey. God chooses us out of God's desire to have us as his very own. 

This is what we boast in our Gospel - God chooses us. God makes us, God chooses us, God dwells with us, God invites us to dwell in harmony with one another. That is a Gospel worth boasting.