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.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Epiphany 3C January 24, 2016

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Luke 4:14-21 is the opening scene in the ministry of Jesus. It is Jesus' manifesto for the work ahead."

Commentary, Luke 4:14-21, Ruth Anne Reese, at, Luther Seminary, 2016.

"...the God of Luke-Acts intentionally and continually invades, initiates, and even invites any and all theological deliberation, exploration, and imagination. Such theological thinking takes time and cannot be straightforwardly encapsulated in convenient statements of theoretical intent. Rather, Jesus’ words are a call to real life, real people, real time. This is God in our present and in our reality."

Commentary, Luke 4:14-21, Karoline Lewis, at, Luther Seminary, 2013.

"Luke necessarily turns the focus here to individuals who need freedom and salvation because such was the focus of many anecdotes about Jesus and this remains valid and real for all of us, but the broader vision is not lost, including Israel?s restoration (see Acts 1:5). Such good news, such peace, such liberating work of the Spirit, remains the core activity of the Christ (anointed) community."

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

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

All pray in their distress;

And to these virtues of delight

Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

Is God, our father dear,

And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,

Pity a human face,

And Love, the human form divine,

And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,

That prays in his distress,

Prays to the human form divine,

Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,

In heathen, Turk, or Jew;

Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell

There God is dwelling too.

Some Thoughts on Luke 4:14-21

In Luke's Gospel Jesus has been baptized in the river Jordan and then driven into the desert where he makes his way as his ancestors did in the wilderness. Jesus himself withstands the devil's attempts to draw his faith and so he like ancient Israel out of Egypt is raised out of the desert as a faithful servant to the most high God. He is dependent up on God and will not be deterred from God's mission in him.

So it is that he comes to Galilee.  In Luke's Gospel we see Jesus in the synagogue teaching. Unlike other Gospels, Luke's is clear that Jesus is continuing a long tradition and is the mighty savior Israel has awaited. So it is the foundation of the mission to Israel is continuously laid.

Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah 61 and makes clear his mission. He has come with the spirit upon him. He is anointed. His work is to bring good news to the poor. He is going to proclaim the year of God's favor - a sabbath time in which the captives are freed from their yokes. He will be about the work of healing many and he will unbind those who are oppressed. He is to offer forgiveness of sins and the proclamation of Shimittah - a kind of cultural shabbat or Jubilee year.

In this passage we see Jesus as a prophet of old, a teacher, a person of authority, and with a clear mission in which we shall see the power of God in the world.

What I think we miss all to often is that Jesus is in the synagogue in order to reveal that God is to be at work outside of the synagogue - in the world with real people in the midst of real lives. It is not so much that we inside the church are to receive a special message but that we are to leave the church to go out to deliver the special message of God's jubilee and sabbath to the world.

Quite literally in the Gospels Jesus does the work of Isaiah 61. A church is no church at all if it is not also doing the work of Jesus out in the world. They will know the church by its works and if it is not working for the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry, the yoked, the bound, the blind, and sick then it is not a Christian community - it is simply a club.

In a time when we can blame a lot of our woes on shifting cultural trends - the reality may actually be that we spend more time in our synagogues listening than we do outside doing.

Some Thoughts on I Corinthians 12:12-31

"...we are meant to hear that this calls us not to some assertion of privileged status, but rather to the recognition of our responsibility for mutual care for the members of this body."

Commentary, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, James Boyce, at, Luther Seminary, 2013.

"God was making a body for Christ, Paul said. Christ didn't have a regular body any more so God was making him one out of anybody he could find who looked as if he might just possibly do. He was using other people's hands to be Christ's hands and other people's feet to be Christ's feet, and when there was some place where Christ was needed in a hurry and needed bad, he put the finger on some maybe-not-all-that-innocent bystander and got him to go and be Christ in that place himself for lack of anybody better."

"The Body of Christ," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog.

"While our culture reduces 'hospitality' to friendliness and private entertaining, Christian hospitality remains a public and economic reality by which God re-creates us through the places and people we are given."

"Untamed Hospitality," Elizabeth Newman, (other resources at) "Hospitality,"Christian Reflection, The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2007.

We have been working our way through the spiritual gifts discussion between Paul and the church in Corinth. Last week Paul explained to them that spiritual gifts were given for the good of the whole community.  In this passage for the readings this week Paul undertakes to explain the nature of the church. 

Christ is the head of the community (we would call church) and regardless of our beginnings, culture, class, we are bound together as citizens and family members by our baptism. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is in fact acting within us as the body of Christ in the world. We all help to make up the body and we all help undertake the body's work in the world. Moreover, we are mutually connected and needed. 

Here is an interesting piece of understanding the body in Paul. We all come under God's lordship in Christ. We are all needed. And, we are to treat one another as essential. We are to treat even the "less respectable members" as essential. In this way we work together in the midst of "dissension" and we bear witness to Christ in the world.

Sometimes I wonder if we really treat those we think are "less respectable" with the same caritas and love which Paul intends...even in our disagreements.

Some Thoughts on Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10

"Here we see [Ezra] in a new role that looks both innovative and strangely familiar: reading and expounding upon Scripture. The passage emphasizes that this occasion includes not just the priests, Levites, or even just the men, but all the people, men and women. It also asserts that Ezra read at the request of the people themselves."

Commentary, Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Patricia Tull, at, Luther Seminary, 2013.

"This passage is not about legalism and rigidity. It is about finding life, finding true joy. It would make for a great sermon or homily this Sunday."

3 Epiphany, Year C: Nehemiah 8:1-10, Biblische Ausbildung, Dr. Stephen L. Cook, Virginia Theological Seminary. Part 2.

"Do we believe in such a way that we are reknit as a body, members of one another, a commonwealth and not just people for ourselves? Are the words fulfilled in our hearing?"

"The Proclamation," John Stendahl, The Christian Century, 1998.

Of course you cannot read Nehemiah without also reading Ezra. Both are essential to understand the return of the exiled Jews to Jerusalem and their desire to rebuild the Temple. What we see in this passage today is that the Temple is remade and the sacred arts of religion reestablished.

The passage also reveals the struggle with between the exiled returnees and those who did not leave. Their division and desires for their homeland differ, though Ezra and the priests prevail.

In the midst of this the "book of the law of Moses" is found and so it is read in the midst of the people to remind them of the covenant with Yahweh. This is a feast day as the people are not only physically returning to the temple and the religion of the patriarchs and matriarchs, it is a feast because the people are reminded that they are to be holy as their God is holy. They are to keep the sabbath and to remember God's deliverance of them. 

So it is that the passage offers to us a sense of thanksgiving for the mighty works of God. Those returning and now free see their lives intertwined and connected with the people freed from Israel. The religion is restored, but greater than the acts of piety, is the knowledge that God will persevere and be faithful to his people - returning them to their homeland. 

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