Monthly Archives: November 2015

1st Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2015

1st Sunday of Advent (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Jeremiah 33:14-16, I Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 31:25-36, Psalm 25:1-9 (NRSV)

Jeremiah’s words are written to individuals living in exile. Their lives were in disorder. Anguish, desolation, and uncertainty were a real part of their world. He reminds them that Yahweh would raise up the legitimate successor to the throne: The LORD our righteousness.

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians reminds them of his deep love and joy because of their growth in grace. Like Jeremiah’s audience, they too were living in adverse times.

Jesus’ words, according to the gospel of Luke, are an apocalyptic portrayal of what seems to be happening in our own world.

The Advent readings for this week remind us to look up, be mindful and alert, and to be prayerful… for the LORD our righteousness is coming!

Celebrate: Light Your Home With An Advent Wreath

Advent-Wreath-first-candle-Advent-SundayThis week, we pray for “grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” It’s amazing how much hope a little light can produce! The words of Jeremiah gave a glimmer of hope to those living in darkness and desolation. In our own homes and hearts, we can shine the light of Christ and the hope of His coming throughout this season of Advent.

Since the Middle Ages, Christians have used Advent wreaths as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. The evergreens and circular shape of the wreath represent the everlasting, unending love of God. The four candles mark the progression of the four weeks in Advent and the growth of light. Traditionally, three candles are purple and one is pink. The first purple candle represents hope, the second purple candle signifies love, the third pink candle stands for joy, and the fourth purple candle symbolizes peace.

Make your own Advent wreath and use it in your home as a center of prayer and reflection. Simply place an evergreen wreath on your dining table and use four candlesticks to hold the four candles of Advent. Some families choose to decorate their wreaths with dried flowers or fruit, so go ahead – be creative! Each week, light the corresponding candle during dinner, reflecting on the light of Christ and his gifts of hope, love, joy, and peace. On Christmas Day, light all four candles, celebrating the Light of the World.

Prayer when lighting the first candle of the Advent wreath – “God of light, your hope illuminates the darkness of our world. You call us to walk in your light, casting off the works of darkness. Fill our home and hearts with the light of Christ. Help us reflect the hope found in Him to a world waiting for His appearing. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

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Last Sunday After Pentecost, November 22, 2015

Last Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132:1-13, (14-19); Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

2 Samuel 23:1-7

In his final words to his people, David describes God’s ideal king (23:3–4). He notes God’s faithfulness to him, in spite of his failings (23:5); and, he underscores the importance of dealing with rebellion (23:6–7).

David reflects the beauty of reigning with righteousness and in the fear of God, and is confident that his royal line will continue.

Revelation 1:4b-8

Written to “the seven churches” of the Roman province of Asia, John’s work is a “revelation” of “what must soon take place.” As elder, or bishop, of Ephesus, the apostle John was responsible for these churches. Given to John by Jesus Christ, it is a message committed by God to the Lord to show to His “servants.”

The theme of John’s work is clear: the Lord God, the Almighty One Himself, has guaranteed the final vindication of the crucified Jesus before all the earth. The victory of Christ is assured. His people will rejoice in their final deliverance, but those who have rejected Him will mourn His coming, for it will mean judgment for them.

John 18:33-37christ-in-glory07

Jesus’ kingdom is not a military or political force. This concept was difficult for his audience to comprehend. Why call it a “kingdom” if it was nonpolitical? Jesus states that his authority is not of human origin, and by implication suggests that he is not a threat to the Roman authority, and that there is no place for the use of force in his kingdom.

The Last Word

Today’s Old Testament reading contains King David’s last words. The disciple John, elderly and in exile, writes his final words in his Revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus, facing imminent crucifixion and death, speaks some of his last words in today’s Gospel reading. “Last words” are important.

David speaks of an everlasting covenant where all is secure. John writes of grace and peace from the One who loves us and frees us of sin by His blood. Jesus speaks of a kingdom not of this earth, a kingdom where God wins! These words are important.

However, beyond our last words, as important as they are, God’s Word remains eternal, immortal, and invincible. In the words of Saint John, Jesus is the beginning and the end, the One who is, and who was, and who is to come.

When we run out of words, and there is nothing more to say, we take comfort in the knowledge that God gets the final word concerning all things.

Prayer for Last Sunday after Pentecost – Everliving God, give me Your vision to see Your Son having final dominion and Lordship over my life and this world; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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25th Sunday After Pentecost, November 15, 2015

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25; Mark 13:1-8

 

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hannah’s prayer is a song of praise about the incomparability of God. Because of God’s greatness, there is no room for arrogance, only humility (2:3). She expresses her joy in song, celebrating God’s righteousness and sovereignty.

Hannah’s example of humble submission to God’s way continues to be an essential quality for God’s people today.

Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25

The author of Hebrews underscores the confidence we have because of Christ’s perfect and complete forgiveness. Because of this new covenant, God’s law is in our heart. Three things become clear: 1) Because of Christ’s perfect work, we have confidence to approach God with complete assurance (10:19-22). 2) We are to hold fast to our confession based on God’s faithfulness (10:23). 3) We are encouraged to love and serve God and others when we regularly meet together and share our faith (10:24-25).

Mark 13:1-8

Theologians hotly debate Jesus’ teaching on the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem and the coming of the Son of man recorded in Mark 13. Despite the varying interpretations of timing surrounding Christ’s return, Jesus emphasizes two clear warnings: 1) be aware of those who will deceive us, seeking to lead us astray (13:5), and 2) be prepared for Christ’s return.

Asking the Right Questions

We spend much of life looking for answers. We want to make sense of our lives and the world around us. Today’s readings show us the importance of asking the right questions.

The description of Hannah’s sorrow is heartbreaking. Ridiculed because of her barrenness (1 Sam. 1:6), she longs for a child that will legitimize her standing in her home and society. The obvious question for Hanna is, “why?” However, she chooses to ask God to remember her with favor. God quickly answers her.

o-CHRIST-SECONDIn the Gospel reading, the disciples ask Jesus when the destruction of Jerusalem will occur. Jesus redirects them by emphasizing the importance of being on guard against deception. His response reveals that the appropriate question is not one of timing, but of preparation. When the Son of Man returns is secondary to how we can be ready to meet Him when He appears.

Life, at times, is confusing. Events can leave us questioning God and ourselves. When we find we have more questions than answers, it’s a good thing to prayerfully consider asking the right ones.

Prayer for Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost – Holy God, give me Your wisdom to learn from and apply Your Word so I may discern Your Holy Spirit working in and through my life; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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24th Sunday After Pentecost, November 8, 2015

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

In Old Testament times, parents arranged their children’s marriage.  Although, Boaz had been unusually kind to Ruth, he had not made any movement toward a marriage proposal. Naomi takes steps to find a home and security for Ruth. Ruth’s obedience results in marriage. God rewards the couple by giving them the child Obed. The women of the city praise God, and recognize that Obed would sustain Naomi by becoming heir to Elimelech’s property.

Ruth’s faithfulness (and God’s), result in the fulfillment of the promises of the patriarchs through David – and his greater Son – Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1).

Hebrews 9:24-28

By his supreme sacrifice for sin, Jesus enters into heaven to represent us before God. Our salvation will be fully consummated when Jesus reappears from the “heavenly sanctuary,” when he brings the full experience of salvation to those who are waiting for him (27–28).

Mark 12:38-44maxresdefault

Jesus denounces using religion to advance one’s status, or taking advantage of others (12:38-40). As Jesus sees a widow place two coins (worth a penny) into the treasury as her gift to God, he calls his disciples and tells them: the poor widow had given more than everyone, because she gave out of her poverty, rather than her abundance.

The Outsiders

We love to root for the underdog. We cheer when the “already-written-off” team comes from behind to win it all. That’s good. In fact, that’s godly! Today’s readings tell us why.

In the Book of Ruth, we learn Naomi is a three-time loser in the eyes of her society. She has lost her husband and her two sons. Society has written her off. However, God has a different plan. Through Ruth’s marriage and resulting son, Naomi once again has access to the resources of her late husband’s property. Because of God’s faithfulness, Naomi beats the odds.

God’s scale of economy favors the outsiders. Jesus is unimpressed with “important” people, or their wealth. However, the penny of an elderly, destitute widow is a gift so rich, he calls his disciples together and asks them to pay attention to what she has done.

When we feel that life has written us off, that we are losing and can’t find our way back, remember: God loves the underdog!

Prayer for Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost – Almighty God, remind me that I am Your child and give me hope that I will one day be made like You, victorious over sin and alive in Your presence for eternity; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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