Monthly Archives: January 2016

4th Sunday After Epiphany, January 31, 2016

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30, Psalm 71:1-6 (NRSV)

 

michelangelo_jeremiah

Jeremiah – by Michelangelo

Jeremiah 1:4-10

When Jeremiah heard the call of God, he saw the wickedness around him and the weakness within him. When he saw his inadequacy – like us – he concluded: “I’m not cut out for this job.” Despite his objections (“I am only a boy”), the foreknowledge of Lord had anticipated his objection.

Just as Jeremiah had been brought to this hour for this purpose, God has a purpose for our life.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The context in which Paul writes this “love chapter” is centered in the strife and conflict surrounding the questions of spiritual gifts. His focus is to point his audience’s attention to the reality that gifts without graces are nothing! As wonderful as miraculous gifts are… the fruit of the Spirit is more important.

Luke 4:21-30

It was customary in synagogue settings to ask visiting rabbis to read the Scripture lesson and make appropriate comments pertaining to the Scripture. The popularity of Jesus had grown, so it was natural that the synagogue leader asked Him to read the appointed lesson for the day.

What was startling was that Jesus pronounced that the Scriptures were fulfilled in Him; that He would minister to needy people and bring the salvation of the Lord. This enraged those who heard him. They desired to kill him.

Yes You Can!

I’m worthless. I don’t have the proper education or training. I’m too young… too old. No one thinks I’m capable – neither do I. If you’ve ever thought or said something similar, today’s readings are for you!

In his own power, young Jeremiah didn’t know what or how to say what God commanded. None of us can bear all things, believe all things, hope in all things, endure all things in our own strength. Even Jesus was misunderstood and mistreated, met with rage and disbelief. That’s the point of today’s readings.

When God reveals himself to us, He also makes known His strength, wisdom, and grace in us. He gives us His words to speak, His love to demonstrate, His compassion for those around us. With God – and in God – all things are possible!

Prayer for Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – “Almighty God, in mercy you rule all things in heaven and earth. Through Jesus Christ, reign over my life, making His peace and presence known. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

 

3rd Sunday After Epiphany, January 24, 2016

Third Sunday after Epiphany (Year C) 

Scripture Readings*: Nehemiah 8:1-1, 5-6, 8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21, 21-22, Psalm 19 (NRSV)

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

It is a happy occasion when people — eager to hear and be taught God’s Word – have a teacher to meet their need. At the people’s request, Ezra brings out the scroll of the Law. This passage reveals an attitude that allows God’s word to have its maximum impact on our lives. The people: 1) Had a hunger for God’s Word; 2) A belief that the Word of the LORD is important for the whole community; 3) A reverent expectancy that by listening and being taught they would receive benefit from the Word; 4) A deep respect for God’s Word; and 5) A desire to understand God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Unity without diversity yields uniformity. Over time, uniformity tends to produce death. Paul uses the analogy of the body to show the importance of diversity – many parts, but the same body. Without sufficient diversity, the body cannot function the way God desires. It ceases to be healthy. Though there are many (diverse) members … there is only one body.

jesus-in-the-synagogueLuke 4:14-21

It was the custom in the synagogue for a man to stand while he was reading the Scriptures but then to sit while explaining the portion he had read. The portion of Scripture Jesus read was Isaiah 61:1-2, a messianic passage.

When Jesus concluded His reading with the words, “…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” He stopped mid-verse without reading the next line that speaks of God’s vengeance. Jesus added, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The implication was clear. Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah who would bring the kingdom of God — but His First Advent was not His time for judgment. Jesus’ words plainly stated that the offer of the favorable year of the Lord (i.e., the kingdom time) was being made to them through Him (v. 21).

Good News!

Notice how those words cause us to perk up with expectancy. When someone tells us they have good news, we stand a little taller… sit a bit straighter… listen more attentively. It’s true in our personal lives and true of our collective culture.

We long for good news. And in the midst of a darkened world filled with crises and chaos, Jesus appears – revealing the good news of His salvation. To the poor He gives affirmation and purpose. To the blind and sick He offers sight and healing. His good news is both personal and powerful – revealing His glory in the broken places of our lives. And that’s good news indeed!

Prayer for Third Sunday after Epiphany – “Gracious God, you offer good news through the Gospel of Jesus. Let my life reflect your salvation and let others experience your Good News through me. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

2nd Sunday After Epiphany, January 17, 2016

Second Sunday after Epiphany (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 62:1-5, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11, 21-22, Psalm 36:5-10 (NRSV)

Isaiah 62:1-5

This passage reminds us that God has the final say. Though scorned, God will continue to work on Jerusalem’s behalf until the rest of the world sees her glory fully revealed. The city will be called by a new name. In the ancient Near East, names often signified one’s anticipated or present character. Jerusalem having a new name means it will have a new, righteous character. Like a crown adorning one’s head so Jerusalem will be an adornment to the Lord. She will display His splendor, that is, her inhabitants will manifest God’s character in their conduct.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Just as God desires for Jerusalem to be an adornment to the world, we too must reflect God’s splendor. Contention and strife often interrupt that objective. Paul’s words are written to a Church that is experiencing division. His words serve to remind them (and us) of what we have in common, not to focus on what divides us. He reminds us:

1) There is “one Lord” and we belong to the same living Lord (1-3)

2) We depend on the same God (4-6)

3) We minister to the same body (7-11)

L'_Annonciation_de_1644,_Philippe_de_Champaigne.John 2:1-11

Jesus’ first miracle recorded by John took place at a wedding. It is a manifestation of Christ’s glory. In contrast to Moses turning the water into blood as a sign of God’s judgment (Ex. 7:14-24), Jesus’ transformation of the water to wine reveals Jesus as the Word in the flesh, the mighty Creator.

The public at large did not witness Jesus’ first miracle, just those individuals at the wedding. The splendor of His glory is often witnessed in the personal transformation of our lives.

It’s Personal

Water. Wine. Marriage. These are the makings of the Sacraments – personal and transformative. They are symbols of God’s desire to intersect and transform the ordinary with divinity.

It’s revealing that Jesus chose a wedding party as the place to perform his first miracle. Jesus revealed His glory in the midst of a celebration of union and intimacy. The miracle he performed was personal… meaningful… joyful. The same is true in our own lives. God graces us with the gift of His presence so His glory can be revealed and worshipped – by us and others.

Prayer for Second Sunday after Epiphany – “Almighty God, illuminate and transform my life with your Spirit. Shine in and through me, causing others to know and worship you. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

1st Sunday After Epiphany, January 10, 2016

First Sunday after Epiphany (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 43:1-7, Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, Psalm 29 (NRSV)

Isaiah 43:1-7

Though Israel had proven to be a “blind and deaf servant” (42:18-25), the nation had a special relationship to God. They were His messenger. Although they had failed in their mission, God still had wonderful things for his people. God created Israel, and they still figured in his plan. He would redeem them, call them by name, and protect them.

All who belong to God have assurance that we are a part of his plan and mission.

Acts 8:14-17

When it was reported that the Samaritans had “received the Word of God,” Peter and John were sent from Jerusalem to lay their hands on the converts and impart to them the gift of the Spirit. The reason is that God desired to unite the Samaritan believers with the original Jewish church in Jerusalem.

The mission of God for his followers requires unity. The natural propensity of division between Jews and Samaritans could only be bridged by the work of the Holy Spirit.

fig-13Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

People were waiting and wondering with expectation. Is John the Christ (the Messiah)? John distinguishes himself from the One who is coming by indicating that He (the Messiah) will not only baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Jewish people generally viewed the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prophecy and the Spirit that purified God’s people from un-holiness. At Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon him as a sign that He is the One! 

Dive On In… the Water’s Fine!

Science teaches us that life is dependent upon water. Soil, sun, and seed can all be present; but without water, nothing germinates… grows… bears fruit… nourishes. It is a life-giving element that sustains our world and us.

It’s no surprise that God uses water to reveal this same principle about His spirit. Like a river, it provides direction and movement in our lives. God’s spirit purifies and cleanses. In barren, dry places, God’s spirit penetrates the soil of our hearts causing the seed of His Word to germinate and bear fruit. In baptism, we follow the example of Jesus in opening our lives to God’s spirit; and in so doing, revealing transformed hearts and lives made pleasing to God.

Prayer for First Sunday after Epiphany – “Holy God, you have given me spiritual birth in the waters of baptism. Renew in me daily the birth of your spirit in heart and home. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

Epiphany, January 6, 2016

Epiphany (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 (NRSV)

Isaiah 60:1-6

Hard times have a tendency to obscure the light of hope. Isaiah’s words cut through the shadows of despair to remind the people that when the glory of Yahweh rises upon them, moral and spiritual darkness gives way to the “light” – the glory of the LORD.

Ephesians 3:1-12

Paul reminds the Ephesians – and us – of how, through revelation, a great “mystery” was made known to him. That “mystery” was that those not of Jewish descent had become joint-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ, and that through the Church this “mystery” is made known.

epiphany-1Matthew 2:1-12

The Wise men were more than likely Oriental astrologers who studied the stars, seeking to understand the times. They followed the star that led them to Bethlehem where Christ was born. These Gentiles gave homage and worshipped the newborn King.

Open the Gift

Epiphany means “to reveal” or “to make known.” In the Western Church, the season of Epiphany is associated with the wise men who followed a star and discovered Jesus Christ, the Messiah. They offered precious gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The treasure of their gifts revealed the hidden depths of their hearts.

Gifts have a way of doing this. From a much-loved child, a parent treats crumpled paper embellished with a few swipes of a crayon as a gift far more valuable than expensive jewelry. Its worth is weighed in love. Opening such a gift is an epiphany, revealing the heart of both the giver and receiver.

Today we celebrate the Gift of God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, gaining a deeper understanding of the endless love contained in such a lavish gift. God wrapped up the wellspring of love, the essence of hope, and gave us Jesus – cherished and beloved from before all time. Let the miracle of this love be a source of epiphany in your own heart this day!

Prayer for Epiphany – “God, you revealed the gift of your Son through the shining of a star. Lead me to see more clearly your glory revealed through Jesus Christ. Through me, lead others to see you revealed as Savior and King. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

2nd Sunday After Christmas, January 3, 2016

Second Sunday After Christmas (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Jeremiah 31:7-14, Ephesians 1:3-6; 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15; 19-23, Psalm 84 (1-8) (NRSV)

Jeremiah describes the blessings of the time of re-gathering. Through the prophet, God promises that the full extent of the Promised Land will be theirs.

The fullness of blessings we have in Christ are made clear by Paul, the author of this letter to the Ephesians. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We were destined for adoption. Paul prays in earnest that we will come to Him so that our hearts will be enlightened and we will fully know the hope we have in Christ.

christmas-page10The Gospel reading of Matthew tells the story of Divine intervention. Twice, Joseph receives a warning. Herod was searching for the Child to kill Him. In a dream, Joseph is warned, and flees to Egypt with Jesus and Mary. This action fulfilled an earlier prophecy: “Out of Egypt, I called my Son.”

Joseph’s concern of returning to Judea (due to Herod’s son being ruler), contributed to the relocation to Nazareth. This too was to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus would be called a “Nazarene.”

Celebrate: Live the Light of Christmas!

In each of the readings, the writers of Scripture were living with the realities of persecution, oppression, and uncertainty. Their lives and the lives of those they were writing to were in danger. Yet they pointed unwaveringly to Christ, “who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.

As we celebrate the Light of Christmas, we hear the apostle Paul’s prayer imploring God to give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know the hope to which He has called us… the immeasurable greatness of His power for us who believe. In answer to this prayer, Christ still enters the darkness and uncertainty of our world, connecting us – restoring us – to the love of God. His Light inspires our dreams and hopes, guides our steps and actions. His Light turns mourning into joy, giving gladness for sorrow.

Because He is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God” we can live confidently in the Light of His Love. We can trust that the “God who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature” will enlighten our hearts, fully revealing the hope that is Jesus Christ.

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

1st Sunday After Christmas, December 27, 2015

First Sunday After Christmas (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Galatians 3:23-25 & 4:4-7, John 1:1-18, Psalm 147 (13-21) (NRSV)

The prophet Isaiah proclaims that with Messiah’s coming mourning will be replaced with joy, broken hearts will be mended, captives will be freed, oppression will cease, and justice will be realized.

Paul’s instructions to the Galatians in this passage of Scripture is to make clear that the Law’s role was limited in extent (it was temporary); in ability (it cannot make alive); in function (it was a custodian); and in force (it is nullified today). [1] Christ was sent by God to redeem those who under the law so that we might be adopted as God’s children.

nativitysceneJohn’s words remind us that Jesus was with God in the beginning, and that He is with us now. The very image of God is seen through Christ, who is the light of the world. This living Word became flesh and lived among us, revealing God to us.

Celebrate: Receive the Gift of Christmas!

It’s the cry we all secretly hope to hear in response to a gift given at Christmas, “It’s exactly what I was hoping for! How did you know?”

As we plan and prepare to give what we hope is the perfect gift, we envision how it will enrich the life of the recipient. We imagine their smiling face… anticipate the joy of sharing in a much-welcomed and appreciated gift… eagerly await the pleasure of seeing delight shining in their eyes as they gaze upon our gift.

And yet there are times when the love contained in our gift is not met with joy. The recipient asks to exchange it – or re-gifts it to someone else. Our gift is rejected – and we are tempted to feel rejected as well.

In the Gospel reading, John tells a similar story. He tells of the God who made all things becoming man, “who for us and our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Virgin Mary…” Though the world came into being through Him, the world didn’t recognize Him. Although He came to His own people, they rejected Him. And yet the gift of His very life was still poured out… lavishly… willingly… lovingly.

How do we receive God’s gift of Christ – not just at Christmas but all year long? Do we choose to see His glory, full of grace and truth? Do we cry, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Abba! Father!” knowing we have been given the gift of adoption into God’s family? Do we exclaim with childlike delight, “It’s exactly what I was hoping for… how did you know?”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

[1]Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987), 902.

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

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