Monthly Archives: November 2016

1st Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent (Year A)

 Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44, Psalm 122

Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah envisions the day when Zion (Jerusalem) will be the place where nations will come and be eager to learn – and walk – in the ways of God. Isaiah’s view of the future is filled with a promise of peace, where the Lord Himself will settle international disputes

Romans 13:11-14

Paul challenges us to remember that our “salvation” (the complete blessing we will have when Christ comes – including new bodies and a new home) is closer today than ever before. It’s easy to get lulled into darkness. Paul calls us to be awake and alert and to behave as those who walk in the light of the Gospel so we will not be found in sin when Christ returns.

Matthew 24:36-44

This passage reminds us that Christ will return. It stresses that only God knows the hour, or the time, of this event. It indicates that the coming of Christ will be sudden, catching people unaware. These verses also remind us that when Jesus returns it will be a time of separation and judgment… a time when he will gather to himself those who are his own.

There’s No Place Like Hope!

Hope. Just say the word and suddenly the world looks a little brighter and trouble feels a little lighter. It was this gift of hope Isaiah gave to God’s people. Through faith’s eyes, he saw the coming of the Messiah and the peace His arrival would bring. By faith, Paul also saw eternal life closer than ever – day-by-day, moment by moment.

It is hope that enables us to see the coming of Christ in our own lives and in the life to come. Sometimes the darkness of our circumstances overwhelms us. But the words of Jesus pierce the darkness of our suffering, causing us to look up. Like children awaking to Christmas morning, Christ comes suddenly, His joy surprising us, His embrace gathering us.

As we await His coming, it is hope that gives voice to faith as we affirm: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!

Advent-Wreath-first-candle-Advent-SundayPrayer when lighting the first candle of the Advent wreath – “God of hope, Your light pierces the darkness of my heart and the world. Strengthen me to walk in Your light, casting off the works of darkness. Fill my home and heart with the light of Christ and help me reflect You to a weary world, longing for the thrill of hope. Blessed be God now and forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the NRSV and the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

27th Sunday After Pentecost, November 20, 2016

Twenty-seventh Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Jeremiah summarizes the unrighteous kings as being like shepherds who were destroying and scattering God’s sheep. Though they deserved punishment, if God removed them, who would He appoint to re-gather the flock? Jeremiah answers…

First, God would gather the dispersed remnant and bring them back. He would assume responsibility for Israel’s re-gathering. Second, God would raise up new shepherds over them to tend and care for the people the way God intended.

Though the branch of David had been cut off, God promises to raise up another King who would be a righteous Branch, that is, another member of the Davidic line. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this prediction. As King, He will reign wisely and will do what is just and right.

Colossians 1:11-20

The tendency of too many people is that they want to quit too soon. It is God’s energy that empowers us (v. 11). We usually think of God’s power being revealed in great feats of daring (i.e. the Israelites crossing the Red Sea). Paul stresses that real power is revealed in our character: patience, long-suffering, joyfulness, and thanksgiving.

He reminds us that our source of power is Christ the Creator… 1) Who existed before creation, 2) Who in Him all things exist, 3) Who holds all things together, 4) Who is the head of the church, and 5) Who is the fullness of God that reconciles to Himself all things.

Luke 23:33-43

good-thiefLuke’s purpose shows that Jesus was the forgiving Messiah even as He died.

Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were killing Him (v. 34), and He forgave one of the men sentenced to die with Him (v. 43). Even in death Jesus had power to make people right with God. And yet the rulers … sneered (v. 35) the soldiers … mocked (vv. 36-37), and one of the criminals crucified with Him insulted Him (v. 39).

Thankful

In the midst of the lingering Great Recession and a world filled with conflict and uncertainty, thankfulness often seems like an oxymoron. Yet today’s readings give us reason for gratitude and thanksgiving. God has sent a Good Shepherd to gather the lost and injured. Through His beloved Son, He forgives, rescues, and strengthens us.

Through Christ, we find joy even as “the earth be moved and the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea.” Today’s readings remind us that God Himself holds us together. In light of this we can proclaim with the Psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” More than enough reason to be thankful!

Prayer for Twenty-seventh Sunday After Pentecost – Almighty God, give me eyes of faith to see You restoring all things through the power of Your Holy Spirit and a thankful heart, acknowledging Your unending grace and mercy; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

26th Sunday After Pentecost, November 13, 2016

Twenty-sixth Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah 12:2-6, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19

Isaiah 65:17-25

The description seems to combine elements of the millennial kingdom of the Messiah and the prophesied new heavens and new earth. However students of prophecy sort these elements out, it is clear from Isaiah’s warm and comforting description of God that a real transformation of man’s state and nature lies ahead. Sin’s curse is lifted, lifespan is extended, and peace is brought even to the animal kingdom. All that is wrong on earth will be set right.

When you read prophecies of doom—an atomic holocaust, a greenhouse effect that will melt the ice caps and cause the oceans to overflow our cities, a new Ice Age that will destroy life on earth—do not fear. Isaiah describes the real destiny of earth here.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Paul admonishes those in the church to be industrious. A number of people had become idle, relying upon the generosity of others to support them. True charity is honorable, but those who are able to work should do so. Furthermore, Paul identifies that idleness tends to produce irresponsibility and may entice others to become idle.

Though one may tire in doing what is right, he should never tire of doing what is right. In addressing the diligent as brothers and the idle as such people (v. 12), Paul implies that those who disobeyed this word from God were separating themselves by their behavior.

Luke 21:5-19

Jesus told His disciples three things that would start to occur before the destruction of the temple, by Titus and the Roman army in a.d. 70, and one that would occur later.

1) Others would claim to be Messiah (v. 8). He does not want us to be deceived.

2) Wars and insurrections will occur (vv. 9-10), but we are not to be afraid.

3) Third, Jesus added that earthquakes, famines, and pestilences will become more frequent (v. 11), all which will precede the return of the Lord to the earth.

Additionally, Jesus taught that persecution of believers (imprisonment, betrayal, and hatred) would be common, and there would be opposition and rejection by others because of our faith (vv.12-17).

While we cannot control what happens, we can be assured that God’s faithfulness will be with us: “But not a hair of your head will perish” (v.18)

The Kingdom at Handsimon_ushakov_last_supper_1685

We sometimes catch ourselves saying, “This is just a little bit of heaven on earth.” We seldom stop to ask ourselves what has created this glimpse of heaven. As Christians, we enter God’s Kingdom – and it enters us – through the gift of Jesus Christ and His Body and Blood. We then take the kingdom of God in us to the world.

Paul’s urging to the Thessalonians is a reminder of the importance of our work. Through our effort, the invisible glory of God becomes visible and knowable. In this light, our work becomes more than making a living – it reveals the life to come and the kingdom of God breaking onto the earth now, through God’s people.

Prayer for Twenty-sixth Sunday After Pentecost – Blessed Lord, through Your Word, reveal to me eternal life, and through me, let Your unending life become visible; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

25th Sunday After Pentecost, November 6, 2016

Twenty-fifth Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Job 19:23-27a, Psalm 17:1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38

Job 19:23-27a

girl-517555_640How does one resolve the question: Why do bad things happen to innocent people? It’s a frequent question that is spoken in times of catastrophe. When life doesn’t make sense, the only question that seems appropriate is “Why”?

Job seems to return to the strange logic of faith, choosing to turn away from the God of the present (who seems to be so absent) to trust in the God of the future. He believes that his Redeemer – when this life is over – will vindicate his innocence.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

How does one live fruitfully when everything around them seems to produce hardship? Paul the Apostle had taught the Thessalonians about the return of Christ. These believers had also been instructed about the “Day of the Lord,” a common phrase in both the Old and New Testaments identifying a span of time during which God would personally intervene in history to accomplish a specific aspect of His plan. Many tried to interpret their own personal situation as the “Day of the Lord,” which they tried to connect with the return of Christ.

Paul admonishes them to do three things: 1) – Stand firm (don’t be swept away with speculative assumptions), 2) – Hold on to the teachings he had given them (Holy Scripture is always a true compass), and … 3) – To remember that the Lord “who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, [would] encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (vv. 16-17).

Luke 20:27-38

The Sadducees were an aristocratic religious group. Their question on resurrection was not so much as to elicit information (the Sadducees had already determined there was no such thing as the resurrection), as it was to make Jesus look foolish. Pointing as an illustration from the Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), the Sadducees want to know: Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?

Jesus contrasts this present Age with the Age to come, reminding us there will be no marriage in the resurrection and that – like angels – we too will be clothed with immortality. Second, Jesus turns to Moses as an example to support the resurrection, reminding the Sadducees that God is God of the patriarchs (Exodus 3:6. If God is God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob … then He is the God of the living, not the dead.

The Weave of Life

Tapestries tell a story. Thread by thread, beautiful scenes are depicted with stunning detail. But look at the backside of a tapestry and it’s a different story. Threads run every which way with no seeming pattern or congruity of color.

Today’s readings remind us that much of life is similar to looking at the backside of a tapestry. A tangle of unanswered questions and injustices can leave us in knots. Faith enables us to see the Weaver working on the other side of eternity, creating detailed beauty. On the day of resurrection, we step around the loom and see clearly the intricate details of life exquisitely woven together in a scene that reveals the glory of God.

Prayer for Twenty-fifth Sunday After Pentecost – Gracious God, as you make me an heir of eternal life, help me to see You working to reveal Your glory in my life; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C