Category Archives: Year B

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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23rd Sunday After Pentecost, November 1, 2015

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34

Ruth 1:1-18

When a person marries, it is a common understanding that you do not just marry your bride or groom: You marry their family as well. When we take God for our Father, we take His people for our people; even though they may be poor and despised.

Ruth understands: To forsake the family of God and return to the “people of Moab” will ultimately sever communion with God.

Hebrews 9:11-14

Under the old covenant, a provision to remove external pollution (all that defiled a person) was available through animal sacrifices and other familiar rituals (9:6-10). However, under the new covenant, Jesus freely surrendered His life to God as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Unlike the old covenant that offered temporary relief, Jesus’ sacrifice not only cleanses us from all sin, His perfect work purifies our conscience from guilt, which inspires holy living.

Mark 12:28-34sadducees

The Sadducees did not believe in the “afterlife” (12:18-23). However, attempting to catch Jesus off guard, they ask a hypothetical question regarding life after death. Jesus points out that their root problem is ignorance of Scripture and of God’s power (12:24-27). Stumped by Jesus’ response, a scribe then asks Jesus: What laws are the most important ones to keep.

Jesus brilliantly and precisely cuts through all of the confusion surrounding the magnitude of details associated with “law-keeping.” He condenses it to two things: Love God and love others.

 

Live So Others May Learn

Some say, we tend to model what we observe. Children notice the behavior of adults and – over time – reflect similar conduct. Today’s Scriptures reveal adults also learn through observation.

Naomi’s example compels Ruth to embrace a different way of living. For Ruth, the norm of a patriarchal society requires a widow – upon the death of her husband – to rely upon the mercy of her husband’s family. However, Ruth’s observation of her mother-in-law’s love (and the God she loved), constrains her to abandon her known security. Because of her courageous decision, Ruth finds her place among God’s people and the lineage of Christ.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that we are to love God and love others. Do we live in a way that others are intrigued and compelled to know our God? Like Naomi, our love of God becomes an irresistible influence for others to find their place among God’s people.

Prayer for Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – Merciful God, gift to me Your Holy Spirit; empower me to live a life pleasing to You and a beacon to others; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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22nd Sunday After Pentecost, October 25, 2015

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22); Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Job’s suffering does not contribute any new awareness of God. It does, however, bring Job to a foolish position of challenging God’s actions. God’s self-revelation deepens Job’s relationship with him. Job’s suffering, and folly of challenging God, becomes the context into which God brings revelation that opens Job to encounter a deeper and more personal experience with God. With this new insight, Job humbly repents, not because of a sin committed before his suffering, but due to his critical and judgmental attitude toward God.

After the Lord evaluates Job and his friends, Job is restored and his righteous behavior is confirmed. The view of Job’s friends—that suffering is always a result of sin—is proven wrong by God’s words. Job is not condemned because he had spoken rightly, however he fully recovers from his affliction and lives out his life in good health.

Hebrews 7:23-28

Aaron’s line of priesthood required many members because death prevented them from continuing in office. Although Jesus died, his priesthood continues because his resurrection allows him to live forever. As our High Priest, Jesus knows and helps his people for eternity. Jesus is the perfect accomplishment of all God requires: He is blameless and pure, set apart from sinners, and is exalted above the heavens.

Aaron’s priesthood sacrificed an animal as a substitute for sin. Jesus offered himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:10).

Mark 10:46-52

Mark’s section on discipleship concludes as it begins; with the healing of a blind man (10:46–52; compare 8:22–26). Bartimaeus models true discipleship. His plea for help, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (10:47–48), is the cry of a dependent, childlike spirit (see 10:15). He asks Jesus not for a “glory seat” (see 10:37) but to see, which all disciples need perceptive eyes (see 4:12). Throwing aside his cloak, Bartimaeus demonstrates his readiness for mission (see 6:9). Following Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, he accepts the way of his suffering Lord. Finally, Jesus has a disciple who could see.

Open Your EyesJesus-healing-Bartimaeus-cropped

As we journey through Ordinary Time, it’s easy to become blinded by the dust, the sweat, and the heat of the day. Our eyes strain to see the destination on the horizon. Our sight grows dim and our souls can despair.

Hope can be found in today’s reading from Mark. Bartimaeus doesn’t let his blindness or the voices of the naysayers keep him from calling out to Jesus. And Jesus doesn’t let Bartimaeus’ affliction keep Him from answering this man’s call. He not only answers, He restores his sight; calling him to renewed action in the simple word, “Go.”

In seasons when our sight grows dim, Jesus is waiting to restore our vision. In the presence of Jesus, we see clearly again. We hear His voice answering our prayer and sending us back on our way with the word, “Go.”

Prayer for Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost – Gracious God, renew in me your gifts of faith and hope, that I may love Your commands and see clearly Your purpose; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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21st Sunday After Pentecost, October 18, 2015

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Job 38:1-7, (34-41); Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

“Where were you when I made the earth?” God declared that Job had spoken “ignorant words.” He then began a series of rhetorical questions to show Job how little he knew about the world. For one thing, Job knew little about the creation of the world since he had not been there at the time (vss. 4–7).

Job did not know what caused light and darkness (vss.19–20), or what the dimensions of the earth were (38:18), or what caused various weather patterns (38:22–30). He did not comprehend the complexities of astronomy (vss. 31-38). Job’s response to all of this should have been to acknowledge God’s dominion over all (38:33). Though Job did not understand the causes behind these natural phenomena, God spoke to him as one well acquainted with the basic facts of creation and laws of nature.

Hebrews 5:1-10

God called Christ to serve as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Just as God appointed Aaron as a high priest to represent people before God, Jesus – as our great High Priest – represents us in God’s very presence.

Because Aaron was surrounded with weakness, he was able to have compassion on other weak, sinful people. Christ also faced hardship, and learned the value of obedience by His commitment to God’s will.

Sons_of_ZebedeeMark 10:35-45

An argument has arisen about greatness. James and John want the best seats in the kingdom (v. 37). They see leadership in terms of status and privilege. However, they fail to understand that in the coming days the only throne Jesus is to mount is a wooden one, and the only crown he will receive will be of thorns. The only ones who will be at his right and left will be crucified thieves.

Despite their lack of perception (and ours), Jesus teaches them (and us) that in his Kingdom, greatness is about service and humility. He reminds us that the baptism we are offered is to be buried and to be raised with Christ. The cup Jesus offers is one of suffering.

Follow the Leader

“Pick me! Pick me!” This is a common cry heard on playgrounds everywhere. We want to be first. We want to be noticed. We want to be important. We want to be the leader. We want to be included.

To be a leader in God’s kingdom requires a different cry – one that seldom occurs without suffering and sorrow. Prepare me. Lead me. Preserve me. Strengthen me. Help me.

Like James and John, our voices are sometimes too common with those on the playground. As our High Priest, well acquainted with our human weaknesses, Jesus listens with compassion. He is ever-present as trials and sorrows serve to mature our voice until it echoes His own… “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done…”

Prayer for Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost – Holy God, pour out Your mercy on me so that I may persevere in good works and deeds; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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20th Sunday After Pentecost, October 11, 2015

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

“Oh, that I knew where I might find him.” The heart-felt cry of Job comes forth as a longing to be vindicated. If only Job could gain access to God, he will be justified! Job knows that God will not be violent with him, but will listen to his assertion of innocence (6) and acquit him (7). But where is God? Why is He inaccessible?

Although Job longs to meet God, he is desperately aware of God’s absence. However, Job also knows that if he cannot find God, God can find him; “he knows the way that I take” (10). Job is confident that if God chooses to put him to the test, he will come forth as gold, declared innocent (10–11). But God is not acting fairly or legally; he does whatever he pleases (13), and that is only for Job’s suffering. Job is fighting in the dark against an unassailable and an inaccessible opponent. However, Job will go on fighting (17).

Hebrews 4:12-16

The author of Hebrews reminds us that God’s word is trustworthy and full of living power. God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword, able to cut into our deepest thoughts; exposing us for who we really are.

Returning to the theme of Christ as our High Priest, the writer speaks at some length of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood (4:14–10:18). Because Jesus endured all the temptations we endure, he is fully dependable. We can rely on him to supply every grace we need (see 2:17–18).

Mark 10:17-31Hoffman-ChristAndTheRichYoungRuler

How is it possible to be so close and yet so far away? The rich young ruler asks Jesus how he can earn salvation. Jesus tells him; however, the possessions of this good man kept him from responding (10:17–22). This sad incident is an object lesson for his disciples – and us: Wealth can keep us from seeing our need for God (10:23–27). Both present blessings and eternal life belong to those who forsake all to follow Christ (10:28–31).

Tyranny of the Dailyness

It is not a coincidence, that Ordinary Time is the longest season of the Church year. True character is seldom revealed in times of celebration. The essence of who we are and what we believe comes through as we struggle with the “tyranny of the dailyness.”

As we battle fatigue from set backs, disappointments, and challenges, we find ourselves commiserating with Job, searching for glimpses of God; wondering where He is. In times of complacency, we catch ourselves identifying with the rich young ruler, hesitant to give up comfort and security in order to follow God.

In the ordinary times of life, God’s Word reveals the truth about our character. More importantly, it shows us our continual need for a Savior who has experienced the “tyranny of the dailyness” and has overcome it through His death and resurrection.

Prayer for Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – Merciful God, make me aware of Your grace that surrounds and guides me, empowering Your good works within me; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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