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Lectionary Notes for Epiphany Sunday, Year ABC

Readings for Epiphany Sunday, 1/2/11:

Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

Isaiah 60:1-6:
On Epiphany Sunday, we use many light/dark images which correspond to good/bad, and sometimes, unfortunately, white/black. Make sure to double check your language for overtones that may be perceived as racist or convey a message that you don't intend!"Lift up your eyes and look around." Sometimes things that we need/want/pray for/hope for are right in front of us, we just fail to see them because we are not looking. During seminary, I had the chance to travel to Ghana, West Africa, and walk across high-suspended canopy bridges in Kakum National Park. I had to remind myself to stop, breathe, and look around at the rainforest that I was crossing high above!This passage is addressed to Israel, as the people have been permitted by the Persian King Darius to return to the Holy City Jerusalem. This is a homecoming story, an image of a big party thrown for Isra…

Lectionary Notes for Christmas Day, Year ABC

Readings for Christmas Sunday, 12/25/10:
Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12), John 1:1-14
Isaiah 52:7-10:
"beautiful feet" - I've known this verse, though not where to find it in the Bible, since I was in a summer-camp production of "Sandi Patti and the Friendship Company" in junior high, where "Beautiful Feet" was one of the songs. Lyrics here. Beautiful feet - what a great image! Are your feet beautiful? What message do your feet carry from place to place? Do you bring peace with your feet? Salvation?Isaiah speaks of the joy of Israel returning back home after exile to Babylon. When have you experienced your most joyful homecoming? When have you been away from home and not wanted to be away from home? Homesick? Without a home?According to Chris Haslam, the reference to "God's arm" is a reference to God's power. Sort of envisioning a God-flexing-muscles picture.Psalm 98:
Oof - watch out - there's "God's arm"…

Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Advent, " Redefining Christmas: Recreate"

Sermon 12/19/10, Matthew 1:18-25
Redefining Christmas: Recreate
            Sometimes when we get what we want, we don’t know what to do with it after all. Sometimes Advent can seem like a long time, when you’re at the beginning of it, reading those strange world-catastrophe texts a few days after Thanksgiving. But then, what seems like just a few hours later really, we’re at the fourth Sunday of Advent, and in our text today from Matthew Jesus is born, and maybe we wonder a little: now what do we do with this? I know for me, at least, I found it a little easier to preach about those other strange texts, less familiar texts, than I find it to preach about a text so much more familiar and seemingly simple. Let's look at our passage. The text we read from Matthew is notable because here, it is really Joseph's story, not Jesus' or Mary's. Poor Mary, the mother of the Christ Child, hardly gets a mention from Matthew. This passage is about how Joseph handled everything that w…

Sermon for Third Sunday of Advent, "Reveal"

Sermon 12/12/10 Matthew 11:2-11
Redefining Christmas: Reveal

            Have you ever had your expectations completely shattered? Have you ever been totally off base in your expectations about something? Well, I guess I can answer that for you. Of course you have. We all have, I’m sure, in our many experiences had a time when what we expected, and what we got, were two completely different things. A trivial example: In seminary I took my United Methodist history, doctrine, and polity classes online. My seminary was big into embracing technology, and taking the class online was convenient. (I have to also tell you it involved a lot more work than some of my traditional classes!) Anyway, the professor was a professor who was based right on Drew’s campus. I’d just never seen him before. He worked mostly with Doctor of Ministry students, and I was a Master of Divinity student. His office wasn’t in the main seminary building. And I’d just never seen him before. So as I was taking this online…

Sermon for Second Sunday of Advent, "Redefining Christmas: Repent"

Sermon 12/5/10 Matthew 3:1-12, Romans 15:4-13

Redefining Christmas: Repent

            As you might know, a small group of us are currently enjoying a Bible study called, “Christmas from the Backside,” written by J. Ellsworth Kalas. Kalas takes different themes: Christmas, Easter, Parables, Old Testament Stories, etc., and tries to help the reader look at them from new points of view. His first chapter in our study was called, “The Scandal of Christmas.” Kalas says that although the idea of the tiny baby in the manger is a lovely idea, Christmas really begins with a scandal that we don’t like to own up to. Christmas only happens, we only needed, and need Christmas, he says, because of the scandal, and the scandal is that we’re sinners. He argues that we try to think of sin as things that other people do – sin as drugs or crime or adultery or addictions – things that other people do, but in reality sin is being disobeying God. When we disobey God, we sin. We might try to give it a softer …

Sermon for First Sunday of Advent, Year A, "Redefining Christmas: Reawaken"

Sermon 11/28/10 Matthew 24:36-44, Romans 13:11-14

Redefining Christmas: Reawaken

            It doesn’t take long to learn about me that I am *not* a morning person. My family have always been night owls, through and through. So you might be surprised to learn that I was up quite early the day after Thanksgiving. No, I wasn’t off to the Black Friday sales, even though I told you I used to love doing just that. No, I was getting snow tires on my car, and the folks there had recommended coming early if I didn’t want to wait for hours. Apparently auto repair is also a popular day-after-Thanksgiving activity. I decided to bring my laptop with me to the tire place, so I could at least get some work done on my sermon while I was there. I noticed with comfort that I wasn’t the only person who appeared to be half-asleep and yawning in the little waiting room. And I couldn’t help but notice the repeating theme in our texts for today as I sat there: Keep awake, keep awake, keep awake. In our short…

Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve, Year C

Sermon 11/24/10 Thanksgiving Eve John 6:25-35
            Are any of you fans of Black Friday shopping? Will any of you be standing in line at 4am, waiting for stores to open to catch some deals? I don’t mind confessing that I actually really enjoy buying gifts for people. I like doing my Christmas shopping. Now, maybe I don’t love crowds and parking lots that are full and people that become rude and angry in the name of spreading Christmas cheer. But I like getting gifts that I know my friends and family will love. And I’ll admit, that when I was younger, before I became a total night owl, when I actually still got up pretty early on a regular basis, one of my dear friends and I used to hit the Black Friday sales every year. We’d go out for an extremely early breakfast, and then hit our favorite stores. And we had a great time doing it.             These days, though, I’m sure I won’t even make it out of my house before the special sales are over on Friday! But I still enjoy checking ou…

Sermon for Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday, "Beginning and Ending," Year C

Sermon 11/21/10 Luke 23:33-43
Beginning and Ending

I’ve almost always been a lectionary preacher – that is, I’ve usually chosen to preach from the texts assigned to a given Sunday as part of what is called the Revised Common Lectionary – four texts – a history text, a psalm or poetry text, an epistle lesson, a gospel lesson. These texts are used by many Christian church, so if you visited a Lutheran church or Episcopal or Catholic church today, you might well hear the same texts as we’ve read today. But it isn’t required – many pastors choose their own texts to use for preaching each week. I’m my years of ministry I’ve done this only very rarely. There are good arguments for either strategy, but for me, I feel like choosing my own texts is telling God what I’m going to say, and using the lectionary helps me be open to God speaking to me. Beyond that, I feel like the lectionary provides an ebb and flow, brings us so carefully and thoughtfully through the seasons of the church year. Today …

Sermon for 25th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28, Ordinary 33, Year C)

Sermon 11/14/10 Isaiah 65:17-25, Luke 21:5-19
            Since just after Pentecost, last June, we’ve been in the season of the liturgical calendar, the church calendar, called “Ordinary Time.” I think I’ve told you before that ordinary time isn’t meant to specify what it might seem like – that this is the time of the church calendar that is without special religious holidays, like Advent and Lent, and therefore is plain, ordinary; rather, it is called ordinary time because each Sunday is numbered, and those numbers are ordinals – this is, in fact, the twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost. By now, twenty-five Sundays after we celebrated Pentecost, and the confirmation of several of our young people, perhaps we are all ready to move on – to Thanksgiving and Reign of Christ Sunday next week, and then onto Advent and Christmas. And our last several Sundays have been full and busy too – after a speedy September, we celebrated World Communion Sunday, a Stewardship Campaign, and then All Sain…

Sermon for All Saints Sunday, "Blessed"

Sermon 11/7/10 Luke 6:20-31
Blessed

            Today is a sacred day in the life of our church. This has been a hard year of losses in the congregation. It seems like we named nearly a whole generation of women and men who shaped this place. It’s a day to remember, to reflect, to cherish, to celebrate the lives of our loved ones. This is an act of a congregation – it is a community celebration, one that affects us whether we individually have a person to name today or not. That’s because loss – your personal loss – is also a loss to the whole, a loss to all of us, whether we knew the person named today or not. Those we hold as Saints individually shape us collectively. That’s what it means to be part of the Body of Christ. That’s what we mean by a Communion of Saints. We all take a share in the loss, and in the blessings of the lives we celebrate.             Our gospel lesson today is Luke’s rendering of the Beatitudes – the Blessings. They also appear in Matthew’s gospel, and though e…