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Lectionary Notes for Epiphany Sunday, Year ABC

Readings for Epiphany Sunday, 1/1/12:
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…

Aunt Clara

My great Aunt Clara died yesterday, after a year long battle with lung cancer. The cancer was already pretty advanced when she was diagnosed, and she has been on a slow but steady decline all year. In the last few weeks, she became more confused, way too thin, and increasingly physically uncomfortable. After a week in the hospital, she died early Friday morning. 


My aunt was the youngest of my grandmother's siblings - nine years younger than grandma, actually, who is herself a tough cookie, so we were all surprised, I think, to lose Aunt Clara at 77. 


What can I say about Aunt Clara? She had some real ups and downs in her life, and whether she was living in a tiny apartment, or what I considered as a child as practically a mansion, she was always generous. You could not leave her home without her trying to give you something - cookies, clothes she actually loved, food, trinkets, whatever. Anything and definitely something. 


One year for my birthday, maybe, Aunt Clara asked what I wan…

Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Advent: Sing We Now of Christmas: Mary’s Song

Sermon 12/11 Luke 1:26-55
Sing We Now of Christmas: Mary’s Song

Today our scripture brings us three vignettes, woven together. First, Mary is visited by God's messenger Gabriel, who tells her that she is favored, and that she will give birth to a son, a child conceived by the Holy Spirit, who is the Son of the Most High. He tells her nothing is impossible with God. Mary has a couple of questions, naturally, but ends by saying, ʺI am God's servant – let it be with me as you have said.ʺ Next, we see Mary travel to visit her cousin Elizabeth, an older woman who is also pregnant. Elizabeth is pregnant with John, who we know as John the Baptist. Mary visits her, and when Elizabeth sees her, John in her womb seems to leap for joy, and Elizabeth calls Mary and the child she carries blessed. And, she concludes, blessed is she who believes that there will be a fulfillment of God's promises. Finally, we find Mary’s song, what we call the Magnificat, a joyful response at what God has c…

Sermon for Second Sunday of Advent: Sing We Now of Christmas: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Sermon 12/4/11 Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8

SingWe Now of Christmas: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is one of the oldest hymns you’ll find in our hymnal. The melody itself is a bit younger – written in the 15th century – but the words are much older – dating back at least to the 9th century, written in Latin. These verses are all based on prophecies from Isaiah, and you might recognize the verses as corresponding to some of the passages from Isaiah we usually read during advent. Actually, the original form of the lyrics is not the hymn itself, but is found in your hymnal on the right side of page 211, where you see what are known as the “O Antiphons.” Antiphons are a spoken response that would alternate between verses of a chant or hymn. And these antiphons, in Latin, make up a kind of word game – a backwards acrostic. See, each antiphon is a title for the Messiah – Emmanuel, Wisdom, Adonai, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dayspring, King of the Gentiles. And if you take the…

Sermon for First Sunday of Advent, Year B: Sing We Now of Christmas: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Sermon 11/27/11 Mark 13:24-37

Sing We Now of Christmas: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart. Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King, Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.             This famous Advent hymn was written in 1744 by, Charles Wesley, a prolific writer of hymns, many of which are still in our hymnals today, and younger brother of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement. Charles knew that most people might not learn and memorize complicated theological doctrines, but they would indeed learn the words to songs, just as we do today. So he laced his hymns with the theology, …

Sermon for Reign of Christ, Year A: Fed with Justice

Sermon 11/20/11 Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

            This time of year always brings us an interesting conjunction of church events: today we celebrate Thanksgiving Sunday – it isn’t really a liturgical holiday – Thanksgiving isn’t on the church calendar exactly. But it certainly makes sense that we focus on Thanksgiving in worship – being thankful for all we have is hardly something we do enough of! It is also the last Sunday of the liturgical year today. As the church calendar goes, next Sunday is our New Year's Day. Today is then sort of a liturgical New Year's Eve as far as Sundays go. And on the church calendar, today is Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. It is a day when we consider how Jesus is King, how Jesus is ruler of our lives. How is Jesus king? It’s kind of an interesting question for us to ask about Jesus, who shunned titles like king at every turn in the accounts of ministry. And yet we call him the King of Kings. There is a tension there. Not a king, and …

Non-Lectionary Sermon - Stewardship Focus: Consecration: The Steward and the Ship

Sermon 10/30/11 Genesis 9:8-15
The Steward and the Ship: Consecration

Today we wrap up our journey with Noah. We watched Noah build the ark, just as God commanded, then survive the flood, then leave the ark and give thanks to God. Today is God's response, you might say. Noah's response is to give thanks, and God's response is to make a covenant with Noah – a promise – and to share a beautiful symbol of that promise. God sets in the sky a rainbow – the very symbol that our baptismal liturgy referred to today. And God promises to Noah and his offspring never again to destroy creation. Of course, we know the conditions that make for a rainbow: they appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. That’s the science of it. But the heart of it is that rainbows often appear after storms, perfect timing for a reminder of God's promise to us. The promise, and the symbol to remind us of the promise. The scriptures are full of God'…

Non-Lectionary Sermon - Stewardship Focus: Inspiration: The Steward and the Ship

Sermon 10/16/11 Genesis 6-7, selected verses
Inspiration: The Steward and the Ship

            Today we switch gears from our focus on God-values, to focusing on stewardship, and how God calls us to car for all that we have been given. Or, I guess we could say, we begin to focus in depth on stewardship as one more God-values. This Sunday is Inspiration Sunday – next week is Gratitude Sunday, and finally, on the 30th, we will celebrate Consecration Sunday, as we offer our pledges to God for the year ahead. And this year our theme for our stewardship focus is The Steward and the Ship, (get it? Steward/Ship) which will focus on the story of Noah's ark. But we will come back to Noah in a few moments. As I said, today is Inspiration Sunday. Do you know what inspiration means? If you break down the word, it literally means to breathe in. Of course that root, spir- - is what gives us the word Spirit. Inspiration, then, is what breathes life into us. And as people of faith, it is the Holy …

Non-lectionary Sermon - Stewardship Focus: Gratitude: The Steward and the Ship

Sermon 10/23/11 Genesis 8:6-22
Gratitude: The Steward and the Ship

This Sunday is Gratitude Sunday in our Stewardship focus. And we will continue with Noah and his story to look at exactly what gratitude means. So today we pick up with Noah where we left off last week. He and his family had built and boarded the ark and taken with them sets of seven of some animals, pairs of others. The floods came, and it rained for forty days and nights. Maybe that in itself doesn’t seem so bad until we realize from the passage that Jerry read today that they actually had to stay on the ark for ten month while the flood waters abated from the earth. Noah keeps sending out a dove to check for dry ground until it finally returns with an olive branch, a symbol of peace. And finally, he and his family and these animals can leave the ark. The first thing Noah does when he gets off the ark is build an altar and make sacrifices – gifts of animals – to God. Noah makes an offering. And the scent, we read, is p…

Sermon for Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost - God Values: Joy

Sermon 10/9/11 Philippians 4:1-9
God Values: Joy

            This week we conclude our series on God Values – we took a pause last week for World Communion, so I hope you can remember what we talked about – forgiveness, fairness, or maybe unfairness, and authority. When I planned this series, I had a number of different ideas about today's theme. At one point, I planned to focus on the gospel lesson and the feast images in the scriptures. Then, I decided I wanted us to give some attention to Philippians – we have been hearing, but not focusing on these passages. This passage has been one of my favorites since childhood, especially this verse: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.             I guess, as a young person it caught my attention because of the word excellent. I grew up when th…