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Lectionary Notes for First Sunday after Christmas Day, Year C

Readings for 1st Sunday after Christmas Day, 12/30/12: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26, Psalm 148, Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 2:41-52

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26:
V. 26, “Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature…” Compare this to the description of John the Baptist in Luke 1:80 – “The child grew and became strong in spirit…” and of Jesus in Luke 2:52 – “Jesus increased in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favor.” These statements seem to indicate a child marked by God, for some special/divine purpose.V. 18-20 – Samuel’s mother, Hannah, played such an important role in her son’s life. Remember that it was her prayers during a time of barrenness that brought to her the gift of Samuel, and she promised to give Samuel as a servant to God if she was able to bear a son. Her faithfulness continues to God indirectly through service to her son. In other words, how we care for others links to how we care about God, and is ‘credited’ to us as service to God.
Psalm 148:
Praise, praise, praise! That’…

Sermon for Christmas Eve, "What Brings You Here?" Luke 2:1-20

Sermon 12/24/12 Luke 2:1-20
What Brings You Here?

            In our church newsletter this December, I shared with folks the results of a study done by one of my colleagues, about why people come to church services on Christmas Eve. The number one reason: Family — People responded, “this is what my family does and I want to be with family. That was 30%. Then came music – “I love the Christmas music and want to sing the familiar and favorite songs.” (22%) Then came Experience – “I love the songs, the candles, the story, the feeling.” (16%) Next was Focus – “Christmas has gotten so crazy; I like the clear focus on the reason for the season.” (12%) Next, Habit: “We do this every year.” (11%) And then, at number 6, faith. “This is the most special and important event in my faith; I wait all year for this.” (5%) Why are you making this Advent Journey? Why will you show up on Christmas Eve? Habit? Family? Music? Faith? To see the child in the manger? Where do you fall in those categories? Wh…

Lectionary Notes for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C

Readings for Fourth Sunday of Advent, 12/23/12: Micah 5:2-5a, Luke 1:46b-55, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-45
Micah 5:2-5a: “But you, O Bethlehem,” – Bethlehem is described as a little town (like the hymn!), making it special that a ruler would come from such a small place.Image of a woman in labor – this is a common Advent image, for obvious reasons of the expectation of the Christ-child, but also for other reasons. Pregnancy is indeed a time of expectation, but there is a sense of inevitability too. It’s not like expecting the unknown, wondering about an unsure future. Unless something goes tragically wrong, the result is a new child. Images of birth pangsare also common in biblical metaphors (like when Jesus speaks of signs of the times) to describe a time of distress/pain/confusion. But again, despite this pain, a new life follows.“And they shall live secure” – What does that mean? Today ‘security’ is a word we think about a great deal. There’s the financial security that we all seek th…

Sermon for Third Sunday of Advent, "Journey - What Brings You Here?: Elizabeth"

Sermon 12/16/12 Luke 1, selected verses
Journey – What Brings You Here?: Elizabeth

            Why? Why? That’s the question that I’ve heard and read and seen since Friday’s unfolding events, the tragic taking of lives in Connecticut this week, lives of children so young it makes our heads spin with confusion at the total senselessness, the total out-of-order-ness of it all. All anyone has to do is picture the child in their life closest to this age – your own child or grandchild, your niece or nephew or neighbor or godchild – experiencing a moment of the fear that these children in Connecticut did – to have your head swimming, your eyes filling, your mind asking: Why? Why has this happened? How can we make sense of something so awful? I spent a lot of time yesterday reading people’s reactions to the tragedy online – in news articles, facebook posts, blog entries – some of the forums that people are using to try to make sense of something awful. I came across this prayer from Walter Brue…

Lectionary Notes for Third Sunday of Advent, Year C

Readings for Third Sunday of Advent, 12/16/12 Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
Zephaniah 3:14-20: V. 15 - “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you.” Imagine being given a clean slate, and having all our mistakes wiped out! Think about presidential pardons given, and how controversial they are, either applauded or bemoaned, depending on circumstances. How much do we have to pay for our mistakes? Are their sins that God should not take away judgment for?V. 19 - “I will change their shame into praise.” Shame often seems a feeling/emotion that we have whether or not we also have guilt for a situation. For example, someone who has been abused may feel shame despite not being responsible for being abused.
Isaiah 12:2-6: I can’t read these verses without thinking of anthem my home church sang on this text, “The First Song of Isaiah,” by Jack Noble White. It’s really gorgeous.Here is a passage where the understanding of ‘salvation’ in its most basic sense …

Sermon for Second Sunday of Advent, "Journey - What Brings You Here?: Joseph," Matthew 1:18-25

Sermon 12/9/12 Matthew 1:18-25
Journey – What Brings You Here?: Joseph

            Are you the kind of person who can remember your dreams? Some people seem to be able to recall them easily, and some people never remember their dreams. I usually fall into that latter category, not remembering anything other than blurry images from my dreams. Do you wonder what our dreams mean, if anything? Are they just leftover thoughts from our day, thoughts our full and busy minds could no longer hold? Some dreams seem pretty straightforward in meaning. When I first became a pastor, I prepared my sermons much earlier in the week than I do now. This wasn’t because I was so much more diligent or because I was so much less a procrastinator. No, this was because like clockwork, I would have nightmares about forgetting to write a sermon and being caught unprepared on Sunday morning, unless, in real life, I had already finished my work early in the week. Pretty easy to figure out what those dreams meant! Ot…

Lectionary Notes for Second Sunday of Advent, Year C

Readings for Second Sunday of Advent, 12/9/12: Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 1:68-79, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6
Malachi 3:1-4: Malachi is called a ‘minor prophet’ – which just means shorter book, not lesser words. Malachi uses a Q & A styles, supplying our question, his/God’s response. This section is titled “The coming messenger.” We often of course interpret this as meaning Christ. His hearers probably interpreted it in some more immediate and less immediate ways. Refiner’s Fire and Fuller’s Soap – Tools of purification, that God will use with us, as Malachi said he would to those he addressed. A perfecting process. Wesley talked about Christian perfection. In Christ we are made perfect. Luke 1:68-79: Instead of the usual Psalm, we have this ‘prophecy’ spoken by Zechariah at the event of John’s circumcision, when his mouth is opened, after his silence for doubting God’s promise of a child. In it, he states his son’s purpose: “to be prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to…

Lectionary Notes for First Sunday of Advent, Year C

Readings for First Sunday of Advent, 12/2/12:
Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

Jeremiah 33:14-16:
"surely" - check out the Advents texts this cycle. The world 'surely' appears almost every week. Maybe that's nothing, but I like it - it's a word of promise, a word of sure fulfillment. Definite."Fulfill the promise." What promises have you made? Broken? Kept? Which have other made/broken/kept with you? What promise is Jeremiah referencing here? Do you believe God fulfills promises made to you? The world? How?"execute justice" - I like this phrase, because it has such a different meaning than the meaning 'execute' usually has in our system of justice today. Today, when we execute, we mean we take life for life out of revenge. But God means bringing real justice to those who have been oppressed. That's execution in justice that I can support and work for.A name: "The Lord is our righteousnes…

Sermon for Christ the King/Reign of Christ Year B, John 18:33-37

Sermon 11/25/12 John 18:33-37
In Between: Christ, the King
            How many of you know what Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday is? If, by chance, you do know what it is, is it anybody’s favorite Sunday on the church calendar? I didn’t think so! Often, Christ the King Sunday gets a bit neglected, because most years, it falls on Thanksgiving Sunday, which isn’t technically even part of the liturgical calendar, but usually takes precedence for Christians in the United States. If we have to choose between Thanksgiving as a focus in worship and Christ, the King, we usually choose Thanksgiving! I’m not complaining – we don’t do enough of thanks-giving. But I am glad for these occasional years where the calendar falls just so and there is a Sunday left between Thanksgiving and the start of Advent, and Christ the King can stands on its own. It is the last Sunday of the year, in terms of the church calendar, and next Sunday we begin anew, with a new church year on the First Sunday of …

Lectionary Notes for Reign of Christ/Christ the King, Year B

Readings for Christ the King/Reign of Christ, 11/25/12:
2 Samuel 23:1-7, Psalm 132:1-12,  Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37

2 Samuel 23:1-7:
"the last words of David." Handily, David's last words are eloquent and of faith. What do you hope your last words will be? We never can be sure which will be our last. My grandfather's last words were "I love you," and my family all carries the comfort of those words wit us.In verse 3, David talks about a just ruler. Do you think he sees himself that way, or do you think he wishes he could have been more like the description he gives?Unfortunately, the last of his last words are about his enemies being consumed "in fire on the spot." I hope I'm not worrying about enemies on my deathbed. But I guess David was worried about the future of the nation he had rules as a whole.Psalm 132:1-12:
This Psalm ties into the Old Testament lesson, a sort of eulogy or prayer for David's soul, perhaps right at the time of …

Sermon for Thanksgiving Sunday, "Enough: Defined by Generosity," 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Sermon 11/18/12 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Enough: Defined by Generosity
(The structure/content of this sermon is shaped by the book Enough (Stewardship Guide), by Adam Hamilton, and adapted for use in the context of Liverpool First UMC)
            A couple of weeks ago we celebrated All Saints Sunday, and I asked you to share the names of the saints in your life. I was deeply touched by all the names that you brought forward, by this great cloud of witnesses that you lifted up. How truly blessed we are to be so shaped by the people that God has put into our lives for different seasons. I have two saints in my life that I particularly carry in my heart with me. First is my Grandpa, Millard Mudge. Grandpa died fourteen years ago, which seems impossible, so vivid is his memory in my mind. And you’ll hear about him a lot over time, I suspect. But today I particularly want to share with you a bit about my Great Aunt Clara. She died in January after a struggle with lung cancer that caught us all off g…