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Lectionary Notes for First Sunday after Christmas Day, Year B

Readings for First Sunday after Christmas Day, 12/28/14:
Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Psalm 148, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:22-40

Isaiah 61:10-62:3:

"my whole being shall exult in my God." How do you exalt God with your whole being? We think of ourselves so much as in our heads, so much about our souls, relegating our bodies to just be flesh-things that contain us on earth. But Isaiah sees a whole-body worshipping of God. Do you put your whole self into worship?I don't usually feel inspired by bride-to-be imagery in the Bible, but I get what it means to convey. Have you ever been part of a wedding and the preparations of the wedding party? All decked out, in the best finery, with so much desire to please the other spouse-to-be. That's how we, God's people, are meant to feel about being ready to meet God.
Psalm 148:I like Psalms that are simple and clear in their focus: Praise God, everything and everyone. It is a reminder to me, to us, in our worship preparations, to remember wha…

Lectionary Notes for Christmas Day

Readings for Christmas Sunday, 12/25/14:
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. I looked all over for lyrics online, but couldn't find them. 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
:O…

Lectionary Notes for Christmas Eve, Year ABC

Readings for Christmas Eve/Day, 12/24/14:
Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-20

Isaiah 9:2-7:
This text is particularly meaningful in the midst of December in this part of the world, with the short days and sometimes seemingly perpetual darkness. It can be overwhelming. Our life without God's light is like a perpetual darkness. But the joy of Christmas is the coming of the light in the Christ-child.The coming of the messiah comes as one who frees from oppression and lifts the burden from the downtrodden. Christmas comes to those in desperate need - sometimes we forget that, and think of Christmas as all for us and about us who can't honestly describe ourselves as oppressed."Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." What is your name for the messiah? This year in my congregation, we are focusing on the appellation "Prince of Peace" in particular."there shall be endless peace" - what do you think Isaiah means b…

Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, "Hurry Up and Wait: Expecting," Luke 1:26-55

Sermon 12/21/14 Luke 1:26-55
Hurry Up and Wait: Expecting

            The children have already done a good job of proclaiming the good news for us today, haven’t they? I especially appreciated that refrain, “Go, Tell It on the Mountain.” That’s what we’ve been talking about – that’s what you do with good news. You share it! You tell it! You invite others to hear it and be a part of it. You live it!             But, I am a pastor, so I can’t entirely give up an opportunity to preach at least a little bit, especially in this season of Advent, especially when we’ve finally gotten to something that sounds a bit like a Christmas story. Today we got to hear all about Mary, in three segments. First, Gabriel tells her she’ll bear a son who will be Son of the Most High God. The angel calls her “favored one,” blessed one. Mary asks just one question, “how can this be?” And then she responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” Her faith always astounds …

Lectionary Notes for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B

Readings for Fourth Sunday of Advent, 12/21/14:
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16, Luke 1:47-55, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16:

David feels bad that he's living in a nice house while God travels via tent in the ark. So he offers to build God a cedar house. And God says, "who says I need a house? I've been doing just fine without one!"I think David's impulse is ours - wouldn't it be nicer if we could put God somewhere where we would always know where God was? But we get into trouble when our wanting to know where God is turns into wanting just to control God - period.What would it mean if you would just led God travel through your life, and not try to restrict God to only a part of your life?
Luke 1:47-55
:context: This is Mary's song of praise, the magificat, a response to her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who is also with child. This is a song, and can be set to music in worship, or read responsively like a Psalm.Mary speaks as one who sees God's …

Sermon for Third Sunday in Advent, "Hurry Up and Wait: Message," Luke 3:7-18

Sermon 12/14/14 Luke 3:7-18
Hurry Up and Wait: Message

            Every year around this time, we see news stories and facebook posts and tv coverage of the “War on Christmas.” There’s a story about whether or not you can say “Merry Christmas” anymore or if you must say “Happy Holidays.” People urge us to remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and warn against “taking Christ out of Christmas.” Maybe you’ve even been frustrated by the secularization of the season. I certainly get frustrated by the consumerism, the commercialism, as if spending more and more money will somehow bring us a more joyful and meaningful experience celebrating the birth of Jesus. But I wonder, as we reflect on this season, what might happen if we worried less about how others might try to “take Christ out” of Christmas, if such a thing were even possible, and wondered more about how we, how you and I can produce any evidence that we’re working to put Christ into our preparation for Christmas. We can…

A Sung Communion Liturgy for Epiphany Sunday

A Sung Communion Liturgy for Epiphany (Tune: IN DULCI JUBILO (“Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”))

Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice! Lift your hearts unto the Lord. Praise! Praise! Praise our God forevermore! Radiant star that shines so bright: Jesus Christ, the world’s light! Praise God evermore! Praise God evermore!
We’re in Your image made; to us this world You gave. Yet, we turned our hearts from You. Woe! Woe! Set against the good we knew. Still Your love remained steadfast. You beckoned us to walk your path. Jesus lights the way! Jesus lights the way!
To table we’ve been called: Come one, come now, come all! Here we share the feast of grace! Love! Love! Here, for everyone a place! He breaks the power of cancelled sin and darkness quenched, the light pours in. God-with-us revealed! God-with-us revealed!
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest! Holy, Holy, Holy Lord! Joy! Joy! Prince of Peace, Living Word! Blessed be the child who comes in God’s name, th…

Lectionary Notes for Third Sunday of Advent, Year B

Readings for Third Sunday of Advent, 12/14/14:
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Psalm 126, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11:

"The spirit of the Lord God is upon me" - make sure to read this alongside Luke 4, where Jesus reads these words in the synagogue. Jesus does not read exactly what we read here. I like Jesus' spin better ;)"bind up the brokenhearted" - I love this phrase. This whole passage is how I would prefer to describe evangelism, instead of describing it as trying to get people to "accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior." I think this passage gets at the heart of why we want to share Jesus - he's good news for those who've heard none."I the Lord love justice." Do you love justice? What does it mean to love justice for those who are oppressed?
Psalm 126:
"we were like those who dream." I like this verse - sounds like it should be from some Shakespeare play, some poetry. The psalmist talks about how s…

Sermon for Second Sunday in Advent, Year B, "Hurry Up and Wait: Messenger," Mark 1:1-8

Sermon 12/7/14 Mark 1:1-8

Hurry Up and Wait: Messenger

This week I've been thinking a lot about messages and messengers, and the kinds of messages we send and receive. We’re bombarded with messages every single day, certainly, from friends and family, from strangers we interact with each day, from the media, from TV, from advertisements everywhere. A message is simply some kind of content communicated from one party to another. And the one delivering the communication, in whatever form, is the messenger. In particular, I’ve been thinking about what kind of messages I’ve been eager to communicate to others, and what messages others have been eager to communicate to me. I still remember learning how, in eighth grade English, to write what the teacher called persuasive essays – essays where the main point was for the author, the messenger, to communicate a message that resulted in persuading the reader to share his or her point of view on any particular subject. What kinds of messages h…

Lectionary Notes for Second Sunday of Advent, Year B

Readings for Second Sunday of Advent, 12/7/14:
Isaiah 40:1-11, Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8

Isaiah 40:1-11: "Comfort, O comfort my people" - ah, what gorgeous words. This God is a God who longs to comfort us, even when we wander and stray.This text and our text from Mark both mention the wilderness, or desert. What happens in the Bible in the wilderness? Think Israelites. Think Jesus' temptation. Lots of deep spiritual transformation happens in the wilderness.Where's your wilderness? What's been a desert place in your life?"Here is your God!" That's the good news that Isaiah cries in this text: God is here, is present and real in your lives. Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 "[God] will speak peace to his people." What does speaking peace sound like? How would you speak peace to someone?"for those who fear [God]" - do you fear God? We're instructed over and over again in …

Sermon for First Sunday of Advent, Year B, "Hurry Up and Wait: Begin at the End," Mark 13:24-37

Sermon 11/30/14 Mark 13:24-37
Hurry Up and Wait: Begin at the End

            As many of you have heard, starting next month I’ll be working on a research project supported by a grant that I received from the Louisville Institute that allows pastors to dig a little deeper in whatever areas of ministry interest them. You’ll be hearing lots more about my research in the coming months, since I hope to have you all be one of my churches that participates in my research, but I can tell you that it’s an expansion of the work that I already did in my Doctor of Ministry project. I’ll be continuing to look at how congregations do outreach work, and how I can help congregations become more deeply invested in outreach ministries.             When I was working on my Doctor of Ministry project, the steps I needed to complete in order to finish my degree were all outlined very carefully and specifically from the kind of paper I had to print on, to the font, to the margins, to the forms I had to have …

Lectionary Notes for Advent 1, Year B

Readings for First Sunday of Advent, 11/30/14:
Isaiah 64:1-9, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37
Isaiah 64:1-9: "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence" - Do you ever get so frustrated with the way of the world that you want to call on God to break into the scene and rile things up? I don't blame Isaiah's call. Its just that God hardly ever comes in the ways we're expecting!Isaiah realizes this too, God's unexpected ways: "when you did awesome deeds that we did not expect" he says in v. 3 - what do you expect from God? Do you expect the unexpected?"consider, we are all your people." Isaiah is pleading a case here. He realizes people haven't done much for God that would make someone want to stick around and continue being neglected. But remember, Isaiah reminds God, we're yours! I think God …

Lectionary Notes for Reign of Christ Sunday, Year A

Readings for Reign of Christ Sunday, 11/23/14:
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 100, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24:

This is a great passage, and goes so well with the gospel lesson for today. What vivid images of God as our shepherd!God's preference is clear: "I will see the lost . . . I will strengthen the weak," and "the fat and the strong I will destroy." Which kind of sheep are you? Compare this to Jesus' teachings about who he came to serve. I will feed them with justice." What does it mean to be fed with justice? How do you feed your life with justice? Does working for God's justice in the world fill you up?  

Psalm 100:

"It is God that made us, and we are [God's]; we are [God's] people, and the sheep of [God's] pasture." Again, imagery of being sheep in God's fold. We belong to God. We humans have a great need to belong. The best we can belong to is God."Worship the Lord with gladness.&qu…