One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

The First Sunday of Christmas; Year B (12/28/2014)

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 148
Galatians 4:4-7
St. Luke 2:22-40

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and yet more wonderfully restored it. In your mercy, let us share the divine life of the one who came to share our humanity, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;  30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.  39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

St. Luke 2:22-40, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Christmas Day (12/25/2014)

Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12]
St. John 1:1-14

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you gave us your only Son to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light. By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

St. John 1:1-14, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Christmas Eve (12/24/2014)

Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
St. Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,  14 ”Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

[15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.]

St. Luke 2:1-14 [15-20], New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Sunday’s Sermon

Date: December 21, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B)



Download Sermon: 

Here I Am, the Servant of the Lord

Date: December 17, 2014
Liturgical Day: Wednesday before the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B)

a servant of God
Mary, Mother of our Lord
strong, bold and faithful

Mary, Mother of Our Lord: a deeply faithful, fiercely determined woman of faith, who believes with all of her heart that God will work through her child for justice. As God stirred her to faithfulness, and worked through her to bring salvation to the world, may God stir us and work through us as well.

Download Sermon: 2014 Advent 4B-Wednesday

Advent 4B (12/21/2014)

2nd Samuel 7:1-11, 16
St. Luke 1:46b-55
or Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
St. Luke 1:26-38

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

St. Luke 1:26-38, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.


Let It Be with Me According to Your Word

Picture Mary, Mother of our Lord, in your mind. What does she look like to you? Is she a frightened young girl, perplexed by the greeting of an angel, and struggling to understand what this strange message means? Is she a serene servant of God, undisturbed by the troubles that surround her in the world, and focused only on accomplishing God’s will as Mater Domini? Is she distant and aloof, beyond the comprehension of mere humans (a light blue colored sculpture, high up on a cathedral wall)? Is she loving and attentive, swaddling her newborn son, and pondering all that has taken place in his young life?

For all the attention paid to Mary, Mother of our Lord, we really don’t know much about her. The Gospels picture her at Jesus’ birth and death, and a couple of times in between. The last mention of her takes place in the very first chapter of Acts (chapter 1; verse). After that we never hear about her again.

The richest look, though, takes place in St. Luke’s Gospel. The first two chapters are almost more Mary’s story than Jesus’ story: Gabriel’s announcement of the birth of Christ. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (and her moving “Magnificat”). The journey to Bethlehem and Christ’s birth in the manger. The visit of angel-inspired shepherds. The presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve. Mary is pictured as perplexed, confused, faithful, resolute, obedient, prophetic, nurturing, treasuring and pondering, religious, concerned, astonished…

At the heart of St. Luke’s portrayal are the words of this week’s Gospel lesson. Mary receives a confusing and inspiring visit from an angel, announcing that she will bear the Savior to the world. We wouldn’t have blamed her for resisting like Moses (Exodus 4:13), running away like Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3) or hiding like Simon Peter (St. Matthew 26:74-75). But Mary — faithful, obedient Mary — honors God’s wishes above what must have been her own. “Let it be with me according to your word.”

These nine words tell us more about Mary than any other verse in the Bible. Faced with living in first century culture as an unmarried pregnant teenager, wondering how her neighbors and her betrothed might respond, she puts aside any fears and concerns she might have had and announces her willingness to follow God’s will no matter what. “Let it be with me according to your word.”

It’s no wonder she has been an inspiration to millions of believers over the years. To open ourselves to God’s will is no small thing. When called to stand for what is righteous and faithful, we can find ourselves drawn to the model of Moses and Jonah and Peter. But Mary offers us the possibility of another way. As we contemplate her faithfulness this week, may we imagine ourselves as faithful and obedient. Let us consider responding, as she did, with: “Let it be with me according to your word.”

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What aspect(s) of following God’s will must have been difficult for Mary to embrace?
  2. What might she have understood, at the beginning, of what she was being asked to do?
  3. What prepared her to honor God’s word with her life?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I found myself resisting God’s will in my own life?
  2. What resources do I use, as I try to discover God’s will for me?
  3. Who could partner with me in searching for God’s will, and becoming accountable to it?

Making Straight the Way

Date: December 14, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Third Sunday of Advent (Year B)

the message of John
make straight the way of the Lord
invited to grace


The Season of Advent and the Ministry of St. John, the Baptizer: more than just doing the good stuff, refraining from the bad stuff and believing in the right stuff.

Download Sermon: 2014 Advent 3B

Jesus Christ; the Light of the World

Date: December 10, 2014
Liturgical Day: Wednesday before the Third Sunday of Advent (Year B)

John, the baptizer
a witness to testify
the light of the world


The testimony of John, the Baptizer, helped the people of his day to see the “Light of the World” who was coming into the world. His model helps us, today, to see how Christ enlightens our lives, and encourages us to think of the ways our own testimony of faith might help others experience the light of Christ in their lives.

Download Sermon: 2014 Advent 3B-Wednesday

Advent 3B (12/14/2014)

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
or St. Luke 1:46b-55
1st Thessalonians 5:16-24
St. John 1:6-8, 19-28

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ” as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

St. John 1:6-8, 19-28, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

John: Not the Greatest…

Charles Kirkpatrick tells a story about a little boy who walked out into the backyard wearing his baseball cap and carrying a ball and bat. “I’m the greatest hitter in the world,” he said. Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it, and missed. “Strike One!” he yelled. He picked up the ball and said again, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” Again, he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it and missed. “Strike Two!” he cried. The boy looked at his bat and ball, straightened his cap and said again, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” A third time he tossed the ball up and swung at it. He missed again. “Strike Three!” The little boy picked up the ball, looked at it, and cried out in a loud voice, “I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”

I wonder how many of us can identify with this little boy. I used to imagine holding down a spot on the professional golf tour. (A persistent slice that often left me a fairway or two to the right eventually cured me of that fantasy…) There have been days when I’ve pictured myself as a world class fly caster, or one of the best husbands/fathers ever, or a renowned preacher. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed fleeting moments like this too. It probably is true for many of us.

Not so much for St. John, the Baptizer. There were undoubtedly those who thought otherwise. John’s ministry of introspection, confession, forgiveness and new beginnings was profound for people. It left some of them believing that he was the greatest. Some Biblical scholars speculate that by the time the Gospels were written (most likely between a.d. 70 and a.d. 100), there still were bands of believers who thought of themselves as disciples of John. The people may have misunderstood, but John was clear. In this week’s lesson we read: “I am not the Messiah.” (v. 20) “I am not [Elijah].” (v. 21) I am not the prophet. (v. 21)

Who was John? “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” (v. 23) “The one who baptizes [only] with water.” (v. 26-27) The one who knew that his role was important — in some ways more important than any of the prophets who came before him — but secondary. Secondary to the One for whom God’s people had been waiting. Secondary to the One who would baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. Secondary to the One whose life and death and resurrection would become a source of new life for centuries to come.

St. John teaches us what it means to live with humility. By all accounts he was bold, aggressive, brash, insistent, compelling, determined… but he never lost sight of who he was. He never imagined himself to be more than God had called him to be. He never forgot the greatest meaning in his life was that he had been caught up into something far greater than himself — the story of the birth of the Messiah, the Son of God.

May we live with that same humility. May we never lose sight of who we are. And may we always remember that we too have been caught up into something far greater than ourselves: the love of God that has come to us through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who did the people imagine John to be?
  2. What aspects of his ministry must have inspired them to think in these ways?
  3. How did John’s humility — and self-awareness — make him even more compelling?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What role has God called my to play in this world?
  2. What might it mean for me to have the same strength and humility as John had?
  3. How might that give witness to Christ, who makes all things possible?

Pointing To Christ

Date: December 7, 2014
Liturgical Day: The Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)

John, the baptizer
calling us to ministry
pointing us to Christ


John the Baptizer’s mission was never to develop a following for himself. His role was to point others to Christ. He continues to point us to Christ today, as we are called to confession, repentance and forgiveness. And he calls us to be the church of Christ in our time, which points to Christ in all that we do.

Download Sermon: 2014 Advent 2B

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