Advent 3B (12/17/2017)

Lessons:
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: Witness to the Light

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

[The Gospel according to St. John 1:1-5]

These opening words of St. John’s Gospel make up one of the most beautiful and powerful passages in our Bible. While the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) introduce us to Jesus in simple, concrete, human terms, St. John speaks in lofty terms about God: who exists before all else; who speaks creation into being; who is the source of life; whose gift of life becomes the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Now, in verse six, the narrative shifts from creation to John, the one sent to prepare the people for the arrival of God’s Messiah, and the contrast continues. (more…)

Preparation, Repentance, Forgiveness

Date: December 10, 2017
Liturgical Day: The Second Sunday of Advent; Year B

John, the baptizer
preparing the way for Christ
the gift of new life

Summary:
The story of John, the Baptizer, stands front and center at the beginning of all four Gospel accounts. We turn to him every Advent, as we explore the importance of baptism in our life together today.

Some discussion Questions:
1. How does John the Baptizer prepare the people to receive Jesus into their lives?
2. In Isaiah 40, what relationship does the prophet envision between the people of Israel and God?
3. Is the promised end of time good news or bad news for us today?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-12-10 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-12-10 TIH

Advent 2B (12/10/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2nd Peter 3:8-15a
St. Mark 1:1-8

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

8.1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

St. Mark 1:1-8, 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.

Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sin

Anyone who has paid even modest attention to the season of Advent knows that it is a season of preparation. As John the Baptizer “prepared the way” for the coming of Jesus, Advent prepares the way for the Risen Christ to enter into our lives today. This week’s Gospel lesson helps us to see how this preparation takes place.

St. Mark (the Evangelist) depicts St. John (the Baptist) as a first-century Isaiah. He is dressed like Isaiah. He eats like Isaiah. He speaks truth to power like Isaiah. And perhaps most importantly, like Isaiah, the hope of his ministry is to transform the lives of God’s people.

The transformation sought by St. John has two significant aspects. First, a person comes to understand the extent of his or her sin and brokenness. Second, through the grace, love and forgiveness of God, this sin is forgiven, and a new heart — a new mind — begins to emerge. (more…)

The Return of Christ

December 3, 2017
The First Sunday in Advent: Year B

in a world gone bad
the promise of Christ’s return
source of hope and peace

Summary:
In the “Little Apocalypse of St. Mark” Jesus promises to return to earth one day and gather the elect to God. We may not be living in a time and place where many long for the end to come, but these still can be words of hope for us today.

Some discussion Questions:
1. How do I understand the promised return of Christ to this world?
2. What does Isaiah mean (in 64:8) by “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father?
3. In 1st Corinthians 1:3-9, what does the Apostle Paul notice, and what does he promise?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-12-03 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-12-03 TIH

Advent 1B (12/3/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1st Corinthians 1:3-9
St. Mark 13:24-37

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection waken us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

13:24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.

34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

St. Mark 13:24-37, 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.

A Season of Waiting and Watching

The season of Advent is upon us: four weeks of preparation, designed to make us ready for the celebration of Christ’s birth towards the end of this month. Traditionally, the church has considered this as a time to slow down and to nurture spiritual growth. Advent is often marked by additional weekly opportunities for worship, personal times of devotion and prayer, and attempts to reach out to the community in acts of service. (more…)

When Did We See You?

Date: November 26, 2017
Liturgical Day: The Last Sunday after Pentecost — Christ the King Sunday; Year A

faithfulness in life
Lord, when was it we saw you?
to the least of these…

Summary:
In the surprising parable “The Judgement of the Nations” both the righteous and the unrighteous bear witness to their character without even realizing it. What do our actions, commitments and priorities say about our character? Spoiler alert: in this sermon, Pastor Dave shares his deep gratitude for the generosity of his congregation. The faith and commitment of Saint Peter members has been revealed by their willingness to contribute more than $70,000 in the past seventeen months to the development of a new school of nursing in Arusha, Tanzania.

Some discussion Questions:
1. What are some specific ways in which we can care for Jesus in his time of need?
2. In Ezekiel 34, why does God propose to replace the fat sheep with the servant David, the shepherd?
3. According to Ephesians 1:15-23, how does the Apostle Paul describe the power and majesty of Christ in this passage?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-11-26 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-11-26 TIH

The Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King Sunday; Year A (11/26/2017)

Lessons:
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
St. Matthew 25:31-46

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 100

Prayer of the Day:
O God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service, and in him we inherit the riches of your grace. Give us the wisdom to know what is right and the strength to serve the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

[Jesus said] 25.31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

St. Matthew 25:31-46, 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.

Lord, When Was It that We Saw You?

What is the kingdom of heaven like? Images conjured up come from a wide range of sources: songs (especially spirituals), movies, stories, and pieces of visual art. Some imagine angels with harps and wings, pearly gates and streets paved with gold. I was struck, once, to learn that in certain Nordic cultures heaven is depicted as a warm, lush garden and hell is depicted as a cold, snowy tundra. It seems that when we strive to imagine heaven, our thoughts go to the most pleasant possible surroundings. When we imagine hell, just the opposite comes to mind. Truth is: for most people, notions of heaven are not based on anything recorded in the Bible, because the Bible teaches us about heaven in a different way than this. (more…)

Enter into the Joy of your Master

Date: November 19, 2017
Liturgical Day: The 24th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 28A

putting gifts to work
entering the master’s joy
living the Christ-life

Summary:
All that we are and all that we have comes from God. It is pure gift. Gifts God gives with joy. As we put these gifts to work, how do we do so in a way that allows us to enter into our Master’s joy?

Some discussion Questions:
1. How have I put my talents — my gifts and abilities — to work for those things that matter to God?
2. How must these words from Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 have struck the leaders of Israel? How do they strike me?
3. Considering 1st Thessalonians 5:1-11, in our family or in our church, how might we encourage one another and build each other up?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-11-19 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-11-19 TIH

The 24th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 28A (11/19/2017)

Lessons:
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11], 12
1st Thessalonians 5:1-11
St. Matthew 25:14-30

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm
Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123

Prayer of the Day:
Righteous God, our merciful master, you own the earth and all its peoples, and you give us all that we have. Inspire us to serve you with justice and wisdom, and prepare us for the joy of the day of your coming, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

25.14 [Jesus said] “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”

St. Matthew 25:14-30, 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.

“You wicked and lazy slave!”

This text shows up in the lectionary every three years: The Parable of the Talents. Whenever I read it I can’t help but think of the unfortunate third slave. I try to imagine this imaginary character in Jesus’ parable. Compared to the two other slaves, he seems less ambitious, less driven, less adventuresome. He seems aware of the master’s demanding nature — maybe even more acutely aware than the other two. He seems to understand that there is significant risk in investing assets that don’t belong to him, and more than a bit frightened about what might happen to him if he trades with his master’s talent and fails. I know many people — fine, faithful, decent people — who probably would identify more with this slave than his less risk-adverse co-slaves. (more…)

Faithful Waiting

November 12, 2017
Liturgical Day: the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost; Year A

waiting for Jesus
grounded, gracious, generous
faithfully watchful

Summary:
There is much in our world — in our lives — that is capable of distracting us from what matters most. Christ calls us to live in a way that is watchful and wakeful, always on the lookout for signs of God’s presence.

Some discussion Questions:
1. In what ways can we prepare to welcome Christ into our lives?
2. What would it look like in our day for justice to roll down like water and righteousness like a flowing stream?
3. How are these words from the Apostle Paul in 1st Thessalonians an encouragement to the Christians in Thessalonica?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-11-12 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-11-12 TIH