National Day of Thanksgiving (Nov. 27, 2014)

Lessons:
Deuteronomy 8:7-18
Psalm 65
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
St. Luke 17:11-19

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day. By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

17:11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”


St. Luke 17:11-19, New Revised Version Bible © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

All Saints Sunday; Year A (November 2, 2014)

Lessons:
Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Saint Matthew 5:1-12

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lesson:

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

St. Matthew 5:1-12, 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.

Blessed Are They

In the congregation where I grew up, All Saints Sunday was a time to read the names of those who had died in the previous twelve months, while a solemn bell tolled in the background. My grandmother’s name was read when I was twelve years old — I still can feel the agony of waiting for her name (she died on New Year’s Day, but the names were read alphabetically), and the pain of hearing her included in the list of those who were gone. To this day, I have a visceral reaction to that litany. It seemed then, and it seems now, more a “litany of woe” than a “litany of celebration.” (more…)

Reformation Sunday; Year A (October 26, 2014)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46 (7)
Romans 3:19-28
St. John 8:31-36

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lesson:

8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.


St. John 8:31-36. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Reformed or Reforming?

On October 31, 1517, the evening before All Saints’ Day (then referred to as All Hallowed’s Eve; now as Halloween), when the city of Wittenberg, Germany was teeming with Christian pilgrims who had traveled there to celebrate the festival, Martin Luther made a trip to the entrance doors of the Castle Church. Long used as the official bulletin board of the University, he nailed on them a bulletin of his own: the Ninety-five Theses, a statement of his objections to some of the practices of the church in his day. (more…)

The Last Sunday after Pentecost; Christ the King Sunday, Year C (11/24/2013)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46 (10)
Colossians 1:11-20
St. Luke 23:33-43

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
St. Luke 1:68-79 (69)

Prayer of the Day: O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.  We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.  Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

23:33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [ 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”


St. Luke 23:33-43. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Christ the King

Today, November 19th, we have been hearing a good deal about “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It was 150 years ago today that President Abraham Lincoln (after listening to a two-hour-long address by the main speaker, Edward Everett) mounted the platform to deliver his Dedicatory Remarks. What followed was a brief statement (ten sentences) that has since been described as the best speech ever given in American history.

Lincoln’s primary intent was to honor those who had lost their lives in the battle at Gettysburg, and to clarify why the struggle for the survival of the union was both important, and worth continuing to its conclusion. In his closing line he articulated what is unique about this “grand experiment” that we call representative democracy. It is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Ours is a country that has never known a king; in fact, a country that in its formative years defiantly rejected the notion of ever knowing a king. Yet this Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical church year, is celebrated as “Christ the King Sunday.” So for twenty-first century kingless Americans, what does this Sunday have to say to us? (more…)

All Saints’ Sunday

Lessons:
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149 (1)
Ephesians 1:11-23
St. Luke 6:20-31

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

20 Then [Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.


St. Luke 6:20-31. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

All Saints… All of Us

There is a story about a child who asked Mom what a saint was. Mom was trying to explain sainthood, and finally came upon this answer: “You know those people whose pictures are in the stained glass windows at church? Mary and Peter and John and Paul and the others? They are the saints.” The child thought for a moment, and finally responded: “Oh I get it. Saints are people who let the light shine through.” A pretty good answer! (more…)

Reformation Sunday (10/27/2013)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46 (7)
Romans 3:19-28
St. John 8:31-36

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.


St. John 8:31-36. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Reformation and Stewardship

There is something disturbing about celebrating Reformation Sunday and Stewardship Sunday on the same day. As a colleague of mine used to say, “The Lutheran movement had its beginnings in a bad stewardship program.”

Pope Leo X (1513-1521) was in the midst of the Roman church’s greatest building project: the demolition and rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Upon his election, Leo inherited an overflowing Vatican treasury, but his appetite for war and art soon depleted the Vatican’s funds. In 1517, Leo contracted with Johann Tetzel, the son of a successful German banker, to sell indulgences, the proceeds of which would help to finish the rebuilding of the basilica. Preying largely on uneducated peasants (many of whom lived in and around Wittenberg, where Martin Luther was a University Professor), Tetzel would go from town to town preaching and speaking and announcing that if his listeners purchased “indulgences” they could lessen the sentences their deceased loved ones were serving in purgatory. It is said that Tetzel would cry out, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” (more…)

The Baptism of Our Lord; Year C (1/13/2013)

Lessons:
Isaiah 43:1-7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14-17
St. Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit and revealed him as your beloved Son. Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service, that we may rejoice to be called children of God, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
[18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19 But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added to them all by shutting up John in prison.]
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  


St. Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 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.

One, More Powerful

Channel surfing a couple of nights ago, I stumbled upon the Martin Scorsese movie based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel, “The Last Temptation of Christ.” I was a young pastor when this movie came out, and I still remember the controversy it stirred up. It is a provocative film, both in its story line and in its portrayal of Jesus and his followers. But what struck me the other night was the scene where Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. It is a mysterious, even frightening scene — quite a contrast with the bucolic images presented to me when I was a boy in Sunday School class! If John’s ministry was anything at all like Kazantzakis and Scorsese imagine it to have been, it would be easy to understand why it made such a strong impression on those who came out to experience it. (more…)

The Epiphany of Our Lord; Year C (1/6/2013)

Lessons:
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
St. Matthew 2:1-12

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star. Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands, and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,f until it stopped over the place where the child was.10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


St. Matthew 2:2-12 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.

Christ the King Sunday (Nov. 25, 2012)

Lessons:
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93 (2)
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37
Semicontinuous Series:
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18] (9)

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”


St. John 18:33-37 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.

Everyone Who Belongs to the Truth
Listens to My Voice

“The Sundays after Pentecost” make up the longest season in the church year. They begin eight Sundays after Easter Sunday (the date for Easter moves every year), and they end five Sundays before Christmas Day (a longer season if Christmas Day is on a Sunday; a shorter season if it is on a Monday). The first Sunday in this season is the Festival of the Holy Trinity, and the final Sunday in this season is Christ the King Sunday.

On Christ the King Sunday, we consider what it means that we refer to Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. Herod, the King of the Jews when Jesus was born, had one understanding of what this means — that’s why he put all the toddlers near Bethlehem to death, having heard about Jesus’ birth, and hoping to kill this competitor to his throne (St. Matthew 2:16). Pilate had another understanding of what this means — that’s why he interrogated Jesus during the last week of his life (St. John 18:28-19:16).

(more…)

National Day of Thanksgiving (Nov. 22, 2012)

Lessons:
Joel 2:21-27
Psalm 126 (3)
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Matthew 6:25-33

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day. By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


St. Matthew 6:25-33 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.