One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 43)

Weekly Devotional Message

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13B (Aug. 2, 2015)

Lessons:
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29 (24, 25)
Ephesians 4:1-16
St. John 6:24-35
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
Psalm 51:1-12

Prayer of the Day:
O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ “32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”


St. John 6:24-35 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.

I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Brady and Landon feeding birds in Venice; March, 2006

Brady and Landon feeding birds in Venice; March, 2006

When our boys were young we had an opportunity to visit the plaza at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. They couldn’t wait to feed the pigeons. They had been watching others do it, and it looked like great fun. So they dropped a couple of Euros in the vendor’s hand, and received two small bags of feed. As soon as they turned away from the booth, the pigeons had them in sight, and swarmed them from every direction. There were pigeons on their feet, their hands, their arms, their shoulders, their heads… and so tightly surrounding them that they could hardly even move!

Jesus must have felt like that in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. In the text we considered last week, he fed some five thousand of them in the wilderness. When they came after him, and he realized that they were about to try and forcibly make him their king, he slipped away to the mountain to be alone. That night many of them fell asleep in the wilderness (stuffed with food like Thanksgiving Day afternoon?). When they awoke to find that he had left for the other side of the sea, they swarmed after him (like Venetian pigeons?), and in a tone that bordered on belligerence, began to demand of him: When did you come here? How can we control the power of God? When will you give us more bread?

They had their fill of bread the day before, and it aroused in them a deep appetite. But this was not the kind of appetite Jesus wanted to fill. They were looking for bread – for another free lunch. He was in search of hearts hungry for grace, and lives hungry for the presence of God.

It would be months – perhaps years – before his followers would understand the difference. But once they did, life would never be the same for them. They feasted on their crucified and risen Lord. He became present in their midst in a manner that met their eternal appetite for peace and love and joy and hope. As the brothers of Taizé have taught us to sing:

Eat this bread. Drink this cup. Come to me and never be hungry.
Eat this bread. Drink this cup. Trust in me and you will not thirst.

Let us draw near to Jesus Christ, and be nourished by his presence. He longs to feed our hearts and souls through the word, through the sacraments and through the spirit of the gathered community. This is a feeding, which endures longer than life itself. One that grounds us in the power of God, and transforms our lives.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How did the five thousand who were fed by Jesus in the wilderness respond to that event?
  2. Why did they follow him in boats across the sea?
  3. What did Jesus mean when he told them that if they were fed by him, they would never thirst or hunger?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I been focused, in an unhealthy way, on “what I can get from God?”
  2. When have I been aware of the way my faith in Christ feeds me spiritually?
  3. How do the eternal dimensions of God’s gifts to me make a difference in my daily life?

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13B (Aug. 2, 2015)

Lessons:
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29 (24, 25)
Ephesians 4:1-16
St. John 6:24-35
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
Psalm 51:1-12

Prayer of the Day:
O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

6:24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ “32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”


St. John 6:24-35 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 devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12B (July 26, 2015)

Lessons:
2nd Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-18
Ephesians 3:14-21
St. John 6:1-21
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14

Prayer of the Day:
Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth. Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven and share this bread with all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:1After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.7Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.


St. John 6:1-21 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Philip and Andrew

This weekend’s Gospel lesson features two of the lesser-known disciples of Jesus. Those of us who have spent any time at all with the Bible can recall story after story about Peter and James and John. They make up the inner circle of Jesus, and are often with him when none of the others are present. But the disciples in this week’s story, Philip and Andrew, are not as well known. In fact, other than those passages where the Gospel writers name all twelve disciples, these two are mentioned only four times.

We meet Philip in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. In that passage, Jesus calls Philip to follow him. Philip not only follows Jesus immediately, but also becomes instrumental in convincing Nathanael to do the same. We meet Andrew when Jesus passes by a group of fishermen. Andrew is Simon Peter’s brother, and they were partners in a Sea of Galilee fishing enterprise near Bethsaida. Along with James and John (the sons of Zebedee), Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to follow him. All at once they drop everything, leaving Zebedee with the boats and nets, and begin to follow Jesus. In John 12, Philip and Andrew are instrumental in introducing a group of Greeks to Jesus.

The fourth appearance of Philip and Andrew, of course, is this weekend’s Gospel lesson. As is often the case, a large crowd has been following Jesus, largely because of the healing miracles he is performing. On this particular occasion there are about five thousand people present. Jesus looks at them, then turns to Philip and asks him where he thinks they might find food to feed such a crowd. Philip is the pragmatist: “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

Jesus isn’t looking for pragmatic advice, though. He is looking for signs of faith, and finds them in Andrew, who foolishly but hopefully says: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Andrew realizes what a silly notion that is and begins to back-peddle, but Jesus ignores that and calls for the boy’s lunch. He gives thanks and distributes it to the crowd, and those five thousand people discover that they have more than they can eat.

How many times have individual believers, congregations, or denominations shied away from an opportunity for ministry because they had the pragmatic attitude of Philip? “We couldn’t do that with six months of income! Let’s pass on it, and hope someone else is able to do it.” And another chance to reach someone for Christ is lost.

This Gospel lesson is an encouragement for us to put aside the pragmatic short-sighted attitude of Philip, and take up the foolish but faithful position of Andrew. If five barley loaves and two fish can feed five thousand people, imagine what Christ can accomplish with what you and I have to bring to the table! Indeed, with Christ, all things are possible.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What thoughts must have been going through Philip’s mind when he saw the crowd?
  2. How were Andrew’s thoughts different than Philip’s?
  3. What do Jesus’ actions reveal about each man’s perspective?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do I tend to identify more with Andrew or Philip?
  2. What ministry lies before me (or us), that I doubt my (or our) ability to accomplish?
  3. How would my perspective change if I believed that all things were possible?

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12B (July 26, 2015)

Lessons:
2nd Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-18
Ephesians 3:14-21
St. John 6:1-21
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14

Prayer of the Day:
Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth. Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven and share this bread with all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:1After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.7Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.


St. John 6:1-21 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11B (July 19, 2015)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
St. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Semicontinuous Series:
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37

Prayer of the Day:
O God, powerful and compassionate, you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us. Heal each of us, and make us a whole people, that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.  


St. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Welcome. Now Go!

“Welcome to Arizona. Now go home!” So read the popular bumper sticker that graced quite a few Arizona-registered automobiles when I moved there in the mid-1980s. A similar sticker, with the words “Colorado Native” on it, can be seen in our state. A bit more subtle, but perhaps it expresses the same sentiment: “I was here first. I liked it when I got here. You newcomers are destroying what we used to have. It’s time for you to leave.”

With a different intent, perhaps we Christians could use the same phrase to refer to what the life of faith is all about: “Welcome to the church. Now go.”

In the verses that precede this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls his twelve closest followers and sends them out two by two, with instructions to cast out demons and anoint with healing oil those who are sick. The Greek word for sent out is “Apo-stello” – the word that gives us our English word “Apostle.” Those twelve followers; those twelve disciples; those twelve are called Apostles because Jesus sends them out to carry his message and ministry beyond the reach of what he can do himself. They do just that, and their ministry is so powerful, and makes such an impression, that even King Herod hears about it (St. Mark 6:14).

As this week’s lesson begins, the disciples return to Jesus, excited about what God has accomplished through them. Jesus undoubtedly senses that they are exhilarated by these experiences, but also drained by them. And so he invites them to come away with him to a deserted place and rest a while. “Welcome,” he says, “into this experience of my grace and peace, and be renewed.” Yet as they make their way across the water, the crowd perceives where they are going and runs ahead of them. When Jesus and the twelve arrive, it is no longer a deserted place. They are met by a massive sea of human need, and out of his deep compassion Jesus goes out once again to bring them healing and hope.

So it is with the life of faith. We are welcomed into God’s healing grace and peace. Then, filled and renewed, we are sent out to share those gifts with the world that surrounds us. Exhilarated but exhausted from that ministry, we are again welcomed into God’s healing grace and peace, and the pattern continues.

Every Christian congregation is called to be the kind of deserted and restful environment that Jesus envisions for his closest followers. Within the walls of our worship spaces, we seek to provide a profound experience of God’s grace, peace and healing. And then, filled and renewed by this experience, we are called to go once again, to spend ourselves in service of God, so that others might know the love and compassion that God has for them.

So welcome to church. Now go, in Christ’s name. Thanks be to God!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What must the disciples have experienced as Jesus empowered them for a ministry of healing?
  2. Why were they in need of a “deserted and restful” place after that ministry?
  3. How do you imagine they responded when they got to that place and found it filled with people?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has my faith provided me with the rest and peace and healing I’ve needed?
  2. When have I been able to minister, strengthened by that rest and peace, in ways that I never could have imagined on my own?
  3. How does the pattern of being welcomed into God’s grace and being sent into the world  play itself out in my own discipleship?

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10B (July 12, 2015)

Lessons:
Amos 7:7-15
Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
St. Mark 6:14-29
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24

Prayer of the Day:
O God, from you come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works. Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.


St. Mark 6:14-29 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.

Truth Telling… and Grace

The new Pastor was greeting worshippers after worship on his first Sunday as they left the building. One after another thanked him for joining their community of faith, and for his thoughtful sermon. Then came Robert. He told the Pastor that it was one of the worst sermons he had ever heard, and that he really missed their old Pastor. The new Pastor was still reeling from these words when the next person extended her hand (having heard what Robert said), and tried to comfort him. “Oh, don’t listen to a word Robert says. He doesn’t really think that. He just repeats what everybody else says…”

Truth tellers can be hard people to be around.

Many of us have developed social sensibilities that guide our interactions with one another. We don’t just blurt out our criticisms, unless there is a legitimate reason to think that it will initiate a process which could help the person grow. And when we criticize, we do so in a thoughtful way, affirming other strengths (perhaps to gain credibility), and making it clear that our suggestions for improvement are just one aspect of a larger picture.

John the Baptizer seems to be more truth teller than socially sensible. St. Matthew and St. Luke report that his message begins with these words: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7 & Luke 3:7) Here in St. Mark’s Gospel we learn that John does not confine his ministry to the individual piety of those who come out to hear him. When political figures misbehave, John calls them out publicly. Herod, who had seduced his brother’s wife away and married her, is known for his bloodthirsty ways. John has every reason to steer clear of him, but he chooses instead to challenge him. In fact, in the Greek New Testament St. Mark uses the imperfect verb form, “had been telling.” John’s challenge to Herod is not an offhanded remark, or a brief sermon illustration. It seems that he is telling the truth to Herod over and over again, at great risk to his own wellbeing.

John is committed to truth telling, because he understands this is the only way for his listeners to experience grace. At the heart of the Christian faith is the reality that none of us is worthy of the grace God showers upon us. We all stand together at the foot of the cross, and are graced with the gifts of forgiveness, renewal and eternity.

In First John we read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1st John 1:8-9] We do well to be grateful for John, the Baptizer, and the other truth tellers in our lives, as they help us to be open and honest about our need for what God most wants to share with us: the gift of forgiveness, and the promise of a new beginning.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did Herod and John have such a troubled relationship?
  2. Why was Herod interested in John (in verse 20)?
  3. What did John hope his truth telling might accomplish for Herod?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who has been a truth teller in my life?
  2. When have I become aware of a need for forgiveness that I had?
  3. How has God’s forgiveness shaped me, and molded me?

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9B (July 5, 2015)

Lessons:
Ezekiel 2:1-5
Psalm 123
2nd Corinthians 12:2-10
St. Mark 6:1-13
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Psalm 48

Prayer of the Day:
God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us the courage you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance of life, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.6And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching.7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


St. Mark 6:1-13 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.

Offended by Jesus

A Catechism student recently asked me, had I been living in the first century: did I think I would have stood up for Jesus (like the Centurion did), or might I have abandoned him (like so many others did)? This seemed like a very good question to me. We’d all like to think that, given the chance, we would stand up for our faith and our Lord. But at the same time, there was no shortage of people who found themselves opposed to (or at least skeptical of) Jesus. We see that in this week’s Gospel lesson. Continue reading

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 8B (June 28, 2015)

Lessons:
Lamentations 3:22-33 or Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 30
2nd Corinthians 8:7-15
St. Mark 5:21-43
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and merciful God, we implore you to hear the prayers of your people. Be our strong defense against all harm and danger, that we may live and grow in faith and hope, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

5:21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


St. Mark 5:21-43, 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.

Talitha Cum

Do we observe the world through the eyes of what is old, or through the eyes of what is new?

I know that my natural inclination is for the old. I tend to have a very practical, skeptical perspective on the world. I am aware of the brokenness, and at times I wish it wasn’t so. I wish the troubled relationships that I experience were well. I wish the physical ailments that I suffer would go away. I wish my old truck didn’t make that strange, new sound when I press the accelerator. I wish the landscape that surrounds me wasn’t parched and dry and vulnerable. I wish the nations of the world were more committed to living together peaceably. I wish the church was vibrant, and more capable of sharing good news with those who don’t yet believe. I even wish the Colorado Rockies had a stronger, healthier pitching staff. I see the brokenness in all these realities, and I wish that it wasn’t so. But my hope is not always strong. I’ve become accustomed to people who are hard to love, bodies that resist healing, automobiles that continually need repair, flammable trees and ground cover, international strife, a church in decline, and pitchers who can’t find the zone.

It is easy for a sense of what is to overcome a sense of what might be. Continue reading

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 7B (6/21/2015)

Lessons:
Job 38:1-11
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2nd Corinthians 6:1-13
St. Mark 4:35-41
Semicontinuous Series:
1st Samuel 17:[1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20

Prayer of the Day
O God of creation, eternal majesty, you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your strength pilot us, by your power preserve us, by your wisdom instruct us, and by your hand protect us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:35 On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 


St. Mark 4:35-41 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Jesus is teaching beside the sea. He is sharing kingdom parables with his listeners. The kingdom of heaven is like a sower who goes out to sow…  The kingdom of heaven is like lamp under a bushel basket… The kingdom of heaven is like a seed growing in the ground… The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… Then, without explanation, he decides it is time to leave. Time to make their way across the Sea of Galilee to the other side; the Gentile side. Perhaps St. Mark reminds us here that the ministry of Jesus will not be limited to just one people. The minute we begin to imagine ourselves as insiders, he is on the water, and heading for the other side. Continue reading

The Third Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 6B (6/14/2015)

Lessons:
Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15 (12)
2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17
St. Mark 4:26-34

Semi-continuous Series:
1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13
Psalm 20 (6)

Prayer of the Day
O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to all the world. Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth, that we may bear your truth and love to those in need, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:26 [Jesus] also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.


St. Mark 4:26-34 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Of Dandelions and Mustard Seeds

I’m not a fan of dandelions, and I’m not exactly sure when that came to be. I was aware of these small yellow flowers as a young boy. Like most boys I brought home a bouquet of dandelions for my mother a time or two. I thought they were pretty, and a field filled with dandelions seemed natural and attractive to me in those days.

My distaste for dandelions probably began to take form when I became a homeowner. I like a deep-green lawn, free of weeds and bare spots. Dandelions in the midst of a carefully tended lawn are an eyesore to someone who has a vision for what the back yard should look like, and an indication that the person in charge of the lawn is not doing a very effective job of it. Continue reading

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