The Fifth Sunday in Lent; Year A (4/2/17)

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
St. John 11:1-45

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

St. John 11:1-45, 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.

Lazarus, Come Out!

Again this week we have before us a long, long narrative from St. John’s Gospel. It recounts the illness, death and resurrection of Lazarus, a man described by his sisters as “he whom you [Jesus] love.” Jesus had just recently been in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Dedication. He found himself again in conflict with the Jewish leaders, to the point that they attempted to stone him to death. (John 10:31) He escaped from their hands, though, and makes his way “across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier.” There he continues his ministry of teaching and preaching and healing.

Word comes to Jesus that his dear friend Lazarus has taken ill. No doubt Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, know of Jesus’ healing powers and hope he will put them to work to bring their brother back to full health. But surprisingly, Jesus remains where he is for two more days. Long enough, it appears, that Lazarus dies.

When he arrives in Bethany, Jesus is accused three times of failing to assist his dear friend: first by Martha who meets him outside the village and says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Then by Mary, who also finds him just outside of town and says the same thing. Finally, as Jesus wept, some of the faithful noted his grief and his love for Lazarus, but others said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” The implication is clear: if the Son of God, the Savior of the World, had been doing what the people expected him to do, this dear and faithful man would be alive.

This is understandable, of course. It makes sense to believe that if someone loves us (and has our best interests in mind), and has the power to make things better, then he or she would. Here at Saint Peter we have lost three dear friends to death in the past two weeks, and I honestly wouldn’t mind if Jesus showed up, yelled “Zoe, Ken, Steve: come out!” and brought all of them back to life — brought them back to us.

But of course this is not the hope to which the story of Lazarus calls us. There is not implicit in this story the promise that those who love Christ will never die. If that were the case Lazarus would still be among us, inspiring us with stories about his Lord. No: eventually Lazarus reached the end of his physical life, as did our three friends this past week, and as will each of us.

Instead, this resurrection points us to the resurrection that will be proclaimed at the end of John’s Gospel (see chapter 20); the resurrection that will be proclaimed by the Apostle Paul (see 1st Corinthians 15:51-57); the resurrection that will be proclaimed three time this week at Saint Peter (“If we have been united in a death like Christ’s, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”); the resurrection that has been promised to each of us.

We are still in the season of Lent. Easter has not yet arrived. But its promise is here. Lazarus reminds us of this. For which we give God thanks and praise.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did Jesus delay in making his way to Bethany and Lazarus?
  2. Were Mary, Martha and their friends right to be unhappy with Jesus?
  3. Having seen Lazarus raised, what might the people have believed in verse 45?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I cried out to God for new life?
  2. What does it mean to be united with Christ in “a resurrection like his?”
  3. How does the promise of resurrection influence the way I live my life?

The Fourth Sunday in Lent; Year A (3/26/2017)

1st Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
St. John 9:1-41

Prayer of the Day:
Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

St. John 9:1-41, 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.


The Third Sunday in Lent; Year A (3/19/2017)

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
St. John 4:5-42

Prayer of the Day:
Merciful God, the fountain of living water, you quench our thirst and wash away our sin. Give us this water always. Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

4:5 So [Jesus] came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

St. John 4:5-42, 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.

A Story of Faith

Last week it was Nicodemus: a religious official from Jerusalem; a consummate insider; a man, with authority and standing in the church and in society. This week it is an unnamed Samaritan woman: vulnerable and alone; forced to gather water at the well at noon, during the heat of the day (Why was she unable or unwelcome to gather with the other women in the early morning hours?); clearly an outsider, even in her own culture. Next week it is a man born blind: assumed by many to be blind because of something his parents did wrong (a punishment from God…); unable to navigate the city with much ease or hold down a job; living in the heart of the city, but forced to live at the margins of society. Three very different individuals. Three long interactions with Jesus. Three stories of people whose lives and whose faith were profoundly impacted by having met Jesus.

Much has been said about this woman. She doesn’t seem to have much in common with Jesus. He a man; she a woman. (Adults of opposite gender were prohibited from speaking with one another publicly in first century culture.) He a Jew; she a Samaritan. (Since the end of the exile in 539 b.c. the Jews and the Samaritans had nothing to do with one another.) He a teacher and leader in the church; she an outsider in a variety of ways. The divide between religious, social and economic groups was much greater then than it is today. Nobody in those times would have expected to find these two together, much less talking with each other.

Yet Jesus engages her while they are alone at the well. He takes her seriously. He cares about her predicament. He touches her in a way that causes her to believe that he might be the Messiah. Not only that: she is motivated to go back to town and tell everyone about him. Because of her testimony, they too leave the city and begin to make their way to where Jesus had spoken with her.

Many of them believe in Jesus because of what she has to say. Many more believe when they meet Jesus face to face. It seems that a revival has taken place in this Samaritan city. It is an example of what can happen when a person’s heart is captured by the power of Jesus.

The disciples are slow to catch on to this, of course. They continue to focus on physical sustenance. Jesus has his sights on a more powerful reality. He is fed by doing the work of God, and encourages them to be fed in a similar manner. This woman’s faith, and the faith of her friends and neighbors, are signs for Jesus and for them that the fields are ripe for harvesting.

They will meet many more like her in the days to come. People whose hearts cry out for the love and grace and power of God in their lives. People who will be receptive to the Good News Jesus has come to share. People whose lives will be changed, as Jesus and his followers share with them the invitation to become a child of God. Faithfulness will have much to do with reaching above and beyond the barriers set up in society. The question is: will they join him in doing so?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why is it unusual for Jesus to be speaking to this woman at the well?
  2. How does their conversation about water turn to a conversation about life?
  3. What impact does Jesus’ presence have on her and her neighbors?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I felt like an outsider?
  2. How has my faith been a source of comfort, when nothing else was?
  3. With whom might I connect, so God can work through me to love and support them?


The Second Sunday in Lent; Year A (3/12/2017)

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
St. John 3:1-17

Prayer of the Day:
O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism you bring us to new birth to live as your children. Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your Spirit we may lift up your life to all the world through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3.1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 ”Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 ”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

St. John 3:1-17, 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.

Nick at Night

Have you heard about the man? They say he comes from some small little place up north. Everybody is talking about him. He’s stirred up the whole city. Wherever he goes, dozens of people are following him. You could hardly get through the crowd in the Temple the other day, when he was there. Have you heard anything about him? I sure have!

I hear that he is an amazing teacher. He’s squared off with the best in town, and he is so smart he makes them sound like little children. He seems to know more about the Bible than anyone. And he teaches differently than most teachers. He doesn’t say, “Rabbi Ben Eleazar says this.” or “Rabbi Joseph says this.” He just tells it like he sees it. I suppose that is why the crowds are so attracted to him. He seems to understand things differently than most of our other teachers, and they say that he is so convincing in the way he talks about it. I wonder if he really as good as everybody says he is. (more…)

The First Sunday in Lent; Year A (3/5/2017)

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
St. Matthew 4:1-11

Prayer of the Day:
Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us, and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.  Keep us steadfast in your Word and, when we fall, raise us again and restore us through your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

4:1 Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

St. Matthew 4:1-11, 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.

Ash Wednesday; Year A (3/1/2017)

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 51:1-17 (1)
2nd Corinthians 5:20b—6:10
St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

6.1 [Jesus said,] “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 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.


The Transfiguration of Our Lord; Year A (2/26/2017)

Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2 (or 99)
2nd Peter 1:16-21
St. Matthew 17:1-9

Prayer of the Day:
O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah, and in the voice from the bright cloud you foreshadowed our adoption as your children. Make us  heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness, through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

17.1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

St. Matthew 17:1-9, 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.

Listen to Him

In this week’s Gospel lesson, we get a glimpse of Jesus, accompanied by his inner circle. Jesus takes Peter and James and John and leads them up to the top of a high mountain. There, they receive what is perhaps their clearest glimpse of who Jesus truly is. Before their very eyes he is transformed. His clothes become dazzling white: whiter than any known bleach could ever make them. And as these three disciples look on in amazement, they see that Jesus is standing and talking with Elijah and Moses (two of the greatest figures in the Hebrew Bible). (more…)

The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany; Year 7 (2/19/2017)

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
Psalm 119:33-40 (33)
1st Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
St. Matthew 5:38-48

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace. Lead us to love our enemies, and transform our words and deeds to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

5:38 [Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

St. Matthew 5:38-48, 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.

Towards Perfection

There are some teachings in the Bible which are harder to embrace than others. I like to tease our Catechism students, advising them to pray the Lord’s Prayer with a certain degree of fear and trembling. I’ve sometimes asked them to whisper “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” — inviting them to hope and trust with me that God’s inclination to forgive will not be limited by our capacity to forgive. So also in today’s Gospel. What sense can we make of our Lord’s command, to his disciples and to us, that we “be perfect, therefore, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect?”

Nobody, of course, can be perfect as God is perfect. We learn as early as the third chapter of Genesis that brokenness defines the human condition. The kings and prophets of Ancient Israel confirm this time and time again. (Just ask any of the StPLC members who are reading the Bible in 90 days what they have observed so far about faithfulness in the Old Testament…) The disciples and followers of Jesus prove this to be true over and over again. Martin Luther teaches us that, “by our own reason or strength we cannot believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called us through the Gospel, enlightened us with its gifts, and sanctified and preserved us in the true faith…”

So why does Jesus demand that we be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect? (more…)

The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (2/12/2017)

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
or Sirach 15:15-20
Psalm 119:1-8 (1)
1st Corinthians 3:1-9
St. Matthew 5:21-37

Prayer of the Day
O God, strength of all who hope in you, because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing good without you. Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do, and give us grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

5:21 [Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

St. Matthew 5:21-37 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.

But I say to you…

This weekend Saint Peter Lutheran Church, like many Lutheran Churches, will assemble for it’s “Annual Congregation Meeting.” Members and supporters will reflect on the ministry that God accomplished among us in the past year, and look forward to what lies ahead for us in the coming year. We’ll talk about congregational priorities, approve a spending plan for 2017, elect a leader or two, and give thanks to God for the privilege of living together as the body of Christ in Greenwood Village (and its surrounding neighborhoods).

Honestly: these kinds of meetings can be a little dry. This will be the 34th one I have attended, and some of them have been richer experiences than others. But I still look forward to participating each year, and imagining what sort of ministries God will make possible  through the vision we embrace, the decisions we make, and the commitments we take on. (more…)

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (2/5/2017)

Isaiah 58:1-9a [9b-12]
Psalm 112:1-9 [10] (4)
1st Corinthians 2:1-12 [13-16]
St. Matthew 5:13-20

Prayer of the Day:
Lord God, with endless mercy you receive the prayers of all who call upon you.  By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do, and give us the grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

5:13 [Jesus said,] “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

St. Matthew 5:13-20, 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.

An Invitation to Shine

You are the light of the world; you are the light of the world.
So shine, shine, shine where you are.
You are the light of the world.
(Chris Tomlin, © 2000, ThankYou Music)

When Lutherans deal with matters of faith, we often like to speak in terms of “Law and Gospel.” Law, simply defined, has to do with those times when God’s word convicts us of sin. The Law helps us to see what it is that God asks of us, and points out to us how far short we have fallen of God’s expectations. Gospel, simply defined, has to do with those times when God’s word forgives us. The Gospel puts us at peace with God through this gift, offers us the possibility of a new beginning, and allows us to live with hope and joy. One of our commitments is to distinguish, as clearly as we can, between Law and Gospel, without ever disconnecting them from one another. The Law creates within us the desire to be forgiven, and the Gospel responds by assuring us that forgiveness is ours.

When we reflect on texts like this weekend’s Gospel, we occasionally ask ourselves whether this is an example of Law or Gospel. Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he declares to them: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world… You are a city on a hill.” Then, echoing the words we lift up after every baptism, Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (more…)