One Little Word

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Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 40)

Weekly Devotional Message

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.

Copies of this document were quickly generated with one of the newest technologies of his time: the printing press with movable type. In no time at all visitors to Wittenberg had copies of Luther’s protest, and carried them back home when they left town. Soon word of Luther’s teaching, and his challenge to Rome, had traveled all over Europe. With this bold action, the Reformation that was to give birth to our own Lutheran Church had begun.

Since the mid 17th century, Lutherans through the world have paused at this time every year to remember Martin Luther and the other reformers, and to give thanks for their strong and bold witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Reformation Sunday is not a celebration of the past, as if the church reformed itself five hundred years ago, and has been just fine ever since. Reformation Sunday is a time to recall that our particular movement within Christianity is one that continually looks for how we need to reform ourselves in order that our proclamation of the Good News continues to be fresh and clear and compelling. We are not a reformed church: we are a reforming church. And Reformation Sunday reminds of this important aspect of being Lutheran.

The lessons appointed for Reformation Sunday — lessons that many Lutheran churches will hear read this coming Sunday, all get to the heart of the reformation. Jeremiah speaks of a day when God will make a new covenant with believers; a covenant that is dependent on God’s faithfulness, not the believer’s ability to earn God’s love. Romans proclaims that all humans have fallen short of God’s expectations, and all are justified by the miracle of God’s grace. John speaks of the freedom that is granted to every believer in Christ — freedom from having to please God in order to be “saved” — freedom to live life as a response to the goodness of God’s love.

As we prepare ourselves for the celebration of another Reformation Day, let us not think only of our heritage, and days gone by. Let us also think also about the future, and the ways in which God is continuing to reform and reshape us to be the kind of people who can be credible witnesses to others of the difference it makes to have Christ in our lives.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I remember about Martin Luther and the other reformers?
  2. What truths about the gospel of Jesus Christ did they rediscover?
  3. How did their work change the church, and the proclamation of the gospel?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is there in my life that God desires to reform?
  2. How might I draw near to God, and allow that reformation to begin?
  3. Who might partner with me, so that we can encourage one another to stay open to how the Holy Spirit would work through us to reform us and revitalize our faith?

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 24A (October 19, 2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13]
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
St. Matthew 22:15-22

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99

Prayer of the Day:
Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts. Created by you, let us live in your image; created for you, let us act for your glory; redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

St. Matthew 22:15-21, 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.

Jesus and Taxes

“Come on back this Wednesday, and we’ll focus on what Jesus thinks about taxes.” That was my announcement last Sunday. The obvious first reaction, during this heated political season, was to wonder if Jesus is for more taxes or fewer taxes; bigger government or smaller government. After all, the question posed to him in this middle section of Matthew 22 is: “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

Our Lord’s questioners, of course, are not interested in what he thinks about taxes. We’ve come to suspect this of them, and Matthew makes it clear in the verse that follows: “But Jesus, aware of their malice…” They haven’t come to learn about God at the feet of the Rabbi from Nazareth. They are more interested in seeing if they can present Jesus with a question that there is no way to answer; a question that will force him to incriminate himself.

Will he say Jewish believers ought to pay the Roman tax (a tax that pays for the Roman forces who have made life miserable for the Jews…)? Then he will clearly get himself in trouble with the faithful who have borne the burden of this tax. Will he say that Jewish believers are morally obligated to have nothing to do with this tax? If so, he will clearly get himself in trouble with the Roman authorities who have little patience with rebels. Either way, these Pharisees imagine, they have come up with a sure-fire way to take him down a notch or two.

We (like the Pharisees) might expect him to offer a clear-cut answer to their question; one that puts Roman taxation and Jewish faithfulness in a proper relationship, and provides a roadmap for Jewish believers to follow when their annual tax assessment arrives in the mail. (Wouldn’t that be handy for us as well, as we get ready to fill out and mail in our paper ballots this week?) But Jesus resists the temptation to provide tax advice, and continues to what he has always done: proclaim the Kingdom of God which is breaking into this world.

Minted coins may belong to Caesar, and if Caesar wants some of his coins back each year he has every right to expect that. But just as citizens of Rome are obliged to give Caesar what is rightfully due to him, citizens of God’s kingdom are obliged to be faithful with all that belongs to God. And as everyone in the room knows, this includes everything: our minted currency, our accumulated wealth, our time, our energy, our focus, our desire…

Give to God the things that are God’s. A great stewardship text for this fall’s campaign: How much of what God has given us will we return in the form of our offering, to make sure the ministries of our congregation stay strong and vital? But faithful stewardship has to do with far more than currency. How will we honor and acknowledge God with all that we do? What movies will we watch? What books and magazines will we read? What portion of our resources will we tie up in homes and automobiles? How will we divide up our (increasingly crowded) schedules? It all belongs to God, and we are to treat it as if it did.

Give to God the things that are God’s. With these words, Jesus challenges the Pharisees, and us, to be thoughtful and faithful about our entire lives.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why are the Pharisees trying to discredit Jesus?
  2. How does Jesus’ answer prevent them from doing so?
  3. What do the others who are present experience that day?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How do I balance the citizenships I have in my country and in God’s kingdom?
  2. When do my commitments and interests threaten to put my faith in second place?
  3. What must I do to keep my faith, and my relationship with God, central in my life?

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23A (October 12, 2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Saint Matthew 22:1-14

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 32:1-14
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Prayer of the Day:
Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples and poured out your life with abundance. Call us again to your banquet. Strengthen us by what is honorable, just and pure, and transform us into a people of righteousness and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

22.1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”


St. Matthew 22:1-14, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
An Invitation
The Parable of the Wedding Feast. The anger of the king. The rejection (even destruction) of those whose response is inadequate. At first glance, this is an incredibly difficult parable to understand. We find ourselves with so many questions:

  • What does it mean that the banquet invitees reject the king’s invitation?
  • What does it mean that they mistreat and kill the messengers?
  • What does it mean that the king destroys them and their city?
  • What does it mean that the king declares the first ones invited to be “unworthy?”
  • What does it mean when the guest without a wedding robe is thrown to where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in the darkness?

It seems that God (The king usually represents God in a parable, right?) is depicted here as mean and vindictive, destroying everyone who fails to respond to the invitation; in fact, even rejecting one who responds to the invitation in a way that isn’t quite correct.

Undoubtably this parable has spawned a great deal of “fire and brimstone” preaching. And sadly, too many Christians have concluded that this parable is about God (the king?) punishing the first invitees (the Jews?) for rejecting and killing the messenger (Jesus?). This may well have been how St. Matthew understood the situation. After all, it is not coincidental that this week’s passage follows the last verses of chapter 21 where Jesus refers to himself as “the stone that the builders rejected [which] has become the cornerstone,” followed by St. Matthew’s interpretation:

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. [St. Matthew 21:46-47]

So this passage can hardly be understood as anything other than a shot across the bow of those religious leaders who will reject, and eventually condemn, Jesus. Perhaps even an effort by Matthew to give meaning to the difficulties God’s people (those who believed in Jesus and those who didn’t) were having in the first century.

But the bottom line, for us, can never be that this passage points out the shortcomings of some group other than us, whether the group exists now, or existed 2,000 years ago. The truth is (as the parable indicates), God invites all: the good and the bad. God’s invitation is extended to us: at our best and at our worst. And like the invitees in the parable, the invitation awaits a faithful response.

God has invited us to join the feast. A place has been set at the table for each of us. And if we fail to show up, it will break God’s heart. Some may be inclined to focus on the fate of those who absent themselves. Myself: I am happy to focus on the wonder that God continues, still, to extend the invitation to me. And I am grateful for to the chance to join the festivities.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who rejects Jesus’ invitation in the Gospels? In the life of the early church?
  2. What is Jesus’ attitude toward those who reject and condemn him?
  3. How do his followers continue this ministry of invitation after he departs?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How have I been invited to join the feast? Who has shared this with me?
  2. How might we learn from Jesus, as we think about those who don’t believe today?
  3. Who would I like to invite to the party?

Continue reading

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10C (October 5, 2014)

“God’s work. Our hands.” Emphasis:
First Lesson: St. Matthew 25:31-46
Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:25-37

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, your mercy delights us and the world longs for your loving care. Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lessons:

10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”


St. Luke 10:25-37, 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.

Who Is My Neighbor?

What is he thinking, this Samaritan? He is known by many as the Good Samaritan, but perhaps he is more foolish than good. Traveling that dangerous stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho, he happens upon a fellow traveler who has been stripped and beaten by a gang of robbers. They leave him, half dead, on the side of the road.

Others happen upon the same scene, including a priest and a Levite; two religious professionals. Their response is much more reasonable. They understand the dangers (those robbers may have been lying in wait, just beyond the bushes). They honor their responsibility to God’s people (nobody who comes in contact with a dead person can worship without first being ritually cleansed, and God’s people need them to lead worship at the Temple). They choose to pass by on the other side.

Not this Samaritan. What he does is dangerous, impractical, expensive and disruptive. Continue reading

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21A (September 28, 2014)

Lessons:
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalm 25:1-9
Philippians 2:1-13
St. Matthew 21:23-32

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Prayer of the Day:
God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

2.1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

6who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

7but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,

8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

9Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name that is above every name,

10so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.


Philippians 2:1-13, 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.

The Same Mind

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a beautiful tribute to a faithful community for whom Paul had very high regard. The Philippians had been quite supportive of Paul, even to the extent of becoming financial supporters of his ministry, and he saw in them signs of a deep and lasting faith. This letter is intended, primarily, to support and encourage them. Continue reading

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 20A (September 21, 2014)

Lessons:
Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
St. Matthew 20:1-16

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

20.1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


St. Matthew 20:1-16, 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.

Grace in the Vineyard

What is the kingdom of heaven like? I am thinking of images from a wide range of sources. Songs (especially some of the old spirituals), movies, stories, and pieces of art have all contributed to my personal vision of what the kingdom of heaven will be like. But as I try to form a picture in my mind, I can’t say that it is based on anything I have read in the Bible, because the Bible teaches us about heaven in a different way than that. Continue reading

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 19A (September 14, 2014)

Lessons:
Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103: [1-7) 8-13
Romans 14:1-12
St. Matthew 18:21-35

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we may delight in doing your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

18.21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”


St. Matthew 18:21-35, 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.

Radical, Unending Forgiveness

Saint Peter is trying to be generous. Put yourself in his position. Imagine that you have a brother or sister in faith who continually sins against you. One time you can forget about it. Twice, maybe. Perhaps even three times. But when someone hurts me in the same way three or four or five or six times, I’m not inclined to be as gracious as Saint Peter. I’ll give them at best three or four chances, and by then my patience has run out. I’m ready to put grace aside and opt, instead, for a good, solid presentation of the law. “Straighten out, or head out… one or the other!”

You see, Saint Peter is beginning to understand that at the heart of faith, as Jesus sees it, is the gift of forgiveness. He is willing to extend the boundaries of his own generosity. “How about it, Lord: what are you really talking about? Are you expecting us to forgive one another time and time again… even as many as seven times?” He is beginning to understand. Continue reading

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18A (September 7, 2014)

Lessons:
Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
St. Matthew 18:15-20

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy. Without your help, we mortals will fail; remove far from us everything that is harmful, and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

18.15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”


St. Matthew 18:15-20, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Nature of God

This week’s Gospel lesson is quite well known by a relatively small number of believers. It seems to come into play whenever believers (or congregations…) find themselves in conflict. To the extent that it helps believers sit down face-to-face and work out their differences, it has probably been useful in those settings. After all, there is wisdom in this teaching from Jesus: when two of you have a problem, talk to each other. If that doesn’t work, have someone moderate your conversation. If that doesn’t work, deal with it as a community. As long as the church is made up of human beings there will be disagreements, misunderstandings and hurtful actions — some intended and some unintended. It is helpful to have a process; a method to help us work through these experiences together.

The longer I look at this text, though, the less convinced I am that its central purpose has to do with resolving conflict in the church. Continue reading

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17A (August 31, 2014)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Saint Matthew 16:21-28

Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm:
Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b

Prayer of the Day:
O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

16.21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”


St. Matthew 16:21-28, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Take Up Your Cross; Follow Me

Peter just doesn’t  get it. He has been with the Lord from the very beginning of his ministry. He has had more opportunity than anyone else to learn how Jesus understands his mission. He has called out that profound confession: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! But he just doesn’t get it. Directly following Peter’s confession, Jesus begins to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Peter just doesn’t get it. Like a fool, he blurts out: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

To the One who gives his life for us Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” To the One who becomes the sign of our hope Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” To the One whose self-giving service teaches us what it means to be God’s faithful people, Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” Peter just doesn’t get it. Continue reading

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 16A (August 24, 2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138 (8)
Romans 12:1-8
St. Matthew 16:13-20

Semicontinuous Series
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124 (7)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, with all your faithful followers of every age, we praise you, the rock of our life. Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son, that we may gladly minister to all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

St. Matthew 16:13-20. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Rock Solid Faith

It seems, some times, that we are inundated with polls. There are polls about issues; polls about politicians; polls about items of human interest. We seem obsessed with knowing how many people agree or disagree with us.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus takes a poll of his own. As he is traveling through Caesarea Philippi, he raises two questions. First of all, he asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They come back with the following information: some believe that he is John the Baptist, come back to life. Some believe that he is the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Some believe that he is Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Continue reading

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