The 13th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17A (9/3/2017)

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.

Cross to Bear

Common wisdom asserts that we “all have crosses to bear.” Poor health. A cruel boss. Disobedient children. A snoring spouse. Bad luck. We claim these crosses as a way of deflecting the challenges in our lives. “I’m so sorry to hear that.” “Oh well, I guess that’s just my cross to bear.” The notion is that life can be unfair, some aspects of living are just plain miserable, and since there isn’t much we can do about it anyway we just suffer through it, trying not to complain too much.

Let’s be clear: this is not what Jesus is saying in this week’s Gospel lesson. (more…)

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Date: August 27, 2017
Liturgical Day: The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 16A

Peter’s confession
Messiah and Son of God
a rock-solid faith

Christ’s Charge to Peter, by Rafael (1515-1516)

Summary:
Peter confesses Jesus to be Messiah and Son of the Living God, and Jesus declares that this confession will be the rock-solid foundation of the church. How is our faith, and our capacity to trust in God above all else, a foundation for living?

Some discussion Questions:
1. What does it mean to trust Jesus with all of our heart, even when we find ourselves in the midst of trouble and difficulty?
2. What gifts has God given me? (In Romans 12:1-8, the Apostle mentions ministry, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, compassion…)?
3. What does it entail, in my life, to “pursue righteousness?”

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-08-27 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-08-27 TIH

The 12th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 16A (8/27/2017)

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.

Who Do You Say that Jesus Is?

In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus quizzes his disciples. He first probes to see what they know. “What are people saying about me? What kind of a reputation do I have?” The disciples have a number of answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets… but nobody seems to have it right quite yet. That is, until Jesus asks his followers: “Who do you (plural in the Greek: ὑμει̂ς) say that I am?” (more…)

Faith and Mercy

August 20, 2017
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 15A

have mercy on me
the cry of deep faithfulness
a longing for grace

Christ and the Canaanite Woman by Germain-Jean Drouais

Summary:
Shocking, surprising, disturbing, confusing… these have been responses to the treatment this woman receives from Jesus. Yet the story ends in a much different way than it begins: with grace and mercy; healing and new life. What does this mean for us, in times when we cry out for God’s mercy?

Some discussion Questions:
1. What does it mean for us that Jesus ultimately “has mercy” on this woman?
2. When has the mercy of God felt real — tangible — to me, in a way that makes a difference in my life?
3. How does Isiah envision the relationship between insiders (like the disciples) and foreigners (like this woman…)?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-08-20 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-08-20 TIH

The 11th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 15A (8/20/2017)

Lessons:
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Psalm 67 (3)
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
St. Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133 (1)

Prayer of the Day:
God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you. Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy, that your name may be known throughout the earth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

15:21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

St. Matthew 15:21-28. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Disturbing, Confusing Grace

This weekend’s Gospel lesson is arguably one of the most confusing stories we have about Jesus. At the same time, it makes one of the most profound affirmations of God’s grace that we find in the New Testament. It features a conversation between Jesus and a Canaanite woman. A strange aspect of this story is that by the first century there really are not people commonly referred to as Canaanites; they ceased to exist about 1,150 years before the birth of Jesus. They were indigenous people in the land once conquered by ancient Israel, who never had a presence in the lands were Jesus taught, preached and healed. Matthew seems to use this word, and the image of that long extinct people, as a depiction of one who has no place within the people of God. (more…)

In God We Trust

Date: August 13, 2017
Liturgical Day: The 10th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14A

trusting in our God
with neither fear nor hatred
living faithfully

Saint Pierre Attempting to Walk on Water by Francois Boucher; Versailles, 1766

Summary:
Faith is a word that can have a variety of meanings. Some think of it as “correct belief.” Others think of it as “trust.” In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus encourages Peter to have faith in a difficult and dangerous situation: to trust. How might we, in these divided and dangerous days, learn how to trust in God, and in God’s ability to lead us forward to a better and more faithful future?

Some discussion Questions:
1. What led to Peter’s success (and failure) in his attempt to walk on water with Jesus?
2. In Romans 10, how is the righteousness that comes from the law different from the righteousness that comes from faith?
3. In 1st Kings 19, what does it mean that Elijah heard God’s voice coming from “a sound of sheer silence?”

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-08-13 sermon

Download Discussion Questions: 2017-08-13 TIH

The 10th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14A (August 13, 2017)

Lessons:
1st Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13 (8)
Romans 10:5-15
St. Matthew 14:22-33

Semicontinuous Series:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1, 45)

Prayer of the Day:
O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson:

14:22 Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.

St. Matthew 14:22-33. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Connection, Compassion, Kindness and Power

This week’s Gospel lesson tells a remarkable story. It features, as its most enduring image, the figure of Jesus, walking across the Sea of Galilee towards a distressed group of seafaring disciples. Battered by the waves, far from shore, fighting the wind, they have come to fear for their lives. To make matters worse, they suddenly glimpse what appears to be a ghost, making its way towards them. Terrified, they cry out in fear. (more…)

It Is Christ Who Feeds

August 6, 2017
Liturgical Day: The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13A

thousands of people
hungry in the wilderness
fed by Jesus’ hand

The Feeding of the Five Thousand by Hendrick de Clerck (1590)

Summary:
In the wilderness, the compassion of God is evident when Jesus feeds a great crowd of men, women and children. He continues to feed us today, through bread and wine, word and presence, community and solitude…

Some discussion Questions:
1. In what ways does Jesus satisfy the hunger of those who believe in him?
2. Using the image of food that is rich and good, what does Isaiah (in Isaiah 55:1-5) want his listeners to experience about God?
3. For whom would we love enough to be willing to be excluded from Gods family, if it led to their inclusion?

Download Sermon and Presentation Slides: 2017-08-06 sermon

Download Discussion Questions:  2017-08-06 TIH

The 9th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13A (8/6/2017)

Lessons
Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (16)
Romans 9:1-5
St. Matthew 14:13-21

Semicontinuous Series
Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17:1-7, 15 (15)

Prayer of the Day
Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance. Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

St. Matthew 14:13-21. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Scarcity and Abundance

An old saw contends that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide people into two groups and those who don’t. This week I find myself among those who do, because of my conviction that there are some people who live out of an ethic of scarcity, and others who live out of an ethic of abundance. Both are found in this weekend’s Gospel lesson. (more…)