In the Church Year, at least according to the Revised Common Lectionary which I have used over the past sixteen years, this Sunday marks two occasions rolled into one, Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday, and these two do not head exactly the same way down the road, or don’t seem to. The Old Testament Lesson is a reading for Passion Sunday, and comes from one of the Servant Songs in Isaiah. At least classically Christians have always recognized the ministry of Jesus in the figure of the Servant of the Lord, not the least because Jesus seems to see his… Continue reading
I think we all know that we live in a world where things are changing. There are immense cultural changes in every aspect of experience, from personal and institutional ones, to larger societal ones. We cannot just assume that what we thought would always be around, will. In church life, such situations, of course, breed their own experts who pronounce on what we need to do to make ourselves relevant or adapt ourselves to the changed environment, circumstances, paradigm, or whatever the right word is at this moment. At this point I need to issue a warning, this is not… Continue reading
Last week we looked at the necessity for finding new orientations in our Christian lives, sometimes radical, sometimes not so much. These course corrections are intended to open ourselves up to new ways of seeing and doing things that are more aligned with the values of Jesus and the Good News for our present day, rather than just being bound by with the way that things used to be done. Such things take work.
Today’s lessons offer us the insight we’re not in this all alone. We are constantly the recipients of God’s help through the Living Word, through the… Continue reading
In Lent, we often think about the quality of our discipleship to Jesus. I keep saying that none of this needs be morose, but, as we find that our discipleship needs a tune-up, some of that can be a little depressing. Well, today’s passages all deal with “repentance,” which can continue such a trend. If you have a Baptist background (and some others, too), the picture that may come into your mind when repentance is mentioned may be old fashioned evangelists preaching at the top of their lungs about God’s anger at us, and our need to “repent” lest God… Continue reading
In Isaiah, chapter 40, just before those famous lines we sang as a call to worship: “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” we read why their strength needed to be renewed: “Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young shall fall exhausted.” In short, life’s exhausting, so people, even strong people, who would make it through need to wait upon the Lord. That word “to wait,” comes from a word for a line or cord, stretched tight. Those who wait are “stretched tight, or taut” waiting to see what happens next. It is an… Continue reading
It seems to me but a moment ago that we lit the first Advent candle to prepare for Jesus’ coming in a physical sense long ago, and again today in a spiritual sense. Then, it was Christmas and, after that, Epiphany with its stories about Jesus the Messiah in whom God was, and is, carrying out the divine mission set forth in the ancient words of Isaiah 61: “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners…”
I can hardly believe that now we are… Continue reading
Today is the Last Sunday in Epiphany. Epiphany, as we have said throughout, is the season of the church year when we follow the story of how Jesus was shown to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Saviour of the World. The Last Sunday of Epiphany is traditionally called Transfiguration Sunday. Next week we begin the Lenten Season, when we trace the steps of Jesus to the cross.
In my own mind, the Lessons for today present some obvious difficulties. Both the Old Testament and the Gospel passages contain written accounts of clearly supernatural events: the so-called… Continue reading
Today’s Old Testament and Gospel lessons were probably put together because, on the surface, they share the characteristic of being “blessings and curses” or “woes.” No really – blessings and curses don’t really play with most of us today. While we might like to think of ourselves as “blessed,” we don’t usually think in terms of “cursing” others or “being cursed,” ourselves. It all sounds outdated, medieval, and, frankly, a little creepy. The Epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians 15 deals with the resurrection, which, on the surface at least, has nothing obvious to do with “blessings” or “curses,” but seems… Continue reading
Today’s scripture lessons use distinct kinds of literature to relate three particular life-changing experiences with God. We are liable to name each of these passages the account of “a call” from God. First we read Isaiah’s call to the prophetic office and ministry. There is also the story of some Galilean fishermen to answer Jesus’ call to God’s service. Finally, we hear Paul relate tradition he had received concerning those to whom the risen Christ had appeared by faith. He concluded this account with his own story of Christ’s call to God’s service in a oblique reference to his experience… Continue reading