January 6th is Epiphany day. In our day an “epiphany” is any normal happening in the world that somehow clarifies or reveals something previously hidden from us or unclear to us. The word Epiphany is a barely-disguised Greek word that means, “appearance” or “demonstration,” and is related to a verb that means “to display,” “reveal” or “demonstrate.”
Epiphany is the Season of the Church Year when we shift our attention from “Jesus in a manger” with, more or less local importance, to Jesus as an adult whose life, ministry, and teachings displayed or demonstrated the character and values of… Continue reading
As Luke came to tell the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, he took pains to put them at a specific time and place so as to anchor them in this world. At the same time, when he came to thinking about the meaning of the coming of Jesus, he often did it in the form of songs or poems, what we might call Dr. Luke’s Christmas Cantata. We’ve mentioned a couple of these songs in past weeks: the song of aging Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and of Mary the Mother of Jesus in chapter 1, which… Continue reading
On further reflection, I would title this sermon “Isaiah, Mary, and Scrooge” (but not necessarily in that order). In fact, the last shall be first. Last Tuesday, Maxine and I went to the Twin Cities to see a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ great little story A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater. We went last year, too, and enjoyed it immensely, so we were looking forward to a repeat of this great performance. Well, this was, as I was reminded by the program notes, the 44th consecutive year for A Christmas Carol at the… Continue reading
I was delighted this past week to discover research from an association of Pediatricians that held tha tfancy, battery-filled toys and computer games do not teach children as well as the old fashioned toys like Lego’s or blocks, puzzles, dolls, dump trucks,etc. I was delighted not only because these are the toys I remember and I like to be affirmed (although both things are true), but because one reason the pediatricians gave for their findings was that the newer toys and games did not lead to the development of imagination and imaginative play in children as well as the… Continue reading
Advent begins the new Church Year by preparing for the Messiah to come to us as,long ago, people prepared for the Messiah to come to them. It seems that by the time we reach the end of each Church Year, we are ready to prepare afresh. And, today, we begin our preparation with “hope.” This hope of which I speak is not wish-fulfillment,but is a hard-fought optimism that God can be trusted to come through in the crunch, so to speak. Christian hope is the life-betting assurance that God in Christ is good, and so is the future. None of us… Continue reading
Blessings on the Last Sunday of the Church Year (Deuteronomy 33:1-5,26-29., 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Matthew 28:16-20)
Unlike the calendar year, the Church Year does not begin in January, but with Advent, which begins on the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th). That’s next Sunday, December 2nd. So, today is the last Sunday of the Church Year. We begin each new Church Year looking for One who comes to deliver us in God’s name, the one who Christians see as Jesus. Each year the Lectionary focuses the Gospel readings on Matthew, Mark, or Luke, with readings from the Gospel of John interwoven through each year. This past year has been Mark’s Year, and, next week… Continue reading
Well, they are playing Christmas music (or really, “holiday-ish music”) at the mall where we walk most every day. I block this out as much as I can. They did wait until the day after Halloween this year to start us on the annual binge to Bethlehem. It’s quite telling that our culture – at least the commercial part of it has eliminated Thanksgiving altogether from the calendar, it seems. Each year I like to stop and savour the whole flavour of being thankful before going forward into Advent and Christmas. There’s an old German hymn, not in our current… Continue reading
Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and your neighbor as yourself.
According to our Gospel Lesson, one day, in the midst of Jesus’ last week before his death, a Jewish scribe had been so impressed with Jesus’ relevant responses to questions that he came with a sincere question of his own. He was, it seems looking for some common ground between himself and Jesus. Matthew and Luke are more suspicious than Mark here, who gives this guy from… Continue reading
Seeing and not seeing, blindness and vision, are fairly common metaphors in the Bible, not only for physical changes (as in the Gospel story of Bartimaeus who is made to see), but for spiritual changes that happen, as when Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the early church, became Paul the Apostle, its greatest early missionary. The whole story of his temporary blindness and recovery of sight is a metaphor for a complete transformation.
Often, on the day of our quarterly congregational meeting I turn to thoughts of planning, mission, and vision. These are times for “seeing” both where we’ve been… Continue reading
Almost every Sunday, no matter what other words I use to pronounce the benediction, I always repeat the words from the very end of 2 Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Some of you may have wondered why I can’t find a new tune to play or some new words to utter after all these 15+ years. One of my colleagues used to distribute a hand out of approximately five typewritten sheets on the front and back, in 10 point font, with different… Continue reading