Bearing fruit

March 15th, 2018

18 March 2018
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Lent 5B (RCL)

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-13
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

Throughout Lent this year, we have been reading instances of God’s covenant with God’s people, beginning with the covenant with Abraham. We arrive at Jeremiah’s vision of a new covenant, when restores the fortunes of the people. This one will be written on the heart. In Deuteronomy (chapter 6), Moses tells the people to write the words of the Shema (Hear, O Israel) on their doorposts, to wear them as frontlets, to teach them to their children and to speak of them both indoors and out. The new covenant will need no such instruction, as all will already know it. Read the rest of this entry »

Into the light

March 8th, 2018

11 March 2018
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Lent 4B (RCL)

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesian 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

We all know, many of us by heart, John 3:16 – probably the most translated sentence in human history. But, I’m not sure we know what it is supposed to mean, even to the phrase “eternal life.” In the Greek, it is “the life of the age,” whatever that means. And our usual translations say, “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” What does it mean to believe in the Only Son? The Greek might better be translated “whoever trusts him.” Read the rest of this entry »

Get these things out of here!

February 28th, 2018

4 March 2018
Third Sunday in Lent
Lent 3B (RCL)

Exodus 20:1-7
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

John’s Gospel moves the Temple act from the end of Jesus’ ministry to near the beginning. If anything like the Temple act really took place, it seems unlikely that the Roman protectors (oppressors) of Jerusalem would have waited for a trial to crucify the instigator. It makes much more historical sense at the end of Jesus’ ministry, so we are forced to ask why John would move it to the beginning. Read the rest of this entry »

To lose one’s life

February 22nd, 2018

25 February 2018
Second Sunday in Lent
Lent 2B (RCL)

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:22-30
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

What the editors of the lectionary choose to leave out as much as what they choose to leave in always puzzles me. In the missing verses of the passage from Genesis, God gives the covenant mark of circumcision. This is a new aspect of the covenant, and so carries some importance. Paul will make much of it in his reading of the Abrahamic covenants. Also, in Mark’s Gospel, the editors chose to leave off the verses at the beginning, in which Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, which frames the whole paragraph that follows. Read the rest of this entry »

Wild beasts

February 15th, 2018

18 February 2018
First Sunday in Lent
Lent 1B (RCL)

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 251-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark a:9-15

The wild beasts in the wilderness as they show up in Mark’s Gospel here pose an interesting puzzle. Why this detail. Most commentators that I can find suggest one of two things – either to intensify the terror of the wilderness, or to suggest the presence of the first human being with the beasts in Eden (or the peaceable kingdom which would recreate that first Edenic state). The word being translated “wild beast” (therion), does indeed occur in the Genesis account of creation. Interestingly, it also occurs in the story of Noah. I think the connection of time-period (forty days) makes this association more likely than the others. Read the rest of this entry »

Restoring the broken

February 1st, 2018

4 February 2018
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 5B (RCL)

Isaiah 40:21-30
Psalm 147:1-12, 26C
1 Corinthians 9: 16-23
Mark 1:29-39

Everything in Mark’s Gospel happens abruptly. Jesus is in Capernaum one day, and then off again. All of this happens on the Sabbath (or just after). Jesus and those with him return from synagogue to Simon’s house and find Simon’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever. Jesus takes her by the hand and she serves them. We read this and cringe – the only role for a woman is serving. Read the rest of this entry »

A new teaching

January 25th, 2018

28 January 2018
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 4B (RCL)

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

This is Jesus’ first public appearance in Mark’s Gospel after the general announcement of the arrival of the Kingdom. Burton Mack makes much of the fact that it is an exorcism in a synagogue. Jesus arrives on the scene as the man of power, casting out unclean spirits in the synagogue. There is certainly a polemical point being made. Mack sees a remarkable contrast between the man of power in the first half of Mark’s Gospel and the crucified righteous one of the second half. I believe Mark has already telegraphed this contrast in the words from heaven at Jesus’ baptism, which quote both Psalm 2 (a coronation psalm) and Isaiah 42 (the first of the suffering servant songs). Read the rest of this entry »

Fishing for people

January 18th, 2018

21 January 2018
Third Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 3B (RCL)

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62:6-14
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

No doubt, the designers of the lectionary chose the passage from Jonah and the passage from Mark to to with the collect: give us grace to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ. But called to what? It’s always struck me as odd that Simon and Andrew, and James and John would be attracted by a call to fish for people. I can never get the image of little people flopping around on the shore out of my head. Read the rest of this entry »


January 11th, 2018

14 January 2018
Second Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 2B (RCL)

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

The first reading and the Gospel passage both have to do with stories of call; but the epistle reading sticks out like a sore thumb. Prostitution and fornication are not always happy topics for sermons! I realize we are now in “ordinary time” and the epistle is not chosen thematically, but perhaps we could have started at some other point in 1 Corinthians? Read the rest of this entry »

The voice of the Lord

January 4th, 2018

7 January 2018
First Sunday after Epiphany
Baptism of Our Lord
Epiphany 1B (RCL)

Genesis 1:1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

The passage from Genesis seems an odd choice for the feast of Jesus’ baptism. The links are, I suppose, the Spirit, the water and the voice, but the reading from Isaiah for year A (the first servant song) makes a lot more sense. Read the rest of this entry »