Of the Parents Love Begotten

Year B, First Sunday of Christmas

Isaiah 61:10-62:3   

Psalm 148

Galatians 4:4-7 

Luke 2:22-40

The Sunday after Christmas at our church is always a day of singing Christmas carols and telling stories. Luke’s gospel provides us with the great story of the blessing of the baby, Jesus, by Anna and Simeon in the temple. The characters of Anna and Simeon double the parental characters of Mary and Joseph. Jesus is blessed by generations of loving parents. In his ibook, “The Innkeeper’s Gift”, storyteller, Bob Wilhelm, tells the Pueblo Indian story of “Moon Mother”. This story echoes the blessings of parental love for children that we find in the gospel. Until December 31, 2017 you can get Bob’s book for free at his website. Click on this link, “The Innkeeper’s Gift” , to download the book. It holds 52 stories for lectionary Year B, a great deal! And Bob’s website holds many other resources for sacred and biblical storytelling.

Below is my Christmas greeting to you. I did not grow up with this hymn but discovered it in divinity school through the music of Ana Hernandez. Every Advent I return to it. Richard Wilbur’s poetic text speaks of the simplicity and complexity of the entire gospel message we proclaim throughout the year. I hope and pray that the layers of its meaning will inspire and bless you through this Christmas season.  Continue reading

God in Our Midst: Beyond Our Imaginings

Year B, Advent 4/XmasEve

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16                                                                       

Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

 Christmas Eve/Day text can be found at Vanderbilt University’s Revised Common Lectionary website.

This year we have the unusual situation in which Advent 4 falls on Christmas Eve. How to do them both justice? Or do we pick? At the church I serve we are doing the three traditional Christmas Eve services but acknowledging Advent 4 in our candle-lighting. You may be doing both. Rev. Kate Huey once posted this question on the UCC Sermon Seeds Facebook page in relation to this week’s texts, “What is God doing today, here in our midst, that is too wonderful for our imaginations or our words?” An excellent question for the texts of Advent 4 and the texts of Christmas Eve.   Continue reading

Joy, Joy, Joy!

Year B, Advent 3

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11                    

Psalm 126 or Luke 1:46b-55 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Every text this week sings out its message with the challenge of joy! How can joy be a challenge? Don’t we all want to be joyful, full of joy? I have no proof of this but it is my sense that joy goes deeper than happiness. Joy can abide even in the midst of great sorrow and adversity. When tears are spent and our anguish is lamented until our voices are hoarse and our souls are aching to the core…the joy of discovering we have been heard when we thought we were deserted lies beneath our lost hopes. Continue reading

Peace Be With You

Year B, Second Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 40:1-11                 

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Mark 1:1-8

“Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky”(Psalm 85:11). What an image of hope! And all because God “speak(s) peace to God’s people.” “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other”(Psalm 85:10). Our texts this week ring with a deep connection between creation and God’s revelation to the people who inhabit creation. We are exhorted by the prophecy of Isaiah, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). 2 Peter expresses the Advent longing and waiting for “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” with the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us. John the Baptizer echoes Isaiah’s cry to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” He embodies the very stuff of the earth in his clothing of camel hair and leather with his diet of locusts and wild honey. His ministry of repentance takes place outside in the wilderness and on the riverbank of the Jordan. In coming back to the earth there is an implication that the people also turn back to God. Continue reading

All Your People

Year B, First Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 64:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19      

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:24-37

Happy New Year! And what a way to start the year with our scriptures of confession, longing and hope! A cleansing for new beginnings! The Isaiah text leads us into the year with its shout of yearning for God’s presence, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” There is no other God but you and we are awestruck with your mighty deeds. Yet we have messed up time and again in our lives. You have hidden your face from us. Remember, O God, that “we are all your people!” Formidable words in the midst of news headlines. Continue reading

Justice and Love – The Reign of Christ

Year A, Pentecost, Proper 29

Reign of Christ Sunday

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 and Psalm 100              

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 and Psalm 95:1-7a 

Ephesians 1:15-23 

Matthew 25:31-46

This Sunday is the “New Year’s Eve” of the church year. This is the day we wrap up the labyrinthine procession of the year from Advent to Lent to Pentecost and through all the long Sundays of Ordinary Time. Each year we walk the labyrinth of this journey learning something new in its twists and turns even as we are reminded of familiar assurances and challenges from God’s word along the way. Next Sunday we begin a new year and dance our way back into a new cycle on the labyrinth as we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent, Year B. Whether in the church year or the calendar year the turning from “old” to “new” is always a time of special feast days. So welcome to the feast!   Continue reading

Courage

Year A, Pentecost, Proper 28

Judges 4:1-7 and Psalm 123                                          

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 and Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:14-30

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage,” wrote 20thcentury author, Anaïs Nin.[i] Our texts this week radiate with this challenging idea. It seems that turning from the ways of God, as risky and counter-intuitive as they may seem to the ways of modern – and ancient – society, requires less rather than more courage. The people of God are confronted time and again in our texts with the challenge of life-expanding courage as they endeavor to live in God’s ways. It often seems to put them – and us – in opposition to the status quo. God’s ways require courage as we live upholding God’s counter-cultural justice, mercy, grace and generosity. And God provides us with the courage to live in these counter-cultural ways. Continue reading

Trouble/Beauty, Darkness/Light

Year A, Pentecost, Proper 27

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 and Psalm 78:1-7 

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 or Amos 5:18-24 and 

Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 or Psalm 70

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

United Church of Christ minister and scholar, Rev. Kate Huey, writes in the UCC lectionary blog, “Sermon Seeds”[i], “One of my favorite phrases, heard years ago, is ‘trouble and beauty.’” Kate is focusing on the Matthew text in her reflection, however I find her phrase an apt description of the all the lectionary texts this week. All the texts hold the” beauty” of God’s presence as well as the “trouble” that can come when we see our lives reflected in God’s presence. While we move through life held in the comfort of God’s grace, there are times we cannot perceive this beauty until we are troubled by the judgment and justice of God’s course correction in our lives. God’s truth and wisdom, even God’s love, can be as unsettling as they are grounding in their invitation into transformation. Continue reading

For All the Saints

Year A, All Saints and Proper 26

All Saints Day

Revelation 7:9-17 and Psalm 34:1-10,22 

1 John 3:1-3 

Matthew 5:1-12 

Proper 26

Joshua 3:7-17 and Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37

Micah 3:5-12 and Psalm 43

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Matthew 23:1-12

I find myself humming the hymn, “For All the Saints” as I consider the texts for All Saints Day and for Proper 26. The first line of the hymn connects the themes of each day’s celebration, “For all the saints who from their labors rest…”. On All Saints Day we remember the saints in faith who have gone before us leaving behind a legacy of challenge and belief. We celebrate the great cloud of witnesses they form in union with God. Proper 26 celebrates the work and witness of our most ancient saints and ancestors of the faith in our Judeo-Christian heritage as through trial and error they carve out their lives trusting in God’s guidance. Continue reading

Love That Will Not Let Go

Year A, Pentecost, Proper 25

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 and Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17  

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 and Psalm 1

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Matthew 22:34-46

“Knowing the heart of Jesus and loving him are the same thing….The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.” Henri Nouwen, 20th century

I have often wondered what it really means to love Jesus. I wonder what it means to love God “with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” as Jesus proclaims in the text from Matthew this week. Steeped in the Christian faith since birth, it seems on one hand that loving God/Jesus is like breathing, unconscious most of the time, a reflex. Yet breathing is so completely necessary to life in the body that without breath one dies. Is loving God/Jesus vital and also reflexive? Growing up in the church I thought I had to work hard to love God and Jesus. Doing all the right things! Nouwen reminds us that knowing the heart of Jesus is loving him and so placing ourselves within the love of God. Continue reading