Advent 2: Year B

Repent

  • Isaiah 40:1-11
  • Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
  • 2 Peter 3:8-15a, 18
  • Mark 1:1-8

John’s ministry is one of preparation, calling people to repentance, baptism, confession and forgiveness – the elements of our own preparation for encountering the living God. There is no way than this “repentance road” on which the King is able to enter the hearts of his people. Confession and forgiveness remove the barriers that obstruct the King’s embrace of love.

To baptize, (Greek, baptizo) literally means “to dip in” or “immerse,” implying also “to wash clean.” John invites the people of Israel to be cleansed from sin by repentance, turning away from old ways and moving in the opposite direction. To “turn around.” Continue reading

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Advent 1: Year B

Watch. Wait. Be ready.

  • Isaiah 64:1-9
  • Psalm 80:1-18
  • 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
  • Mark 13:24-37

Chapter 13 of Mark is full of ominous signs and strong words of advice. It may seem obscure to us today, but it is full of distinctly Jewish traditions and phrases of speech. But they are as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago.

Jesus warns his followers to be on the alert for the many dangers of the way so that they may persevere to the end. Those who follow Jesus today know that the way has not become any easier, and that the dangers may be greater and more numerous than ever before. We are offered a renewed vision that will enable us to remain on Jesus’ way; today’s reading instills a hope and determination that can sustain us on the perilous journey. Continue reading

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The Last Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 29 Year A

Soichi Watanabe

Christ the King

  • Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
  • Psalm 100
  • Ephesians 1:15-23
  • Matthew 25:31-46

On this final Sunday of the church year our gospel is Jesus’ great story of judgment. In the end, the faithful are those who served Christ by ministering to those who are poor, hungry, naked, sick, or estranged. In the first reading God is the shepherd who seeks the lost, weak, and injured and feeds them with justice. We gather this day to celebrate the reign of Christ and his victory over death, yet known in our loving words and deeds.

Several weeks ago (Proper 25) we were reminded of the greatest commandments: Love God; love neighbor. In today’s gospel, we see that loving our neighbors in need at the margins of society is one way we love God. The king in today’s gospel says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” This is not a normal ruler. In world of power-hungry rulers, seldom do we see one who insists that we care for the outcast and the oppressed as a way of being faithful servants. On Christ the King Sunday we are again reminded that Christ is not a normal king. Continue reading

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Thanksgiving

All our many blessings come from God’s good creation.

  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11
  • Psalm 100
  • Philippians 4:4-9
  • John 6:25-35

The church recognizes the traditional Thanksgiving holiday as a holy day for our land, life, and heritage. We are called to be faithful stewards of the earth as God’s creation, given to us as a sacred trust. Simple living, with respect for each other and the earth’s resources, is a way to be thankful stewards for our blessings so that all may share them.

The meaning of Eucharist is Thanksgiving. The reading from Deuteronomy recalls the Lord’s mighty salvation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and the people are bid to offer in thanksgiving the first fruits of their fields. John’s Gospel of the story of the feeding of the five thousand by Jesus recalls the story of the food miraculously provided to the Israelites in the wilderness. Christians perceive in this meal a foretaste of the heavenly banquet in heaven. It also prefigures the Eucharist. Jesus is the bread come down from heaven. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 28 Year A

Being ready

  • Judges 4:1-7
  • Psalm 123
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
  • Matthew 25:14-30

We have the responsibility to use our talents to mirror God’s creative action in the world. What we do shows forth the glory of God, no matter how insignificant we think our actions might be. We must face the consequences of our failure to mirror God’s creation, whether through our fear or rebellion. We face these consequences individually and as a nation and society.

There are two great stories we can tell from today’s readings, each with the theme of judgment, wrath and justice. Deborah, a prophetess and judge, who with her general, Barak, prepares for battle against those who worship false gods. In the parable of the talents, Jesus tells us more than our need to use the gifts God has given us.

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All Saints’ Day: Year A

Hungering for righteousness

  • Revelation 7:9-17
  • Psalm 34:1-10, 22
  • 1 John 3:1-3
  • Matthew 5:1-12

All Saints celebrates the baptized people of God, living and dead, who are the body of Christ. As November heralds the dying of the landscape in many northern regions, the readings and liturgy calls us to remember all who have died in Christ and whose baptism is complete. At the Lord’s table we gather with the faith of every time and place, trusting that the promises of God will be fulfilled and that all tears will be wiped away in the new Jerusalem.

Today we receive testimony from saints of the ancient world, hearing both realized experiences and promises for the future: God is our shelter and our food, strong to deliver and sweet to taste.  We hunger for God’s righteousness and for God’s presence; we acknowledge God’s saving power and offer our worship with thanks that one day we will be filled at last. As we approach the table, we celebrate the past and the future our God has shaped, and we open our ears to learn what they teach us about the present. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 26, Year A

Practice what you preach

  • Joshua 3:71-17
  • Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
  • Matthew 23:1-12

What a contrast between the kinds of leadership presented in today’s two New Testament readings. Paul emphasizes how he, Silas, and Timothy strived for humility: they tried not to be a burden to anyone, they sought to comfort and encourage those they visited, and they acknowledged that the word they brought was not their own but God’s. Jesus speaks of Pharisees who are the opposite – placing heavy burdens on people’s shoulders, preaching what they don’t practice, and looking for recognition.

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