Palm Sunday: Year B

Sunday of the Passion

  • Mark 11:1-11
  • Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • Psalm 31:9-16
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Mark 14:1-15:47

I write on this day given to remembering the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. This year the day seems empty and abstract. The events are too overpowering. The knowledge that Christ’s entry led directly to his Crucifixion looms too (grimly) ahead. This seems the strangest holiday of the year, a celebration of misunderstanding. In this world, the (dominion) has not yet come, though our hearts long for it and our lives incline toward it. 

These words by John Leax from his essay, “Lent,” (Stories for the Christian Year: The Chrysostom Society, Macmillan, 1992) sum up Palm Sunday in most our churches today. We will begin the liturgy with The Liturgy of the Palms (BCP 270), often outdoors, in which we welcome Christ to Jerusalem and in our midst, celebrating him as King with all “glory, laud and honor.” We rapidly (depending on the weather) process into the sanctuary, waving our palm branches with joy. Continue reading

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The Fifth Sunday of Lent: Year B

Written on our hearts

  • Jeremiah 31:31-34
  • Psalm 51:1-13 or Psalm 119:9-16
  • Hebrews 5:5-10
  • John 12:20-33

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ encounter with some Gentiles (Greeks) seem to signal to him that his mission is completed; only the cross remains. Through his brief parable about the grain of wheat needing to die before it produced fruit (12:24), Jesus tells his disciples that his time had indeed come, his time to die.

Jesus’ words become progressively more specific about the centrality of relationship with him. We are to follow and serve him, no matter the price. The people, who have concluded that, in some sense at least, Jesus is the Messiah, expect such a figure to “remain forever” as the prophets foretold (Isaiah 9:7). Continue reading

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The Fourth Sunday of Lent: Year B

Grace and Light

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

As we move closer to the events of Holy Week, our lessons point more directly to the Passion, which Paul’s letter to the Ephesians today tells us is the supreme measure of God’s grace: “By grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5). God forgives and restores despite human sinfulness and lack of faith in God’s love and mercy.

God does not just deal with this world, but deals with it passionately, loving it and suffering for it. “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to it” (John 3:16). But this is not logic. This is passion. How else would God be willing to part with God’s own son for the sake of us? Nor is this a result of reasoning. It is a risk. And passion always involves risk, does it not? But only in risking will there be new discoveries and exciting experiences. Choan-Seng Song in “Theology from the Womb of Asia” (Orbis Books, 1979). 

In his conversation with Nicodemus in today’s Gospel, Jesus compares the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness (from our Old Testament reading) to his own lifting up. Both are instances of remedies for sin, and both require faith. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up on the cross. Continue reading

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The Third Sunday of Lent: Year B


  • Exodus 20:1-17
  • Psalm 19
  • Corinthians 1:18-25
  • John 2:13-22

We live in a world where evil is present with us, and a good deal of the evil is within ourselves. The Ten Commandments are given to us as a means to avoid evil – by following God’s perfect law. Sometimes we identify the evil through “Seven Capital Sins“: pride, anger, greed, envy, lust, sloth, and gluttony. Several of these sins are evident in today’s account of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple.

The temple in Jerusalem had a vital place in Hebrew religion. Following the return from the Exile, the building of a new temple brought the resumption of sacrifices as an expression of service to God. Yet such service can offer fertile soil for human sinfulness. Convenience can appeal to sloth; greed can motivate the official who issues licenses; pride comes to those who are able to enter the holy place where others cannot. Continue reading

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The Second Sunday of Lent: Year B

Offering One’s Life

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

What does it mean to live with full faith and trust in God’s promises, when the reality of what we see and hear appear to be at odds with those promises? In today’s readings the patriarch Abraham and the disciples of Jesus are confronted with such a dilemma when the fulfillment of God’s promises is not what they expected.

The Covenant with Abraham depended upon faithful obedience rather than on a system of rules.”Hoping against hope” (Genesis 17:18), Abraham became the father of many nations despite his age and the barrenness of Sarah – indeed, he is the father of all who come to trust in God. Continue reading

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The First Sunday in Lent: Year B

Turning away from evil

  • Genesis 9:8-17
  • Psalm 25:1-9
  • 1 Peter 3:18-22
  • Mark 1:9-15

Today our readings plunge us into Lent with reminders of the waters of creation and the waters of our baptism. We enter this holy season reminded of our need for conversion and the invitation God continually gives us to turn toward God and renounce Satan. Our Baptismal Rite tells us, “There is one Body and one Spirit. There is one hope in God’s call to us” (BCP 299) and those who are about to be baptized (or their parents and sponsors) are asked, “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?” (BCP 302). Continue reading

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The Last Sunday after the Epiphany: Year B

The Transfiguration of our Lord

  • 2 Kings 2:1-12
  • Psalm 50:1-6
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
  • Mark 9:2-9

In every account (Mark 9:2-10; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36, 44-45), Jesus’ transfiguration immediately follows Peter’s confession and the disciples’ first lesson about Jesus’ course of shame, suffering and final vindication. In Christ’s way, belief lays the foundation for sight. The transfiguration could no more have preceded the confession of faith than could Jesus’ resurrection have preceded his crucifixion. Continue reading

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