Ash Wednesday: Prepare

English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

Lent begins in ashes. On Ash Wednesday we are reminded of our mortality and sin. It is not a time for groveling; rather, it is a time for reality, for genuine humility, for repentance and forgiveness and renewed commitment to following the ways of Jesus. Lent is a season of preparation, preparing to Jesus’ passion and death for us and then to Easter.

Lord, who throughout these forty days for us didst fast and pray, teach us with thee to mourn our sins and close by thee to say. The Hymnal 1982, #142 Continue reading

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The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany: Year B

The power to heal

  • Isaiah 40:21-31
  • Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
  • Mark 1:29-39

Here at the beginning of history’s central event – the advent of Jesus Christ – Mark records the healing of a mother-in-law. Mark sandwiches this event between the exorcising of a demon in the midst of Jewish worship (our reading last week) and huge crowds bringing other demon-possessed and physically ill people. Peter’s mother-in-law shows the proper response to Jesus’ touch: service prompted by gratitude and devotion.

What Jesus has done in the synagogue spreads like a firestorm. The people could hardly wait for the Sabbath to end, as signaled by the first three visible stars. So at sunset, a flood of people come to Jesus, carrying or leading their sick, confused and maimed friends and family members. With compassion and power Jesus responds. Many can speak with a semblance of power, but few are able to follow through with deeds of power. Jesus produces results. Continue reading

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The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany: Year B

Power over evil

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

Jesus had the power to drive out evil from the lives of people. It today’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, with Jesus teaching on the Sabbath in the synagogue. A man was suffering from an unclean spirit that recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God. The spirit obeyed Jesus’ command to leave the man. “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Continue reading

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The Third Sunday after the Epiphany: Year B

Fish Stories

  • Jonah 3:1-5, 10
  • Psalm 62:6-12
  • 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
  • Mark 1:14-20

Words that connect today’s readings do not seem connected at all: fish, risk and urgency. We hear the familiar story of Jesus calling his disciples to make them “fishers of men.” Paul has faced a reversal in his life, sharing with the church in Corinth that “The appointed time has grown short” (1 Corinthians 7:29). The urgency is to follow the bidding of the Lord, because “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near . . .” (Mark 1:15).

Jonah has been given a message of great urgency. Ninevah had become the worlds’ greatest obstacle to the establishment of justice. Conquest and greed from the Assyrian Empire had made it a great city through aggression, cruelty and exploitation. Jonah was not quite willing to take up his task when called upon by God, but eventually he was compelled to deliver God’s message. Continue reading

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The Second Sunday after the Epiphany: Year B

Here I Am!

  • 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
  • Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
  • 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
  • John 1:43-51

One of the themes of today’s readings is responding to God’s call. We have the story of the prophet Eli, who recognizes that it is the Lord who is calling Samuel; and he tells Samuel to answer, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” In the Gospel, we hear John’s telling of Jesus calling Philip (and others) to be his disciple. Philip goes to Nathaniel and tells him that Jesus of Nazareth is the person who was spoken of my Moses in the Law. Continue reading

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The First Sunday after the Epiphany: Year B

The Baptism of our Lord

  • Genesis 1:1-5
  • Psalm 29
  • Acts 10:34-38
  • Mark 1:7-11

This year we read the Baptism text from Mark. While Matthew and Luke report what they have been told of Jesus’ birth, Mark’s shorter Gospel simply assumes such information.

Mark’s proclamation begins with a statement of God’s authorization of John’s preparatory ministry. That authorization is set out in two prophetic oracles, Malachi 3:1 (“I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me”) and Isaiah 40:3 (“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord'”). Continue reading

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The Feast of the Holy Name – January 1

The Naming of Jesus

  • Numbers 6:22-27
  • Psalm 8
  • Galatians 4:4-17 OR
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Luke 2:15-21

God’s identity is revealed as “merciful” and “gracious” (Exodus 34:6). Jesus’ name has significance: it is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning “God saves.”

The observance of the octave (eighth day) of Christmas has roots in the sixth century. The Christian calendar once called this day “The Circumcision and Name of Jesus.” The emphasis on circumcision is from the Jewish tradition, in which every Jewish boy was circumcised and formally named on the eighth day of his life (Leviticus 12:3). Other requirements of Mosaic Law included a dedication of the firstborn (Exodus 13:12-13; Numbers 18:15) and purification of the mother (Leviticus 12:2, 4, 6).  And we are reminded of Genesis 17:12, where a sign of the covenant between God and the nation of Israel: “Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old.”

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