The Season after Pentecost, Proper 4: Year B

je43New Freedom

  • 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20) or Deuteronomy 5:12-15
  • Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 or Psalm 81:1-10
  • 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
  • Mark 2:23-3:6

All power over life and death belongs to God, and we can never control it. This challenges us to confront the conventions of the world. Despite any difficulty, God allows our witness to persevere for Jesus’ sake. Although the Ten Commandments were given to the people generations earlier, there is always a need for clarification and further understanding of what God requires of us.

Today’s Gospel is an example of that. Among the Pharisees, the Sabbath, with its blessings of rest, worship, and quiet, had turned into a rigid routine full of regulations and restrictions. As Jesus and his disciples travel over the fields on the Sabbath, the disciples began to make a path, itself strictly forbidden as “work.” Hungry, they plucked a few ears of grain and rubbed them between their hands to get out the kernels of grain. While they only took a tiny amount, their “reaping and threshing” motion was considered work. Hence the Pharisees outrage – they were working on the Sabbath. Continue reading

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Trinity Sunday, Year B

Holy, Holy, Holy

  • Isaiah 6:1-8
  • Psalm 29 or Canticle 2 or Canticle 13
  • Romans 8:12-17
  • John 3:1-7

Trinity Sunday is different from most feast days on the liturgical calendar because it celebrates a doctrine of the Church rather than an event in Jesus’ life. The Trinity is the Church’s answer to theological questions that were raised during the first three centuries C.E. and still persist today. Even after the formulation of all the Creeds, much remained to be done to reach a full definition. Scripture contains hints of the threefold nature of God; but nowhere in the New Testament is there a complete, explicit statement that tells us everything there is to know about the Trinity. However, today’s texts give us some understanding of the mystery of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Continue reading

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The Feast of Pentecost, Year B

The gift of the Holy Spirit empowers Christians for ministry in the world.

  • Acts of the Apostles 2:1-21 or
  • Ezekiel 37:1-14
  • Psalm 104:25-35, 37
  • Romans 8:22-27
  • John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

God has opened the hearts of the faithful people by sending them the light of his Holy Spirit. We pray that God will give us right judgement in all things and joy in the strengthening of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles, we hear of the experience of the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled them and they were able to tell people of “every nation” under heaven in their own languages the great things God has done for us.

The church began in the passionate blaze of the Spirit, when boundaries of languages and cultures were transcended for a time and all heard the good news in their own language. The consuming fervor of the disciples communicated itself to all who encountered them and allowed for the remarkable spread of the Gospel throughout the known world. Continue reading

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Ascension Day – All Years

Salvador Dali. Ascension. 1958. Oil on canvas.

  • Acts 1:1-11
  • Psalm 47 OR Psalm 93
  • Ephesians 1:15-23
  • Luke 14:44-53

Jesus promised his disciples to send them his Father’s promised gift – the Holy Spirit. He led them to Bethany and blessed them with his hands raised. As he blessed them he parted from them, and was carried to heaven.

Belief in Christ’s ascension is an important element in our creeds, including the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. We often pray to God “through Christ” as a recognition that Christ intercedes for us “at the right hand of the Father.” The familiar refrain that closes many of our prayers and collects captures this image: Continue reading

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The Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Love One Another as Friends

  • Acts of the Apostles 10:44-48
  • Psalm 98
  • 1 John 5:1-6
  • John 15:9-17

Today’s theme is of the new community formed out of the resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of that community that is grounded in love. Today’s Gospel and Epistle (Letter of John) emphasize the relationship between Christian love and obedience. It all begins with the love of God for us – love that comes to us through the Son. By entering our lives, Jesus brings the love of the Father to us.

We know that we are children of God by loving and obeying God’s commandments. These commandments are not burdens to be born, but the way of life and fulfillment (1 John 5:3). Trust in Jesus as the Messiah also brings privileges of adoption – of being made a child of God. As members of God’s family, disciples learn how to keep the commandments. Continue reading

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The Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Vines and Branches

  • Acts of the Apostles
  • Psalm 22:24-30
  • 1 John 4:7-21
  • John 15:1-8

What is to be done with branches that bear no fruit?

Jesus’ seventh, final “I am” statement is featured in today’s Gospel. The desired relationship between Jesus and his followers is more easily illustrated that explained.

Not only did the disciples understand the image of a vine in its natural setting, they also understood the rich significance it carried from its use in Old Testament writing. The figure of a vine had often been used by the prophets to symbolize Israel and to demonstrate the relationship between Israel and God (Psalm 80:8-16 and Jeremiah 2:21). Isaiah’s song of God’s vineyard is perhaps the best known and demonstrates God’s sorrow over the failure of the vineyard to produce good grapes (Isaiah 5:1-7). What Israel, as God’s servant, was called to be (Isaiah 49:6), Jesus now is. Continue reading

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Easter Day: Year B

Jesus is Risen!

  • Isaiah 25:6-9
  • Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
  • Mark 16:1-8

Today is the most important day of the Christian calendar. It is the Feast of the Resurrection – a point upon which all our faith is grounded. Three women approach the tomb early in the morning as Jesus’ “follow me” has brought them to a journey’s end where they anticipate sadness and mourning as they perform the last service of honor to the dead.

Mary Gordon states in Incarnation: Contemporary Writers on the New Testament (Viking Press, 1990): But Mark, the harshest, the sparest of the Gospel writers, give us an unhopeful Easter. Many scholars believe that the manuscript actually ended with a failure of nerve. The women, seeing the angel at the empty tomb, are terrified. The angel tells them to bring the message of Christ’s resurrection to the disciples, but they don’t. It is believed that the original manuscript ended with this verse: “Then they went out and ran away from the tomb, beside themselves with terror. They said nothing to anybody but they were afraid.” Continue reading

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