The Season after Pentecost: Proper 17 Year A

The cost of discipleship

  • Exodus 3:1-15
  • Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c
  • Romans 12:9-21
  • Matthew 16:21-28

After Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16), Jesus reveals the ultimate purpose of his ministry. These words prove hard to accept, even for a disciple whom Jesus has called a “rock.”

Both Jesus and Paul present bold, difficult challenges in these readings – some would say, as Peter did, too difficult and unnecessary. Jesus’ directive to deny the self and lose one’s life in order to find it is made specific in Paul’s exhortations about living a Christian life. It is easy to focus on the most radical part of Paul’s teaching – feeding one’s enemies – and then give up in defeat. But in through such actions are the outcome of a life loved according to Romans 12:9-13: loving genuinely, persevering in prayer, serving God. Only by these daily acts of self denial is one strengthened to do the heroic when called upon. And only through daily losing one’s life can one understand and accept the role of suffering in Jesus’ life as Messiah and in our lives as Christians. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 16, Year A

The Foundation of Faith

  • Exodus 1:8-2:10
  • Psalm 124
  • Romans 12:1-8
  • Matthew 16:13-20

It remains a perennial problem. We know we are God’s children through water and the word. We know the gifts of the Spirit are ours through the community. But we remain a divided family, its members too often struggling against one another. We tend to emphasize what keeps us apart rather than what keeps us together – our giftedness in grace through Jesus Christ. Yet there are moments where love is shared, peace is offered, and courage and comfort are brought to those in need.

Jesus declares that the church will be built on the rock of Peter’s bold confession of faith. God’s word of reconciliation and mercy are keys to the church’s mission. Paul urges us to not be conformed to this world, but to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, using our individual gifts to build up the body of Christ. From the table we go forth to offer our spiritual worship through word and deed. Where can we go from here? Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 15, Year A

Faith brings salvation to all

  • Genesis 45:1-5
  • Psalm 133
  • Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
  • Matthew 15 (10-20), 21-28

Midway through this green season of Pentecost, we are reminded about what it means to be church. Today we go deeper, as Jesus points out how little his followers understand what God’s meaning of discipleship is all about. Nothing substantive resides in what “goes into” the mouth; it is what comes out that matters. This is a contested issue among “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” as Jesus calls those to whom he believes he has been sent.

Jesus teaches his disciples that true purity is a matter of the heart rather than outward religious observances. Almost immediately, this teaching is tested when a woman considered to be pagan and unclean (a Gentile) approaches him for help. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 14, Year A

You of little faith

  • Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
  • Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45
  • Romans 10:5015
  • Matthew 14:22-33

“Jesus’ miracle of walking on the sea is not just to ‘show off’ who he is but to come to the aid of his threatened disciples. That is to say, while the story is indeed talking about who Jesus is, it emphasized his function rather than his nature. As Messiah he is the one charged and empowered by God to shepherd and care for Gods people.” Douglas R. A. Hare (Matthew: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Louisville: John Knox, 1993), 169.

Matthew typically shows the disciples as people of “little faith” who fail despite their best intentions. In the reading from Romans, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” in reference to those who are willing to go where they are sent and proclaim the good news. And today, the disciples do what Jesus tells them – they go “to the other side.” Doing this, they literally land in “rough waters.” Continue reading

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The Transfiguration of Our Lord

Fr. John Giuliani - Contemporary U.S. Iconographer

Fr. John Giuliani – Contemporary U.S. Iconographer

The ‘official date of remembrance’ for the Transfiguration of Jesus is August 6th, but most individuals hear these readings on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany every year in our lectionary. Found in all three gospels (Year A: Matthew 17:1-9; Year B: Mark 9:2-9; and Year C: Luke 9:28-26), the narrative is richly woven with themes and symbols drawn from Israel’s past and its hopes for the future. Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets, whose promises Jesus fulfills. The chosen disciples (Peter, James, and John) see divine glory reflected in Jesus’ human person. They hear a voice from the cloud declaring that he is the beloved son.

The readings listed here are the ones appointed for this feast day, with notes as to where we also hear these readings in our three-year lectionary cycle.

  • Exodus 34:29-35 – Moses’ face shines after he speaks with the LORD. (Year C)
  • Psalm 99 or 99:5-9 – God speaks to Israel’s leaders from a pillar of cloud (Year C)
  • 2 Peter 1:13-21 – The apostle Peter recalls his vision of Jesus in majesty on the holy mountain (Year A)
  • Luke 9:28-36 – The story of Jesus’ transfiguration (Year C)

What is transfiguration?

In today’s culture, one might first think of the Harry Potter series in which author J.K. Rowling describes it as the art of changing the form and appearance of an object and the vanishing of objects. This magical art is part of the curriculum at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As many would say, she is using biblical themes to tell her story of good vs. evil.

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 13, Year A

Food for mind and body

  • Genesis 32:22-31
  • Psalm 17:1-7, 16
  • Romans 9:1-5
  • Matthew 14:13-21

After John the Baptist is murdered, Jesus desires a time of solitude. Still, his compassion for others will not allow him to dismiss those who need him, and he is moved to perform one of his greatest miracles. One of the most stunning themes of the gospel can be found in today’s reading: solidarity. God chooses to save humankind not from afar but through experiencing life on earth, living with the poor, ministering to the oppressed, and dying with criminals. This kind of union is costly. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 12, Year A

The hidden power of the kingdom of God

  • Genesis 29:15-28
  • Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 128
  • Romans 8:26-39
  • Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Today’s gospel reading is a challenging series of parables about the “kingdom of heaven.” While the subject of the parables is basically the same, the thematic diversity of the parables suggests how multifaceted is any understanding of the kingdom Jesus proclaims and to which he points. The parables – suggesting the humble and unexpected nature of the kingdom, the kingdom’s surpassing value, and its real and perceived population – offer different windows into the one reality of the kingdom. In telling parables, Jesus surprises and stretches our minds, engages and enlivens our imaginations. Having minds and imaginations set free by the gospel is part of our “train[ing] for the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:52). Continue reading

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