The Second Sunday of Easter: Year A

Knowing the Risen Christ through faith

  • Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 22-32
  • Psalm 16
  • 1 Peter 1:3-9
  • John 20:19-31

We may not see the risen Christ but we will know the risen Christ as we gather in faith-filled community on the eighth day.” Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. (John 20:29b)

Many call this day “Doubting Thomas” Sunday. Since Thomas was absent during Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after the resurrection, Thomas experienced doubt and was looking for a safe expression for his sorrow. He gives an ultimatum, “Unless . . . , I will not believe.” Often such words becomes the desperate language of our prayers. An ultimatum is the last straw, often before violence, as in a threat – “Do this or else.” Jesus upends Thomas’s “or else” with a great surprise. We see this in the above painting by Caravaggio (1597), as Thomas places his fingers in Jesus’ wounded side. Continue reading

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Easter Day: Year A

The Sunday of the Resurrection

  • Jeremiah 31:1-6 or Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43
  • Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
  • Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43 or Colossians 3:1-4
  • John 20:1-18

Easter Sunday begins the fifty days of the Easter season with the story of the empty tomb and the charge by the messenger to “go and tell!”

Paul Hammer writes, “In a setting that often made women subordinate to men, it is striking that women were the first to tell the story of Jesus’ resurrection. In Matthew’s story Jesus commissioned them to ‘go and tell’ (v. 10). The risen Jesus met these joyous women on their way and greeted them. They took hold of him and worshiped him, the one in whom God was so powerfully at work and who had entrusted them with such a message.” (“The Background Word,” in Word Among Us: A Worship-centered, Lectionary-based Curriculum for the Whole Congregation, United Church Press, 1995) Continue reading

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Palm Sunday: Year A

The Liturgy of the Palms

  • Matthew 21:1-11

The Liturgy of the Word

  • Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • Psalm 31:9-16
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • The Passion from Matthew 26: 14-27:66 or 27:11-54

In fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Crowds of people spread their cloaks in the road and cut branches from trees to spread in his path. The people shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and other cries of praise and blessing.

The tension between suffering and glorious triumph is set immediately before us on Palm Sunday. Today’s hosannas ring out even as a sense of foreboding grows. Jesus enters Jerusalem proclaimed as a king, riding toward a destiny of suffering and death amid the shouts of those who soon will turn against him. Continue reading

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The Fifth Sunday of Lent: Year A

Freed from the tomb of sinfulness

  • Ezekiel 37:1-14
  • Psalm 130
  • Romans 8:6-11
  • John 11:1-45

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and raised them to the new life of grace. (BCP 308)

In baptism, the Christian is freed from the tomb of sinfulness. Dry bones take on flesh and those who were dead are filled with the breath of God. Paul writes to the Romans, explaining that God’s life-giving Spirit is unleashed in Christ. It replaces the Mosaic law that sin uses to produce death.

According to Christopher R. Seitz (Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 46), “Exile is death. It is a valley where all the prophet can see are bones, where he alone has eyes to see and hear the question too horrible to be answered except by God, “Can these bones live?” “[God], you know.” The place of exile is not just the north country, or a new Egypt, or the regions around the earth’s boundaries, north, south, east, and west. It is as cold and final as the tomb, where no breath is drawn. . . . Yes, Israel is totally dead. . . . The valley is full of bones, and all are very dry. Not one shows any sign of stirring by its own effort. The prophet sees a wasteland, still, lifeless, and all encompassing. His words of judgment have reached as far as they can, until he alone is left – or, better, he alone with God who hand first sent him on this grim mission.” Continue reading

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The Fourth Sunday in Lent: Year A

Mud and Oil, Light and Understanding

  • 1 Samuel 16:1-13
  • Psalm 23
  • Ephesians 5:8-14
  • John 9:1-14

Come, Spirit of blessing, anoint me with your oil of promise. Do not look upon my appearance, but look at my heart, and choose me into courage for the future you have planned. (A Gift of Improbable Blessing by Maren Tirabassi, United Church Press, 1998).

Today’s readings are full of meaning and action: As David was being anointed by Samuel, he was empowered to speak for God as Israel’s king. In the story of the man born blind, Jesus spat on the ground to make a paste with his spittle, which he anointed the man’s eyes. Through this anointing, the blind man could see to follow Jesus. We are anointed by the Holy Spirit at Baptism, with the invitation to see anew and follow Jesus. The early church saw the healing of the man born blind as a metaphor for enlightenment: the Christian is called to see things differently. Continue reading

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The Third Sunday in Lent: Year A

Baptismal waters

  • Exodus 17:1-7
  • Psalm 95
  • Romans 5:1-11
  • John 4:5-42

Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior. (BCP 307)

Water is a theme running through our lessons today. Literally and figuratively. Despite our complaining and non-comprehension, God continues to provide us “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Water does give life. Water can also cause death. In recent years we have seen the power of water – melting snow, torrential rains, swollen rivers, and of course, the power of hurricanes and tsunamis. How can we see the life that water can bring when we have been overwhelmed by images of destruction that have been caused by natural events? Continue reading

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The Second Sunday in Lent: Year A


  • Genesis 12:1-4a
  • Psalm 121
  • Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
  • John 3:1-17

Since baptism and Lent are all about conversion, the themes for the five Sundays of Lent also provide us with a process of “conversion therapy,” a term used by Aidan Kavanagh to describe the purpose behind the catechumenate. As we move through the season and Holy Week, we first turn away from evil and toward Jesus Christ (Lent 1 and 2). This week’s lessons continue the conversion process as we recognize those who put their trust in God (which also resonates in today’s Psalm).

A reflection from H. King Oehmig (Understanding the Sunday Scriptures, Year A. 2007: ReadMark Press):

He stood for respectable religion at its best. His behavior must have been above reproach. His reputation must have been built around an array of theological degrees that were the envy of many. He was a man who knew the importance of the position he held, and did not want to jeopardize it. Perhaps that is why Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night – the only person in the Gospels to have done so.

Continue reading

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