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Readings for Palm Sunday (March 16, 2008)

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Breaking of a Palm Leaf for the Entry into JerusalemLiturgy of the Palms; Sixth Sunday in Lent; March 16, 2008
Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2,19-29
[see sermon at Fear: the other Palm Sunday emotion]
Matthew 21:1-11
The Royal Welcome
1-3When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 9, 2008 at 8:55 pm

John the Baptist: Something’s not right about Jesus (readings for Dec. 16, 07)

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John the Baptist - DonatelloAh, John the Baptistnow there’s a prophet a guy can believe in. He’s everything you’d expect a prophet to be. Lives in the desert, forages food, wears homespun, cries “Repent!” and shouts down hypocrites. Exactly right.

And when Jesus shows up, John instantly recognizes “the one.”

But then Jesus doesn’t act like a prophet. John’s been half-fasting on what he can find in the desert; Jesus enjoys the feasts in town. John’s message is “Repent!” while Jesus’ message is “I will give you rest.” John faces-off with sinners; Jesus heals lepers and befriends prostitutes.

And John begins to wonder if he’s made a mistake. Jesus just doesn’t walk the “narrow way” like a prophet should. So John sends the question to Jesus: Are you the one?

And Jesus, without rebuke, reminds John of some Scripture he’d forgotten, gently shifting John’s expectations away from wrath and onto grace as the test of God’s presence from then on.

I wonder: Isn’t this something that still gets mixed-up? Don’t we who follow Jesus sometimes sound more like John, not understanding that those days are past?

That story is part of what I’ll be studying for Sunday. You’ll find the rest, just below.

P.S.: (I heartily recommend Lawrence Moore’s outstanding discussion of John the Baptist and Jesus—and law and grace—at Disclosing New Worlds)

Third Sunday of Advent

December 16, 2007
Matthew 11:2-11; James 5:7-10;Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10

Matthew 11:2-11
2-3John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” 4-6Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
“Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”

7-10When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’

11-14″Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s kingdom. But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom. Looked at in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

James 5:7-10
7-8Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

9Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.

10-11Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Isaiah 35
The Voiceless Break into Song
1-2 Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift.
Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts.
God’s resplendent glory, fully on display.
God awesome, God majestic.

3-4Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

5-7Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.

8-10There will be a highway
called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious
is permitted on this road.
It’s for God’s people exclusively—
impossible to get lost on this road.
Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
no dangerous wild animals—
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed
will come back on this road.
They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 146:5-10
…get help from the God of Jacob,
put your hope in God and know real blessing!
God made sky and soil,
sea and all the fish in it.
He always does what he says—
he defends the wronged,
he feeds the hungry.
God frees prisoners—
he gives sight to the blind,
he lifts up the fallen.
God loves good people, protects strangers,
takes the side of orphans and widows,
but makes short work of the wicked.

10 God’s in charge—always.
Zion’s God is God for good!
Hallelujah!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


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Written by Monte

December 10, 2007 at 5:37 pm

My unrespectable hero (sermon of Sep 16, ’07)

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I loved preaching this sermon; even more, I loved preparing it. Discovering afresh who Jesus is and what his passions are still breathes life into my heart. May it serve you, so.

Two shepherds. Which best represents a Bible figure?

good-shepherd.jpgshepherd boy

Proper 19 (24) September 16, 2007
Luke 15:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28; Psalm 14

We sang Cry of My Heart; Shout to the North; Above All; Be the Centre

And the sermon:

[With the opening of the Luke verses on the video screen, I moved between parts of the congregation, asking the people on one side to be the group described in the first verse. The first group’s job was to appear disreputable, which was really pretty funny.] Read the rest of this entry »

Stories for angry religious people (readings for Sep. 16, 2007)

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Once again, Jesus has been devoting his attention to “a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation.” And once again, some religious folks are appalled. Jesus responds with three parables, two of which are included in this week’s texts: the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.

Remember the first hearers: these are stories told to angry religious people. They wanted exclusion on the basis of lifestyle; he wanted inclusion of all.

Friend of mine has a bumper sticker that says God bless the whole world: no exceptions! That’d be like Jesus. And these are parables for those who disagree.

Cheers!

Proper 19 (24) September 16, 2007
Luke 15:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28; Psalm 14

To see these stories in another language or another English version, click here.

Luke 15
The Story of the Lost Sheep
1-3By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

September 10, 2007 at 1:00 pm

Conjoined twins: faith and doubt (Readings for March 30, 2008)

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CarvaggioWhen Jesus appears to the disciples, that first Sunday eve of the resurrection, Thomas is not around. Later, hearing the story, Thomas is skeptical, refusing to accept the possibility without direct evidence—including, he insists, a DWE [“Digital Wound Exam“—you may not get that unless you’re a middle-aged male].

A week later, Jesus suddenly appears through the locked doors. I wonder if Thomas, remembering his reluctance, thinks “Eeyow!” and slips to the back of the group. But Jesus looks past the crowd into Thomas’ eyes, and says, essentially, “Here you go. Check me out. I’ll be your lab rat, if that’s what it really takes.”

It’s a moving story, to me. Jesus’ rebuke to Thomas is pretty light, and he merely offers a “blessed are they” (rather than a rebuke) to people like us who “believe without seeing.”

Isn’t doubt what makes faith, faith? This machine on which I type – its reality (at least to my western mind) is beyond question. No faith needed there. But our memories, our ethics, our conviction of what is or is not real beyond that which we see … are not those things that we choose to trust? I wonder if every atheist’s credo (or a-credo) is a little bit faithey. And if every Christian—dare we admit it?— is yet part agnostic.

We believe—God knows, we’ve seen plenty—but there are times when all that has seemed so clear is again hard to grasp.  And in those times, the resurrected Jesus does not condemn, but beckons.

Thank God.

Second Sunday of Easter March 30, 2008
John 20:19-31; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16

John 20:19-31
To Believe
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 25, 2008 at 1:58 pm