Friday, November 25, 2016

First Sunday of Advent

O LORD our God, we confess that we have been slow to believe your promises, and quick to drift away from you. We have paid far too little attention to your word, to your testimony, to your miraculous signs and wonders, and far too much attention to selfish concerns. We have held back from you our very best, even though you gladly and graciously sent us your beloved and only begotten Son. Forgive us, O God, for our sinful thoughtlessness! Let us never again neglect so great a salvation as you have provided for us in Jesus Christ!

The LORD shows himself loyal to those who show themselves loyal, but with the crooked he shows himself perverse. The way of God is perfect. The promise of the LORD proves true. He is a rock for all who take refuge in him. You who have confessed and cried out to the LORD, know that you are delivered and forgiven, and be at peace.

On this very First Sunday of Advent, you will soon notice a peculiar feature of Year D. Some of the selections are quite long, and therefore you need to plan ahead if you wish to shorten the readings. 

Psalm 18, for example, is a rich and wonderful psalm with many unique spiritual and historical insights, but it is also much longer than the usual Psalm selection for a Sunday service. It falls to you to either make room for such a long psalm and cue the congregation that it will be a lengthy, or to make a shorter selection of key verses that you wish to accentuate. In this instance, Year D "narrows" the selection, but does not make the final cut for you. You must do this yourself. 

The Assurance above, for instance, makes use of the provocative, but intriguing language of Psalm 18:25-26, which contains (I suspect) an important perspective on the human experience of evil and a clue to the mysterious and troublesome doctrine of theodicy. These words will no doubt strike some as controversial, but to others, they issue a summons to self-examination and personal responsibility. The one undeniable thing is this: there they are ... in Scripture! 

May the Spirit inspire your study and planning!


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christ the King Sunday - 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Proper 29]

Obadiah 1-21
Psalm 87 AND 117
John 12:17-19, 37-50
1Corinthians 15:27-50 (51-57)


Though you say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”, though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, for your proud heart has deceived you, says the LORD. For the day of the LORD is near. As you have done, it shall be done to you. Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Some people have no knowledge of God. But you are to come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. Therefore, let us confess our sins.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time [Proper 28]


Nahum 3:1-19 OR Zechariah 12:1-13:1
Psalm 77: (1-2) 3-10 (11-20)
Matthew 27:57-66 OR Mark 15:42-47 OR Luke 23:50-56 OR John 19:31-42
[Comprehensive option: Jn 19:31-37; Lk 23:50-52; Mk 15:44-45; Jn 19:39-42; Lk 23:55-56]
Romans 16:1-25 (26-27)

Lord Jesus Christ, even in death, you, the Living Word, have spoken and offered the testimony of God, the testimony of the Spirit and the water and the blood, that the Word of the LORD might not return empty. Even in death you fulfilled the prophets, preached to the spirits that were in prison, and kept the Sabbath wholly, manifesting the grace of God in the face of the abuse and disgrace that continued to be heaped upon you, even in death. Now, O Lord, now that you live again, how much more do we hope to hear from you, from you, the Lord of Eternal Life, and how much more do we hope to be refreshed in your Holy Spirit, to see you in your glory! Meet with us, we pray, in this time and place, and speak from eternity, testify once more, that we may hear and be strengthened in faith and hope and the love of your dear name.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [Proper 27]

Nahum 2:1-13 OR Jeremiah 42:1-7; 43:1-7
Psalm 71:15-24
Matthew 27:31b-56 OR Mark 15:20b-41 OR Luke 23:33-49 OR John 19:17-30
Romans 14:13-23


O LORD, holy and merciful, we confess we have often misplaced our faith in you and sought to establish our own righteousness. We have been afraid to submit to your claim upon our lives, and thus we find ourselves as but a remnant of a once numerous people. We have been guided by self-concern, judged one another, and made one another stumble, where you would have us judge ourselves, confess our own sins, and build one another up in the knowledge of your saving love. Truly, O God, we stand in need of forgiveness, renewal, reform, and grace. Therefore, be gracious to us, O God, and help us, we pray, to receive grace that we may be better able and quick to show grace toward one another in the knowledge that Jesus has given himself up to death, and now is risen and reigns on high, not only for our sake, but for the sake of our neighbors and fellow believers. Forgive us, LORD, and help us to live as forgiven and forgiving people, to the honor and glory of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

All Saints’ Day

Haggai 1:1-14 (15) OR 2Chronicles 19:4-20:30
Psalm 107: (1-3) 10-16, 23-32 (33-37) 38-42 (43)
Matthew 27: (45-49) 50-56
Listen to me, you chosen of God!
Believe in the LORD and you will be established;
believe his prophets; sing to the LORD and praise him in holy splendor: 
        “Give thanks to the LORD,
        for his steadfast love endures forever.”
For thus says the LORD to you:
“Do not fear or be dismayed at your enemies;
for the battle is not yours; it belongs to God.
It is not for you to fight, but only to stand still
and see the victory of the LORD on your behalf.”
        “We will not fear or be dismayed;
        For the LORD our God is with us.”

O LORD our God, surely your Spirit rejoices when your children walk and love one another in the truth. Draw near to us, we pray, speak to and support your people, that we may be faithful to the truth, that it may go well with us in body, soul, and spirit, and that we, your church, might be healthy co-workers with the truth, supporting those saints and servants of the gospel who testify and journey for the sake of Christ, blessing them in a manner worthy of your most holy name.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time [Proper 26]

Nahum 1:9-15 OR Ezekiel 20:32-49
Psalm 31: (105) 6-14 (15-16) 17-24 OR 40: (1-11) 12-17
Luke 23:26-32
Romans 15:1-3, 14-33


Love the LORD, all you his saints.
         The LORD preserves the faithful,
         but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Let the lying lips be stilled that speak insolently
against the righteous with pride and contempt.
         O how abundant is your goodness, O LORD,
that you have laid up for those who fear you,
         and accomplished for those who take refuge in you,
         in the sight of everyone!
Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand.
For on my holy mountain, says the LORD God,
there I will accept them, and you shall know that I am the LORD.

O God our Father, who sent Jesus Christ into the world, not in order to please himself, but to graciously bear the insults that you and your saints have endured, to put up with the failings of the weak, to bless the barren, and to reveal your good purpose of building up those whom the enemy seeks to tear down: Come and refresh your weary people, refresh us with rest in your company, refresh us with the joy and the love of the Spirit. Rescue from unbelief and inspire us to earnest prayer, that our service to you may be acceptable in your sight and give none of your saints cause for stumbling. For by your grace we have come to share in the spiritual blessings, and we would glorify your name by uniting with your holy ones in the love of Christ and in the fullness of his blessing. Come, Lord Jesus, and refresh us in the power of your Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Our Father Knows (now on Kindle)

The Kindle edition of Our Father Knows: The Prayer that Jesus Taught is now available.

Our Father Knows: The Prayer That Jesus Taught

UPDATE (10-29-2016): Reissued today in print with several corrections.

ORIGINAL POST (03-16-2016): In the aftermath of Super Tumult, er, Tuesday, and before St. Patrick's Day sees everyone, shall we say, forgetting what St. Patrick stood for (well, hopefully not everyone), it seems like "3/16" may be a good day to publish a book, and not just any book, but a book on The Lord's Prayer. I suspect we need it — by which I mean "the Prayer" more than the book, but the book, too.

So, for those who share my conviction that we need to earnestly beseech our heavenly Father right about now — and indeed every day — let me introduce Our Father Knows: The Prayer that Jesus Taught. This short series of studies is the artifact of an adult Sunday School course I offered in early 2003. After my comprehensive exams and the submission of my dissertation proposal I had about a month before I could expect feedback on the proposal; given the chance to offer some adult ed, I thought I would try and tackle one of the chief catechetical "heads." Only once I got into it did I discover what a mammoth amount of literature there is on "the Prayer" — yes, the definite article is merited — so I pretty much stuck with first things first, namely, reading the petitions within the reverberations of the canon itself. The Foreword lists what are (to my mind) the chief secondary sources that a thorough study should take into account, if it were to venture beyond biblical study itself and into the history of Christian thought, interpretation, and preaching on the Lord's Prayer. It is quite possible I may have missed something important, especially since the recommended list of titles "For Further Reading" is admittedly light on commentaries. Including whole book commentaries would have added a level of research I did not and do not have the time to undertake, so let me refer any interested parties to the Biblical Studies department for that. All of which is to say, this was and is a quick study, prepared intensively but on the fly, without significant revision to what was first offered, despite the baker's dozen years that have since lapsed.

Perhaps you might consider using this for a Sunday school class or other adult ed event, or find in it inspiration for a sermon series on the Lord's Prayer. Sooner or later, and perhaps especially at this juncture, we need to remember the importance of catechesis, including catechetical preaching, do we not? [Where Year D is concerned, I have suggested Matthew 6:7-15 as the gospel lection for the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, but I do think the petitions are well worth at least one sermon each.]

Meanwhile, for an added bonus, see the final pages where, in "An Eschatological Postscript," you will find a prayer composed of (relatively neglected) petitions, other things for and about which Jesus also said we should pray. Can you imagine what the good Lord might do if we were to actually start praying for such things?

May your faith be strengthened by this study and may those with whom you serve the Lord be well nourished by it as well. Blessings and peace in Christ to one and all.