Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Christmas Play by Gary Neal Hansen

This year for Christmas I have the honor of serving as the Narrator for Gary Neal Hansen's Christmas Play, which will be presented in worship at First Presbyterian Church, Dubuque, IA. Gary's arrangement of the nativity narratives is a beautiful harmonization of the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and John. This straightforward presentation of the good news of the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus puts the revelation front and center. It is a pleasure to read and it will be a joy to join with saints young and old in this retelling of the coming of Emmanuel — the King before whom all kings shall bow — for our salvation.

First Sunday of Advent (Year C)

God of truth and righteousness, we turn to you in anticipation of your coming to bring justice and peace into our world. Strengthen our hearts in holiness, unite us with our neighbors in love, direct our way along your righteous paths and among your righteous people of every time and place, that we may be found blameless at your return.

Christmas with A Phenomenal Llama

It has been observed that a lot of stuff tends to lie downstream of culture. Well, here is one way to improve the culture of Christmas, and hopefully mitigate the legacy of one Clement Clarke Moore. If you are looking for a fresh angle on the Christmas story or for new pageant ideas, this is a sweet, delightful, imaginative story that is fun to read aloud


1. Check out the good reviews, and order copies early for your Sunday school teachers, educators, pageant planners. Here, under "From the Author," is a bit of background.

2. Order two readers' copies to break it into voices for a dramatic reading at Christmas.

3. Design costumes for one pastor (narrator), a lead llama (Gregory), St. Francis, Noah, a camel, reindeer, a donkey, cows, sheep, any number of other animals (lions, peacocks, monkeys), ... and of course, plenty of extra llamas.

4. Make sure to get a copy of the e-book so you can project the lovely illustrations for the congregation.

5. Schedule a fireside reading at home with the family or for a fellowship night.

6. Consider sending a copy to your families with children, or letting a copy serve as your Christmas card to the congregation. 

7. Visit A Phenomenal Llama on FB, give it a Like, or better yet: "Share."

8. Post a review on Amazon or your favorite online bookstore or book review site.

9. Spread the word to neighboring churches, pastors, parents, and friends.

10. Ask for your local bookstore to carry it.

Time to get a jump on Christmas. I hope you, you family, and your families of faith enjoy A Phenomenal Llama.

Monday, November 23, 2015

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 22, 2015

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 15, 2015

Interesting trend

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 8, 2015

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.