Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve


Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 OR 7:1-14 OR Ezekiel 33:23-33
Matthew 12:22-50 OR Luke 11:14-36 (37-54)
James 1:17-27

Holy and Loving God, by your Holy Spirit, your son Jesus Christ came to expose the darkness of this world, to cast out demons, to deal death to death, and to inaugurate your new heavenly reign in the midst of our languishing earthly reality. Christ Jesus, the only begotten, has declared that everyone who does your will is his brother and sister, and he has blessed all who hear your word and obey it! Indeed, he himself is the Word of God. Help us, therefore, this night and always, to hear and receive him and all the good news concerning him, that we might forever be occupied with the true joy of hearts: Jesus Christ, the Son of David; greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah, greater than all, he is the Word and the Wisdom that gives life!

NOTE ON THE LECTIONS: These lections may seem peculiar for a Christmas Eve service, but I would urge the preacher to consider the possibilities that arise in light of the implicit logos Christology evident in the Epistle of James, in lieu of the more explicit logos Christology of the Johannine literature, then view the other texts through that theology of the Word. The contrast between careless, foolish, vain human speech and the divine and "implanted" word of truth is one that I think frames the whole feast of the Incarnation and the prospect of Epiphany (or Christophany) rather well, actually. In other words, do not be put off by the seeming lack of Christmas themes here. No, there are no nativity stories included, but neither is there a need to preach in isolation from them. The primary consideration, I think, is to approach these lections, not as though they have nothing to say of Christmas, but in the very light of Christmas itself, the Revelation of God in the Incarnation of Jesus: God's saving, embodied speech to the world. Let Christmas have its sway over these texts and vice versa, and new insights will undoubtedly emerge. Ezekiel will remind us that God's revelation is not merely beautiful, but true. Jesus and James will call us to live the faith and not merely profess it. The light of Christ shining amidst the darkness will be understood, not merely esthetically, but in terms of his mission to overthrow the cosmic forces of evil. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Numbers 14:1-25
Psalm 144
John 3:22-38
Hebrews 5:11—6:20


O LORD of heaven, come down! Let your lightning flash and scatter the darkness! Send out your arrows and rout your enemies. Stretch out your hand from on high, and set this people free from those who speak lies and those who love violence. For you, O LORD, are above all and your testimony is true! Your Son, whom you have sent, has spoken the words he has heard from you, our heavenly Father. May he give to each of us, and to your church, your Holy Spirit without measure.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Third Sunday of Advent

Joshua 23:1-16


It is the Lord your God who has fought on your behalf, keeping your foes and enemies at bay. It is Christ Jesus himself, the Son of God, who has done all things well, and fulfilled God’s promise of a Savior. Therefore, hold fast to the Lord your God, and be very steadfast to observe and do all that he has commanded you, for by the grace of Jesus Christ we are forgiven and saved.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent

You, O God, are the builder of the all things, and Christ Jesus, your Son, the faithful builder of your house, even as he serves as its head and cornerstone. Help us, O Lord, as partners with Christ, to be the house in which you dwell, that we may hold firm to faith and hope until the end, with boldness and unwavering confidence in you. Show your holiness, O God, to this assembly, among this people where your glory abides, in Jesus' name.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

University of Dubuque's Christmas at Heritage (2016): Salvation Unto Us Has Come

It has been my honor and privilege to contribute the narrative for this lovely event for the last three years. Last night I also had the opportunity of reading as well. Thanks to President Jeffrey Bullock and his lovely wife Dana, and the good people of the Fine and Performing Arts Department and the Heritage Center for including me. The program begins at 18:00. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Here is a list of the narrative interludes between the musical numbers. 

I. DAVID'S PLEA: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation!"
II. JACOB'S SIGH: "I wait for your salvation, Lord." 
III. HABAKKUK'S ASSURANCE: "I will exult in the God of my salvation!"
IV. ISAIAH'S PROMISE: "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."
V. MOSES' TESTIMONY: "The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."
VI. JEREMIAH'S COMFORT: "Truly in the Lord is our salvation."
VII. SIMEON'S DOXOLOGY: "Mine eyes have seen your salvation!"
VIII. A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour (Ben Jonson, 1572—1637)

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.