Unforgivable sin?

Second Sunday after Pentecost; 6 June 2021; Proper 5B (RCL); 1 Samuel 8:4-21, 11:14-15; Psalm 138; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35.

This year, we jump into Mark’s Gospel right in the midst of developing controversy (we’ve skipped over propers 1 – 4). Jesus’ family shows up, questioning his sanity, and then scribes arrive from Jerusalem accusing him of blasphemy (of using Satan’s power to cast out demons). After a retort from Jesus, the story returns to the question of Jesus’ family.

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Life in the Spirit

The Feast of Pentecost; 23 May 2021; Pentecost B (RCL); Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27, 16:14b-15.

I’m always fascinated by verses the lectionary omits. In the reading from John’s Gospel, the first three and half verses of chapter 16 have to do with the hour coming when John’s community will be put of the synagogue, and persecuted even to death. I understand why we would want to leave those verse out, but I don’t think the rest of the reading makes sense without them. Jesus tells his disciples that it is for their benefit that he is going away, so that the Advocate may come. The advocate will charge the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

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Whither Jesus?

Seventh Sunday of Easter; 16 May 2021; Easter 7B (RCL); Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19.

The first words out of Jesus’ mouth in John’s Gospel are addressed to the two disciples of John the Baptist who follow Jesus. Jesus turns and sees them following and asks, “What do you seek?” They reply, “Rabbi, where to you remain?” Jesus answers, “Come and see,” giving us, the readers of the Gospel, an invitation to discover where Jesus remains (the verb μένειν, menein, to remain, and its cognates appear dozens of times in John’s Gospel). This is the central question of the Gospel

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The fruit of love

Sixth Sunday of Easter; 9 May 2021; Easter 6B (RCL); Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17.

Last week, we read the image of the vine in John’s Gospel, and this week’s reading continues on from there. The whole purpose of Jesus’ command that we love one another as he has loved us is so that we might be fruitful. John never does tell us what fruitfulness looks like, and so leaves it open for each community to discover for itself what is good and ripe and juicy.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday); 25 April 2021; Easter 4B (RCL); Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18.

Good Shepherd Sunday conjures images of Jesus with a lamb across his shoulders (this was in fact one of the earliest known depictions of Jesus in the Roman Catacombs). The trouble with this image is that we, the sheep, remain passive. The language in today’s readings suggests that we should be anything but passive.

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Food for the journey

Third Sunday of Easter; 18 April 2021; Easter 3B (RCL); Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48.

Several of the resurrection appearances of Jesus involve food, specifically fish. In the passage just before this one in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus walks with two of the disciples (who fail to recognize him) from Jerusalem to Emmaus. When they arrive, they prevail upon him to join them for supper, and when he blesses the bread and breaks it, their eyes are opened, and they recognize him (from whence comes the allusion in the collect). His actions in blessing the bread are similar to his actions in the feeding miracles in the wilderness.

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Resurrected wounds

Second Sunday of Easter; 11 April 2021; Easter 2B (RCL); Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1 – 2:2; John 20:19-31.

We call him “Doubting Thomas” but he doesn’t doubt; he refuses to believe. And when, at last, he sees (and touches?) the wounds, Jesus doesn’t say (as our translation has it), “Do not doubt, but believe;” he says instead (a better translation of the Greek), “Do not be untrusty, but trusty.” And that after Thomas has ascribed to Jesus the ‘highest’ title so far in John’s Gospel: My Lord and my God.

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Now is the hour

Fifth Sunday in Lent; 21 March 2021; Lent 5B (RCL); Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33.

This is a strange little passage in John’s Gospel, and for that and other reasons, I think it is the heart of the Gospel, the hinge on which John’s Gospel turns. Certain Greeks (what were Greeks doing at the Passover Festival in Jerusalem, anyway?) make known to Philip (a good Greek name) that they wish to see Jesus. Philip goes to Andrew (another good Greek name — also Philip and Andrew are the two disciples named in the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes), and the two of them go to Jesus to tell him there are some Greeks who want to see him. Jesus replies, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Huh? What has one to do with the other?

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Cleaning house

Third Sunday in Lent; Lent 3B (RCL); Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22.

Christians often think that when Jesus “cleansed” the temple, he was simply getting rid of corrupt practices not associated with the worship of God. In fact, he is directly challenging the temple institution. People traveling to the great festivals would need to buy animals for sacrifice upon arrival, and to contribute to the Temple treasury, they would need to exchange their Roman coinage for Temple coinage. This activities were require for proper worship.

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To save your life

Second Sunday in Lent; 28 February 2021; Lent 2B (RCL); Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38.

For Paul, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the final phase of God’s plan for Israel. Israel was to judge the world and establish God’s reign on earth. But Israel had misunderstood God’s purposes, thinking they applied only to Israel as God’s chosen people. Instead, Paul believed, Israel was to be a light to the nations, working salvation for the whole world.

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