Spirit in the material world

The Feast of Pentecost; 31 May 2020; Pentecost A (RCL); Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23.

When this shelter-in-place all started back in March (March 22, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, was our first virtual service), I though that perhaps my Pentecost, we might be gathering for in-person worship again. That was optimistic. We are still weeks, if not months, away from in-person worship. It has been an event-filled eight weeks so far.

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The glory of gift

The Seventh Sunday of Easter; Easter 7A (RCL); Acts 1:6=14; Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, John 17:1-11.

Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel has been called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. In it, he consecrates himself to God on behalf of his disciples, and consecrates them to God on behalf of the world. Since John doesn’t actually narrate a ‘last supper,’ this prayer serves as the consecration of himself as ‘the lamb of God’ who takes away the sins of the world, and provides the feast that atones.

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The open door

Fourth Sunday of Easter; Easter 4A (RCL); Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10.

This Sunday is familiarly know as Good Shepherd Sunday, and the Gospel reading is always from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. Some years, we actually hear the portion of the chapter in which Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” Not this year. This year, Jesus says, “I am the door.”

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If you had been here

Fifth Sunday of Lent; 29 March 2020; Lent 4A (RCL); Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45.

This is puzzling episode in John’s Gospel. Why does Jesus delay two days? Why does Thomas say, “Let us go die with him?” Is he speaking about Lazarus or Jesus? Why does Jesus grandstand for the crowd? There is so much misdirection in this passage, it will require digging to figure it out.

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Who sinned?

Fourth Sunday of Lent; 22 March 2020; Lent 4A; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41.

Greek drama works a bit like Shakespearean drama – the critical bit happens in the middle scene. This chapter and the next forms the center of John’s Gospel, so it feels like something really important. And right in the center of this chapter comes the crisis.

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Living water

Third Sunday of Lent; 15 March 2020; Lent 3A (RCL); Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42.

This is one of the most complex dialog scenes in John’s Gospel, and rather befuddling. By the time we arrive at the end of the scene, Jesus has not received his drink of water, and the woman has left her water jar there at the well. Clearly, John is pointing us beyond the initial exchange.

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To be like God


First Sunday in Lent; March 1, 2020; Lent IA (RCL); Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11.

I have been reading N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and I am convinced by his argument (summarized in his commentary on Romans in the New Interpreter’s Bible) that in the background of much of Second Temple Judaism lay the expectation of a completed return from Exile, or even a restoration of the cosmos.

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And now, for something completely different.

Last Sunday after Epiphany; 23 February 2020; Last Epiphany A (RCL); Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9.

The church calendar always gives us an account of the transfiguration on the Sunday before Lent begins, as the collect says, so that we may be strengthened to bear our cross, and at Easter be changed into Christ’s likeness. And the account of the transfiguration does feel like a resurrection appearance retrojected back into the earthly life of Jesus. But it is about much more than nerving us up for Lent.

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A greater righteousness

16 February 2020; Sixth Sunday after Epiphany; Epiphany 6A (RCL); Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37.

Both the Deuteronomy and Sirach passages use a form of ethical instruction called ‘the two ways.’ The Psalms are replete with examples, beginning with Psalm 1. The Didache is a prime example. Matthew seems to use it for his own purposes. Rather than setting out a contrast between the way of life and the way of death (the usual pattern), Matthew sets out a contrast between the old way and the new way.

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Righteousness as salt

16 February 2020; Fifth Sunday after Epiphany; Epiphany 5A (RCL); Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 112; 1 Corinthians 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20.

We’re reading in course from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. We missed the beatitudes last week, because the Feast of the Presentation preempted the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. And this week, the passage we hear opens with Jesus saying about salt, and ends with him saying that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a rather serious departure from the way Mark treats the Pharisees.

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