Prayer includes deep pain, a groan issued from the hard wood of a bloody cross.
Bible stories are often ragged and perplexing, inspiring and disturbing. The reader must slow down and think.
Jesus boldly breaks down the dividing wall and asks for aid from an alien woman.
God calls out to the ungodly, gives life to the dead, and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
Every generation feels an aching loss of original innocence and yet chooses that loss again.
The Son of the Father is the sun of righteousness, transcendent radiance, a power in but not of this world.
God is the source of a double command and the singular grace of its fulfillment.
John Henry Newman: “Is not holiness the result of many patient, repeated efforts after obedience?”
Works matter. They are the direct and natural expression of one’s vocation as salt and light to the world.
In a sense, the holy hill of God is wherever God is.
Jesus’ teaching, proclamation, and healing are a trinity of attack against sin, the flesh, and the devil.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
Jesus humbles himself to know human weakness, frailty, the fear of death, and death itself.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, ... what are human beings that you are mindful of them?”
This tiny infant, this frail being, is an image of the invisible God. God has come down to be among us.
Every moment in which grace is given and faith elicited is a vertical intrusion of pure gift.
God speaks in ways that are poetically arresting and politically disturbing.
Faith is anchored to the past, lives in the present, and moves into an open future.
The end will come, but always, as promised by the life-giving Son of God, “at an unexpected hour.” Keep awake!
God moves through human agency, promising an heir who will rule in righteousness over the nation.
Religion is a story told again and again so that its teachings, virtues, and victories are revisited as if new.
The new life in Christ is a new song, a voice no longer choked by the abuse of a slave master.
A messenger is running with a plain tablet in hand, upon which a vision is written.
“Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”
In the flesh of a heart, the flutter of valves, and the pressure of blood, God is writing the Word.
The bones speak for the people: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”
The help of the Holy Spirit is at hand, moment by moment, day by day, and night by night.
God does not want Christians mired in the narcissism of self-loathing.
The parable Jesus tells at Luke 16:1-13 is one of the odder passages in the canon of Scripture.
Angels’ greetings to humans usually are brief: Be not afraid. Do not worship me. Be quiet. Listen.
The Letter to Philemon rewards those willing to engage the text on its own terms.
Barth: “[W]e are in rebellion not against what is foreign to us but against that which is most intimately ours.”
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you.”
The fire purifies and cleanses when the heart, mind, and soul drink the flaming river of God.
Listening to God, looking up at the night sky, Abram believes. God calls this righteousness.
Gregory the Great: “The entire Church of the elect is called the daybreak or the dawn (Job 38:12).”
The announcement of the fullness of Christ sets up a joyous acclamation (Col. 2:12).
Jesus Christ our Lord has poured out his purifying blood to forgive and change and make new.
Thomas Merton took what he called “The only known photograph of God”: a plumb line.
I am alive, I am fed, I am sent, and my name is written in heaven.
Jesus walks by and gladly gives his mantle, even the hem of his garment, to any who would touch him.
You did not choose Christ, but he chose you.
The earth and dogs will drink the blood of Ahab. Another king wants nothing, demands nothing, seizes nothing.
The Lord upholds the orphan and widow. The Lord lifts up those who are cast down.
Every claim to goodness and merit disappears as Christ alone shines with all glory and goodness.
Wisdom is a witness to the emergence of creation from the font of all being.
The members of the body each have a full, unique, and secret gift of the Spirit.
Jesus gives life from death, retelling in vivid scenes his resurrection in the life of his disciples.
Higher than the peak of the great mountain, a city appears, coming down from heaven.
Everything that is has its being from God.
Peter takes her hand and helps her. Is he done? No. This is not one story about one girl.
The whole chain of being is a voice of praise to the One who sits upon the throne and the Lamb.
Christ rose bodily in time and space, and ascended to his Father without dropping the mantle of his humanity.
Mary has bent toward the tomb and looked into death and there beheld a divine presence that death could not defeat.
We hardly do justice to the pain if we do not end the Passion account with a long, palpable, and devout silence.
Forget your prior things; pay no attention to ancient wonders. “Behold, I make new” (Isa. 43:19).
Renewal of a deep down kind is a dramatic and dramatically divine intervention enacted through ceremony.
The Christian story is one story, Jesus Christ our Lord. Wherever we look, there he is.
First reading and psalm: 1 Kings 21:1-10 (11-14), 15-21a • Ps. 5:1-8
Alternate: 2 Sam. 11:26-12:10, 13-15 • Ps. 32 • Gal. 2:15-21 • Luke 7:36-8:3
3 Pentecost, June 9
First reading and psalm: 1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24) • Ps. 146
Alternate: 1 Kings 17:17-24 • Ps. 30 • Gal. 1:11-24 • Luke 7:11-17
First reading and psalm: 1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29) 30-39 • Ps. 96
Alternate: 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43 • Ps. 96:1-9 • Gal. 1:1-12 • Luke 7:1-10
Prov. 8:1-4,22-31 • Ps. 8 or Canticle 2 or 13 • Rom. 5:1-5 • John 16:12-15
Day of Pentecost
First reading and psalm: Acts 2:1-21 or Gen. 11:1-9 • Ps. 104:25-35, 37
Alternate: Rom. 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21 • John 14:8-17 (25-27)
Acts 16:16-34 • Ps. 97 • Rev. 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 • John 17:20-26
Acts 16:9-15 • Ps. 67 • Rev. 21:10,22–22:5 • John 14:23-29 or John 5:1-9
Acts 11:1-18 • Ps. 148 • Rev. 21:1-6 • John 13:31-35
Acts 9:36-43 • Ps. 23 • Rev. 7:9-17 • John 10:22-30
Acts 9:1-6 (7-20) • Ps. 30 • Rev. 5:11-14 • John 21:1-19
Acts 5:27-32 • Ps. 118:14-29 or 150 • Rev. 1:4-8 • John 20:19-31
Although we prefer a second ￼naïveté (Paul Ricoeur), which admits a childlike wonder over every detail of Scripture, if asked, we will show our hermeneutic hand. “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). We read holy writ “that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in Jesus Christ” (BCP, p. 236).
First reading and psalm: Acts 10:34-43 or Isa. 65:17-25 • Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
Alternate: 1 Cor. 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43 • John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12
Isa. 50:4-9a • Ps. 31:9-16 • Phil. 2:5-11 • Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Isa. 43:16-21 • Ps. 126 • Phil. 3:4b-14 • John 12:1-8
Josh. 5:9-12 • Ps. 32 • 2 Cor. 5:16-21 • Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
The first time manna falls from heaven it is greeted with a question: “What is it?” (Ex. 16:15). This fine flaky substance on the surface of the wilderness evokes curiosity, not awe or wonderment. A miracle need not look miraculous. The morning dew ascends, and there it is. “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat,” Moses tells the people. Every morning the bread is new as every morning the day is new.
Ex. 3:1-15 • Ps. 63:1-8 • 1 Cor. 10:1-13 • Luke 13:1-9
As he arrives at Horeb, the mountain of God, Moses sees an angel of the Lord revealing the mystery of the Incarnation. For “this light did not shine from some luminary among the stars but came from an earthly bush and surpassed the heavenly luminaries in brilliance” (Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses). Or we may relate this to the Virgin Mary: “The light of divinity which through birth shone from her into human life did not consume the burning bush” (ibid).
Gen. 15:1-12; 17-18 • Ps. 27 • Phil. 3:17-4:1 • Luke 13:31-35
First Sunday in Lent
Deut. 26:1-11 • Ps. 91:1-2, 9-16 • Rom. 10:8b-13 • Luke 4:1-13
The first fruits are gathered in full knowledge that this is “the bounty of the Lord,” and thus a return is required. Only in giving back through oblation and recitation of the old story do the people affirm their utter dependency upon God. Their labor in the fields accrues to them not a mere speck of human merit, for this is “the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deut. 26:2).
Neh. 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 • Ps. 19 • 1 Cor. 12:12-31a • Luke 4:14-21
Jer. 1:4-10 • Ps. 71:1-6 • 1 Cor. 13:1-13 • Luke 4:21-30
Today’s readings speak to us of vocation and of origin and of family, as well as of the often turbulent transition from childhood to maturity. Jeremiah recounts his vocation, saying: “the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”
Neh. 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 • Ps. 19 • 1 Cor. 12:12-31a • Luke 4:14-21
This Gospel lesson centers on Jesus’ self-promotion in Nazareth, “where he had been brought up” (v. 16), and its environs. According to Luke, Jesus had just been baptized by John, and he had gone into the wilderness and there had been tempted by Satan. Now he arrives in Nazareth. This is therefore akin to our Lord’s debut, the first acts of his public ministry.
Isa. 62:1-5 • Ps. 36:5-10 • 1 Cor. 12:1-11 • John 2:1-11
First Sunday after the Epiphany
Isa. 43:1-7 • Ps. 29 • Acts 8:14-17 • Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
The Gospel reading for this day begins with confusion among the people on whether John might be the Messiah. John recounts to them his role as the forerunner, and tells them that the Messiah, when he comes, will be “more powerful than I” and that he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Isa. 60:1-6 • Ps. 72:1-7, 10-14 • Eph. 3:1-12 • Matt. 2:1-12
The Greek root of Epiphany refers to a disclosure, and a primary aspect of the feast day is God’s disclosure of himself to the nations. This indeed had been a major theme of the Jewish prophets: God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants was for the blessing of all the nations on the face of the earth. As God said, “by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice” (Gen. 22:18).
Isa. 61:10-62:3 • Ps. 147 or 147:13-21 • Gal. 3:23-25, 4:4-7 • John 1:1-18
Mic. 5:2-5a • Canticle 3 or 15 or Ps. 80:1-7 • Heb. 10:5-10 • Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)
Zeph. 3:14-20 • Canticle 9 • Phil. 4:4-7 • Luke 3:7-18
“I will bear away everything from the face of the earth, says the Lord: man, beasts, birds of heaven, fish of the sea, all of it gone, swept away. This will be the ruin of the unrighteous” (Zeph. 1:2-3). The prophet is just starting. “I will extend a destroying hand over Judah, Jerusalem, the remnant of Baal, false priests, and those who bow to the hosts of heaven” (1:4-5). “A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation” (1:15).
First Reading: Bar. 5:1-9 Alternate: Mal. 3:1-4 • Canticle 4 or 16 • Phil. 1:3-11 • Luke 3:1-6
Jer. 33:14-16; Ps. 25:1-9 • Dan. 12:1-3; Ps. 16 • 1 Thess. 3:9-13 • Luke 21:25-36
To speak persuasively is to draw up worn words and tried images, a stockpile of poetry and story, and then to give these bones new life by fitting them to the prudence of the hearer (Cicero, De Oratione). Our Old Testament prophet opines no new thought, just an old-time tradition: Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus.
Christ the King
First reading: 2 Sam. 23:1-7; Ps. 132:1-13, (14-19) Alternate: Dan. 7:9-10, 11-14; Ps. 93 • Rev. 1:4b-8 • John 18:33-37
We will get to the godless, piercing them with an iron bar or the shaft of a spear, and throwing them to an all-consuming fire (see 2 Sam. 23:6,7).
First reading: 1 Sam. 1:4-20; 1 Sam. 2-1-10 Alternate: Dan. 12:1-3; Ps. 16 • Heb. 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25 • Mark 13:1-8
First reading: Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17; Ps. 127 Alternate: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Ps. 146 • Heb. 9:24-28 • Mark 12:38-44
All Saints Sunday observed
First reading: Ruth 1:1-18; Ps. 146 Alternate: Deut. 6:1-9; Ps. 119:1-8 • Heb. 9:11-14 • Mark 12:28-34
Today the preacher would do well to speak of love and love’s obedience. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. This preacher, on All Saints Sunday, will not withhold from memory a dead daughter and a dead father and that countless throng with whom their bones rest. The preacher will announce a love that extends to the living and the dead.
First reading: Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Ps. 34:1-8 (19-22) Alternate: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Ps. 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
In the end Job’s fortune is restored. He has sons and daughters, livestock and cash, lengthening of days equaling 140 years. God comes to him in wonder, a whirlwind and a voice exceeding all human knowledge. Who is Job to question? “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me” (42:3).
First reading: Job 38:1-7 (34-41); Ps. 104:1-8, 25, 37b Alternate: Isa. 53:4-12; Ps. 91:9-16 • Heb. 5:1-10 • Mark 10:35-45
First reading: Job 23:1-9, 16-17, Ps. 22:1-15 Alternate: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, Ps. 90:12-17 • Heb. 4:12-16 • Mark 10:17-31
First reading: Job 1:1; 2:1-10, Ps. 26 Alternate: Gen. 2:18-24, Ps. 8 • Heb. 1:1-4; 2:5-12 • Mark 10:2-16
First reading: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22; Ps. 124 Alternate: Num. 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Ps. 19:7-14 • James 5:13-20 • Mark 9:38-50
First reading: Prov. 31:10-31; Ps. 1 Alternate: Wis. 1:16-2:1 or Jer. 11:18-20; Ps. 54 • James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37
First reading: Prov. 1:20-33; Ps. 19 or Wis. 7:26-8:1 Alternate: Isa. 50:4-9a; Ps. 116:1-8 • James 3:1-12 • Mark 8:27-38
First reading: Prov. 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Ps. 125 Alternate: Isa. 35:4-7a; Ps. 146 • James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17 • Mark 7:24-37
First reading: Song 2:8-13; Ps. 45:1-2, 7-10 Alternate: Deut. 4:1-2, 6-9; Ps. 15 • James 1:17-27 • Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
First reading: 1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43; Ps. 84 Alternate: Josh. 24:1-2a, 14-18; Ps. 34:15-22 • Eph. 6:10-20 • John 6:56-69
First reading: 2 Sam. 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Ps. 130
Alternate: 1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:1-8
Eph. 4:25-5:2 • John 6:35, 41-51
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus tells the grumbling crowd. It’s an immense claim, and they rightly jump at its implications. He does not say I am a bread of life: a wise teacher, one who has come to reveal God’s will to you, but the bread of life, for which you have long hungered.
First reading: 2 Sam. 1:1, 17-27; Ps. 130
Alternate: Wis. 1:13-15, 2:23-24
or Lam. 3:21-33; Ps. 30
2 Cor. 8:7-15 • Mark 5:21-43
Blood. For twelve years it had been blood, day after day, without any hint of relief. All her clothes were stained by it, its stench always hung about her body. It had cost her all her money, all her friends. No one would share a meal with her, no one would hold her tenderly with love. It was all the world could see in her — an outcast, marked indelibly by this curse.
First reading: 1 Sam. 15:34-16:13; Ps. 20
Alternate: Ez. 17:22-24; Ps. 92:1-4, 11-14
2 Cor. 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 • Mark 4:26-34
In his parables of the kingdom, Jesus speaks with striking audacity. In the eyes of the world, he is a barely tested young rabbi, hardly known outside his native region. He has only a few followers. Most authorities who have encountered him are full of questions and condemnation.
First reading: 1 Sam. 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15); Ps. 138
Alternate: Gen. 3:8-15; Ps. 130
2 Cor. 4:13-5:1 • Mark 3:20-35
Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21 or Ezek. 37:1-14
Rom. 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26,26; 16:4b-15
On this sacred day, the breath of the Lord, coming as violent wind, flickering tongues of fire, native speech to the nations, is entirely life-giving. This is the Spirit poured out upon all flesh. Prophecy, visions, and dreams are ignited by the sparking wind. Everyone hears and dreams about the wonders of God “in their own language.” The turbulence of the Spirit is directed toward a single intelligence. Everyone understands.
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 • Ps. 1
John 5:9-13 • John 17:6-19
Acts 10:44-48 • Ps. 98
1 John 5:1-6 • John 15:9-17
Knowing that the grace of the Holy Spirit had fallen upon foreign nations, hearing them speak in tongues and glorifying God, Peter responds. Indeed, “he commands them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 10:48). Not offended by his forthright words, they obey to the letter and “ask Peter to remain with them a few days.” Peter acts as an Abba, a spiritual father commissioned with authoritative words. His words compel obedience and invite a deeper listening. “Stay with us a few days.”
Acts 8:26-40 • Ps. 22:24-30
1 John 4:7-21 • John 15:1-8
The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise my love, my fair one, and come away. The garden is a garden of delight and an irresistible invitation. Love. Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is a farmer.” The farmer shows his cutting care, discarding the fruitless branch for the fire and pruning where the fruit grows. Thus his care is loving and life-giving.
Acts 4:5-12 • Ps. 23
1 John 3:16-24 • John 10:11-18
Acts 3:12-19 • Ps. 4
1 John 3:1-7 • Luke 24:36b-48
In the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples begin to do what Jesus did; his life in them, they replicate his actions, though being careful to confess that they act “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Peter reaches out to a man lame from birth and raises him to exuberant life and strength. Explaining himself, Peter says, “You Israelites!” Our ears awaken and twitch with discomfort! “Jesus whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate” (3:13); “you killed the author of life” (3:15).
Acts 4:32-35 • Ps. 133
1 John 1:1-2:2 • John 20:19-31
A quick conversion illustrated: the enthroned ego leading a chaotic life is replaced by an enthroned Christ who puts one’s daily agenda in manageable if not perfect order. Clear, but not true. Conversion is not merely private, nor is Christian transformation immediate. Insisting that one go from habitual sin to super sanctity in short order makes a sorry Christian: irritable, unhappy, unwise.
Acts 10:34-43 or Isa. 25:6-9
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Cor. 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8
Is. 50:4-9a • Ps. 31:9-16 • Phil. 2:5-11
Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39 (40-47)
The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Jer. 31:31-34 • Ps. 51:1-13 or 119:9-16
Heb. 5:5-10 • John 12:20-33
The Fourth Sunday in Lent
Num. 21:4-9 • Ps. 107:1-3,17-22
Eph. 2:1-10 • John 3:14-21
The Second Sunday in Lent
Gen. 17:1-7, 15-16 • Ps. 22:22-30
Rom. 4:13-25 • Mark 8:31-38
The Fifth Sunday of Epiphany
Isa. 40:21-31 • Ps. 147:1-12, 21c
1 Cor. 9:16-23 • Mark 1:29-39
Religious studies, however compelling and intriguing to a few, is not the subject of Christian preaching. The preacher is not a “disinterested” academician, though he is, to be sure, often found among books. He preaches under a divine necessity: the One True God.