[Sunday next before Lent]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Ex 34.29-35
Sir 27.4-7(5-8)
2nd Reading
2 Cor 3.12 – 4.2
1 Cor 15.54-58
Gospel
Luke 9.28-36[37-43a]
Luke 6.39-45
No preaching suggestions available. Find your own links!

Notes: let the face shine by having the truth (Ex 34); … and lift the blanket now (2 Cor 3/4); being / speaking confused facing the gleam (Luke 9)

by N.N.

2nd Sunday before Lent [by Dr. Wolfgang Schürger]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Gen 2.4b-9,15-25
1 Sam 26.2,7-9,12-13,22-23
2nd Reading
Rev 4
1 Cor 15.45-49
Gospel
Luke 8.22-25
Luke 6.27-38

Sexagesimae Sunday (1 Sam 26.2,7-9,12-13,22-23 / Luke 6.27-38)

by Dr. Wolfgang Schürger, Munich (translated by A. Hübel, Ludwigsburg)

Make peace, not war!

In Protestant churches, Sexagesima Sunday is all about spreading God’s Word. The spotlight is on the story of the conversion of Lydia, a merchant of purple cloth, and of her whole household. The first person to hear and accept the word of God on European soil was a woman. But to try and link this to the social dimension of sustainability would be rather artificial (see Acts 16.9-15  i.e. German Protestant lectionary). The social dimension of sustainability, is, however, clearly expressed by the Old Testament and Gospel readings according to the lectionary of the Roman Catholic church.

Jesus’ commandment to love one’s enemies is, without doubt, one of the most intractable texts in the New Testament: in a complete reversal of normal behaviour, we are to refrain from fighting back, to offer the robber even more of our possessions, and to love our enemies.

This is exactly how David behaves when he is pursued by Saul. Although he is able to reach Saul through the circle of wagons around the camp, he refrains from killing his enemy. He merely takes his spear and his water-jar, presenting them the following day to show that he has been in the midst of his opponent’s camp.

This is how he explains his actions to his astonished companion, Abishai: “Who can raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” If you are familiar with the blood feuds that still go on today in parts of the Arab world, you will soon realise how right David was: violence would breed more violence, and would cause lasting injury to the peaceful coexistence of the people and tribes. By foregoing violence, David keeps the People of Israel united, contributing to sustainable social cohesion.

There is a similar conviction behind Jesus’ words. Later in the passage, he offers thoroughly utilitarian grounds for his provocative commandment to love one’s enemies and give unreservedly: “The measure you give will be the measure you get!” and “Do to others as you would have them do to you!”

In the interest of sustainable social cohesion, it is sometimes necessary to disregard our personal sense of justice or desire for revenge, and to seek peace. David is able to do this – trusting that God himself will ultimately pass judgement on his enemy (verse 10).

by Dr. Wolfgang Schürger, Munich (translated by Anja Louise Hübel, Ludwigsburg)

[3rd Sunday before Lent]

1st Reading
Jer 17.5-10
2nd Reading
1 Cor 15.12-20
Gospel
Luke 6.17-26
No preaching suggestions available. Find own links (tell us)!

Notes: be a tree planted near the water (Jer 17); witness the truth – Creation needs care (1 Cor 15); prepared to be healed (Lk 6)

by N.N

[4th Sunday before Lent]

1st Reading
Isaiah 6.1-8[9-13]
2nd Reading
1 Cor 15.1-11
Gospel
Luke 5.1-11
No preaching suggestions available. Find your own sustainability links!

Notes: let the lips be touched / seeing, but not seeing right, causes desert (Isaiah 6); preaching causes belief … (1 Cor 15); to hear and to follow may cause unexpected richness (Luke 5)

by N.N.

5th Sunday before Lent / 3.02.18 as Presentation [by Dr. Joachim Feldes]


5th Sunday before Lent:
3rd Feb. as Presentation
1st Reading
Ez 43.27-44.4
Mal 3.1-5
2nd Reading
1 Cor 13
Heb 2.14-end
Gospel
Luke 2.22-40
both
by Dr. Joachim Feldes, Schauernheim, Germany
 

Exegetical Observations

Ez 43f: Although the text is all about cultic regulations and exceptions, these are rules that demand respect. Not everyone is permitted to do everything, to take any liberty. There are certain places that are set apart by God, ultimately reserved for himself, that humans may not enter at will or lay claim to. These are holy places that must be protected and maintained to ensure that the good order, good for people and for creation, remains intact.

Mal 3: The one whom we seek is coming, and is sending messengers to prepare the way for him. Although long desired, his coming is unexpected when it happens, and he encounters some people who are prepared for it and others who have grown weary with waiting, and who have turned aside from the promise. But the fact is that he will establish a new relationship between himself and mankind, one that is pleasing to the creator and beneficial to creation.

1 Cor 13: St. Paul is not interested in romantic, rose-tinted dreams. He wants to give his congregation a blueprint that will enable them again and again to rekindle that initial passion, that fire. If you really want to love God and your neighbour, you can easily prove it by showing patience, constancy, and humility, and by keeping your own feelings in check. Then, and only then, will the individual Christian and the congregation as a whole be able to remain true to their vocation and build on the keystones of faith, hope and love, to protect and develop the world in the spirit of God.

Heb 2: Salvation is not a walk in the park; it involves suffering and pain. That makes it harder for the Saviour, but at the same time, it makes what he does all the more profound. And he does not do it for his own sake, but solely for the other’s sake. At the same time, he breaks down every barrier that separates us from God, one person from another, even barriers to our own true selves. This brings an end to all estrangement; outward and inward reconciliation takes place. And that creates a big family – shaped by the selflessness of the Saviour – a family whose attitudes and lives reflect, continue and disseminate the Saviour’s values and commandments.

Luke 2: The encounter between the young family and the two old people has a number of dimensions: the tenacious perseverance of Simeon and Hannah, trusting that God’s promise will indeed be fulfilled; the truly affectionate contact between the generations and the mutual trust they show, the looking beyond Israel alone to include the people to whom the true light of Jesus is revealed. All of this serves to encourage us to seek that light: because it is worth every effort, even suffering, to carry that light into the world.

Aspects of Sustainability

Respect for the holy (Ez, Luke)

Even though the immediate experience of God normally eludes us, God is still present and guides us through the rules and commandments he has laid down. But this demands respect and self-restraint on our part, because only when we put up with the limits set by God and keep our demands modest can our lives really be successful, can we grow and thrive.

Humankind as one family (Heb, Luke)

God does not want to be separated from humankind and decries our human habit of dividing the world into “them” and “us”. He makes every effort to reconcile us with himself and each other. He wants the different generations neither to squabble nor to live entirely separate lives, but always to connect and grow in solidarity with one another, helping each other to preserve the light of life. Because that light does not shine for a particular group or for a single nation or people. It wants to spread out more and more, so that all humanity will grow into one family.

Perseverance leads to life (Mal, 1 Cor, Luke 2)

When we wait for something, we always risk coming to the end of our patience at some point. Against this background, the readings advise us to call to mind again and again that initial spark and enthusiasm and the beauty of our vocation. The path of faith may be crossed by suffering and pain, but hope and love are always stronger – so strong, in fact, that they can continually nourish our faith in the new that is to come.

by Dr. Joachim Feldes

 

4th Sunday of Epiphany [by Rev. Henrik Grape]

1st Reading
Neh 8.1-3,5-6,8-10
2nd Reading
1 Cor 12.12-31a
Gospel
Luke 4.14-21

1 Cor 12.12-31a

by Rev. Henrik Grape (Church of Sweden)
Senior advisor on Care for Creation, Sustainability and Climate Justice, World Council of Churches.

To be one …

We are one. The diversity in the Creation is rich but we are still one. The diversity of humans is impressive but we are one. The beauty of Creation is reflected in its diversity. In the story of Creation it is repeatedly said it was good. The Hebrew word TOV that is in the Creation story can also mean ‘beautiful’. Creation is beautiful. The diversity is beautiful.

When we gather in the kind of inclusive and open ecumenical spirit, as was experienced this autumn in Assisi at the 1st Ecumenical Prayer Meeting for Creation, it is also good and beautiful. Good, in the sense that we are aiming for a change: to protect and take care of the gift of Creation. Good in our efforts to answer the call to be caretakers of Creation and good in our attempts to change the narrative from a dystopic story about how a fragmented and polarised world destroying our common home to a narrative of hope. Hope that we as humanity can come together. Come together to act for a more just and equitable future.

But it is also beautiful. Beautiful when people come together to rejoice over the gift of life. To find the beauty in the wonder of sharing the gift of life. The beauty in celebration of the Creation that feeds us every day. To be thankful for the oxygen that we inhale and that gives us life in every breath. The beautiful mystery of life on Earth whispers to us that we are one.

In this world where we are facing threats to Creation and we hear the cry of the most vulnerable, humans or other life forms, we must understand that we are one. Today humanity is the most important power on the earth when it comes to the future of the whole planet. The Climate threat, the loss of Biodiversity and other global ecological disruptions can only be solved if we come together as one. We as human beings on this Earth, caretakers of Creation, must understand that we are one. As we are one in Christ. To follow Christ today, to be clothed in Christ today is to see the multitude of traditions as a gift. To see the unity in diversity. A unity that is an answer to a world threatened by climate change. With love and compassion we walk together for a more just and peaceful future. We are one humanity on one earth.

Rev. Henrik Grape

3rd Sunday of Epiphany [by Rosalind Gnatt]

1. Reading
Isaiah 62.1-5
2. Reading
1 Cor 12.1-11
Gospel
John 2.1-11

Sustainable preaching: a critical approach to writing a sermon

“using the special spiritual gifts”

Rev. Rosalind Gnatt, the United Church of Christ, i.A. Ev. Dekanat Wiesbaden 12.16.2018

The 20th century historian Joseph Vogt, saw the core of early Christianity as the renewal of the world through the transformation of human beings, an ongoing revolution of the spirit. Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, peace activist and founder of the anti-nuclear Plowshares movement, said this: “One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better.” Berrigan, like the early Christians, was a spiritual revolutionary.

What is our responsibility to this tiny planet, to our siblings worldwide? The Deuteronomist  says,“ This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live… this is not difficult to do: the words are already in your hearts and on your tongues. We just have to do it.

Nothing is sustainable that isn’t able to change. Jesus did not call us to worship tradition: we are called to love God and love our neighbor. Sustainability needs to be flexible, open to discovery, open to exercising our calling to love our neighbor. One of the things that brought Jesus into conflict with the “old guard” was the practical, if not orthodox, way he addressed real-time situations. He brought the law down to its core: if people are sick, heal them. If it’s the Sabbath and folks are hungry – well, love your neighbor. It is what God wants us to do.

 

Here is my personal method for working with the weekly texts:

  • I Read the pericope; then read the entire chapter. I take the time, if I can, to read the book – at least up to and including the pericope.
  • I Read more than one translation. I go back to the Greek or Hebrew, at least for the most significant words and phrases. I consider a different translation for the congregation. Since every single text has been translated many times before reaching us, we do our calling a disservice when we don’t bring our own intelligence to this work.
  • I Respect history. The Christian theology of my childhood is notorious for co-opting the ancient texts of the Hebrew Scriptures as mere precursors of their future messiah. This is not only disrespectful: it is lazy. I can learn so much more from the ancient texts if I take time to learn what was going on when the texts were written. Far too often, we miss clues to the real connection with these texts for us today when we take the fallback position that “it’s all about Christ.”
  • I Take time to let what I’ve read marinate. This is important. I’m amazed at how often, in the course of the days that follow my first reading of the upcoming texts, something I hear or see or otherwise experience relates to them and knits them together – whether it’s on the news or in the course of daily business, the “back then” and the “here and now” come together in a new way.

 

Here are the pericopes for January 20th, the third Sunday of Epiphany:

Isaiah 64: 1-5, Attributed to the prophetic chapters of the post-exilic era, this prayer for restoration of a decimated nation speaks to us now:

Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth. Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.”

I, a citizen of the United States, feel this prayer personally. I love my country. I do not love what is happening there. Before the invading army of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Judah, Babylon had installed a puppet king. According to the prophet Jeremiah, this king Zedekiah “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

The prophet loves Zion, yearns for her return to righteousness; foresees a glory for her that impresses world leaders. I yearn for my country to turn toward righteousness. What does a return to righteousness look like to you? Where do we fall short in advocating for our neighbor? The early Christians, having only Paul’s letters to guide them, changed the way slaves were treated – at least for a time. Paul tells the Galatians, who were themselves second-class citizens, that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female.” What happened to Paul’s message of equality under God as the State Church of Rome gained political power? How can we get back to the basics of Jesus’ ministry to love God and love our neighbor?

1 Corinthians 12: 1-11 – Spiritual gifts; one source

How interesting that this well-known part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian congregation is put together with the story of Jesus’ first miracle – turning water into wine – in the Book of John. The “miracle story,” in my opinion, is a kind of excuse, wherein Christ is the miracle-worker and we are his worshipping admirers. Paul, whose letter was written just a few years after Jesus’ ministry, lists the kinds of God-given spiritual gifts that are, or should be, active within the congregation. Among those gifts are wisdom, intellectual capability, strong faith, the ability to heal illness, a prophetic talent and the ability to perform miracles. Evidently, the Corinthian congregation was having trouble recognizing the equally valuable and interdependent importance of each other’s talents, or spiritual gifts that together make up the Body of Christ.

As pastors, we meet any number of people along the way who don’t recognize their special spiritual gifts. A congregation is the ideal place for God-given spiritual gifts to be recognized, respected and used. How can we help each other bring our spiritual gifts into the light and then into action? Important to remember is that Jesus couldn’t use his gift of healing in his hometown because the people who ought to have known him best just couldn’t see him other than as the carpenter Joseph’s son. Do we discount the spiritual gifts of people closest to us just because we think we know them too well?

Our congregation’s discussion group will be using this text to help each other see and own our special gifts and put them into action. It will be a challenging, and hopefully fruitful, exercise.

John 2: 1-11 – Jesus turns water into wine, thus saving the wedding host from an embarrassing situation. Jesus does not appreciate his mother imposing on him: “What does that have to do with us, woman?” You can hear the annoyance in his voice. Being a miracle worker was not unknown in the 1st century world, but Jesus didn’t want his spiritual gifts to be the focus of his calling, which was to preach.

The conflict between Paul’s words about our spiritual gifts and John’s “water-into-wine” miracle, that was supposed to revealing Jesus’ “Glory,” asks the question, are we to follow Jesus or are we to worship Christ? In the 6th chapter of Luke, we hear Jesus saying (obviously with frustration), “Why do you keep calling me Lord, Lord, when you do not do what I say?” In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, the rich young man calls Jesus “Good Teacher.” Jesus asks him, “Why do you call me good? There is only one that is good, and that is God.”

I’m certain Jesus wanted to be listened to, not worshipped. He had a saving message: Love God. Love your neighbor. Preaching the kingdom of heaven on earth, through the wisdom of the children; in active love for one another: feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, visiting the prisoner, caring for the sick:  that would be heaven.

Rosalind Gnatt

Baptism of the Lord / 2nd Sunday of Epiphany [by Rev. Vincent Schwahn]

1. Reading
Isaiah 43, 1-7
2. Reading
Acts 8.14-17
Gospel
Luke 3.15-17,21-22

Holy Baptism Sermon “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 3.

by Rev. Vincent Karl Schwahn Rykman, Mexico City

I have always felt a bit sad on the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. It is still one of the higher holidays of the Christian Church. The Orthodox are smart enough to stick it in with Christmas and Epiphany as one of the Manifestations of the Divinity of Christ. Also for some orthodox this is the day that people jump into half frozen lakes and rivers to commemorate the Baptism. For me one Baptism is enough. Most babies cry because the Water is cold. Wait till they get bigger snd have to jump in the Lake. For Western Christians the Feast falls after Christmas and Epiphany and is almost an afterthought. Some churches are lucky to have a few Christmas Poinsettas to keep the season alive. Most have replanted them or the thrown them in the trash.

The Baptism of Christ is for modern Christians probably even more important than the Christmas Cycle. Why is this? Because the Baptism of the Lord is really about Identity. It was Christ at his baptism where he discovered his filial relationship with God the Father and soon would be sent out into the Desert on a God-Quest.

It is our Baptism too that gives us our real identity as Christians. It is what defines us and makes us followers and disciples of the message and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. As water covers and penetrates the skin of those who dare to bathe in its splendorous wetness so is our spirit penetrated with the essence and identity of Christ that is indelible and permanent. We are one in Christ, and Christ is one in us. Every time we receive Communion we are reminded of that Fact. Communion is the daily and weekly extension of our Baptismal life.

And then of course we are sent out to do the same ministry that Christ performed; To heal, to reconcile, to bring forth peace and justice, to share our Baptismal live with those around us.

There is a powerful story of a priest who Baptized the child of an unchurched family. They were just doing a Baptism out of tradition. In the discussion and teaching with the priest before the Baptism she reminded the family that Baptism was about death and resurrection, about self sacrifice and giving of self to others out of love as did Christ. What might this Baptized child be called to do in his life to imitate Christ in his sacrificial love.

Years latter this same priest was called upon to go to ground zero to attend the spiritual care and needs of the firefighters and police and emergency crews only a few feet from the downing of the twin towers on 9/11.

It was there that she discovered that this little black boy that she had baptized many years latter was killed in active duty trying to rescue people in danger at the twin towers. He had given his life for the life of others and obeyed his Baptism Call to its bitter yet heroic end. The family returned to this priest to thank her for explaining the meaning if this Baptismal Covenant. It was for them a Baptism of the Holy Spirit and with Fire.

The Gospel today makes it clear that at our Baptism it is Christ himself who Baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with Fire. The fire of love, of passion, and burning desire. Many of us at our Baptism are not aware of its searing mark.

This is why it takes an entire lifetime to take in the depth and profundity of these Baptismal waters.

Our task on this feast is to rekindle that flame we once received at our own Baptism. If we have lost it, it is time for a vision quest to rediscover it again. (That is what Lent is all about.) If we still feel its heat, now is the time to stoke the fire and increase the flames.

We need not jump in a cold lake or river to regain that sense of call or certitude. But we may just bless ourselves again with that water from above at a nearby Baptismal font and remember that we too are his beloved and his chosen to carry out the work begun at that watering hole in the middle east so many years ago.

Water and Fire. Fire and Water.

by Vincent Karl Schwahn Rykman, Mexico City

[Epiphany]

1. Reading
Isaiah 60, 1-6
2. Reading
Eph 3, 1-12
Gospel
Mt 2, 1-12
No preaching suggestions available. Find own links (tell us)!

Notes: Arise, shine, and others will come to your light (Isaiah 60); the Gentiles should be with us in freedom and confidence (Eph 3); be careful with your deals – trust in God (Mt 2)

by N.N.

Naming and Circumcision of Jesus / New Year’s Day [by Archimandrite Athenagoras Fasiolo]

 
Naming and Circ.:
New Year’s Day: 
1. Reading
Num 6, 22-27
Ecc 3, 1-13
2. Reading
Gal 4, 4-7 / Phil 2, 5-11
Rev 21, 1-6a
Gospel
Luke 2, 15-21
Mt 25, 31-46

Phil. 2.5-11

by the Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne Athenagoras Fasiolo
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

Written for the First Ecumenical Prayer Meeting for Creation in August 2019 in Assisi. Meeting in the Room of St Francis’  Renunciation – where we recall how Francis himself stripped himself of everything in total surrender to God (radical discipleship). Jesus in this passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians also surrendered everything to God so as to be obedient to God’s will.

In the above context, it is indispensable not just to examine the situation of creation from a scientific point of view, and to identify remedies, but it is also necessary to wonder whether the whole of humanity is capable of not being considered as something to be exploited before the beauty of the creation, but whether it is capable of humbling itself and becoming obedient before the destruction of all this wellbeing and uncontrolled consumerism.  As the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church has declared: ‘it is an imperative obligation of the Church to contribute, through the spiritual means at its disposition, to protect the creation of God from the consequences of human greed’.  It is necessary that there is a ‘reconciliation’ of the whole humanity everything, with every living being, with the elements, with the whole universe. Such a possible ‘humbling’ would enable each believer and each human being to be more capable of understanding his own neighbour, more capable of healing the wounds caused to the environment, but above all, more capable of leaving behind the egocentrism of contemporary society, which has placed him in the position of God. Mortification and reconciliation are typically spiritual issues which involve our  innermost being and which which strip from us all our self centredness. Perceiving the importance, will enable us to glorify God, will enable us to bend our knees on heaven, on earth and everywhere to praise God in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian believers have the obligation, before the world, to embrace this challenge in order to be advocates of a true ‘metanoia’ – repentance, of a radical change of mentality concerning the gifts of creation. Thus, to reconcile ourselves with the creation will mean asking for mercy from the water – for the excessive wastefulness and for the poisoning caused; from the earth for the abominable use that we have made of it through an economy of gain, forgetting that nature was created by God, and given to humankind ‘to work and preserve’. (Gen. 2.15); from the air and the climate, as pollution due to selfish wellbeing, has resulted many times in catastrophes, rebellion of the natural elements on which contemporary humankind would like to impose his own system of exploitation; from the whole cosmos, that is on the way to becoming the largest dumping field of this sick planet. But we must also ask mercy from every human being, for whom this human greed has become a source of great shortages, of social injustices, of biblical migrations and many other evils.

Therefore the Orthodox Church emphasises the protection of God’s creation through the cultivation of human responsibility for our God-given environment and the promotion of the virtues of simplicity and self-restraint. Then, we can proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, because then we will be stripped of ‘ourselves’ and we will be reconciled to him and to his creation, made for us.

Archimandrite Athenagoras Fasiolo

 

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