Begotten from Before the Beginning

A Homily for the Second Sunday of Christmas

Texts: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Ephesians 1:3-14: St. John 1:1-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Incarnate Word. Amen.

From before time and space, Christ is. The Only-Begotten Son of God is the One Through Whom All Things Are Made. Christ is the Word spoken by God to create the entire cosmos. And now, in the fullness of time, this same Word has descended from the right hand of the Father to become one of us.

The entirety of the Incarnation defies our attempt to understand it – that the Jesus is fully God and fully human? That the Son and the Father are both fully and entirely God – not two gods or different aspects of one God but two persons of a Blessed Trinity? That God would step down from the heavenly throne to become one of us? That this God, having already condescended to become human, would choose to live not in a palace in the heart of a major empire but as a common laborer among a conquered people?

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The Word Made Flesh: Christmas 2C

Some Thoughts for the Second Sunday of Christmas

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:7-14 -or- Sirach 24:1-12
  • Canticle: Psalm 147:12-120 -or- Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21
  • Epistle: Ephesians 1:3-14
  • Holy Gospel: St. John 1:(1-9 optional), 10-18

Texts in Summary:

Well first, let’s get on the same page. What are we actually reading?

It’s complicated.

It’s not terribly common for there to be two Sundays between Christmas and Epiphany, and when it does happen, the various lectionaries tend to go a bit haywire. And so, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, we are reading the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel – but this was the appointed reading for Christmas Day. That is, unless your parish reads the Lukan texts on Christmas Eve and doesn’t gather for worship on the 25th. Or if you opt for the shortened Gospel text, which begins at v 10 and only overlaps with the Christmas reading for four verses before embarking into “new” territory. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer appoints a series of options for the Gospel reading, flipping the pattern of the RCL but maintaining the Old Testament and Epistle readings. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church is marking Epiphany this Sunday. Alas, the Revised Common Lectionary is not so common as its framers hoped.

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Repentance and Fire: Advent 3C

Some Thoughts for the Third Sunday of Advent

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Zephaniah 3:14-20
  • Canticle: Isaiah 12:2-6
  • Epistle: Philippians 4:4-7
  • Holy Gospel: St. Luke 3:7-18

Texts in Summary:

We continue our Advent readings with a second week of John the Baptist.

It’s Gaudete Sunday, one of the two Sundays when rose is the appointed liturgical color. (If you’ve ever wondered why your Advent wreath has three purple or blue candles and one pink one, it’s for this weekend. This tradition is slowly falling out of favor, though. I know of exactly one Lutheran parish that even has rose-colored vestments, and more and more parishes are dropping “the pink one” from their wreaths.) The name comes from the Latin entrance chant, which in turn is taken from this week’s Philippians reading:

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Behold Our King

A Homily for the Feast of Christ the King

Texts: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1:4b-8; St. John 18:33-37


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the King, who comes riding on the clouds. Amen.

This is our King?

Arrested, standing trial, bound, headed for Golgotha?

It’s so far removed from our expectations. This does not look like the One Like a Son of Man who, in Daniel, comes with the clouds of heaven to receive dominion and glory and kingship from the Ancient One, standing before a fiery throne. Hours before his death, this does not look like one who will be served by all peoples, nations and languages, who will receive everlasting dominion and kingship that shall never be destroyed.

This is not exactly Alpha and Omega, Who Is and Who Was and Who Is to Come. This is not our picture of the Almighty.

This is not even our picture of an earthly ruler.

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Come and See

A Homily for All Saints (Transferred)

Texts: Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 21:1-6; St. John 11:32-44


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who unites us with all the saints in the glory of the Resurrection. Amen.

Three days after Lazarus died, Jesus arrived and asked where they had buried him. “Come and see,” they told the Lord.

Those words should sound familiar – it’s the invitation extended to the disciples throughout the Gospel according to Saint John.

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Here I Stand

A Homily for Reformation Sunday

Texts: Romans 3:19-28; St. John 8:31-36


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who is ever reforming the Church and making all things new. Amen.

Worms, spring 1521. The Imperial Diet has brought together papal delegates and powerful bishops with prince-electors, dukes, and all manner of representatives from the across the Holy Roman Empire. Pope Leo X, a sire of Florence’s powerful banking dynasty, the Medici, and Emperor Charles V, who united Spain and the Holy Roman Empire under Hapsburg rule, are working together to crush an insurgent protest movement coming out of a college town in Saxony.

Already the year before Leo wrote Exsurge Domine:

 Arise, O Lord, and judge your cause…for foxes have risen, seeking to destroy the vineyard….The wild boar from the forest strives to destroy it….

It’s flowery language for a bull, an official letter from the pope threatening excommunication unless a certain German monk should recant. In response? That monk, one Martin Luther, burned the document. Quickly thereafter, Leo issued another bull officially excommunicating Luther for rejecting papal authority.

And so it is that we find ourselves in the imperial city of Worms, Luther standing trial with two options: recant of everything and go back to peaceful obscurity in the university, or be banished from the Church and the empire. Given a day to prayerfully consider his response, Luther entered the chamber and defiantly said these famous words:

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I Am the Bread of Life – A Difficult Teaching

A Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: St. John 6:56-69


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Bread of Life. Amen.

A man, let’s call him Rob, walks into his pastor’s office one day. “Pr. Linda, I’ve got a question. Every Sunday, you say that bread has become the Body of Christ, but how…”

Pr. Linda excitedly cut him off. “Rob, that’s a great question – one Christians have been debating for almost our entire history.” Pr. Linda, being something of a scholar, gives Rob the whirlwind tour of Eucharistic theology throughout church history.

It’s a great tour; she hits all the high points – Ambrose and Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Zwingli and the Marburg Colloquy, Calvin. She makes sure to start with Aristotelian metaphysics before delving in to the Synoptic Gospels and I Corinthians and checking in on the relevant liturgical texts from the Didache, Saint Justin Martyr’s First Apology, the Apostolic Tradition of Pseudo-Hippolytus, the Apostolic Constitutions, and the Anaphora of Addai and Mari all the way through to the Roman Missal promulgated after Vatican II, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and of course Evangelical Lutheran Worship. She quotes extensively from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and both the Small and Large Catechism. She even mentions Berengar of Tours and Paschasius Radbertus! When was the last time you heard a pastor cite to Berengar and Paschaisus?

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Eat My Flesh

A Homily for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: St. John 6:51-58


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Bread of Life. Amen.

Let’s pretend, just for a few seconds, that while we might be familiar with some or most of the stories in the Hebrew Bible, we’ve never read any of the Gospels or the Epistles. We’ve gone to worship at the Temple, where we’ve sacrificed animals and consumed their flesh, but we’ve never celebrated Holy Communion with bread and wine.

And so it is that we arrive, with a few thousand of our closest friends, around a wandering Nazarene preacher who miraculously feeds the entire crowd with only a few loaves and fish. Just like Moses! And Elijah! And Elisha! Surely God is at work!

And then he starts to speak: Whoever comes to me will never go hungry! Will never go thirsty!

For people familiar with hunger – whether in first century Judaea or twenty-first century Macon – that is quite a promise! No wonder people flocked to Jesus! Not only did he promise that his followers would never go hungry, he also demonstrated his ability to keep that promise!

No wonder the crowd responded, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

But then comes the twist. It’s the twist we see coming because we’re reading this after Maundy Thursday, after the Church took this teaching to heart, after we made this teaching “the source and summit” of our weekly worship. But to the crowd that day? Oh, to the crowd that day, this twist is among the most shocking things they’ll ever hear:

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The Bread of Life

A Homily for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15; St. John 6:34-35


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Bread of Life. Amen.

When last we saw Jesus, he was taking a leisurely stroll across the waves after feeding the five thousand. According to Saint John’s account, Jesus had taken the disciples to a remote location, but the crowds followed them, as they are wont to do. With a sly look, Jesus asked the disciples where they could find food to feed five thousand people; Philip pragmatically pointed out that six month’s wages wouldn’t be enough to feed so many people, and Saint Andrew found a kid with five loaves and some fish – before quickly reminding our Lord that such a small meal was nothing compared to the size of the crowd. Of course that didn’t stop Jesus: he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it out to eat. And not only did it feed the entire multitude but they had twelve massive baskets of large chunks left over. As Jesus retreated further away from the now-sated crowds and his disciples sailed back across the lake (with Jesus miraculously following on foot), the multitudes were left with a burning question. They gave chase, and this is where we pick up today: the people have once again pressed in around our Lord and the disciples, and the people want to know what all this means!

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From the Beginning, with the End in Mind

A Homily for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Text: St. Mark 6:14-29


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who claims those whom the world has rejected. Amen.

A mediocre tv show or movie might be worth watching once. We all know what a “beach read” is – a bargain book that you take with you on vacation. It might be worth reading once while listening to the waves and trying to keep an eye on the dog or the kids.

But a really good movie or book is worth re-visiting, and a great work is worth returning to time and time again. Each time through, some new detail emerges, a new theme grabs your attention. The second, third, tenth time through, you’re still catching subtle foreshadowing, shades of irony, jokes that are set up three episodes before the payoff, plot lines discretely seeded in the first pages that culminate in the final chapters. Notes that start subtly but soon dominate the score, meaningful echoes that play out at different levels.

I spent this past week re-reading a book by Michael Chabon, one of my favorite authors. I’ve read it I don’t know how many times (five?) and with each revisit, new details stick out to me, ways that he sets up themes in the first pages that dominate the rest of the novel. The ways he plays around with genre. The minor turns of phrase in this work that, with a wink and a nod, pop up in what he called his “fictional autobiography” a decade later.

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