Readings each Sunday
Vanderbilt lectionary library
Second Sunday of Easter 7 April 2013
Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 118:14-29, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31
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The “Acts of the Apostles” give us an insight into the post-Easter world of the disciples, and so too the birth of the early Church. This is also our world here today as we contemplate the reality of St Paul’s after our encounter with Easter. How will we make visible the reality of resurrection? It is a question for each of us and also a question of and for the community. And it is a question that only makes sense if we appreciate the reality of resurrection as a present moment possibility.
‘Doubting Thomas’ is so readily befriended because he echoes our doubts; and if an apostle can doubt then it’s also OK for us to doubt. However, Thomas becomes even more significant when we appreciate doubt as the cutting edge of faith, and when we remember that Thomas had previously witnessed the raising of Lazarus, so for Thomas resurrection is already a ‘no-doubt’ reality. Perhaps Thomas voices our truth; when others, and when the church tells us “We have seen the Lord”, do we really believe them?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." Marianne Williamson
Easter Day 31 March 2013
Acts 10: 34-43, Psalm 118: 1 - 2, 14 – 24, 1 Cor 15:19-26, John 20:1-18
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Contrary to popular misuse, the gospels are not there to tell us about Jesus; they serve a much richer purpose. They serve to illuminate what Christ reveals about us, and our place in the wholeness of creation. "They found the stone rolled away from the tomb", to reveal a new order, to illuminate a deeper appreciation of being and so too ‘A New Creation’.
"The most detailed map ever made of the oldest light to shine through the universe has been released by scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA)." Plank reveals an almost Perfect Universe
Our faith, our hope and our belief, our deepest desires and our becoming are somehow validated in this image. Likewise the empty tomb and the whole process of Easter are brought into a contemporary focus, enabling us to read the scriptures with a maturity that goes beyond the infancy of Sunday-school
The "observable universe" is only 4.9% of the universe – all that we see and understand and know is but 4.9% of what there actually is! The empty tomb invites us to contemplate the unknown and the unseen. It invites us beyond what we know, and beyond who we are into a much fuller abundance, and so into "A New Creation"
Christ died on the cross. He offered himself into the wholeness of life, he gave himself and opened himself to "A New Creation". He realised, and so reveals to us, that our small "s" self is not the most important thing in the world. But in giving away, in giving all of ourselves, we are open to discover a bigger ["S"] that is a part of something divine, a universe that is permeated by "the oldest light to shine through the universe"
How will we make real “A New Creation” and how will we be made new by the experience?
Fifth Sunday of Lent 17th March 2013
Isaiah 43: 16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:3-14, John 12:1-8/p>
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Perhaps we all have a Judas attitude. We can look at the Vatican or at Peppermint Grove or somewhere and see that “they” could give more to the poor. Then comes the sobering reminder that the poor can look at us, and look at me, with exactly the same question.
The response to the question takes us beyond a simplistic evaluation of economics and speaks of Mary’s orientation. She is looking ahead, she is giving richly to the future and she is giving not to herself, but is placing her wealth at the very feet of Christ. Mary illustrates for us an orientation that has an orientation of service to the body of Christ.
When we acknowledge where we are, then we also open ourselves to seeking where to from here. And we are in the wilderness of Lent, which is very similar in many respects to the wilderness of life. Unsure, uncertain, afraid of death only slightly more than we are afraid of life. The wilderness of Lent is the place of “flesh”, as Paul would call it; a place for confronting the self-interest and self-centeredness that keeps us from giving ourselves as Christ gave himself. And the readings are like a sort of compass for us to find our way out of Lent and into the mystery of Easter.
Perhaps the resurrection of Jesus is not the big-event we’ve been led to believe, because today we are reminded that Lazarus was raised from the dead (before Easter).
Paul is seeking the “power of resurrection” in his life orientation; he perceives a reality that was revealed through Christ. So in the coming weeks we could join the “Church” in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus at Easter, or we can prepare, with an expectation that resurrection is not a limited experience and seek to celebrate the “new thing” that is yet to be realised in ourselves
Fourth Sunday of Lent 10th March 2013
Joshua 5:2-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 15:11-32
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The second reading begins with; “From now on”; it is like an arrow pointing towards tomorrow and it invites us, whilst we are still in the wilderness, to contemplate the possibility of Easter. Can we even begin to imagine what reality we might make manifest if we can engage the whole process of dying and rising for ourselves?
Paul is encouraging us to see that the process of Easter invites us to roll away the stone from our worldly tombs and step out into the garden of the Divine.
Easter is a reconciliation of Genesis:
 “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
Reconciliation is found and realised in dying and rising; everything old has passed away that is the dying, and everything has become new is the rising. This is not literally descriptive of life and death, rather it describes the movement from life into life’s fullness. Dying and rising is the very same process of reconciliation that we find in our “Giving” and “Receiving”.
It is both movements that are creative of reconciliation, the father’s and the prodigal son’s movements together bring about the oneness of their desires.
There is a delightful insight here when we apply the parable metaphorically; the Divine moves, runs, toward us as we move into the place of knowing abundance, as we move out of the place of scarcity, with empty hands that are open to receiving the Divine embrace.
Third Sunday of Lent 3 Mar 2013
Isaiah 55:1-9, Psalm 63: 1-8, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:131-35
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Today’s readings give us an opportunity to throw off the religious teaching we have been clothed with, to take off all that disguises our deepest desire and the longing thirst of our souls; and to find ourselves in Eden’s wilderness, that place in which we can encounter again the one who is near.
In the wilderness of Lent we might encounter a Christ “who is, and who was and who is to come”, rather than an historical figure that brought about a change in the divine/human relationship. Like Paul we might encounter a Christ that illuminates the Divine in the everyday. If we do, then we depart from the Orthodox Christian perspective, which identifies Christ as the superhero figure that saved humanity from destruction and damnation.
"Thou didst call and cry to me to break open my deafness; and Thou didst send forth Thy beams and shine upon me and chase away my blindness; Thou didst breathe fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath, and do now pant for Thee. I tasted Thee and now I hunger and thirst for Thee. Thou didst touch me and I have burned for Thy peace.”
Second Sunday of Lent 24th February 2013
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:1-9
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... the Divine utters an affirmation and opens up for Abram a new vision:
"Do not be afraid, [Abram], I am your shield; your reward shall be very great."
Abram is assured of life’s abundance, descendants like the stars of the heavens; and is also assured of the abundance of where he is, a land so vast that it stretches beyond the horizon of his imagination.
In Luke’s gospel today, we have Jesus answering questions about sin, which was clearly misunderstood by those asking the questions. He takes the opportunity to give an insight into life’s abundance, life lived beyond the sin of scarcity, and lived in bearing the fruits of abundance. The parable of the tree puts the future into the hands of the gardener, the one who tills the soil, the one who lives beyond Eden. That’s us! And the gardener’s response is to give - give time and effort into bringing about fruitfulness.
With an eye on Easter, I propose that following our Easter celebration we ask that no one comes to Church. It will take the rest of Lent to more fully craft such an ask. The ask needs to be made with absolute clarity, and it is the ask of Easter itself: do not come to church, rather become church. We are the gardeners of tomorrow bearing fruit.
First Sunday of Lent 17th February 2013
Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Romans 10:4b-13, Luke 4: 1-15
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Lent is a time for us to discover the keys to the mystery of Easter. Is the dynamic of giving and receiving one of the keys? If I let go of everything I hold on to, then my hands are empty and free to receive. Will this same dynamic be made manifest in the Dying and Rising of the Easter narrative?
The second reading from Romans offers another orientation that can encourage us toward a Lenten journey that will take us beyond the Church and beyond our cultural norms. We are invited to contemplate the “end of the law” and to think more deeply about “righteousness”. That is to go beyond the doctrines, dogmas, rules and expectations of religious practice and see the Divine Word, the very breath of creation “on your lips and in your heart”
What is being played out the gospel narrative is a placing of reference points for us to discern an orientation for the journey of Lent. Jesus responds to one side of the dialogue with the Word of scripture, finding himself in relation to the two different voices that call to him. His desires - hunger, power, position, possession and even life itself - are placed in relation to the two voices. And neither voice, not Satan, nor God wins the day; rather the path forward is realised and made manifest by Jesus himself, and the same will be evidenced at Easter.
Today’s road map for Lent is challenging, Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
Rather, test yourself!
The Baptism of our Lord 13th January 2013
Isaiah 43: 1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8: 14-17, Luke 3:15-22
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Isaiah is not talking about baptism, but the essence of baptism is very much alive in his understanding. There is, in his voice, an appreciation of the Divine mystery that is spoken of in terms that are unbounded by the confines of orthodoxy. Therefore, Isaiah provides us with a delightful starting point as we come to contemplate the baptism of the gospel narrative and consider our own baptism.
He speaks of a Divine redemption that is a given and not consequential to the Easter event of Jesus. And when Isaiah knows of a God who “will be with you”, he speaks of Emmanuel (God with us) before the Christmas nativity of Jesus. And in complete accord with our Epiphany understanding, Isaiah also declares the divine activity in verses 3 and 4 as the activity of giving.
Baptism offers a simple and ancient ritual that symbolically brings to life the unseen truth of our truest being, and so recalls us into an integrity of being with that truth: “you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you”. “You are my child[Son], my[the] Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” These “Divine words” utter us into life truth, and we are spoken into that truth alongside every other. For they are uttered; “when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised”
Feast of the Epiphany
6th January 2013
Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72: 1-17. 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12
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First Sunday after Christmas 30 December 2012
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26, Psalm 148, Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 2:41-52
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However ‘birth’ and the Nativity and the iconic child of Bethlehem are not so much about ‘doing’ as they are about ‘being’. What “being’ was conceived in the Christmas nativity? Although told as a story of the birth of Christ, it is really an icon, an illustration of what is revealed in and through Christ. In the manger we see the holiness of humanity and we see our own holiness given form, manifested as a reality to be realised. Do we really see ourselves brought to light in the manger of holiness? Or do we wait till twelfth night and abandon the baby?
Christmas gives birth to our fullness of life and now on the First Sunday of Christmas we are invited to the next scene in the Divine life; we are invited to grow and to become the holiness that we have been created to embody and reflect.
It is easy to feel the sadness when we read of Aakash Balak, Shaily, Nirman, Manish Thapa, Prayas and others being abandoned. But what of the loss when we abandon even ourselves and each other? As we move toward Epiphany, and the making manifest all that is birthed, and as we move into 2013, please don’t abandon the baby, commit to growing and being fully alive to the Glory of God.
Christmas Day 25 December 2012
Isaiah 52: 7-10; Ps 98; Heb 1: 1-4; John 1: 1-14
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... the reading was the Prologue of St John’s Gospel which we have just heard proclaimed:
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God and the Word was God ….
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” [John 1: 1, 14]
.. it is a text of great wonder, which tells the story of the Incarnation, not through the imagery of angels and stars, but by tracing it back to its origin in something which happened before the world’s creation, when God spoke a Word, the Word, the Word which expressed God’s very Being. And so that Word was God (as your words are you) and yet was also now with God. This Word expressed who God is – loving, creating energy – and so it was in and through this energy of love that all things came to be, and it’s with this life that the universe is alive. Even we are alive with the life of this living Word, the one who the Letter to the Hebrews calls “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very Being” [Heb 1: 3]. It is the glory stitched into our flesh and our bones.
And yet we don’t know it. There is something winterish about the human heart. History as well as the Bible tells how humanity in particular turns from God, leaving God (as in the story of Eden) to wander in the garden saying, “Where are you?” while humanity hides itself in fear.
And so it was, until God chose to make himself – in his Word, his Son – present in human form, becoming flesh of our flesh. In that extraordinary paradox, the eternal and indestructible Word became for our sake fragile and transient flesh, revealing the glory of God in human form, AND revealing the glory which is always embedded in the human form by the divine Word who shapes us and gives us life. In Jesus, child and adult, we see who God is, and who we might be.
To know what happens next in this story you’ll have to search your own heart.
... so they could see the world as Jesus saw it, filled with beauty and goodness. They even looked at themselves and saw how good and beautiful they were in Jesus’ eyes. And they saw that everything evil and ugly can be overcome and will pass away, as the beauty of God fills the whole world.
May the wonder and beauty of God fill your vision and your heart at this Christmas time.
Fourth Sunday of Advent 23rd December 2012
Micah 5: 2-5, Song of Mary, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-55
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The fourth Sunday of Advent, and just days before the celebration of Christmas, gives us an opportunity to join the dots of our Advent journey, to seek and discover where the star is leading us. And then to identify the arrow of Christmas, the direction or orientation that Christmas illuminates for us. When the star finally comes to rest in the nativity narrative it does not seek to illuminate a geographical location, rather it gives illumination to the place of enlightenment, and that in turn gives us a life orientation.
Prophets should not be reduced to predictors of the future; that is a simplistic understanding of hindsight, another backward-looking orientation. Prophets are ‘Advent stars’, they lead us and give us an orientation that is beyond where we are. Like the Advent star they offer enlightenment and seek to lift our eyes to an orientation that is higher than both the actuality of our everyday vision and the nostalgic yearnings of our sub-conscious past. Micah’s prophetic voice fits well with the Christmas narrative, not because it predicts Christmas; rather, it parallels the star-light that leads us toward our nativity, our Divine birth.
The gospel reading now invites us into the actual nativity narrative; Mary and Elizabeth are icons for all of us and for all people everywhere. They, like each of us, carry within them (in the present moment) a life and potential which will become great (in the future). And as any mother will affirm, their orientation has been firmly turned toward tomorrow, to the place and activity of birth and to the ongoing commitment for realising the potential of that birth
If we can approach Christmas with an eye toward the future, and with an expectation that we will bring about the shaping of that future, we might find ourselves, and realise ourselves, centre stage in the manger of humanity.
And of course that’s why we have the baby in the nativity. Any parent knows that birth is but the beginning. That nativity asks of us to realise the fullness of God, for in that realisation we find the very fullness and fullfilment of ourselves.
Third Sunday of Advent 16th December 2012
Zephaniah 3:14-20, Psalm - The song of Isaiah [Isaiah 12:2-6], Philippians 4: 4-7, Luke 3:7-18
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By the third Sunday of Advent we feel as if the whole world is moving toward a celebration of Christmas. The “whole world”, however, is really our own version, and our perception, of the world, and certainly for most of us here, and for those around us, there is a clear movement toward Christmas.
Perhaps they are the few who notice the subtle starlight; perhaps they seek to more fully apprehend that truth that the world now only faintly echoes. Perhaps they know what Galileo only found by looking through a telescope; another truth that is so easily forgotten in the everyday. The star that shines its subtle light is in truth a sun; and so too the sun that scorches deserts here is a star. And having seen, having looked up from the busyness of their everyday, they pause to engage those other forgotten truths that everyone is busy trying to celebrate. Instead of listening to the echo of Mary in a child’s longing Christmas expectations, they seek to hear the very Word that gave birth to every life.
Zephaniah and Paul both saw the truth of Christmas as a worldview, and both chose to live in the light of that reality; not as spectators but rather living life in a new way, a way that was formed and shaped by the reality of Christmas.
Advent is a time in which we affirm the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” in our life and in the reality of our faith. God is already present with us; and God is also still to come to us. John the Baptist is our orientation to our future, and also a reminder that we prepare the way for every other future.
Second Sunday of Advent 9th December 2012
Malachi 3: 1-4; Song of Zechariah (Lk 1: 68-79); Phil 1: 1-11; Luke 3: 1-6
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God is the infinite compassion out of whose womb the whole universe is born.
And so God come to us wherever we are, and however we are causing misery to ourselves and others. Can we learn from God that we are loved, forgiven, whatever we have done? God waits for us to live without fear, to know that we are holy and righteous in his sight, all the days of our life.
God waits for us to forgive ourselves and forgive others. Can we learn from God’s compassion to forgive ourselves, have compassion on ourselves and others? Can we learn from God’s compassion to see those who are different from us – the stranger, the weirdo, the difficult person who irritates us to death – to see them as loved by God with the same tender compassion God has for us? Can we catch and share that compassion?
Can we by these means find peace in ourselves so that we can be makers of peace with others? Without the inner peace which comes from compassion there can be no outward peace. Can we find an interior silence, free from those fear-begotten enemies – anxiety, self-doubt, self-hatred? Can we find a quiet heart where we can receive in peace God’s gift of peace?
First Sunday of Advent 2nd December 2012
Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25: 1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-38
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Being Advent 1, the start of a new Church year, we have an opportunity to contemplate what such a new beginning might hold for us, what is the promise that is held today? Advent is also our preparation for Christmas, we are being drawn toward the reality of Christmas. Whichever way we look at Advent it seems to be addressing the process of change, through endings, beginnings, and imminent arrivals. Advent has a sense of movement and calls us to attend to our own life movement. It is a time to know again that things do not remain as they are, to realise that we change and the world changes. If tomorrow is the same as today we should seriously question our reality; and if tomorrow is devoid of promise then we should also question our faith.
... to see Jesus as one who lived intentionally with an orientation to the prophetic certainty. Jesus is not the realisation of Jeremiah’s prediction, rather, he intentionally lives in the light of the same certainty, the same faith, the same worldview that Jeremiah voiced.
... it is a truth/promise for us to live into reality. The Advent quest, and the Advent question is can we, each and together, live into reality our becoming; “a righteous Branch to…. execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
Our Advent invitation is to realise life’s fullest calling in the moment; it is not a future event, it is an ever-present possibility.