Bruce G. Epperly

3rd Sunday after Epiphany

January 21, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 19
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Reading 4: 
Luke 4:14-21
By Bruce G. Epperly

How can the reading of the Law be a source of celebration? For most of us, the law is something that stifles, inspires fear of punishment, and limits our freedom. “Law and order” is often a code word for harassing the homeless, minorities, and undocumented workers. In church, law has often been used to stifle the voices of sexual minorities and innovative thinkers or to oppose to anything that might encourage creativity, pleasure, or happiness. Accordingly, the use of “law” in scripture, tradition, and sermon must be looked at carefully and critically.

3rd Sunday after Epiphany

January 24, 2010
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 19
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Reading 4: 
Luke 4:14-21
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s scriptures celebrate the dynamic order of the universe both in the macrocosm and the microcosm. Plato once noted that the orderly motions of the heavens were intended to inspire people to find order and balance in their own souls. The universe is not, from the perspective of Plato and the biblical writers, a series of random and accidental events; rather, creative wisdom guides the universe in all its dimensions and inspires the creativity and freedom of humans living in community with one another.

2nd Sunday after Epiphany

January 14, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 62:1-5
Reading 2: 
Psalm 36:5-10
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Reading 4: 
John 2:1-11
By Bruce G. Epperly

Process-relational thought affirms that hope is ubiquitous and built into the nature of the universe. The future is open and though tragedy is always a possibility, healing, wholeness, and justice are also on the horizon. The wreckage of the past can be the material from which future creativity emerges.

2nd Sunday after Epiphany

January 17, 2010
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 62:1-5
Reading 2: 
Psalm 36:5-10
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Reading 4: 
John 2:1-11
By Bruce G. Epperly

This week’s readings continue the theme of global revelation, characteristic of the season of Epiphany and also introduce the question of “how shall we, as moderate and progressive Christians understand and preach about the miracles of Jesus?”

1st Sunday after Epiphany

January 7, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 43:1-8
Reading 2: 
Psalm 29
Reading 3: 
Acts 8:14-17
Reading 4: 
Luke 3:15-17
By Bruce G. Epperly

The North African Desert Mothers and Fathers tell the story of a monk who came to his spiritual guide with a question about the next steps in his spiritual journey. The monk described his monastic solitude and daily rituals, and then asked what more he could to in order to experience God in his life. His spiritual guide simply responded with the words, “Become fire!”

1st Sunday after Epiphany

January 10, 2010
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 43:1-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 29
Reading 3: 
Acts 8:14-17
Reading 4: 
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
By Bruce G. Epperly

Epiphany is the season of revealing. Epiphany is the time of the Christian year when we focus on God’s surprising revelations – in the magi from another land and faith tradition, in Gentile converts, in strangers and enemies, and, most unexpectedly, in our own lives. The message of Epiphany is that you are God’s beloved child and that God is moving in and through your life to bless the world. Epiphany shouts: “Arise, your light has come,” and that healing light is emerging from your life and experience.

2nd Sunday after Christmas

January 5, 2003
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 31:7-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 147:12-20
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 1:3-14
Reading 4: 
John 1:10-18
By Bruce G. Epperly

In the days that lie ahead, we invite you to share in an adventure of vision. Epiphany is about experiencing God’s Holy Adventure in all things from the daily tasks of parenting, working, and service to remarkable experiences of insight and mysticism. In Epiphany, we open ourselves to Divine omnipresence and Divine omni-activity–to the Holy One who is present in each breath and who guides in every encounter. The God of scripture is dynamic and relational.

1st Sunday after Christmas

December 31, 2006
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Reading 2: 
Psalm 148
Reading 3: 
Colossians 3:12-17
Reading 4: 
Luke 2:41-52
By Bruce G. Epperly

What shall we say on this “low Sunday” of the year?  Many pastors appropriately take a retreat on the week following Christmas, but the work of theological reflection and spiritual growth continues even when we are “off duty.” For the sake of personal, theological, and liturgical continuity, it is a good practice for pastors to reflect on the lectionary readings even when they aren’t preaching.

Christmas - Proper 1

December 25, 2003
See Also: 

John Cobb on Incarnation

Daniel Day Williams on Incarnation

Reading 1: 
Isaiah 9:2-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 96
Reading 3: 
Titus 2:11-14
Reading 4: 
Luke 2:1-20 or John 1:1-5, 9-14
By Bruce G. Epperly

Every Christmas, we are challenged to hear the gospel story in new and creative ways. Most of us have heard the story so often that it is almost impossible to experience the surprising novelty of the incarnation - the “impossible possibility” that “the Word became flesh and lived among us” and that the “us” where God’s Word dwells is “you” and “me” and our very concrete and challenging lives.

Proper 29/Christ the King (Reign of Christ)

November 22, 2009
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18)
Reading 3: 
Revelation 1:1-8 (or 4b-8)
Reading 4: 
John 18:33-37
By Bruce G. Epperly

Many of us who are children of the sixties still remember November 22 as the day President Kennedy was assassinated; the day in which the dream of Camelot died with the the death of the President. Perhaps, it is appropriate that we also celebrate the Reign of Christ Sunday this year on November 22 amid the maelstrom of political and cultural changes and controversies we face on a daily basis. Solutions elude us and groups are tempted to polarize rather than come together for common cause, even within the church itself.

Proper 28

November 15, 2009
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
1 Samuel 1:4-20 and 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25
Reading 4: 
Mark 13:1-8
By Bruce G. Epperly

Once again, the sensitive preacher is presented with challenges as she creatively and faithfully interprets today’s lectionary readings to a contemporary congregation.

Proper 27

November 8, 2009
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17
Reading 2: 
Psalm 127
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 9:24-28
Reading 4: 
Mark 12:38-44
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s scriptures focus on security, relationship, and judgment. Within this week’s lectionary readings, however, there are a handful of theological minefields that the preacher may need to address explicitly, or omit the scriptures altogether, in order to challenge potentially destructive theological positions.

Proper 26

November 1, 2009
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Ruth 1:1-18
Reading 2: 
Psalm 146
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 9:11-14
Reading 4: 
Mark 12:28-34
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s passages focus on divine and human fidelity. Faithfulness is an all-season spiritual virtue, encompassing moments of celebration and tragedy, intimacy and alienation. When we are most vulnerable—and, in fact, all of us are always both secure and vulnerable—we need to know that we will not abandoned by those upon whom we depend. We need to know that God is faithful in both life and death; and that God will not abandon us, despite our failings, even in at the moment of death.

Proper 17

August 30, 2009
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Song of Solomon 2:8-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9
Reading 3: 
James 1:17-27
Reading 4: 
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s lectionary readings inspire reflection on holistic and embodied approaches to theology, spirituality, and ethics. What would congregational life be like if we were to “come with joy” (Brian Wren) expecting to encounter wonder and beauty in one another whenever we gathered for worship, study, service, or congregational decision-making? Today’s readings challenge “buzz kill theologies” of the left and the right, which presume (always) to know what’s best and to enforce, subtle or directly, certain joy-less codes of conduct as essential to the life of faith.

Proper 16

August 23, 2009
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43
Reading 2: 
Psalm 84
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 6:10-20
Reading 4: 
John 6:56-69
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s passages affirm the dynamic and sometimes dramatic interplay of divine universality and intimacy. Solomon’s dedication of the Jerusalem Temple proclaims God’s faithfulness to the children of Israel and then extends that fidelity to include faithful foreigners. Psalm 84 rejoices in Temple worship, but also recognizes that the God we worship is global as well as regional. Ephesians counsels us to seek, embrace, and practice divine protection through “putting on the whole armor of God” in the context of internal and external threat.

Proper 16

August 21, 2006
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
1 Kings 8:1,6,10-11,22-30,41-43
Reading 2: 
Psalm 84
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 6:10-20
Reading 4: 
John 6:56-69
By Bruce G. Epperly

In the Celtic spiritual tradition, pilgrims often draw a circle around themselves before  embarking on a journey. Initially standing still, the pilgrim points her finger outward and then rotates in a clock-wise direction until she completes the circle. This practice of faith, the “caim” or “encircling,” reminds the traveler that God surrounds him wherever he goes. Despite the threat of thieves and robbers, malign spirits, or opponents of the faith, the pilgrim is constantly within God’s circle of protection, the everlasting circle of divine love.

Proper 15

August 16, 2009
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 111
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 5:15-20
Reading 4: 
John 6:51-58
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s scriptures counsel us to seek God’s creative wisdom in all things. Divine wisdom embraces, inspires, and joins the cosmic and the local and divine handiwork and human creativity. The universe reflects the movements of divine wisdom in the heavens above and in the orderly progression of the seasons.

Proper 15

August 20, 2006
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 111
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 5:15-20
Reading 4: 
John 6:51-58
By Bruce G. Epperly

The Biblical tradition invites us to ponder the interrelatedness of sacred time and sacred space. Some of our favorite Bible stories involve “thin places” where the temporal and spatial worlds reflect God’s presence in surprising and transformative ways. Process theology invites us to “lived omnipresence,” that is, to experience God everywhere. But, process theology also reminds us that God’s presence is variable and can be dramatic and surprising.

Proper 14

August 9, 2009
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Reading 2: 
Psalm 130
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Reading 4: 
John 6:35, 41-51
By Bruce G. Epperly

“So then, put away falsehood, let us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:25) Today’s scriptures focus on relationships, those that heal and those that alienate. When I share my reflections with my congregation, Disciples United Community Church in Lancaster, PA, on Saturday, August 8, my own approach will be to share the good news of healthy, interdependent communities of shalom through the lens Ephesians 4:25-5:2.

Proper 14

August 13, 2006
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Reading 2: 
Psalm 130
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Reading 4: 
John 6:35, 41-51
By Bruce G. Epperly

Process theology affirms an intimate partnership between God and the world at both the micro and macro levels. God provides each and every moment of experience with a vision of possibilities and the energy to achieve that vision. Yet, God’s passion for beauty and wholeness is profoundly conditioned by our actions and the world in which we live. The initial aim is always “the best for the impasse,” the highest possibility for each arising moment of experience. But, this divine aim is always contextual.

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