Bruce G. Epperly

Christmas Eve/Christmas Day

December 24, 2010
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 9:2-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 96
Reading 3: 
Titus 2:11-14
Reading 4: 
Luke 2:1-20
By Bruce G. Epperly

The Christmas Eve scriptures had better be joyful to mirror the most joyful day of the year in many congregations and households. While we need to be mindful of those who grieve during the holidays as well those who are without jobs, homes, or hope this season, there is a mood of celebration in today’s scriptures. The mood is not Pollyanna-styled, “Praise the Lord, anyway”, but celebration after a long night’s journey into day. Those who have been fed on a diet on bad news now hear good news for the first time in long while and dare to trust the promise of a radically different future.

1st Sunday in Lent

February 25, 2007
Reading 1: 
Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Reading 2: 
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Reading 3: 
Romans 10:8b-13
Reading 4: 
Luke 4:1-13
By Bruce G. Epperly

Lent recalls Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. “Full of the Holy Spirit,” and fresh from his baptism, Jesus is led by the Gods’ spirit into the wilderness. However, we understand the complexities of this story, it is clear that Jesus, like shaman and shamanness before him, must go on a “vision quest” in order to clarify his vocation and claim his future as God’s beloved child. And, only Jesus could have been the source of the account of his retreat and temptation in the wilderness.

Transfiguration Sunday (Last Sunday after Epiphany)

February 18, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 34:29-35
Reading 2: 
Psalm 99
Reading 3: 
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Reading 4: 
Luke 9:28-43
By Bruce G. Epperly

A child in my congregation recently asked, “why doesn’t God talk to people now like God did in the Bible?” As his pastor and as a theology professor, I took his question seriously. Certainly, to quote Karl Barth, mystical experiences and theophanies (appearances of God to mortals) are essential to the “strange world of the Bible.”

Transfiguration Sunday (Last Sunday after Epiphany)

February 14, 2010
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 34:29-35
Reading 2: 
Psalm 99
Reading 3: 
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Reading 4: 
Luke 9:28-43
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s scriptures invite preacher and congregation alike to consider practicing transfiguration. Throughout the season of Epiphany, we’ve be exploring the mystical encounters that undergird and lie just below the surface of everyday life. A number of years ago, Marsha Sinetar titled a book Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics, and such a quest should be part of the Christian life, whether we are pastors or laypersons.

6th Sunday after Epiphany

February 11, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 1
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Reading 4: 
Luke 6:17-26
By Bruce G. Epperly

This week’s gospel reading proclaims a blessed interdependence that radiates through each of the lectionary readings. The context of Luke’s Beatitudes is a time of healing and preaching. “The power of God came out from Jesus and healed all of them. ” Divine power flowed in and through Jesus to bring healing and wholeness to a great multitude. Jesus’ power to heal is not grounded in his own abilities or personhood, but arises from his constant openness to God’s life-transforming energy. Open to God, Jesus’ touch and words changed lives and restored hope to the hopeless.

5th Sunday after Epiphany

February 4, 2001
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 6:1-8
Reading 2: 
Psalm 138
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Reading 4: 
Luke 5:1-11
By Bruce G. Epperly

Epiphany is the season of illumination. Traditionally, the season of Epiphany has highlighted God’s presence beyond the Jewish world and in the ordinary events of our lives. Today, of course, the season of Epiphany reminds us that the spirit of Christ is universal in scope, stretching far beyond Israel or the West. God’s revealing is not limited to the Christian church, its worship, sacraments, and scripture, but encompasses every quest for wholeness.

5th Sunday after Epiphany

February 4, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 6:1-8
Reading 2: 
Psalm 138
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Reading 4: 
Luke 5:1-11
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s scriptures speak of the glory of God embodied in the human and non-human worlds. God’s glory, like “God’s majesty” and the “praise” of God, is often ignored by progressive and mainstream Christians. To some Christians, glory implies patriarchal and authoritarian relationships and the otherness of God. Sadly, glory and power have been identified in hurtful and oppressive ways. Yet, I believe that images of divine glory and majesty can be recovered in healing and life-transforming ways. I believe that God’s glory is more about wonder and beauty than power and coercion.

5th Sunday after Epiphany

February 7, 2010
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 6:1-8
Reading 2: 
Psalm 138
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Reading 4: 
Luke 5:1-11
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s readings connect mysticism and mission. Isaiah, Peter, and Paul experience God in dramatic and life-transforming ways that call them to become partners in God’s planetary mission. The world in which we live is an interdependent web of relationships in which certain moments of time may become “thin places,” as the Celts say, where the divine and human are transparent to one another. In the world of process theology, every moment can become a “thin moment” and every space a “thin place” when the divine call and creaturely response are in synch with one another.

4th Sunday after Epiphany

January 28, 2007
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 71:1-6
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Reading 4: 
Luke 4:21-30
By Bruce G. Epperly

The season of Epiphany proclaims the ubiquitous revelations—yes, revelations—of God. The omnipresent and omni-active God actively reveals Godself to persons in every nation, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and season of life. Divine revelation is multi-faceted and polyvalent in nature. The source of diversity in religious experience, God is also the fabric that holds our diverse spiritual journeys together. The whole earth, and every moment, is full of God’s glory.

4th Sunday after Epiphany

January 31, 2010
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 71:1-6
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Reading 4: 
Luke 4:21-30
By Bruce G. Epperly

Many newly-ordained pastors can identify with Jeremiah’s response to God’s call to prophetic ministry. “Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a young person.” The call of God can seem overwhelming in contrast to the meager resources we see in ourselves, and this is not just an issue for new pastors.

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.

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