Bruce G. Epperly

The Third Sunday after Epiphany

January 23, 2011
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 9:1-4
Reading 2: 
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
Reading 3: 
I Corinthians 1:10-18
Reading 4: 
Matthew 4:12-23
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s lectionary readings circle around the theme of light – the light that guides, reveals, heals, and unites. Isaiah and Matthew both assert that “the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light” and a bright light has illuminated those “who have walked - or sat - in darkness.” God’s vision is to bring healing and wholeness, especially in life’s most difficult circumstances.

Second Sunday after Epiphany

January 16, 2011
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 49:1-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 40:1-11
Reading 3: 
I Corinthians 1:1-9
Reading 4: 
John 1:29-42
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s scriptures provide words of encouragement for those who seek to be faithful in challenging times, especially when the pathway ahead is obscure. Take heart, God has been with you from the very beginning, God was moving in your conception, and God will guide you through every season of life.

Baptism of Christ/First Sunday after Epiphany

January 9, 2011
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 42:1-8
Reading 2: 
Psalm 29
Reading 3: 
Acts 10:(1-20)34-43
Reading 4: 
Matthew 3:13-17
By Bruce G. Epperly

The Baptism of Jesus, or “the Baptism of our Lord,” could be renamed “God’s Love is for Us All.” In the spirit of Epiphany, the readings join intimacy with universality. God’s love is universal; all are chosen, personally as concrete human beings. There is no room here for theologies of exclusion, dividing the world from eternity into elect and reprobate, or saved and damned.

The Second Sunday after Christmas

January 2, 2011
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 31:7-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 147:12-20
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 1:3-14
Reading 4: 
John 1:1-18
By Bruce G. Epperly

The New Year’s revels of parties, parades, and football games have almost concluded. There will be a few more bowl games ahead as well as the onward march to the Super Bowl. In the spirit of New Year’s, some folks will be making resolutions and setting goals, typically about their diet and weight. With the celebration of New Year’s, there is a sense that we can start over, letting go of the past and becoming new persons. Well, as most of us know, the heaviness of the past remains, shaping our lives, even when we try to change them.

Good Friday

April 2, 2010
See Also: 

Lenten Candle Liturgy
Lenten Benedictions/Commissioning/Blessings

Preaching Lent/Easter I
Preaching Lent/Easter II
Preaching Lent/Easter III

John Cobb on atonement
John Cobb on redemption
John Cobb on Jesus
Biblical Preaching on the Death of Jesus (Cobb)

Reading 1: 
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Reading 2: 
Psalm 22
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 10:16-25
Reading 4: 
John 18:1-19:42
By Bruce G. Epperly

Let’s be honest. Many progressive and moderate pastors don’t like to preach Good Friday sermons. Good Friday is the low point in Holy Week, especially if you’re not a cross-centered evangelical or have problems with the violence inherent in many traditional atonement theories. There’s nothing to celebrate, the story is predictable (we’ve heard it so many times and seldom discover anything new in it), and we struggle to find alternatives to the popular belief that Jesus was predestined to physically die for our sins, stand in our place, and suffer on our behalf.

First Sunday after Christmas

December 26, 2010
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 63:7-9
Reading 2: 
Psalm 148
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 2:10-18
Reading 4: 
Matthew 2:1-23
By Bruce G. Epperly

The First Sunday after Christmas presents the preacher with liturgical, spiritual, and theological challenges. The gospel reading selected by the lectionary committee (Matthew 2:13-23) plunges us directly into the holy family’s flight to Egypt and the “slaughter of the innocents.” Many pastors will be grateful for the respite of “low Sunday” or the opportunity to take a retreat following Christmas just to avoid addressing the text.

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?”

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