Lectionary Commentary

Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 28, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 11:1-18
Reading 2: 
Psalm 148
Reading 3: 
Revelation 21:1-6
Reading 4: 
John 13:31-35
By Russell Pregeant

The book of Acts tells the story of the early church, and it is a story of transformations. Characters, most particularly Peter and Paul, undergo transformation; and so does the church itself. Paul’s change is the most dramatic—a complete turnaround from a bitter opponent of the gospel to a courageous bearer of the word into the Gentile world. Peter’s is equally significant, however; and both characters’ faith journeys are central to the plot of Luke-Acts.

Sunday of the Passion

March 24, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Reading 2: 
Psalm 31:9-16
Reading 3: 
Philippians 2:5-11
Reading 4: 
Luke 22:14-23:56
By Paul S. Nancarrow

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 21, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 9:36-43
Reading 2: 
Psalm 23
Reading 3: 
Revelation 7:9-17
Reading 4: 
John 10:22-30
By Russell Pregeant

The gospel lesson illustrates a distinctive aspect of Johannine theology, which Bultmann has called a “dualism of decision.” [1] On the one hand, dualistic language pervades John’s gospel. There are sharp contrasts between light and darkness, flesh and spirit, and above and below. Indeed, one could get the impression from some passages that these contrasts reflect an actual cosmic dualism than would negate human freedom, since whether a person is “from above” or “from below” seems to determine whether or not one has faith in Jesus.

Third Sunday of Easter

April 14, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)
Reading 2: 
Psalm 30
Reading 3: 
Revelation 5:11-14
Reading 4: 
John 21:1-19
By Russell Pregeant

The account of Paul’s life-changing vision in Acts 9:1-6 is a powerful sequence in itself, but it is greatly enhanced by the optional verses 7-20. The initial description of Paul as “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” and obtaining authorization from the high priest to have members of “the Way” bound and brought to Jerusalem establishes him as an archenemy of the gospel. His “conversion” experience is thus a dramatic turnaround, a point that his blindness and subsequent healing by Ananias serves to highlight. Sight v.

Second Sunday of Easter

April 7, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 5:27-32
Reading 2: 
Psalm 118:14-29
Reading 3: 
Revelation 1:4-8
Reading 4: 
John 20:19-31
By Russell Pregeant

Resurrection; mandate to witness; the faith-doubt dichotomy; courage in the faith of persecution; repentance/forgiveness of sins—who could ever complain about a lack of thematic substance in this array of texts? No one, I expect, other than the long-term pastor who has had to work with the same materials year in and year out in a lectionary that abandons rotation in this season. I have to wonder how many preachers have in fact acknowledged the difficulty with the words, “poor Thomas,” having grown just a little weary of having to deal with the famous doubter yet again.

Easter Sunday

March 31, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 10:34-43
Reading 2: 
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Reading 3: 
I Corinthians 15:19-26
Reading 4: 
John 20:1-18
Alt Reading 1: 
Luke 24:1-12
By Bruce G. Epperly

“This is the day that God has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it.” These words from Psalm 118 set the tone for today’s homiletic adventures. Joy and celebration are the mood of Easter. God’s initiative in bringing forth unexpected signs and wonders that transform our lives and liberate us from the powers of death and destruction shape the theology of Easter. Resurrection is both improbable and necessary to face the daunting threats of personal, communal, and – in the twenty-first century – planetary death.

Good Friday

March 29, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Reading 2: 
Psalm 22
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9
Reading 4: 
John 18:1-19:42
By Bruce G. Epperly

What are progressive Christians to do about Good Friday? How do we preach good news that transforms on a day whose purpose in many churches is to celebrate the shedding of blood and the necessity that Jesus die for our sins? I do not believe preaching or teaching is intended to deconstruct without providing a new constructive vision. But, what constructive theological vision can we affirm on Good Friday? If we just celebrate a toned down version of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” we might as well leap from Palm Sunday to Easter.

Fifth Sunday in Lent

March 17, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 43:16-21
Reading 2: 
Psalm 126
Reading 3: 
Philippians 3:4b-14
Reading 4: 
John 12:1-8
By Paul S. Nancarrow

Isaiah 43:16-21

Fourth Sunday in Lent

March 10, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Joshua 5:9-12
Reading 2: 
Psalm 32
Reading 3: 
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Reading 4: 
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
By Paul S. Nancarrow

Joshua 5:9-12

Third Sunday in Lent

March 3, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 55:1-9
Reading 2: 
Psalm 63:1-8
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Reading 4: 
Luke 13:1-9
By Paul S. Nancarrow

Isaiah 55:1-9

Second Sunday in Lent

February 24, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Reading 2: 
Psalm 27
Reading 3: 
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Reading 4: 
Luke 13:31-35
By Bruce G. Epperly

Lent is traditionally observed as a season of simplicity and penitence. It is more importantly a season of abundant life. Today’s lectionary readings remind us that God’s abundance is present within our perceived scarcity or ignorance of God’s vision. The point of a simple life is to focus on what’s truly important and discover that in opening to our deepest desires—grounded in the interplay of our agency and God’s vision for us—we will experience what it means to be fully alive.

First Sunday in Lent

February 17, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Reading 2: 
Psalms 91:1-2, 9-16
Reading 3: 
Romans 10:8b-13
Reading 4: 
Luke 4:1-13
By Bruce G. Epperly

The reading from Luke 4:1-13 is the traditional centerpiece for the First Sunday in Lent, and it should be. In many ways, Lent invites us to explore our values. The Lenten season invites us to self-examination: What is truly important to us? Where are our deepest values and how do we embody them in daily life? Where is God in our lives? 

Transfiguration Sunday

February 10, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 34:29-35
Reading 2: 
Psalm 99
Reading 3: 
2 Corinthians 3:17-4:2
Reading 4: 
Luke 9:28-43
By Bruce G. Epperly

Transfiguration Sunday joins mysticism and mission, both of which are necessary for a holistic, life-giving faith. In some quarters, mysticism has a bad name: old school evangelicals worry that any experience of God unmediated by scripture or orthodoxy takes us away from Jesus; old school liberals see mysticism and contemplation as temptations to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

February 3, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 71:1-6
Reading 3: 
I Corinthians 13:1-13
Reading 4: 
Luke 4:21-30
By Bruce G. Epperly

Epiphany proclaims the universality of divine revelation and inspiration. Strangers from East are inspired to follow a star that leads to the baby Jesus. Within the body of Christ everyone is gifted for the good of the whole. Everyone has a vocation, a calling that brings fulfillment to themselves and health to the community. Along with the ubiquity of revelation comes the counsel to humility.

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

January 27, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 19
Reading 3: 
I Corinthians 12:12-31a
Reading 4: 
Luke 4:14-21
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s lectionary readings reflect on the relationship of order and novelty on the micro and macro levels of cosmic and human existence. While evolving and contextual in nature, the “law” of God is the ground of value and wholeness and not imposed from without. When we are in tune with the flexible visions of divine wisdom for the large and small, and the long-haul and momentary aspects of life, we experience joy and fulfillment.

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 20, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 62:1-5
Reading 2: 
Psalm 36:5-10
Reading 3: 
I Corinthians 12:1-11
Reading 4: 
John 2:1-11
By Bruce G. Epperly

The Season of Epiphany inspires us to look for the light in ourselves and in the world around us. In God’s light, we see light, the Psalmist proclaims, and if God’s light is omnipresent, then all places vibrate with divine energy. Divine energy moves through all things presenting them possibilities and the inspiration and eros to embody them. Still, we are free to shape God’s energetic possibilities and even turn away from them by ignoring them or misusing them. When we open to the light, we see divine light in ourselves and others.

Baptism of Jesus

January 13, 2013
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

Today, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. In our ecumenical and interreligious context, we lift up baptism as one way of affirming God’s ultimate care for creation. Sacraments are visible signs God’s ubiquitous grace. Although sacraments have often been the source of controversy, their purpose is to inspire, assure, and affirm.

Epiphany Sunday

January 6, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 60:1-6
Reading 2: 
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 3:1-12
Reading 4: 
Matthew 2:1-12
By Bruce G. Epperly

Epiphany is a wonderful season for process-relational preaching. Epiphany reflects the heart of process theology: God is with us in the humble and great, the obvious and unexpected, the neighbor and the stranger, and the church goer and persons of other faiths and seekers. God’s revelation is cast broadly and variously throughout the universe. Zoroastrian magi and Jewish shepherds experience the light of the world shining in and on them. The Epiphany season asks us to open our senses to the divine word and wisdom in ourselves and in diverse places.

First Sunday of Christmas

December 30, 2012
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

Christmas Eve & Day

December 25, 2012
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 9:2-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 96
Reading 3: 
Titus 2:11-14
Reading 4: 
Luke 2:1-12
Alt Reading 2: 
Hebrews 1:1-4
Alt Reading 1: 
Isaiah 52:7-10
By Bruce G. Epperly

Change is in the air. Hope is on the way. God is with us in a humble manger and in all the quotidian adventures of our lives. The promise of new possibilities is emerging—in ancient times and in our own precarious personal and planetary situations. This is no time for passivity, but the challenge is in front of us, the adventure of embracing something new and unexpected, and midwifing the embodiment a reality that will change everything. Around Christmas we always hear the comment, “Why can’t we have Christmas all year round?

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