Lectionary Commentary

Christmas Eve/Christmas Day

December 24, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 9:2-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 96
Reading 3: 
Titus 2:11-14
Reading 4: 
Luke 2:1-14; Matthew 2:1-12
By Bruce G. Epperly

The Christmas narratives present us with a set of what process theologians describe as provocative propositions. Alfred North Whitehead asserts that “it is more important that a proposition be interesting than true.” He adds that “the importance of truth is that it adds to the interest.” This is certainly true of the Christmas stories.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 7:10-16
Reading 2: 
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Reading 3: 
Romans 1:1-7
Reading 4: 
Matthew 1:18-25
By Bruce G. Epperly

Does God communicate with humankind? During the Christmas season, films, television movie, and popular culture speak of signs from God. The incarnation is the ultimate sign from God – Immanuel – “God with us” is God in flesh; fully alive and fully revelatory of God’s vision of history. Can God reveal Godself in the life of a baby, a working class family, and immigrants fleeing for their lives?

Third Sunday of Advent

December 15, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 35:1-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 146:5-10
Reading 3: 
James 5:7-10
Reading 4: 
Matthew 11:2-11
Alt Reading 2: 
Luke 1:46b-55
By Bruce G. Epperly

Advent invites us to imagine “impossible” future scenarios for our world, and then open ourselves to their power to lure us forward. Advent invites, and it also judges. Advent asks, “Where are we going in history and in our personal lives?

Second Sunday of Advent

December 8, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 11:1-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Reading 3: 
Romans 15:4-13
Reading 4: 
Matthew 3:1-12
By Bruce G. Epperly

Advent season invites us to take adventures of the spirit. An adventure of the spirit, as Whitehead notes, is not for the faint-hearted or those who seek a safe path. Spiritual adventures are for those who are willing to leave their personal, relational, and congregational comfort zones to explore God’s pathways of possibility in our time. It is for those who seek new horizons of faith and spiritual transformation.

First Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 2:1-5
Reading 2: 
Psalm 122
Reading 3: 
Romans 13:11-14
Reading 4: 
Matthew 24:36-44
By Bruce G. Epperly

Advent is a time of awe and wonder. Great things are happening in the world and our lives. God has a dream for human history and our own moment by moment lives. History aims at incarnation. The birth and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, continuous with the dreams of the Hebraic prophetic tradition, brings about a new array of possibilities for creative transformation. Advent is a time for agency and urgency.

Proper 28

November 17, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 65:17-25
Reading 2: 
Isaiah 12
Reading 3: 
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Reading 4: 
Luke 21:5-19
By Paul Nancarrow

Isaiah 65:17-25

Proper 27

November 10, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Haggai 1:5b-2:9
Reading 2: 
Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21
Reading 3: 
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Reading 4: 
Luke 20:27-38
By Paul Nancarrow

Haggai 1:5b-2:9

Proper 26

November 3, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Reading 2: 
Psalm 119:137-144
Reading 3: 
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Reading 4: 
Luke 19:1-10
By Paul Nancarrow

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

Proper 25

October 27, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Joel 2:23-32
Reading 2: 
Psalm 65
Reading 3: 
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Reading 4: 
Luke 18:9-14
By David Lull

The Gospel reading for this week has been a centerpiece in Christian anti-Judaism. Christians have made the Pharisee a stereotype of self-righteous, legalistic Jews. For Christians, the toll collector is an iconic hero, an example of true Christian piety. Never mind that his life work contributed to Rome’s imperial domination of Judea! Is it possible to find good news for Jews and Christians in this parable, or do we have to find it against this parable? These issues are so important that I will focus my comments on the Gospel.

Proper 24

October 20, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 31:27-34
Reading 2: 
Psalm 119:97-104
Reading 3: 
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Reading 4: 
Luke 18:1-8
By David Lull

This week’s lections explore novelty in God’s acts of righteous justice, and the delicate balance between confidence in one’s ability to be faithful to God’s righteousness and relying on God’s help.

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Proper 22

October 6, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Lamentations 1:1-6
Reading 2: 
Psalm 137
Reading 3: 
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Reading 4: 
Luke 17:5-10
By David Lull

What do you say about God when bad things happen? How do you reconcile God’s unconditional and unsurpassable love with texts that ask God to kill the enemy’s “little ones”? What—concretely, physically, empirically—does it mean to profess, “Christ Jesus is savior”? Can slavery serve as a metaphor for complete devotion to Jesus today?

Lamentations 1:1-6

Proper 21

September 29, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Reading 2: 
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
Reading 3: 
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Reading 4: 
Luke 16:19-31
By David Lull

This week’s texts continue to explore the inseparability of religion and politics, the contrast between faithfulness and idolatry, the grave danger of the love of wealth, and the relationship between divine judgment and hope.

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Proper 20

September 22, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Reading 2: 
Psalm 79:1-9
Reading 3: 
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Reading 4: 
Luke 16:1-13
By David Lull

 Jeremiah 8.18–9.1: Speak the truth clearly and boldly!

Proper 23

October 13, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 66:1-12
Reading 3: 
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Reading 4: 
Luke 17:11-19
By David Lull

Our world has too many refugees and exiles, yearning to be free and restored to wholeness. With them, we also yearn for a world without refugees, exiles, and deportees. Today’s lectionary readings invite reflections on hope and faith in the face of suffering.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

Proper 19

September 15, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Reading 2: 
Psalm 14
Reading 3: 
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Reading 4: 
Luke 15:1-10
By David Lull

The lectionary committee seems to want us to read 1 Timothy 1:12-17 and Luke 15:1-10 as the “good news” response to the “bad news” of Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28, and Psalm 14!

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

Proper 18

September 8, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 18:1-11
Reading 2: 
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Reading 3: 
Philemon 1:1-1:21
Reading 4: 
Luke 14:25-33
By David Lull

Jeremiah 18:1-11

Proper 17

September 1, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 2:4-13
Reading 2: 
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Reading 4: 
Luke 14:1, 7-14
By David Lull

My wife and I have just moved from Iowa to California, and we have given first attention to moving in. I am now up against a last minute deadline to post the first commentary for September. Consequently, I can only offer questions and brief comments to think about. For later Sundays, I plan to offer more developed commentaries.

Jeremiah 2:4-13

Proper 16

August 25, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 71:1-6
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 12:18-29
Reading 4: 
Luke 13:10-17
By Bruce G. Epperly

Today’s scriptures embrace the contrast of intimacy and ultimacy in describing God’s nature. God is, as Charles Hartshorne asserted, the most moved mover, involved as receptive and creative in every moment of existence as well as the arc of planetary and cosmic history. God is also the great beyond, indescribable and untamed by human desire or institutional control.

Proper 15

August 18, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 5:1-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 11:19-12:2
Reading 4: 
Luke 12:49-56
By Bruce G. Epperly

Events often conflict with our hopes and dreams. Communities and congregations let us down and may turn away from the divine vision. We may turn away from God’s vision for our own lives. Neither God nor we can avoid the consequences of injustice, racism, and the personal and social sins that harm us and others. Even when we are doing our best to follow God, there are no guarantees that our path will be easy. But, through it all, if we remain awake to this present moment – the sacrament and sin alike of this moment – we discover hope beyond conflict and failure.

Proper 14

August 11, 2013
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Reading 2: 
Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
Reading 3: 
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Reading 4: 
Luke 12:32-40
By Bruce G. Epperly

This week’s lectionary continues the quest for holistic spiritual practices. Isaiah proclaims the centrality of justice-seeking in worship, Hebrews explores the role of faith as opening up new dimensions of reality, and the Gospel challenges us to be awake and ready for God’s presence in our lives. Holistic spirituality embraces the whole of our lives, joining inner and outer, prayer and action, and personal and global. Well-being involves the interplay of the individual and communal.

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