First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22: Years of Preparation for Service

You can see all the lectionary readings for the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

As we did a couple weeks ago, we read about John baptizing people and telling them that one was coming who would do much more. Then Jesus arrives to be baptized, too. While Jesus is praying, the sky opens and the Holy Spirit comes down in the form of a dove. A voice from Heaven says “You are my Son, the one I love. I am very pleased with you.”

I was reading various resources about this passage and this particular sermon from Sermons that Work at EpiscopalChurch.org stuck with me as she asks the question: “But why did it take so long for Jesus to make this decision to become public with his understanding of the character of God? In that first century, which afforded a much shorter life span, thirty years was a very long time.”

This question made this become personal for me. I am already 44 and just beginning on the path to become a priest, though the inkling that I was called to ministry came to me when I was just a child. Like Jesus (and I don’t often compare myself to Jesus, I can assure you), I am starting my ministry later than might be expected, but on the other hand I can only imagine his whole life was leading to that point and mine it its own minor way has been leading to this. This gives me some assurance that it’s o.k. to start a little later in life, knowing that the age of 30 must have seemed much older back in that time. We become adults later and die much later (on average), after all.

The sermon I linked goes on and is worth a read, but I particularly love the end.

Jesus’™ thirty years of preparation before his public baptism remind us that it takes time to get ready for God’s mission. How many countless hours did Jesus spend in prayer? What study, what thought, what agony he must have undergone before appearing in front of John to ask him to baptize him. It is never too late for any of us to say “€œyes” to God.

The courage of both John and Jesus calls us to repent from fear, to turn our backs to the voices that urge us to be cautious. Justice must be proclaimed, even at the cost of endangering our lives. The chosen of God, the beloved of God are not guaranteed happiness and prosperity, but life in him who calls us to himself. Oh, to hear the words “With you I am well pleased.”

You Are My Beloved, Epiphany 1 (C) – 2007 by Katerina Katsarka Whitley


Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C: Luke 1:39-45, (46-55): Hope and Trust

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

Mary travels to another town to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth feels her unborn baby leap up inside her at Mary’s voice and she is filled with the Holy Spirit.

She proclaims to Mary that she is blessed more than any other woman and that God has blessed her baby. She tells Mary that her baby jumped for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. She says, “Great blessings are yours because you believed what the Lord said to you! You believed this would happen.”

This is Mary’s response–her Magnificat (song of praise.

“I praise the Lord with all my heart.
    I am very happy because God is my Savior.
I am not important,
    but he has shown his care for me, his lowly servant.
From now until the end of time,
    people will remember how much God blessed me.
Yes, the Powerful One has done great things for me.
    His name is very holy.
He always gives mercy
    to those who worship him.
He reached out his arm and showed his power.
    He scattered those who are proud and think great things about themselves.
He brought down rulers from their thrones
    and raised up the humble people.
He filled the hungry with good things,
    but he sent the rich away with nothing.
God has helped Israel—the people he chose to serve him.
    He did not forget his promise to give us his mercy.
He has done what he promised to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and his children forever.”

Luke 1:46-55 (Easy-to-read version)

Mary has obviously come to terms with the big news the angel Gabriel brought her. She is young and inexperienced; she has every reason to be terrified, but she is full of hope and trust that God knows what he is doing. She knows she is blessed and she celebrates the blessing and the hope that comes with it.

Third Sunday of Advent, Year C: Luke 3:7-18: Change of Heart

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

John is baptizing huge crowds at the river. He speaks harshly to them, calling them snakes and telling them to change their hearts and lives. They ask him what they should do.

He tells them if they have two shirts, they should share with someone who has none and to share food, too.

Tax collectors come and ask what to do and he tells them not to take more taxes than they are supposed to collect. Soldiers ask what to do and he tells them not to extort people for money by force.

People begin to speculate that John was the Messiah, but he tells them he baptizes in water but someone is coming who can do much more.

I am not good enough to be the slave who unties his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Luke 3:16 (Easy-to-read version)

He continues to preach and baptize, calling on people to change and telling them the Good News.

This week of advent we see the importance of John the Baptist in preparing the way for Jesus, as we prepare our hearts for his arrival at Christmas. John emphasized repentance, a changing of the heart, and its evidence was in our behavior and good works. We are to share what we have and not use our privilege for evil. The emphasis is on love and caring as opposed to grasping and greed. Go and do likewise.

Second Sunday of Advent, Year C: Luke 3:1-6: Preparing for his Coming

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

Today’s passage starts with establishing a time frame–the 15th year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar–and lists the rulers under Caesar and says that Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. Luke is carefully delineating where we are in history.

John the Baptist is beginning his ministry (though he’s not called that here–he’s called John, the son of Zechariah). He is living in the desert and receives a message from God, so he travels the area around the Jordan River to share God’s message. He calls on people to be baptized as a symbol of changing themselves and turning from sins so that their sins may be forgiven. 

Then Luke quotes Isaiah: 

“There is someone shouting in the desert:
‘Prepare the way for the Lord.
    Make the road straight for him.
Every valley will be filled,
    and every mountain and hill will be made flat.
Crooked roads will be made straight,
    and rough roads will be made smooth.
Then everyone will see
    how God will save his people!’”

from Isaiah 20:3-5 and Luke 3:4-6

Luke is specifically calling out this ancient prophecy and connecting it to the new prophet of John the Baptist. John is the one shouting in the desert and preparing a way for the Lord Jesus. This second week of Advent is also a time of preparation for us. We are preparing for the coming of Christ both in the form of the celebration of Christmas and preparing for the eventual Second Coming. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!

First Sunday of Advent, Year C: Luke 21:25-36: Be Ready

You can see all the lectionary readings for the First Sunday of Advent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

This blog has really helped me to have more of an appreciation for the lectionary–how the passages on a single Sunday relate to each other, how the story follows the life of Christ over the course of the year, and how the same week from different years can relate. For instance, last year’s First Sunday of Advent was a sort of apocalyptic passage with a theme of being ready at all times for the coming of Christ. And here as Advent and the new church year begins, we have the same theme. Amazing things and frightening things will happen, but don’t be afraid. Just pray and be ready. God’s kingdom is near. 

You can read the passage here.

Christ the King Sunday, Year B: John 18:33-37: No Earthly Kingship

You can see all the lectionary readings for Christ the King Sunday, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

Today’s passage happens during Jesus’s trial with Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews.

Jesus asks if it’s his own question or did other people tell him about him.

Pilate responds that he is not a Jew and it was his own people and priests who brought him to Pilate. He asks what Jesus has done wrong.

Jesus responds that his kingdom is not of this world. He says if it were, his people would fight to keep him from being handed over. But his kingdom is not earthly.

Pilate says then he is a king.

Jesus says, “You are right to say that I am a king. I was born for this: to tell people about the truth. That is why I came into the world. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.”late said, “So you are a king.”

Of course this is Christ the King Sunday, so we have a passage about Christ’s kingship. Jesus says his kingdom is not earthly, and he has demonstrated that many times in the Gospels. In the kingdom of God love rules instead of power and violence. In the kingdom of God the meek inherit the earth and the last shall be first. It is far different from an earthly kingdom, but it is a kingdom we should all work to emulate. May his kingdom come and his will be done. May love rule on earth as it does in heaven.

Proper 28, Year B: Mark 13:1-8: Trust in God

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 28, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus exits the temple and one of the disciples points out how large the stones and buildings are. Jesus assures him that not one stone will be left on another and the temple will all be thrown down.

Later on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John, and Andrew ask him what will be the sign that these things are about to happen. Jesus says that many will come in his name and claim to be him and lead people astray. He says, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” 

As we’ve learned in his previous encounters with the temple, Jesus has mixed reactions to the temple. He calls it his father’s house, but overturns the tables of the money changers. He admires the poor widow giving her all to the temple treasury, but criticizes the ostentatious giving of the rich at the same time. He accepts it as the house of God, but rejects the domination system it represents and how it fails to live up to the ideals of God–that it should benefit the poor more than the rich and powerful. So he tells his followers it will be thrown down (and it will be, perhaps before Mark is written–I think there’s some dispute among scholars on the exact date). 

Then some of his followers seek more details. This passage is apocalyptic literature–something that is hard to understand (it’s not about zombies or nuclear destruction like the apocalyptic stories of our own time). There is a sermon on this passage that I find helpful on the Episcopal Digital Network and it includes this:

Apocalyptic literature uses certain vocabulary and imagery, in this case earthquakes, wars, famines, etc., to convey a larger truth. Jesus is telling us to beware and persevere in times of hardship and trial, because no power can prevail against the power of Almighty God.

I think that’s the key lesson to take from this week’s passage. Hard times are going to come but we must trust in God.

Proper 27, Year B: Mark 12:38-44: Giving All

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 27, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus is teaching. He tells the people to beware of the teachers of the law who walk around trying to look important and have the best seats at events. They want to look holy but they cheat the poor. 

He sits near the collection box in the temple and watches as people put in their money. He sees rich people put in tons of money but a poor widow puts in just two small coins.

Jesus calls his disciples to him and tells them that the widow gave more than all the rich people, because they gave out of their wealth and only what they didn’t need, but she gave all she had.

It’s so like Jesus that in a parade of people making ostentations donations, what he notices is the poor woman who quietly gives the very little she has. This carries on the lessons we’ve been learning during this season of Pentecost. To live the love of Christ, we must sacrifice and trust God with all we have.