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.

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.

First Sunday of Advent, Year B: Mark 13:24-37: Be Ready

Advent wreath with one burning candle

Source: iStockphoto.com

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

Mark was written around 70 C.E., which is the year that the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple while crushing the Jewish revolt. Mark therefore, was written during a time of war and trouble, and this is probably why it has an apocalyptic theme to a lot of it. That’s true of this passage. It’s good to keep in mind the setting in which it was written as we read some of its dark portents.

Jesus starts in this passage by quoting an apocalyptic passage from Isaiah:

“During the days following that time of trouble,

‘The sun will become dark,
    and the moon will not give light.
The stars will fall from the sky,
    and everything in the sky will be changed.’[a]

“Then people will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. He will send his angels all around the earth. They will gather his chosen people from every part of the earth.

Mark 13: 24-27 (Easy-to-Read Version)

Then he tells a metaphor about a fig tree–we can tell summer is near by the green and soft branches–and so also will people know when the end of time is near. But on the other hand, he also says no one knows when exactly that time will be. Only God the Father knows, so we must always be ready.

He reiterates with a story of a man leaving his home and giving his servants each special jobs to do. He tells them to be ready at any time for his return. In the same way, the followers of Jesus must also always be ready.

I admit that I find apocalyptic scripture difficult to read and write about. I don’t always know what to make of it. I know what I was taught growing up in various evangelical churches, but not what to make of it now as an adult. So I just focus on the “be ready” part. We can always be ready to meet Jesus, whether that’s in some glorious return or in our day-to-day where we should be ready to meet Jesus in our fellow human beings–doing good and being a light to the world. As this passage is for the First Sunday of Advent, it is appropriate to be ready to meet Christ, who is coming at Christmas.

Christ the King Sunday, Year A: Matthew 25:31-46: What You Do for Others

Vienna- The icon of Jesus among the apostles on the canvas in church Brigitta Kirche by unknown artist of 20. cent.

Source: iStockphoto.com

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

Today’s story is Jesus telling his followers about a judgment to come in the future. He says the Son of Man will be sitting on a throne and all the people will be gathered before him. He will separate people into two groups like a shepherd separating sheep from goats–the sheep to his right and the goats to his left.

“Then the king will say to the godly people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has great blessings for you. The kingdom he promised is now yours. It has been prepared for you since the world was made. It is yours because when I was hungry, you gave me food to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I had no place to stay, you welcomed me into your home. When I was without clothes, you gave me something to wear. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me.’  

Matthew 25: 33-36 (Easy-to-Read Version)

They will be surprised that they ever did hose things for him, but he will answer, “The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.”

 

The reverse occurs with the goats to his left–they are the ones who never did any of those things for others and so he rejects them.
The question Jesus is asking in this story is what have you done and what will you do for others? Because how you follow Jesus and how you love him is to love others. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the homeless, share clothes with those who need clothes, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. This is not just the task of the church, but of the individual. Whatever you do for God’s people (that is all the people–we are all God’s children), you do for Jesus Christ.