Readings and Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Celebration

“Religion celebrates what the rest of the world forgets—the inherent goodness of life itself.  Religion knows that life unadorned and raw is the ultimate high.  Everything else is a pale shadow of the real thing. All the excesses in the world –sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, greed – are simply substitutes for the real thing. They are made for people who have yet to discover the joy of being human, the glory of God among us.”

Joan Chittister

Collect

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life:  Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen

Acts 11:1-18

. . . Followers of Jesus living in Judea and Jerusalem are astonished to learn of the conversion of gentiles as Peter tells them of his heavenly vision and how the Holy Spirit fell upon the new believers.

Psalm 148 . . . The Song of Songs

.  .  . The whole of creation and all people join together in praise of the Lord

Revelation 21:1-6

. . . a vision of the renewal of all creation and of the new Jerusalem as the city in which God will abide with redeemed humanity.

John 13:31-35

. . . Jesus speaks to his disciples on the night that he is to be betrayed and handed over to death.

Sermon: “Short passage…big message…love one another, love one another, love one another…any questions?”  begins Courtney Allen, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia

Readings and Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Easter

Collect: Fourth Sunday of Easter

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people:   Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Acts 9: 36-43 . . .  Peter is summoned to Joppa and raises up a disciple named Tabitha

Psalm 23 . . . A song from the flock of God, expressing the infinite care of God as the shepherd of humanity.

Revelation 7: 9-17 . . .  a vision of those who have survived great tribulation and now worship before the throne of God and the Lamb.

John 10:22-30 . . .  Jesus speaks to those who are unable to come to belief in him and then tells of his sheep that belong to him forever.

Sermon:  How do we discern the difference between the imitators and Jesus’ voice? Listen as Michael Renninger helps us figure out how to hear, and recognize, the Good Shepherd’s voice.

Readings and Sermon for Third Sunday of Easter

Collect: Third Sunday of Easter

 

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread:  Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen

Acts 9:1-6 (7-21) . . . Paul is converted from being an enemy of the Christian way in order to become the great apostle to the non-Jewish people
Psalm 30 . . . The journey out of sorrow into joy
Revelation 5:11-14 . . . This is a vision of the Lamb that was slain—a figure of Jesus.
John 21:1-19 . . . This is another appearance by Jesus to his disciples—this time after their return to the Sea of Tiberias or Galilee
Sermon:   Jesus, Will Willimon, disciples, sheep, discipleship, Peter, Duke Divinity School, failure, Year C, John 21:1-19, fishermen, commissioning, feed, Third Sunday of Easter, fly fishing, follow me, command

Readings and Sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Easter

Religion celebrates what the rest of the world forgets – the inherent goodness of life itself.  Religion knows that life unadorned and raw is the ultimate high.  Everything else is a pale shadow of the real thing.  All the excesses in the world—sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, greed—are simply substitutes for the real thing.  They are made for people who have yet to discover the joy of being human, the glory of God among us.
It is religion, in fact, that built joy and excitement, happiness and satisfaction, abandon and trust, fun and holy leisure right into the midst of life in the first place.

Joan Chittister

Collect: The 2nd Sunday of Easter

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Acts 5:27-32 . . . the apostles are brought before the council of religious authorities in Jerusalem and again commended to cease preaching in the name of Jesus
Psalm 150 . . . all that have breath are invited to join
Revelation 1:4-8 . . . John the Seer addresses seven representative churches in Asia Minor with a hymn of praise to Christ, the first-born from the dead and now ruler of all.
John 20:19-31 . . . two appearance of the risen Lord to his disciples

Sermon by Richard W. Voelz

“Not long after I arrived at my last pastoral ministry, I was at a gathering for area clergy where I met a minister who told me had an interest in apologetics, that is proving and defending the Christian faith by logical, defensible proofs,” begins Richard W. Voelz, Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA. But Voelz says, “I have to be honest. I have no interest in proving the resurrection of Jesus. I wasn’t there. I don’t have a firsthand eyewitness account of the empty tomb or Jesus’ appearances after the crucifixion.” He says, “On my best days, I do believe that resurrection happened in some way, shape, or form. Even more than that, I believe resurrection because I see resurrection.” Today’s text, John 20:19-31, anticipates our search for resurrection. How do we see and live the resurrection? Listen as Voelz tells us how to make sure that our belief is never disconnected from resurrection living, so that others will see resurrection in us.

The Resurrection of the Lord: Easter Day

“Easter is the moment Christmas points to, the moment the Passion obscures, the moment the tomb reveals.  On Christmas morning we find the manger full of life; on Easter morning we find the tomb empty of death.”  Joan Chittister

Let us pray .  .

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Isaiah 65: 17-25 . . . This about a blessed time, when God overcomes, for us,  many of life’s shortcomings and frustrations.
Psalm 118:1-4, 14-24 . . . praise of the Lord’s salvation

 Thank God because he’s good,
because his love never quits.
Tell the world, Israel,
“His love never quits.”

And . . .
1 Corinthians 15:19-26 . . . Paul describes the plan of the resurrection age: it has begun with Christ’s rising, and this event gives us confidence that  God defeated  death, the last enemy
John 20:1-18 . . . the discovery of the empty tomb and Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene

Bishop Barron on the Meaning of Easter

Followed by a further discussion on the Resurrection

“There is a Passover here, too, of course.  It is not the Passover of the ‘destroyer’ that spared the Jews in Egypt and generated their Exodus to the promised land.  This Passover is the passage of Jesus from this life to the fullness of divine life.  It is also, then, the passage of Christians from the life of this world to life lived in the light of the risen Jesus.”

Joan Chittister

Holy Week II: Faith tested to the end —

The Triduum (Three Days) . . .

Thursday, Friday and Saturday – is a distinct moment, part of the “Pasch” (to suffer) itself, not part of Lent, but the very time for which Lent is meant to prepare us, i.e. Lent prepares us for the cross, the byway to the empty tomb.  The empty tomb, Easter – that for which we strive and remember until it happens.

  • The theology of suffering and salvation is why Christians celebrate Easter on a different day than the Jewish community celebrates Passover every year. The Easter liturgy is the center point and character of the Christian remembrance practice.
  • But, on the other hand, the image of Christianity as bearer of hope has often disappeared under the emphasis on the cross rather than being heightened by the image of the empty tomb.

Mundy Thursday . . . The day of gifts given and gifts taken away; a study in mixed emotions

 Collect: Almighty Father whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood:  Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries give us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen (BCP p221)

Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10), 11-14 . . . instructions are given, and the meaning of the Passover meal is told:  it is a remembrance and reenactment of Israel’s beginnings as a people when they were saved out of slavery in Egypt.
Psalm 116:1-2,12-19 . . . An offering of thanksgiving and praise by one who has been rescued from death.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 . . . Paul recalls the tradition he received concerning the supper of the Lord on the night he was betrayed.
John 13:1-17, 31b-35 . . . Jesus washes his disciples’ feet during his last meal with them

Good Friday . . . after the glory of Thursday, the saddest day of the liturgical year.

  • Are we willing to lovingly and boldly walk in the midst of all the selfishness, hatred and fear that surrounds us (to pick up our cross and follow Jesus)?
  • The fast whets the need for the return of Christ in our own lives.

Collect: Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (BCP p221)

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 . . . the poem of the Lord’s servant who suffers and bears the sins of many.
Psalm 22 . . . A psalm of lamentation and plea for deliverance by one who feels deserted and pressed in on every side, expressing final confidence in God’s goodness.
Hebrews 10:16-25 . . . God has established the promised new covenant through which our sins are forgiven and God; laws are written on our hearts
 John 18:1-19:42 . . . the story of Jesus’ trials before the Jewish council and Pilate, followed by his suffering and death.

Holy Saturday: The Loss that is Gain . . .

“The day nobody talks about.  Jesus is absent, our inner light is out, all hope seems to have died and there are no liturgical assemblies until night fall. 

On this day faith is not about counting our blessings; it is about dealing with darkness and growing in hope. For we know now that without Jesus, there is for us no bridge to God Once we knew, looking at him, what we ourselves were meant to be, as well, if we were to be fully human at all.

There is the hope that we can begin, finally, to see the world as God sees the world and so trust that God is indeed everywhere in everything at all times – in the abstruse as well as the luminous, whether we ourselves can see the hand of God in this moment or not.

To be able to come to that point before the beginning of Easter Vigil, before the cantor sings the Exultet into the darkness, is what Holy Saturday is really all about.  Then loss is gain, and silence is a very clear message from God.”  Joan Chittister. In “The Liturgical Year” Chapter 24, pp 152 – 157

Collect: O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen (BCP p221)

Job 14:1-14 . . . Job reflects on the brevity of human life.
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 . . . A song of trust by one who looks to the Lord for mercy and protection
1 Peter 4:1-8 . . . Believers are encouraged to live devoted to the will of God, steering clear of all forms of dissipation.
John 19:38-42 . . . Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’ body for burial according to custom.

 

Holy Week I: Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday –  our hope to match the suffering

The first days of Holy Week confirm: there are some things worth living for, even if we find ourselves having to die for them as well.

Monday

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not us to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen (BCP p220)

Isaiah 42:1-9 . . . the mission of the Lord’s servant, the one whom God has chosen to bring forth justice and salvation

Psalm 36:5-11 . . . the expansive love of God expressed in faithfulness and justice.  God is a river of delight in whose light we see light.

Hebrews 9:11-15 . . .  Christ has inaugurated a new covenant, accomplishing all that was anticipated by the rites and rituals of the first covenant, that is, redemption from sin and transgression and the purification of conscience for the right worship of the living God.

John 12:1-11 . . . Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anoints Jesus’ feet with costly perfume.

Tuesday

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life:  Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (BCP p220)

Isaiah 49:1-7 . . . The servant of the Lord reflects movingly on his mission – its sorrows and frustration – and God’s high calling and promise to be with him.

Psalm 71:1-14 . . . God will continue to be my refuge and stronghold

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 . . .  Paul directs the attention of the Corinthians to God’s way of using what is weak and lowly – even what the world regards as foolish – to accomplish the divine purposes.

John 12:20-36 . . . Jesus presents teaching concerning the meaning of his death.  After his prayer to God a voice from heaven is heard.

Wednesday

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon:  Give us grace to accept joyfully and sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (BCP p220)

Isaiah 50: 4-9a . . . the servant who speaks for the Lord and suffers persecution, but still trust in God’s help and vindication.

Psalm 70 . . . help and vindication

Hebrews 13:1-3 . . . The author exhorts hearers to persevere in the face of adversity.

John 13:21-32 . . . Jesus is troubled by the knowledge of Judas’ impending betrayal but tells his disciples that God is at work in the glorification of the Son of Man.

The scriptures of the opening days of Holy week prepare us in another way for the approaching end of Jesus’ life – and our own.

Readings and Sermons for Palm Sunday

Collect: Palm Sunday

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

The Liturgy of the Palms

Luke 19:28-40 . . . Jesus, his long journey finally over, approaches the holy city of Jerusalem, while his disciples hail him as the king who comes in the Lord’s name.

Psalm 118 1-2, 19-29 . . . A festivals hymn sung in procession in praise of the Lord’s salvation

A Sermon for every Sunday: “needing a donkey?”
Jim Somerville says “I was not very good at Math as a student, but every once in a while, I got a problem right,” Somerville says. On Palm Sunday the crowds got it right; they celebrated Jesus as the King that he was, shouting “Hosanna!” and welcoming him to the capital city.
The Liturgy of the Passion
“(There is quite a) distance between apparent public success and personal commitment.   Jesus stays the course until the end, we see, and so must we, despite all other pressures, both internal and social, to the contrary. .  .  .  (Here) we trace the struggle, one scene at a time, between the Word of God and the ways of the world.
Joan Chittister

Isaiah 50:4-9. . . Our reading tells of the servant who speaks for the Lord and suffers persecution, but still trust in God’s help and vindication.

Psalm 31:9-16 . . . A psalm of trust by one who looks to the Lord for mercy and protection.

Philippians 2:5-11 . . . From one of the earliest Christian hymns we hear how Christ Jesus accepted the condition of a servant, was  obedient even to the  of death, and was then given the name above every name.

Luke 23:1-49 . . .  the story of the events of Jesus’ final hours: his arrest, trial, passion, and death.

Palm Sunday Homily at the Cathedral,

Bishop Robert Barron

Readings and Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

“To follow Jesus is to live, no matter how many deaths we face in life.”

Joan Chittister

Collect: Fifth Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners:  Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Isaiah 43:16-21 . . . The same Lord who brought the people through the Red Sea waters and crushed the army of the Egyptians will do a new thing in this day when God will bring the people home through the wilderness.

Psalm 126 . . . A song of hope and jy sung to the Lord, who restores the fortunes of Go’s people

Philippians 3:4b-14 . . . The apostle Paul can boast of his religious background yet nothing matters in comparison with knowing Christ as his Lord.

John 12: 1-8 . . . Jesus, but a few days before his passion, is at supper with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary when Mary anoints his feet with costly ointment

There was a place called Bethany…the house of the afflicted,” begins Rachel May, pastor of Boulevard United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia. In John 12:1-8, Jesus is at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus…

Readings and Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

“(God) invites us to open our eyes, too, to be willing to begin again, to forget the past — however bad it has been for us — and come back to God knowing that mercy is already ours.”
Joan Chittister

Collect: Fourth Sunday in Lent

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread,  that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen

Joshua 5:9-12

Psalm 32

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Luke 15:1-3, 16-32

Why does the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 resonate with so many of us? Carla Pratt Keyes, pastor of Ginter Park Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, says, “I think its the way this story taps into the human yearning for home. Home as more than a place, but home as yearning to belong, to be known and loved, to be whole.” How do we go home again?  By walking the way of forgiveness.  But where do we find the courage and humility to walk that road?