TO THOSE persons seeking discussion for Sundays coming forth in the lectionary, we offer a listing according to the three-year calendar.
On the right-hand column of this page, please find the past corresponding year for lectionary years A, B, or C.
And then search the appropriate month in each for a discussion concerning the gospel reading.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Watch Actively!

FOR THE First Sunday of Advent in the new church year we hear from the Gospel According to Saint Mark. Rather than starting at the beginning of that gospel record, however, our text related to a prophetic statement said just before the arrest of Jesus. Our Lord's words thus echo to us about coming events…

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
 But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.”
                                                                                                  (Mark 13:24-37)

Looking Ahead!
We need to more fully comprehend this prophetic text as given to the early Church. In this way we may derive direction for our own day. To do this, to assist us… let me offer that we first must note that our lesson is a word picture painted upon a larger canvas. The picture came forth from our Lord as a portion of a longer talk that preceded this text. The subject was about future desolation to be soon expected… and the ultimate delivery of the Christian people.
 Since the lesson involves all of us, the text rightly needs to be understood from the prediction that Jesus gave concerning the fate of the temple in Jerusalem. At the time, the discussion began as the young rabbi taught his disciples after leaving the temple. He told them that the time was soon coming that one magnificent stone of the temple would not be sitting on top of another. We find that this gospel message is mirrored later in Matthew, Chapters 24-25, and in Luke 21:5-36. Here in Mark, however, it seems that we have the earliest written account.
 Whether this text came to each gospel writer from either an oral tradition or pre-Markan writing, we do not know. We do know, however, that this more concise gospel is thought by some historical biblical critics as written shortly after the desolation of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. That tremulous, destructive event in the life of Israel, happened to the Judean religious temple system in 70A.D. Therefore, since recorded in this gospel, the text here is barely subsequent in time to that historic fulfillment event.
 Consider this! In the previous text, Mark related that Jesus sat teaching his disciples on the Mount of Olives, across from the temple. Jesus forecast that they would receive persecutions, and be beaten… and ridiculed concerning him. Our Lord taught that when they later saw the desolation of that great temple, trouble would be coming upon all. Christians would even be blamed for its destruction. Jesus further told them that many persons would come and claim to be the Christ.
 As history would prove, the Roman war upon the temple cult and its followers unfolded just as our Lord prophesied. Temple life and light was quenched for the Jews, followed by the siege of Masada, Given this, the claim is that subsequent to that unfolding for the writers of this gospel, the disciples clearly remembered the prophetic words of Jesus. Those who had been keen students of the prophets were made aware that this horrible event mirrored those spoken about many centuries before.
     For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
      will not give their light;
      the sun will be dark at its rising
      and the moon will not shed its light.
                                                  (Isaiah 13:10)
 The community responsible for this gospel writing likely remembered that teaching, and penned this text immediately for the readers of the Church around the empire... declaring that the here and now had arrived. They lifted up the vision of the unfolding kingdom. For their readers back then, the present age was said as emerging out of their recent historical darkness and held both foreboding and new Light for the Church. The first sign had occurred, for the temple had been plundered and destroyed. The desolation of Roman symbols stood tall in the temple and those foreign authorities had desolated the sacrificial offering fires.
 In historic sequence, the pleasant world of scripture readings within the Jewish synagogues turned unstable… even hostile toward Christians. Those tumultuous and confusing events of the day certainly made it seem that the sun rising in the morning no longer showed them the way forward. The moon seemed not to illuminate their path and guide those Christian faith travelers through darkness. The stars… followed by Jewish mystics that we might guess were representative of the many leaders of the Judaic religion who seemed solidly fixed in the heavenly realms… had now fallen. Israel was dispersed. The deserted wayfarers of the early Christian church were therefore feeling quite blind.
 Miraculously amid this desolation started by the desecration of the Jerusalem temple... followed by the massacre of Masada and the scattering of Jewish religious communities... a brightness miraculously showed forth. Consider that the infant Christian community was truly realizing the enduring gift of the Holy Spirit. Through revelation they knew that the Son of Man was already present among them, and Jesus Christ was to return.
 You see, a rather difficult name for some of us, the “Son of Man” was the title given by prophetic writing as describing a special person. That man was a Deliverer, who was promised as sent to the world by God the Father. The Hebrew prophet Daniel had described him…

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. 
                                                                                            (Daniel 7:13-14)

  We know that before the fall of the temple, Jesus had repeatedly taught that the Son of Man was described as the fulfillment of prophecy. The Son of Man was taught by Jesus to be the one who would come with heavenly messengers... and his angels would boldly speak the message of salvation. They would gather his “elect” from far and wide. Consequently, by the time of the gospel writing, baptized believers knew the risen Jesus Christ, the Son of Man... had sent the Holy Spirit upon the Church. They knew by in that day that the revealed Son of Man and the Son of God were one in the same. In this way they knew the future calling of the universal church. They were being called out by God from the time set even before the gospel's writing. We can therefore say that the early Church was created at Pentecost and yet is eternal.
 Indeed since that first century era, the Church stands beyond any particular location and time. Therefore the gospel had stated what was already happening, what was about to happen… and then offered us the wondrous message from Almighty God about what to do until the End of all things arrives.

Be Not Afraid!
In this last portion of prophecy, we moderns often get most confused. However, be comforted that we have had much company. Worry over the delay of those fearsome and yet wonderful end times seems problematically inherited, especially so for those who still possess sinful and finite minds. Even blessed Saint Paul expected things to happen sooner. Take note however! Both the disciples and the early church of Mark were told by Jesus in a simple agricultural analogy that things would unfold just as the events were described. Jesus instructed that the divinely-directed progression would occur and the saving gospel would go out fully in all earthly directions. Today, we need presently to note the “all” word here.
 The example of the fig tree teaches us clearly that from the first speaking by our Lord on the Mount of Olives, events were already unfolding for the Christian church. It seems our Lord tried to convey that "end" has two meanings, for we live in "kairos" and "chronos" His followers knew by the time (chronos) of this later writing that they were to do as instructed. They were to “watch” for "kairos" in an active way. Anticipating the future end times (kairos) by faith then, they did watch. The Lord had said that “this generation shall not pass away” until they would see "all" that which was described. Indeed, they actively watched. As promised they knew the prophetic words of Jesus were, and still are true… for that generation was regularly given horizon breaking "kairos" times and yet we still have this gift as "chronos" time clicks forward into eternal life. In that way that generation shall never pass away... and neither shall we modern day believers!
 They saw the unfolding of the kingdom. Out of the ashes of temple flames and dispersed Judaism rose the eternal Christian church. Repeatedly, this is why the early Church was told to actively… “Watch!”
 What then does this mean for us in the Church today? I believe that we are still in the growth stage. I offer that the fig tree is still springing forth toward greater flowering. Those who walked before us in faith watched, and in recalling these words they saw the beginnings of what would come to be today.
 I emphasize that as sinful people saved only by grace through faith given in Christ Jesus, neither our predecessors nor we... have even yet come close to seeing the full majesty of the kingdom. Each new day, and each liturgical year of the church at Advent... spells out a surprising newness of forgiveness and gospel proclamation. Thus as a Christian pastor I say to you now… “Do not stand still, brothers and sisters in Christ!” Watch actively, working in faith... knowing that our eternal Lord has not left us uprooted and shall be among us again. When an end time does come, we shall stand once again together with those who have gone before us. Together we most certainly shall see our loving God as he was, and is, and ever will be… as truly revealed in Christ Jesus, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End... who is our Lord. To this I say again and again, and yet again... "Come Lord Jesus, be our guest!”
Please be invited to view this video...

May The Lord Enable Your Watching!



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gate Wide Open!

WE HEAR from the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, words spoken about a distinct, right freedom given to us as Christians. In reading this for Christ the King Sunday, we hear that our gospel lesson provides us with a picture of final judgment. The Word tells about that which is expected of our Lord’s gathered flock in the meantime…

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’
 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  (Matthew 25:31-46)

We’re Saved! What Now?
As the community in the name of blessed Matthew gathered parchment and wrote this text, we find the Author of Life already had intentionally reached very far geographically. By including that the message was written “for all nations” (In the Greek - οὐκ ἐδωκατε μοι φαγειν [pronounced ouk edōkate moi phagein] ), the text echoes from Matthew that the Spirit of our Lord had reached out not only to a few of the original disciples gathered. Jesus had addressed others far removed in place and time. Both those who were amid the early church of Matthew and those out in the future world, were made also to be subject to final judgment. God’s Law is thus said to be immutable, universal and eternal. If we consider thus the source of judgmental power, we find that the text is very familiar to those who were part of either synagogue or separated church. From the psalmist we read… 

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God; and that to thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For thou dost requite a man according to his work.
                                                                (Psalm 62:11-12)

 Therefore the declaration rings that all persons are subject to judgment, but the Church has a special calling in the freedom of the Gospel. From the Law we know that we fail in this. The condemnation rolls forth as we are examined before the commandments (see Exodus 20:1-20).
 Additionally, all people are described by the prophets as but lowly sheep, and goats…grazing before their shepherds. In that status we are judged, even as to whether we are sheep, goats or shepherds. We read from the prophet that all humans, even the sheepish guilty…  will be judged, no matter our classification…

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.”
                                                                                           (Ezekiel 34:20)

  Consequently, we know the dividing staff between sheep and goats is the presence of faith. Both the disciples who had firsthand heard Jesus’ teaching and those of Matthew’s later synagogue and early church… had heard clearly in the Spirit. They could understand the pronouncement. They knew the difference between sheep and goats. The Hebrew scripture's witness was clear.
 We now, given our baptism, have been informed of this lesson... and become subject to the same judgment. We who are Christians saved not by our own works, but by the grace of God through our baptism into Christ, must ask ourselves about confirming our blessings before God.
 To answer up for ourselves, we must ask of scripture whether God will view us as authentically working in the eternal kingdom. We must kneel before God to find whether or not we have truly followed our Lord’s example. I find it particularly sinful and odd, that we sheep often think that we are goats and some goats think that they are sheep. However, let us not immediately judge the fate of one another, but rather work first to simply do for ourselves as we are instructed. Remember! God raised up our judge from the tomb, and subsequently it is that we should not perform a judgmental task on our own  merits, but look to scripture as guide. We as his flock are simply called to do as instructed by him. His words to us are simply put. We are above all to love God, and love one another.

Obedient Sheep?
Today, we therefore ask, "What do these instructions look like today?" Examine the descriptive passages spoken by our lesson. As followers of our Lord, we see that we are to work always as a forgiven people. Even though originally found as sinful, the forgiven Church was told to thankfully accomplish our tasks in the kingdom. To do this, we are to share not just simple drink and food, but swim in the waters of Holy Baptism to receive the body and blood of Christ. From that place, we are to seek out and welcome those estranged from God, providing them also with proper, enduring clothing… especially the whitest robe of saintly baptism.
350601: Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire
By Jim Cymbala with Dean Merrill
 You see, as the gathered in the Good Shepherd’s kingdom, we are made saints called to work for the freedom of those imprisoned by sin. Open wide the heavenly gates so that even though strongly held by tethers of this fallen earth… many shall know that they can be truly made free by faith that is given to them in Jesus Christ. This is the primary task of those who gracefully worship in the one, true apostolic Church. Of those who do not accept this task or blur these lines beyond right social activities, the scripture speaks clearly. Too often we see a denominational emphasis on social justice, while their erroneous evangelical witness brays like a misguided goat.
 When all things have been said and done, persons who have not accepted this right command as their own, shall be judged as goats and cast out. As chosen sheep, however, many persons have been saved unto eternal life by faith given through the grace of God. Indeed, those who are baptized into the kingdom witness, aware of the gift supplied by the sacrificial blood of the Lamb, who is Christ our Lord, witness to God's mercy.
 Historically, we know that many lambs fail to strive and live according to the model that Jesus has set before his Church. We need to remember then that it is Christ who gave himself... for even the sinful. We are first judged as voracious goats who have been blessed to eat at the manger. Though we often trample upon the blessed food given. finally by the Holy Spirit we are saved by faith given.
 Thus it is on Christ the King Sunday. As individuals before God, we need to consider whether we are called to be trotting alone, kicking cantankerously amid this sinful world... or should we gather together by the power of the Holy Spirit as sheep comforting the rest of the true flock. In doing this last task, we will indeed be pleasing to our Good Shepherd. Be of those baptized who participate in Confession and hear Absolution, for we are joined at the manger and table of our Lord, for he is surely returning as our loving Judge and Savior.
We invite you to view this video about the loving task of the Church...

May The Peace of God Be With You Always!