Albie the Schnauzer

Seek and you shall…

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Psalm 40:1-11, John 1:29-42

This week we will let Paul David Hewson (aka Bono) be our exegete. Bono, the frontman for the Dublin-based band U2, wrote two songs that intersect with today’s lectionary passages. Our texts for this reflection will be Psalm 40 and John 1:29-42, and alongside the Biblical text will be “40 (How Long)” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from U2.
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First Psalm 40. This is one of those lovely/troubling imprecatory psalms. “Imprecatory” means “to curse or pray evil upon another,” a definition which makes these passages difficult to preach.

In 1983, U2 wrote their War album. On the last night of recording, they were about to be run off by the studio manager. They needed one more song, so they quickly wrote and recorded a song based on Psalm 40. The whole thing came together in under an hour, and thus their hit “40 (How Long)” was born. A tradition developed around the song during their album tour. At the end of the set, the band would play through the song, during which one by one they would lay their instruments down and leave the stage. The crowd/congregation would then continue to sing the refrain, “how long…to sing this song?”

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Epiphany Image

Darkness and Light, and My Son’s Need to Know Where the Bad People Go

Epiphany of the Lord

Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Dallas, my current hometown, is full of huge churches with important pastors. The church where I serve is tiny by comparison, and outside of our little baptist tradition (i.e. not SBC) no one knows or really cares what we are up to week to week. Fine by us, but it is a stark contrast to the giant religious groups flanking us on all sides. And these important pastors have been given access to thousands upon thousands of itching ears each week. They are the arbiters of right and wrong, light and dark, heaven and hell. So when something like a massive school shooting happens, they are armed to the teeth with explanations and remedies.

It should have come as no surprise that the Newtown shooting would elicit such clarity from the pastors. More than one broke it all down with the convenient metaphor of darkness and light. Read more

The Transfiguration

Plastic Minds and Magic Eyes

Last Sunday After Epiphany (Year B) RCL

2 Kings 2:1-12
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

Not long ago my nephew was forcing me to find Waldo in page after page of busy scenes where somewhere there was a goofy guy in red and white stripes.  “Where’s Waldo”, “Magic Eye”–we love seeing games where we must pick out an image from visual confusion.  Perhaps this love comes from our history as hunters and gathers, when we had to unmask the camouflage of animals in order to gain our daily food.  Whatever it is, we love seeing what was invisible made suddenly apparent.

The ability to see beyond the obvious is a skill and we have to develop it.  I know people who have never been able to make a “magic eye” picture work for them, but most of us, after we see one “magic eye” image can see any “magic eye” image.  Once we learn how to see, we are able to see everything and anything anew.

Seeing is the common thread of The Revised Common Lectionary readings for this last Sunday of Epiphany.  Elisha must see Elijah taken up into heaven in order to have his double spirit, in 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of “the god of this world”  blinding “the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” and finally in the Gospel reading we have the recounting of the transfiguration where Peter, James and John see Christ glorified in an apocalyptic meeting with Moses and Elijah. Read more

Ravenna Christ

The Holy One of God

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
I Corinthians 8:1-13 OR I Corinthians 7:32-35
Mark 1:21-28

Here we are, halfway through this Epiphany season. In perusing through some of the Revised Common lectionary texts I noticed for the first time that we, the church, spend nearly this entire seven week season of Epiphany in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. For a gospel that is very much about being on the move – forty times in sixteen chapters the Greek word for immediately/at once/then occurs – this seems counterintuitive.

It is not, though, if we consider that Epiphany is the season for the church to try and get its head and heart and life around just who Jesus is and what is the good news he heralds and (spoiler alert!) is. It’s all there in the first chapter of Mark, so it is here we sit and ponder for a while. Read more

money-worries

The Economics of Anxiety

Eighth Sunday After Epiphany
Isaiah 49:8-16; Psalm 131; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

One of the steadfast realities of following the lectionary is the predictable rhythm of its three-year cycle of readings. Preparing a sermon for Baptism of the Lord Sunday in 2011?  You might go back to your files from 2008 to see what text(s) you focused on, what themes prevailed, what prayers and hymns were chosen for worship. You might—depending on your congregation’s current needs and challenges—revisit, rework, recycle, as it were, the riches of the lectionary cycle.

But because Easter is so late this year—a day short of the latest date possible—there was no eighth Sunday After Epiphany in 2008 or 2005 or 2002. In fact, the factors that determine the date of the Church’s prime moveable feast are so unusual this year that an eighth Sunday after Epiphany is an astronomical and liturgical rarity. This means that, with a longer stretch of Sundays between Epiphany and Lent, we take in much more of the Sermon on the Mount, Year A’s appointed reading for the Sundays after Epiphany. And this week’s portion from Matthew 6—rare in the Sunday cycle but familiar in our hearing—couldn’t be more timely. Read more