The first Sunday of the new church year always brings readings about the end of things. As Christians we begin at the end. We know the ultimate outcome. The question is not what will happen, but what will the journey be like on the way there.
Lent 2: What verse will you write on your sign?
John 3:16 is called the Gospel in miniature by Martin Luther. It is also the verse on the sign held by Rollen Stewart who wore an afro rainbow wig and seemingly attended every football game and baseball game in the 1970's and 80's. The question for you this day is: What verse will you write on your sign? What words bring you hope and comfort?
Gospel: John 3:1-17
11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
The theme running through the seven deadly sins is me. Follow each of them: Wrath, envy, pride, sloth, gluttony, lust and greed and in the end they make the world all about me. Jesus invites us into a relationship with him. As we ponder the gift of the cross we cannot help but be led to care for others and the world God made. We can’t help but begin to reflect the holy virtues.
Gospel: Luke 23:33-43
39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Every 500 years or so changes comes to the church in a significant way. We are now in the middle of one of those times. This is a challenge and an opportunity for the church.
Gospel: John 8:31-36
34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
Faith is not just a box to check and move on from. This day is an invitation to wrestle with God and with faith. To embrace the challenge of doubt and the promises of baptism.
First Reading: Genesis 32:22-31
We all get overwhelmed and like the disciples who hasn’t asked for a little more faith? It can be easy to forget acts of faithfulness are not just in the big things, but in small everyday acts of grace and compassion as well.
Gospel: Luke 17:5-10
7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ ”
Whose eyes do you see this parable through today? Are you the Good Samaritan or the bandits? The Priest or Levite or the Innkeeper? Or today will we find you in the ditch? No matter what God comes to you this day.
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
On Confirmation Sunday we meet Saul and Ananias who teach about the life of faith. We learn God can use anyone, even a persecutor of the faith. We learn following Jesus takes courage. We learn we can’t go it alone and we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses to encourage us and be with us on the journey.
First Reading: Acts 9:1-20
10Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
This day we are invited to see the world through Easter eyes. To see hope in the midst of despair, to see the grace of God even in the midst of our ordinary days.
Gospel: Luke 24:1-12
The angels announce, “Glad tidings of great joy to all people.” Joy is the gift of Christmas. The joy of a newborn babe. The joy of generosity. The joy that abides and sustains us even in the midst of difficulties and sorrow. This is the joy of Christmas, made complete by the joy of Easter.
Gospel: Luke 2:1-20
8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
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