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Gathered at the Light -- Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany C

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Isaiah 60:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
60 Arise, shine; for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
    and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
    your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
    the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
    the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
    all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
    and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
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It is the Day of Epiphany. The journey …

Generations - A Sermon for the 1st Sunday after Christmas (reposted from 2013)

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Note: As I am not preaching this morning, I'm sharing a sermon preached in 2013 on the First Sunday after Christmas. On that Sunday, I drew the text from David Ackerman's alternative lectionary:  Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary


Matthew 1:1-17



On Christmas Eve we watched as four generations of one family gathered to light the Christ candle. What a wonderful sight it was, because it doesn’t happen all that often.  In fact, largely due to the mobility of our society, our opportunities to gather across the generations has become increasingly difficult.  One of the few places where multiple generations do gather on a regular basis is at church, even if these multiple generations aren’t part of one specific family. This morning’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew is known for its “begats,” because that’s the word the King James Version uses to count off the forty-two generations of Jesus ancestry, stretching from Abraham to David, from …

Growing up in a Temple? - A Lectionary Reflection for Christmas 1C (1 Samuel 2)

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1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 18 Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home.
26 Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.
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Christmas has come, and in the minds of many, it’s time to move on to the next holiday. The stores will be clearing out extra merchandise, and unwelcome presents will be returned. Next up are the parades and games of New Year’s Day (and a new Dr. Who special). Liturgically, however, the Christmas season is not yet over. There is still time to sing some carols and hear Christmas related messages. The first Sunday aft…

Merry Christmas

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May this be a blessed Christmas Day! And if you can, take in some Christmas music -- old and new.

Reflecting God’s Glory - A Homily for Christmas Eve (Hebrews 1)

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Hebrews 1:1-4

The time has come to celebrate the birth of a child born in a nondescript village on the margins of a great and powerful empire. Many children probably were born that very night. The Monty Python movie Life of Brian even tells the story of another child born that very night in the same town as Jesus. The question that tonight holds, is what makes this child so special? If, as any parent will tell you, their child is the most important or special child ever born, why should we pay attention this child among all the children  born that night?  
The reading from the Gospel of Luke, which takes us to a child lying in a manger in Bethlehem, pictures angels appearing in the sky to shepherds in their fields, singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those he favors.” With this song in their hearts, the shepherds pay a visit to the Holy Family, sharing the news with the happy parents that their child is truly blessed.
The reading from the Book of Hebrews…

Mary’s Song- A Sermon for Advent 4C (Luke 46-55)

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Luke 1:46-55

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that God had chosen her to bear a child, saying: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”(Luke 1:31-33). After Mary heard Gabriel’s message, she had a choice. She could accept this mission, or she could turn it down. You see, God gives us choices. Although Mary could have said no, she said yes, even though she did raise some good questions about how this was going to work out. It might have been with fear and trepidation, but she chose to take on this vocation of being the mother of Jesus, who would be called the Son of the Most High.

Like other prophets calle…

Future Faith (Wesley Granberg-Michaelson) -- A Review

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FUTURE FAITH: Ten Challenges Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century (Word & Word Books: Theology for Christian Ministry). By Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. Foreword by Soong-Chan Rah. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018. Xiii + 261 pages.


The churches in the Global North are struggling, while growth is happening at almost exponential rates in the Global South. Lands that were once “missionary-recipients” are now “missionary-senders.” There is a vitality in places Africa and Asia that is not found in places like Europe, the United States, or Canada. The challenges are many, as a growing number of congregations are shadows of their former selves. I know this from personal experience, as I serve as pastor of a congregation that in its heyday was one of the largest and most influential churches in the denomination. That is no longer true, and we’re not alone. So, does the future hold for the churches, whether in the Unites States or in South America?
Many have attempted to formulate…

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

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On Sunday, I will be preaching from Mary's song of praise, the Magnificat. There are many versions, with Bach, Vivaldi, and many more offering their reflection. Many are quite lengthy. I chose to share here a more accessible version. May this help your preparation for the closing moments of Advent.




Luke 1:39-56 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lo…

In Memoriam - Sightings (Richard A. Rosenbarten)

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As a preacher, I am occasionally tasked with officiating at a funeral. In this capacity, I must give some word to the community about the person who has died. In other words, eulogize the person. No human being is perfect, but most of the time we tend toward highlighting the positive. Such is the case in the recent national funerals of the 41st President, George H. W. Bush. Richard Rosenbarten takes this up, recognizing the importance of offering consoling words, while not forgetting that what is said helps form the future. While we may long for 41's "kinder, gentler nation," we should not forget Willie Horton. Take a read and ponder how we might remember even as we commit ourselves not to going back, but to a different reality.


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O Little Town of Bethlehem - A Lectionary Reflection for Advent 4C (Micah 5)

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Micah 5:2-5a New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
    who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
    from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
    when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
    to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.
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O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in they dark streets shineth the everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.(Philips Brooks, 1868).

When we hear the Christmas story, the Gospel of Luke brings us to the little town of B…