Sunday Reflection

This Gospel reading brings together the themes of trusting the future to God and God’s judgment, evident in today’s other readings. The verse “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (12:34) is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible – maybe you’ve heard it used in a stewardship campaign. But this comes after verses about selling possessions, giving alms, and making purses that do not wear out, to store the treasure in heaven. It may be about trading your certainty for uncertainty, trust in what kingdoms of earth can give for what the kingdom of God can bring.

Verses 35-39 have a sense of urgency: be ready for the master to return! Jesus says to “have your lamps lit” (35), to “be ready” (40). Today we might say “keep your ringtone on!” Why? Because we don’t know when the Son of Man will arrive (v. 40). What are we to be ready for? “The kingdom” that is the “Father’s good pleasure to give to you” (32).

This Gospel reading tells us to be ready for the kingdom of God’s arrival at an unexpected hour. What images does “the kingdom of God” bring to mind for you? How would you describe life in the kingdom of God? How does the phrase “good pleasure” fit with those images, that description?

Prayer: Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Sunday Reflection

In his opening remarks, Jesus proclaims that he will not participate in pronouncing any kind of judgment. Still, he rather sneakily uses the parable, in fact, to pronounce judgment. Jesus seems to say to the young man desperately wishing to draw him into his family quarrel, “You’re paying attention to the wrong things!” In the New Revised Standard Version translation, Jesus sets the scene for his story and tells the crowd to “Take care” (v. 15). The original Greek word for this phrase means seeview, or perceive. He does not tell them to listen up or pay close attention. Instead, Jesus tells them to “perceive,” and then follows with, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (v. 15). By saying this, Jesus indicates that this goes beyond objective reality or rationalizations of the mind. He wants the young man and the crowd to feel the meaning within their bodies, and to know in a different kind of way.

This does not necessarily seem to be a lesson centered on sharing, but the rich man in the parable uses the word “my” five times in the span of just two verses: “my crops,” “my barns,” “my grain,” “my goods,” “my soul” (v. 17-19). Then, he knocks down his old barn and builds a bigger one to hold his stash. Luke stresses the importance of an equitable society, so the truth to be perceived comes directly from Jesus’ use of the word abundance. With great irony, the rich man capitalizing on his abundance makes him blind to the truth of God’s abundance. The rich man’s greed is built upon his fear of scarcity for his future. Luke drives this point home when God says, “You fool!” (v. 20), echoing Jesus’ opening sentiments to the young man. God seems to say, “Your eyes are so narrowed on your material accumulations, you cannot see the destruction your greed rains upon you or the others around you.”
Within your communities, where do you see the fear of scarcity doing harm to others?
(Resources are from Sermons that Work, TEC)

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection: Can you recall a time you felt unable to pray? This passage in Luke’s Gospel begins a long section about discipleship, so it is fitting that he begins by talking about prayer. The Lord’s Prayer serves as a template for structuring prayer (it is shorter than Matthew’s version): adoration, supplication, and confession, as well as moral implications. Luke impresses the attitude and ethos of prayer: it should be continuous. As Paul said, we “pray without ceasing.”

Jesus’ disciples speak for us when they ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Such a request is one that we might make today! After all, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “God is the first mover of all things,” so we must rely on the Holy Spirit to move us first, that we might participate in prayer. But the Lord has given us the words to pray that we might not be completely lost. Not only has he given us the Lord’s Prayer, but he has also given us all of Scripture, most notably the Psalms. And these prayers are both temporal and spiritual. The Lord himself has taught us to pray for both our physical needs and our spiritual needs.

Do you have a memory of a prayer that was answered? Do you have a memory of a prayer that you felt was unanswered? How did you respond in those cases?

Prayer: O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sermons That Work – The Episcopal Church

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection: How do you live into your role as a disciple of Jesus? This Gospel story brings up a question of identity and roles. Martha accuses Mary not only of not helping to serve dinner—which is the duty of a woman—but for sitting at Jesus’ feet—which is the prerogative of a male disciple. Women were not permitted to receive religious instruction under the rabbinical law, but some nevertheless persisted. By sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his religious teachings, Mary demonstrated bravery in transgressing the deep-seated prohibition of women in the role of disciple. And Jesus was complicit in the (righteous) transgression by allowing and then praising Mary for it. He doesn’t necessarily denounce the old ways, but gently affirms the new models.

Today we celebrate such stories in which Jesus allowed and invited women into his ministry and mission. But as Professor Walter Wink points out, how would the stories be received if Jesus had actively crossed into participating in a “woman’s role?” If he had helped Martha in the kitchen to prepare and serve the meal? Perhaps the examples Jesus gives of crossing societal boundaries are political statements not in that they promote crossing gender roles, but in that they prioritize the true meaning of his ministry—to listen, learn, and be changed by the Word of God. How do you live into your role as a disciple of Jesus? Examine what societal norms govern your life, especially around gender. What comes up?

Prayer: Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Sermons That Work – The Episcopal Church

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Sunday Reflection and Rector’s Corner

The parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man, traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, who is beset by robbers, beaten, and left on the side of the road. A priest and then a Levite pass him by, and he is helped and cared for by a Samaritan. The tendency of modern Christians is to think of the Samaritan as a member of an oppressed group offering help to someone they don’t know. But this doesn’t quite capture the feeling of enmity that existed between Jewish people and the Samaritans. Both claim lineage back to Moses and both use the Torah as the source of religious observance. Where Samaritans are descended from the northern kingdom of Israel, who had Samaria as their main center of worship, the Jewish people are descended from Judah, which had Jerusalem as their main center of worship. Samaritans weren’t any more or less oppressed than the Jewish people living under Roman occupation.

What we have here, then, is a story of a Samaritan crossing boundaries by not crossing the road. He uses the money and social position he has to care for an enemy. It’s as if a Ukrainian person were to stop along the side of the road to care for a Russian person. It is unexpected, and, if enacted in real life, is violence-disrupting.

The lawyer realizes that the neighbor is the Samaritan but can’t bring himself to actually say the word. Jesus tells him to do what the Samaritan does. We are called to do the same.

In this passage, the Samaritan is “moved with pity” to act, as the lawyer observes, with “mercy.” The term translated as “moved with pity” could also be translated as “to feel compassion.” In what ways do compassion and mercy work together?

When we read stories like these, we want to identify with the person who Jesus holds up as an exemplar. Think about each character in the parable: the robbers, the priest, the Levite, the man, the Samaritan, and the innkeeper. Which of these characters have you been in your life? Which characters have you met in your life? If you were ever the Samaritan, how did you decide to act?  

                                                          Sermons That Work – The Episcopal Church

Rector’s Corner

Saint Thomas was a disciple who followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem. The first three Gospels list his name among the twelve apostles but say nothing more about him. It is in the Fourth Gospel that Thomas gains prominence — and even some notoriety. According to John, when Jesus began his final journey to Jerusalem, Thomas understood what it meant and said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” But after the resurrection, Thomas refused to believe that the other disciples had seen the risen Jesus. His doubt was quashed in the most dramatic way; and in John’s account the risen Lord drove the point home by telling Thomas: “You have believed because you have seen me; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

In the New Testament the appearances of the risen Lord are proof that God’s saving purpose had entered its final stage. By appearing to his disciples, Jesus anticipated the still greater revelation when all the peoples of the earth will see him in glory and acknowledge him as Lord.

So Thomas was not wrong in his desire to behold and touch the Lord. But he made seeing the precondition of believing rather than its fulfillment. What blessing could he expect if, like the rest of the world, he postponed faith until the second coming, when sight will leave the world no choice but to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Those who have not seen and yet believe therefore have a unique freedom in this present age; they shall not experience the final revelation as an eternity of compelled obedience but as the everlasting moment of creation’s fulfillment.

Jesus had mercy on Thomas and healed his desire even as he granted it. In the same way we who honour the doubting apostle may pray for the healing of our own desires, that they might become a source of freedom and not of constraint when God shall fulfill our faith with the vision of Christ in glory.

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Sunday Reflection

The fact that this story centers around a man controlled by demons can be a challenging issue for modern readers. The text has enough detail to make it very approachable for us, and it appears in the gospels written by Mark and Matthew, which suggests that it was widely circulated in the early Christian communities. All of this makes it very difficult to dismiss it outright as fantasy. If we set aside our own notions of what a demon is and focus on the man himself, we see someone who is cut off from his family and community, who has to be chained up in a place no one else will go for everyone’s safety, and who lives out his existence in horrendous conditions. While we may not use the term demon in the same way, we still have individuals who live like this today. Jesus not only heals this man physically and spiritually, but also teaches him and sends him back to his family to proclaim the message of the gospel! This provides tremendous hope for us on what a deeper relationship with Jesus means, but it is also a look at what the forthcoming kingdom of God will look like where the evil that crushes us physically and spiritually is defeated by the love and power of God and where our broken relationships are healed and restored. In the moment of our greatest need, Jesus will be there ready to meet us and heal us where we are.

• Have you ever experienced something that you could describe as a “demon”? Was your faith helpful in dealing with it?

• This man showed tremendous gratitude to Jesus by sitting at his feet and asking to become his disciple. Describe a time that you felt gratitude. What happened and how did you respond to that feeling?

Prayer: O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Resources are from Sermons that Work)

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection: God becomes known to us in three ways. God is the creator, without whom nothing would exist. We know God supremely and most fully in Jesus Christ, the human face of God, God in so far as he can be contained in a truly human life. And the God whom Jesus shows us is still with us and in us.

The theology of the Christian faith confesses that the one God exists primarily in three ways, which Church sums up by the doctrine of the Trinity, the three ‘persons’ in the one Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (also often referred to as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier). This way of speaking does not explain the being of God but is the best human language can do to point to the mystery of who God is.

 This doctrine reminds us, as Christians, that the mystery of God is revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and it invites us to explore this gracious mystery as disciples of this Jesus.

The church took several centuries to work out a reasonably acceptable way to express the complex relation of Father, Son, and Spirit. The nearly complete doctrine of the Trinity announced at Constantinople in 381 held that God is one Being (ousia) in three equal and consubstantial persons or hypostases: the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated but begotten, the Spirit proceeding from the Father (and, in the western version of the Creed, the Son). The Athanasian Creed states that “we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance”

  • How are you in relationship with God, with Creation, and yourself?
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Sunday Reflection

We commemorate Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven by celebrating Ascension Day, which occurs on the Thursday, 40 days after Easter. This year, it took place on May 26. Many Canadian Anglican parishes already observe Ascension Sunday instead of Thursday.

The Ascension marks the conclusion of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. It is the final elevation of his human nature to divine glory and the near presence of God.

In the Book of Common Prayer, the lesson for Ascension Day is from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1, and here we specifically hear that Jesus appeared to his apostles for 40 days following his resurrection, and that he spoke to them of the kingdom of God. Jesus told them to be witnesses of him both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world. As he was speaking, he was taken up and received into a cloud. They were then given assurance that Jesus will come again, even as he had then ascended from their sight.

Christ’s ascension into heaven, and the fact that it was witnessed, is important to us as Christians, because of the assurance that Jesus is alive, and has gone to sit at the right hand of God as an advocate and representative for us.

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continuously dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen. (B.C.P., 1962)

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Sunday Reflection

 Sunday’s Reflection:  1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” Revelation 21.

This passage describes the revelation of heavenly Jerusalem. A revelation or apocalypse is generally a first-person narrative in which the writer relates one or more visions about the future and/or the heavenly world. 

In the Revelation to John, particularly in today’s passage, we have an example of Christian visionary literature built on the foundations of Jewish apocalypses. The image of the divine throne and the precise layout of the heavenly city contain echoes of Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 40-42, while the new heaven and a new earth and the absence of weeping and crying are echoes of Isaiah 65.  Indeed, even the reference to the holy city Jerusalem supports an essentially Jewish frame of reference. References to the testimony of Jesus Christ and the seven churches of Asia suggest that the writer was a Christian prophet of Jewish origin. His historical context may have included both the destruction and loss of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., and persecution of the Jewish followers of Jesus. Some of the text of the Revelation to John is built on graphic images of destruction. Yet the text as a whole is a glorious act of worship, telling a story of God’s enduring presence in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. The vision ends on a note of hope and faith.

Meditate on this poetry for a few moments. What do these words mean for you? How might you use them in your day-to-day context?

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection: Who is Jesus of Nazareth? It is a question that is at the very heart of our faith as Christians. Is Jesus the Messiah? We can hear this passage and rest assured that we have heard the voice of Jesus and so we follow him and, therefore, experience eternal life and the safety that comes with it. Having heard his voice, we know ourselves to be his sheep. From that perspective, this passage can be one of comfort and solace.

However, we could also hear this with concern—how can I be sure that I am following Jesus’ voice? In a world where things move so quickly and there are so many competing voices, how do we know that we are following Jesus’? Jesus reminds his audience and us that they should know that he is the Messiah because of his works. His works are always about restoration, liberation, inclusion, healing, and justice; they are the works that create a just community. As we seek to live into the Resurrection and to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd Jesus, we will know that we are following his voice when we are also working towards restoration, liberation, inclusion, healing, and justice from which flow abundant life.

Mother’s Day Message: “A man may work from dusk to dawn, but a woman’s work is never done.”

Undoubtedly, moms deserve to be celebrated because they’re always putting others ahead of themselves. Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity to stop and reflect on all of her hard work.

Of course, Mother’s Day isn’t just a day for celebrating your own mother. It’s a day for honoring all the women in your life who support and nurture you, from your sister to your grandmother. It’s also a chance to wish a happy Mother’s Day to your mother-in-law, whose loving care helped shape the person you chose to marry.

Sometimes, the best way to thank Mom is with a simple and heartfelt, ‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you’. 

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