This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on January 10, 2016.
When I was becoming acquainted with the lectionary for the first time, I was under the assumption that Epiphany was a season in the same way that Lent and Advent were. I think I had even heard about the theological purpose of Epiphany: it is the season when Christ is unveiled. Eventually my Episcopal friends would gently correct me, pointing out that it is instead the first instance of ordinary time. Still I don’t think that description, wherever I got it from, is half bad. Think about what comes to us in Epiphany in Year C: a baptism, a party, an epic sermon, Jesus’ dedication and the transfiguration. If Mary had put together a scrapbook, it would probably look like Epiphany.
‘Ordinary’ seems like an inept description. This timeline is filled with one extraordinary event after another. With this in mind, it might surprise you that I find the bookends of the season extremely difficult to preach. Every year the sun rises and falls on the season after Epiphany with Jesus’ baptism and his transfiguration. After about three years, I found I didn’t have anything left to say. So what do preachers do with Jesus’ baptism?
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on July 12, 2015.
These verses present a unique narrative in Mark’s Gospel; the focus is not upon Jesus. Up until this point, Jesus has occupied center stage, but for one brief moment the spotlight shifts totally to another, John the Baptist. The shift happens in 8:14-16 with Herod’s identification of this rumored Jesus as John the Baptist raised from the dead. While other popular identifications speculated that Jesus was Elijah or a prophet like of old, Herod’s paranoid assessment becomes his haunted truth, “John has been raised.” He is guilt-haunted because Herod understands his personal responsibility for the death of John by repining, “I beheaded” him.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on December 7, 2014.
We as preachers have an incredible task before us this Advent. We are challenged with the opportunity to preach the message of “the good news of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1) in a way that it has never been preached before. Of course, this task presents us with quite the challenge: How do we present the “good news” in a fresh, new way to a congregation full of many, if not most, if not all of the same folks who heard it last week, and the week before that? Continue reading →
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 19, 2014.
In the first chapter of his gospel John was attempting to establish the identity of Jesus. He offered five pronouncements of Jesus’ identity, alternating between calling him the Son of God and Messiah. He began with a poetic approach (John 1:1-18), calling Jesus “the Word,” that “became flesh,” and the one who “came from the Father” (John 1:14). He described a pre-incarnate Jesus who was a part of the foundation of the universe. In essence he called Jesus the Son of God. In the four scenes that followed, he used John the Baptist, Andrew, and Nathanael to affirm Jesus’ identity in a series of encounters and pronouncements, calling him Son of God and Messiah, alternatively.
When John the Baptist first saw Jesus he recognized him as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29a), and proclaimed that Jesus would somehow “take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29b). This was an apocalyptic title and task that had certain messianic overtones. He then affirmed the claims of John 1:1-4, by revealing that Jesus was greater because he “came before me” (even though John was older than Jesus). This seemed to be a direct allusion to the pre-incarnate Jesus. The scene ended with John’s direct proclamation that Jesus “is the Son of God” (John 1:34). This again, was an obvious affirmation of the identity and authority of Jesus.