This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 22nd, 2017.
A quick glance at this passage might not inspire one to preach from it. The more complete form includes the entire poem through verse 7, but here we only get part of that message of hope. Plus, the entire poem was part of the lectionary reading for Christmas Eve, so if you happened to preach that night, you had a passage from the prophets that was primed and ready to be used as a referent to Jesus. So it makes sense to skip over this one and jump to the Matthew or 1 Corinthians text. However, turning this stone once more might reveal more than we expected.
The Christian calendar tells us we are in the season of Epiphany – the third Sunday after Epiphany, to be exact. Technically, though, Epiphany is a displaced part of Ordinary Time. We are not in the process of preparing for or celebrating the birth, death, or resurrection of Jesus. We are simply figuring out what it means to live in the world that has seen a great light. The difficulty with this, though, is that for many of us and for those in our congregations that great light is often hard to see, hard to hear, and even harder to understand. This passage sparks dissonance in the lives of many people as we struggle through the every day. As preachers, though, we are called to speak a word from The Word. We are to point towards what we see and hear in God’s Word as it comes to us. Speaking truth is becoming a lost art, but we are not simply encouraged to do so, we are commanded to (Matthew 28:20).
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on December 6, 2015.
Each year after Thanksgiving, my family and I start our preparations for the season of Christmas. We have our “traditions” if you will. Naturally we start with the tree, which is decorated with a menagerie of ornaments collected over the last 30 years: the felt Snoopy I made in kindergarten, the ornament we bought at Disney World in 2002, paper chains made by our kids several years ago, and ornaments with baby photos of each child from their most cherub-like years.
We play Christmas music, drink our only cup of eggnog for the entire season, and as a family we hang our memories on the tree. This is how we begin the preparations for Christmas.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on November 29, 2015.
My oldest son and I walked into a home improvement store in September and were confronted by the first of the signs of Christmas’ distant arrival, a giant air filled Santa greeted us at the front door. Halloween decorations were side by side with Christmas decorations.
Our American culture is skilled at anticipating Christmas. This is not a skill that is lacking. We so engorge ourselves on Christmas spirit that we are bloated with the stress of the season, and nearly sick of Christmas music by the time the twelve days of the Christmas season actually arrive. All anticipating the arrival of Santa… er, Baby Jesus.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on October 18, 2015.
Before eavesdropping on the conversation between Jesus and his disciples, we need to place this text in its immediate context. The Revised Common Lectionary omits verses 32-34, the third and final passion prediction in Mark’s Gospel. While the preacher does not necessarily need to preach the omitted verses, it is important to take note of them. In them, Jesus clearly states that his journey to Jerusalem will end by both the government and religious authorities mocking, spitting upon, flogging, and killing him. The text also notes that Jesus is walking ahead of them, confidently leading the way as the disciples follow behind.
Jesus has just uttered these words when James and John rush forward and make their request. Their request is all the more shocking given that Jesus has just told them what awaits him in Jerusalem. One pictures a parishioner announcing she has cancer in prayer meeting and the pastor running up to her immediately afterward to ask if she might leave part of her estate to the church. Did the disciples not hear Jesus? Are they not concerned for him, even for themselves? Can they not offer any words of comfort?