A New Thing?

January 31, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
4th Sunday after Epiphany 
Jeremiah 1:4-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

Although Lent hasn’t even started, it seems like today’s gospel has a Palm Sunday quality to it. passion-sundayWe begin Palm Sunday with a joyous entry, waving palm branches as we recall the Hosannas that welcomed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. Yet, by the end of the Palm Sunday service we endure the taunts of “Crucify him, Crucify him” in the Passion story.

In today’s lesson I can hear the Hosannas as Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth. He goes into the synagogue, reads scripture, and asserts that it has been fulfilled. We’re told that “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” Yet, by the end of the reading we hear that:

…all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill… so that they might hurl him off the cliff.

Palm Sunday, indeed! So what did Jesus say that was so disturbing? What turned their amazement into mutiny?

Well, let’s go back to last week’s gospel reading, which is where this all began. Jesus had been baptized, anointed by the Holy Spirit, tempted in the desert, and now “filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee.” He was teaching in synagogues and the buzz about Jesus had begun.

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This thing just got real

January 17, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
2nd Sunday after Epiphany 
Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

When I was preparing for today’s sermon, I wondered why this miracle story is included as part of the Epiphany narrative. Now, I realize that it’s the first miracle presented in John’s gospel. It’s also a popular story about Jesus changing water into wine, so it’s got that going for it!  IMG_5142We like the idea that Jesus was the one who pulled-off this miracle so that the wedding celebration could continue… the ultimate party guest, providing more wine; even BETTER wine, for what would have been a multi-day festivity.

But there’s something very different going on here. This miracle is the act that propelled Jesus into the spotlight. This was the moment of broader revelation – the Epiphany moment – in John’s gospel. The brevity of the story-telling masks the magnitude of what has happened – perhaps not to its earliest audiences – but certainly to us today.

The story begins by telling us that Jesus and his disciples are at a wedding in Cana and that Jesus’ mother is there, too. When she learns that the wine has run-out, she tells Jesus. Now, his response seems to imply that she’s expecting him to do something about the situation. He says “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 

Wow, that’s a little harsh. And I’d guess that most of you mothers in the congregation are a little insulted by this reply, if you’re still listening at all. But, Jesus’ mother doesn’t seem bothered by it. She simply turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

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Wonder Leads the Way

January 6, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The Feast of the Epiphany 
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

Tonight’s gospel reading is the familiar story of the three wise men from the East. They’ve seen a distant star and embark on a long journey to pay homage to a newborn messiah.

Christmas Pageants and Nativity Scenes include these three characters alongside the shepherds, donkeys, sheep, Mary and Joseph as they all surround Baby-Jesus in the manger. outdoor-lighted-nativity-scene-4-nativity-scene-5201-x-1654The problem is, in Matthew’s gospel there is no manger scene – no census; no long journey to Bethlehem; no “no vacancy” inns – there’s no stable at all. That’s all in Luke’s gospel. Read the rest of this entry »

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