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Lectionary Readings
(from the Revised Common Lectionary)

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This lectionary covers the next thirty days. For full lists, see the seasons and years below.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Proper 7 (12)—Season after Pentecost, Year B


Jesus’ command over the natural forces is met with a characteristic Markan refrain “Who then is this?” The literary effect of the text of this Gospel is to stop short of saying explicitly who Jesus is, in order to invite the congregation to respond.

God’s words in Job echo the rhetorical question. The two passages, separated by some 600 years, converge upon Christ.

Keeping in mind John 1:3, Hebrews 1:2, the preacher can make the connection to the Son as the wisdom of God through whom the natural elements were formed. The wind and the waves in the Gospel are hushed at the command of their very designer. This gives meaning to Jesus’ nap in the back of the boat. The created things cannot overcome their creator, and if we are in the boat with Jesus, they cannot overwhelm us either. Even in death, we are raised again with Christ.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Proper 8 (13)—Season after Pentecost, Year B


The healing of the woman with the hemorrhage on the way to the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter are two miracles linked together in order to tell an important truth: that sickness and natural death are both subject to the power of God and neither spell the end for those in Christ.

The lives of the two women healed by Jesus are two aspects of the basic situation we find ourselves in as humans. For the past twelve years, Jairus’ daughter flowered in youth before dying suddenly and for those same twelve years, the woman suffered constantly. Both are familiar tragedies in the human condition, and who can say which is worse, the ongoing experience of pain in life, or the swift onset of terminal illness snuffing out a life in the prime of its beauty?

Through faith, both are healed. Jesus’ pronouncement that the girl is only asleep is meant to show that, in the eyes of God, natural death is only a species of sickness (while the detail that those around laughed at him, confirms that the girl was truly dead, and Jesus was not speaking medically; see also John 11:4). Hemorrhage and bodily death occupy the same spectrum, and neither are final for God—unlike the second death of eternal separation from God.

If the risk of scandal is low, the preacher will be rewarded by choosing the reading from the Wisdom of Solomon to back up the Gospel. The truth that God created people for life and does not desire their death is unfortunately not a theological commonplace anymore, and for that reason alone it is worth stating explicitly.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Proper 9 (14)—Season after Pentecost, Year B


Familiarity breeds contempt. The unbelievers in Mark 6 are astonished at his teaching, asking all the right questions as to the source of Jesus’ wisdom and power. But since they were the folks Jesus grew up around, they are offended that he has raised himself up above them, like Joseph and his brothers.

Jesus’ challenge is the same as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, both prophets sent to their own people and rejected by them. The Ezekiel passage speaks directly to the difficulty with preaching repentance to one’s own people. Those who ought to listen to God, who have all the cultural background and “plausibility structures” are the ones unwilling to listen.

The preacher has a good opportunity to address how difficult evangelism can be among one’s own people and family, but to take courage, since Jesus faced the very same challenges, along with the prophets. It is a fight worth waging since everything is possible with God.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Proper 10 (15)—Season after Pentecost, Year B


Recounting John the Baptist’s fate alongside that of the prophet Amos reminds us of the high price of the prophetic vocation. John’s martyrdom foreshadows the death of Jesus. To prophesy means to speak the Word of God truly no matter the cost, a matter of simple obedience. The rulers and wrongdoers whom the Word of God challenges are quick to apply evil intentions to the prophet. But Amos speaks to his disinterestedness in great affairs; he was a simple herdsman before God commanded him to speak his words.

Similarly all Christians, no matter their background, are called to be prophets at various times in their lives. Christians are enervated by the Holy Spirit and possess the scriptures and the sure teaching of the tradition of the church—truly the two ends on which the plumbline of God’s righteous standard for human conduct is set. All of us will be tasked at various times to speak God’s word truly even in places where it will cause us trouble or harm.

The preacher would be remiss not to mention that the word that sealed John’s martyrdom was about sexual ethics. In the very same way, ordinary Christians today face their toughest sanctions whenever they have occasion to repeat God’s prohibitions against homosexuality, transgenderism, and other perversions presently being celebrated as natural and lawful.

The preacher should know also that Mark has a double purpose in the famous story about the fateful night at Herod’s court: to counter a popular rumor that Jesus and John the Baptist were actually the same person.

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Proper 11 (16)—Season after Pentecost, Year B


Jesus giving his life for his sheep is not contained to the single moment of going to the cross. Daily, Christ gave up his life for the lost sheep of Israel. Here in Mark 6, we see him sacrificing food and fighting fatigue in order to tend to his flock. He shows himself to be the good shepherd, the king who will act wisely, justly, and with righteousness.

Jesus shows himself to be the opposite of the bad shepherds named in Jeremiah who destroy and scatter the sheep. Instead of lording his authority over people Jesus is moved by his love for them and gives up his own goods in order to give them good things. Jeremiah is probably referring to kings here, so the application extends to earthly rulers who claim Christianity to follow Christ’s example and think of their subjects as greater than themselves.

Christ’s example is even nearer to pastors who shepherd the people of God in Christ’s name explicitly. The ones who shepherd on Christ’s spiritual authority must expect to give up goods and comfort in order to serve those in their charge.