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This lectionary covers the next thirty days. For full lists, see the seasons and years below.
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Seventh Sunday of Easter—Easter, Year B
On the Sunday after the Feast of the Ascension the table is set for Pentecost. Jesus’ high priestly prayer is appropriately placed here. The prayer is a hinge between Christ’s ascension and the Spirit’s falling at Pentecost. The prayer speaks to the fruitful tension in which believers live their lives.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (v. 16). A state of constant transition between earth and heaven characterizes the church’s identity and mission. All that she has is from God, her unity is accomplished by the same love that binds the Father and Son together (this is supplied by the Spirit). The feet of the faithful are on the ground, but their eyes and hearts are turned to heaven.
The preacher should emphasize that the meaning of heaven and eternal life is not limited to life after death, but it is a present reality that believers inhabit by the Holy Spirit, a divine life. The doctrine of the divine life is perhaps the most critical thing for modern evangelicals to understand before they are prepared to understand the significance of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling at Pentecost. The Spirit brings life, and that life is lived now.
Sunday, May 23, 2021
The falling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the seal of the Paschal mystery, and the trailhead for the church’s present mission. The preacher will be at pains to stress that we are living today in an age inaugurated by this event.
Some key points to keep in mind is that Pentecost (the fiftieth day after Easter) is mapped over the Jewish Feast of Weeks which celebrated both the harvest and the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Likewise, Christians celebrate the ripe harvest of souls and the giving of the law of the New Covenant, the law of love written on people’s hearts.
This year, the emphasis lies on Jesus naming the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit convicts the world of sin, not human beings. The preacher would do well to remind the congregation that the Spirit convicts, changes hearts, and calls to repentance. Human cleverness convicts and convinces no one. Also, the Spirit is our connection to the life of the Trinity. John 16:13 says that whatever the Spirit says, he hears from Jesus, and also in verse 15 that Jesus has all things from the Father. In a way, we can think of the Spirit like a radio transmission. The Father’s love is received by the Son, and transmitted to us by the Spirit. In the Spirit we are included in the very life of God here on earth.
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Trinity Sunday is not a recitation of an abstract theological construct nor an opportunity for the preacher to invite the congregation to consider his or her doctoral thesis. Trinity Sunday is, fundamentally, about inviting the congregation into the life of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is like a dance that human beings are invited to share in.
The texts in Year B emphasize the Spirit’s role. By the Spirit, believers are born again into new life. In the famous John 3:16, Jesus reveals the heart of the Father and the gift of his Son to Nicodemus in the context of introducing him to second birth in the Spirit. Likewise, Paul tells us that it is by the Spirit that Christians experience God as Father and Christ as brother.
Through the lens of the Holy Spirit, believers find their place in the dynamic, tripartite life of God. Because of this, Trinity Sunday is an excellent time to bring up life after death, and to emphasize that whatever the afterlife looks like, our goal is to live God’s tripartite life alongside him, a dance of infinite love.
Sunday, June 6, 2021
This Sunday represents a crossroads for the preacher. For the rest of this year, the Gospel lectionary returns to the Gospel of Mark, broken up by the Bread of Life discourse in John, but the attendant Old Testament and Psalm are split between two different tracks.
Option I walks through a mostly chronological series of Old Testament texts beginning in 1 Samuel which are not thematically linked to the Gospel passage in any way. Option II (which is sometimes listed as Option III) is the more traditional set of Old Testament (and some Apocryphal texts) which do thematically link up with the Gospel for the day. A third option is to follow the Epistle readings, which also run along their own track, disconnected thematically from both sets of Old Testament readings and the Gospel.
The preacher should be prepared to commit to one of these options exclusively for the rest of the Christian year, since each is designed with its own arc in mind. This guide will follow the more venerable Option II, as the theological and typological connections therein will introduce the congregation to the Christological principle of the scriptures, which will aid in their Old Testament study going forward.
After the joy of Easter and the elation of Pentecost, we return to more sobering territory. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, incomprehension and incredulity will become a common theme. The people, even his own disciples, fail to comprehend Jesus’s true identity and mission. Mark 3 speaks of the unforgivable sin, (which also appears in Luke 12:10). Since this is bound to disturb the pious—and it ought to!—the preacher must present the idea clearly, keeping in mind that the Lord stands ready to forgive any sin (1 John 1:9) and that nothing outside of us can separate us from God (Romans 8:38-39).
Jesus, however, is not talking here about a one-time offense, but a state of persistent deception that prevents the possibility of repentance. Jesus’ relatives evaluate the good works of God done through Jesus—healings, miracles, and sound teaching—and conclude that they are inspired by Satan. If we likewise determine the Holy Spirit’s acts in our own world are actually the works of the devil, then how could we possibly submit ourselves to that Spirit in repentance?
A contemporary example of this may be Christopher Hitchens’s negative appraisal of Mother Theresa’s work among the very poor. This was the nature of the original deception of Eve in Genesis 3, that God was the deceiver who secretly harbored ill will for humanity, and it is how the devil still seeks to lead believers astray.
The preacher should not sugarcoat the very real danger of the deception, but also emphasize that believers have nothing to fear, because God in his love has given us everything that we need to resist the devil’s lies. First, Christ himself is with us always by the Holy Spirit and intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand, second by the saving knowledge contained in the Holy Scriptures, and third by the wisdom of the great cloud of witnesses in the church, past and present.