Lent 1A

by Matthew B. Harper

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

Here, at the beginning of our Lenten journey, the lectionary gives us readings on sin, temptation, and the human inability to “get it right.” Later, when Paul will remind us how all have sinned and fallen short, we will look back to these readings. This is where it all begins.

What is it about the human condition that is so beautiful, and so flawed? To be able to walk and talk with God, to work the garden and take care of it, to rejoice in one another – this sounds idyllic. Life created never to end, but always to rejoice in one another.
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Lectionary: Advent 1A

by Matthew B. Harper

ADVENT 1

November 27, 2016
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

Happy New Year!
Here we are, on the first Sunday of Advent, beginning a new liturgical year as we prepare once again for our Christmas celebration. Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, giving us the longest possible Advent season. That doesn’t seem very remarkable, except that it has put our Sunday worship right on the tail-end of Thanksgiving. I believe it is significant, even important, that in our worship we are able to give thanks, and to let that be the prelude and celebration of our new year.
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Essay: A Fear in the Dark

by Dean Faiello

attica-1As I lined up with other prisoners in a brick passageway, six Attica guards huddled in a group, wearing blue latex gloves and gripping wooden clubs. They stared at us as we waIked in pairs through the sepulchral corridor without speaking, like Franciscan monks on their way to vespers. Heading to a Quaker meeting in the school building, I looked forward to talking with the Quaker volunteers, witnessing their compassion, learning more about Quaker tenets.

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Lectionary: Trinity C

by CM

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalms 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

 “The transformative ‘before’ and ‘after’ effect of the Gospel in the life of a believer”

Life has been described in many ways, too many to list here. But I’d be willing to stake odds that you’ll almost assuredly never hear this one: easy. Quite the opposite, life isn’t easy, and for more often than one would like to admit we get overwhelmed by circumstances we’re ill-prepared for. The feeling we experience in such moments is called stress. But why is life so hard?

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Easter Vigil

by Matthew B. Harper

Isaiah 55:7 – Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thought; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon…

Psalm 42:1 – As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

Romans 6:4 – Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death…so we too might walk in newness of life

Matthew 28:7 – Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘he has been raised from the dead

All of these readings come to us from the service for the Easter Vigil, and together they sum up our faith journey.

The words from Isaiah are in a chapter that my Bible titles “invitation to an abundant life.” They are the words that invite us out of our old life of Sin, and into the life of God. We are a fallen people, and the only way back is through a proper relationship with our God. But we cannot go as we are. We cannot be with God when we love our wicked ways.

I am in constant fellowship with godly men who have been criminals of all kinds. The very foundation of their repentance and transformation is to forsake their wicked ways. There comes a day in every person’s life when they are just tired of being wrong, sinful, and alone. To give up what is wrong, and to return to the Lord, is the beginning of all good things.

When we first begin to turn from our sin, and to turn our face back to the Lord we have such a passionate hunger for our God. We want to be with God and to know God’s ways in all things. It is a sad truth that the ways of the world can make that passion dull in our minds and hearts over time. When we are complacent we can forget that there are bigger things than us. We lose our focus on God, and that puts the whole world out of focus. We have to take time to refocus our hearts and minds.

Christ’s death is something we like to talk about, and we cannot allow ourselves to forget that it is our death as well. When we were baptized we were buried with Christ, so that we could be raised in Christ. This Lent we have worked to put to death those things not of God, and to bring forth those things that are of God. This Easter morning we will celebrate Christ’s rebirth just as we celebrate our own rebirth through Christ. Through Christ all of us are in newness of Life.

Mary Magdalene has often been called the ‘disciple to the disciple’ because of the commandment given to her by the angel. It was she that was the first one told to ‘go’ and to tell the good news, and she did. But it did not stop there, and this commandment is given to us as well.

When we realized we are a fallen people, we turned to God; when we thirsted for God, we were filled; when we were crucified with Christ, we were resurrected to new life. In all things we have been given an unbelievable gift from the creator of all creation, and it is the only natural thing that we should go forth and proclaim this goodness to all people. If you are a Christian, how can you not want that very same thing for everyone?

Tonight is the Easter Vigil, and we sit and await the resurrection of our Lord. We sit as if we were children on Christmas Eve; we sit with great anticipation awaiting the new morning. We may already know what will happen on Easter morning, but we cannot allow ourselves to miss the majesty of it. So rise again this Easter. Rise again a new creation, forgiven of your sins, and alive in Christ. Trade your happiness for Joy, find Peace in a troubled world, and pass on the Love of Christ to everybody you meet.

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. BCP 295

 

Second Sunday in Lent

by Matthew B. Harper

Genesis 22:2 – He [God] said, “take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…and offer him there as a burnt offering…”

The Burnt offering was the offering given at the Temple to pay for the sins that had been done. It was the blood sacrifice given to cover a multitude of sins.

Abraham was a tremendous man of God, but every time I read this I wonder if he was such a great father! The bible is clear, Jesus is clear, that nothing is to come between us and God. Not our spouses, not our parents, not even our children. So I admire Abraham’s faith even if I question if mine would be so strong. Jesus spoke to his disciples about the coming crucifixion. He told them quite openly of his coming suffering and death.

After the resurrection we find Paul writing to the Romans to teach them of how God did give his only son to pay for our sins. Abraham Loved God more than his family, and this was why he was willing to obey God and sacrifice his son. And God loved humanity so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son. God gave Abraham relief, and Isaac was spared; but we did not give God relief, and Paul preached Christ crucified. I can hardly fathom the great love of God, and it leaves me humbled and grateful.

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from thy ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of thy word, Jesus Christ thy Son, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” BCP 166