Tag Archives: the bible

Gospel Reflection for January 22, 2017, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

17 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 8.23-9.3; 1 Corinthians 1.10-13, 17; Matthew 4.12-23

Jesus said “Come, follow me. I want you to gather people into your nets.” – Matthew 4.19

As his first action in his public ministry, Jesus calls four fishermen to accompany and follow him. From the beginning Jesus gathers companions. In fact, it is for the work of gathering people into community that Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

Many Christians today may wonder why the four so unhesitatingly follow a man who comes walking along the lakeshore and invites them to, “Follow me.” Matthew is telling the story of the first disciples’ call more than 50 years later. Their initial response to following Jesus expresses the full commitment they grow into. They give their lives wholeheartedly to spreading Jesus’ good news after his death and resurrection. Responding to Jesus’ friendship changes their lives.

Who has called and empowered you to minister? How did you respond? How did your response change your life?

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Gospel Reflection for January 8, 2017, Epiphany

4 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Eileen

Photo via Flickr user Eileen

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2.1-12

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” – Matthew 2.2

The magi follow a star. They search for God in the visible, natural world. Creation is the first source of revelation. Creation manifests God’s life-giving and sustaining presence. Today we follow stars with the Hubble telescope, which has confirmed Einstein’s theory that we live in an expanding universe.

We are seekers like the magi. Physics has taken us inside the atom. Biology has decoded the human genome and learned home molecules splice and proteins fold. In our world God acts not only in the beginning but in all 13.7 billion years of our unfolding. The God of our cosmic story is not fixed and static but dynamic and life-giving.

God comes to use from the future as we experience the lure within us to become all we can be, a drive we share with all beings. In our relationships with each other and our partnerships with Earth, evolution continues. In Jesus God shows us all we can become.

How do you want God to come to you from the future?

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Gospel Reflection for January 1, 2017, Mary, Mother of God

29 Dec

Sunday Readings: Numbers 6.2-27; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21

“Mary pondered all these words in her heart.” – Luke 2.19

Sunday’s gospel about the shepherds visit to Mary’s child and offers only a single sentence about her. That sentence turns on the word pondered, in Greek the word if symballein. Ballein means to throw. Literally the Greek word means to throw together, to wrestle with together. Cymbals have the same root, bringing together to make noise. For Mary to ponder is to interpret the events life is throwing at her. Her faith seeks understanding. Significantly in Luke’s birth narrative, Mary and Joseph can find no place to stay in Bethlehem. Mary gives birth and begins mothering her child in a stable or cave for animals. The sign the shepherds go to Bethlehem to see is the savior, lying in a manger, born among the poor, one of them.

What do you imagine Mary is pondering at age 15 when she give birth to Jesus? At 45 when Jesus starts his ministry? At the foot of the cross?

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Gospel Reflection for December 18, 2016, 4th Sunday Advent

13 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 7.10-14; Romans 1.1-7; Matthew 1.18-24

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Then an angel of the Holy One appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'” – Matthew 1.20-21

In our own lives we have to make the journey Joseph makes in Sunday’s gospel from the law and its requirements to acting and judging with compassion. Joseph’s story calls us to listen to the Spirit of God that lives within us in the deepest reaches of our psyches and never lets up on us, waking or sleeping, until we bring to life in our relationships what only we can do. Each of us is called to embody the promise of the Spirit in us, to become Emmanuel, and bring God among those we love and try to love. Each of us is called like Joseph to dream a future for the children of promise born among us today.

Who are children of promise in your life? How do you respond to children in need in our world?

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Gospel Reflection for December 11, 2016, 3rd Sunday Advent

6 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 35.1-6,10; James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11

John the Baptist sends messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one to come or should we expect someone else?” Jesus answers, “Tell John what you hear and see: the blind can see; the lame can walk; lepers are cured; the deaf hear; the dead are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them.” – Matthew 11.3-5

In Sunday’s first reading the prophet Isaiah imagines the desert greening wherever God steps. The Israelite captives’ return from exile in Babylon brought healing joy and a new experience of God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel. In his ministry Jesus gives life: sight, hearing, healing that reveals God as the giver of life and the lover of us all, again making Isaiah’s prophecy come true in his time. It’s Sunday’s first reading. God is faithful and keeps on giving life.

In the first week of Advent I visited my brother at the University of Minnesota Hospital. It’s where he got a living donor liver transplant from his son. It’s where my mother died of the same liver disease that damaged that vital organ in my brother. Mother was part of the research that in three years initiated transplants. Doctors and nurses are helping Isaiah’s vision keep coming true. We take part in giving life in many ways–giving birth, nurturing our children, caring for our planet, being good news for people living on the edge of sustenance. Like our Christmas trees God is ever-green, the encircling, sustaining life, and holy mystery in which we live.

As one of our local priests often started Mass, “In the name of our ever-living, all-loving, unfolding God.”

What do we hear and see around us that makes the words of the prophet Isaiah that Jesus quotes keep coming true? 

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Gospel Reflection for December 4, 2016, 2nd Sunday of Advent

30 Nov
Photo via Flickr User Karen Thurmond

Photo via Flickr User Karen Thurmond

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 11.1-10; Romans 15.4-9; Matthew 3.1-12

Two family trees figure in Sunday’s readings: the children of Abraham and Sarah hear God’s call, go to a new land, and await a child who will be the first of descendants as countless as the stars. Faith in God’s promise is their DNA.

The descendants of Jesse becomes the Kings of Israel. God promises Jesse’s son David that his throne will stand forever. Faith and repentance are in David’s DNA.

John the Baptist calls his contemporaries, who are children of Abraham and Sarah by blood, to become children by active faith. Fierce and holy like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist is a lone voice in the wilderness, calling people to repent and prepare for one who will baptize them in Spirit and fire. Repentance is the true inheritance of Israel, John insists. The fruitful tree symbolizes the repentant person.

What spiritual values are in your DNA?

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Gospel Reflection for November 20, 2016, Christ the King

14 Nov

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 5.1-3; Colossians 1.12-20; Luke 23.35-43

“Jesus is the face of God’s mercy,” Pope Francis writes in announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy that ends this Sunday. “These words might well sum up the mystery of Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.” In Sunday’s gospel Jesus shows us mercy is his signature act; he forgives the good thief on the cross. Forgiveness is the balm of mercy that Pope Francis hopes has reached everyone this year.

In this crucifixion scene the evangelist Luke gives us the gospel in cameo. Luke tells the community for whom he writes and us that Jesus is God’s Spirit-filled prophet, innocent of charges brought against him. He brings good news to people who live in poverty and hope to those burdened with debt and exploited for profit. Jesus is our kin, who knows our sufferings and seeks to heal people and set them free. This is the mission we continue — kinship or solidarity with all.

To whom have you yet to show mercy in this year of mercy? Who among the kin of God or kin of Jesus stretches who you regard as kin?

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The God Trump Card

21 Oct
Photo via Flickr user Dwight Stone

Photo via Flickr user Dwight Stone

In part because I was lucky enough to receive an excellent theological education from grade school through seminary, I wince when I hear someone start a sentence with, “God says…” or even, “The Bible says…” Quoting the Bible does not mean quoting God, and even quoting the Bible has to be done with great care and reflection. These phrases can stunt conversation and dialogue, two things I’m in the business of promoting. I call it playing the God card, or throwing Bible bullets. The God card and Bible bullets are difficult for many people to argue, even though they so often used inaccurately.

Inevitably, during election season, the Bible gets dusted off to do the work of promoting person and political agendas. My instinct, backed by my deep respect of the Bible and its power to be used or abused, is to tread very lightly here.

Years ago, I had one professor who had been studying the Hebrew Scripture his entire adult life. He seemed to know God through his studies in a way I only dared to hope. He started the course by sharing some guidelines, some things to consider when approaching the sacred biblical text. I found it exceedingly helpful, so I put them in my own words. Every time I teach the Bible, now, I start out by sharing them, too. Students always seem to find it a helpful place to start. I find it a helpful place to come back to and revisit. I hope you do, too:

Be mindful of how who you are changes how you read the Bible.

The text is not the same as the interpretation of the text.

We are reading a translation, and every translator carries a bias.

No passage has a single meaning.

Reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience. It was written in a time long ago, in a place far away.

Talking about the Bible with people who think and live differently than us will make the truth more complex, richer and more full.

The Bible contradicts itself and never attempts to be consistent. It interprets itself.

There is a difference between believing in the Bible and believing in the God of the Bible.

Reading the Bible literally is a fairly recent phenomenon.

There are several different genres in the Bible– poetry, myth, genealogy, law, parable– that deserve to be read with different lenses.

Not everything in the Bible happened, but that does not diminish the story’s truth.

Context is key. Taking a verse out of context limits the power of the passage. We must study the passage by looking at what comes before it and after it, by putting it into the context of the whole Bible, and considering the historical and political context the passage is set in. This takes work, challenging us to not just read the Bible, but study it.

Not every Bible passage is equal in its influence over our faith life.

The Bible does not have answers to all our modern-day questions.

Gospel Reflection for October 16, 2016, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Oct

Sunday Readings: Exodus 17.8-13; 2 Timothy 3.14-4.2; Luke 18.18

“Take up my case. Give me my just rights against my opponent.” – Luke 18.3

The widow in Jesus’ parable this Sunday is not asking for food and basic necessities. She is seeking her “just rights.” The word in Greek, ekdikeo, is not the usual term for justice but a word that means settling with an adversary. We have a widow with the means and moxie to take someone to court. When the judge finally acts, it is because he fears the widow will disgrace him.

This widow is a woman of voice and action who wants a judgment against her adversary and won’t be silenced. She is like the Mothers of the Plaza de May who have protested the “disappeared” in Argentina since 1977. This year the founder Hebe de Bonafini met with Pope Francis, who told her, “When I meet a woman whose sons were murdered, I kneel down before her.”

How is the widow in the gospel a model for Christians? What evils does the judge represent that Christians must resist? Who do you know who protests like the widow?

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