First Sunday in Advent, December 3, 2017

Old Testament: Isa 64:1-9

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Gospel: Mark 11:1-10

Image result for advent icon

Advent Begins

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and the first Sunday of the new church year.  Advent is a time for us to prepare for the coming of the promised Messiah, and along with Lent has been considered a time of solemn anticipation and repentance.  Unfortunately the consumerism that defines the secular observance of the Christmas season has contributed to the decline of Advent even in the Christian church, as all the myriad activities that now define the Christmas season increasingly remove our focus from the spiritual to the material.  But let us not overlook Advent!  We should not be too quick to get to Christmas, but instead we should allow the Word to guide our preparations; we should allow the Son of God to have His rightful place in the midst of our busyness.  Our King is coming, righteous and having salvation (Zech. 9:9).  Let us welcome Him with hearts prepared with the blessings of Word and Sacrament, for the coming Saviour will break in on our world and gather His people together for eternity (Old Testament).  During this Advent season let us look to the protection of the Lord who rescues us from our sins and saves us by His might deliverance (Collect).

25th Sunday after Pentecost, 26 November, 2017 – The Last Sunday in the Church Year

Old Testament: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46

Image result for icon Jesus sheep from goats ravenna

The Theme of Today’s Liturgy

The Introit for the last Sunday in the church year is not a Psalm as we are accustomed, but instead is from 2 Peter, and brings into focus the anticipation of the Christian who waits for the return of Christ (Introit).  The Christian looks with great hope for the new heaven and the new earth that Jesus has promised to all those who are clothed in His righteousness (Introit, Collect).  This is the hope of the world, that although our lives here are fleeting and marred by sin and temptation, Christ will deliver us from sin, death, and devil, and bring us into His presence for all time.  This is not because of anything we have done on our own, but solely because of His death on the Cross.  He is therefore the first fruit of those who will be raised again, our brother like us in every respect except that He is without sin, who will gather all nations together and rescue His sheep from all the places they have been scattered (OT).  Before a Word is spoken or any deed listed, the King will separate and judge the nations.  Works are not sufficient for righteousness, but through faith we receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life and bear fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven (Gospel).

24th Sunday after Pentecost, 19 November 2017

Old Testament: Zephaniah 1:7-16

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

The Theme of Today’s Liturgy

The Gospel reading today portrays Christ as the giver.  The parable of the talents show that Jesus entrusts His property to His stewards while He is temporarily away, He has shown that He wants to save humankind because He has given preachers of the Word to His church (Gospel).  The Word is dispensed through the servants of Christ in order that faith may be granted to those who hear, and those who hear then likewise contribute all things to their neighbour’s advantage (Gospel, Collect).  Jesus warns that the one without the gifts of salvation face an eternity apart from God’s righteousness.  The prophecy of Zepheniah against the apostasy of Judah foretells the judgement that awaits those who lack these gifts (OT).  St. Paul therefore admonishes the faithful to be awake and sober while the Lord is away, turning aside the works of darkness and living in the light of Christ (Epistle).

23rd Sunday after Pentecost, 12 November, 2017

Old Testament: Amos 5:18-24

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

The Theme of Today’s Liturgy

“Wake, awake, for night is flying!”  The urgent plea that opens Philip Nicolai’s beautiful hymn points us to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who “will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (Epistle).  Those who have already fallen asleep in the Lord, meaning those who have already died, will be awoken in the resurrection, responding to the Word of Christ who says “Arise!” as He leads His church into His eternal wedding feast (Epistle, Collect).  For those who await the coming of Jesus, we are called to wakefulness here and now, to cast off our sinful inclinations toward spiritual indifference.  Instead, we go to meet the Bridegroom with the bright lamps of our faith showing the way, faith which was given to us in our Baptism and nurtured through the Word and Holy Communion, with the open-eyed vigilance of the hopeful church (Gospel).

All Saints Day (observed) November 5, 2017

First Reading: Revelation 7:2-17

Epistle: 1 John 3:1-3

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

The Theme of Today’s Liturgy  On All Saints Day we remember those who have gone before us in the faith, the ones who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” and now stand before His throne with praise and worship (First Reading).  In the Beatitudes, our Lord lays out the promises of those who are blessed: the promises we have already received through the grace and mercy of the Father who sends his Son, and also those promises yet to be fulfilled on the last day (Gospel).  Even as we await the final consummation of all things when Christ returns, we know that our almighty and everlasting God has brought all of his saints together in one holy communion, and in the Divine Service we have a foretaste of the everlasting banquet that awaits (Collect).  We are indeed surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses as we hear His word and as we partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, numbered with all of the blessed saints in all time past, present, and yet to come, who have received the redemption of the Cross (Introit).

20th Sunday After Pentecost, October 22, 2017

Old Testament: Isaiah 45:1-7

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Gospel: Matthew 15:15-22

The Theme of Today’s Liturgy  The questions of politics and tax money loom large in the imaginations of the Pharisees and the temple authorities, but only God looms large before the eyes of Jesus.  Jesus has come to Jerusalem to die in order to fulfill all righteousness, to be the payment for our sins (Gospel).  Christ, being the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4), does not bear the image of Caesar.  So also we have been made a new creation in Christ through our Baptism, and no longer bear the image of the man of dust but the image of the Man of heaven (Gospel, see 1 Cor. 15:49).  Christ has borne all things for us in this world, so that we may have life in abundance, that is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Collect).  The Lord who is our keeper and our shade has sent His only begotten Son, the image of the invisible God, the chosen Messiah, and He delivers us from the wrath to come (Epistle).