We continue with Luke's birth narrative with a second Annunciation, this one to Mary. The angel Gabriel appears and announces that she will bear a son named Jesus, who will be called Son of the Most High. Mary asks how can this be and learns that the Son of God will be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary responds with faithful acceptance: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). How does Mary's response differ from Zechariah's to the angel's birth announcement, and what example of faith does she set for us?
We continue to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus Christ in our lives with this story from the Gospel of Luke. It is the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah and Elizabeth that despite their advanced age, they will have a son. That child will be John the Baptist, a prophet like Elijah, who will prepare the way for the long-awaited Messiah. When Zechariah doubts this news, he becomes mute until his son is born and declares publicly that he will be named John as instructed by the angel. What can we learn from Zechariah's response to God making what is seemingly impossible a reality in our world.
We begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent. This is the season of preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus Christ in our lives. The scripture from the Gospel of Mark begins this season with an apocalyptic passage that warns us to keep wake and stay alert. In a year filled with turmoil, we are encouraged to reset our hearts and minds for new life.
We close Matthew 25 with the final judgment when Christ returns and separates the sheep from the goats. This parable is a reminder that we will be judged by our actions. How we treat people matters. Will our actions model Jesus's actions that serve those in need? Serving others is how we meet God.
The scripture for this week is the difficult Parable of the Talents. It is challenging due to its harsh judgment of the one who buried their talent rather than invest it. But the parable is about taking risks of faith in order to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. The question posed to us is "What risks of faith do we take as disciples of Christ?"
Matthew 25 contains three parables about the coming of the Son of Man and the Kingdom of Heaven. The first one that we consider today is the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. It describes how five of the bridesmaids were prepared to meet the bridegroom after his return was delayed, and how the other five missed his arrival and were not permitted to join the wedding feast. It's an allegory about being ready for the coming of Christ & what we do during that time.
The scripture for this All Saints Sunday are the Beatitudes. Jesus teaches his disciples that those who are "blessed" in the Kingdom of God are very different than those we consider to be "blessed' in the secular world. We will focus on how we have been blessed by those who have been examples of faith before us.
Paul concludes his Letter to the Philippians with a joyful exhortation: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (4:4) Paul encourages the church to continue to be faithful in their ministry, to embrace all the good in the world - whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable.Encouraging the Philippian church in a time of trouble, Paul's words also encourage the church today as we face our own troubles.
The laity (that's you and me) leads worship and Steve Hable continues the Letter to the Philippians sermon series on this laity Sunday.
Paul's Letter to the Philippians was written while he was in prison. Yet in the first chapter, Paul expresses joy and confidence even during this time of challenge and suffering. The lesson remains true for us today: how do we remain confident in Christ during the times of trial?