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LectionAid 1st Quarter 2012-13

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Sunday: December 2, 2012, 1st Sunday of Advent

Readings: Psalm 25:1-10 Jeremiah 33:14-16 1Thessalonians 3:9-13 Luke 21:25-36
Writer:   Donald D. Denton

It is comfortable to use the persecution of Christians elsewhere in the world to illustrate the cost of discipleship. It is much more inconvenient to use examples of persecution of Christians in our own nation to illustrate the cost of discipleship. As a pointed example, you may want to use this study. “A joint report by Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council shows that anti-Christian persecution is not only increasing in America, but that it’s coming from our own government…” “the misuse of the Establishment Clause to attempt to ban…mention of God from historical markers, monuments or even museum exhibits” (www.christianpersecution.info/) Is it too convenient for us who know the political landscape of the church to dismiss this conclusion because it comes from the evangelical side of  the church?
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We are a country obsessed with both eating wonderful food that leads to obesity and with being eternally thin which leads to loss of bone density and eating disorders. The truth on either end can be inconvenient. There are obesity related diseases which inexorably lead to poor outcomes later in life. It is not true; however, that one can “never be too thin.” Loss of bone density, especially as one age’s, leads to osteoporosis. Even the newer Body Mass Index doesn’t solve all our weight problems, since a well-muscled adult may have a BMI in the overweight range but have the cardiovascular and immune system fitness of someone half their age. Check out the details before using this example in a sermon (http://www.livestrong.com/article/40808-body-mass-index-advantages/)

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One source of information that might be a humorous way to begin the sermon is to check out the Al Gore Doomsday Clock. Based on Al Gore’s analysis expounded in his book An Inconvenient Truth he made a prediction on January 27, 2006 that the earth has only ten years left before irreversible scorching began. This clock is a countdown clock available in the Photos menu at the referenced website. At this writing we have a little less than 3 years and 96 days to go. 

Sunday: December 9, 2012, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Readings: Luke 1:68-79, Baruch 5 Or Malachi 3:1-4, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6
Writer:  Donald D. Denton        

According to St. Paul there are two distinctive qualities of a Christian which he mentions in this passage. A Christian is pure and a Christian is someone who “will cause no other to stumble.” The word for purity which Paul uses can either mean the cleansing that comes from exposure to the sun or the purity which results from being whirled about in a sieve until all impurities are “extracted.” The other word highlights another matter of Christian character, the capacity to not only be pure and be good but also to have such a level of humility that it is devoid of harshness, austerity and critique of others. We all know people who are “pure,” or mostly so, that believe their life’s mission to bring the flaws of others to their owner’s attention. St. Paul is gently saying to those who believe this to be their mission, “not so much!” (Barclay p 23-24).
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Of course one of the most famous Christmas letters is the one written by eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon to the editor of New York’s Sun in 1897. The unsigned editorial response was “the work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church.” It “has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.” Recognizing that the original bearer of gifts to the needy was a Christian saint, one might read either a portion of this letter or the letter in its entirety as a part of the sermon. (www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/)

While the above quotation from Dr. King might make a stirring conclusion for a sermon, the way in which the letter was written and then ultimately composed raises a pointed issue for Americans who wish to debate the  authenticity of Paul’s letters or other documents from the New Testament. Might it not be the case that Paul’s letters were written under similar circumstances, smuggled out of his various captivities and then assembled in a similar manner? Whether true or not, we may on this Lord’s Day express gratitude for all of the saints who endured such indignities and captivities for the sake of the gospel.

Sunday: December 16, 2012, 3rd Sunday of Advent

Readings: Isaiah 12:2-6, Zephaniah 3:14-20, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18
Writer:  J Nichols Adams 

 “The greatest joy is joy in God. This is plain from Psalm 16:11: “You [God] will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Fullness of joy and eternal joy cannot be improved. Nothing is fuller than full, and nothing is longer than eternal. And this joy is owing to the presence of God, not the accomplishments of man. Therefore, if God wants to love us infinitely and delight us fully and eternally, he must preserve for us the one thing that will satisfy us totally and eternally; namely, the presence and worth of his own glory. He alone is the source of full and lasting pleasure. Therefore, his commitment to uphold and display his glory is not vain, but virtuous. God is the one being for whom self-exaltation is an infinitely loving act. If he revealed himself to the proud and self-sufficient and not to the humble and dependent, he would belittle the very glory whose worth is the foundation of our joy. Therefore, God’s pleasure in hiding this from “the wise and intelligent” and revealing it to “infants” is the pleasure of God in both his glory and our joy.” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/339434-the-greatest-joy-is-joy-in-god-this-is-plain) Maybe that is the reason we find true joy in being and not having.
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Her question seems reasonable enough to me, and I certainly don’t argue with its reasoning.
The blogger admits that”: while my wife loves watching movies, I’m less a fan, and my reaction to movie endings is very different compared to my wife’s.” The blogger believes that: “sad endings are often far more thought-provoking.” He continues: “I find this to be true in all aspects of life; it is, more often than not, the sadness in life that compels me, the sadness that inspires my thinking, my creativity in writing, whether blog posts or songwriting.” (http://open.salon.com/blog/rick_lucke/2009/03/27/movie_endings_what_do_ they_reveal_about_us) But the strange thing about sadness is that it often causes us to feel melancholy and empty. We suddenly find ourselves sitting in front of the television wondering “where did my day go”. Happiness and joy can and will fill us with energy. The blogger did not understand the true power of joy and he unlike his wife is missing out.

Sunday: December 23, 2012, 4th Sunday of Advent

Readings: Luke 1:47-55 Or Psalm 80:1-7, Micah 5:2-5a, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)
Writer:  J Nichols Adams

There are all kinds of lists of world changing events on the web. On “In History Wiki”,  we find 10 world changing events. But when you look closely they are often more about America and not the world.
1) The bombing of Pearl Harbor
2) The Twin Towers 9/11
3) World War 1
4) Jesus’ Birth
5) World War 2
6) The sinking of The Titanic
7) The Assassination of Osama Bin Laden
8) Invention of the Toilet
9) Invention of Glasses
10) The Declaration of Independence (http://worldchangingeventsinhistory .wikia.com/wiki/World_Changing_Events_In_History_Wiki) Over half of these world changing events are about violence. I love the idea of the invention of the toilet and glasses as world changing events.

Sunday: December 30, 2012, 1st Sunday after Christmas, Holy Family

Readings: Psalm 148, Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:22-40
Writer:  J Nichols Adams

The person of Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher is a character often “glossed” over without much development. One might ask the question, “What is the significance of the lineage of Anna in the narrative context?” Anna is the daughter of Phanuel. The Hebrew form of Phanuel is Peniel or Penuel and means “face of God.” Anna’s name (from the Heb. Hannah) means “grace/gift.”
Is the tribe of Asher significant? This tribe, along with the other tribes of the northern kingdom, was dispersed in the first exile (7th century BCE). The presence of some of the tribe of Asher in Jerusalem may reflect the focus of returnees of all tribes from exile on Jerusalem as the religious center. However, the significance in relation to Anna’s connection may relate more to her connection with another “daughter” of Asher, one Serach bat Asher, who comes to us as a voice echoing down the ages through Midrash.
We find in the Midrash that the letters were given over to Abraham, who gave them to Isaac, who gave them to Jacob, who gave them to Joseph, who have them to his brothers, one of whom, Asher, son of Jacob, gave the secret of redemption over to Serach, daughter of Asher. So when Moses and Aaron came to the elders of Israel and performed signs before their eyes, the elders went to their elder, Serach, daughter of Asher, and told her: “A man has come who performed certain signs before our eyes.” Serach bat Asher (daughter of Asher) is the keeper and interpreter of the secret code. In the Lucan infancy narrative Anna (another daughter of Asher) announces the secret of redemption to another generation who seeks redemption. Anna, filled with divine grace, daughter of one whose name reflects that place where Jacob/Israel experienced “the face of God;” Anna, herself heir to the secret of redemption, is able to praise God and speak about the child now born, to all who seek the redemption of Jerusalem. (Elizabeth Young, “Tree of Life” http://www.etz -hayim.com/resources/articles/anna_bat_phanuel.php)
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My grandmother is 88 years old, and it amazes me to think of the changes she has witnessed in her lifetime. She remembers her experience as a little girl, fascinated when she heard her first radio broadcast… milk was delivered to her door in a horse drawn wagon… doctors made house calls… and when she married my grandfather in 1946, it would be another five years before they had a television in their home.
The last century has witnessed stunning advancements in industry, technology, science and medicine, and there seems to be no stopping the forward march. However, I sometimes question the word “advancement” as applied to the way the modern world functions, and the way we use our vast stores of knowledge to address the challenges we face. Are technology, industry, and specialized medicine really making us a wiser, healthier, more “advanced” society?
Jet travel, computers, cell phones, iPads, HD cameras, Kindles and remote controls all have their benefits, but it seems to me they also have a tendency to draw us away from our roots. The more advanced we become, the less connected we are to each other and to the earth from which we draw our sustenance and breath. Yet the “smarter” we become, the more we take for granted where our food comes from, how it was grown, and how it affects our bodies when we eat it. The more specialized our medical system, the more we lose sight of the interdependency and oneness of our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits.
Sometimes I think the way for us to truly become advanced as a society and healthier as a people might be to step back a few decades—or maybe a few centuries—and re-learn some old lessons and adopt some age-old habits in order to balance out all our modern advancements and achievements. Step back to a time when most of the produce people ate came from their backyard. Step back and learn from the ancients who spent long hours in meditation and prayer and considered these activities as essential to daily life as we do computers. Step back to a time when flour was made by grinding grain without removing anything from it or adding anything to it. What might we be missing from a time when evenings were spent gathered around a flickering fire, milk came straight from the cow, and conversation took place face to face? (http://www.freshlife.com/content/going-forward-looking-back-ancient-wisdom-in-the-modern-world) That is a wonderful example of a wise woman thinking.

Sunday: January 6, 2013, the Epiphany, Epiphany Sunday

Readings: Psalm 72:1 c-7, 10-14, Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12
Writer: J Nichols Adams 

Amid a wide range of early Christian speculation on the Magi—apocryphal Gospels, hymns, sermons, mosaics, woodcarvings, and sculptures on sarcophagi—one composition is particularly impressive and yet surprisingly unknown. Called the Revelation of the Magi, it is a lengthy narrative that claims to be the personal testimony of the Magi themselves on the events of Christ’s coming. The Revelation of the Magi has just recently been translated into English. How did this remarkable text come to be so neglected? Part of the problem is that the only known copy of the text is preserved in Syriac, a language used by ancient Christians throughout the Middle East and Asia, but one in which only a relatively small number of early Christian scholars are fluent. Even if it is poorly known today, the manuscript that contains The Revelation of the Magi was never truly lost—certainly not in the way that, say, the Dead Sea Scrolls were. After an anonymous monk copied the existing manuscript down at the Zuqnin monastery in southeastern Turkey at the end of the eighth century, it changed hands at some point and was kept in a monastery in the Egyptian desert. There it stayed until the eighteenth century, when G. S. Assemani, collecting manuscripts on behalf of the Vatican Library, brought it to Rome, where it resides today. (Landau, Brent (2010-11-02). Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem (Kindle Various Locations 60-184).
The Revelation of the Magi, mostly narrated by the Magi in the first person, is a sweeping and imaginative work that begins in the Garden of Eden and ends with the Magi being baptized at the hands of the Apostle Thomas. These Magi are members of an ancient mystical order and reside in a semi mythical land called Shir, located in the extreme east of the world, at the shore of the Great Ocean. The Revelation of the Magi says these individuals are called “Magi” in the language of their country because they pray in silence. The story implies that the name “Magi” is thus a play on the words silence and/or prayer, but that implication does not make sense in any of the most common languages spoken by early Christians. These Magi are not magicians, astrologers, or even priests of the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. (Landau, Brent (2010-11-02). Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem [Kindle Locations 77-140])
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Wise men seeking Jesus travelled from afar,
Guided in their journey by a wond’rous star.
But if we desire Him, He is close at hand,
For our native country is our holy land.
Prayerful souls may find Him by our quiet lakes,
Meet Him on our hillsides when the dawning breaks
In our fertile wheat fields where the sheaves are bound,
In our busy markets Jesus may be found.
Fishermen talk with Him by the deep blue sea
As the first disciples did by Galilee.
Every peaceful village in our land might be
Made by Jesus’ Presence like sweet Bethany.
He is more near us if we love Him well,
For He seeketh ever in our hearts to dwell.
 (http://www.finestofthewheat.org/Poetry/Wise_Men_Seeking_Jesus.php) James T. East (1860-1937)

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These mystics, who live in a mysterious, far-off land, as the Revelation of the Magi depicts its Magi, are the descendants of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. Seth was believed by many early Jews and Christians to be extremely pious and virtuous, so it is very fitting for The Revelation of the Magi to trace the ancestry of the Magi back to such an illustrious founder. Every month of every year, for thousands of years, the order of the Magi has carried out its ancient rituals in expectation of this star’s arrival. They ascend their country’s most sacred mountain, the Mountain of Victories, and pray in silence at the mouth of the Cave of Treasures of Hidden Mysteries, where Seth’s own prophetic books are housed and read by the Magi.
They have gathered together to ascend the Mountain of Victories, as was their ancient custom, when suddenly the foretold star appears in the heavens. As promised, the star is indescribably bright, so bright that the sun becomes as faint as the daytime moon; yet because the Magi alone are worthy of guarding this prophecy, the star can be seen by no one but them. (This is certainly not how the Bible portrays this event.)
The star descends to the peak of the mountain and enters the Cave of Treasures, bidding the Magi to come inside. The Magi enter the cave and bow before the star, whose incredible light gradually dissipates to reveal a small, luminous human! This “star-child” reveals to the Magi that he is the Son of God, but—and this is of crucial importance—never calls himself by the familiar names Jesus or Christ. The star-child instructs the Magi to follow it to Jerusalem so that they may witness its birth and participate in the salvation God has planned for the entire world. The star leads the Magi into Jerusalem, where the city’s inhabitants puzzle at these exotic foreigners. Because the star is invisible to the inhabitants, they presume these visitors to be astrologers of some kind, since the Magi keep looking up at the heavens. The Magi’s encounter with Herod and the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem unfolds almost identically to the narrative of Matthew’s Gospel—one of the rare times that The Revelation of the Magi closely follows the story line of Matthew. Immediately after the Magi hear the Jewish prophecy about the birth of the Messiah at Bethlehem, the star reappears and leads them to a cave in the environs of the village. Just as upon the Mountain of Victories, the star enters the cave and beckons the Magi inside. Here the star transforms into a luminous, talking infant, whose “birth” is accompanied by unseen angels singing his praises. In a lengthy speech, the infant tells the Magi that their ancient mysteries have at last been fulfilled and commissions them to become witnesses to him and his Gospel for the people of their homeland. As the Magi exit the Bethlehem cave, rejoicing at the fulfillment of their ancient prophecy they encounter Mary and Joseph and the Magi explain that the child is actually the savior of the world and can be in many places simultaneously. The Magi then begin their journey back to Shir. When they reach the borders of their homeland, crowds of their family members and kin come out to meet them, marveling at the appearance and health of the travelers. They conclude their story by revealing to the people that they, too, can come to experience the presence of the star-child, whom the Magi claim is still with them—since he is, in fact, present throughout the entire world. Thus far, the Magi’s age-old prophecy has been fulfilled: they have journeyed with the star, witnessed the birth of Christ, preached his Gospel to their people, and now remain in the light of Christ’s eternal presence. This would seem like a most fitting and fulfilling way for this story to conclude, yet the only copy of The Revelation of the Magi that we possess does not end here. In a concluding episode that may not have been part of the original story (more on the reasons for this later), the Apostle Thomas comes to the homeland of the Magi. The Magi hear of his arrival and come to meet him, telling him of their experience of Christ’s coming. Thomas recognizes that they have indeed had contact with Christ, and he relates to them his own memories of the ministry of Jesus. The Magi rejoice at what Thomas has said, and they ask him to initiate them into the Christian fellowship. (Landau, Brent (2010-11-02). Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem (Kindle Various Locations 77-140). Harper Collins)
Compared to the Ancient Greeks our modern wise sayings do not sound so lofty. Some Modern Wise Men and Women have said:
If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging.
It doesn’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering’ somebody else’s dog around.
Don’t worry about biting off more than you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger then you think.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly.
If you’re riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.\
There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works.
When you’re throwing your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
Letting the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier and putting it back.
The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.
Remember that 50% of all Harvard MBA’s graduated in the bottom half of their class

Sunday: January 13, 2013, Baptism of the Lord, 1st Sunday after Epiphany

Readings: Psalm 29, Isaiah 43:1-7, Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Writer:  J Nichols Adams

Christian art depicts the dove as hovering over the Virgin Mary’s head, symbolizing Mary’s submissive innocence. Numerous saints have also been depicted with hovering doves (sign of Divine inspiration), such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Fabian, St. Gregory the Great, St. Louis, and St. Dustan. In early Christian paintings, the dove’s head is surrounded by a “Golden Nimbus,” frequently seen in the form of a cross or of seven rays terminating in seven stars to symbolize the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The dove also became the Christian symbol of “Peace” as seen in the catacombs of Rome. Figured on tombs and sarcophagi, the dove also represented grief and martyrdom.
All such conceptualizations were derived from close observation and familiarity of doves, and from an intimate understanding of its physiological characteristics. The dove was probably the earliest creature to be domesticated by man, for they were easy to raise. From historical records, it was clear that they were domesticated in several, independently different, places in the ancient world. The dove was found in the early Dynasties of ancient Egypt. The first record of its use as a table bird was found in the IV Dynasty (2500 BC). Evidence of an earlier period is seen in the terra cotta dove of Mesopotamia (4500 BC). Some authorities speculated that the dove was first domesticated for food. Letter, it became important for sacrificial rites. Doves were also the only domesticated birds kept in large numbers by the Israelites. It became fashionable, at the time, to build huge dovecotes on the ledges inside the walls. King Herod was referred to as a breeder of doves, as recorded by Josephus the Jewish Historian. During the Roman period, historical references mentioned that these dovecotes sometimes housed as many as 5000 birds. Even in England and Scotland today you can find the remains of dovecotes at a large number of farms.
The homing instincts of doves suggested the image that the bird was a harbinger of good tidings — like the dove in the story of the Flood. Doves served both as navigational guides and message bearers. The earliest records showed that four doves or pigeons were sent in different directions to mark to coronation of Rameses III in 1204 BC. The birds were widely used by the Romans in sending messages. Emperor Nero even used them to send results of the games to his friends.
The Dove, with time became a powerful symbol in religious traditions. It was used as a messenger, for sporting purposes, food and even was a well-loved pet. (Franciscan Cyperspot http://198.62.75.1/www1/ofm/mag/MAen9905.html) The dove was at the center of life in the time of Jesus. It was not something strange but familiar and comforting.
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Doves (order of Columbiformes, family of Columbidae) are medium-sized, rather heavy birds with pointed wings and rather long tails. Their plumage varies in color from the olive-brown body, bluish-grey wings of the ‘rock-dove,’ to the speckled brown wing feathers and stripped neck pattern of the ‘turtle-dove’ (genus-Streptopelia). White varieties are known and are presented symbolically.
The figure of a dove with a palm branch in its beak is a symbol of victory over death. Christian tradition depicts a white dove as a saved soul, the purified. The black raven, just the opposite, is cast as sin. (Various sources)

Sunday: January 20, 2013, 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

Readings: Psalm 36:5-10, Isaiah 62:1-5, 1Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11
Writer:  J Nichols Adams

When Dr. David Larson was training for a career in psychiatry, faculty advisers warned him, “You’ll harm your patients if you try to combine your Christian faith with the practice of psychiatry. It’s clinically impossible.” Instructors insisted that religion usually harms a person’s mental health. Does research confirm that notion? Larson wondered. Or is it a myth passed around in academic circles? His curiosity led him on a quest he followed for fifteen years, until his untimely death in 2002 at the age of fifty-four. He spent much of his time poring over academic journals and obscure research reports, pondering “negative curvilinear variables” and other data, seeking clues into how religion affects mental and physical health. Right away Larson noticed that most research studies ignored the subject of religion altogether. This seemed odd, since 90 percent of Americans believe in God, almost half attend religious services weekly, and a large minority claim religion is “very important” in their lives. Could the omission reflect the antireligious bias of the field? Less than half of psychiatrists and psychologists claim to believe in God, and one survey found that 40 percent regard organized religion as “always, or usually, psychologically harmful.” Even though modern surveys tended to avoid explicit questions on faith, Larson found that some had asked basic questions about religious involvement. He examined these findings, and then broadened his search to include anything that might indicate the effect of Christian commitment on health. What he found shocked him. A sampling:
• Regular church attenders live longer. Religiousness markedly reduces the incidence of heart attack, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and hypertension.
• Religious people are less likely to abuse alcohol and far less likely to use illicit drugs. Conversely, one study found that 89 percent of alcoholics had lost interest in religion during their teenage years.
• Prison inmates who make a religious commitment are less likely than their counterparts to return to jail after release.
• Marital satisfaction and overall well-being tend to increase with church attendance; depression rates decline.
• Religious commitment offers some protection against one of the nation’s greatest health problems: divorce. People who attend church regularly are more than twice as likely to remain married. Protection against divorce is important for the following reasons:
• Divorce dramatically increases the likelihood of early death from stroke, hypertension, respiratory cancer, and intestinal cancer. Astonishingly, being divorced and a nonsmoker is only slightly less dangerous than smoking a pack or more a day and staying married!
In short, Larson found that religious commitment, far from causing health problems, has a pronounced effect on reducing them. “In essence the studies empirically verify the wisdom of the book of Proverbs,” he concluded. “Those who follow biblical values live longer, enjoy life more, and are less diseased.
The psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote: “I have treated many hundreds of patients, the larger number being Protestants, a smaller number Jews and not more than five or six believing Catholics. Among all my patients in the second half of my life . . . there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.”
Here is what I would do instead.

The psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote: “I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life - that is to say, over 35 - there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.

Sunday: January 27, 2013, 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

Readings: Psalm 19, Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, 1Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21
Writer:  Stan Adamson

Congregations often have mission statements. This event inaugurating the ministry of Jesus from the Nazareth synagogue contains words from the prophet Isaiah that would well represent the mission of a congregation. This could be considered to be an early mission statement.


Sunday: February 3, 2013, 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 4th Sunday after Epiphany

Readings: Psalm 71:1-6, Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30
Writer:  Edward McNulty

Reading the sermon preached on July 8, 2012 by Sandra Jones would be good preparation for readers wanting a detailed exploration of the role and the message of the prophet. She goes back through the history of Israel and delineates the three-fold pattern of the prophetic message, first the indictment, then the warning (she calls it the “threat oracle”), and thirdly, the call to repentance.
Pointing out that Jesus’ call to change was central in his ministry, she says that he offered two paths: the broad one of following the status quo with its “accepted social norms and its loyalties,” or that of the “narrow way, the path of transformation and an alternative way of living.  A way of living that involved an intimate and trusting relationship with God and an ethos based on the politics of compassion instead of the politics of holiness.” (http://www.episcopalutah.org/St._Lukes/Sermons_&_Articles_files/July%208%202012%20Sandra%20Jones.pdf)
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In more modern times the courage of William H. Seward was matched by that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he decided to go public with his view of the Vietnam War as one involving racism, neo-colonoialism and a threat to the War on Poverty. This is well depicted in the TV miniseries King in which we see Dr. King arguing with his own staff about making such a move. When he goes public during a speech in New York City, a series of denunciations are hurled at him, this time not just by Southern segregationists who already hated him, but by former friends and allies. Contributions from Northern liberals for his SCLC dropped drastically. The heads of such veneral civil rights groups as the NAACP denounced him, and perhaps worst of all, President Johnson who had been a staunch ally in pushing through Congress civil rights legislation became his enemy. Most of this period in which Dr. King was “a prophet without honor” has now been forgotten during the annual rush to eulogize him.

Sunday: February 10, 2013, 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 5th Sunday after Epiphany

Readings: Psalm 138, Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13), 1Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11
Writer:  Ed McNulty

For those who provide pew activity kits for children Calvary Church has provided downloadable materials: a drawing to color, a series of questions, “circle the correct word statements, word game, and a crossword puzzle at: http://www.calvarycurriculum.com/pdf/childrenscurriculum/NEW/ CURR179.PDF
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A movie clip of the miracle of the fish is available on YouTube. It is brief, a minute and 49 seconds, so it could be used to begin a Sunday school lesson or a sermon dealing with this passage. However, the video quality is not high enough for a large screen, so if using this in the sanctuary, it would be better to bring out the Jesus DVD. The clip is easy to find, and the DVD has been distributed so widely that I’ve seen copies at Good Will and Salvation Army stores, as well as in flea markets. Peter’s fear at being in the presence of such a holy man is well depicted by the actor playing him. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSYTviuZrGc)
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Because the Old Testament passage Isaiah 6 is so powerful a story of the call, the preacher might want to enfold this passage into that of the call of Peter. The creator of the blog “The Bible Workshop” (an Augustinian monk/priest working in a parish but who does not post his name) makes a helpful observation in regard to Peter’s fear or awe: The fear that Simon experiences is the “fear” that Rudolph Otto describes as deriving from awe. Simon has a religious experience — an experience of the Holy — that makes him say: ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ Simon’s experience is comparable to that of Isaiah…” Overcome, the prophet called out, “I am lost. I am a man of unclean lips … and my eyes have laid on the Lord King!” (Isaiah 6:5)(http://bws.biblista.net/2010/02/v-sunday-c-called-to-be-fisher-of-men/)

Sunday: February 17, 2013, 1st Sunday in Lent

Readings: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13
Writer:  Donald D. Denton

No New Material

Sunday: February 24, 2013, 2nd Sunday in Lent

Readings: Psalm 27, Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-35 Or Luke 9:28-36
Writer:  J Nichols Adams

Foodie is a term that we throw around a lot here at Slashfood. The dictionary defines a foodie as “someone who has an ardent or refined interest in food.” In previous decades, words like “epicure” or “gourmet” were used to apply to the same type of person. The words are out of favor now, and bring to mind stodgy, snobbish people who are only willing to consider a restaurant that has truffle pate on the menu. This is because good food was hard to get and expensive in years, decades and centuries past. People didn’t have the resources to buy virtually anything they could want and often wouldn’t have the means to cook it. Now, both times and terms have changed.
Anyone can be a foodie.
 For many to be a foodie is not only to like food, but to be have a real passion around all things food related. Just as a good student will have a thirst for knowledge, a foodie wants to learn about food. A foodie will never answer the question, “What are you eating?” with, “I don’t know.” There are some basic traits of being a foodie, as there are basic traits that come with all labels. Generally, you have to know what you like, why you like it, recognize why some foods are better than others and want to have good tasting food all or certainly most of the time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat flaming hot Cheetos every now and again, but it does mean that you don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s a nutritionally balanced meal. Do you have to know the difference between a beefsteak tomato and an heirloom tomato? No, but you might be interested to find out what it is. Do you have to only shop at farmer’s markets? No, but you still look for good, fresh produce. Are there some foods you just don’t like or weird foods you like? That’s ok - it doesn’t make you any less of a foodie. Just like food, learn about food and, most importantly, eat food.(http://www.slashfood.com/2006/02/10/what-is-a-foodie-anyway/)
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Roman citizenship was also used as a tool of foreign policy and control. Colonies and political allies would be granted a "minor" form of Roman citizenship, there being several graduated levels of citizenship and legal rights. The promise of improved standing within the Roman "sphere of influence", and the rivalry for standing with one's neighbors, kept the focus of many of Rome's neighbors and allies centered on the status quo of Roman culture, rather than trying to subvert or overthrow Rome's influence.
The granting of citizenship to allies and the conquered was a vital step in the process of Romanization. As a precursor to this, Alexander the Great had tried to "mingle" his Macedonians and other Greeks with the Persians, Egyptians, Syrians, etc. in order to assimilate the people of the conquered Persian Empire, but after his death this policy was largely ignored by his successors. The idea was to assimilate, to turn a defeated and potentially rebellious enemy (or his sons) into a Roman citizen. Instead of having to wait for the unavoidable revolt of a conquered people, Rome wanted everyone to be a real part of the Roman world. (Wiki sources)
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According to the Bible, there are only two citizenships: that of the world, and that of heaven; the kingdom of darkness, and the kingdom of light. In which of these do you hold citizenship? To which one of these do you belong?

 

 

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