Holding Butterflies

Not too tight, not too loose

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, January 28, 2018

Today’s readings Gospel: Mark 1:21-28 Last week, Jesus called His first disciples. Today, He makes His first public appearance in the book of Mark. Jesus is with His disciples in Capernaum, a mid-sized town of about 10,000, significantly larger than Nazareth. This is Jesus’ adult hometown, and He would have been known here. It’s the Sabbath and the men of the town have gathered to hear the Torah read and discussed as usual. But today isn’t usual. We see a demon-possessed man accuse Jesus, and we watch Jesus cast that demon out. But let’s back up a little. Jesus and His disciples entered the synagogue. This is a word we haven’t encountered in a while. How is it different from the Temple in Jerusalem? Synagogues originated during the Babylonian exile around 500 B.C. Jews in Babylon began gathering to read and discuss the Torah. The word “synagogue” actually comes from the Greek words for “gather together.” Over time, the habit became using the Sabbath to gather to listen to the Torah. (Yes,.. Read More

Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 21, 2018

Today’s readings Huge apologies for the lateness of this lesson. I hope you are having a good week! Gospel: Mark 1:14-20 This week seems to overlap with last week’s reading in John, where Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael. Remember that we went back and looked at the verses that preceded last week’s reading, meeting Andrew, Peter and John. This week is about the call of Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John. Immediately before this passage, Jesus has been baptized by John the Baptist. He then, in verses 12 and 13, retreats to the wilderness for a period of testing. That brings us to today’s reading, which actually has two pieces. The first, verses 14 and 15, tells us about Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. We then move to the Sea of Galilee and watch Jesus call disciples. In fact, both of these passages were very important to Martin Luther, and we’ll discuss that later. We find that John has already been arrested when this passage starts. Then in verse 15, Jesus.. Read More

Second Sunday after Epiphany, January 14, 2018

Today’s readings Green on the altar today, a little respite of Ordinary Time before Lent starts next month. During this period we will learn about Jesus’ ministry, kind of the “nuts and bolts” parts, like His baptism last week, ending with the Transfiguration in a couple of weeks. Today we will look at His calling the first disciples. Gospel: John 1:43-51 Today’s reading is a great example of our really needing to examine a much longer passage to get the full benefit. This piece is really more informative if we go back and read from verse 29. Don’t you love it when a passage opens with “The next day…” That automatically makes me go back and see what happened earlier. We see that three times in John Chapter 1: verse 29, verse 35 and 43. Before verse 29, John had been talking with the Pharisees about his baptism, and what exactly he was doing. The actual baptism of Jesus isn’t discussed, but is mentioned later, so I think we can.. Read More

Baptism of the Lord, January 7, 2018

Today’s Readings Wow! Christmas is over, and we are in Ordinary Time. This is the moment to catch your breath before Lent next month. I hope you had a good Christmas season. As I’m writing this, my tree is undecorated but our other Christmas decorations are still up, since I wanted to keep them up through Epiphany (which is January 6). I have really loved using the ideas of the seasons of the church to affect what our home life looks like. It will be interesting to see how Lent goes. But today we ease into Ordinary Time, time to examine the life and ministry of Jesus. We have white on the altar yet again today, though, because the Baptism of Jesus is a major feast day. Until Pentecost, all the readings will relate to the Gospel lesson, so I will begin there. Gospel:  Mark 1:4-11 We saw a portion of this reading back during Advent when we met John the Baptist. That reading went through verse 8. Remember that.. Read More

Epiphany, January 6, 2018

Today’s Readings I wanted to include a short discussion of Epiphany, even though we won’t be holding Sunday School today. This marks the end of the Christmas season. Traditionally it is the day that the Wise Men came to visit the baby Jesus. That is what our Gospel reading, from Matthew, tells us the story of. Interestingly, the Magi only appear in this one Gospel. (“Magi” was a term used to describe the Near East Magicians, and it ended up sticking to this group of men.) We don’t actually know how many “Wise Men” there were. Estimates range from three, because of the three gifts, to twelve. It’s interesting to note that the most Jewish-oriented Gospel, Matthew, is the one that records the visit from these Eastern men. They were plainly outsiders in that world, but Matthew goes out of his way to record these visitors. Finally, think about what the Wise Men were doing when they discovered Jesus. They were searching the stars. In their culture it was common to.. Read More

First Sunday of Christmas, December 31, 2017

Today’s readings Merry Christmas! I hope you are enjoying twelve days of feasting and fun, taking some time out each day to relax and enjoy the season. Remember that Christmas lasts until Epiphany, next Saturday, January 6. The paraments on the altar should be white this week, in celebration of the season. On a personal note, I’m really focusing on Christmas lasting the full twelve days. For the first time in my life I’m not stressing about getting the tree down as fast as possible. We have enjoyed some fun family time and have made a point to schedule some things along the way. We will even celebrate Epiphany at the Atlanta Botanical Garden! The shift in mindset has been rewarding for me personally, and I hope for my family, too. Also, before we dive into the lesson, have you thought about goals for 2018? Maybe that word “goals” is too ambitious. Have you considered how you might like to spend 2018, where you’d like to be next Christmas? You.. Read More

Nativity of the Lord, December 25, 2017

Today’s readings Christmas! This is actually the reading at our church’s Christmas Eve service, but either way it works. Christmas marks the end of Advent and the beginning of the twelve days of Christmas. (The paraments should be white when we get to church tonight.) This is a time of feasting! All the preparation work you were doing in Advent? Relax and enjoy it. Here in the South it seems the tradition is to take your tree down before New Year’s, and I’ve always done that. This year, though, I think I’m going to leave a lot of decorations up until Epiphany, and I’m going to be intentional about celebrating Christmas for the whole twelve days. We have made plans to do fun Christmas-y things as a family next week. I’m looking forward to enjoying this time together. We do have a couple of special days during this season. Today is the Nativity (birth) of Jesus, and then January 1 is Holy Name of Jesus day, celebrating Jesus’ presentation in.. Read More

Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 24, 2017

Today’s Readings Merry Christmas Eve! I will HOPEFULLY have two lessons up for today, this Advent lesson and then the lesson for the Nativity of Our Lord. It’s a busy church day. On to the lesson… Gospel:  Luke 1:26-38 We are in Luke for today’s lesson. Remember that Mark really begins with Jesus’ ministry as an adult. The story of Jesus’ birth is told in Matthew and Luke. To take a quick look at Luke, remember that this is the third of the Synoptic Gospels. Luke was apparently an assistant or student of Paul’s. Luke also wrote the book of Acts, which is where he makes his appearance in the action. Luke has a more distinctly Greek approach to language and action; for example, where he references Hebrew scripture, he does so quoting the Greek Septuagint. Of the three Synoptics, Luke is plainly writing for the more Gentile-oriented. As a matter of fact, he is also writing for the marginalized. I tend to think of Matthew as the Gospel most.. Read More

Third Sunday in Advent, December 17, 2017

This week’s readings Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28 We find ourselves in the Gospel of John today, in spite of this being Lectionary Year B and Mark’s year. I think we haven’t had a reading out of John since Pentecost (May), well before our class began in August. Why not Mark? Remember that the Lectionary is a three-year schedule, with each year corresponding to one of the synoptic Gospels. John is added throughout the year, especially during festivals like Advent, and especially in Year B because Mark is short. So we will be seeing a lot of him this year. It might be easy to think that John gets shortchanged because he doesn’t have his own year. Instead, think of him as so important that we never really leave John. You’ll notice when we read John that his Gospel has a different feeling to it. John was written later, and by the “beloved disciple” himself. When we read John, we are getting a first-hand perspective from someone who has had some.. Read More

A quick thought about Advent

Teaching the lectionary lessons this year has helped me to value Advent in a way I’ve never done before. In the church, Advent is a time to remember Jesus’ first arrival and to prepare for his return. We get to stop and ponder the gift that God gave us and continues to give us as the winter shadows grow. We can let the evenings be still. We can sing brooding carols in minor keys. This isn’t how the world views December. I’m one of those who likes to get my tree up right after Thanksgiving so it’s up for at least a month. I plan some during October and November, but I never really do more than think, so not much gets done. And then I turn around and it’s December and I feel like the stores and the news and all the people are saying, “YOU ARE BEHIND!! Catch up!!” But I’m not behind, and neither are you. We are right where we need to be, watching and waiting.. Read More