Lectionary Year A--The Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew--the focus of Lectionary Year A--holds together things we find easy to separate: story and speech; Israel and the nations; grace and obedience; heaven and earth. These moments of dynamic tension offer a way into the gospel as a whole. 

            To tell the story of Jesus' ministry, Matthew follows the gospel of Mark's storyline closely. The material that Matthew adds to Mark appears in five long speeches from Jesus. Five times Matthew writes "When Jesus had finished saying these things . . . ," using identical Greek phrasing in each case. These five statements conclude the Sermon on the Mount, a speech when he sends out the disciples, a collection of parables, a chapter on resolving conflict and practicing forgiveness and two chapters on the topic of faithful waiting for the unveiling of the new age. 

            Jesus is Israel's hope and the hope of the nations. As early as Matthew's genealogy for Jesus, and throughout the gospel as a whole, the nations (or gentiles) are in new as people to whom and through whom God's blessing extends. The four women in the genealogy (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the "wife of Uriah") are all foreign to Israel. Listing these women by name points out that the God of Israel has always been working across the boundaries of Israel. 

           The word "hypocrite" is used seventeen times in the entire New Testament--once in Mark, three times in Luke, and fourteen times in Matthew. Throughout Matthews gospel, we read of the need for words and actions to be in sync. At times in Matthew, faithful practice is actually more important than any words spoken. Ion Matthew, Jesus expects those who come after him to obey his teaching. But where is grace in the gospel of Matthew and how is it related to the obedience that constitutes discipleship? Grace is the appearance of "God with us" and in the assurance of the angel's message in Joseph's dream that the baby will "save his people from their sins." 

            In the gospel of Matthew, the kingdom of heaven is not "the place where you go when you die" but rather the time and place where God's will is done perfectly. Matthew's distinction between heaven (above) and earth (below) is spatial as well as a temporal distinction of "now and not yet." In the person and work of Jesus, the time (not yet) and place (heaven) where God's will is lived in its fullness is breaking into this time (now) and place (earth). 


Sermons in Year A 2019-2020

Click on the picture to read the sermon.

  • Advent I, December 1, 2019:  The Divine Thief

    On the first Sunday, the first day of Advent, the gospel of Matthew doesn't offer us the familiar, cozy symbols of Advent and Christmas. No we begin Advent with a wake-up call from Jesus who in a way describes himself as a thief. 

  • Advent IV, December 22, 2019:  Missing Joseph

    Every third year, our lectionary readings turns its spotlight away from Mary and gives the perspective of her would-be husband, a quiet unassuming descendant of the House of David. Our entry point into the Nativity story on this fourth Sunday of Advent this year is not Mary or Elizabeth or John the Baptist. It is Joseph, a quiet carpenter who upends his good life for a dream.

  • Christmas Eve, December 24, 2019:  In this region, In this Time

    What does it matter if Jesus was born "in those days" and "in that region" if he is not also being born in these days and in this region?

  • First Sunday of Christmas, 29 December 2019:  From Flights of Angels to Fleeing to Egypt

    If the words of Hebrews and the Nicene Creed mean anything at all, it means that the depth and measure of God’s joy and thanksgiving that Jesus arrived in Egypt is equaled only by the depth and measure of God’s anger and sorrow when any of his children does not reach a place of refuge and safety.

  • Epiphany of Our Lord, 5 January 2020:  Starry-Eyed and Savvy

    Epiphany reminds us that we can live our lives in a new light. Epiphany reminds us that Jesus, the Light of the world helps us to see all things and even ourselves in new ways.

  • Baptism of Our Lord, 12 January 2020: For you.

    It may often seem that we cannot make much impact in a world where injustice and cruelty seem to rule. Yet we can protect and help heal the bruised reeds around us and protect the struggling flames of those standing next to us. In doing so together, we might just find a way to see how God is calling us--individually and as the church--to share the message the message that God's love and grace are "for you."

  • Epiphany II, 19 January 2020:  Come and See

    In every circumstance of our life, whether good or bad, desired or dreaded, Jesus is calling us to himself. "Come and See"

  • Epiphany III, 26 January 2020:  Callings and turning Points

    Jesus says two things in today's gospel:  "Repent" and "Follow me."  They are both two sides of the same coin. They are both calls to think differently, to see ourselves, others and our world different, to ask different questions and move in a different direction.  The call of Jesus is always a turning point in our lives--one of many turning points throughout our lives.

  • Presentation of our Lord, 2 February 2020:  Receiving God

    The "old faithfuls" Simeon and Anna lived their lives in expectation, in anticipation, and waiting. Who among us has hot had their life characterized by expectation, anticipation, and waiting? All of us have stood in that place wondering if today is the day--is this the day we still believe in God's future or is this the day we give up and walk away.

  • Epiphany V, 9 February 2020:  Salty and Life-Giving L ives

    Who are you? I'm guessing you might answer by giving your name and some other information about where you work or your hobbies. I'm pretty sure you never answered by saying, "I'm the salt of the earth. I'm the light of the world."  And yet . . . Jesus says that's who we are.

  • Epiphany VI, 16 February 2020: But I say to you . . .

    What do we do when we find ourselves saying, "that doesn't sound like the Jesus I know"?  Who among us really wants to wrestle with Jesus telling us that if we are angry with someone, or insult someone, or call someone a fool we are "liable" to judgment and hellfire.  And, yet . . . we can't just ignore these sayings because of who is saying them. So what is Jesus trying to tell us?

  • Transfiguration of Our Lord, 23 February 2020: You are you!

    Few among us have not known moments of surprised illumination when someone we thought we knew fairly well is suddenly revealed in a completely new light? Often we don't know who is who or or in whose company we are. After all, how well do we know each other, or even who we are ourselves? What makes us think we know God any better?

  • Ash Wednesday, 26 February 2020:  The End of the Beginning

    There are so many paradoxes that are part of Ash Wednesday. For instance, we pray that we will be washed clean while we dirty up our faces with ashes. One of the other paradoxes that has always struck me about Ash Wednesday is that we begin the Season of Lent by remembering the end. Your ending and my ending marks the beginning of the new season we call Lent. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

  • First Sunday in Lent, 1 March 2020:  It's human to be Tempted

    On this first Sunday in Lent we hear two stories of temptation with two very different results. One is a story of surrender. The other is a story of resistance and triumph.

  • Second Sunday in lent, 8 March 2020: When the Wind Blows

    This familiar conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus by night, leads to a conversation that sheds more light on Nicodemus than he can handle.  John 3:16 may be the "gospel in a nutshell" but that's only the beginning.

  • Third Sunday in Lent, 15 March 2020: Come Sit With Me By the Well

    Another conversation with Jesus, this time with an unnamed woman in the broad daylight of noon. 

  • Fourth Sunday in Lent, 22 March 2020:  Born That Way

    They all looked at him, but never saw him. He was the blind guy. Born that way. But Jesus sees him, really sees him. And because God in Christ sees everything and sees differently than we do, this man's blindness is healed in more than just a physical way.

  • Fifth Sunday in Lent, 29 March 2020: Disappointment, Grief and Questions Lead to Resurrection

    Mortal, can these bones live? God asks Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones.  Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Martha and Mary cry out to Jesus at the tomb of their brother Lazarus. These questions, these disappointments and sorrows cut through the center of our lives and even more so in these Corona-tide times. How does Jesus meet our disappointment, grief and questions? 

  • Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord, 5 April 2020:  Clash of Wills

    Two different visions of the world entered Jerusalem that day long ago--the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of Caesar. One vision represents the will to life, the other the will to power. This is the central conflict of Holy Week. It remains a central conflict today. Which procession are we in? Which one do we choose?

  • Easter Day, 12 April 2020:  Life and Hope in the Easter Pandemic

    There is no doubt that this is the most unique Easter all of us has ever experienced in our lives. Our churches are empty and we are shut up in our homes.  And yet, perhaps this Easter is a lot closer to the conditions of that first Easter morning when most of the disciples were scattered and "sheltering" in whatever safe place they could find.  All except two women named Mary who make their way to Jesus' tomb.

  • Easter II, 19 April 2020:  Sight Unseen

    It is a week later, it is the first Sunday after Easter Day. And as always, we--along with Thomas and the other disciples--take a good hard look God's post-resurrection world.

  • Easter III, 26 April 2020: A Graveyard of Buried Hopes?

    But we had hoped . . . on this third Sunday of Easter, we find ourselves traveling on the road to Emmaus--a road that is uncomfortably familiar. Even though the road to Emmaus is full of disappointment, yearning and failure, nevertheless it is a sacred road because the risen Christ meets us there.

  • Easter IV, 3 May 2020:  The Figure in the Figures of Speech

    In the 10th chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus uses one figure of speech after another . . . but as the evangelist tells us "they did not understand what he was saying."  How can we put it all together in a way that makes any sense?  

  • Easter V, 10 May 2020:  Troubled Hearts in Living Stones

    On this fifth Sunday of Easter, the setting is grim and somber since we have been transported back to the evening when Jesus was betrayed.  In advance of the coming turmoil, Jesus says to his disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled . . ."  How can he say this even as we feel the ground beneath our feet collapsing?

  • Easter VI, 17 May 2020:  I Will Not Leave You Orphaned

    Jesus commissions his disciples to loving obedience, but not without a promise that we do this alone.

  • Easter VII, 24 May 2020:  Unity And Diversity

    Jesus prays for his disciples that they may all be one. But what does being "one" mean in a world of diversity?

  • Day of Pentecost, 31 May 2020:  Blood, Fire and Smokey Mist--Pentecost 2020

    We celebrate the feast of Pentecost this year in the mist of being confronted by two foes--the coronavirus and the virus of racism; one is a so-called "novel" or new virus, the other is over 400 years old. Together we all need to pray for the day when the divisions of race and racism--both personal and systemic--and bias and prejudice will wither and be burned out of our life together. Thanks be to God, one of the miracles of Pentecost and the hope of Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit strives to do just that.

  • The Holy Trinity, 7 June 2020: A sermon by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

    We need to be color-amazed not colorblind.

  • Pentecost II, 14 June 2020: Will you Go where you Where You Don't Know?

    Jesus sends his disciples and essentially tells them, "Go and render believable the compassion of God."

  • Pentecost III, 21 June 2020: To Fear, Love, and Trust God Above All Things

    The texts for this day compel us to ask ourselves what or who do we fear, love, and trust above all else.

  • Pentecost IV, 28 June 2020:  Whoever Welcomes . . .

    Jesus' final words to his disciples before sending them out remind us that discipleship is both receiving and sharing the presence of Christ. We are called to welcome and to be welcomed.

  • Pentecost VI: 12 July 2020: The extravagance and scandal of Joy

    In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells a story that tempts us to look at the seed and soil rather than at the extravagant abandon of the Sower.

  • Pentecost VII, 19 July 2020:  Wheat and WEeds, Growing Together

    Jesus continues to teach about the Kingdom of Heaven, this time with a parable about wheat and weeds being allowed to continue to grow together. What's up with that?

  • Pentecost VIII, 26 July 2020: What Would You Ask For?

    If God came to you and said, "Ask what I should give you," what would you answer? Would it be a "me" or a "we" answer?

  • Pentecost IX, 2 August 2020: Share your lunch or We Need a Miracle?

    A sermon that presents two messages from the "Feeding of the Five Thousand"--is it an either/or or both/and situation?

  • Pentecost X, 9 August 2020:  A Saving word, A saving hand, a saving presence

    The issue is not fear. The issue is where fear leads. 

  • Pentecost XI, 16 August 2020:  Is it Good News Yet?

    Jesus and the Canaanite woman--the only gospel story where Jesus does not "win" a verbal dispute but hears the gospel preached to him.

  • Pentecost XII, 23 August 2020: Living the Question

    At the half-way point in Matthew's gospel, Jesus asks a question of his disciples that we may think we know the answer to. But . . . in order to really know the answer, we need to be patient and live the question.

  • Pentecost XIII, 30 August 2020: Pick It Up or Leave It

    In the midst of a pandemic and rising violence and racial inequality, Jesus comes to us with a hard word to his disciples: If any want to be my disciples, let them pick up their cross and follow me. 

  • Pentecost XIV, 6 September 2020: We Need to Talk and to Listen

    Jesus offers instructions and principles for how we are to be the beloved community.

  • Pentecost XV, 13 September 2020: To err is Human, To Forgive Divine

    Though the words "to err is human, to forgive divine" never appear in the Bible in these exact words, nevertheless this is a message written on every page from Genesis to Revelation.

  • Pentecost XVI, 20 September 2020:  Is Grace Unfair or Too Fair?

    Two stories of the tension between grace and justice may hold challenging questions for us about what is fair and unfair.

  • Pentecost XVII, 27 September 2020: A Little Less Conversation, A little More Action Please

    Does the church too often settle for a "words only" version of Christianity?

  • Pentecost XVIII, 4 October 2020: Wretched Tenants and a Hopeful Landowner

    Jesus asks us to hear a second parable . . . one that tells the saga of the terrible decisions by "wretched tenants" and the hopefulness of the landowner.

  • Pentecost XIX, 11 October 2020: Not Literally, but Seriously

    No doubt this is a parable about judgement, but it may not be the kind of judgment we would generally think of. 

  • Pentecost XX, 18 October 2020:  Is Your Heart There yet?

    Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, our heart will follow.