flannel graph proper 22b, Sunday closest to October 5

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flannelgraph / Year B

A hard Gospel lesson today for many people (Mark 10:2-16). Two things about it: First, God takes the bond and covenant of marriage seriously. As the marriage liturgy says, “it is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly.” The spiritual union of marriage represents the union between God and God’s People. AScreen Shot 2015-09-28 at 8.03.34 PMnd so the dissolution of marriage says things, not only about the marriage, but about God’s relationship with us. Second, in Jesus’ day divorce had dire consequences, but especially so for women. Women, without the protection and financial support of her husband, could become destitute very quickly. So, while hard on our ears, this passage also protected some of the most vulnerable people in Jesus’ day.

The less
on from Genesis (Genesis 2:18-24, Track 2) serves as a proof text for the Gospel lesson, telling the story of how man, in the Garden of Eden, needed a “helper” for he was “alone” – and this wasn’t good! After naming all the animals of creation, God gives him the helper that he needed, fashioned from one of man’s own ribs.

Today is the first of several Sundays where we will be exposed to the story of Job (Job 1:1; 2:1-10, Track 1). Today’s lesson is from the early narrative section
where Job, an almost mythic figure of profound righteousness, is found to be in the middle of the struggle between God and the Accuser, and ends up losing everything. The story present this loss as what will become the epic example of Job’s faith, but his suffering is very much real.

This is also the first of several Sundays where we will be in the Book of Hebrews (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12). This is not an “epistle,” per se, as it is not a letter, but a sermon – and we don’t know who its author is. In this beginning section we are reminded of Jesus’ heavenly existence prior to his coming to earth, his sacrifice for sins, and the “exact imprint” of God’s being that was expressed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Gracious G
od, when you sent Jesus, you made him your perfect imprint to save us and to show us your great love for us. Remind us day by day, that we are created in your image, and that our bonds of love and fidelity are meant to be an example to the world of your love and fidelity to us. Amen.

On the way to “soccer practice”…
What does it mean that we are created in the image of God? Does it mean that we “look” like God? Two eyes, a nose and a mouth? Or, does it mean that our loving relationships look like God? How can we reflect God better?

Social Media Flannelgraph
Post an image of someone/ or someplace where you see God, where you see God’s love, where you feel God’s Presence.

flannelgraph proper 21b, Sunday closest to September 28

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flannelgraph / Year B

You can imagine the eager sincerity with which the disciples approached Jesus to tell them that they stopped someone doing Jesus’ work in Jesus’ name, but who wasn’t a member of their group (Mark 938-50). They thought they had done a great thing! But, the ministry of Jesus doesn’t belong to us. It’s not ours to give or deny. It is God’s work, and though we may want to try and protect the church from “outsiders” that’s not our job. We don’t get to say who is in, and who is out. That isn’t our burden to bear.

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James, the “brother of the Lord,” and leader of the nascent Christian community in Jerusalem, talks to his people about what Christian community is all about (James 5:13-20). It’s the place where the sick and suffering can receive prayer, the place where people of faith will lay hands on you to ask God for healing, the place where people who have been blessed with much can give thanks and praise, and the place where sins can be spoken out loud and not only will no one offer judgement but people will offer forgiveness.

In Numbers (Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29, Track 2), Moses is struggling with the weight of leadership because the people are complaining so much. He brings his frustration and anger to God, and God listens to his plea. The weight which Moses carried around with him was spread out on 70 people. He didn’t have to walk alone. He didn’t have to bear the burden of leadership by himself.

The Book of Esther contains the great story of a the unlikely orphan queen Esther, the king of Persia, and the redemption of God’s People in an uncertain time (Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22, Track 1). Our Jewish brothers and sisters especially remember this story on the Feast of Purim. When the Jewish people were set to be systematically persecuted, Queen Esther outs herself as a Jew to her husband the King, and asks for his protection for her people – protection which is granted.

Sometimes my burden feels like too much to bear, O God. Help me to remember that your yoke is easy and your burden light. Help me to remember that anything I bear, I don’t bear alone, and that you are with me always. Amen.

On the way to “soccer practice”…
What burdens do we bear? What feels like too much? Do we feel alone? Are we REALLY alone? How can we use our faith to remind us that God is with us, and helps us bear our burdens?

Social Media Flannelgraph
Share how your Christian community supports you when you are burdened, sick, suffering, or guilty. Share how God works through your community on good days and bad days.

flannelgraph proper 20b, Sunday closest to September 21

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flannelgraph / Year B

Ever catch someone in a moment of guilt? Been caught yourself? Of course you have. That’s what makes Jesus catching his disciples after arguing about who among them is the greatest so rich (Mark 9:30-37). They knew they shouldn’t be doing it! After all, Jesus had just been talking about the suffering that he was willing to endure on their behalf, and on behalf of the world. And here they are fighting over who’s “the best.”

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James, the “brother of the Lord” and leader of the nascent Christian community in Jerusalem, knew all about such arguments (James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a). He was apparently witnessing his own church break down in disagreements and petty feuds. He tells his people to knock it off, and instead find the “wisdom from above” which “is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits.”

The lesson from Proverbs (Proverbs 31:10-31, Track 1) can seem a little precious and anachronistic to our modern ears, with its hymn about an almost mythical “capable wife.” But, if you can get past its June-Cleaverish sensibilities, it’s really about the wonder and blessing of a good relationship and how we can all seek to be our best selves for those whom we love.

The Wisdom of Solomon (Wisdom 1:16-2:1, 12-22, Track 2) is a book that is not found in Protestant Bibles, but has traditionally held a secondary, almost honorific role, in more catholic traditions. It was written in Greek during the 1st or 2nd century BCE, and although attributed to King Solomon, no one today, and very few in the ancient world, consider him to have actually authored it. This
passage pits the “ungodly” up against the “righteous” person, and extols the virtues of having a healthy, holy relationship with God.

Deliver us O God from the ways of division and arguments, and plant us firmly on the path of peace and humility. May we see those around us, and even those who we have a hard time liking, as blessings that you have given us, and people created in your holy image. Amen.

On the way to “soccer practice”…
Who do we have a hard time being around? Who do we struggle to love, much less like? How does God see them? How can we living in harmony with them, and love our neighbor as ourself?

Social Media Flannelgraph
Post a picture or video that shows harmony where there would just as easily be division or hatred. Share how you work for peace in your relationships, and in the community around you.

flannelgraph proper 19b, Sunday closest to September 14

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flannelgraph / Year B

After blogging the lectionary for years, I’m retooling this blog to be a resource for people in the pews. Each week I’ll provide a short piece on both tracks of the Old Testament Lessons, the New Testament Lesson, and the Gospel Lesson. Then I’ll offer some discussion questions and intergenerational challenges based on the lessons. It will be in blog form, so you could copy+paste into a bulletin, and in half-sheet PDF, so you could print and include as a bulletin insert. Feel free to use, amend, etc. — just please use simple attribution: (c) 2015, rickmorley.com

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Click here for the PDF version of this post.

Jesus goes to Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27-38), the ancient world center of the Pan cult. Remember Pan? The little goat god with the flute? Jesus goes to this strange, pagan place and asks his disciples if they know who he is. They have a couple ideas, but it’s Peter who nails it: You are the Messiah. Two things are quite striking about this passage. One, Jesus isn’t afraid to go places where other religions are present, and he doesn’t say a word against this other religion or its adherents. And two, it’s here in the darkness that the Light was able to be seen by Peter.

Darkness comes in different forms, and enters our life in different ways. In Isaiah (Isaiah 50:4-9a, Track 2) the People of God were living in exile in Babylon after their homeland had been destroyed. And yet, while darkness seems to have taken over, Isaiah acknowledges that “morning by morning” God is still there even through days of insult and persecution.

In one of the great passages of the Hebrew Bible (Proverbs 1:20-33, Track 1) the Wisdom of God is personified as a woman who chastises the People of God for forgetting her (wisdom) and instead seeking only what’s “simple.” God’s Wisdom is a kind of light which God’s People are to seek over and above foolishness and fear.

In the epistle lesson James (James 3:1-12), the brother of the Lord and the leader of the nascent Christian community in Jerusalem, warns us of the dangers of the tongue. Sometimes we can say things which cause something like a fire which can burn down relationships, communities, and even churches. We need wisdom, but we also need humility and restraint, because once we say something we can never take those words back.


Whenever we sit in darkness O Lord, let us seek your Light and find it. And in your Light may we find strength and your Holy Wisdom which builds us up, and does not tear us down. Amen.

On the way to “soccer practice”…

Have you ever said something you wish you could take back? Do “sticks and stones” really hurt more than words?

Have you ever gone through a really tough time, and yet you knew that God was walking through the tough time with you?

Social Media Flannelgraph

Post a picture of light coming into the darkness. Share how God is shining on you even in the darkest of times and places.

flannelgraph proper 18b, Sunday closest to Sept 7

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flannelgraph / Year B

After blogging the lectionary for years, I’m retooling this blog to be a resource for people in the pews. Each week I’ll provide a short piece on both tracks of the Old Testament Lessons, the New Testament Lesson, and the Gospel Lesson. Then I’ll offer some discussion questions and intergenerational challenges based on the lessons. It will be in blog form, so you could copy+paste into a bulletin, and in half-sheet PDF, so you could print and include as a bulletin insert. Feel free to use, amend, etc. — just please use simple attribution: (c) 2015, rickmorley.com

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Here is the PDF, ready to be printed, front and back and then sliced down the middle. Enjoy!

“Be opened.” Those two little words are spoken by Jesus to the ears of the deaf man (Mark 7:24-37). But, they are always God’s words spoken to us. Our constant call is to be opened. Open to the movement of God, to the word of God, the hope of God, the salvation of God. Open to being fed at God’s table, forgiven of our trespasses, and recipients of Grace.

In the Epistle lesson (James 2:1-14) we see James, the “brother of the Lord,” speaking to his community about not closing themselves off to the discriminations of the world. They are tempted to favor the rich and influential, but James asks them to be open to seeing everyone who walks through their doors as a beloved child of God – a neighbor.

(Track 1, RCL) The lesson from Proverbs (Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23) seeks to break down the same walls as James, asking us to be open to seeing that everyone is made by God, regardless of our bank accounts, and that those who share what they have with those less fortunate will be blessed.

(Track 2, RCL) The lesson from Isaiah (Isaiah 35:4-7a) is a plea to those who are scared to be open to the wonder working power of God. When you’re at your lowest, it’s hard to be hopeful, but the story of God is a story of victory after defeat, healing after injury, and life after death.

If only we are open.


Wherever I am closed, Lord, open me. Peel me back. Dig me out. Help me bloom. Let me be open to the hope that is in you, and the Life that you planted deep within me on the day of my baptism. Amen.

Household faith activity

Have everyone go around the home and find something that is closed. (A jewelry box. A walnut. A flower that hasn’t yet bloomed…) Bring everyone together with their found objects and talk about how this closed thing can sometimes remind of themselves . Have everyone talk about what they tend to be “closed” to. (Perhaps it’s taking time off. Or listening to someone else. Or owning up to being wrong. Or forgiving another person.) Then talk about what ti would look like if everyone could be opened. What would the household look like if everyone was more open? Pray the prayer together.

Social Media Flannelgraph

Post a picture of something that has opened, something beautiful, something in full bloom. Share how God is opening you in the same way.


forgiveness on the lips: Charleston

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Jesus / New Testament

Like most preachers, I’ve been struggling with what to say this week.

Struggling with what to say to others, when I am coming up painfully short with something to say to myself.

And then, like a breath of fresh wind straight from the Holy Spirit, the families of the victims have begun to speak. And what’s the word we hear?


It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?

We can come with ramped up anti-racism programs – and I hope we do. We can march against gun violence – and we will. We can fight the systems which hold up the infrastructure that allows people think such things and commit such acts – and we will try.

But, while those are great and necessary answers, what did Jesus do when he was persecuted and killed?

“Father forgive them.”

Hanging on the cross, forgiveness was on Jesus’ mouth. Forgiveness was on the mouths of countless martyrs on their way to execution. Forgiveness was on the mouths of the Amish after a schoolhouse massacre. Forgiveness was on the mouth of the coptic church after Isis killed their people.

Forgiveness is what we do. It’s what we have.

Really, it’s all we’ve got in the arsenal. That and love. We look to the holster and hope to find wrath, and judgement, retaliation and condemnation so strong it makes toes curl and people think twice.

But, as Christians it not what we have. We have forgiveness. It’s the only arrow in the quill.

It’s how we respond to tragedy, and attack, and pain. It’s a witness to the world of the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus. AND, it’s a call and challenge to Charleston and the world, to be filled with grace and mercy at all times .

A world filled with grace and mercy has no space left over for violence, or hatred, or racism.

Racism and hatred aren’t the disease, they are the symptoms of lives lived in the absence of love.

I never met the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. But I am proud to call him a brother in Christ, and fellow minister. He set the bar high for all of us in the ministry. He helped lead and form a Christian community that is so mature and spiritually sound that after finding itself in the middle of the Valley of the Shadow of Death they instinctively do what Jesus does: forgive.

They will make monuments to the martyrs of Charleston. And, I hope they do. But, the monument could reach as high as the sky, and it still won’t be able to outdo the living monument of the faith of Emanuel AME Church. Their life and witness is the monument that matters.

In our Gospel lesson this weekend we will find Jesus asleep in a boat that is being tossed by the wind and waves of a storm, and into that storm he speaks “peace”. In Charleston’s storm it’s Jesus’ followers who cry out for peace and grace in the storm.

They know the story well, and so they know what to do.

May we pray for them. May we be like them. And, may we have the strength to have forgiveness on our lips so as to fill our world with grace and mercy, that there might not be room for anything else.

Ezekiel 17:22-24 – the sprig

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Creation / Lectionary / Major Prophets / Old Testament / Year B

Ezekiel 17:22-24 is the Hebrew Bible Lesson properly appointed for Proper 6B, Track 2 according to the Revised Common Lectionary.

The king had abandoned the covenant that God had made with his people, and instead was looking to buttress himself with an alliance with the Egyptians. Instead of drawing strength from God, the king was looking towards the help of another nation.

This does not please God. And, so judgment will follow.

But, judgment isn’t all about smiting and captivity.

God will lay low the faithless ruling class, but God’s tenderness for God’s people is still very much in play. And, that’s where this little poem comes in. A sprig will be plucked from a mighty tree and planted on a high mountain, and that sprig will be able to grow into a mighty tree. And, it will be so great, that it will be a haven for everything that has wing and takes to the sky.

It’s actually a tremendously beautiful and majestic image: the great tree on the great mountain becoming the great refuge. It’s the imagery of flourishing, flourishing which is possible when one doesn’t just rely on one’s own strength and wisdom, but rather has faith that God is with us, is working for us, and loves us enough to be there even in life’s darkest moments.

Planted by God, even in the night we will rise to the sky.

Genesis 3:8-15 – broken

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Creation / Lectionary / Old Testament / Pentateuch / Year B

Genesis 3:8-15 is the Hebrew Bible Lesson properly appointed for Proper 5B, Track 2 according to the Revised Common Lectionary.

The story of the Garden in Genesis is the story of brokenness. And, as such, it’s a story that we know all too well. We know it in our bones.

In the beginning, after God had drawn us out of the clay and filled us with His breath, God was right there with us. He walked with us in the Garden. He talked with us in the Garden. He told us where to find food. He made sure we had companions.

Did you catch the fact that as the evening breeze moved through the Garden that we heard the Presence of God moving among the trees? Wow. What must THAT have heard like?!

It was good. It was very good.

And then we broke it.

Yes, we ate of the tree. And, that was bad enough. But, it was not the end.

We felt our nakedness, and because of that we were afraid when God came around.

We were never afraid before. That was new. And that was bad.

And then, we tried to push off the responsibility. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” (emphasis mine)

I didn’t give myself this woman. You gave her to me. What were you thinking? If she hadn’t been around trying to trick me…

We couldn’t even own up to our mistake. We couldn’t just stand there naked and reveal the naked truth that we had screwed up.

Who knows? Perhaps if we had the fortitude to confess our wrongdoing, and ask for forgiveness, things might not have been as broken. Or at least the broken thing could be addressed, and the painful process of repairing the brokenness could have begun either in Eden or East of it.

But, no, what began was fear and finger pointing.

Here’s the thing: We all stand naked before God. God knows who we are and what we do. We might fool everyone around us. We might even fool ourselves. But, we will never fool God.

But, we need not stand there in fear. And we shouldn’t do anything but realize our own fault when it is in fact our fault.

Only then can the brokenness be repaired.

good advice from an unlikely source: a reflection on matthew 2:1-12

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Gospels / Jesus / New Testament

The following is a reflection on Matthew 2:1–12, the Gospel lesson appointed for the Second Sunday after Christmas, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.

Sometimes the truth comes from the most unlikely of places. King Herod was a wicked, wicked man. He was guilty of the most despicable of crimes against humanity.

And yet, his directive to the magi was spot on.

Go and search diligently for the child.

Was better advice ever given?

It could be the words of angels, or prophets, or sages. It could be the advice of the magi upon their return from the Christ-child.

A little ray of light bursting forth from the darkness.

I think that they are words spoken for us. To us.

We are to search diligently for the child. It’s our life’s work.

Where do we find him?

Sometimes within us. Sometimes the search for God takes us no further than closing the eyes and the stilling the mind. We were created in God’s Image, and God’s Holy Breathe is within us. In our home. In our family. In our most beloved. In the joy and in the excruciating pain of life’s experiences.

Sometimes outside of us. In the face of another, who is also created in the image of God. In serving those who are in need. In the sick, the dying, the distressed, the depressed, the hungry, and the lost. In the Holy Scriptures, the Body and the Blood of the Holy Eucharist, the assembled Body of Christ in worship.

We search diligently in the most remarkable of places, and in the most ordinary of places. In the cathedral and in the checkout counter. In the shrine and in the cinema. In the washing of the feet, and in the washing of the dishes.

God is all around us. Within us. Above us, as our shield. Beside us, as our friend. Beneath us, as our rock and foundation.

God is where We begin our journey, where we end our journey, and along the entire route of the path we take.

But, if we aren’t diligent, if we aren’t searching or looking, we will miss Christ at every turn, at every glance inward, and in every gaze towards the horizon.

Go and search diligently for the child. It’s good advice, from the most unlikely of sources.