Scripture Paraphrases

The Laughing Bird Scripture Paraphrases were inspired by “The Message”, the scripture paraphrase work of Eugene Peterson, and in many places is indebted to that work. During the Easter season, 2000, our congregation tried using “The Message” for the scripture readings in worship and found that while its contemporary idiom and vivid imagery made the lections more lively and confronting, there were two problems. Firstly, The Message seems to have been written for private reading rather than for reading out loud. Peterson often renders ideas by using newly hyphenated words or visual emphases that which work very well to the eye but are difficult to read in a way that carries to the ear. Secondly, being an idiomatic paraphrase, it was very American and often used idioms or words that were unfamiliar to Australian ears. So, being unable to find an Aussie equivalent, we began producing one. These readings are deliberately Australian and are written for reading out loud. It probably won’t ever be a full Bible, but it now covers everything included in the Revised Common Lectionary. Our experience is that they arrest people’s attention and demand a hearing when read out loud, but we don’t recommend making them generally available to people for use in their personal Bible study. There is still something important about wrestling with the strange “otherness” of the scriptures.

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Great Paschal Vigil
-t
he Feast of the Baptism of our Lord in Year B (1:1-5)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

At the outset, when God created the universe,
the earth was lifeless and shapeless;
a deep ocean of chaos, shrouded in darkness;
brooded over by the Spirit of God.

Then God called for light,
and light appeared.
God saw that light was a good thing,
and separated it from the darkness.
God named the light Day,
and the darkness Night.
Evening passed and morning came;
the first day was done.

Then God called for a clear space
to keep out the water on either side.
God made the clear space
and the water was split in two, above and below.
That is what happened,
and God named the space Sky.
Evening passed and morning came;
the second day was done.

Then God called for the waters under the sky
to be pooled into one place
and for dry land to appear elsewhere.
That is what happened,
and God named the dry land Earth
and the pooled waters Sea.
God saw that this was a good thing.

Then God called for the earth to produce vegetation:
plants and trees, rich with fertile fruits and seed,
and that is what happened.
The earth burst forth with vegetation of every kind;
grasses and vines, shrubs and trees,
fertile with seeds and fruits of every kind.
God saw that this was a good thing.
Evening passed and morning came;
the third day was done.

Then God called for lights in the space called sky;
lights to shine from above and light up the earth,
to separate day from night,
and to mark out the months, seasons and years.
That is what happened;
God made stars to fill the sky
and two big lights:
a bright one to dominate the day,
and a soft one to take over at night.
God set them all in the sky
to light up the earth and determine day and night;
to separate out the light from the darkness.
God saw that this was a good thing.
Evening passed and morning came;
the fourth day was done.

Then God called for the waters to fill with living creatures,
and for the skies to fill with birds flying over the earth.
God created all the creatures that live and move in the water,
the enormous monsters of the sea and the teeming fish,
and every kind of bird that wings its way through the air.
God saw that this was a good thing
and set them up for life,
encouraging the fish to multiply and fill the seas
and the birds to multiply all over the earth.
Evening passed and morning came;
the fifth day was done.

Then God called for the earth to bring forth all sorts of living creatures:
insects, reptiles, mammals;
animals of every kind, tame and wild.
That is what happened;
God made wild animals of every kind to fill the earth,
every kind of herd and flock,
and every creature that runs or jumps or crawls on land.
God saw that this was a good thing.

Then God said:
“We will make people in our own image,
modelling them on ourselves.
We will entrust to them the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, the flocks and herds,
and all the wild animals and creepy-crawlies.”

So God created people as a reflection of God,
created them to be like God,
created them male and female.

God set them up for life,
and encouraged them to multiply and fill the earth.
God told them to exercise control over the earth
and to manage the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air and every living thing on earth.

God said to the people:
“Look, I have given you the grain crops
that grow and reproduce themselves all over the earth,
and all the trees that grow from seed and bear fruit;
they are all yours for food.
I have also provided vegetation galore
as food for the animals, birds and creepy-crawlies,
for everything that lives and breathes.

So it all happened, just as God said.
Everything God had made was there to be seen
and God was delighted with it all.
Evening passed and morning came;
the sixth day was done.

With that, the universe was complete,
along with everything that fills it.
With the work finished,
God took the seventh day off.

After all the work God had done,
the seventh day was a well earned rest.
So God made the seventh day special,
a sacred day,
because that day was God’s day off
after all the work of creating everything.

So that’s the family lineage of the universe;
the story of how everything came to be.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- 1st Sunday in Lent in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD God put the humans in the garden of Eden so that they could tend the garden and look after it. The LORD God gave them these instructions: “You are free to eat the fruit from every tree in the garden except one. There is one tree whose fruit you must not eat, for just one bite of it and your minds will start dividing everything up into good and evil. The day that happens, you lose your life.”

Now, among the wild animals which the LORD God had made, the most devious of all was the snake. The snake approached the woman one day and said, “Did God tell you you couldn’t eat fruit from the trees in the garden?”

The woman replied, “We are free to eat fruit from any tree in the garden except for one tree in the middle. God told us not to eat its fruit or even touch it because if we do we will die.”

But the snake said to the woman, “You would not die. God knows very well that if you eat that fruit you will be able to see what you cannot yet see. You will be like God, because you be able to judge good and evil.”

Then the woman stared at the fruit on the tree. It was beautiful, and not only looked delicious, but now it looked to her like a desirable shortcut to great wisdom, so she took a piece of the fruit and ate it. The man was with her, so she gave some to him and he ate it too. Suddenly they saw everything through different eyes. Feeling exposed, and needing to cover up, they sewed fig leaves together to hide their nakedness.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 22 in Year B (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

After creating the man, the LORD God said, “It is a bit tough for the man to be all alone. I will make a partner for him, to share the load.”

So getting to work, the LORD God formed from the ground all the land animals and the birds of the air. The LORD brought them to the man to see what he would make of them. The man gave each living creature its first name, and the names stuck. He named them all: the wild animals, the farm animals, and the birds of the air. But none of them made the grade as a suitable partner for the man. So the LORD God put the man into a deep sleep, out for the count. While the man was under, the LORD removed one of his ribs and sealed up the flesh where it had come from. And then, using the rib from the man’s side, the LORD God fashioned a woman, and brought her to the man. This time the man said,

“Yes! At last! One of my own kind!
My own flesh and blood!
This one will be called Woman,
because there is a part of me in her from the start.”

That is why men and women leave their parents and tie the knot with one another. They become an item — one flesh.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 5 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

In the cool of the evening breeze, Adam and Eve heard the LORD God walking towards them in the garden. They panicked and hid behind the some trees, trying to avoid coming face to face with the LORD God. But the LORD God was looking for them, and called out to them, saying, “Where are you?”

The man said, “I heard you coming through the garden and I panicked because I was stark naked, so I dived for cover.”

The LORD God asked, “Who pointed out that you were naked? It never bothered you before. Have you eaten fruit from the tree that I clearly told you not to eat from?”

The man said, “It wasn’t my fault. You put this woman here with me. She gave me the fruit and I ate it.”

So the LORD God turned to the woman and said, “What’s the story? What have you done?”

The woman replied, “I was tricked into eating it by the snake.”

So the LORD God passed sentence on each of them, beginning with the snake, saying,

“A curse upon you for what you have done.
You of all the animals, cursed!
You of all the wild creatures, cursed!

Down on your belly you go!
Face down: you can eat dust
for the rest of your life!

You and the woman will be sworn enemies.
There will always be war
between your offspring and hers.

Her offspring will go for your head
and you will go for his heel.

©2014 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- 9th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year A
- Proper 4 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

This is the story of Noah. Noah was a man who always did the right thing by everybody: the only person of real integrity on the earth in that generation. Noah and his wife had three sons named Shem, Ham and Japheth.

The rest of the human race had become totally corrupt and violent, and God was sick of the sight of it. Seeing how depraved everyone had become, God spoke to Noah and said:

“I have made up my mind to wipe the human race off the face of the earth, because they have made the earth a violent and heartless place. So now I am going to destroy them and wipe the planet clean, ready for a fresh start. Build yourself an enormous lifeboat according to these specifications. Use marine-quality timbers for the construction and apply a waterproof lining of tar, inside and out. Build it with three deck levels and many cabins. The overall dimensions are to be as follows: a length of 150 metres; a width of 25 metres; and a height of 15 metres. Build a roof over the top with a half metre clearance between it and the top of the side walls. Build the lifeboat with a single entrance on the side.

“What I am going to do is completely flood the earth with water to wipe out everything that lives and breathes on it. Every creature on earth will die. But I am going to form a new alliance with life on earth, setting it up with you. You are to move into the lifeboat along with your wife, your sons, and their wives. You are also to take on board a male and a female of every kind of living creature to keep them alive with you. Every kind of bird, every kind of animal, and every kind of creepy-crawly on earth: take with you a breeding pair of each to keep them alive. You are also to store a full range of food on board the life-boat; enough to feed your family and all the animals.”

So Noah went ahead and followed God’s instructions to the letter. Sure enough, the swollen waters flooded the earth for one hundred and fifty days. Even after that, everyone had to stay on board for nearly three months more while the earth dried out. Eventually God said to Noah:

“It is time for you and your whole family to leave the lifeboat. Unload all the living creatures that are with you; all the birds and animals and creepy-crawlies of every kind. Release them so that they can breed like rabbits and restock the earth.”

So Noah disembarked with his wife and their sons and their son’s wives. And out of the lifeboat with them came all the animals, all the creepy-crawlies, and all the birds – breeding pairs of every kind of creature that lives on the earth.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Great Paschal Vigil
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD said to Noah:

“I want you and your family to board the giant lifeboat you have built, because you are the only person alive who does the right thing in my eyes. It is time to move the animals on board too. Take seven breeding pairs of every kind of animal that can be offered in worship, one breeding pair of every kind that cannot, and seven pairs of every kind of flying bird. In this way we will ensure the survival of all their species on the earth. You’ve only got seven days before the rain starts, so get cracking. I will make it bucket down, day and night, for forty days, to wipe every living thing from the face of the earth, everything I have created.”

So Noah got stuck into it and followed the LORD’s instructions to the letter. Noah was six hundred years old at the time, and sure enough, on the seventeenth day of the second month that year, great torrents of water came flooding up from beneath the ground and the clouds burst from above. Rain bucketed down, day and night, for forty days. The very day it began, Noah finished loading the lifeboat and moved in with his wife, his three sons — Shem, Ham and Japheth — and their three wives. On board they had loaded every kind of animal, wild and domestic, every kind of creepy-crawly, and every kind of bird and flying animal. There were breeding pairs of every species that lives and breathes on the earth, and they all went on board the lifeboat with Noah. Noah had rounded them all up and herded them into the boat, just as God had instructed him, and when they were all aboard, the LORD closed the door to keep them in.

The flood waters surged over the earth for forty days, and as the waters rose the lifeboat floated up well clear of the ground below. The waters continued to swell, becoming deeper and deeper over the earth, but the lifeboat floated safely on the surface.

When the rain stopped after forty days, Noah opened a window in the lifeboat he had built, and released a crow. It never came back, but kept flying back and forth until the waters had dried up. So Noah released a pigeon, in order to find out whether the waters had subsided enough to find dry land. But the pigeon returned to the boat, because the water was still too deep and it couldn’t find anywhere else to land. Noah put out his hand for the bird to land on and brought it back inside. He waited another seven days and then released the pigeon from the boat again. That evening the pigeon came back carrying a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak, so Noah knew that the waters had subsided enough for the land to begin drying out. Seven days later he released the pigeon again, and this time it never came back.

They had been in the lifeboat for nearly a year before the flood was gone completely. It was New Year’s Day when Noah opened up the roof of the boat and took a look around. He could see that the ground was still soggy, but drying fast. Eventually, on the twenty seventh day of the second month that year, the earth was dry enough, and God said to Noah:

“It is time for you and your whole family to leave the lifeboat. Unload all the living creatures that are with you; all the birds and animals and creepy-crawlies of every kind. Release them so that they can breed like rabbits and restock the earth.”

So Noah disembarked with his wife and their sons and their son’s wives. Then God said to Noah and his family:

“I, myself, am forging an alliance with you, and with all your descendants to come, and with every living creature; all the birds, domestic animals, and wild animals of the earth who came out of the lifeboat with you. In the terms of this alliance which I am forging with you, I am giving you my word that never again will all life be wiped out by a flood. There will never be another flood that will totally destroy the earth. I am making this alliance between me and you and all the living creatures that are with you, and I am signing it in the clouds. The rainbow that I have put in the clouds for you all to see is my signature on the alliance between me and the earth.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 1st Sunday in Lent in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

God said to Noah and his family:

“I, myself, am forging an alliance with you, and with all your descendants to come, and with every living creature; all the birds, domestic animals, and wild animals of the earth who came out of the lifeboat with you. In the terms of this alliance which I am forging with you, I am giving you my word that never again will all life be wiped out by a flood. There will never be another flood that will totally destroy the earth. I am making this alliance between me and you and all the living creatures that are with you, and I am signing it in the clouds. The rainbow that I have put in the clouds for you all to see is my signature on the alliance between me and the earth. Whenever I make the clouds gather and my rainbow signature becomes visible there, I will remember the alliance that governs my relationship with you and with every living creature on earth. I will remember, and the waters will never again become a flood that wipes out all life on earth. I will see the rainbow which I have signed in the clouds and remember that I am party to a permanent binding alliance with every living creature of every kind on the earth. I assure you, Noah, that with this signature that you see in the clouds, I have sealed the alliance between me, God, and the entire community of living creatures on the earth.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
-the Day of Pentecost in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

In ancient times, everyone in the whole world spoke the same language and could understand each other clearly. As the human race spread out towards the East, they settled the plains region in an area known as Shinar. Once there, an enormous project was proposed:

“Come one and all, let’s build ourselves a great city with the world’s tallest skyscraper. Let’s use the latest technology: kiln-fired bricks instead of stone, and bitumen instead of mortar. Let’s earn ourselves a global reputation for innovation and excellence. If we don’t, we’ll be nothing but mediocre little mobs, scattered all over the world!”

So the project was begun, and the LORD came down for a look. Seeing the construction of the city and the skyscraper underway, the LORD said:

“Look, these people are getting too big for their boots, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. United by a common language and common ambition, there will be no stopping them. Come, let us go down and reprogram their tongues so that they will begin to speak in different languages and not be able to understand each other.”

So the LORD split them up into different language groups and scattered them across the face of the globe. The construction of the city was abandoned. The place came to be known as Babel because it was there that the peoples’ languages became like confused babble to one another and they split up into separate tribes that kept away from each other.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- 2nd Sunday in Lent in Year C
Proper 14 in Year C  (v.1-6) (Themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD spoke to Abram in a vision, saying, “Abram, don’t you worry about a thing. I am your armour-plated protection and you will be greatly rewarded for your loyalty to me.”

But Abram said, “Thank you, Lord GOD, but the only thing I really want is the one thing you’ve never given me: children. I have longed for children of my own but you have not given me any. When I die, there will be no one to carry on my family name, and since the only person born in my house is Eliezer, my Turkish servant; he will inherit everything I own.

But the LORD spoke to Abram again, saying, “Eliezer will not be your heir. You will be able to pass on your property to a child of your own.”

The LORD took Abram outside and said, “Look at the night sky, Abram. See if you can count how many stars there are. You can’t, can you? Well, your descendants will be as uncountable as the stars in the night sky.”

Abram took the LORD’s word on trust, and for that the LORD regarded him as a good man.

The LORD spoke to Abram further, saying, “It was me who brought you safely here when you emigrated from the Chaldean land of Ur. It was me who gave you this land.”

But Abram said, “Lord GOD, how can I know for sure that this land is mine to keep?”

The LORD replied, “Okay, I’ll go through the ritual of a binding promise. On pain of death, you will have my word. You go and set up what is customary for the ceremony.”

So the next morning, Abram slaughtered three animals: a heifer, a ram, and a female goat — each three years old. He cut them in half and laid the halves opposite each other in two lines. He also killed a turtledove and a pigeon and laid one in each line. For the rest of the day, while he waited for the ceremony to commence, he was kept busy protecting the carcasses from the birds of prey.

When the sun went down, Abram was surrounded by a dense and awesome darkness, and he fell into a deep sleep. When the last glow was gone from the sky and everything was pitch black, the presence of the LORD appeared as a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, and passed between the pieces of animal carcass. That completed the ritual, and in that way, the LORD made a binding promise to Abram, saying, “You have my word that I will give this land to your descendants, all the way from the Egyptian border to the great Euphrates river.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 2nd Sunday in Lents in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

One day, when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD turned up and spoke to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. You are to live your life openly before me, with absolute integrity. I will put in place an alliance between me and you, and under its terms, I will make sure you have a huge number of descendants.”

Abram dropped in his tracks with his face to the ground as God continued to speak to him, saying:

“I, myself, am forging this alliance with you: I am promising that you will be the ancestor of a whole bunch of nations. You are not to be known by the name Abram anymore. From now on, your name will be Abraham, because it means ‘the father of many’, and that is what you will be. I will make everything go well for you, and your family will multiply rapidly. From among your offspring, whole nations and kings will emerge. I will put this alliance in place between me and you and all who are to come in your family line through all generations. This alliance will last forever, committing me to being God to you and to your descendants after you for all time.

Your wife Sarai is in on this alliance too. However her name is to change too. From now on her name will be Sarah. I will see to it that things go well for her, and what’s more, she and you will conceive a child together and she will give birth to a son. I will make things go well for Sarah, and in time, nations and great rulers will trace their family line back to her.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
Proper 11 in Year C (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

One blazing hot summer afternoon, Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent, when the LORD appeared to him. Looking up, Abraham saw three strangers approaching him. He immediately jumped up and hurried to welcome them as honoured guests. He said, “Please allow me the honour of sharing the hospitality of my home with you. Come in. Take a bath. Put your feet up for a bit. Let me serve you up a meal so that you can leave refreshed and strengthened. I would count it a favour to have the opportunity to serve you in this way.”

So they said, “Thank you, we accept.”

Abraham hurried into the tent and said, “Sarah. Quick! Knock up a batch of scones while I organise the barbecue.”

Then he ran out to his grazing herd and butchered a prime calf. He instructed one of his workers to prepare the best cuts for the barbecue. When it was all ready, he served it up for his guests with a yoghurt dip and plenty to drink, and waited on them while they ate.

During the meal, they said to him, “Where is your wife, Sarah?”

Abraham replied, “She’s inside; in the tent.”

Then one of the three said, “Mark my words! I’ll be back this way in about a year’s time, and by then your wife Sarah will have a son.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
Proper 12 in Year C (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD said to Abraham, “The reports I am hearing about the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are full of allegations of callous depravity and corruption. I have decided to go down and see for myself whether the situation is really as horrendous as the reports make out. Perhaps the people are really not so bad, but I need to know.”

So the visitors set off in the direction of Sodom, leaving Abraham in the presence of the LORD. Abraham turned to the LORD and said, “Surely you wouldn’t just wipe out everybody; the good along with the bad? What if there are fifty decent, honest people in the city? Will you still go ahead and wipe out the city instead of sparing it for the sake of the fifty good people who live there? Far be it from you to be so indiscriminate, to lump the good people in with the evil, and punish them all the same. How could you? You are the one who sits in judgment over all the earth; surely you must be seen to be fair in your own actions.”

The LORD replied, “If I find fifty decent, honest people in Sodom, I will pardon the whole city for their sake.”

Abraham spoke up again, saying, “I know I am way out of line challenging you, Lord — mere mortal that I am — but what if the count falls five short? Would five people make such a difference that you would go ahead and destroy the whole city?”

The LORD replied, “I will hold fire if I find forty-five decent people.”

Abraham pressed on: “What if you could only find forty there?”

The LORD replied, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.”

Then Abraham said, “Forgive me for pushing the issue, Lord, but what if you can only rustle up thirty?”

The LORD replied, “I will hold fire if I find thirty of them.”

“Maybe I’m pushing my luck, speaking to you like this, Lord,” said Abraham, “but let’s say you found only twenty. What then?”

The LORD replied, “For the sake of twenty I will spare the city.”

Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time; but what if you can find only ten good people in Sodom?”

“Then for the sake of those ten,” the LORD answered, “I will not destroy the city.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Great Paschal Vigil
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

This is the story of how God put Abraham to the test to find out whether he really had what it takes.

God called to him, saying, “Abraham!”

“At your service,” Abraham replied.

God said, “Go and get Isaac, your son, your only son whom you love. Take him to the mountain that I will point out to you in the land of Moriah. There you are to sacrifice him to me on an altar as a burnt offering.”

So Abraham got up early the next morning and chopped wood for the fire on the altar. He saddled his donkey and set out for the place that God had told him to go with Isaac and two of his hired hands. After three day’s journey, Abraham could finally see their destination in the distance. He said to the two hired hands, “Wait here with the donkey while the boy and I go on up there to worship. We will then return and meet you back here.”

Abraham got Isaac to carry the wood for the burnt offering, and he himself carried the knife and the coals for starting the fire. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac spoke to Abraham saying, “Father!”

“At your service, son,” Abraham replied.

“Haven’t we forgotten something?” Isaac asked. “We’ve got everything we need to get the fire going, but we haven’t brought a lamb to sacrifice as a burnt offering.”

Abraham said, “God will personally provide the lamb for the sacrifice, my son.”

So the two of them walked on together. When they arrived at the spot that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar and stacked the wood on it ready for the fire. Then he tied up his son Isaac, and laid him on top of the wood on the altar. He took the knife in hand and was about to kill his son, when the messenger of the LORD called to him from heaven, saying, “Abraham, Abraham!”

“At your service,” he replied.

The messenger said, “Put down your knife and don’t hurt the boy in any way, for now I know what I needed to know. Since you have not even drawn the line at giving up your only son for me, I know that you trust God, no matter what.”
As he looked up, Abraham saw a ram with its horns entangled in the scrub. So he went and got it, and offered up the ram on the altar as a burnt offering in place of his son.

From then on, Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide,” and a saying was coined that you still hear today: “On the LORD’s mountain all will be provided.”

The messenger of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven again, saying, “This is what the LORD says to you:

I swear to you, and give you my personal guarantee, that because you have done what I told you to do, and not even drawn the line at giving up your only son for me, I will do the right thing by you and set you up for life. I will see to it that your descendants become as countless as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore. They will defeat their enemies and take over their cities and towns. Through your offspring, a better life will be available to everyone on earth, because you obeyed when I spoke to you.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- Proper 24 in Year C   (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

As he returned from his self-imposed exile, Jacob set up camp for a night at the place where the road crossed the Jabbok Creek. During the night, he got up and decided that it would be safer to shift everyone across to the other side of the creek. So he sent his two wives, his two maids, his eleven children, and all their belongings across the creek while he stayed on alone at the original campsite. There in the darkness, he suddenly found himself wrestling with a stranger. The fight continued until the first light of dawn. Unable to subdue Jacob, the stranger swung a low blow that caught Jacob off-guard and dislocated his hip. Still Jacob would not give up, and the stranger said, “Call it quits! The sun is coming up and you’ve got a big day ahead of you, so let me go.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not release my grip until you give me a blessing.”

So the stranger said, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he replied.

“Not any more,” the stranger said. “From now on you will be known as Israel, because you have struggled against God and against people and you have held your own.”

Then Jacob said to the stranger, “Please tell me your name.”

“Do you really need to ask who I am?” the stranger replied, and then gave Jacob a blessing.

As the stranger departed, Jacob said to himself, “I have come face to face with God and survived to tell the tale!” So he named that place ‘Peniel’ which means ‘face of God’. The sun was fully risen as he left Peniel, walking with a painful limp because of his dislocated hip.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- 7th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph, your brother. Is my father still alive?”

His brothers, though, were in such a state of shock and panic that they couldn’t even answer him. Joseph called them to gather close around him and, when they did, he said:

“I am your brother, Joseph: the one you sold to the Egyptian slave traders. But don’t panic! Despite what you did, it has worked out for the best. Your actions played into God’s hands, because God was bringing me here so that I could save many lives. The land has been in the grip of drought and famine for two years already, and it’s only going to get worse. It will be another five years before crops can be sown and harvested again. You and your families would have all perished if God hadn’t brought me here ahead of you, but now you will be among the survivors. So, don’t kick yourselves: it was not you, but God, who brought me here. Because of what God has done, even Pharaoh looks up to me now. I run all his business for him, both in the palace and in the whole land of Egypt.”

Joseph then told his brothers that he wanted them to get home as quickly as possible and deliver a message to his father. This is what it said:

“Dear Dad, I am your son, Joseph, and I am alive! God has put me in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Move down here at once. I will set aside land for you in the region of Goshen so that you can live near me. There will be plenty of room for you, and for your children, your grandchildren, all your livestock, and all your possessions. The drought will last for another five years, but I will provide for you and all your family and livestock so that you will be protected from starvation.”

With tears flowing freely, Joseph hugged and kissed all his brothers, and they finally loosened up and were able to talk with him.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 19 in Year A  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

After Jacob’s funeral, Joseph’s brothers began to worry that Joseph might still be carrying a grudge against them for selling him into slavery and faking his death all those years before. They were afraid that he might have just been waiting until their father was dead before taking his revenge. So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Shortly before he died, your father put a message in his will for you, saying, ‘To my son, Joseph, I beg you to forgive your brothers for their horrendous crime against you and for all the hurt they caused you.’ So please forgive us for our crime against you. We too are in the service of the God of your father.”

Joseph broke down in tears when he got the message. His brothers came and fell to their knees before him, saying, “We are here at your mercy to do whatever you demand of us.”

But Joseph spoke to them kindly and bent over backwards to reassure them, saying, “Relax! You’ve got nothing to fear from me. I’m not setting myself up as God, so get up off your knees! I know you meant the worst for me then, but God was at work to make the most of what you did. To this day,  God is working through what you did to keep the growing multitude of God’s people safe. So don’t worry. I will personally set you up for life, you and your families.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 17 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Moses married the daughter of a Midianite priest named Jethro, and worked for him droving his sheep. One day he drove the sheep out back of beyond, and he ended up grazing them on the slopes of Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. While he was there, he saw a bush burst into flames and the messenger of the LORD appeared in the fire. As Moses watched the fire, he was amazed to see that although the fire was intense, the bush was not being burned up and reduced to ash, so he decided to go closer to see if he could work out what was going on. Having got Moses’ attention, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“At your service,” Moses replied.

“Don’t come any closer!” God said. “And take your boots off, because you are standing on a sacred site. I am the God of your ancestors; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

At that, Moses pulled his coat over his face because he was afraid to stand face to face with God. Then the LORD said:

“I have seen how my people have been chewed up and spat out in Egypt. I have heard their desperate cries for help as the slave-drivers work them into the ground. The truth is, I know what their suffering is like, and I have come down to break them free, and to bring them up out of the land of slavery. I will bring them into good land of wide open spaces, a land rich with milk and honey. It is presently occupied by the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, but I will give it to my people. The cries of the Israelites have gotten through to me, and I have seen how the tyrants are grinding them into the dirt. So come on Moses, up and at it. I will send you to the king of Egypt to bring my people, the Israelites, out of slavery in his country.”

But Moses said to God, “Hang on a minute! Why me? I must be about the least qualified person on the face of the earth for the job of negotiating with the king of Egypt for the release of his Israelite slaves!”

But God replied, “I will be with you! And this is how you will know that I have been with you: when you have got the people out of Egypt, you will worship me right here on this mountain.”

But Moses continued to protest, saying, “If I go to the Israelites and try to tell them that the God of their ancestors has sent me to them, they’ll never believe me. They will say, ‘And what name does this God go by?’ What am I to tell them then?”

God replied, “I AM who I AM. So you go and tell the Israelites that the one named I AM the LORD has sent you to them. And you can further tell them that the LORD, the God of their ancestors; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent you to them. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be addressed from now on.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Thursday of Holy Week (Maundy Thursday)
Proper 18 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

After the King of Egypt had refused to listen to all the warnings, the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron again, saying:

“Rewrite your calendars — from now on, this month is to be the beginning of the new year. Put the word out among all the Israelite people that on the tenth day of the month, each household is to obtain a lamb or a young goat to be eaten. Small households can combine with their neighbours to share one, dividing it up so that there is enough for everyone to have some. The lamb must be a healthy male yearling with no deformities — not a runt. Having obtained the lamb, the household is to keep it at home for four days. Just after sunset on the fourteenth, all the Israelites are to slaughter the lambs ready for cooking. Take some of the blood and paint it on the frame of the front door of the house where you are eating the lamb. Cook and eat it that night. Don’t serve it raw or boiled. Don’t even cut it up or gut it. Spit-roast it whole over the fire and serve it with unleavened flat-breads and bitter herbs. Eat it all that night. If there is any left over in the morning you are to burn it. When you eat it, you are to eat as though you were in a hurry and about to leave on a journey. You should be dressed and packed, with your walking boots on and your stick at hand. In this way you are to keep the feast of Passover in honour of me, the LORD.

That night, I will pass through Egypt, killing the firstborn sons of every family and the firstborn male animals. I am the LORD, and I will carry out the sentence I have passed on the gods of Egypt this night. The lamb’s blood painted on your door frames will be the sign that your households are to be exempted. I will pass over every house that I see marked with the blood, and you will not be touched by the plague that will strike down the Egyptians.

Remember this day and, in every generation to come, celebrate it as an annual festival to honour me, the LORD.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Great Paschal Vigil
- Proper 19 in Year A (14: 19-31)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

When the Israelites stopped near the Red Sea, they looked back over their shoulders and saw the King of Egypt and his whole army in hot pursuit. They began to cry out in panic:

“God help us! What are you doing to us, Moses? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Weren’t there enough graves there, so you had to take us off to be slaughtered in the outback? Didn’t we tell you it would come to this, when we were still safe in Egypt? We said ‘Don’t rock the boat, Moses. Leave us be. We are better off working as slaves in Egypt than ending up dead in the outback.’ Didn’t we tell you?”

But Moses replied in a speech, saying:

“Don’t panic! Hold your nerve, and you will see the LORD take action to rescue you, right here and now. Take a last look at your oppressors while you can, because you will never see them alive again. The LORD will fight this battle for you. That should shut you up!”

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

“Why all this whingeing to me? Tell the Israelites to get travelling. Hold up your walking stick and stretch out your hand towards the sea. Slice it open, so that the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on a dry track. The Egyptian army are so pig-headed that they will go in after the people, and when they do, I will cover myself in glory by defeating the King of Egypt and all his armoured vehicles and soldiers. Then all Egypt will understand that I AM the LORD.”

    The angel of God who had been in front of the Israelites now moved around and took up a new position, covering them from the rear. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front of them and settled in a position behind them, making it impossible for the Egyptians and the Israelites to see each other. The cloud shrouded the Egyptian camp in darkness and lit up the night over the Israelite camp, and the night passed without any contact between the two camps.

Then Moses stretched out his hand towards the sea, and, with a violent wind that blew all night, the LORD forced back the sea, carving out a track of dry ground right through the middle of the water. The Israelites trooped into the sea on the dry track with the angry waters towering over them on either side. The Egyptian soldiers gave chase, charging into the middle of the sea aboard their horses and armoured vehicles. Just before dawn, the LORD looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and began to wreak havoc among them, bogging their vehicles and leaving them stuck in the middle. In panic, the soldiers began shouting, “Run for your lives! Get away from these Israelites because the LORD is on their side fighting against us!”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand towards the sea again so that the water will surge back over the Egyptian army and all their soldiers and armoured vehicles.”

So Moses stretched out his hand towards the sea, and as the dawn broke, the sea came crashing back down on top of the fleeing army. The LORD trapped the soldiers in the middle of the sea, and when the waters had closed over and returned to normal, there wasn’t a soldier or a vehicle left. The Israelites had walked through the sea on a dry track with the angry waters towering over them on either side, but the entire army of the King of Egypt had been swallowed up by the sea while pursuing them.

So that day the LORD rescued the people of Israel from their oppressors, and the people saw all the dead soldiers washed up on the shore. When they saw the power of the LORD’s action against their oppressors, the people were in awe of the LORD and put their trust in the LORD and in Moses who was working for the LORD.

Then the prophet Miriam, who was Aaron’s sister, led the women in a dance of celebration, playing tambourines and singing:

“Our song is for you, LORD,
for you have won a glorious victory!
You have tossed the soldiers and warhorses into the sea!”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 19 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The prophet Miriam, who was Aaron’s sister, led the women in a dance of celebration, playing tambourines and singing:

Our song is for you, LORD,
for you have won a glorious victory!
You have tossed the soldiers and warhorses into the sea!

We would be nothing without you, LORD,
but with you, we are strong.
You are our God, and we sing your praises;
the God of our ancestors,
and we applaud you long and loud.

You are the greatest hero, LORD;
LORD by name, LORD by reputation.

You swept the tyrant’s armoured vehicles and soldiers into the sea;
all his top brass disappeared beneath the waves.

The surging waters closed over them,
and they sank like a stone into the murky depths.

With your bare hands, LORD,
you put on an awesome display of power;
you rolled up your sleeves and decimated the enemy.

With the full force of your majestic power,
you defeated your opponents;
they ignited your anger
and were gone like dry grass in a bushfire.

The fearsome blast of your fury cut a swathe through the waters;
the surging depths were heaped up on each side;
the wild ocean set like jelly, all the way down.

The tyrants said, “We’ll give chase, we can catch them.
All that they have will be ours, all we could ever want.
We will turn our weapons on them and wipe them out.”

You sent your wind howling after them and closed the sea over them;
they sank like a stone and were never seen again.

You are in a league of your own, LORD;
Nothing else is worthy of our devotion.
Nothing can compete with you for awesome grandeur;
Nothing else can match your record
for getting the job done against the odds.

Our song is for you, LORD,
for you have won a glorious victory!
You have tossed the soldiers and warhorses into the sea!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Great Paschal Vigil
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The prophet Miriam, who was Aaron’s sister, led the women in a dance of celebration, playing tambourines and singing:

Our song is for you, LORD,
for you have won a glorious victory!
You have tossed the soldiers and warhorses into the sea!

We would be nothing without you, LORD,
but with you, we are strong.
You are our God, and we sing your praises;
the God of our ancestors,
and we applaud you long and loud.

You are the greatest hero, LORD;
LORD by name, LORD by reputation.

You swept the tyrant’s armoured vehicles and soldiers into the sea;
all his top brass disappeared beneath the waves.

The surging waters closed over them,
and they sank like a stone into the murky depths.

With your bare hands, LORD,
you put on an awesome display of power;
you rolled up your sleeves and decimated the enemy.

With the full force of your majestic power,
you defeated your opponents;
they ignited your anger
and were gone like dry grass in a bushfire.

The fearsome blast of your fury cut a swathe through the waters;
the surging depths were heaped up on each side;
the wild ocean set like jelly, all the way down.

The tyrants said, “We’ll give chase, we can catch them.
All that they have will be ours, all we could ever want.
We will turn our weapons on them and wipe them out.”

You sent your wind howling after them and closed the sea over them;
they sank like a stone and were never seen again.

You are in a league of your own, LORD;
Nothing else is worthy of our devotion.
Nothing can compete with you for awesome grandeur;
Nothing else can match your record
for getting the job done against the odds.

When you got involved, LORD,
the planet opened its mouth and swallowed up our oppressors.

With love and loyalty, you led the people you had reclaimed;
with protective strength, you guided them to your sacred home.

You brought them home to your holy mountain, LORD,
and let them put down roots in the place you call your own,
the sacred place that you built with your own hands.

May you rule forever and ever, LORD!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 20 in Year A
Proper 13 in Year B (v.2-4, 9-15  themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Once they were on their own in the outback, the Israelite people began to lose their nerve and worry about how they were going to survive, and the whole crowd started whingeing and criticising Moses and Aaron. The people were saying, “We would have been better off waiting for the LORD to kill us back in Egypt. At least there was always a pot of stew on the boil there, and as much bread as we could eat. But you two have dragged us out into the scrub so that you can starve us all to death out here.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to make bread fall from the sky like rain for you. Each day the people are to go out and collect enough for that day only. I am going to test out the people to see whether or not they will do what I tell them. They are not to stockpile it, except on the day before the Sabbath day off, when there will be twice as much as usual for them to collect and prepare.”

So Moses and Aaron spoke to the people saying, “You have been whingeing about the LORD, and the LORD has heard you and is going to do something about your complaint. This evening you will be convinced that it was the LORD who got you out of the land of slavery, and in the morning you will witness the glory of the LORD. So stop giving us such a hard time.”

And Moses added, “You will know that it is the LORD's doing when you have meat for dinner in the evening and all the bread you can eat in the morning, because the LORD has listened to your complaints and responded. Then you will realise that we had nothing to do with it, and that your whingeing has not been about us but about the LORD.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Give this message to the whole Israelite congregation: ‘Draw close to the LORD, for the LORD has listened to your complaints.’”

And even as Aaron was addressing the gathered people, they looked out across the desert and witnessed an awesome display of the LORD’s glory in the clouds.

The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “Because I have listened to the people’s problems, I want you to give them this message: ‘At sundown you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have plenty of bread. Then you will know for sure that I am the LORD your God.”

That evening, an enormous flock of game birds came in and settled all over the camp where the people could pick them off with ease. Then in the morning, the ground was covered in dew, and as the dew dried, it left a layer of fine flaky stuff on the ground. It looked like a light sprinkling of snow on the desert floor. When the people saw it, they had no idea what it was and began to ask one another, “What on earth is this stuff?”

Moses told them, “This is the bread that the LORD has provided for you to gather up and eat.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 21 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The whole gathered people of Israel pushed on from the Sen Desert, making the journey in manageable stages as the LORD directed them. At the end of one stage, they set up camp at a place called Rephidim, only to find that there was no drinking water in the area. The people started getting stuck into Moses again and demanding that he provide them with water to drink. But Moses said to them, “What are you taking it out on me for? Are you trying to provoke the LORD into losing patience with you?”

But the people’s thirst was becoming severe, and the more desperate they became, the more they blamed Moses. “Now look at the mess you’ve got us into,” they said. “Is this what you dragged us all out of Egypt for: to watch us die in a parched desert, and our children and livestock with us?

So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What am I supposed to do with these people? They are nearly ready to tear me limb from limb.”

The LORD replied, “Take some of the Israelite tribal leaders with you, and go on ahead of the people. Take your hiking stick with you — the same one you used to strike the waters of the Nile. I will be waiting for you at the rock at Mount Sinai. Give the rock a good thump with your stick, and water will come pouring out of it for everyone to drink.”

In full view of the tribal leaders, Moses did as the LORD had told him, and sure enough, there was water for everyone. From then on, Moses referred to that place by either of two names: Massah, which means ‘testing’, because the people had tested the LORD’s patience; and Meribah, which means ‘dispute’, because the people had questioned the LORD’s loyalty.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 22 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

God spoke the following words to the people:

I am the LORD your God; the one who brought you out of the land where you were oppressed, and freed you from a life of slavery. You are not to have any other gods ahead of me.

You are not to make anything else into an object of devotion ahead of me. I don’t care whether it is some heavenly presence, or something in the world around you, or something deep at the centre of everything; you are not to dedicate yourself to such things or to worship them.

You are not to exploit my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will not let anyone get away with dragging my name through the mud.

Keep up the practice of making Saturday a dedicated rest day. You are to work on your business, projects, and chores on the other six days, and keep the seventh day as a rest day, dedicated to me, the LORD your God.

Treat those who have raised you with due respect, and your future will be secure in the land that I, the LORD your God, am giving you.

Do not kill anyone.

Do not engage in any relationship that betrays or trivialises anyone.

Do not steal what rightly belongs to others.

Do not sacrifice the truth about someone else in order to win your case.

Do not desire things that belong to other people. Do not go wishing you could get your hands on someone else’s home or lover or employees or assets or anything else.

As God spoke these words, thunder crashed, lightening flashed, trumpet blasts rang out, and smoke poured from the mountain. The people were terrified by all this, and stood at a distance, quaking in their boots. They begged Moses to do something, saying, “You tell us what God wants us to hear and we will listen; but we will die if you let God go on speaking to us directly.”

Moses replied, “There is no need to be afraid. God has come simply to make sure that you are for real. This will bring you to your knees before God and keep you on the straight and narrow.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 3rd Sunday in Lent in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

God spoke the following words to the people:

I am the LORD your God; the one who brought you out of the land where you were oppressed, and freed you from a life of slavery. You are not to have any other gods ahead of me.

You are not to make anything else into an object of devotion ahead of me. I don’t care whether it is some heavenly presence, or something in the world around you, or something deep at the centre of everything; you are not to dedicate yourself to such things or to worship them. I am the LORD your God, and I want your undivided love. If people reject me, they will cop the consequences for their betrayal, and their children will be copping it for several generations to come. But those who love me and live by my instructions will enjoy my rock-solid love and loyalty for a thousand generations.

You are not to exploit my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will not let anyone get away with dragging my name through the mud.

Keep up the practice of making Saturday a dedicated rest day. You are to work on your business, projects, and chores on the other six days, and keep the seventh day as a rest day, dedicated to me, the LORD your God. You are not to do any work that day, and you are not to ask anyone else to work either — not your family, not your employees, not the migrant workers who live down the street, and not even your animals. I am the LORD, and I spent six days making the earth, sea and sky and everything in them, and then took the seventh day off. That is why I made the dedicated rest day so special, and set it apart as a sacred day.

Treat those who have raised you with due respect, and your future will be secure in the land that I, the LORD your God, am giving you.

Do not kill anyone.

Do not engage in any relationship that betrays or trivialises anyone.

Do not steal what rightly belongs to others.

Do not sacrifice the truth about someone else in order to win your case.

Do not desire things that belong to other people. Do not go wishing you could get your hands on someone else’s home or lover or employees or assets or anything else.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- Transfiguration Sunday (last Sunday before Lent) in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up onto the mountain and wait for me there; and I will give you the two slabs of stone on which I have written the instructions for how my people are to live.”

So Moses and his right-hand-man, Joshua, set out for the mountain to meet with God. Before going up the mountain, Moses called together the tribal leaders and said, “Stay put here until we get back. I’m leaving Aaron and Hur in charge. You can ask them to sort out any problems that occur while we are away.”

Then Moses began his climb up Mount Sinai, and cloud engulfed the mountain. The mountain top lit up with the glorious presence of the LORD. To the Israelite people watching from below, it looked like a raging bushfire and the whole mountain was engulfed in thick cloud for six days. On the seventh day, the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. Moses went into the cloud and right up onto the top of the mountain. He stayed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- Proper 23 in Year A 
Proper 19 in Year C   (v.7-14) (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Moses was on the mountain with the LORD for such a long time that the people gave up on him. They turned to Aaron and said, “It’s up to you now. Give us a god who we can follow on our journey from here on. Moses led us out of the land where we had been slaves, but now he is missing, presumed dead.”

Aaron said to the people, “Collect up all the gold jewellery that you and your families possess, and bring it all to me.”

So the people took up a collection of all the gold jewellery that they had been wearing, and brought it all to Aaron. He took all the gold, melted it down, and recast it in the shape of a calf. When the gold calf was put on display for the people, they began to shout, “Here is our god, the god who brought our nation out of the land of slavery!”

When Aaron saw how popular it was, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow we will hold a festival in honour of the LORD.”

The festivities started early the next morning. The people sacrificed the traditional burnt offerings on the altar and offered the customary gifts to celebrate good times. Then they ate and drank and partied hard, really letting their hair down.

The LORD said to Moses:

“Get back down there on the double! That mob of yours, who you brought out of the land of slavery, have gone completely off the rails. In the blink of an eye, they have turned their backs on the path I set them on. They have cast an idol in the shape of a calf, and they are worshipping it and giving offerings to it as expressions of their devotion. They are saying that it is the god who brought the nation out of the land of slavery. I have had a gutful of this people. They are always kicking against the traces. Now stand aside and let me give full vent to my blazing anger and blast them off the face of the earth. I’ll start again with you and build a great nation from your offspring.”

But Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, saying:

“LORD, why are you letting your anger at your people burn out of control? You proved yourself to be the strongest and the greatest when you brought these people out of the land of slavery. Are you now going to turn around and give our enemies grounds to accuse you of planning genocide from the start? They will allege that you only took the people into the outback to slaughter them. Swallow your anger! Rethink this, and don’t stamp out your people. Follow through on the promises you made to your trusty servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You gave them your word, your personal guarantee. You said, ‘I will multiply your descendants until they outnumber the stars in the sky, and they will inherit the land I promised to give to your family forever.’”

And so the LORD was persuaded to rethink the situation and to abandon the plan to wipe out the people with a disaster.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
Proper 24 in Year A,
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Moses said to the LORD, “Look here. You have given me the job of getting this people from one place to another, but you have not given me any idea who you are going to send with me to back me up. You have told me that you know me inside out and that I am in your good-books. So if you are so on-side with me, let me know you. Let me see what makes you tick, so that I can really know you and do the right thing by you. And this is not just about me; keep it in mind that these people belong to you.”

The LORD replied, “I will go with you myself, and I will give you a place of rest.”

But Moses continued, saying, “If you are not going to stick with us for the long haul, then don’t even move us from here. After all, how will anyone be able to tell that I and your people are in your good-books unless you go with us all the way? It is your presence with us that will distinguish us from all the other peoples on the face of the earth as the one who belongs to you.”

The LORD said to Moses, “Okay, I will do for you exactly what you have asked for, because you are in my good-books and I know who you really are.”

Moses said, “Let me see you in all your glory. Please!”

The LORD replied;

“With your own eyes, you are about to see the full extent of my goodwill to all life. With your own ears, you will hear me, the LORD, and you will know who I really am. I will put in my good-books the one I choose to put in my good-books. I will let off the hook the one I choose to let off the hook. But you can not see me face to face in all my glory, because no one could survive such an encounter. Look here, though. There is a place just over here where you can stand on the rock. I am going to pass by in all my glory, and while I do, I will put you in a hole in the rock and shield you with my hand until the danger has passed. Then I will take away my hand and you will see my rear end; but you will not see me face to face.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- Transfiguration Sunday (last Sunday before Lent) in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two slabs of stone on which he had written the terms of the Alliance with God. Although he didn’t know it, his face was lit up like a lantern because God had been speaking to him directly. When Aaron and all the Israelite people saw how his face was aglow, they were too scared to even go near him. However, Moses called together Aaron and the leaders of the people and spoke with them. After that, he called together an assembly of all the Israelite people, and spelled out for them the laws that came from what the LORD had told him on Mount Sinai. Once Moses had finished addressing the people, he hid his face with a scarf. Whenever he entered the sacred place to speak with the LORD, he would take off the scarf. When he came out again and told the Israelites whatever God had told him to tell them, they could see that his face was aglow. Moses would then put the scarf back over his face and wear it until the next time he went in to speak with the LORD.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- 7th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year A
- Proper 25 in Year A (v.1-2, 15-18) (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

Gather the whole congregation of my people and tell them this: You are to be utterly dedicated to doing what is right, because I am the LORD your God, and I am utterly dedicated to doing what is right.

When you harvest the crops on your land, you are not to be too thorough. Whether it is your grain fields, your vineyards, or your orchards, just go over them once and don’t go back for anything you dropped or missed. You are to leave it so that the poor and the refugees can come and gather what they need. Why? Because I am the LORD your God.

You are not to steal; you are not to swindle anybody; and you are not to deceive one another. And you are not to drag my name through the mud by quoting it to convince someone that you are being honest when you are not. Why? Because I am the LORD.

You are not to commit fraud or theft to get your hands on what rightly belongs to someone else. You are not to hold back the wages of your workers beyond their regular pay day. You are not to take advantage of the disabilities of others, or to make them the butt of cruel jokes. Why? Because if you do, you’ll have me to answer to, and I am the LORD.

You are not to pervert the course of justice in the courts. Your decisions must be fair and transparent, not showing bias either to the poor or to the powerful. You are to be absolutely fair in your judgments, without fear or favour. You are not to go spreading malicious stories about anybody; and you are not to seek to profit from the misfortune of another. Why? Because I am the LORD.

You are not to harbour hatred in your heart towards anyone in your community. If someone you know does the wrong thing, speak up and sort it out, or you will end up being held responsible yourself. If anyone among your people has wronged you, you are neither to bear a grudge, nor try to get even. Instead you are to love your neighbour as attentively as you love yourself. Why? Because I am the LORD.

©2006 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Feast of the Holy Name
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD told to Moses to pass on the following instructions to Aaron and his sons for their work as priests:

“These are the words of blessing you are to use when you bless the Israelite people:
May the LORD set you up for life and look after you;

May the LORD smile upon you and be generous to you;

May the LORD keep an eye on you
and give you a life in which all is well.
With these words you will remind my people who they belong to, and I will bless them.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 21 in Year B (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

As the people travelled through the wilderness, a group of rabble rousers among them began to stir up trouble over the lack of meat to eat. Before long all the Israelites were craving meat and whingeing about it endlessly:

“What wouldn’t we give for some decent food?! Remember how good the food was back in Egypt: mouth-watering fish, and a wonderful selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. We ate like kings! But now we are wasting away out here with nothing to eat but manna for breakfast, lunch and tea.”

Everywhere he went in the camp, Moses heard the people standing around their tents whingeing and moaning about it. He was angry and embarrassed that the people under his leadership were causing such offence to God, so he went and spoke to the LORD saying:

“Why have you got it in for me? What did I do to deserve being made responsible for these people? They weren’t conceived or born because of anything I did, so how come you have made it my job to nurse them like babies and carry them on my shoulders like toddlers. It was you, not me, who sealed the deal with their ancestors, promising to give them this land, so why is it my job to get them there? Where am I supposed to get meat to feed them all and stop them from whingeing to me all day about how hungry they are? The responsibility for these people is more than I can handle. I’m not up to the job. If you can’t treat me any better than this, just kill me now! Do me a favour and put me out of my misery.”

So the LORD said to Moses, “Gather together seventy of Israel’s most respected and influential tribal elders, and get them to assemble with you at my Sacred Tent.”

So Moses went out and told to the people what the LORD had said. He sent for seventy key tribal elders and had them assemble in a circle around the Sacred Tent while he went inside. The LORD came down, hidden in cloud, and spoke with Moses. As they talked, the LORD touched the seventy elders with the same spirit that was at work in Moses. During the short period of time that the spirit rested on them, they were all shouting words of prophesy.

Two of the seventy elders who Moses had sent for were named Eldad and Medad. They had not made it to the Sacred Tent, but the spirit touched them just like the others and they began shouting words of prophesy right where they were in the camp. A young man ran and reported this to Moses, saying “Eldad and Medad are shouting like prophets in the camp!”

Joshua son of Nun, who served as right hand man to Moses, said, “You can’t let them do that, Boss. Have them stopped.”

But Moses replied, “Why? Are you worried about protecting my position? I only wish that the LORD would give the same spirit to all the people so that the whole lot of them would become prophets!”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 4th Sunday in Lent in Year B
- the Feast of the Holy Cross
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The people of Israel wanted to skirt around the land of Edom, so when they set out from Mount Hor they took the Red Sea track. As they travelled, the people began losing the plot and mouthing off against God and Moses. They were whinging, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt if we are just going to die out here in the desert? There is no food. There is no water. And we can’t stand this lousy stuff we’ve got to eat.”

At that, the LORD let loose some dangerous snakes among the people. The snakes had a fiery venom and many people were bitten and died. The people came to Moses and pleaded with him, saying, “We were wrong to mouth off against the LORD and against you. Please ask the LORD to get rid of the poisonous snakes that are plaguing us.”

So Moses prayed for the the people, and the LORD spoke to him, saying, “Make a statue of a poisonous snake, and set it up on a pole where the people can see it. Whenever anyone is bitten, they are to look at the statue of the snake, and they will survive.”

So Moses made a snake out of bronze, and set it up on a pole. Whenever anyone was bitten by one of the snakes with the fiery venom, they would fix their gaze on the bronze snake, and they would live.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 17 in Year B  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Moses addressed the people, saying:

"Listen up, people of Israel. I am laying down the law on how you are to live. Get these things clear in your heads and put them into practice. That way you will have life and be able to make yourselves at home in the land that is being given to you by the LORD, the God of your ancestors. The directions I am spelling out to you are from God, and you must not go adding new rules of your own, or cutting out bits that don’t suit you. Follow everything the LORD your God is asking of you, just as I have told you. Follow these instructions consistently and you will become known for your wisdom and good judgement. Other nations will hear of the standards you live by and say, “What a great nation: you can back their judgement every time.” Our God is always there for us when we cry out for help. Can any other nation boast of that? And these directions that God has given us today cover everything we could possibly need to know. Does any other nation have anything as good as that?

"But take care and keep a close eye on yourselves. Don’t forget the things you have seen God do. Don’t forget them as long as you live. Pass on the stories to your children and to your children’s children."

©2012 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- the 9th Sunday between Epiphany & Lent in Year B
Proper 4 in Year B (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Keep up the practice of making Saturday a dedicated rest day, as the LORD your God has told you to do. You are to work on your business, your projects, and your chores on the other six days, and keep the seventh day as a rest day, dedicated to the LORD your God. You are not to do any work that day, and you are not to ask anyone else to work either — not your family, not your employees, not the migrant workers who live down the street, and not even your bullocks, horses, dogs, or any other animal you own. All who work for you need rest, just as you do. Always keep in mind that you were forced to work as slaves in a foreign land, and the LORD your God bared his arm and reached out and rescued you from there. That is why the LORD your God told you to keep the dedicated rest day.

©2013 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 26 in Year B  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Moses said to the people, “I’m laying down the law to you here with a set of principles and a code of ethics. The LORD your God has given me the job of teaching you to live by these things in the land that you are about to move into and live in. Learning to live this way will be for the best for you, and for your kids and grandkids after you. Learn to honour and respect the LORD your God as long as you live, and stick to the principles and ethics that I have spelt out to you on God’s behalf, and you will live long and happy lives. So listen up, people of Israel. Put these things into practice without cutting corners, and you will reap rich rewards. You will flourish and prosper in a land of peaches and cream, just as the LORD promised your parents you would.

Listen carefully, O people of Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD and no other. Therefore you will love the LORD your God with everything you are, with all your heart and soul and strength. Do whatever it takes to keep these things I am teaching you now fixed in your minds. Repeat them over and over to your kids. Talk about them everywhere and all the time, at home, at work, on the road, morning, noon and night. Write them on the back of your hands; wear them as a badge stuck on your forehead, hang them over your front doors, put them up on a billboard at the entrance to your town so that you will be reminded of them as you come and go. Do whatever you have to do to keep them fixed in your minds.

©2012 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 4th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Moses said to the people, “The LORD your God will raise up someone from among you to be a prophet for you. This prophet will be from the same mould as me, and you are to carefully follow what such a prophet says. You yourselves asked the LORD your God to do this for you. Back on the day when we gathered at Mount Sinai, you all said that you would die if you were ever again directly exposed to the sound of the LORD’s voice or the glare of the LORD’s fiery presence. The LORD told me you were right, and said this to me:

I, the LORD, will raise up someone from among their own people to be a prophet for them. This prophet will be from the same mould as you, Moses. I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, and the prophet will tell the people everything I say they are to be told. Anyone who does not take any notice of what the prophet says on my behalf, will have to answer to me. But by the same token, if any prophet claims to represent some other source of truth, or makes out that they are speaking on my behalf when I have not told them to say anything, such a prophet must die.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 1st Sunday in Lent in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD your God is giving you the land, and soon you will take ownership of it, settle down there, and plant your crops. When you begin harvesting each crop, you are to take a basketful of the first pickings and take it to the place chosen by the LORD as the place of worship. You are to present yourself to whoever is the priest at the time, saying, “I am here to give thanks to the LORD our God, for I have put down roots in the land that the LORD promised to our ancestors.”

Then the priest will accept the basket of produce from you and place it in front of the sacred altar of the LORD. As he does, you are to pray to the LORD in the words of the prayer which tells the story of your people:

“I am descended from a refugee,
an Aramean who settled in Egypt.
His family was small when we arrived,
but we expanded quickly in numbers and power.
We were forced into slavery to keep us in check;
the labour was hard and the treatment was harsh.
We cried out to you, LORD, God of our ancestors,
and you heard our prayers;
you saw how we were oppressed,
and felt the weight of our suffering.
You rescued us from the land of slavery, LORD.
You broke us free and got us out
with miraculous signs and a terrifying display of strength.
You brought us here to this wonderful land,
a land of peaches and cream.
So now, LORD, I am here to say thank you;
I give you the first of my crops,
the pick of all you have given me.”

After your basket has been placed in front of the altar, and you have prayed this prayer, you are to bow down and worship the LORD your God. Then, with your whole community, throw a big party to celebrate and enjoy the good harvest which the LORD God has given you. Don’t forget to send an open invitation to share in the celebration to the attendants from the place of worship and to any refugees who have settled in the neighbourhood.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- Proper 10 in Year C  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

If you turn your lives around and commit yourselves completely — heart and soul — to the LORD your God, and live by all the instructions written in The Book of God’s Law, then the LORD your God will make sure that everything you do prospers. Everything you touch will turn to gold: your children will be many; your livestock will be healthy and multiplying; and your crop-lands will be fertile and productive. The LORD enjoyed blessing the endeavours of your ancestors and will take just as much pleasure in blessing everything you do.

Surely what the LORD is telling you today is not beyond you or too tough for you. It is not as though it is a bunch of secrets kept in heaven and you can excuse yourselves on the grounds that it is out of reach and no one can explain to you how to live by it. Neither is it bound up in some foreign language and culture; so you can’t excuse yourselves on the grounds that it can only be understood and practised by those who can travel overseas to study it. No, God’s Word is right here in your midst. You know it by heart and can speak it fluently. All you have to do is live by it!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- 6th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year A
Proper 18 in Year C  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

“Take note that today I, the LORD your God, have laid out the choices clearly before you. You can choose life and good times or death and hard times. If you live by the rules that I have given you today — if you love me, do things my way, and follow my rules, guidance and instructions — then you will live and flourish. I, the LORD your God, will look after you and make you strong and prosperous in the land I am about to give you.

On the other hand, if you reject me and refuse to listen to me, it will be a very different story. I am warning you in no uncertain terms that if you pursue other objects of devotion and serve them instead of me, your lives will be ruined. You will not last long in the land I am about to give you on the other side of the Jordan River.

Here and now I call on the earth and sky to witness that I have laid out the choices clearly before you; choices between life and death, between being blessed and being cursed. Choose life! Choose life so that you and your children and grandchildren can flourish. Commit yourself to me, the LORD your God, in love and loyalty. Obey what I say and stick with me, because that is the sure-fire recipe for a long and satisfying life in the land that I promised to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 25 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The people of Israel were camped on the Plains of Moab outside the promised land, with Jericho opposite them on the other side of the river. Moses went off by himself and climbed to the top of Mount Nebo in the Pizgah Ranges. From there the LORD showed him the whole of the land: as far across Gilead to the west as Dan, Ephraim, and the Mediterranean sea; as far south as the Negev Desert; and as far north as Manasseh and Naphtali. He could see the land of Judah all the way south to Zoar, including the valley of Jericho with its city of palm trees. The LORD said to Moses, “What you are looking at is the land which I promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have allowed you to see it with your own eyes, even though you will not set foot in it.”

Then, after a lifetime of working for the LORD, Moses died there in the land of Moab, as the LORD had decided. His body lies buried there in a valley, somewhere beyond Beth-peor, but to this day, no one knows the exact location of his grave. Moses had lived for one hundred and twenty years, and right up till the end his eyesight was sharp and he was as fit as a fiddle; as full of life and energy as ever. The Israelites stayed put on the plains of Moab while they grieved the death of Moses and observed the customary thirty day period of mourning.

Moses had laid his hands on Joshua, the son of Nun, appointing him as his successor. As a result, the spirit of wisdom filled Joshua, and the Israelite people readily took their orders from him, just as the LORD had commanded through Moses.

The world has never seen another prophet in the same league as  Moses, for the LORD dealt with him in person, face to face. No one else has ever done anything to equal the miraculous things he did when the LORD sent him to bring the people out of the land of slavery. Never again has anyone seen anything like the terrifying acts of power that God’s people saw Moses execute against the tyrant king and against his officers and his land.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- Proper 4 in Year A   (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Moses said to the people:

“Take to heart these teachings I have passed on to you from the LORD your God. Do whatever you need to do to keep them fixed in your minds: write them on the back of your hands; wear them as a badge stuck on your forehead. Teach them to your children and talk about them morning, noon and night, at home or wherever you go. Hang them over your front doors, put them up on a billboard at the entrance to your town so that you will be reminded of them as you come and go. That way you will be assured of a long and happy life in the land that the LORD promised to your ancestors. Your children will enjoy the same, and their children too, as long as the earth keeps turning.

“Take note. Today I have taught you how the LORD your God wants you to live, and now it is in your hands. Your life can be blessed or cursed; the choice is yours. Everything will work out well for you if you live the way the LORD your God has told you to live. But everything will fall apart for you if you turn your back on the way that the LORD your God has told you to live and take off after other ways and other objects of devotion.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net