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(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 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 occasion(s):
- 2nd Sunday in Lent in Year C
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 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:
- 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(s):
- Proper 23 in Year A 
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 occasion(s):
- Proper 25 in Year A (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.

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.

©2002 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 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 occasion(s):
- Proper 26 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD said to Joshua:

“Today I am going to begin making a hero of you in the eyes of the people, so that they will recognise that I am with you in the same way that I was with Moses. You are the one who will give the order to the priests who carry the sacred Ark of the Covenant, telling them to step into the waters of the Jordan with the Ark and then stand still in the river.”

So Joshua called an assembly of the people, and said to them:

“Gather round and hear what the LORD your God wants to say. The living God is in your midst and is ready to clear the way for you by driving out the seven nations that are occupying the land. This is how you will know it is true. Today, the Ark of the Covenant — the sacred possession of the Lord of all the earth — will be carried into the Jordan River before your very eyes. And the minute the priests who carry the Ark of the LORD step into the water, the flow of the river will be cut off upstream and the water will pile up in a heap. You are to select one person from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to participate in marking this occasion.”

So the people packed up their camp and got ready to cross the Jordan River into the land, with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant at the front. Now it was the wet season and the Jordan was in full flood, breaking its banks in all directions. But when the people reached the river’s edge, and the priests carrying the sacred Ark took their first steps into the water, the swollen waters rushing down from upstream stood still, and piled up in a heap up near Adaam, a city near Zarethan. The waters flowing towards the Dead Sea were turned off like a tap, leaving the riverbed dry, and so the people were able to cross the river opposite Jericho. The entire Israelite population crossed through the river on a dry track while the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD stood on the dry riverbed in the middle of the Jordan. They stayed there, with the Ark, until the whole nation had passed through the Jordan to the other side.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

When the people of Israel had set up their first camp after crossing the river into the promised land, the LORD said to Joshua, “You all lived with the disgrace of being slaves in Egypt, but today I am wiping away your disgrace.”

The place where they were camped has been known as Gilgal ever since, because it sounds like the Hebrew word meaning “wiped away”.

They were still camping there at Gilgal in the flat country near Jericho on the fourteenth day of the month — the time set for the celebration of the sacred feast of Passover. That evening, they kept the feast for the first time in their new homeland. The very next day, the manna, which God had been giving them to eat, stopped appearing from heaven each morning. From then on they ate food produced on the land, there in Canaan. They began roasting grain and making flat-breads from the grain-crops growing in the land, and the manna was never seen again.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 27 in Year A
Proper 16 in Year B  (v.1-2a, 14-18  themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem. He called a meeting of their leaders — the tribal elders, the clan chiefs, the judges, and the civil officials — and they gathered under the authority of God. Joshua addressed them, saying:

“The LORD, the God of Israel, wants you to hear this. Back in the dark ages, your ancestors — Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor — lived in the land beyond the Euphrates river and served other gods. Then the LORD led your father Abraham out of that land and into the land of Canaan, and gave him a huge mob of descendants. So now, treat the LORD with due respect, and be absolutely fair dinkum and rock-solid in your commitment to doing all that the LORD asks of you. Have nothing more to do with any of the other objects of devotion that your ancestors worked for back in those days, or when they were in Egypt. Put yourselves wholly at the service of the LORD. But if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, then you can make up your own minds what you are going to devote yourselves to: the ignorant ways of your ancestors back there in the dark ages; or the trivialities of the culture around you here. But I have made up my mind for myself and for my family; we will devote ourselves to the LORD.”

When Joshua finished his speech, the leaders replied, saying:

“There is no way we would turn our backs on the LORD and devote ourselves to other gods. It was the LORD who broke us free from slavery and did such spectacular things before our very eyes in the land where we had been oppressed. As we travelled, the LORD looked after us every step of the way and kept us safe from hostile nations. It was the LORD who made room for us by driving out the nations who were occupying this land. Therefore we will serve the LORD, for the LORD is our God.”

But Joshua challenged them saying, “You lot haven’t got what it takes to serve the LORD, for the LORD has the most uncompromising standards. The LORD demands your undivided devotion, and will not tolerate or forgive any unfaithfulness or breach of trust. If you do the wrong thing by the LORD and go running around after some other object of devotion, the LORD will turn on you and do you some serious harm. The LORD will quit looking after you and destroy you instead.”

But the leaders of the people all insisted, “No, we will serve the LORD!”

So Joshua said, “You people are all witnesses that you made this choice with clear heads and sound minds. You all understand that you are choosing to serve the LORD alone.”

“We know what we are saying,” they replied.

Then Joshua said, “Well then, get rid of any other objects of devotion that you have in your lives, and give your hearts wholly and solely to the LORD our God.”

And the people answered Joshua, saying, “The LORD our God is the only one we will serve and the only one we will obey.”

So Joshua ratified the alliance between God and the people that day, and there at Shechem he spelt out the terms and conditions of the alliance.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
Proper 28 in Year A,
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The death of Ehud left the Israelite people leaderless, and before long corruption and immorality had got the better of them again. The LORD couldn’t stand the sight of their evil ways, and abandoned them to the advancing army of King Jabin of Canaan, who ruled from the city of Hazor. King Jabin’s troops, under the command of General Sisera, were a hardened fighting unit equipped with the latest in military hardware. Their harsh and oppressive rule was like a boot on Israel’s throat for the next twenty years, and the people cried out to the LORD for help.

During that era, a prophet named Deborah emerged as a leader in Israel. She was a fiery woman, and the Israelite people looked to her to arbitrate whenever disputes and conflicts flared up among them. She based herself in the hill country of Ephraim and held her hearings under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel. The people came to her there, and the place became known as the Palm of Deborah.

One day, Deborah sent a message to a man named Barak telling him to report to her. Barak was the son of Abinoam, and came from the town of Kadesh in Naphtali. When he arrived, Deborah said to him:

“I have a command for you from the LORD, the God of Israel. You are to mobilise ten thousand soldiers from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun, and take position at Mount Tabor. The LORD will incite Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to come out and tackle you. He will come with all his troops and his fancy military equipment, and there will be a battle near the Kishon River. The LORD will hand you a complete victory over Sisera.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Long ago in the days before the Jewish people had a king, a severe drought caused a famine in the land of Judah. There was a man named Elimelech, from the tribe of Ephrath, living in Bethlehem with his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. When their crops failed, they fled the famine and settled in the land of Moab. While they were there, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi to raise their sons alone. In time, the young men both married Moabite women, one named Orpah, and the other named Ruth. Within ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left destitute with no husband and no sons.

Naomi got word that the LORD had blessed her homeland with good rains and good crops again, so she decided to pack up and move back home. Her two daughters-in-law, now widows too, prepared to go with her. They left their home in Moab and set out for Judah, but before they had gone very far, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “This is crazy. It makes no sense for you to come with me. Why not go home to your own mothers and live among your own people? You have been very kind to me, just as you were always kind to my husband and my sons. May the LORD be just as kind to you and enable you to marry again and have homes and families of your own.”

With that she kissed them both, and they were all in tears. But the two young women refused to go, saying, “We want to go with you and live among your people.”

But Naomi leaned on them to change their minds saying, “Don’t be stupid, my daughters. What good will it do you to come with me? It’s not as though I’m going to have any more sons for you to marry. You’ve got your whole lives ahead of you. Go back and get a life. I’m over the hill, and even if I could promise to get a new husband tonight and get pregnant straight away with twin boys, you could hardly put off marrying while you waited for them to grow up, could you? Of course not. My daughters, your lives are a bed of roses compared to mine, because the LORD has written me off.”

The tears flowed freely again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth dug her heels in. Naomi tried one more time: “See, your sister-in-law has seen sense. She has gone back to her own people with their own ways and their own religion. Follow her lead — go back home.”

But Ruth said,

“Don’t try to change my mind about this,
or pressure me into giving up.
I’m coming with you, wherever you go.
Wherever you live, I’m going to live too.

Your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God.
I’m with you for life,
and in death I’ll be buried right alongside you.

I’m giving you my word on this, cross my heart.
May the LORD punish me from now to kingdom come
if I let even death get between us!”

When Naomi saw that Ruth’s mind was made up, she backed off and let her have her way.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 27 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi had settled back in Judah and were eking out a living there. One day Naomi said to her:

“My daughter, it’s time I found you a husband so that you can have a home of your own and a secure future. You can’t just look after me forever. I think Boaz is the man for you. You have been working alongside the young women he employs and you know he has treated you well. He is a relative of mine too, so he has some responsibilities toward you. I’ve got a plan. Boaz is threshing grain at the moment, so he’ll be sleeping out at the threshing shed tonight. Go and have a bath, get your hair done and put on perfume and make-up. Dress up in something flattering. Then tonight, get yourself down to the threshing shed. Keep your eyes open but stay out of sight until he has finished eating and had a few drinks. Watch carefully and see whereabouts he lies down to sleep for the night. Then when the lights are out, it’s time to make your move. Tiptoe up, open up the lower half of his swag and sleep with him. When he wakes again, it’s his call. See what he decides you should do.”

Ruth replied, “If you think it’s for the best, I’ll do just as you say.”

Well, the upshot of it all was that not long afterwards, Ruth and Boaz were married. The LORD blessed their love-making so that Ruth became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When he was born, the local women celebrated with Naomi, saying:

“The LORD be blessed! Today God has blessed you with a grandson to take care of you in your old age. May he grow up to be a man of renown, looked up to everywhere in Israel! He’ll sure put the smile back on your face and the spring back in your step. He’ll be there for you when you need him in your twilight years. He’s bound to be — it’s in his genes — he’s Ruth’s son and her love has been of more value to you than the love of seven sons.”

Naomi loved the boy to pieces, and from day one he was Grandma’s little boy. The local women all gathered for the naming ceremony and he was given the name Obed. The women still just called him “Naomi’s Boy” though. When Obed grew up he had a son of his own, named Jesse, and Jesse in turn had a son named David, who went on to become the King of Israel.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 28 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

In the days before Israel had a king, there was a woman named Hannah who was married to a man named Elkanah. Hannah had never been able to have children even though Elkanah tended to favour her over his other wife, Peninnah, who had several children. Elkanah provided well for both his wives and all his children, but he really doted on Hannah.

Peninnah used to deliberately torment Hannah about her infertility, taunting her with suggestions that the LORD had dried out her womb. The nastiness was at its worst when they went up to Shiloh each year to offer sacrifices to the LORD, perhaps because that was when Elkanah’s favouritism was most obvious. So the annual visit to Shiloh was always a miserable time for Hannah. She would go off her food and be in tears all the time. Her husband Elkanah tried to comfort her, saying, “Hannah, cheer up? Why won’t you eat something? Look on the bright side. Aren’t I worth more to you than a big mob of sons?”

One year in Shiloh, after they had offered the sacrifices and eaten a meal together, Hannah got up and went back to pray to the LORD by herself. The only other person in the place of worship was Eli the priest who was sitting near the door. Hannah was at her wit’s end and wept bitter tears as she prayed to the LORD. She tried to bargain with God, praying, “O LORD, you rule over everything! Have pity on me, your servant. Don’t write me off in my misery. If you will give me the gift of a baby boy, then I will see to it that he joins the religious order of the Nazarites and never touches drink or drugs or has his hair cut.”

As she was praying silently, Eli could see her lips moving and her tears, but since he couldn’t hear her saying anything, he jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He got up and said to her, “Time to go home and sober up, woman. You can’t keep making a drunken spectacle of yourself in here. On your way, and get yourself on the wagon!”

But Hannah defended herself, saying, “No, Reverend Sir, please don’t write me off as a hopeless case. I’m heartbroken, but I haven’t sought solace in the bottle. I’ve been pouring my heart out to the LORD – all my agony and fears – trying to get everything off my chest.”

Then Eli answered, “Go in peace. May the LORD, the God of Israel, go with you and take care of whatever it is that is bothering you.”

“Thank you for being so kind to me, Reverend Sir,” said Hannah. She went back to where she was staying and cheered up no end. She even had a good meal with her husband.

The next morning the whole family got up early and worshipped the LORD. Then they packed up and went back home to Ramah. The LORD remembered Hannah’s prayer and the next time she and Elkanah made love, she fell pregnant. She gave birth to a baby boy and named him Samuel. She often spoke of him as an answer to her prayer.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
Proper 28 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

After the birth of her son, Samuel, Hannah prayed the following prayer:

“Thanks to you, LORD, I am full of joy;
thanks to you, I can stand strong and proud.
I can return the insults that were hurled at me,
and kick up my heels, because you have set me free.

There is no other god like you, LORD,
no one who can hold a candle to you;
not even the ancient rock is as dependable as you.

I can tell the proud to stop their boasting;
tell the arrogant to put a sock in it.
You, LORD, know us inside and out;
you see whether or not we live up to our words.

You, LORD, disarm the powerful,
and redistribute their strength to the helpless.
Those who consumed to excess are now queuing at soup kitchens,
but those who were deprived now feast in splendour.
Infertile couples are having children, one after the other,
while those who flaunted their children
find their families falling apart.

Life is yours to give or to take, LORD;
you can send someone to the land of the dead,
and you can bring them back again.

You, LORD, can make us or break us;
you can put us on a pedestal or knock us off.
You lift up those who have been trodden into the dirt;
you put the poor and outcast back on their feet.
You give them a place among the guests of honour,
a seat with the dignitaries and celebrities.
You can do all this because the earth is yours;
you set it up and you wrote the rules.

To those who are faithful, you guarantee safe passage;
those who are corrupt soon lose sight of any light to steer by,
for no matter how strong people are,
they can’t make it alone.

You are the LORD!
Those who try to obstruct you
find that it is like standing in the path of a train
as you thunder towards your destination.
You, LORD, have the final word on all that is done on earth.
You will give strength and power to your chosen ruler.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

While he was still a young boy, Samuel served the LORD on the staff of the place of worship in the town of Shiloh. When he was working he wore a special religious cape over the robes his mother made for him. Hannah used to make small copies of the robes the priests wore, and bring them to him each year when she and her husband came up to Shiloh for the annual sacrifice. When they came, Eli the priest would give Elkanah and Hannah a blessing, saying, “You have given your son as a gift to the LORD. May the LORD reward the two of you with more children to take his place.”

After Eli had blessed them, Elkanah and Hannah would return home to their own town. Year by year Samuel continued to grow into an impressive young man. Everybody liked him and the LORD was pleased with him.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- the 2nd Sunday between Epiphany & Lent in Year B
Proper 4 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Samuel grew up in the Temple at Shiloh, working as an apprentice to Eli the priest, in the service of the LORD. In those days, the people had completely lost touch with God, and messages or visions from the LORD were rare. The light of God had not gone out, but Eli’s failing eyesight had left him unable to see.
One night, Eli had gone to bed in his room, and Samuel was lying down in the Temple of the LORD near the sacred Ark of God. The LORD called out, “Samuel! Samuel!”
“At your service,” said Samuel, jumping up and running into Eli’s room. “You called me and here I am, at your service.”
But Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.”
So Samuel went and lay down again, and the LORD called out again, “Samuel!”
Samuel got up and went to Eli, saying “You called me and here I am, at your service.”
But Eli said, “I didn’t call you, my son. Go back to bed.”
Now it was no surprise that Samuel didn’t understand what was going on, because he did not yet know the LORD, and his mind had not yet been opened to what the LORD had to say. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and again he got up and went to Eli, saying “You called me and here I am, at your service.”
Finally the lights went on for Eli and he realised that it was the LORD who was calling the boy, so he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if you hear the call again, say, ‘Speak to me, LORD. I’m at your service, and I’m all ears.’ ”
So Samuel went and lay down again in the same place. The LORD came and stood alongside him, calling out as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel replied, “Speak to me. I’m at your service, and I’m all ears.”
The LORD said to Samuel, “Look, I am about to do something that  will make the hair stand up on the back of everyone’s necks when they hear about it. On that day I will follow through on everything I have ever said I would do to Eli and his offspring. I have told him that I am about to bring down a permanent punishment on his family, because his sons have been dragging my name through the mud and even though he knew about their corruption, he didn’t crack down on them. So now I swear to Eli’s family that the charge of corruption will stand against them forever, no matter how many apologies, sacrifices or gifts they offer.”
Samuel had a restless night after that! When he got up in the morning to open the doors of the house of the LORD, he was afraid to say anything about the vision to Eli. But Eli wanted to know, and called him, saying, “Samuel, my son.”
“At your service,” Samuel answered.
“What did the LORD have to say to you?” Eli asked. “Don’t keep me in the dark. May God punish you big time, if you don’t tell me every detail of what was said to you.”
So Samuel told him the whole lot, every last detail, and when he had finished, Eli said, “The LORD has spoken. I will have to cop whatever the LORD sees fit to do.”
As Samuel grew to be a man, the LORD kept a guiding hand on his shoulder, and saw to it that when he spoke, not a word was wasted. Before long, the whole land, from one end to the other, knew that Samuel was the real deal – a messenger of the LORD who could be trusted.

©2002 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.

A gathering of the most influential people of Israel made arrangements to meet with the prophet Samuel at Ramah and present their demands. They said to him, “You are getting too old to lead the nation, and the way your sons are going, they’ll never be up to it. It is time for a change of system. We want you to appoint a king to deal out justice for us. Every other nation has a king, and we want one too.”

Samuel was horrified by their demand for a king and he went straight to the LORD in prayer about it. But the LORD answered him saying, “Go ahead and give them what they want. It is not only you they are turning their backs on; it’s me. They don’t want me as their ruler. This has been going on ever since I rescued them from their slave-drivers in Egypt. Over and over again they have turned their backs on me and run off after other gods. Now they are doing the same thing to you. So go ahead and give them what they want, but before you do, spell out to them in no uncertain terms what kings are really like once they are in power.”

So Samuel went back to the people who were demanding a king and passed on the LORD’s message. He said, “Let me warn you what sort of ‘justice’ your king will deal out once he takes power. He will conscript your sons into his army, some as foot soldiers, some as drivers, some on horseback. He will appoint officers of various ranks to give them orders and lead them off to war. Of those who do not go off to war, he will press some into service on his farms to produce food for the troops, and others he will put to work manufacturing weapons and equipment. He will take your daughters too and set them to work cooking and baking and powdering the noses of the noblewomen.

“He will seize the best of your land, your best fields, vineyards and olive orchards, and hand them over to his cronies. He will tax you heavily, taking a big cut of everything you produce and giving it to the freeloaders who serve him as officers and officials. He will help himself to the best of everything you have, your workers, your livestock, your equipment, everything. He will be constantly looking to squeeze a bit more out of you. It will be like being slaves all over again. Then you’ll be sorry and you’ll be begging to be rescued from your king, but it was your idea to have a king, so there will be no point expecting the LORD to do anything about it.”

But everything Samuel said fell on deaf ears and the people continued to say, “No! Our mind is made up. We want a king and we will have a king. We want to be just like the other nations with a king to rule over us and rally the troops and lead us into war.”

So Samuel said to the people, “Come on then. Let’s go to Gilgal and set a king on a throne for you.”

So all the people gathered at Gilgal and there at the sacred site they crowned Saul as their first king. They offered up sacrifices to the LORD, asking for success and prosperity. When it was done, King Saul and all the Israelite people celebrated long and hard.

©2012 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 6 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

After King Saul had broken the command of the LORD, he went home to Gibeah, and Samuel the prophet went to Ramah, and they never again set eyes on each other. Samuel was filled with grief over what Saul had become, and the LORD regretted having ever made Saul king over Israel.

One day the LORD said to Samuel, “It is time for you to get over your misery about Saul. I have had a gutful of him and I am going to end his reign. Fill up your flask with olive oil ready to anoint a new king. Go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse there, for I have chosen one of his sons to be my king.”

Samuel protested, “How can I do that? If Saul gets wind of it he will kill me.”

But the LORD replied, “Take a calf with you and tell everyone that you have come to a hold a feast offered in honour of me, the LORD. Invite Jesse and his family to join you for the feast, and then I will let you know what to do next. I will pick out one of Jesse’s sons, and you are to pour the oil on his head to mark him out as the next king.”

Samuel followed the LORD’s instructions and went to Bethlehem. The town officials were unnerved by his arrival, and went out to meet him asking, “What brings you to town? Have we done something wrong, or are you just passing through in peace?”

Samuel replied, “Nothing’s wrong. I am here to offer a feast to the LORD. Go and prepare yourselves properly and then come and join me for the occasion.”

Samuel also invited Jesse and his family to the feast and instructed them to prepare themselves properly. When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, and thought to himself, “He has got to be the one the LORD has chosen.”

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t be fooled by how big and impressive he looks. He is not the man for me, because I, the LORD, am not impressed by the same things that impress you people. People judge others by their outward appearance, but I look beneath that and see what makes them tick.”

Then Jesse introduced Samuel to his next son, Abinadab, but Samuel said, “No, this is not the one the LORD sent me to find.”

Jesse introduced his next son, Shammah, but Samuel said, “This is not the one the LORD sent me to find either.”

Jesse introduced seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel was convinced that none of them was the one the LORD had chosen. So he asked Jesse, “Are all your sons here?”

Jesse replied, “My youngest boy is not here. He is out on the farm taking care of some sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send someone to get him as quickly as possible, for we will not sit down to this meal until he arrives.”

So Jesse sent someone to get his youngest son, David, and bring him to the feast. David was a good-looking, fresh-faced kid, and his eyes were full of life. As soon as he walked in, the LORD said, “Samuel, get up and anoint him, because this is the one I have chosen.”

So Samuel took out his flask of oil and poured it on David’s head in full view of his brothers. The Spirit of the LORD took hold of David and was powerfully at work in him from that moment on. With his mission accomplished, Samuel got up and headed back home to Ramah.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 7 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The Philistines were ready for war and their troops took up positions for an attack on the Judean town of Socoh.

The Philistine army had a champion named Goliath who came from Gath. He was a mountain of a man, towering over everyone around him. He was kitted out in the latest military gear with heavy bronze armour on his chest and legs and a gleaming helmet on his head. His chest armour alone was heavier than most men could lift. He carried a bronze sword strapped to his back. His spear was too thick for the average man to get his hand around and it had a head like a sharpened shot put. Another soldier walked in front of him carrying a huge shield.

Goliath strutted out from among the ranks and shouted at the Israelite army:

“Why should we waste time with a full battle? Let’s put up two men to have it out for us – winner takes all. I’m ready to represent the Philistines. Why don’t you lot in Saul’s army choose yourselves a champion to come down and take me on? If your man can kill me, then our army will surrender and our people will be your slaves. But if I win, then you’ll be our slaves. So come on, let’s see what you Israelites are made of. Send down your best man and we’ll see if he has what it takes to match me!”

Goliath’s defiant taunting threw Saul and his army into a panic. Scared witless, they couldn’t do a thing.

While all this was happening in the Elah Valley, David was back home, working on his father’s sheep station. Early one morning, at his father’s request, he left the sheep in someone else’s care and headed off to deliver some extra rations to his brothers in the army. He reached the army camp just as they were taking up their positions and sounding the battle cry. There was a stand off as the Israelite army and the Philistine army faced each other. David left the rations with the supply officer, and then ran up to the ranks to find his brothers and see how they were getting on. While he was talking with them, Goliath stepped forward from among the Philistine army, and began taunting the Israelites again. When David heard Goliath’s scoffing and saw the fear among the Israelite soldiers, he went and addressed King Saul, saying, “Your majesty, why are we letting this Philistine make our army look like a bunch of wimps. I’ll go out and deal with him for you!”

Saul replied, “You’ve got to be kidding. You’d have Buckley’s. You’re only a kid and he’s a top-gun, an elite soldier with more scalps to his name than you’ll ever have.”

But David held his line:

“Your majesty, I work sheep for my father; and whenever a lion or a bear drags off one of those sheep, I go after it and beat the living daylights out of it until it gives up the sheep. And if it makes the mistake of turning on me, I grab it by the throat and kill it. I have killed both lions and bears; and this godless Philistine will be a piece of cake. No one defies the army of the living God and gets away with it! The LORD didn’t let the lions or bears get their claws into me. The same LORD is more than a match for this Philistine.”

“All right,” said Saul, “Go and fight him, and God help you! You’ll need it.”

Saul offered David his own uniform and armour, and even his bronze helmet. But when David put on the armour and strapped on Saul’s sword, he could hardly walk. So he said to Saul, “I can barely stand up in this stuff because I haven’t trained in it,” and he took it all off. Instead he headed out carrying nothing but a hiking stick, a sling shot, and five smooth stones from the creek bed which he popped into his pockets. Out he marched, ready to face Goliath!

Goliath strutted arrogantly towards David, with the soldier carrying the shield still in front of him.  When he got close enough to get a good look at David, he laughed out loud because David looked just like any other fresh-faced kid. “What do you think I am? A dog? Do you think I might heel and roll over for you if you wave your little stick around?!”

And he called down curses from his gods on David and threw every insult in the book at him. “Come on then,” he sneered, “Let’s have you. I’ll make dog meat out of you. I’ll hang you out for the crows to pick your bones.”

But David was undaunted and spoke back:

“You are so sure of yourself, trusting as you do in your fancy weapons of war. But I don’t need them, because my trust is in the LORD who commands the armies of heaven. This is the God you have insulted – the God of the armies of Israel.  You’ve seen your last sunrise, Mister. With the help of the the LORD, I’ll knock you down for the count. I’ll cut off your head, and the only dog meat here will be you. The crows can feast on the carcasses of your Philistine mates. Then the whole world will know that the real God is Israel’s God. Everyone here will see that the LORD doesn’t need weapons to save his people. This battle is all over, bar the shouting, because the LORD has got your measure.”

At that, Goliath started towards David. David ran forward to meet him and reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a stone for his sling shot and let fly. He only needed one shot. It hit Goliath square on the head and cracked his skull. One small stone, and the giant fell on his face, as dead as a doornail.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 7 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

After killing Goliath the Philistine, David was granted an audience with King Saul. He was still carrying the severed head of the Philistine when he was introduced to the King by Abner, the commander of the army. Saul asked him, “Whose people do you come from, young man?”

David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse, from Bethlehem.”

After David had finished speaking to Saul, he met Saul’s son Jonathan. The two were soul mates from the word go, and Jonathan loved David as much as his own life. From that day on, Saul gave David a position in the royal household and would not let him return to his family home. Jonathan bound himself to David in a formal alliance, because he loved him so much. He took off his own royal robe and put it on David, and handed over to him his own military uniform and weapons.

Saul sent David out on numerous military campaigns, and wherever he went, he was successful. As a result, Saul gave him command of the whole army. David was becoming so popular with all the people that even Saul’s closest officials approved of his promotion.

However, David’s popularity started to get under Saul’s skin. One day an evil spirit from God seized him and he lost the plot completely, raving like a madman in his house. David was there playing some soothing music for the king on his lyre, as he did each day. Saul had a spear in his hand, and in his madness he twice threw it, trying to pin David to the wall, but David managed to duck clear each time.

Saul was increasingly afraid of David, because it was clear that the LORD had given up on Saul and was now backing David. So Saul kicked him out of the house and put him in command of a thousand soldiers on the front line. David led the unit out, and before long he was back with another great victory under his belt. He had success in everything he took on, because the LORD was backing him. When Saul saw how successful he had become, he was quaking in his boots. But all the people of Israel and Judah worshipped the ground David walked on, because it was him who led them into battle and brought them safe home again.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 8 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

David returned from a successful campaign against the Amalekite army, and during a two day break in Ziklag he received news that King Saul had been killed in battle. David composed a song of lament in memory of Saul and his son Jonathan. He called it “The Song of the Bow” and it was written down in the Book of Jashar. David gave orders to his army musicians to teach the song to everyone in Judah. The words went like this:

Israel, your most decorated soldiers
lie dead on the hills!
Your glorious heroes have been cut down!
Don’t let news of this reach the streets of Gath;
don’t breathe a word of it in Ashkelon,
or the godless Philistine women
will mock us in our misery,
gloating and dancing with joy.

A curse on Mount Gilboa
where our heroes’ blood was spilt:
may the sun never shine there,
and the rain never fall;
may it never see a flower bloom again.
Cursed be the place where Saul bit the dust,
where his polished armour
was smeared with blood.

Our great heroes never flinched under fire:
with bow in hand,
Jonathan’s aim was deadly;
with sword in hand,
Saul cut the enemy to pieces.

Saul and Jonathan, how easy it was to love them!
Like father, like son, in life and in death;
they made eagles look slow,
and lions look weak.

Women of Israel, cry your eyes out for Saul!
It was him you had to thank
for your stunning wardrobes,
your designer gowns
and your elegant jewellery.

Our finest men have fallen,
cut down in the heat of the battle!

Jonathan lies dead on Mount Gilboa.
My heart is broken for you, my brother Jonathan;
I loved you more than words can say.
Your love was my greatest delight,
more precious than the love of women.

The heroes who filled us with pride have fallen.
Their weapons, once feared,
are tossed on the scrap heap!

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 9 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

After David had been king of Judah for some time, the leaders of the tribes of Israel came to meet with him at Hebron. They addressed him, saying:
“Look, we are family – your own flesh and blood. For a long time, even though Saul was officially our king, it has been you that we all looked up to, and you that we took our marching orders from. The LORD promised that it was only a matter of time before you would rule Israel and be the caretaker of all God’s people.”

During this meeting at Hebron, the tribal elders of Israel negotiated a deal with David and signed it in a sacred ceremony, with the LORD as their witness. As part of the deal they crowned David king of Israel, pouring sacred olive oil on his head to show that he was the chosen one.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and his reign lasted forty years. For the first seven and a half years, while based in Hebron, he only ruled over Judah. Then for a further thirty-three years he ruled over both Israel and Judah from his new capital in Jerusalem.  The fortified centre of Jerusalem had held out against David, but he eventually captured it and moved in, declaring it to be the city of David. He had the city rebuilt around it starting from the landfill area on the east side.

David’s position was becoming stronger all the time, because the LORD, the ruler of everything, was on his side.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

David called up thirty thousand top soldiers, the cream of Israel’s army, and led them up to Baalah in Judah to collect the sacred Ark of God. The Ark bore the name of the LORD who rules over everything, and the gold cherubim on its top were recognised as God’s throne on earth.  They removed the Ark of God from the house of Abinadab, secured it on a new cart, and set off down the hill with it. Abinadab’s two sons, Ahio and Uzzah, were at each end, steering the cart which carried the Ark of God. A crowd of Israelite people accompanied them, forming a joyful procession, all singing and dancing in honour of the LORD. David led them with great enthusiasm, and they were accompanied by all sorts of musical instruments.

They parked the Ark of God in the house of Obed-edom for a while after an accident, but eventually they were ready to set out again and bring it to the city of David. It was a huge celebration. This time the Ark of God was carried on the shoulders of some chosen men. Each time they had taken six paces, they would stop and David would sacrifice a bullock and a prime-beef yearling. Bare chested and with only a linen cloth round his waist, David danced with uninhibited joy and great energy to honour the LORD. To the sounds of trumpets and loud cheering, David and all the people of Israel brought the Ark of the LORD up into Jerusalem.

As they came through the city gates, David’s wife Michelle was watching from a window. She was the daughter of Saul, and when she saw King David making such a display of himself, leaping around in his dance, she was disgusted.

David had set up a special marquee for the sacred Ark of the LORD, and they carried it in and set it in its place. David led the people in worship, offering animal sacrifices to the LORD by burning them on an altar. When the offerings were over, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD who rules over everything. He sent them all on their way with gifts of food. Every man and woman in Israel was given a platter laden with bread, roast beef, and fruit cake. So, with the celebrations over, everyone headed home.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

King David made himself at home in his new palace and, thanks to the LORD, there was no trouble from Israel’s enemies for some time.  One day the King consulted Nathan the prophet, and said to him, “It doesn’t seem right for me to be living it up in a palace built of the finest materials while the sacred Ark of God is still in a tent. It’s as though God was sleeping rough!”
Nathan replied, “The LORD is with you, so go ahead and do whatever you think should be done.”
But Nathan had spoken too soon. That same night, the LORD gave him a different message to pass on to King David. This is what it said:

David, I am the LORD and you are my servant, so listen to what I have to say to you. What makes you think that you are the one to build my house? I’ve been on the road with nothing more than a tent ever since I led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. I didn’t need a house then and I don’t need one now. You’re not the first caretaker I’ve appointed for the tribes of Israel, and you won’t be the last, so think about it – have I ever gone whingeing to any of them and demanded a fancy house?
Now listen to me, and listen good. I am the LORD who rules over everything. I made you what you are today – the leader of my people. If it wasn’t for me you’d still be cleaning up after the sheep. I’ve never let you down, wherever you’ve gone. Whenever enemies have attacked you, I’ve dealt with them, right before your eyes. Thanks to me, you will be known as one of the most famous people who ever lived.
I have chosen a place for my people Israel, a place where they can put down roots, a place to call their own. They won’t need to be looking over their shoulders all the time, because there won’t be any more trouble from the barbarians who have plagued them for so long. For the first time since the days when I sent the legendary heroes to bring justice to my people, Israel will be at peace.
What’s more, I the LORD give you my word that I will make you the foundation stone of a great house. I will keep my eye on your family and your kingdom and keep them safe. I will see to it that there will always be one of your descendants on your throne.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

King David made himself at home in his new palace and, thanks to the LORD, there was no trouble from Israel’s enemies for some time.  One day the King consulted Nathan the prophet, and said to him, “It doesn’t seem right for me to be living it up in a palace built of the finest materials while the sacred Ark of God is still in a tent. It’s as though God was sleeping rough!”

Nathan replied, “The LORD is with you, so go ahead and do whatever you think should be done.”

But Nathan had spoken too soon. That same night, the LORD gave him a different message to pass on to King David. This is what it said:

David, I am the LORD and you are my servant, so listen to what I have to say to you. What makes you think that you are the one to build my house? I’ve been on the road with nothing more than a tent ever since I led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. I didn’t need a house then and I don’t need one now. You’re not the first caretaker I’ve appointed for the tribes of Israel, and you won’t be the last, so think about it – have I ever gone whingeing to any of them and demanded a fancy house?

Now listen to me, and listen good. I am the LORD who rules over everything. I made you what you are today – the leader of my people. If it wasn’t for me you’d still be cleaning up after the sheep. I’ve never let you down, wherever you’ve gone. Whenever enemies have attacked you, I’ve dealt with them, right before your eyes. Thanks to me, you will be known as one of the most famous people who ever lived.

I have chosen a place for my people Israel, a place where they can put down roots, a place to call their own. They won’t need to be looking over their shoulders all the time, because there won’t be any more trouble from the barbarians who have plagued them for so long. For the first time since the days when I sent the legendary heroes to bring justice to my people, Israel will be at peace.

What’s more, I the LORD give you my word that I will make you the foundation stone of a great house. I will see to it that by the time your number’s up and you’re buried alongside your ancestors, you will have fathered your own successor.  Yes, a son of yours will be king. I will back him all the way, anchoring his kingdom and establishing his dynasty forever.  He is the one to whom I shall give the privilege of building my sacred temple. I will be a father to him, and he shall be my son.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The onset of spring seems to arouse powerful men, and military campaigns were usually undertaken after the winter ended. One year, King David sent out the Israelite army under the command of Joab and his officers. They decimated the Ammonite army and marched on their capital city, Rabbah.

David himself had his feet up in Jerusalem while his troops laid siege to Rabbah. Late one day, after an afternoon siesta, David wandered out onto his rooftop balcony. Looking down into the homes of his neighbours, he spied a woman undressing to take a bath. He couldn’t take his eyes of her beautiful body. His lust got the better of him, and he sent a servant to check out who she was. The servant reported back, saying, “Your Majesty, her name is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam. She is married to Uriah the Hittite who is presently serving in your army.”

David was unperturbed and hastily arranged for her to be brought to meet him. She arrived at the palace and was left alone with the King. He had sex with her and then sent her home again. If he wanted to get away with it, he had picked the wrong time of the month. A few weeks later he received a message from Bathsheba saying, “I am pregnant with your baby.”

David hatched a scheme to cover his tracks. He contacted Joab and arranged for Uriah the Hittite to be sent as a courier with military reports for the palace. When Uriah arrived, David made a great show of asking him all about the war and how Joab and the troops were getting on. Then he said to Uriah, “You’ve earned some leave. Go home, enjoy a night with your wife, and I’ll send you back in a day or two.”

Uriah left and David even had the palace kitchen send food and wine around to his house. But Uriah didn’t go home to his wife. He spent the night in the barracks of the palace guard. When David heard about it in the morning he sent for Uriah and said, “I gave you some leave, Soldier. You’ve been on a tough assignment. Why didn’t you go home?”

Uriah replied, “It wouldn’t be fair to my mates. They’re all out there in tents – the whole army, Joab and the other commanders, and even the sacred Ark. How could I go home to eat and drink and sleep with my wife when they’re still roughing it? On a stack of bibles I swear to you, I couldn’t do it.”

David was getting desperate. He said to Uriah, “I need you to stay here another day and then tomorrow you can take a delivery back to Joab.”

So Uriah hung around in Jerusalem as instructed. David invited him to dinner and made sure that his glass was never empty. By the time Uriah left that evening, he was quite drunk, but he still didn’t go home to his wife. He slept on a stretcher in the barracks again.

David had only one card left. In the morning he sent Uriah back to the front with a dispatch for Joab. It included a royal order saying, “Send Uriah to attack the enemy’s strongest defence post. Then, pull back the rest of the troops so he’ll be stranded and killed.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
Proper 13 in Year B  (v.11:26 - 12:13a)
- Proper 6 in Year C  (v. 11:26 - 12:10, 13-15) (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The news that Uriah had been killed in battle reached his wife, Bathsheba, and she went into mourning. When the customary time of mourning was over, King David arranged for her to move into the palace. She became his wife, and a son was born to them. But David’s actions had put him off side with the LORD.

The LORD sent the prophet Nathan to speak to David. Nathan addressed the King saying:

Consider this case, your Majesty. Two men lived on neighbouring properties. One of them was filthy rich. He owned huge mobs of sheep and cattle, and plenty of land to graze them on. The other man was dirt poor. He rented his land and owned only one small lamb. The lamb was like a pet to him and his children. It even used to eat at their table and sleep on the end of their bed. People used to joke that he treated the lamb like one of his daughters. One day the rich man had a guest from out of town. He was too stingy to butcher any of his own animals to prepare a meal for his guest, so he sent a servant over the fence to steal the poor man’s lamb. He had the lamb roasted and carved up for the evening meal.”

David was so outraged he nearly exploded! He thumped the table and said, “I swear by God, such a cruel and callous crime will not go unpunished. Hanging’s too good for a man like that! I order that he be made to pay compensation at four times the value of what he stole.”

Nathan looked David straight in the eye and said, “You are the man! You stand condemned by your own words! Now listen to what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to you:

I chose you to be king of Israel. When Saul was trying to kill you, I rescued you. I gave you his throne and his wives and made you king over both Israel and Judah. If that wasn’t enough, you should have said so. I would have gladly given you whatever you asked for. So why do you spit in my face now? Why have you rejected what I taught you and committed such a horrible crime? You murdered Uriah the Hittite so you could get your hands on his wife. He was fighting for you against the Ammonites – he shouldn’t have had to guard his back against you! And now the cat’s out of the bag. Your despicable behaviour will sow seeds of violence and betrayal that will tear apart your family generation after generation. Watch your back. Rebellion will come from within your own family and I’ll hand over your wives to the rebel before your very eyes. He’ll have sex with them right out in the open. Your crime was hidden away where no one could see, but your humiliation will happen in public where everyone can see.”

David cried out to Nathan, saying, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Nathan replied, “You most certainly have, but the LORD is willing to give you another chance. You will not die for your sin as you deserve. However, you have treated the LORD with utter contempt and the damage is done. The child that is soon to be born to you will not survive.”

With that, Nathan left and went home. Uriah’s wife gave birth to David’s son, but the child was struck down by serious illness right from day one.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 14 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

King David’s army, led by Joab and his officers, was preparing for battle against the Israelites who had rebelled with Absalom. David briefed them before they marched out, saying, “Absalom is still my son, so for my sake, capture him unharmed.” He gave these orders to the commanders, and all the troops heard what he said about Absalom.

With that, they headed out against the Israelite army. The battle was fought in the Ephraim forest and it spread out on several fronts. David’s men defeated the Israelite army that day, but it was a horrible bloodbath. Twenty thousand men died in the carnage and the dangerous forest terrain claimed as many victims again.

Absalom ran into a patrol of David’s men, led by Joab. He was pushing through a narrow track on his mule alone. As he passed under a great oak tree, Absalom’s thick hair got caught in the low branches and dragged him off the back of the mule which continued on its way. Absalom was left hanging in mid air, unable to get up or down. The patrol found him hanging there and they killed him. Joab thrust the first spear in and then ten of his men surrounded him and finished Absalom off.

An Ethiopian runner was sent to David to report on the outcome of the battle. He said to David, “Your Majesty, I bring you good news! The LORD has set things right for you today, making you safe from those who rebelled against you.”

The king said to the messenger, “What about Absalom? Is he okay?”

The Ethiopian answered, “May all your enemies and anyone who wishes you harm, my king, meet the same fate that Absalom has met today.”

The king was distraught. He disappeared into the nearest room, overcome with grief. Through his tears he cried out over and over, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! If only I could have died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
Proper 29 (Christ the King) in Year B

and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The God of Jacob, the mighty One of Israel,
chose David, the son of Jesse,
loved him, and raised him up to be a great King.
At the end of his reign,
David spoke these final words from his death bed:

The Spirit of the LORD speaks through me.
The words that roll from my tongue come from God.
A message comes from the ancient solid Rock,
from the God of Israel, saying to me:

“A true leader has a heart for justice
and exercises power with the constant awareness
of being under the eye of God.
Such a leader is as welcome as the dawn,
as popular as sunshine on the weekend,
as valuable as spring rains on the wheat fields.”

I, David, have established my dynasty on this principle,
and God has made a permanent alliance with me,
signed, sealed and delivered.
Surely then I can depend on God to stand by me
and make my hopes and dreams come true.

Leaders who shun God are a very different story.
You wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.
They are a plague on the land, like feral blackberry vines,
which can only be dealt with by bulldozing them into a pile
and burning them on the spot.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 15 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

King David died and was buried in Jerusalem. He had ruled over Israel for forty years; seven years from Hebron, and then thirty-three from Jerusalem. David’s son Solomon inherited the throne, and he had a firm grip on the kingdom.

Solomon honoured the LORD and lived as his father David had taught him. In addition he offered sacrifices and burned incense at some of the sacred sites in the hills. The most important of these sacred sites was at Gibeon and Solomon offered more than a thousand sacrifices on the altar there.

One night, while he was staying over in Gibeon, the LORD God appeared to Solomon in a dream. God said to him, “Solomon, what would you most like me to give you?”

Solomon answered God, saying:

You always loved my father, your servant David. Your love was solid and unshakable, because he was good and honest and did what was right by you. As a sign of your love and loyalty to him, you gave him a son to inherit his kingdom. So here I am, LORD God. I am your servant, and you have made me king in place of my father, even though I’m little more than a boy and have no idea how to conduct myself properly. I am your servant and you have given me the job of ruling your chosen people, even though they are a great nation and there are more of them than anyone can count. So then, what I would most like you to give me is a sharp mind to rule justly and to be able to pick the difference between right and wrong every time. Without such a gift, no one could ever hope to rule your people.

The Lord was most impressed with Solomon’s request, and said to him:

You could have selfishly asked me to give you a long life, or to make you the richest man on earth, or to wipe out your enemies. But instead you have asked me for the wisdom to make the right decisions for my people. You have chosen well and I will give you exactly what you have asked for. You will have more wisdom and insight than anyone else who has ever lived or ever will. And to top it all off, I will also give you what you could have asked for, but didn’t. All your life you will be extraordinarily rich, and you will be greatly honoured by everyone. No other king will be able to hold a candle to you. And if you do things my way and play by the rules I have given you, much as your father did, then I will give you a long and healthy life.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 16 in Year B
- 9th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year C  (v.22-23, 41-43)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The sacred Ark of the Covenant had been kept on Mount Zion in the City of David. When King Solomon was ready to move it into the newly completed Temple, he called all the elders and tribal leaders of Israel to come to Jerusalem for the occasion. The priests carried the sacred Ark into the Temple and placed it in the most holy place, beneath the wings of the cherubim in the inner sanctuary. No sooner had they placed it there than a dazzling cloud filled the Temple. The awesome presence of God was so overpowering that no one could bear to stay inside. Even the priests had to make a hasty exit.

Outside, Solomon stood in front of the altar of the LORD and, with his hands raised high, he led the gathered people in prayer. He prayed:

“O LORD, God of Israel, you are one of a kind! No other god in the universe is like you. Your love is rock-solid and you never forget the alliance you have made with those who follow you whole-heartedly. You made an alliance with my father David, and today you have proven true to your word. Everything you promised him you have now put in place.

O LORD, God of Israel, you promised my father that his descendants would occupy the throne of Israel forever, so long as they stuck to your ways and kept nothing hidden from you. May this be true, O God, for my father David was your servant. May you always back up your promise to him.

But, how could you possibly live on earth, O LORD my God? You could hold the entire universe in your hand, so how can we expect this little temple I’ve built to have enough room for you! But today I ask you to listen to my prayer, for I am your servant. Hear me and answer me, O God. This place bears your name because you have chosen it as the place for people to worship you. So keep your eye on it, O LORD, twenty four hours a day. Whenever I turn towards this place to pray, lend me your ear. I am your servant, and these people belong to you, so any time one of us faces this Temple and prays, hear us from your heavenly home and forgive any offence we have caused.

And don’t stop with just us – foreigners will no doubt hear about you too. Attracted by your reputation and by news of the awesome things you do, they will come from all sorts of far flung places to live among your people and offer their prayers within sight of this Temple. When they do, listen to them from your heavenly home and answer their prayers. That way everyone on earth will hear of you and give you the same respect that your people Israel do. They will know that this Temple which I have built carries your authority.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
Proper 27 in Year B  (v.8-16) (themed series)
- Proper 5 in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

During the terrible drought, Elijah got word from the LORD saying, “Go and live in the Sidonian town of Zarephath. There is a destitute widow there who I have told to feed you.”

So Elijah hit the road and headed for Zarephath. When he arrived on the outskirts of the town, he saw a destitute widow gathering firewood. He called out to her, saying, “Could you please bring me a cup of water; I need a drink.” As she went to get the water, he called out again, saying, “And grab me a chunk of bread too, please.”

But she stopped and said, “I swear by God, the LORD your God, that I haven’t got any bread to give you. I am down to the last handful of flour in my jar and the last dribble of oil in my jug. With them and the firewood I am collecting here, I will prepare one last meal for myself and my son, and when we’ve eaten that, we will starve to death.

Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry; it will be okay. Go and make the bread as you planned, but make two loaves. Bring one to me, and then share the second one with your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, is promising you: “The flour jar will never be empty and the oil jug will never run dry until the day that the LORD sends down rain on the land.”

She went and made the bread as Elijah had said, and they all had enough to eat for many days. The flour in the jar never ran out and the oil in the jug never ran dry. It was just as Elijah had said: the LORD had given his word.

Some time later, while Elijah was still staying in the woman’s house, the woman’s son fell sick. He got sicker and sicker and eventually he breathed his last. The woman turned on Elijah, saying, “What did I do to deserve this, you man of God? Have you come to drag up my sin from the past and make my son die for it?”

But he said to her, “Here, give me your son.”

He took the child from her arms, carried him upstairs to the room where he was staying and laid his body on the bed. He cried out to the LORD, saying, “O LORD, my God, what are you doing? Are you even bringing disaster on the widow who is putting a roof over my head by striking down her son?”

Then he pressed himself against the child three times, crying out to the LORD, “O LORD, my God, give this child back his life again.”

The LORD listened to Elijah’s prayer: the child came back to life and began breathing again. Elijah took the child back downstairs to the main room of the house and gave him back to his mother, saying, “Look, your son is alive.”

At that, the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you really are a man of God, and that when you say you are speaking the word of the LORD, it is for real.”

©2007 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- Proper 4 in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

At Elijah’s suggestion, King Ahab called all the prophets of the god Baal to an assembly on Mount Carmel, and advertised it throughout Israel. When the crowd had gathered, Elijah stepped forward and addressed them saying, “How long are you going to keep trying to play for both sides? Make up your minds and follow the real God. Is it going to be the LORD or Baal?”

But there was silence. No one moved one way or the other.

So Elijah threw down the gauntlet, saying, “I’m here as the last remaining prophet on the LORD’s side, but there are four hundred and fifty prophets here on Baal’s side. Bring us two bulls for a sacrifice. Baal’s mob can choose the bull they want. They are to butcher it and lay it out on the firewood on their altar, but they are not allowed to light the fire. I will prepare the other bull the same way, laying it out on the wood but not lighting the fire. Then they can call out to their god and I will call out to the LORD, and we’ll see which god can prove himself by sending down fire.”

The gathered crowd thought this was a great idea.

Elijah turned to the prophets of Baal and said, “There are lots of you, so you can go first. Choose your bull, prepare it for the sacrifice, and start praying to your god. But you are not allowed to light the fire yourselves.”

So they took one of the bulls and butchered it for the sacrifice. From morning till midday they prayed to Baal, crying out, “O Baal, god of fire, answer us.” But nothing happened. There was no answer, not so much as a whisper. They prayed harder and harder as they marched around the altar which they had made.

Come midday, Elijah started making fun of them. “Come on,” he said. “Shout louder! What kind of god is he? Maybe he’s dreaming. Perhaps he’s nicked out to the dunny. Could he have wandered off somewhere? Maybe he’s fallen asleep, and needs to be woken up.”

So they prayed louder and louder and more and more desperately. They slashed themselves with swords to offer up their own blood, as was their custom, and soon there was blood all over the place. They continued this well into the afternoon, trying everything they could to get an answer out of their god, but still there was nothing. Not a whisper, not a spark, no answer of any kind.

Then Elijah called the people to gather around him, and they crowded in close. The altar of the LORD that had once stood on the mountain was in ruins, so Elijah rebuilt it in honour of the LORD using twelve large stones. Each stone represented one of the twelve tribes descended from the sons of Jacob to whom the LORD had given the name Israel. When Elijah finished building the altar, he dug a trench around it, deep enough to hold several buckets of water. He arranged the firewood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid it on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four buckets of water and pour it all over the offering and the wood. When they had done it, he said, “Do it again”, so another four buckets were poured over it. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” so four more buckets full were poured over it so that everything was completely soaked. The whole altar was dripping wet and the trench was flooded.

At the usual time of the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stood with the people and prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, prove to everyone now that you are the real God in Israel, and that I am serving you and acting on your authority. Answer me, LORD. Show these people what you are made of, so that they will know that you are the real God and that you are winning their hearts back to you.”

With a flash, the LORD’s fire fell and incinerated the lot: the meat, the wood, the stones, and even the water in the trench. There was nothing left but scorched dirt. When the people saw it happen, they fell on their faces in awe, saying “The LORD is the true God! The LORD is the true God!”

©2013 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- Proper 7 in Year C
Proper 14 in Year B (v. 4-8) (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

King Ahab told his wife Jezebel how Elijah had made a mockery of the prophets of Baal and then killed them all. Jezebel was outraged and sent a message to Elijah, saying, “I’ll see that by this time tomorrow you suffer the same fate as the prophets you killed. May the gods strike me down if I don’t.”

Elijah was terrified and hit the road – running for his life. He made it to the Judean town of Beersheba where he parted company with his servant. He then went off-road and pushed on alone into the scrub. After a day of that, he was in utter despair. He collapsed under the only tree for miles that offered any shade and spilled his guts, saying, “I can’t take any more, LORD. Just kill me now! I’m as good as dead anyway.”

Exhausted, he fell asleep where he lay. Suddenly someone tapped him on the shoulder, saying, “Get up and eat.”

Elijah looked around and there, just near his head, was a cake of damper bread and a full water bottle. He ate and drank and then went back to sleep. The messenger of the LORD came to him again, tapping him on the shoulder and saying, “Get up and eat, or you’ll never survive the journey ahead.”

So Elijah got up and ate and drank his fill. That meal gave him the strength to push on for forty days and nights until he reached Mount Sinai – God’s own mountain. When he got there, he spent the night in a cave.

The next morning, the LORD spoke to him, saying, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”

Elijah answered, “I’ve given my all for you, LORD God, ruler of everything. The people of Israel have turned their backs on their alliance with you. They have demolished the places of worship and massacred your prophets. I am the only one left and now they are hunting me down to kill me too.”

The LORD said, “Go outside and stand to attention on the mountain, because I am about to pass in front of you.”

As Elijah stood there, a cyclone hit the mountain, shattering the rocks and splintering the trees; but the LORD was not in the cyclone. After the cyclone, the mountain was shaken by an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a raging bushfire; but the LORD was not in the bushfire. Then, after all that, there came a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his coat over his face and stood stock still outside the entrance of the cave. Then, from the silence, came a voice, saying, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”

Elijah answered, “I’ve given my all for you, LORD God, ruler of everything. The people of Israel have turned their backs on their alliance with you. They have demolished the places of worship and massacred your prophets. I am the only one left and now they are hunting me down to kill me too.”

Then the LORD said to him, “Off you go. Head back down to the desert near Damascus.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- Proper 8 in Year C  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

On Mount Sinai, the LORD spoke to Elijah, saying, “Off you go. Head back down to the desert near Damascus. When you get there, you are to crown Hazael as the new king of Syria. Then you are to crown Jehu, the son of Nimshi, as the new king of Israel. Finally, you are to appoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat, to be your successor as my prophet.”

So Elijah set out as he had been told, and found Elisha, the son of Shaphat. Elisha was working a paddock with a plow pulled by a pair of bullocks. He was the twelfth in a line of men, each plowing with a pair of bullocks. Elijah picked him out and as he walked past he threw his own prophet’s coat over him. Elisha dropped what he was doing and ran after Elijah, saying, “Let me just go and kiss my parents goodbye, and then I’ll come with you.”

Elijah replied, “Off you go. Have I done anything to stop you?”

Elisha went home and severed all his ties. Burning his plow and slaughtering his bullocks, he gave a farewell barbecue for the people he had lived and worked with. Then, putting his old life behind him, he hit the road with Elijah and became his apprentice.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- Proper 6 in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

A man named Naboth owned a vineyard in his hometown of Jezreel, not far from King Ahab’s palace. One day King Ahab decided that he wanted to add Naboth’s vineyard to his own property, so he went to Naboth and said, “Since your vineyard is so near my house, I’d like to have it for a vegetable garden. Sign it over to me and I’ll give you a better vineyard, or if you prefer, I’ll pay you a good price – cash up front.”

But Naboth replied, “God forbid! I could never let go of this land. My family roots are deep in the soil that God has given us.”

Ahab stomped off home in a sulk and stewed all afternoon over Naboth’s refusal to part with his family vineyard. He lay on his bed, scowling at the wall, and wouldn’t even eat. His wife Jezebel came in and demanded, “What has got you so down in the dumps that you’re off your food?”

Ahab replied, “It’s because of Naboth. I wanted to take over his vineyard, and I offered him a good price or even another vineyard in exchange, but he wouldn’t part with it for love nor money.”

Jezebel retorted, “Well, are you the king, or aren’t you? Get up; eat, drink and be merry. I’ll get Naboth’s vineyard for you.”

So Jezebel wrote some letters on the king’s letterhead, signed his name to them and sent them to the leaders of Naboth’s local community. The letters contained the following orders: “Call all the people together for a day of prayer and fasting. Seat Naboth up front and pay a couple of unscrupulous characters to raise accusations against him. Have them accuse him of insulting God and defaming the king. Then take him to the place of execution and stone him to death.”

The community leaders followed Jezebel’s orders to the letter. Just as she had written, they called the people together for a day of prayer and fasting. They gave Naboth a seat of honour up the front. Two paid liars stood up in front of everyone and accused Naboth to his face of having bad-mouthed God and the king. An angry mob dragged Naboth outside the town and stoned him to death. They then sent word to Jezebel that Naboth had been executed.

As soon as Jezebel got the news of Naboth’s death, she went and said to Ahab, “Go and take over Naboth’s vineyard. He won’t cause you any more grief. He’s dead.”

The minute he heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab jumped up and headed off to stake his claim to the vineyard.

Meanwhile, the LORD spoke to Elijah the prophet, saying:

“Go down and confront King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. At this very moment he is in Naboth’s vineyard, taking it over as his own. Go and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Have you murdered a man and now you’re stealing his property as well? You will pay for what you have done: in the very same spot where the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, so too will they lick up your blood, Ahab.’”

    So Elijah went and confronted Ahab in Naboth’s vineyard. Before he could say anything, Ahab saw him coming and said, “So my enemy, have you found me out?”

Elijah answered, “Yes, I have found you out. You have sold yourself over to the ways of evil. You have done things the LORD can’t stand to see and, as a result, disaster is coming your way.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- Transfiguration Sunday in Year B  (v.1-12)
- Proper 8 in Year C  (v.1-2,6-14)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Shortly before the LORD sent a whirlwind to take Elijah into heaven, Elijah and Elisha headed off on a journey from Gilgal. Elijah had tried to talk Elisha out of coming, saying, “The LORD wants me to go to Bethel, but there is no need for you to come. You can stay here.”

But Elisha said, “I’m sticking with you, come hell or high water!”

So they travelled together down to Bethel. There was a community of prophets in Bethel, and they came out and asked Elisha, “Do you realise that today the LORD is going to take your boss away from you?”

“I know,” Elisha replied, “but shut up! I don’t want to talk about it.”

Elijah said, “Elisha, you stay put. The LORD wants me to go on to Jericho, but there is no need for you to come.”

But Elisha said, “I’m sticking with you, come hell or high water!”

So they were still together when they arrived in Jericho. There was a community of prophets in Jericho, and they came out and asked Elisha, “Do you realise that today the LORD is going to take your boss away from you?”

“I know,” Elisha replied, “but shut up! I don’t want to talk about it.”
Elijah said, “Elisha, you stay put. The LORD wants me to go across the Jordan River, but there is no need for you to come.”

But Elisha said, “I’m sticking with you, come hell or high water!”

So the two of them continued on together. A group of fifty prophets followed them, keeping their distance but not letting them out of their sight. When they arrived at the Jordan River, Elijah took off his coat, rolled it up, and slapped the water with it. The water immediately parted to form a dry path through the middle of the river and the two of them crossed over. When they reached the other side, Elijah said, “Elisha, our time together is almost up. What would you most like me to do for you before I am taken away?”

Elisha replied, “Please make me your successor by leaving to me the largest share of the spirit that empowers you.”

Elijah responded, “That’s a tough ask! But if you actually see me being taken away from you, then you’ll get your wish. If you don’t, you’ll miss out.”

The two of them continued to walk along, deep in conversation, when suddenly a chariot of fire drawn by two blazing horses charged between them and Elijah was sucked up in a whirlwind and taken into heaven. Elisha saw the whole thing and kept crying out, “Father! Father! You are gone with the defenders of Israel, God’s mounted warriors!”

When Elijah disappeared from sight, Elisha was torn apart with grief. When he had pulled himself back together, he picked up the prophet’s coat which Elijah had dropped, and headed back to the river bank. He rolled up Elijah’s coat and, slapping the water with it as Elijah had, called out, “Are you with me now LORD, God of Elijah?”

Sure enough, when he struck the water, a dry path opened up through the Jordan River again, and Elisha crossed over to the Jericho side again.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

During the famine, a man arrived from Baal-shalishah, bringing a sack of food as the required offering to God from the first fruits of his harvest. He gave the offering to Elisha, as God’s representative. The sack contained twenty loaves of barley bread and some fresh ears of grain. Elisha told his servant to give it to the hungry people outside so that they could eat. But his servant said, “There’s a hundred people outside. How am I supposed to give this to them without it seeming like a cruel joke?”

But Elisha stood his ground, saying, “Give it to the people and let them eat. It will be enough for them all and they’ll have some left over. We have the LORD’s word for it.”

So the servant handed it out to the people. They all ate and there was some left over, just as the LORD had promised.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- 6th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year B
- Proper 9 in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The commander of the Syrian army was a man named Naaman. Naaman was very popular with his king, because under his command, the LORD had given Syria a string of military victories. Although he was a great soldier and a highly decorated commander, Naaman suffered from leprosy. Naaman’s wife had a young Israelite girl among her servants who had come to Syria as a prisoner of war after a military raid. One day the girl said to her mistress, “If only your husband could meet the prophet who lives in Samaria. I’m sure he would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman spoke to the king about what the girl had said, and the king gladly gave him leave to go. He also provided him with a letter of referral, addressed to the king of Israel.

Naaman headed off, loaded up with money and expensive gifts of jewellery and fine clothing. Arriving in Israel, he delivered the letter to the king. It read, “The bearer of this letter is my trusted servant, Naaman. I have sent him to you to have his leprosy cured.”

When the king of Israel read the letter, he was beside himself with fear; tearing his hair out over what to do. “What does the king of Syria think he’s doing?” he shouted. “Does he think I’m God or something, that I can cure lepers at his request? It looks like he’s trying to pick a fight with me.”

News of this got to Elisha, the prophet of God in Samaria. He sent a message to the king saying, “Why are you tearing your hair out? Get a grip on yourself and send the man to me so that he can find out for himself that there is a real prophet in Israel.”

So Naaman and his whole entourage pulled up in the street outside Elisha’s house. Elisha sent an errand boy out to Naaman with a message, saying, “Go down to the Jordan River and wash yourself in it seven times. That will cure you and your skin will be as clean and clear as a child’s.”

Naaman felt deeply insulted and drove off in a huff, saying, “You’d think that for a man of my standing he could have come out and talked to me himself. I thought that he would at least stand and call on the LORD his God, and wave his hand over my skin to bring about the cure! What’s so special about their scummy Israelite river? Aren’t the two great rivers of Damascus much bigger and better? Couldn’t I wash in them and be clean?”

So he stormed off, seething with rage. But his servants spoke up and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something really difficult, you would have done it, wouldn’t you? So surely you have got nothing to lose but your disease if you do what he said and wash yourself in the river.”

So Naaman relented and, wading out into the Jordan River, he immersed himself seven times in the water, just as the prophet of God had instructed him. Sure enough, he was cured instantly, and his skin became as clear and healthy as a child’s.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

(The people of Jerusalem had returned home from exile and rebuilt the walls of the city.) On the first day of the seventh month they all gathered in the park near the Water Gate. Ezra, the Bible teacher, was there. At the people’s request, Ezra brought out a copy of the book of the law of Moses. The people wanted him to read out the teachings that the LORD had given to Israel. They set up a stage for Ezra to stand on and all the people gathered around – men, women and all the children who were old enough to make sense of it. Early in the morning Ezra took his place on the stage, opened the book of the law and began reading it to the crowd. When he opened the book, everybody stood up in honour of what they were about to hear. Ezra read non-stop until lunch time, and all the people paid close attention to everything they heard from the law. When Ezra had finished reading, he stood up and led the people in a prayer, giving thanks to the LORD, the great God. The people raised their hands in prayer and responded saying, “Yes, LORD! Amen!” Then they all dropped to their knees and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

So in this way the people were brought up to speed with all that was contained in the book of God’s law. A number of other Bible teachers were on hand to move among the crowd and explain things to people so that everyone could understand what was being read. As the teachings began to sink in, many people began sobbing as they realised how far Israel had strayed from the law of the LORD. Seeing their distress, Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest, and the other Bible teachers addressed the crowd, saying:

“This is a special day, dedicated to the LORD your God. This is not a day for mourning and crying but for celebration. Go home and party! Indulge yourselves with good food and fine wine, and share some with those who don’t have enough. This is how we should celebrate a day dedicated to the LORD. So cheer up! Celebrate the LORD who makes us strong!”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

(When Xerxes was King of Persia, his prime minister, Haman, conspired to exterminate the entire Jewish population in a single day. The King’s wife, Esther, was Jewish, and she and her cousin Mordecai set out to thwart Haman’s genocidal plan.)

Queen Esther put on a special dinner and invited the King and Haman to join her. As they were enjoying the fine wine at the end of the meal, the King said to Esther, “You had something you wanted to ask me, Esther my queen. What is it? I’d be happy to give you whatever you want, even half my Kingdom if it would make you happy.”

Queen Esther answered, “Your Majesty, if you really love me and you want to do something for me, you can save my life and the lives of my people. That’s all I ask. A price has been put on our heads, mine and all my people. The order has been given to wipe us out, to eradicate us like vermin. We are to be marched off to our deaths, exterminated. I would have kept my protest to myself if we were only to be sold as slaves – I couldn’t expect a king to be concerned over so small a matter, but we are about to be massacred!”

The King nearly exploded. “Who is responsible for this outrage?” he demanded. “Name names.”

Esther replied, “The treacherous enemy is right here, your Majesty. This murdering mongrel, Haman!”

Haman didn’t know where to look. He just froze on the spot between the king and queen, like a scared rabbit. Then one of the King’s personal servants, a eunuch named Harbona, spoke up. “Your Majesty, if you look out your window you will spot the biggest gallows you have ever seen right outside Haman’s house. He built them to hang Mordecai the Jew – the very same Mordecai who warned you of the plot to assassinate you.”

“Right,” said the King. “String Haman up on his own gallows!”

So the guards dragged Haman out and hanged him on the gallows he had built to get rid of Mordecai. That satisfied the King’s anger.

Mordecai kept written records of all that had occurred. He sent letters to all the Jewish communities in the empire with the following instructions:

In the sixth month of each year, declare a long weekend on the 14th and 15th. Hold celebrations to remember that these were the days on which we Jews were saved from our persecutors. This month began in fear and grief but it has become a time of joy and celebration. So make these days a festival – throw parties, eat and drink, sing and dance, give presents to one another, and see that you include the poor in your giving.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Once long ago, in the land of Uz, there was a man named Job who had a deep respect for God. He had a clean record, always doing the right thing by everybody and having nothing to do with evil.

One day in Heaven, all the beings who watch over the earth gathered to report to the LORD. The Accuser came with them to make his report. The LORD asked the Accuser, “Where have you been?”

The Accuser replied, “I have been wandering around on the earth, going wherever I please.”

The LORD said to the Accuser, “Have you checked out the form of my servant Job? No one else can hold a candle to him. His record is spotless. He honours me, he does the right thing by everyone, and he stays out of anything corrupt. Even after he was wiped out – his property trashed and his family killed – for no other reason than that you slandered him and persuaded me to allow him to be put to the test, even then he didn’t miss a beat. He proved himself to be a man of integrity and he continues to trust me.”

But the Accuser spoke back to the LORD, saying, “Ha! Everyone has their price. You can get anyone to sell out if their life is on the line. Just try it – a direct hit. When his own body is wracked with pain, he’ll curse you to your face.”

The LORD replied, “Okay, we’ll see. You can make him suffer as much as you want, but you’re not allowed to kill him.”

So the Accuser headed off immediately and got stuck into Job. Horrific sores and lesions appeared all over Job’s body, from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, and the pain was excruciating. Sitting outside on the scrap heap, he scratched, and tried every lotion he could get his hands on, but nothing helped. He was in agony. His wife said to him, “Are you just going to cop this and let God get away with it? You’re a goner anyway – just curse God and die and get it over with.”

But Job said to her, “You’re talking through your hat, woman. If we are going to welcome all the good things that God gives us, we’ve got to take the bad with the good. We can’t spit the dummy the moment trouble arrives.”

Despite everything that had happened to him, Job didn’t speak a word against God.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Job addressed God saying:

What happened to dying ‘old and full of days’?
‘Few of days and full of grief’
seems to be the lot of everyone born.
Like flowers, we’re lucky to survive the heat of a single day;
like shadows, we never survive the fall of night.

So why have you set your sights on me?
Why are you dragging me into court as though I was your equal?
How can anyone like me, born in the gutter,
expect to come out clean on legal street? Not a chance!

The length of our lives is already set.
You have decided how long we’ve got,
and when our number’s up, there is nothing we can do about it.
So why not back off and give us a break?
Can’t we do our time without you standing over us?

A tree can still have hope
even if it is cut down in its prime.
There is every chance
that it will sprout again and flourish.
Even if its stump rots away
and its roots wither in the ground,
it only needs a whiff of water and it buds again
and comes up strong like a young plant reborn.

But we mere mortals die, and that’s it.
Dead and buried, no human is ever seen again.

Just like a lake drying out in a never ending drought,
or a river fading to a trickle and then its gone,
so too we mortals crumble to dust
with no hope of a second time round.
We think we’ll wake up in the morning,
but no way! Not till hell freezes over.

If only the land of the dead was just a prison
and you could lock me safely away till your anger cools down.
You could fix my sentence
and remember me when my time was done.
Then I could serve my time and hang on to hope,
as I counted down the days till my release.
Wishful thinking!
When we mere mortals die, that’s it, isn’t it?

©2013 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 23 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

After hearing the attempts of his friends to explain his suffering, Job said:

“I continue to complain bitterly;
God is still kicking me while I’m down.

If only I knew where I could find God,
I’d pound on the door and demand a hearing.
God would have to listen to me state my case
and argue my innocence.
Let’s see what God would have to say to that!
Then I could get God’s answer clear in my head.

Would God simply pull rank and rule me out of order?
I don’t think so. Surely God would listen.
Surely if an honest bloke like me gets a fair hearing,
God would judge in my favour
and clear my name once and for all.

But I can’t find God anywhere.
I look up, down, forwards, backwards – nothing.
I think I catch a glimpse to the left, but no;
I rush to the right, but God vanishes like a mirage.

My hope and courage are almost gone;
God has left me a frightened wreck.
God has let a dark cloud close around me,
but my protest will not be silenced!"

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 7 in Year B (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

From the midst of a cyclone, the voice of the LORD answered Job, saying:

“Who are you to mouth off against me
when you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about?
Stand up straight like a man
and see if you can give answers when I ask the questions.

“Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?
If you’re so smart, tell me all about it.
Who drew up the plans and decided how big it would be?
Who held the tape measure and marked it out?
Speak up – surely you know!
What do the foundations sit on, and how far down do they go?
Who turned the first sod? Who laid the cornerstone?
Do you remember what the morning stars sang at the celebration?
It brought everyone in heaven to their feet cheering.

“Perhaps you remember who closed the floodgates
to contain the ocean
when it gushed up from the womb of the earth?
I was there. I clothed it in mist
and tucked it up in a thick blanket of fog.
I decided where it should start and finish.
I closed the gates and built the levy banks.
I said to the sea, ‘I’ve drawn a line in the sand that you must not cross.
Your powerful waves can pound to here, but no further.’”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

From the midst of a cyclone, the voice of the LORD answered Job, saying:

“Who are you to mouth off against me
when you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about?
Stand up straight like a man
and see if you can give answers when I ask the questions.

“Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?
If you’re so smart, tell me all about it.
Who drew up the plans and decided how big it would be?
Who held the tape measure and marked it out?
Speak up – surely you know!
What do the foundations sit on, and how far down do they go?
Who turned the first sod? Who laid the cornerstone?
Do you remember what the morning stars sang at the celebration?
It brought everyone in heaven to their feet cheering.

“Can you order the clouds around
and tell them when and where to rain?
When you give the word for the lightening to flash,
does it ask you first, ‘How far?’

“Who tips off the water birds when the floods are coming?
How do ants know when it’s going to rain?
Who has the wisdom to regulate the clouds,
or be put in charge of distributing the rain
that waters down the dust so it won’t blow away?

“Can you help a hungry lion to hunt,
or hand feed lion cubs all they need?
Do you lie around with them in their den
and teach them how to pounce on their prey?

Who do you think provides for the Currawong
when it’s chicks wander about hungry
and cry out to God for a feed?

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

After the LORD had spoken, Job replied:

“LORD, I know that you can do anything,
and that once you set your mind to something,
nothing can stop you.

You asked why I talk so much when I don’t have clue.
You’re right. I was talking through my hat!
I couldn’t begin to understand such deep matters.

You put me in my place and told me to listen;
You hit me with a raft of questions
to show me how little I knew.

In the past I only knew of you second hand;
but now I have met you face to face.
So now I am ashamed of myself. I’m eating dirt!
I won’t go down that track again.”

After this, the LORD turned Job’s luck around again and gave him everything. If he was well off before, he was twice as well off now! All his relatives and old friends came and shared a great feast with him at his place. They offered their condolences and comforted him for all he had suffered through the acts of God. Everyone gave him presents – money and gold jewellery and the like. From that time on the LORD blessed Job more than ever. His stock runs held massive herds and flocks and were highly productive. He became the father of seven sons and three daughters. He named the girls Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren Happuch, and they grew up to be the most beautiful women in the land. Job gave them an equal inheritance in his will, along with their brothers. He lived for another hundred and forty years – long enough to see his great-grandchildren having children of their own. By the time he died, he’d had the kind of innings most people only dream of.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- Proper 25 in Year A (themed series)
- the 7th Sunday of Pascha in Year B
Proper 20 in Year B
- 6th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

LORD, how good it will be for those
who turn a deaf ear to the advocates of greed;
who steer clear of corrupt short-cuts;
and avoid those who sneer at goodness.

Instead they relish your word, LORD.
Calming their minds,
they savour the scriptures day and night.

You make them strong and healthy,
like a Redgum tree with its roots deep in a river bank,
flowering abundantly every season,
and always laden with healthy leaves.
All that they do is vibrant with life.

But what a different story it is for the wicked;
they are about as secure as dry leaves in a cyclone.

They will have no defence
when they are brought to justice,
and no friends among people of integrity.

LORD, you keep a protective eye
on all who walk a straight path of peace and justice,
but nothing will save those who leave that road.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

O God who always does what is right,
answer me when I cry for help.
You gave me breathing space last time I was in a tight spot;
be generous to me again, and hear my prayer.

How long will these people get away with it,
dragging my name through the mud?
How long will they go on spinning their propaganda
and manufacturing lies and deceit?

When will they wake up to the fact that you, LORD,
have singled out those who are faithful for your special care.
Your hear, LORD, when we cry out to you.

No matter how much pressure anyone is under,
there is still no excuse for doing the wrong thing by others.

Help us instead to quieten our minds down,
to meditate on the truth
and get a good night’s sleep.
We put our trust in you alone, LORD,
and offer you all we have in gratitude.

Cynics whinge that they never see any goodies from you, LORD,
and that you never seem to smile on them.

But as for me, you have filled my heart with joy,
and I’d take that any day,
over all the goodies their money can buy.

I can go to bed with a clear conscience
and sleep in peace,
for you, and you alone, LORD,
are my security, day and night.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion:
- Proper 6 in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Please listen to me, LORD;
tune in to my desperate words,
my groans and cries for help.

You are my God and my ruler;
listen as I pray to you.

You’ll hear me every morning, LORD;
as the sun rises, I’ll lay out my needs and wait on you.

You are not the kind of god who gets a laugh out of evil;
you don’t allow corruption to get a foothold anywhere near you.

You can’t stand the company of the arrogant;
you hate wrongdoing with a passion.

You unmask those who deal in deception;
you are disgusted by liars and blood-suckers.

But thanks to your extravagant and unfailing love,
I am free to enter your house.
I am totally in awe of you,
as I bow down in your temple to worship.

Keep me headed on the right track, LORD;
give me a clear-cut path
so I won’t get thrown off course by my enemies.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
-the Feast of the Holy Name
- New Year's Day
Proper 22 in Year B (themed series)
Trinity Sunday in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Our LORD and ruler,
all over the world
the mere mention of your name sets hearts pounding!

Your glory fills the universe!

The gurgling of babies makes more sense
than the clever arguments of your enemies.
The innocent chatter of children
silences the venomous talk of your opponents.

When I gaze at your handiwork in the night skies
— the moon, the stars, the milky way —
the whole cosmos under your control;
I can’t help but wonder why you bother with us.
Why do you care so much for mere human beings
when we count for so little in the scheme of things?

And yet, for reasons known to you alone,
you created us almost on a par with yourself
and decorated us with the highest honours and glory.

You have even entrusted us with power over your precious creation;
you placed the future of all life in our hands:
sheep and cattle;
emu and kangaroo
insects, reptiles, birds, and sea creatures;
air, land and water and the planet itself.

Our LORD and ruler,
all over the world
the mere mention of your name sets hearts pounding!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 7 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

You, O LORD, are a safe haven for the oppressed,
a refuge when times are tough.
Your name inspires trust,
for you have never let down
those who turned to you.

We look to Zion, your home, and sing our praises,
announcing to everyone what you have done.
For you, O LORD, track down those
who spill innocent blood
and keep a record of every victim’s cry.

Give me a break, LORD.
You’ve seen how much I’ve been kicked around;
you’ve even stepped in yourself
to pull me out of danger.
I’ll never stop talking about what a hero you are.
I’ll shout it on the streets
and broadcast it on the air
until everyone knows how you saved us.

The nations that backed away from you
have fallen into their own traps:
the steel jaws they so carefully hid
have slammed shut on their own legs.
You hid nothing from them, LORD.
Your requirements were well publicised.
Judgment has come, just as you said;
the schemes of the wicked backfire on them.
This time they are their own victims!

Callous and ruthless nations
have spurned your ways, LORD,
and written their own ticket to hell.

But the deprived will not always be disregarded,
and those who dream of a day of plenty
will live to see it.

Up and at it, LORD! It’s time for action!
Don’t let these people have their way.
Call them to account for what they’ve done;
them and the nations they lead.
Put the fear of God into them, LORD;
strip them of their pretensions
so that everyone can see them
for what they really are.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Heartless, mindless scum kid themselves
that there is no God.

They are corrupt and callous.
The things they do would make you sick.
There is not an ounce of good among them.

The LORD scans the human race, one at a time,
looking for any who are still wise;
for even one who still has a heart for God.

But it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack!
They’ve all lost the plot.
Everyone is caught up
in their own perverse ways.
Every last one of them.

Don’t they know where all this will get them?
They never look to the LORD for anything;
they chew up God’s people and spit them out.

But it will soon be their turn to cringe in fear,
because God sides with those who play straight.

If you think you can trample
the dreams of the battlers,
Watch out! The LORD will be there for them.
We can hardly wait to hear the songs of freedom
as justice marches down from God’s mountain!

What a day it will be
when the LORD redistributes the wealth
and God’s people are compensated
for their suffering!

Our ancestors will rise up with joy!
The streets will fill with singing and dancing!

©2000 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.

LORD, who is welcome at your table?
Who can stay in the place you call your own?

You have given us the answer, LORD.
It is those who walk with integrity
and do the right thing;
those who speak the honest truth
and do not use their words to wound;
those who do not exploit their friends
or put down their neighbours.
It is those who hate corruption
and look up to those who honour you, LORD;
those who give their word
and stand by it even if it costs them;
those who lend freely, without seeking a profit,
and cannot be bribed into shafting the innocent.

You honour such people, LORD,
and anchor them on unshakable ground.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
-the Great Paschal Vigil
Proper 28 in Year B  (themed series)
- Proper 8 in Year C  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Protect me, God,
you are my place of refuge.

I’m acknowledging you as the one in charge, LORD;
you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

I delight in the company of those
who dedicate themselves to you;
they are the salt of the earth.

Those who worship other things
will have nothing but grief.
I will not buy into their futile devotions;
I will not utter the names they revere.

You are all I want, LORD, and all I need;
you hold my future in your hands.

You mark out the best of everything for me;
you’ve set me up with a bright future.

I heap accolades on you, LORD,
for you always give me wise advice;
even in the dead of night
you fill my heart with your teachings.

I’ll always stick close behind you, LORD;
with you near by,
I’ll never be pushed off track.

You fill me with delight, LORD;
joy erupts from deep in my bones;
my body relaxes, safe in your care.

You’ll never let the grave drag me down;
your faithful servants are never left for dead.

You set my feet on a life-giving track, LORD.
To be in your presence is absolute bliss.
All I could dream of comes from your hand.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Great Paschal Vigil
- Proper 22 in Year A
- 3rd Sunday in Lent in Year B
Proper 19 in Year B
Proper 21 in Year B (v.7-14, themed series)
- 3rd Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Your glory is written in the sky, God;
your artistry is carved on the face of the earth.
From one day to another, the message passes on,
and each night puts the next one in the know.

Not a word is spoken,
not a sound do they make;
yet their silence reverberates around the earth
and their unspoken message echoes from pole to pole.

You made the sun at home flying across the sky.
It takes to its task with the eagerness of a bridegroom;
as exultant as an athlete breasting the tape.
As your messenger, God, it does its rounds,
from one end of the sky to the other,
warming everything in its path.

Your revealed will is right on the mark, LORD;
it gives our souls their second wind.
What you says goes,
and any fool can wise up by taking note.

Your instructions are spot on, LORD;
anyone who follows them will be glad they did.
What you direct us to do is easy to see,
and once seen, everything become clear.

Respect for you keeps us true, LORD,
nothing can corrupt it, now or ever.
What you decide is always accurate;
a fair ruling, beyond dispute.

Your Word is worth far more
than even diamond encrusted gold!
It is sweeter by far
than any mouth watering delicacy,
even chocolate dipped strawberries with cream!

But that’s not all!
Your Word, O LORD, keeps me out of danger,
and following it pays off richly.

Can anyone put their finger on all their own faults?
LORD, eradicate the bugs I haven’t even identified yet.

Remind me not to entertain sour contemptuous thoughts,
and don’t let them start pulling my strings.
Without them, I can stay on course,
and keep my record clean.

That’s what I want, O LORD.
I want all the things I say,
and all the things I mull over in my heart,
to be things I’d be proud to offer to you,
for you are the bedrock of my life;
the one who puts me back where I belong.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 6 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Be there for your chosen ones when trouble hits, LORD.
Use the influence of your name to protect them!
Send help from your sacred home,
and give them support from Mount Zion.

Remember all they have given you in the past,
and treasure the gifts they have offered up to you.

Give them their heart’s desire, LORD,
and make all their plans come out right.
Prove yourself a winner and set them cheering;
inspire them to fly your flag and chant your name.
Give them all they ask for, LORD.

We know you will help your chosen ones, LORD;
you will reach out your hand from heaven
and answer their prayers with a great victory.

Some people get arrogant about their military might,
or the resources at their disposal,
but the only thing we put our pride in, O LORD our God,
is belonging to you and bearing your name.
That mob are heading for disaster,
but we will come out on top and stand proud.

Give victory to your chosen ones, LORD;
be there for us when we call.

©2006 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
Good Friday
- 2nd Sunday in Lent in Year B (v. 23-31)
- 5th Sunday of Pascha in Year B (v. 25-31)
Proper 23 in Year B (v.1-15)
- Proper 7 in Year C  (v. 19-28) (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

God, my God, why the hell have you turned your back on me?
How come in my most desperate hour,
you are nowhere to be found? 

I called you all day, God, over and over;
I tossed and turned all night,
but I still didn’t hear back from you.

Aren’t you supposed to be our one and only?
Aren’t you the one we’ve always voted for?
Our ancestors put their trust in you
and you never let them down.
They cried out for help and you stepped in;
you saved them from disaster and shame.

So what about me?
Shouldn’t I still be treated as a human being,
even if I feel like a worm –
looked down on, loathed, stomped on?

Everyone who sees me sticks the boots in;
they turn up their noses and dismiss me with a sneering joke;
“Why don’t you see if God’s on your side?
Surely if you’re a mate of God’s then God will help you out!”

What’s the story God?
Your hands eased me from my mother’s womb;
You kept me from harm as I suckled at her breast.
As a baby, I rested trustingly in your arms;
You’ve been my God since the day I was born.

Don’t quit on me now.
All hell is about to break loose
and there is no one else I can turn to.

I’m surrounded by enemies
like a mob of wild bulls.
Angry, snorting, stampeding beasts;
they charge at me, all horns and pounding hoofs.

I’m chucked out like a bucket of dirty water,
and I’m so smashed up I can barely move a muscle.
My heart has gone to jelly,
a quivering useless blob.
My throat is as dry as a salt pan,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
And you? You have left me for dead
covered in dust and flies.

Like a pack of hungry dingoes they sniff around me;
evil mongrels, every one of them.
I’m so wasted my hands and feet feel like they could snap off;
My ribs stick out like a picket fence.

They hang me up for a public viewing,
boasting over how they finished me off.
They empty my pockets
and toss a coin to see who gets my clothes.

What are you doing, LORD? Don’t quit on me now!
Get your act together and come to my rescue!
Save me before I get my throat cut,
before my body is dog meat!
Pull me out before they get their teeth into me!

At last! Just before the bulls ran me down, you have rescued me.
I won’t forget this – I’ll let everyone know.
Whenever people gather, I’ll be singing your praise.

I’ll call on all who honour you, LORD, to stand up and say so!
All who trace their roots to Jacob will give you the glory!
All who share the heritage of Israel will stand in awe of you!

LORD, you did not rubbish anyone
or blame the victims for their suffering.
You did not turn away or slip off quietly;
when I cried for help, you responded.

Whenever people gather to worship,
my heart overflows and I sing your praises.
Out in the open for all to see
I’ll do all that I promised.

At your table, God, the needy will feast;
those who hunger for you will be fed till they burst with praise!
They will be able to live it up, now and forever!

In every corner of the earth people will wake up to themselves
and turn back to you, LORD.
Every race, nation, tribe and family
will offer themselves to you in worship,
for you have the last word on everything;
what you say goes.

Even the dead will bow down to you, LORD;
those who are trampled in the dust will look to you in hope,
and I will live for you and you alone.

Our kids and their kids will serve you, LORD;
as we pass the message down from one generation to the next.
People not even born yet will hear the story;
they will be told of what you have done to set us free.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 23 in Year A (themed series)
- 4th Sunday of Pascha in Year B
Proper 11 in Year B (themed series)
- 4th Sunday of Pascha in Year C
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

You, LORD, are my guide in the wilderness;
there is nothing more I could need.

You set up camp in places of beauty and shelter;
you lead the way on secluded tracks
beside creeks of cool clean water.
I feel my spirit breathing freely again;
your reputation puts me at ease;
I leave the navigating to you, and follow.

Even if we hike through a perilous valley,
where crows keep a menacing watch,
fear will still not get the better of me.
As long as I stick with you
I know I’ll make the distance;
with a knife and a bit of rope
you seem able to tackle any challenge.

You cook up a feast for me,
as those who wanted to feed on me watch, frustrated.
You pamper me like an honoured guest
and constantly top up my glass.

My life feels charmed, each and every day.
Love, mercy and all good things
keep falling into my lap.

I’m with you for life, LORD,
where you go, I’ll go;
where you live, I’ll live.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 10 in Year B
-the Presentation of our Lord, (v.7-10)
- All Saints Day in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The whole planet belongs to you, LORD —
the earth and everything that lies in it,
grows from it, or walks on it.
You raised the land above the seas,
and secured its foundations in the depths.

Who will be granted a permit
to climb your sacred mountain, O God?
Who may scale the summit to your holy presence?

Those who have played a straight bat,
acting with integrity,
not selling themselves out to delusions,
or playing fast and loose with the truth.

Your rich goodness will come their way, LORD,
and you will declare them innocent
and set them free.

These are the people who take no shortcuts
in their search for you.
Their greatest hunger is to know you,
the God of their ancestors.

We hear the call:
“Wake up! On your feet!
Open the gates and form a guard of honour!
Roll out the red carpet
before the glorious sovereign.”

Who is this majestic ruler?
It is you, LORD, supreme and dynamic,
the conqueror of conflict.

We hear it again:
“Wake up! On your feet!
Open the gates and form a guard of honour!
Roll out the red carpet
before the glorious sovereign.”

Who is this majestic ruler?
It is you, the LORD who rules over everything.
This majestic ruler is you, our God.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasions:
- 1st Sunday in Lent in Year B
- Proper 21 in Year A (v.1-9)(themed series)
- 1st Sunday of Advent in Year C
- Proper 10 in Year C  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

I gladly offer you everything I am, LORD .

I have put my trust in you, God;
please don’t let me down;
don’t give my enemies grounds to gloat.

Be there for those who hang in there for you, no matter what:
don’t leave them with egg on their faces.
Save that for the two-faced scabs who deserve it.

Let me in on your way of doing things, LORD;
teach me how to follow your tracks.

Steer me along your ways of truth, and teach me all about them.
Only you can save me from disaster, God,
so I’ll wait for you before setting out.

Your love and mercy have been as timeless and dependable as the rock;
please don’t change your mind about them now!

Don’t keep a record of everything I’ve done wrong in the past.
Let your unshakable love colour your view of me,
and keep your reputation for generosity intact!

You always do what is good and right, LORD,
and so you patiently retrain those who do wrong.

You pilot a safe course for those who are not too full of themselves;
you give lessons on your ways to the humble folk.

Every path you tread, LORD, is marked by solid love and loyalty
for the benefit of all who keep our end of the bargain with you.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 22 in Year B
- Proper 17 in Year A (v.1-8)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Clear my name, LORD.
I’ve been true to my word;
I’ve staked everything on you and stood my ground.

Check me out thoroughly, LORD;
weigh up my every thought and desire.

I keep myself focussed on your rock-solid love,
and I stay in step with you all the time.

I don’t hang around with worthless scum;
and I keep clear of those who talk the talk
but never walk the walk.
I can’t stand corrupt company,
and I keep my distance from liars and cheats.

There’s no blood to wash off my hands;
I can dance round your altar with a clear conscience
singing a song of thanks to you, O LORD,
and telling the stories of the great things you’ve done.

O LORD, I love the temple you call your own,
the place where we can bask in your presence.

Don’t wipe out the good with the bad;
........make sure I’m not on the list to be chopped
with those who ruthlessly trample over others,
with the callous, the corrupt, the con-merchants,
those who think their money puts them above the law.

I’m not like that — I play a straight bat.
Be good to me, LORD. Put me back where I belong.

You know I’m on the level;
I align myself with your people,
and sing your praises in their company.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Your light leads me to safety, LORD;
I’ve got nothing to fear.
You shelter me like a fortress, LORD;
I’m afraid of no one!

Vicious thugs can close in like sharks,
ready to eat me alive;
but savage violence is no match for you;
they’ll fall flat on their faces.

They could give my name to a death squad
and I’d still be at peace;
their armies could lay siege to my house,
but I’d still feel safe with you.

Only one thing I ask of you, LORD,
the one thing that really matters:
let me live out the whole of my life
right here in your presence;
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