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 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(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(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(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):
- 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):
- 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):
- 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):
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):
- the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
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 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 occasion(s):
Proper 13 in Year B
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.”

©2000 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(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
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 occasion(s):
Proper 14 in Year B (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Fearing for his life, Elijah 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.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Transfiguration Sunday in Year B
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.

©2003 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 occasion(s):
- 6th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year B
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):
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 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 25 in Year A (themed series)
- the 7th Sunday of Pascha in Year B
Proper 20 in Year B
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(s):
-the Feast of the Holy Name
- New Year's Day
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 occasion(s):
-the Great Paschal Vigil
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
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 occasion(s):
Good Friday
- 2nd Sunday in Lent in Year B (v. 23-31)
- 5th Sunday of Pascha in Year B (v. 25-31)
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)
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)
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 occasion(s):
- 1st Sunday in Lent in Year B
- Proper 21 in Year A (v.1-9)(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 17 in Year A
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.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

LORD God, like your angels in heaven
we speak of you in glowing terms,
for your glory and strength deserve rave reviews.
We give you a huge rap, LORD;
we put up you name in lights
and hold a huge ticker tape parade
but it still falls short of the worship you deserve.

Your voice, LORD, rings out like thunder;
resounding over the waters,
drowning out even the waves of the sea.
Your voice echoes with power;
it would bring anyone to their knees.

Your voice, LORD, shatters the Ironbark tree,
and splinters the Mountain Ash like match sticks.
Your presence makes Mount Bogong jump like a calf;
Uluru like a rock wallaby.

Your voice, LORD, strikes fire from stone.
The sound of your voice convulses the wilderness;
the Simpson Desert shudders in labour.

Your voice, LORD, is like a cyclone,
howling through a rainforest,
stripping the leaves from the trees.

We all gather to worship and cheer with all our might;
for you rule forever, LORD,
and neither surging flood
nor tidal wave can undermine you.
Give strength to your people, LORD!
Bless your people with peace!

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 6th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year B
Proper 8 in Year B (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

I’ll be singing your praises, every chance I get, LORD,
because you got me out of deep trouble
and spared me the gloating of my enemies.

I pleaded for help, LORD God,
and you stepped in and healed me.

They were nearly ready to pronounce me dead
but your brought me back, LORD;
you put me back on my feet
when I was about to be carried to the morgue.

So I’m singing your praises,
and I’m encouraging everyone to do the same;
to name you with joyful thanks.

We manage to get you angry at times,
but it blows over in a moment
because your mercy keeps on keeping on.
We may have an evening of bitter tears,
but by morning your mercy has us smiling again.

I was guilty of taking your goodness for granted;
I thought I had it made.
You had put me on top of the world
but I got all too full of myself.
You stepped aside – made me stand alone —
and I turned to jelly!

I realised how much I needed you, LORD,
and in my panic I begged you for mercy.

“What good is my blood to you?” I cried.
“How will it help if I’m in the grave?
Can a corpse sing your praises?
Will a gravestone publicise your goodness?
Give me another chance, LORD.
Please, LORD, bail me out one more time.”

And sure enough, you did, LORD.
You turned my tears to laughter;
you set my dragging feet dancing;
you dusted me off and dressed me up for a party.
So now I’m singing your praises
from the bottom of my heart,
and no one can shut me up!

You are my God, LORD,
and I’m eternally grateful.

©2001 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.

I look to you for refuge, LORD;
don’t let me be dragged through the mud.
You promised justice – save me!

Give me your ear – I’m crying for help;
rescue me before it’s too late.
Be a secure refuge for me,
a bomb shelter where I can hide.

Your solid walls protect me from danger;
lead me and guide me so I’ll be a credit to you;
keep me clear of pitfalls and traps.

You are the only refuge I trust, LORD;
my future is in your hands.
Snatch me from the grasp
of those who are hunting me down.

I’m working for you; look on me with love.
Stand by me and save me.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Be kind to me, LORD,
I’m a mess.
My eyes are bloodshot from crying;
My heart is breaking
and my whole body aches.

Grief gnaws away at my life,
sorrows piles up, year after year.
Misery is draining my strength
and destroying my health.

I get no respect from my opponents;
nothing but ridicule.
Those who know me can’t bear to look at me;
even strangers cross the street to avoid me.

Everyone wants to purge me from their thoughts;
they’ve given me up for dead;
abandoned me like a burned out car.

Everyone is out to get me;
they’re whispering behind my back.
They’ve portrayed me as a monster
and put a price on my head.

But I still put my trust in you, LORD;
you are my God and you’re all I’ve got left.
My future is in your hands;
snatch me from the grasp
of those who are hunting me down.

I’m working for you; look on me with love.
Stand by me and save me.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- All Saints Day in Year A (v.1-10,22  themed series)
Proper 14 in Year B (v.1-8  themed series)
Proper 15 in Year B (v.9-14  themed series)
Proper 14 in Year B (v.15-22  themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

I will speak up in your favour, every chance I get, LORD.
Every time I open my mouth, I’ll sing your praises.

Everything I’m proud of is your doing, LORD;
the news of your goodness puts a smile on the face of the helpless.

I’ll put the spotlight on you, LORD;
and gather a crowd to spread the word.

When I pounded on your door, LORD, you opened up;
you calmed my fears and put my mind at rest.

Those who look to you light up with joy;
their faces never grow dark with shame.

When I had nothing, I cried out, LORD, and you answered;
you got me out of some serious trouble.

You station your angels to watch over those who trust you;
they watch us, guard us, and get us safely through.

May everyone taste for themselves how good you are, LORD;
may everyone find shelter in you and be happy.

May the people you have chosen treat you with respect, LORD;
for those who do never want for anything.

Even fearsome sharks go hungry sometimes,
but people who entrust themselves to you never miss out.

When the children gather, I’ll teach them to trust you, LORD;
this is the message I’ll pass on to them:

“Do you hunger for life;
do you want to know the secret of a long and happy life?
Don’t vilify anyone with what you say,
and let every word that passes your lips be the honest truth.
Give evil a wide berth, and embrace goodness instead.
Seek peace, and work hard to maintain it.”

O LORD, you keep a protective eye on those who play a straight bat;
you’re never out of earshot if they need you.

You grit your teeth and stand against evil though,
and you erase from history those who spread it.

When good honest people need help, you’re there for them, LORD;
you get them out of whatever trouble they’re in.

You are especially close to the broken-hearted;
when hope is crushed, you come to the rescue.

Your people endure as much suffering as anyone else, LORD,
but you ensure that they make it through.

Like a vigilant bodyguard,
you see that not a bone is broken.

Evil is lethal to those who drink their fill of it;
those who despise the straight and narrow will stumble to destruction.

But you, LORD, are always ready to bail out those who serve your cause;
no one who runs to you for safety will be handed over to death.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You unwavering love fills the universe, LORD;
your loyalty is as timeless as the milky way.

Your passion for doing right
is as solid as the mountain ranges;
your understanding of us
is as deep as the oceans.

You set out to save the lives of every creature, LORD,
and no one – not man nor woman,
not bird nor beast – is left out of your care.

Your love, O God, is our greatest treasure!
You keep a place for everyone
under the shelter of your wings.

You invite all who come to feast at your table;
the wine of your love flows like a river
and no one’s glass is allowed to run dry.

Life bursts forth from you like a fountain;
light shines from you and lights up our world.

Don’t ever give up on us, LORD;
keep loving all who trust you,
keep rescuing all whose hearts are in the right place.

Protect us from those who would trample us underfoot.
Stand in the way of those who would drive us from the land.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You are in a league of your own, LORD God;
nothing and no one comes within a bull’s roar of you!
I can’t keep track of all the amazing things you’ve done
or all the generous plans you’ve made for us.
I could talk about them till the cows came home
and still have barely scratched the surface.

You are not looking for gifts from us, LORD;
nothing we own is any use to you;
Your generosity and mercy are not for sale;
but you have given us ears and asked us to listen.

So I am giving you my “Yes!”
I’ll make your book my own and live by it.
Doing what pleases you will be my greatest delight,
for you are my God and I’m taking your ways to heart.

When all your people gathered,
I spoke up about how you had bailed me out.
I gave them the full story; I left nothing out;
you know this is true, LORD.

I have made no secret of the help you gave me;
I have put it all out in the open.
I have told everyone how you saved my life
and how we can trust you completely.
I have put it all on the public record
and kept nothing to myself
about your rock-solid love or dependability.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Those who are ready to help the poor have got it made;
in hard times, you step in to get them through, LORD.

You stand guard over them
and keep them in one piece.
You don’t let their enemies get their claws into them, LORD,
and they are the happiest people in the country.

When they are sick, you get them safely through,
and when they are injured, you put them back on their feet.

In dire straits, I’m praying to you, LORD;
I know I have done the wrong thing by you,
but please show mercy and heal me.

My enemies are gloating over how crook I am;
keen to see me dead and forgotten.

They visit, pretending to wish me well,
but are soon out on the streets,
crowing to one another about how near to death I am.

In their hatred of me, they whisper and sneer about me,
and wish on me the worst death they can imagine.

They reckon some deadly virus has got me by the throat,
and that I’ll never make it out of the hospital alive.

Even my best mate, who I trusted through thick and thin,
who shared many a meal and many a drink with me,
has turned against me now.

Give me a break, LORD, in your generous mercy.
Put me back on my feet so I can wipe the smirk off their faces.

When my enemy’s campaign against me falls apart
I will know that you have sided with me, LORD.

Recognising my integrity, you have gone in to bat for me
and given me a permanent place at your side.

May everything work out right for you, LORD, our God,
now and ever, to the end of time and beyond!
And so say all of us! Too right!

©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.

Like a wallaby searching for a waterhole,
I crave you, God, with every fibre of my being.

Everything inside me thirsts for you, God,
for you, the Living God.
When will the drought break
so I can be with you, face to face.

I’ve had nothing but tears to sustain me;
day and night it’s been the same;
I can’t shut out the jeers and taunts,
“Where is this God of yours?”

Cherished memories flood my mind,
rubbing salt in the wound;
memories of past celebrations
when I led the worship in your house.
I can still hear the laughter and joyous singing;
the crowds celebrating your goodness.

Why do I feel so defeated?
Why am I so anxious and agitated?
I tell myself not to give up hope,
for you are my God and my help
and I’ll be glad of that again.

I feel so defeated inside;
I try to remind myself of your goodness
as I walk along the beach to the river mouth
and look towards the mountains.

But all I hear is the roar of waves
and churning waters;
I feel like chaos is breaking over me
and sucking me down, deeper and deeper.

Every day I read of your rock-solid love, LORD;
and every night I sing your songs
and pray to you as the God of my life.

But still I find myself asking the question:
“Why has your rock-solid love let me down?
Why are so many out to get me,
making my life such a misery?”

My wounds are deep and painful
but the torture goes on;
over and over I hear the taunts,
“Where is this God of yours?”

Why do I feel so defeated?
Why am I so anxious and agitated?
I tell myself not to give up hope,
for you are my God and my help
and I’ll be glad of that again.

Clear my name, God;
side with me against these godless tormentors.
Rescue me from their lies and abuse.

I trusted you to look after me, God;
why have you pushed me aside?
Why are so many out to get me,
making my life such a misery?

Let your truth blaze like a beacon
so I can see the way to go;
let it light up the path and lead me
to your home on the sacred mountain.

Then I will offer myself to you in worship, God;
offer myself with uninhibited joy.
I will praise you with music and song,
O God, my God!

Why do I feel so defeated?
Why am I so anxious and agitated?
I tell myself not to give up hope,
for you are my God and my help
and I’ll be glad of that again.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Clear my name, God;
side with me against these godless tormentors.
Rescue me from their lies and abuse.

I trusted you to look after me, God;
why have you pushed me aside?
Why are so many out to get me,
making my life such a misery?

Let your truth blaze like a beacon
so I can see the way to go;
let it light up the path and lead me
to your home on the sacred mountain.

Then I will offer myself to you in worship, God;
offer myself with uninhibited joy.
I will praise you with music and song,
O God, my God!

Why do I feel so defeated?
Why am I so anxious and agitated?
I tell myself not to give up hope,
for you are my God and my help
and I’ll be glad of that again.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Feast of the Annunciation
Proper 17 in Year B  (v.1-2, 6-9)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

My heart overflows with words of delight;
a song of love bursts forth for the king;
my voice as charmed as the poet’s pen.

You, my king, are a man of unsurpassed beauty.
Every word that passes your lips is generous and inspiring.
God’s richest blessings are yours forever.

Warrior, present yourself armed and in uniform,
in all your splendour and majesty.
Ride forth in glory, the pride of your people,
to defend the cause of truth and justice.

May your arm be strong and your skills razor sharp;
may every blow land with telling effect,
piercing the opposition to your righteous reign,
bringing to their knees the enemies of life.

Your throne is God-given, and will never be shaken.
Your royal power is wielded for justice.
You have a passion for integrity
and a loathing for corruption.
Therefore God has chosen you above all others,
crowned you with joy like no other has known.

Rich and exotic fragrances cascade from your royal robes,
and your palace is alive with music and dancing.
The daughters of kings wait on you, hand and foot;
and on your arm is your chosen bride in a gown of liquid gold.

O chosen daughter, bride of the king, listen to my advice:
leave your father’s home and don’t look back
for the king is wild with desire for you.
What more could you want? Abandon yourself to him!
Wedding gifts will arrive from every nation,
the wealthy outdo each other with their presents.

The inner beauty of your bride, O king,
outshines even her wedding gown,
woven with gold and sparkling with jewels.
In dazzling beauty she is brought to you
with her chosen bridesmaids at hand.
Joy and laughter process in with her,
and the whole palace erupts with elation.

Soon you will have children, continuing your family line,
and the thrones of the earth will be theirs.
No one will ever forget you,
your fame will inspire generation after generation,
and songs will be sung in praise of you forever and ever.

©2000 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.

Our refuge, our shelter, our fortress, our security;
you are all these things to us, God.
You are always there for us when we need you.

Because of you, we will not panic
even if our world comes crashing down around our ears;
even if the earth splits open beneath us;
even if chaos pours in like a raging flood;
even if life as we know it goes up in smoke.

You are the LORD of cosmic power — the God of our ancestors —
our safety, our refuge.

A river flowing with life-giving water runs through your holy city
bringing joy and peace to your sacred home.
You are the most high God, and the city where you live
will rest secure and greet the new day with confidence.

The world may be in chaos, nations tearing apart at the seams,
but when you speak, the earth sinks to its knees.

You are the LORD of cosmic power — the God of our ancestors —
our safety, our refuge.

What you have done is a sight for sore eyes, LORD;
you have left a trail of destruction across the earth:
weapons of war crushed and burned;
implements of fear smashed to pieces;
conflicts and wars closed down for good.

You call us to a peaceful calm
and invite us to know you as God.
You stand supreme above the nations,
unmatched in all the earth.

You are the LORD of cosmic power — the God of our ancestors —
our safety, our refuge.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

We applaud you, LORD, as everyone should;
we roar your name and sing for joy.

You are an awesome God;
number one in the universe;
the great ruler of all the earth.

You have subdued those who attacked us;
put hostile nations at our mercy.

You picked out the best land for us;
you favoured us with a prized inheritance.

Take your place at the top of the dais, LORD God,
as we sound trumpets and cheer in your honour.

You are our God, and we’ll sing your praises;
you are our ruler, and we’ll sing your praises.

You are the God who rules over all the earth;
we’ll sing your praises in all our songs.

You are the God who rules over the nations;
the throne where you sit is one of a kind.

Leaders gather from every people on earth
and, like Abraham’s descendants,
give their allegiance to you, God.
They lay down their weapons
and honour you as their ultimate superior.

©2001 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.

Great is the LORD – worthy of our highest praise —
and great is the city where God lives.
The mountain of God’s presence
is a spectacular sacred site,
a source of joy for all the earth.
On Mount Zion stands the city of the great Ruler.
There in God’s sheltering presence
we have been given a place of safety.

Rulers of nations, despots and tyrants,
united to overthrow God’s dominion,
but one look at God’s sure defence
and their arrogant plans were blown.
In sheer panic, they took off in all directions.
They were as shaken as a woman in labour,
or a storm-tossed ship smashed on the reef.

We had heard of God’s great city,
and now we have seen it with our own eyes
The LORD who rules over everything
will see that this city stands firm forever.

O God, here in your holy Temple,
we meditate on your unfailing love.
Your reputation, O God, spreads throughout the earth,
and wherever you are named,
people shout for joy.
Your rule of justice has the last word everywhere.
Let Mount Zion celebrate,
and every city and town throw a party
because God’s decisions
bring justice and righteousness.

Come, let us walk around the holy mountain.
Let us examine our God from every angle.
Count up the towers of safety.
Inspect the sheltering places
within the presence of God.
Pass all this on to your children
and your children’s children
so that they too will know that this is our God.
This God is our God forever and ever,
the God who will lead us in peace
for all time to come.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You, LORD, are the mighty God.
Wherever the sun shines, from horizon to horizon,
you call the earth to attention.

From the spectacular beauty of your holy mountain,
you approach us in a blaze of glory.

You come with the full fanfare;
flashes of fire in front of you;
thunder storming all around you.

You call the earth and sky to sit as a jury,
and set out the charges against your people.

You call the accused:
those who swore their faithfulness to you,
and signed themselves to a binding alliance.

The whole universe honours you as the judge,
and affirms the honesty of your court.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Ash Wednesday
- 5th Sunday in Lent in Year B  (v.1-12)
Proper 13 in Year B (v.1-12)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

O God, your love never gives up.
Have mercy on me now!

I’m relying on your record of generous mercy:
please wipe my slate clean!

Scrub away the filth I’ve been living in;
Scour away the stain of my sin.

I know only too well what I’ve done;
my sins stare me in the face.

It is you I’ve double-crossed, you I’ve betrayed;
I’ve done things which I knew you despised.

You have all the facts and you know what I deserve;
what ever you decide is fair enough.
I’ve been on the wrong side of you forever.
I turned my back on you before I was born.

You want honesty that comes from deep within,
so teach me your wisdom,
let it take root in my heart.

Get the bleach out and give me the treatment!
Soak me and wash me
until I’m as white as snow.

Open my ears to laughter and music.
Though you ground me into the dirt,
let me now rise to the sounds of joy.

Turn a blind eye to my record;
disregard my prior convictions.

Renovate me from the inside, O God;
rebuild my heart and rewire my brain;
install in me a new fault-free operating system.

Don’t cut me off from you now,
or withdraw your Holy Spirit from me.

Rekindle in me the joy of being safe in your care,
and fill me with an insatiable desire to follow you.

Then I’ll show others how to get back on track;
they’ll quit their corrupt ways and come back to you.

Get me out of this mess before I get blood on my hands, God.
Only you can get me out alive,
and I’ll tell everyone that you did.

Lord, as soon as you’ve got me out
and it’s safe to open my mouth,
I’ll be singing your praises with all my might.

I know I can’t fool you with hollow religion, God.
I could perform all the rituals perfectly, by the book,
but it wouldn’t mean a cracker to you.

What you want to see is a genuine heart-felt apology
and a commitment to a total life-change.
You will never turn away anyone who comes to you heartbroken
and promising to turn over a new leaf.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 20 in Year B  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Pull rank to save me, God;
use your influence to clear my name.
Hear my prayer, God;
lend an ear to what I have to say.

Arrogant mongrels have got me in their sights;
they spit in the face of everything decent
and now they are plotting to kill me.

Look at them! They couldn’t care less about you, God!

But you are there for me, God; for sure you are.
You, Lord, are my bodyguard.
When enemies come, you’ll turn their evil back on them.
I know you can be relied on. Finish them off!

I will offer you my worship and bring my gifts to say thank you.
I will put your name up in lights, LORD, for you are the best.
You have bailed me out of every crisis
and with my own eyes I’ve seen my enemies fail.

©2012 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

A hush comes over every fibre of my being;
for you alone I wait, God;
my future is in your hands.

You alone are the rock I cling to;
my protection, my salvation;
nothing can rattle me.

My freedom and honour depend on you, God,
for you are a solid rock and a safe refuge to me.

Everyone should put their trust in you, God,
and pour their hearts out to you always,
for you are our safety and security.

Ordinary battlers are but a puff of smoke;
toffs and silvertails are nothing but a mirage.
In the overall scheme of things,
no one is of any great consequence.

Those who try stand-over tactics to get ahead,
or think they can make their fortune from crime,
will find that their hopes are in vain;
the money they make
will come at the expense of their peace of mind.

You have given your word, God;
I have heard you say this more than once:
that power is your middle name
and rock-solid love and loyalty are your nature.
Lord, you treat everyone as they deserve
for what they have done.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Please God, deliver me!
Help me, LORD, quickly!

These people are out to get me, LORD;
leave them confused
with egg all over their faces.
They are trying to do me harm;
knock them off their perches
and send them packing.

When they smirk and make a joke of me,
run them out of town in disgrace.

Put a smile on the face
of everyone who seeks you, LORD.
Give everyone who loves your ways
reason to celebrate your greatness forever.

But right now, God, I need your help in a hurry;
I can’t make ends meet.
You are the one who helps me;
the one who rescues me from danger.
Quickly, LORD, help me without delay!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I run to you for protection, LORD,
please don’t ever let me down.

You always do the right thing,
so please be there for me when I need you.
Hear me when I call for help
and step in quickly to bail me out.

Keep me safe when I need somewhere to hide.
You are like a mountain hideaway to me;
like a bunker than nothing can blast open.

If I fall into hostile hands,
be my God and rescue me;
Don’t let the callous and cruel
get their claws into me.

You are my only hope,
the only one I can depend on, LORD;
I’ve trusted you since I was a kid.

I’ve leaned on you for support
since the day I was born.
You were the midwife who delivered me from my mother’s womb,
the safe hands who pulled me gasping into life.
I’ll never stop thanking you for that!

Many people think my name spells trouble,
but you stick up for me when they attack.
How can I ever thank you enough?
I go on all day about how wonderful you are.

Don’t give up on me when I get too old, LORD;
don’t turn your back when I’ve got nothing left to offer.

I’ll need your help, because my enemies are out to get me,
they’re plotting against my life even now.
They’ve put out a contract on me
and guaranteed immunity to whoever brings me down
They say you’ve given up on me
and that no one will defend me.

Don’t ever let me out of your sight, God;
jump to my defence at the first sign of trouble.

Turn the tables on those who slandered me,
leave them with egg all over their faces.
See to it that those who set out to destroy me
get the public humiliation they deserve.

I will never give up hope,
because I trust in you.
Every time I open my mouth,
I will sing your praises more and more.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Send us a wise ruler, O God,
one who takes after you in justice and honesty;
one who does the right thing by everybody,
and is vigilant in ensuring justice for the poor;
one who will stand up for the disadvantaged,
provide a way out of the poverty trap,
and stomp on those who exploit the vulnerable.

Then the whole land will know prosperity and integrity;
the mountains, the valleys, the hills, the plains.

Send us a wise ruler, O God,
who will outlive the sun and moon,
who will rule forever, generation after generation.

May your chosen one give life to the land
like the spring rains in the wheat country.
May the people yield a bumper crop of honesty,
and may peace be as dependable
as the southern cross in the night sky.

Give your chosen one the top ranking in all the world,
deferred to and revered
by every other monarch, president and governor.
May they all feel compelled to pay homage,
to come bearing gifts, priceless and exotic,
and to put themselves and their nations
at the service of your chosen one.

All this is only right for the one who rescues those in need,
and has compassion for the homeless and the refugees;
who champions the cause of the forgotten and the spurned,
and guarantees the lives of the powerless;
who rescues those subjected to violence and oppression,
and treasures their lives, each and every one.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

We are keen to learn of you, LORD;
your people are eager to hear what you have to say.

We listen to those who pass on the old stories;
the dark mysteries of ancient wisdom.

When your anger cut down our ancestors, they sought your mercy;
they pleaded with you and promised to mend their ways.

They remembered that you are as solid as rock;
that you are the greatest; the one who puts things right.

But they were all words and no action,
trying to pull the wool over your eyes with sweet talk.

They were fickle and two-faced;
they did not stick to the terms of their alliance with you.

And yet you remained compassionate;
you continued to let them off the hook
and refrained from wiping them out.
Over and over you swallowed your anger
and chose not to let your fury have its day.

©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.

We are keen to learn of you, LORD;
your people are eager to hear what you have to say.

We listen to those who pass on the old stories;
the dark mysteries of ancient wisdom.
These are things we must hear and know,
for the wisdom of our ancestors must not be lost.

We will not deprive our children of these things.
We will pass on the stories to the next generation, LORD,
stories of the wonderful things you have done,
so that they know how great and amazing you are.

Our ancestors saw the miraculous things you did
when they were still doing hard labour in the land of slavery.

You cut a track through the sea and let them escape;
you made the angry waters stand aside to let them through.

You sent a cloud to guide them in the daytime,
and a fire to light the way for them at night.

In the parched outback, you broke open rocks,
bringing drinking water flooding up from deep below.
You made fresh water pour from the rock;
a river of life flowing in the desert.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

We are keen to learn of you, LORD;
your people are eager to hear what you have to say.

We listen to those who pass on the old stories;
the dark mysteries of ancient wisdom.
These are things we must hear and know,
for the wisdom of our ancestors must not be lost.

We will not deprive our children of these things.
We will pass on the stories to the next generation, LORD,
stories of the wonderful things you have done,
so that they know how great and amazing you are.

You laid down the law for your people, LORD,
and set out what you expected of your chosen ones.
You spelt it out to our ancestors,
and told them to teach it to their children,
so that the next generation would know your ways;
so that those who had not yet even been born
would be able to grow up and pass it on to their children;
so that they will trust their future to you, God,
living their lives by your instructions
and never forgetting what you have done.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 13 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

LORD, when our ancestors were wandering in the outback
you gave orders to the sky,
and opened the storerooms of heaven;
you rained down manna for them to eat,
the grain of heaven as a gift to them.

Mere human beings ate the bread of angels,
for you sent them all the food they could eat.

You set the wind blowing in the sky,
gusting from south and east with your power;
and on the wind you sent more food still;
game birds coming in like wind-blown sand,
falling thick on the ground around the camp,
meals-on-wings landing on their doorstep.

The people stuffed themselves happily, LORD,
because you had given them just what they were craving.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

God, you are the one who watches over your people
like a lifeguard supervising a dangerous beach,
watching from a high seat, like a king enthroned.
Listen to our prayer and clearly flag the boundaries,
so that your tribes will no longer get out of their depth.

Up and at it, God!
Come equipped to rescue us.
Come and smile on us again, God;
save us and revive us with your kiss of life.

LORD God, you rule over everything;
how much longer will you keep us in the sin bin,
turning away in anger when we pray?

You reduced our rations to tears alone;
tears by the plate full, tears by the cup full.
You made us the laughing stock of our enemies
and even our neighbours turn up their noses.

Come and smile on us again, God;
save us and revive us with your kiss of life.

Take our side again, your wayward favourite child,
the one you raised by hand to be your own.
We will never go off the rails again;
save us now and your name will be on our lips forever.

LORD God, you rule over everything;
Come and smile on us again;
save us and revive us with your kiss of life.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Come and smile on us again, God;
breathe life back into us and save us.

Remember how you brought us out of Egypt like a young grapevine,
so that you could plant your own vineyard.
You cleared the land and prepared the soil;
you planted our roots deep and we grew strongly.

We grew wide and high, bigger than the tallest trees,
even shading the mountains.
Your vineyard grew and grew till it filled the land
from the western ocean to the eastern river.

So why have you torn down the security fence,
so that anyone can tramp through and pinch the fruit?
Wild pigs rampage through doing untold damage;
feral goats and rabbits eat whatever’s left.

Come on, God! You rule over everything. Do something!
Turn around and look at what’s going on.
This vine came from root stock you planted yourself;
take charge of its welfare again.

©2001 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
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

We sing our lungs out to you, God,
for you make us strong;
we shout for joy, celebrating you,
the God of our ancestors.

Our songs ring out in your honour,
and on our instruments we make the sweetest music we can.

A trumpet blast opens the festival;
every month we celebrate your new creation.

We are your people, God, and this is our tradition;
a sacred law for every generation to follow.
You gave it to us through Joseph
when our ancestors took refuge in Egypt.

You have spoken to us in an unfamiliar voice,
reminding us that it was you who freed us from slavery
and you who lifted the burden from our backs.

When we cried out in panic, you rescued us;
from the thunder clouds you answered our plea,
and at a desert spring you called us to account.

You begged us to pay attention,
to let you set us straight;
you longed for your people to listen to you.

You warned us to steer clear of alternative gods;
to avoid offering our devotion to every new fad.

You are the LORD our God;
the God who rescued us from the land of slavery.
When we come to you with our hungers,
you fill us with all that we need.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Presentation of our Lord,
Proper 16 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The place where you live is just exquisite,
O LORD, ruler of all!
With everything inside me, I long to be there;
I go all weak at the very thought of it.
I want to be there, body and soul,
singing my heart out for you, O God of life.

Even the birds find a home in your house;
there are nests in every nook and cranny
where pigeons and sparrows raise their young.
Bird song and incense rise together
to honour you, Sovereign God, ruler of all.
How privileged are those who live in your house;
joyous songs of praise are forever on their lips.

Those who have tapped into your strength
have got it made.
The highway to heaven begins within them;
a direct route to your holy presence.

They are like people who can find water in the desert;
they drink from life giving springs
that no drought can ever dry up.
They go from strength to strength,
and will see you face to face on your holy mountain.

O LORD, ruler of everything, hear my cry.
Tune in to my prayer, O God of our ancestors.

Your presence is our protection, O God;
smile upon us, your chosen ones.

A day spent in your presence
beats a thousand nights in a five star resort.
I’d rather scrub floors in your house, O God,
than rub shoulders with the rich and famous
beneath the flashing lights of greed and corruption.

O LORD our God, you are the sun that shines on us
and the shield that keeps us safe.
You shower us with generosity and honour,
and deny nothing to people of integrity.

O LORD, ruler of all,
everyone who trusts in you has got it made!

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
the 2nd Sunday of Advent in Year B,
Proper 10 in Year B (v.8-13)(themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

LORD, you smiled on your land
and brought back the good times for your people.

You struck out the record of our guilt
and pardoned all we had done wrong.

We are eager to hear all you have to say, LORD God,
for your words bring peace and wellbeing
to those who stick with you
and leave behind their foolish ways.

Surely for all who respect you,
the life you saved us for is within reach.
Our land will be ablaze with your presence.

What a life it will be!
Love and loyalty will link arms;
justice and peace will become lovers.

Faithfulness will sprout and reach for the sky;
integrity will beam down on the earth.

You will give us every good thing, LORD,
and the land will give bumper crops.

Justice and integrity will spring up as you approach,
lining the road to welcome you among us.

©2002 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.

LORD, we will never stop singing about your rock-solid love;
    we will transmit the story of your faithfulness
        on down to every generation to come.

Your love and loyalty were built to last for eternity;
    we’ll go public with that message.
Your faithfulness is beyond measure;
    as infinite as the sky above us.

You said,
    “I have formed an alliance with my chosen leader;
        I have given my word to David, my servant.
    I have guaranteed a firm foundation for his family forever;
        there will always be one of his descendants on the throne.”

Long ago, in a vision, you spoke to your faithful people, saying:

“I have crowned a great hero.
    Among you, my people,
        I found one fit for the throne.
My search ended with my servant David.
    Pouring holy oil on his head,
        I have set him apart as the chosen one.
He’ll always be able to look to me for strength;
    when he needs some muscle,
        I’ll be there to back him up.

The enemy will not get under his guard,
    the wicked will never drag him down.
I’ll knock flat those who oppose him;
    despise him and you answer to me!
My love for him is unshakable;
    I’ll be faithful to him for ever.
On my say so, he’ll rule supreme and unchallenged.
I will put everything in his hands,
    from coast to coast with all that lies between them.
He will cry out to me, ‘Oh, my Father, my God,
    you are the rock I cling to for safety!’”

©2001 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.

Long ago, in a vision, you spoke to your faithful people, saying:

“I have crowned a great hero.
Among you, my people,
I found one fit for the throne.
My search ended with my servant David.
Pouring holy oil on his head,
I have set him apart as the chosen one.
He’ll always be able to look to me for strength;
when he needs some muscle,
I’ll  be there to back him up.

The enemy will not get under his guard,
the wicked will never drag him down.
I’ll knock flat those who oppose him;
despise him and you answer to me!
My love for him is unshakable;
I’ll be faithful to him for ever.
On my say so, he’ll rule supreme and unchallenged.
I will put everything in his hands,
from coast to coast with all that lies between them.
He will cry out to me, ‘Oh, my Father, my God,
you are the rock I cling to for safety!’

I will make him number one in all the world,
he’ll outrank even the superpowers.
Forever and always, I will be true in my love,
and the covenant we’ve made
will never be broken.

I will see that his family name always has an heir,
and guarantee his throne to his descendants
as long as night follows day.
If his children turn their backs on my ways
and step off the paths I’ve marked out;
if they tear up the instructions I’ve given them
and go against my clear directives,
they’ll pay for it.
They’ll cop the maximum sentence for their crime.
I’ll make them lie in the bed they’ve made.
But even then I won’t take back my love,
and the vows I made to David will still ring true.

There is no way I would break my promise
or try to take back what I’d already said.
I have given my word, once and for all,
and staked my whole reputation on it.
I will never lie to David.

His family tree will be an unbroken line
and his dynasty as sure as the sun.
It shall be as fixed as the orbit of the moon,
as dependable as the lights in the night sky.

©2000 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.

Lord, in every generation
you have been house and home to us.

You are God, and have been from time before time;
even before you brought the mountains to birth;
even before you created the planet or anything on it.

You tell us when our time is up,
and return us to the earth from which we came.

From where you look,
a thousand years is like the blink of an eye,
and the ancient past like yesterday.

Our lives pass as if you had erased them completely;
they are gone like a dream.
Like cut flowers they are fresh and new one day,
and faded memories the next.

It’s time for a change, LORD.
Hasn’t this gone on long enough?
For pity’s sake, it’s time to give us a break.

Let a new day dawn
and give us our fill of your love and loyalty,
so that our lives may be full of smiles and laughter
till the end of our days.

Give us more days of happiness
than the days of suffering you sent.
May the years where evil reigned
be cancelled out by years of joy.

Make your actions clear to those of us in your service;
let your children see your strength in all its glory.

Put us in your good books, O Lord our God,
and give us a rich return for all our labour —
may the work of our hands turn to gold!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Lord, in every generation
you have been house and home to us.

You are God, and have been from time before time;
even before you brought the mountains to birth;
even before you created the planet or anything on it.

You tell us when our time is up,
and return us to the earth from which we came.

From where you look,
a thousand years is like the blink of an eye,
and the ancient past like yesterday.

Our lives pass as if you had erased them completely;
they are gone like a dream.
Like cut flowers they are fresh and new one day,
and faded memories the next.

The burning heat of your anger wipes us out;
your indignation cuts us down.

You have spelt out the charges against us,
and brought our hidden offences out into the open.

Day by day, the weight of you anger drains the life out of us,
and our years come to a close with a whimper.

How many years have we got?
Seventy, perhaps eighty if our health holds.
But even a long life is a grind, all hard work and heartache,
and in no time it’s over and we’re gone for good.

Does anyone treat your anger with the respect it deserves?
Surely the extent of your indignation over sin
is matched only by the honour that is your due.

So teach us to value each and every day
so that we will be wise enough to make the most of them.

©2002 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.

It is a privilege to be able to publicly thank you, LORD,
to sing your praises and put your name up in lights.
It is great to start the day singing about your rock-solid love,
with a full band ringing out the tune,
and to end it thanking you for being so loyal and trustworthy,
accompanying our praise with guitars.

For you, O LORD, have given us so much to be happy about;
what you have done with your own hands
sets us singing and dancing for joy.

People who always do the right thing by others
will thrive like a tropical rainforest
and grow strong like a river redgum.
They have put down their roots in your soil, LORD,
and they will brighten up your temple like flowers.
Even when they grow old they will still be fruitful,
healthy and vibrant and pulsing with life.
They are a credit to you, LORD,
proving for all to see that you are straight and true.
You are our rock,
and there is nothing rotten or crooked in you.

©2009 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

LORD, you are the great ruler.
Majesty enfolds you like a royal robe
and strength radiates from you.

You have fixed the world firmly in its place.
Your throne is immovable, LORD;
ever was and ever shall be.

Surging floods have risen, O LORD,
surging up with a mighty roar;
engulfing everything in thunderous sound.

You are more impressive than the surging waters,
more powerful than the crashing waves;
you are number one in all the universe, LORD!

Whatever you say is set in stone.
The place you live, O LORD, is clearly sacred;
its holiness will outlast time.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Christ the King Sunday in Year A (themed series) (v.1-7a)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

We gather and sing to you, LORD.
We raise the roof with shouts of joy
for you are the rock on which we are safe!

We come into your presence bursting with gratitude;
we set the house rocking as we sing your praises!

For you, LORD, are the greatest God of all;
you rank way above every other claim on our loyalty.

You hold the depths of the earth in your hands,
and the highest mountains are at your disposal.

The oceans and the dry lands alike belong to you,
for you made them with your own hands.

You made us too, LORD, and we worship you,
falling to our knees and bowing down to the ground!

You are our God and we are your people;
you tenderly care for us like a sheep rearing her young.

If only all your people would pay attention to you!

If only they wouldn’t turn their backs on you
like their ancestors did that day at Meribah.
There in the Massah Desert they slandered you;
they forgot all you had done
and demanded that you prove yourself.

For forty years you turned your back on them, LORD,
for you couldn’t stand to see how twisted they became
as they deserted your ways.

You angrily wrote off the whole generation
and denied them the satisfaction of finding a place to call home.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Eve/Day),
-
Proper 24 in Year A, (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

We sing like we’ve never sung before, LORD;
singing to you with all the earth.
Every mention of your name sets us singing your praises.

We never tire of telling the story of how you bailed us out;
all over the world, we speak of your incredible accomplishments;
everyone we meet hears us giving the credit to you.

You are the greatest, LORD; we can’t praise you enough!
When it comes to gods, you are in a league of your own;
all other objects of devotion are powerless.

But you, LORD, created the whole cosmos;
you are surrounded by majesty and celebration;
strength and beauty are signs of your presence.

People of every race and creed recognise you, LORD;
they recognise you behind all that is strong and true;
they name you as the one who deserves all the glory.

We offer ourselves to you, LORD;
we fall to our knees in this beautiful place of worship;
with all the earth, we celebrate you alone.

You are our king, LORD; we’ll tell everyone everywhere!
You have set the world on firm foundations,
and with you in charge, everyone will get a fair go.

Let the heavens and the earth celebrate;
let the roar of the sea join in;
let everything that walks, flies or swims join the party!

You are on your way, LORD,
and even the roadside trees cheer as you approach,
for you are coming to set things right on the earth.

You will sort things out and put things right,
and reveal the truth about everything and everyone.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Eve/Day),
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

You, LORD, are the ruler of everything!
    The whole earth celebrates!
    Up and down the coast, everyone is shouting for joy!

Deep, dark clouds of mystery hide you from us;
    justice and integrity are the bedrock of your rule.

You are a consuming fire, leaping in all directions,
    purging the earth of its enemies.

Your touch splits the darkness with bolts of light;
    the earth is lit up and shakes like a leaf.

You are Lord of all the earth, and in your presence
    even the mountains go weak and melt like wax.

The heavens herald you as the one who puts things right;
    all people everywhere witness your day of glory.

Those who worshipped hollow facades
    will hang their heads in shame.
Those who take pride in the power of possessions
    will be horrified when it all proves worthless.
All these false gods and short-lived saviours
    crumble and fall before you, the real thing.

From the Temple Mountain to the farthest flung town,
    your people are celebrating with great joy, O God,
    because you have seen the truth and brought about justice.

You, LORD, are number one in all the universe;
    in a league of your own,
        far above anything else that seeks our allegiance.

You love those who detest evil, LORD;
    You stand guard over those who are loyal to you;
        You come to their rescue if they fall prey to violence.

When people have integrity and do what is right,
    you light up their lives and fill them with joy.

All who build their lives on the bedrock of your truth and justice
    are celebrating all you do, LORD.
Just the mention of your holy name
    and they burst forth with a flood of gratitude!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Eve/Day),
-the Great Paschal Vigil
- the 6th Sunday of Pascha in Year B
- the Feast of the Holy Cross (v.1-5)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

We sing like we’ve never sung before, LORD,
because you have done fantastic things.
With your sleeves rolled up you got stuck in
and came out on top.

Your victory has made the headlines, LORD,
now the whole world can see that you were right all along.

You have never defaulted on your rock-solid love,
or your loyalty to your chosen people.
From one end of the earth to the other,
everyone has seen your victory.

With all the world, LORD, we raise a noisy celebration,
singing our lungs out and shouting your praise.

The bands strike up in your honour, LORD,
filling the air with festive music.
With a brass fanfare and a dancing beat
we loudly celebrate your reign over us.

The whole creation joins in the celebration:
the ocean and its creatures roar their approval;
the land and its animals, cheer and stomp;
rivers and lakes give a standing ovation,
mountains and hills erupt in applause.

We put on the whole show in your presence, LORD,
celebrating your arrival as you finally bring justice.
With you in charge we know things will be put right;
now every one on earth will get a fair go.

©2000 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.

You, LORD, rule over everything!
Enthroned in glory, surrounded by awesome creatures,
your presence sends shivers down our spines
and makes even the earth tremble and quake!

LORD, your greatness is celebrated in Zion,
and in every nation you are number one.
At the mere mention of your name,
people everywhere burst into praise,
for your greatness and holiness are awesome!

Ruling in strength; loving justice with a passion;
you have seen to it that everyone gets a fair go.
You have laid down the law
so that your people will do what is right.

We fall at your feet and sing your praises, O LORD our God,
for your greatness and holiness are awesome!

Moses and Aaron served you as priests,
Samuel was another who reached out to you.
They cried out to you on the world’s behalf,
and from the awesome cloud you answered them.

They stuck to what you had told them, LORD,
and did whatever you asked of them.
When they did wrong you set them straight,
in no uncertain terms;
but you forgave them, LORD,
and never failed to answer them.

We sing your praises, O LORD our God.
We climb your holy mountain to worship you,
for your greatness and holiness are awesome!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

With all the earth we join in thunderous celebration, LORD;
raising the roof as we come into your presence singing;
coming gladly to offer you our devotion.

LORD, we know that you are God.
You made us, and we belong to you.
We are your people, fed and cared for by you alone.

Your gates are open to us; thank you!
In your presence, we sing your praises!
We name you as deserving all the credit and thanks!

You are the best, LORD!
Your love is rock-solid, and always will be.
Down through the ages, you keep your word and stick by us.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 8th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year B
- Proper 19 in Year A (v.1-13)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

With all our hearts, we praise you, LORD,
from the depths of our being
we name you as our one and only.

With all that we are we sings your praises, LORD;
how could we ever forget all you have done for us?

When we do wrong, you forgive us;
when we are sick, you make us well;
when our lives fall apart, you put us back together.

With love and mercy, you treat us like royalty;
you shower us with good things all our lives;
you makes us feel as young and free as an eagle.

You are there for those who are victimised, LORD;
you clear their names and bring them justice.

Through Moses, you let us know what you are on about;
through Israel, you let us see what you can do.

Your mercy and generosity are extravagant, LORD;
your patience and love are as solid as rock.

When we do things that anger you,
you don’t keep dredging them up forever.

You never deal with us as harshly as we deserve;
despite the wrong we have done, you let us off lightly.

We could no more climb to the moon on a step ladder
than measure the limits of the love and loyalty
you show to those who respect you.
We could no more swim the ocean from pole to pole
than cover the distance you put between us and our sins.

Your care and concern for those who honour you
is as tender as that of parents for their children.

We honour you, LORD,
joining our voices with all you have made
and all you rule over.

With all our hearts, we praise you, LORD.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

O LORD, what a wildly fabulous world!
Working hand in hand with wisdom
you have made
an earthful of wonderful creatures.

Just look at the deep wide sea,
swarming with life beyond our imagining,
from coral to crayfish, from mussels to marlin.

Ships plough the waves,
while mythical monsters cavort in the depths.

Like seagulls at a picnic,
every creature looks to you for food.

They gather around in eager expectation,
and gorge themselves when you open your hand.

If you turned your back, they’d be panic stricken;
if you withdrew your Spirit
they would have nothing to breathe,
their bodies would quickly crumble.

But when you breathe your spirit into them,
life sprouts up fresh and fragrant again
and the earth itself is revived.

Glorious is all you do, LORD,
may you be honoured forever.
May everything created be a joy to the LORD.

One look from the LORD makes even the earth quiver;
one touch and even the mountains erupt.

With every breath I will sing to the LORD;
as long as there is life in me,
I will give honour to my God in song.

Even my unspoken thoughts I offer to the LORD,
for the LORD is a delight to me.

May wickedness be wiped from the earth,
may enemies of life no longer be found.

O bless the LORD, everything within me.
Praise the LORD!

©2000 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.

We shout your name and give you thanks, LORD;
we will tell everyone what you have done for us.
We sing your praises in your presence,
and publicise your wonderful achievements.

We put your name up in lights, your name alone;
our hearts burst with joy when we approach you.
It is you we want most of all, you and your strength;
we try to keep near to you all the time.

Like all the descendants of Abraham and Jacob,
and all your chosen children,
we remember all the astonishing things you have done
and the breath-taking wisdom of your decisions.

Your people turned up in Egypt;
yes, Jacob migrated to Africa.
You let them breed there like rabbits, LORD,
and they grew stronger than the native population.
The Egyptians grew fearful and bitter
and plotted to force your people into slavery.

You sent your trusty worker, Moses,
and his chosen right hand man, Aaron.

You are the greatest, LORD!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 20 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

We shout your name and give you thanks, LORD;
we will tell everyone what you have done for us.
We sing your praises in your presence,
and publicise your wonderful achievements.

We put your name up in lights, your name alone;
our hearts burst with joy when we approach you.
It is you we want most of all, you and your strength;
we try to keep near to you all the time.

Like all the descendants of Abraham and Jacob,
and all your chosen children,
we remember all the astonishing things you have done
and the breath-taking wisdom of your decisions.

You led Israel out of slavery,
carrying off money and goods,
and every one of them made it out safely.
The local people were glad to see the last of them,
because they were terrified of them.

You rolled out a cloud like a blanket for them,
and lit up the night with a fire.
They asked for meat and you gave them quail;
all they could eat, you dropped from the sky.
You opened a rock and water poured out,
flowing like a river in the desert.

You were true to your word, LORD,
just as you promised your trusty worker, Abraham.
Your led your chosen people to freedom,
laughing and singing with joy.

You gave them lands as a gift
and made them rich at the expense of others.
In return you asked that they follow what you said,
and stick to doing things your way.

You are the greatest, LORD!

©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.

We sing your praises, LORD!
We overwhelmed with gratitude for all your goodness;
your love and loyalty go on forever.

Words cannot describe all the amazing things you have done;
we can’t praise you highly enough, LORD.

Those who stick to the ways of justice are on a winner;
those who always do the right thing will have plenty to smile about.

Count me in, LORD, when you hand out the perks to your people;
don’t overlook me when you come to bail them out.
I want to be there to see your chosen people come into their own;
I want to join in their celebrations
and bask in the glory of the future you have set up.

We have done the wrong thing by you,
just as our ancestors did before us;
we have acted corruptly;
we have done what is evil.

Our forebears made an idol in the shape of a calf;
they worshipped the work of their own hands.

They switched from basking in your glory
to making fools of themselves over a toy cow!

They forgot that you were the God who saved them,
who took powerful action to free them from slavery;
who did amazing things in the land where they were oppressed
and awesome acts of power to get them through the Red Sea.

You were justifiably angry, LORD;
you were planning to wipe them out,
and you would have gone through with the plan
if it had not been for Moses, your chosen leader.
He stood up to you and held you back;
he calmed your anger and talked you out of destroying them.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Thank you, LORD! Thank you for being so good.
Your rock-solid love will never end.

LORD, we freely and openly acknowledge
that it was you who got us out of trouble;
you who put us back on the right track.
You gathered us from the four corners of the globe,
from wherever we had been lost or exiled.

Some of us had wrecked our health in destructive living;
involvement in evil left us sick and injured.
We were off our food, weak and broken;
a painful death was knocking at the door.

In sheer despair, we cried out to you, LORD,
and in a flash, you came to our rescue.
Your words healed us; got us back on our feet;
pulled us free of the jaws of death.

So let us tell you how grateful we are, LORD.
Thank you for your rock-solid love
and for the great things you do for everyone;
Let us bring gifts to say thank you,
and sing and dance to celebrate what you’ve done.

©2001 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.

Thank you, LORD! Thank you for being so good.
Your rock-solid love will never end.

LORD, we freely and openly acknowledge
that it was you who got us out of trouble;
you who put us back on the right track.
You gathered us from the four corners of the globe,
from wherever we had been lost or exiled.

Some of us went to sea;
made our living sailing the ocean
Your awesome power was clear to see, LORD,
in the restless energy of the deep.
One word from you and storms whipped up;
furious waves crashed and tore at us.
Hurled to the sky and slammed back down,
our courage failed and we feared the worst.
Tossed like a cork; staggering like drunks;
nothing to do but cling on and pray.

In sheer despair, we cried out to you, LORD,
and in a flash, you came to our rescue.
You calmed the storm
and the waves fell quiet.
Overwhelming relief left us speechless
as you piloted us safely into a sheltered bay.

So let us tell you how grateful we are, LORD.
Thank you for your rock-solid love
and for the great things you do for everyone.
Let us talk you up whenever your people gather,
and sing your praises when the leaders meet.

©2001 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.

Thank you, LORD! Thank you for being so good.
Your rock-solid love will never end.

LORD, we freely and openly acknowledge
that it was you who got us out of trouble;
you who put us back on the right track.
You gathered us from the four corners of the globe,
from wherever we had been lost or exiled.

Some of us were lost in pitiless deserts,
desperate to find shelter and company.
Without food or water,
our courage dried up and our steps grew weak.

In sheer despair, we cried out to you, LORD,
and in a flash, you came to our rescue.
You guided us back to the main road
and got us safely to the nearest town.

When people become corrupt, LORD,
you dry up their water supplies;
lakes become deserts
and fruitful land, a salt-scarred waste.

But you love to bring new life, LORD;
to pour water down dry creek beds
and make the deserts burst into flower.
You love to open up arid land
and make new places of plenty
where the homeless and hungry
can build and plant and prosper.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 4th Sunday between Epiphany and Lent in Year B
Proper 15 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Wow! More power to you, LORD!
We can’t thank you enough.
With all who stand for justice
our hearts burst with gratitude.

The things you do are fantastic, LORD,
and those who see and understand
never tire of exploring them.

Your works are magnificent, majestic,
and their integrity will never be eroded.

You have a reputation for doing amazing things,
and all of them generous and merciful.

You nourish those who honour you
and you are always true to your word.

You have left your people in no doubt
about your power;
you have given them the whole world on a plate.

Everything you put your hands to
is faithful, fair and trustworthy,
as is everything you say.

What you say goes, now and forever,
and no one can afford to ignore it.

You rescue your people and bring them home safe,
for you have committed yourself to them
for all time.

The mere mention of your holy name
makes us go weak all over!

Wisdom is born when your awesome presence
knocks us to our knees
and those who never lose sight of that
have got their heads on straight.

Awestruck, we give you honour and respect for ever.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You are the greatest, LORD!

We, your servants, can’t stop singing your praises;
the mere mention of your name sets us singing!

From now on and forever,
your name will be held sacred, LORD.

From east to west, from dawn to dusk,
your name will inspire songs of praise.

You are ranked number one, LORD,
way above even the greatest nations,
outshining even the sun and the stars.

Can anyone compare with you, LORD?
Is there anyone else even close to your league?
Not likely! You are seated so high
that you look down even to see the sky!

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 give the infertile couple a family
filling their lives with the laughter of children.

You are the greatest, LORD!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

When we were led out of the land of slavery
- the people of Israel, coming out from under the foreign thumb -
the land of Judah became a sacred place,
the land of Israel came under sovereign rule.

The wild sea took one look, and turned tail and ran,
the Jordan river backed off and headed the other way.
The mountains skipped like a rock wallaby;
the hills were as jumpy as a kelpie pup.

What was it that made the wild sea turn tail?
What was it that made the Jordan back off?
What made the mountains quiver and jump?
What made the hills shudder and shake?

It was awe of you, LORD, God of our ancestors.
The whole earth trembles in your presence.
For you are the one who melts rocks into pools of water;
the one who brings springs bubbling up from hard baked ground.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I love you, LORD!
How could I not love you
when you always respond to my cries?

You are always ready to listen to me,
so I will bring my needs to you as long as I live.

How can I ever repay you, LORD?
What gift could ever express my gratitude?

I will raise my glass in your honour,
I will name you as the one who saved me.

I will make good on all I promised you, LORD,
and I’ll let everyone know its for you.

Whenever one of your faithful people dies
it affects you deeply.

LORD, you have released me from my chains.
I will serve you forever,
just as my forebears have done.

I will bring a gift to say thanks;
I will pray to you, and you alone.

I will be true to the vows I’ve made;
and I won’t keep it hidden.
In full view of all your people,
in the public place of worship,
I’ll do all I promised you, LORD.

All the praise and all the credit are your, LORD!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I love you, LORD!
How could I not love you
when you always respond to my cries?

You are always ready to listen to me,
so I will bring my needs to you as long as I live.

Once death was closing in on me;
the grave’s icy fingers had me in their grasp;
Tormented and desperate, I cried out to you,
“Please, LORD. Help me! Save my life!”

You are so generous, LORD;
you do the right thing by us
whether we deserve it or not.

You side with the nobodies,
and you bailed me out,
when I hit rock-bottom.

I can let go of my fears and calm my mind;
your goodness and love keep me safe.

You saved my life, LORD;
you dried my tears;
you supported me when I stumbled.

I can stand before you with my head held high;
I’m back on my feet in the land of the living.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Thank you, LORD, thank you!
Thank you for your goodness!
Thank you for your love —
rock solid and timeless!
May all your people recognise
that your love and loyalty last forever.

Our energy and strength come from you, LORD;
our peace and safety were won by you.

The sound of singing rings out
from the homes of all who are honest and true.
They sing of what you have done, LORD,
for you raised your hand and saved the day.

Now we know that our lives are safe;
we will live to tell of what you have done.
You gave us the tough medicine we deserved, LORD,
but you didn’t let death get its claws into us.

The minute they open the city gates
— the gates of justice —
we’ll be the first through, LORD;
eager to tell you how thankful we are.

These gates belong to you, LORD,
those you have put right can come on through.

Thank you for answering our prayers, LORD;
for coming to our rescue and putting us right.

From a rejected stone found in a rubbish pile
you cut and polished a priceless jewel.
This is obviously your work, LORD,
and we can hardly believe our eyes!

Today is your day, LORD, a day to honour you;
we will celebrate with joy and laughter.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

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

Thank you, LORD, thank you!
Thank you for your goodness!
Thank you for your love —
rock solid and timeless!
May all your people recognise
that your love and loyalty last forever.

The minute they open the city gates
— the gates of justice —
we’ll be the first through, LORD;
eager to tell you how thankful we are.

These gates belong to you, LORD,
those you have put right can come on through.

Thank you for answering our prayers, LORD;
for coming to our rescue and putting us right.

From a rejected stone found in a rubbish pile
you cut and polished a priceless jewel.
This is obviously your work, LORD,
and we can hardly believe our eyes!

Today is your day, LORD, a day to honour you;
we will celebrate with joy and laughter.

Get us through safely, LORD!
In the tasks ahead, give us success!

The one who comes in your name, LORD,
is the one who is truly blessed.
Gathered here in your house,
we praise you for sending him.

You, LORD, are our only God,
and you light up our lives.
In a great procession,
we march to the sacred place,
waving branches and banners;
tossing flowers in the air.

You are our God
and we give you thanks.
You are our God
and we give you our highest acclaim.

Thank you, LORD, thank you!
Thank you for your goodness!
Thank you for your love —
rock solid and timeless!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

If anyone wants to avoid polluting their life, LORD,
they should use your word as protection.

I am giving my all to getting close to you;
don’t let me stumble off the track you have set for us.

Everything you have said, I treasure in my heart,
to keep myself from doing the wrong thing by you.

You are the best, LORD,
teach me all you require of your people.

My mouth is ready, willing and able
to repeat whatever you have to say.

The path you have set for us is my greatest delight;
it is worth more to me than all the money in the world.

I will keep my mind fixed on your teachings,
and my eyes fixed on the track you have set for us.

I will cherish the rules you have given us,
and never forget the things you have to say.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

LORD, teach me the way of life you have set for us
and I will stick to it for keeps.

Help me to get my head around what you want
and I will throw myself wholeheartedly into doing it.

Guide me down the track you’ve mapped out for us,
for nothing pleases me more than being where you want me.

Keep me focussed on the values you’ve spelt out;
don’t let me get sucked into grabbing everything for myself.

Put the blinkers on me so I see only your life-giving ways
and am not distracted by fashionable froth and bubble.

Reassure me that I am in on what you promised to all
who respect you and work for you.

Protect me with your good teachings
so that I won’t disgrace myself as I fear I could.

See how much I long to do things your way;
please do the right thing by me and give me real life.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
Proper 28 in Year A,
Proper 9 in Year B (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

It is to you that we look for help, LORD;
to you who rules from the throne of heaven!

When people are injured,
they look to the doctors for help;
when they lie in hospital,
they look to the nurses for compassion;
and in the same way
we look to you, the LORD our God:
we depend on your kindness and care.

Treat us with compassion, LORD, treat us with compassion.
We’ve endured more than our fair share of contempt.

We have had an absolute gutful
of being put down by the arrogant
and treated like dirt by those who’ve got it easy.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Those who put their trust in you, O LORD,
are like Mount Dandenong:
solid, calm and dependable.

Like the mountain watching over the city,
so you, LORD, watch over you people,
offering protection, now and forever.

Where people are committed to playing straight,
you will not let injustice dominate.
If it did, even trustworthy people
might let evil through their guard.

O LORD, may good things come
to those who have stayed true,
to those who have integrity
and goodness in their hearts.

But as for those who have embraced the ways of corruption,
be it on their own heads if they are swept away
when you bring evil to its final end.

May all your people enjoy peace, O LORD.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

When you brought us home to Zion from exile, LORD,
    we had to pinch ourselves to be sure it wasn’t a dream.

Laughter and singing kept bubbling up in us;
    we were just over the moon!

Even the nations around us had to admit
    that you must have taken our side, LORD.
Indeed, we could only celebrate and thank you
.    for the wonderful things you had done for us.

LORD, we need your help again;
    we are like dry creek-beds in need of rain.

We have worked with sweat and tears;
    let us reap the rewards with celebration.

Let those who laboured with heavy hearts,
    expecting nothing but despair,
come home with pride renewed,
    celebrating unimaginable success.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 5 in Year B (themed series)
Proper 8 in Year B
Proper 14 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

From the depths of despair, from rock bottom,
I cry to you, O LORD.
I beg you to listen!
Please tune in and hear what I’m asking!

If you put black marks against our names
for every failing,
Lord, wouldn’t you have to write off everyone?

But forgiveness is much more your style,
and for this we adore you.

I wait in eager anticipation for your presence, LORD.
Everything inside me yearns for you
and your promises fill me with hope.

Deep in my guts there is a hunger for you, LORD,
more pressing than a woman
waiting for the birth of her baby,
more impatient than a child
waiting for a birthday;
crossing off the days, one by one.

O People of Israel, put your trust in the LORD!
The LORD’s love never lets us down,
and is always ready to rescue us from danger.

It is the Lord who will bail us out
when we are caught in the consequences
of our own sin.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- 2nd Sunday of Pascha in Year B
Proper 7 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

What a great thing it is, LORD,
when people can get along with one another,
and live together in unity and mutual respect.

It is even more satisfying than holding the cup aloft
and dancing in the rain of champagne
on Grand Final day.

It is even more desirable than sitting by an open fire
sharing chocolates and fine wine with a loved one.

It is even more beautiful than the monsoon rains
turning the desert into a sea of wildflowers.

For you LORD created us to be one people,
committed to one another, honouring one another,
sharing the land and its blessings forever.

©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.

Thank you, LORD, thank you. You are truly good.
Your rock solid love is forever.
Thank you, God of all gods, thank you.
Your rock solid love is forever.
Thank you, Lord of all lords, thank you.
Your rock solid love is forever.

You and you alone have done miraculous things.
Your rock solid love is forever.
You dreamed up the skies and put them in place.
Your rock solid love is forever.
You raised the earth on its foundations above the seas.
Your rock solid love is forever.
You set the lights shining in the sky.
Your rock solid love is forever.
You put the sun in charge of the day.
Your rock solid love is forever.
You gave the moon and stars watch over the night.
Your rock solid love is forever.

You didn’t forget us when we were down and out.
Your rock solid love is forever.
You rescued us from those who had it in for us.
Your rock solid love is forever.
You provide food for everything that lives,
Your rock solid love is forever.

Thank you, God of everything, thank you.
Your rock solid love is forever.

©2013 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.

Thank you, LORD, thank you!
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!
I will stand and sing your praises
in the face of every would-be god!

Wherever I am, I turn towards your holy Temple
and fall to my knees in gratitude,
thanking you for your rock-solid love and loyalty;
With everything you say and everything you do
your reputation continues to go through the roof.
The minute I called, you were there for me,
you put steel in my spine,
gave me the guts to go on.

When the things you have been saying sink in, LORD,
all the earth’s powerful rulers will give credit to you.
They’ll join the party, singing and dancing in your honour,
celebrating the wonderful things you do.

As great as you are,
you never think of ordinary people as beneath you,
but you don’t waste your time
on those who are pretentious and stuck-up.

Although I must often walk into dangerous situations,
you protect me from hatred and hostility;
your invisible hand is always there, keeping me safe.

You, LORD, have made plans for me
and you will see them through to completion.
Your love is as timeless and dependable as the rock;
you have made us what we are
and you never give up on us.

©2001 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.

You have taken a good hard look at me, LORD,
and you know exactly what makes me tick.

You know when I’ve got my feet up and when I’m on the job;
you can read my mind like an open book.

You see where I am going and where I stop,
and you know all about what I do and why.

You know exactly what I am going to say, LORD,
even before I open my mouth.

You are in front of me, behind me, beside me;
your hand on my shoulder at every turn.

All this is more than I can get my head around;
I pinch myself, and struggle to take it in.

It was you who put me together, every part of me;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I sing your praises, LORD,
for the the way you have made me fills me with awe.
Your creative works blow my mind;
too wonderful for words.

You could see me clearly before I was born;
you watched me taking shape in the secret depths
and laid out the intricacies of nerve and muscle.

You kept your eye on me
from conception to birth.
My life lay before you like an open book
before I had even lived a day.

Your thoughts are way beyond my grasp, God,
and they add up to more than I can count.
Deeper than the oceans,
outnumbering the grains of sand;
I give up trying
but you are with me just the same.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Listen to my prayer, LORD.
I know you can be relied on to hear my cry for mercy
and to do the right thing when you answer.
I am at your service, LORD,
but please don’t put me on trial.
You can see that I’ve screwed up like everyone else.

Enemies have been constantly on my tail,
stomping me into the dirt
and leaving me for dead in some dark hellhole.
That’s why I’m so gutted.
My heart can’t take any more; it’s chucking in the towel.

I think back on the good old days
and remember all the great things you did, LORD;
I go over and over your achievements in my mind.
I’m reaching out to you for help now.
Inside I am like a salt pan in the desert sun,
desperately thirsting for you.

Answer me before it’s too late, LORD;
I can’t go on much longer.
Don’t turn your back on me now
or I’ll be headed straight for the grave.
May the morning bring news of your rock-solid love
because I’ve put all my trust in you.
Show me the track you want me to follow
for I’m offering my life to you.
Rescue me from my enemies, LORD.
I’ve fled to you seeking asylum.

You are my God;
teach me what you want me to do.
Send your Spirit to guide me
safely along the right track.
Let me live, LORD; your reputation hangs on it.
Do the right thing, as you always do,
and get me out of this danger.
Be true to your rock-solid love and cut off my enemies.
Destroy those who are trying to destroy me
for I live to serve you.

©2013 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 20 in Year A (v.1-8)
Proper 12 in Year B (v.10-18 themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

We will declare you to be the greatest, God our king,
and put your name up in lights forever.

Every day, without fail, we will sing your praises,
we will honour your name now and forever.

You are wonderful, LORD; you deserve the highest praise,
and your greatness is more than we can comprehend.

Each generation tells the next what you have done,
and speaks with awe about your accomplishments.

We will fill our minds with your splendour and glory,
and with the stories of your amazing exploits.

We will publicise the news of your mighty deeds
and let everyone know how great you are.

Then everyone will celebrate your generous love;
and applaud your justice with singing and dancing.

You are generous and compassionate, LORD;
slow to anger, and rich in love and loyalty.

You are good to everyone, LORD,
and you care deeply about all you have created.

Everyone and everything will thank you, their creator,
and all who are loyal to you will sing your praises.

As your people, we will promote the glory of your reign,
and broadcast the news of your power for good.

We will tell everyone about the great things you have done
and about the magnificent splendour of your reign.

You will reign forever and ever, LORD,
your rule is in place for all generations to come.

Everything you say can be relied on, LORD,
and everything you do is generous and loving.

When people fall, you put them back on their feet;
when people are crushed, you stand them tall again.

Everyone looks to you for what they need,
and you meet their needs when the time is right.

You open your hands
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Justice marks everything you do, LORD,
and generous love colours your every deed.

When honest hearts cry out to you, LORD,
you are right there alongside them.

You satisfy the desires of those who respect you;
you hear their cries and rescue them from death.

You watch out for those who love you, LORD,
and wipe out corruption when it threatens.

Your praises will be always on our lips, LORD,
and with all who live,
we will single out your name for the highest honour
forever and ever.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 18 in Year B  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

You are the best, LORD!
With all my heart I sing your praises.
I will never stop talking you up;
I won’t stop spruiking your goodness till the day I die.

There is no one but you that we can depend on, LORD;
not experts, not leaders, no one.
No human being can give what we most need;
no matter what their plans and schemes promise,
the minute they’re gone, their promises die with them.

But we hit the jackpot when we look to you for help, LORD;
when we put all our hopes in you – the God of our ancestors.
You are the one who made earth and sky,
who poured out the seas and filled them with life.
You are true to your word no matter what;
when people are ground into the dirt, you bring about justice;
when people are left to starve, you come with food.

You, LORD, set the prisoners free.
You, LORD, open the eyes of those who can’t see.
You, LORD, put the downtrodden back on their feet.

You, LORD, love those who do the right thing.
You, LORD, keep a caring eye on the asylum seekers.
You stick up for those who have no one else to stick up for them,
but you make the schemes of the corrupt backfire on them.

Take charge forever, LORD,
rule from your sacred Mountain for all time.
You’re the best, LORD. We’re with you all the way!

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

LORD, we sing your praises!

We love to sing your praises,
for you are incredibly generous
and you deserve all the credit we can give.

You, LORD, are the one who rebuilds the ruined city
and brings home those who have been kicked out.

You bandage the wounds of the brokenhearted,
and nurse them back to health.

It was you who counted out the stars,
and called them all by name.

You are the greatest, LORD,
your strength is off the scale,
and your grasp of what’s going on is mind boggling.

You put those who have been ground into the dirt back on their feet,
and you knock those who are callous and corrupt off their perches.

Our songs are full of thanks to you, LORD,
as we strike up the band in your honour.

It is you who spread the clouds across the sky,
ready to rain on the earth,
ready to bring the grass springing up green.

It is you who feeds the animals;
you who responds to the hungry cry of a currawong chick.

You are not impressed by massive horsepower;
you don’t get your kicks watching tests of speed.

You would much rather that people were awestruck by your love, LORD,
and that they built their future on the solid rock of your faithfulness.
LORD, we sing your praises!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Your chosen city gives you all the glory, LORD;
the people sing your praises from your sacred mountain!

You a like a wall of safety around the city,
and you see that our children grow up healthy and happy.

You give us peace in our own land,
and good crops to keep us well fed.

You give orders to the earth itself,
and your word is quickly acted upon.

When you say “Blazing Sun”, the shadows shrink to nothing;
when you say “Dry”, the trees wither to brown.

When you say “Heat”, everything begins to melt;
when you say “Fire”, it all goes up in smoke.

When you give the word, everything greens up again;
your breath comes like a cool change;
the rains return and the creeks flow once more.

You broadcast your message to your people,
and spell out the standards of justice you want us to live by.

It is a privilege to know your ways,
for not everyone has been given such inside information.
LORD, we sing your praises!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

We sing your praises, LORD!
From every corner of the universe,
from high and low, near and far,
we join the chorus of praise!

With the angels and all who serve you in heaven,
we sing your praises!
With the sun and moon, stars and planets,
we sing your praises!
With far flung galaxies and the milky way,
we sing your praises!

All of them speak of you in glowing terms, LORD,
for they owe their very existence to you.
You ordered their creation
and fixed them in place for all time.

We sing your praises, LORD!
Every creature on earth joins the choir,
singing your praises for all they’re worth:
dolphins and whales
and the ocean itself;
bushfire and hail storm,
snow and ice,
cyclones dancing to your tune;
mountain ranges and rolling hills,
orchards and rainforests,
animals from both bush and farm,
reptiles and birds;
people of every race and class,
people of power and influence;
men and women, old and young,
every voice on earth joins as one!

One and all, we sing your praises, LORD,
yours is the only name on our lips!
You alone outshine the glory of the universe!

You have given strength to your people,
and honour to your faithful ones,
to those you have chosen
and hold close to your heart.

You, LORD, are the greatest!

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You are the greatest, LORD!

We sing your praises like we’ve never sung before, LORD,
along with all your faithful people everywhere.

Our greatest joy is knowing
that you made us as your people.
With all the children of your holy city,
we celebrate you as our King!

Every mention of your name sets us singing and dancing;
we strike up the band in your honour.

For you, LORD, delight in your people;
you share the spoils of victory with ordinary folk.

Your faithful ones revel in your glory,
and bask in the sheer joy of praising you.

Put your words in their mouths
and your sword in their hands, God,
so that they can bring the nations to justice
and execute your sentence on every population.
Deliver every despot and dictator into their hands
to be tried and sentenced
and put behind bars where they belong.

May all your faithful ones share in this glory, LORD,
for you are the greatest!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Wisdom shouts aloud in the streets.
Wherever people gather, her call rings out.
On the station steps at rush hour she sets up her soap box;
over the roar of the traffic she raises her voice, crying:

“Are you thick-headed people determined to stay brainless forever?
Is taking the mickey out of others the only thing you enjoy?
How long will you mindless morons turn your backs
on every opportunity to learn anything?

Listen up, and let me set you straight;
I’m ready to let you in on my thinking;
I’ll happily teach you everything I know.

But I’m at my wits end with you.
You don’t answer my calls;
you look away when I hold out my hand.
Whether I offer advice gently or scream blue murder,
it makes no difference. You still take no notice.

So how do you expect me to be there for you?
Why shouldn’t I turn my back when trouble come your way?
Why shouldn’t I just laugh when it hits the fan?
Your turn will come.
You’ll be looking up at rock bottom,
with the broken pieces of your life
falling through your fingers.

Why is it only then that anyone ever calls for me?
They reach out for me in desperation, but it’s too late.
They’d already told me where to go, and I’d gone.

They spat in the face of knowledge
and thumbed their noses at the LORD.
They wouldn’t have a bar of any suggestions from me
and they laughed in my face when I tried to set them straight.

So they’ve made their own beds,
now they’ll have to lie in them.
They bit off what they wanted,
and now it will stick in their throats.

Those who are stupid enough to wander off the path
get run over in the street.
Those who never think ahead
still have their feet up when the fire comes through.

But if you listen to me,
you’ll be in safe hands.
You can relax
without a care in the world.”

©2000 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.

Wisdom calls; her voice full of promise.
Can’t you hear her, offering herself to all who pass by?

On the station steps at rush hour, there she is.
On a busy corner where everyone passes;
leaning on the gate as the crowd comes through;
wherever people are, her voice rings out.

This is what she has to say:

“Come one and all, and hear me out;
If you’re in the land of the living, what I have to offer is for you.

To the thick-headed, I offer lessons in good sense;
to you who know nothing, I offer a solid education.

Listen up! What I have to say is worth hearing.
Every word that passes my lips can be trusted.
From my mouth you’ll hear only the truth;
corrupt and deceitful talk makes me sick.

Whenever I speak, it is straight down the line;
I don’t twist the truth or put a shifty spin on it.

Invest in me and you’ll reap the rewards;
rich benefits, more than money could ever buy.

I stick to the track of those who do the right thing;
I steer a straight line on the road of justice.
I heap riches on those who love me;
their lives are chock full of good things.

To the ignorant and confused, Wisdom makes her invitation,
“Come over to my place and we’ll chew the fat.
Share my bread and wine and things will fall into place.
The time has come to turn the corner,
to grow up, to embrace life.
Think before you act
and walk with understanding.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Wisdom has established herself in the neighbourhood;
her house has seven rooms, a place for everyone.

She has laid her table for a great house-warming feast;
the meat is roasted, the wine is poured,
her servant-girls are ready to wait on the guests.

On the busiest corner in town she makes her invitation,
“Is life a riddle to you? Then come with me!
Do the concerns of each day
leave you scratching your head?
Come over to my place and we’ll chew the fat.
Share my bread and wine and things will fall into place.
The time has come to turn the corner,
to grow up, to embrace life.
Think before you act
and walk with understanding.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Given the choice between a good reputation
and triple-A credit rating,
take the good reputation.
Respect will earn you what money can’t buy.

God created everybody equal;
and at the end of the day,
the rich and the poor both answer to the same God.

Anyone who invests in injustice
will reap dividends of disaster,
and angrily throwing their weight around
won’t get them out of trouble.

If you really want to maximise your returns,
open your hands, open your table,
share what you have with those in need.

Don’t rip off the poor just because they’re easy targets,
and don’t use the law to take advantage of them
just because you can afford better lawyers.
If you do, you’ll find God rising to their defence,
and if you’ve stomped them into the mud,
the LORD will stomp you into the mud.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 20 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

How fortunate is the man who marries a gifted woman;
Her love is as precious as life itself.

He entrusts himself to her
and she doesn’t let him down.

Generous of spirit and never vindictive,
she will be good to him all her life.

She is creative and diligent;
not afraid to get her hands dirty.

With the taste a seasoned traveller,
she shares her love of varied cuisine.

She is up early each morning,
seeing that everyone in her household
gets their day off to a good start.

She conducts her business with confidence;
buying and selling, and overseeing production.

She dresses appropriately for her work,
ready to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in.

She knows what her labour is worth,
and will work late to get the job done.

She puts her shoulder to the wheel
and makes the most of her many skills.

The goods she produces are widely sought;
they fetch top dollar in the shops.

She’s quick to help anyone facing hard times;
a generous friend to those in need.

She doesn’t panic when storms hit;
all her household are well prepared.

She doesn’t waste money on appearances,
but presents herself with colour and flair.

Her strength and dignity are what people notice first,
and she approaches the future with joy and enthusiasm.

She and her husband are respected about town,
and admired for their leadership in the community.

People seek out her opinions and value her wisdom;
her advice is caring and considerate.

She keeps an eye on the interests of all her household,
and doesn’t indulge in laziness.

Her children have nothing but good to say about her,
and her husband is always singing her praise:
“There are some wonderful women in the world,” he says,
“but you are the cream of the crop!”

Charm can mask the truth,
and beauty may be only skin deep.
The woman who is worthy of admiration and acclaim
is the one who knows who she is before God.

She deserves full credit for all she has achieved;
her accomplishments speak for themselves.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Things happen in their due season; there is a right time for everything that happens on earth:

a time to be born,
and a time to die;
a time to sow the seed,
and a time to harvest the crop;

a time to end a life,
and a time to rehabilitate;
a time to demolish,
and a time to create;

a time to cry,
and a time to laugh;
a time to grieve,
and a time to party;

a time to throw caution to the wind,
and a time to play it safe;
a time to make love,
and a time to keep your pants on;

a time to keep searching,
and a time to write off the loss;
a time to hold on to what you’ve got,
and a time to let it go;

a time to share another’s pain,
and a time to urge them to move on;
a time to keep your mouth shut,
and a time to speak your mind;

a time to love,
and a time to hate;
a time to fight;
and a time to make peace.

But in the end, what difference does it make what we do? I have observed everyone working hard at the jobs that God has given them. God sets things up so that there is a proper time and place for everything, but we forget too quickly and fail to learn the lessons of history. We see what has happened and what is happening, but we can’t make sense of the connections or see what God is doing in it all. So I figure that there is no point in losing too much sleep over it. The most important thing is for people to be happy and to enjoy their lives for as long as they live. What’s more, there is nothing wrong with eating and drinking and finding satisfaction in our work. They are God’s gifts to us.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I await the voice of my lover!
I see him coming, running through the alpine bush,
leaping rocks and logs,
as surefooted as a wallaby,
muscles rippling like a mountain thoroughbred.

Look, now he arrives, there by the garden wall,
his eyes scanning the windows,
searching the balcony,
eager to catch a sight of me.

My lover calls out for me alone, saying:

“Come now, my darling, my lovely one,
come away with me.

The outdoors will welcome us,
for the cold wet winter has released its grip.
Wildflowers explode with colour
and the air is filled with song;
Bellbird calls ring through the bush
like the summons to a wedding.
Berries and grapes ripen with promise
and every flower adds it fragrance
to the wafting breeze.

So come, my darling, my lovely one,
come away with me.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I’ll sing a story in song,
a gift of love for my vine-growing friend.

My best friend began a vineyard;
ideally situated on a sunny, fertile hillside.
He cleared the rocks, cultivated the soil,
and planted top-grade vines.
He built a fully equipped winery,
dug a cellar and installed a wine-press.
He had every reason to expect top-quality grapes,
but the entire harvest was bitter and useless.

Come now, you who live in Jerusalem,
and all you people of Judah;
who do you think is in the right:
me or my vineyard?

Did I fall down on the job somewhere;
what more could I have done for my vineyard?
Was I wrong to expect good quality grapes?
Why did I get nothing but rubbish?

Well, I’m sick of that lousy vineyard.
I’ll tell you what I’ll do to it:
I will rip down the fences
and let the animals chew it up;
I will smash down the gates
and let the passers-by stomp all over it.

I will leave it in ruins;
trashed and abandoned;
the weeds and blackberries will take over.
I will disconnect the water
and pray that the rains steer clear.

Are you people getting the message?

The LORD who rules over everything
is the vine-grower,
and you, the people of Israel and Judah
are the carefully tended vineyard.
The LORD expected a harvest of justice,
but violence broke out instead.
Where honesty and integrity should have flourished,
there was nothing but the cries of the victims!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I had a vision of the Lord during the year that King Uzziah died. The Lord was high above, sitting on an imposing throne. The Lord’s presence dwarfed everything else so totally that just the cuffs of his robe filled the temple. Awesome fiery creatures, known as Seraphim, were there, serving the Lord. Each Seraph had three pairs of wings. They used one pair to shield their faces, one to shield their bodies, and the third for flying. They cried out to one another saying:

“Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy is the LORD who rules over everything.
The whole earth is full of God’s glory.”

The sound of their voices shook the place to its foundations, and clouds of smoke billowed through the temple. And I said:

“This is the end of me.
I’ll never get out of here alive.
If I so much as open my mouth
the ugliness inside is exposed for all to see,
and the same could be said of everyone I know;
yet I’ve stumbled into the presence of the Ruler of Heaven.
Here I am, naked before the all-consuming
holiness of the LORD!”

Then one of the seraphim flew right up to me carrying a pair of tongs in which it held a red hot coal – straight from the fire on the altar. The seraph touched my mouth with the glowing coal and said:

“Look! This holy fire has touched your lips.
Your sinfulness is forgiven.
Your slate is wiped clean.”

After this I heard the voice of the Lord saying

“Is there someone I can send?
Is there anyone who will go on our behalf?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me if you will!”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The LORD sent word to King Ahaz of Judah, saying:

I, the LORD your God, will give you a sign so that you can be sure that it is really me who is sending you this promise of safety. What sign do you want? Something dramatic, deep the earth or high in the sky? You name it, and I’ll do it.

But Ahaz refused, saying, “I will ask no such thing. Far be it from me to demand guarantees from the LORD.” So Isaiah the prophet spoke on behalf of the LORD, saying:

Then get this into your head, you who rule from David’s throne. Haven’t you made enough people sick and tired of your weak-as-water religious posturing? Do you have to try it on with God as well?! Well, the Lord is going to go ahead and give you a sign anyway. Check this out: there is a girl who is pregnant. She will give birth to a baby boy and he will be given the name Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Eve/Day),
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The people who lived in a dark cloud of gloom
have seen a great light break through;
those in the blackest hell-holes
have seen their whole world light up.

LORD, you have built up the nation,
and given them every reason to celebrate.
The people revel in it all,
like farmers when a drought breaks;
like children opening presents.

Finally they are out from under the thumb
of those who oppressed them.
You have broken their chains
and run the slave drivers out of town,
just as you did in days long ago.

There will be a huge bonfire
to burn everything left by the occupation forces,
their blood-stained uniforms and cruel boots
will go up in flames.

For see! A child has been born for us;
the gift of a son who will take charge of everything.
He will be given all these titles:
Most Excellent Advisor;
Supreme God;
Father Forever,
Prince of Peace.

The reach of his arm will just keep growing,
and his realm will know peace without limit.

He will inherit all that David ruled,
and bring stability and security.
Doing what is just and right
will be the hallmarks of his reign
from now on and for all time.

The LORD’s heart is set on this;
The LORD who rules over everything will see that it happens.

©2000 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.

You alone, LORD, are able to set us free,
so we put our trust in you, and have nothing to fear.
All our strength and power come from you, LORD GOD,
you have become our hero, our saviour!

You will put your saving love on tap,
deep draughts to be enjoyed by everyone.
On that day we will all say to one another,
“Thank the LORD! Let God’s name be on everyone’s lips!”

We will tell the world what you have done,
we will shout your name and declare you to be number one.
We will sing your praises because of all you have accomplished,
and give you the glory all over the earth.
With all the citizens of Zion, we lift our voices to you
with shouts and laughter and songs of celebration,
for you are the ultimate, the greatest, the Holy One,
and you live among us, your people!

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 23 in Year A (themed series)
- Resurrection Sunday Morning in Year B (v.6-9)
- Resurrection Sunday Evening (v.6-9)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

LORD, you are my God;
I will put your name up in lights and sing your praises,
because you have followed through on the fantastic things
that you planned and promised so long ago.

You have reduced the evil city to rubble;
the stronghold of corruption lies in ruins;
the foreign oppressors are now homeless,
and their city will never be rebuilt.

Now even the most powerful nation will honour you;
ruthless tyrants will fall to their knees in your presence.

You have proved yourself to be a safe refuge for those in need;
a welcome haven for the poor and suffering;
a shelter from the cold rain, and a shade from the heat.

When the attacks of ruthless thugs
were as cold and vicious as icy rain;
when the arrogance of the occupying troops
sucked the life out of us like the desert heat;
you were a protection from the elements,
and you put an end to their arrogant slogans.

Every people on earth will be invited to the sacred mountain
for the huge party thrown by the LORD who rules over everything.
It will be the feast to end all feasts,
with the very finest of foods and wines:
choice meats, wines aged to perfection,
gourmet delicacies to make every mouth water!

And right here on this sacred mountain
the LORD will tear off the pall of death
and release the nations from the coffin that held them.
The LORD will swallow up death once and for all.

With that, the Lord GOD will wipe the tears from every eye,
and God’s people will no longer be humiliated and despised;
The LORD says so and that settles it.

When that happens people will say,
Wow! This is our God!
We hoped, we waited, we trusted God to save us.
And our waiting has not been in vain.
The LORD has not let us down.
Celebrate! Sing and dance,
for God has come to our rescue and set us free.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 18 in Year B  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Encourage those who are fearing the worst;
tell them not to give in to their fears but to hang in there.
Assure them that God is at hand;
coming to pay back oppressors what they deserve;
coming to rescue you, to set you free!

What a day that will be!
Eyes long blind will open to colour and light!
Ears long deaf will hear music and laughter!
Legs long paralysed will dance like brolgas!
Tongues long tied will sing like lyrebirds!

For reviving rains will fall on dry dusty land,
and rivers will flow in the desert.
Hard-baked salt pans will become inland lakes,
and cool water will gush up between scorching rocks.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Your God gives the order:

“Comfort my people.
Comfort them.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
cry out and tell her that she has served her time;
tell her that she has paid her penalty;
that she has given the pound of flesh, and then some,
due for the crimes she committed.”

A voice cries out:

“Get the road through the wilderness ready.
The LORD is coming! Clear the track!
Straighten out the road through the desert,
so that it is ready for our God.

Fill the potholes, bridge the valleys,
cut through the mountains to level the grade.
Where the going is rough, smooth it out;
lay a new surface over the old corrugations.

Then the LORD will come,
radiant in glory.
Everyone on earth will see it together,
we have the LORD’s word on it.”

A voice says, “Make the announcement!”
And I replied, “What announcement?”

“Announce that people are as fickle as the weather;
all of them, about as constant as a cut flower.

The weather does one thing one day, and another the next;
one breath from the LORD and flowers fade and wilt.
No kidding, all people are as fickle as that.

The weather sweeps through and is gone;
the flower fades and is tossed out;
but every word our God says
stands rock solid for all time.

Take a stand where the whole of God’s city will hear you,
and broadcast the message everyone has been waiting for.
You are the bearer of good news for God’s people,
so open your mouth and don’t hold back;
there’s nothing to be scared of; just go for it!
Broadcast it through all the cities in the land,
saying, ‘Here is your God!’

Look, the Lord GOD comes with a show of strength,
arms punching the air in triumph.
The Lord carries the spoils of victory,
the rewards of a job well done.

Like a farmer hand-rearing the lambs,
the LORD will gather us in loving arms,
cuddle us close,
and gently lead us where we need to go.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Don’t you understand?
Have you somehow missed hearing about this?
Wasn’t this explained to you from day one?
Isn’t it obvious to you who was responsible
for the creation of the earth?

It is God who is in charge:
God who sees the planet like a ball;
its population like tiny insects.
It is God who spread out the sky like a tarp,
who set up the galaxy like a tent to live in.

It is God who makes governments look powerless;
who reduces kings and presidents to nothing.
They rise up on the earth as confident as mighty trees,
but to God they are like newly sprouted weeds.
No sooner have they popped their heads up
than God turns on them with a puff of breath
and they wither and blow away like dry leaves.

The Holy One puts the challenge to you, saying,
“Who are you going to replace me with?
Who can you find who can hold a candle to me?”

Look up and see the night sky.
Who do you think created all that?
It is God who spreads out the milky way,
numbering the stars and calling them each by name.
So great are God’s strength and power
that not one star goes missing.

So what are you talking about, people of God,
when you raise your voices and say,
“The LORD’s got no idea what is happening to us;
God is paying no attention to our basic rights.”

Don’t you understand?
Have you somehow missed hearing about this?
The LORD is the God who outlasts everyone and everything,
the Creator of the whole earth, from one end to the other.
The LORD never runs out of puff,
and never feels like giving up.
The LORD knows the fine detail
of things we can only guess at.

When your energies are drained,
and you are too weak to stand,
the LORD gives new strength and energy.

Even the youngest and fittest have their limits;
they too eventually drop in their tracks.

But nothing can stop those who hang in there for the LORD.
Their strength will be constantly renewed;
they will soar with the effortless grace of an eagle.
They will run and never grow weary;
they will walk ever onward
and never grow faint.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The Lord says:

Let me introduce to you the one who serves me,
the one I am backing all the way.
I have chosen him,
and I am bursting with pride over him.
I have given him my spirit in full measure,
and he will bring about justice everywhere on earth.

He won’t go thrusting himself into the public eye,
or grandstanding in the street with pompous speeches.
He won’t exploit the vulnerability of damaged people,
or squeeze the last drops out of those who are running on empty.
He will be completely fair dinkum
about making justice a reality.

He will not run out of steam or throw in the towel
until his mission is accomplished;
until justice holds sway everywhere on earth
and the world’s peoples are eager to learn from him.

I am the one who created the universe
and stretched out the skies;
the one who constructed the earth
and produced everything that grows from it;
the one who breathes life into the world’s people
and kindles the spark of life within them;
I am the LORD your God;
so listen to what I have to say:

I, the LORD, have called you to stand for what is right.
I have put my arm around you and kept you safe.
I have made you a shining light for all the earth to see,
to draw all people everywhere
into a permanent alliance with me.
I have given you a privileged role
as the one who enables the blind to see the light;
the one who opens the gates of the stifling detention centres
and welcomes the prisoners into the fresh air of freedom.

I am the LORD, that is my name;
I don’t allow pretenders to cash in on my glory
or rip off my image to promote their frauds.

Take note: everything I warned you about has happened on cue.
Now I am announcing my new projects;
I’m letting you in on them even before they get started.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

This is what the LORD has to say:

Don’t dwell on the things of the past;
don’t get bogged down in nostalgia.
I am about to do something completely new;
can’t you see it taking shape before your eyes?

I will make a safe path through the hostile wilderness.
I will make the desert rivers flow again.
Untamed animals will applaud what I do
– dingoes, emus, goannas –
because the desert bursts into life
as I send rains, filling the inland lakes.

Now the people I have chosen can drink their fill;
I created them to be my people,
to enjoy and celebrate the things I do.

Despite all this, my people,
you have not spent any time with me in worship,
and yet you claim to be sick and tired of me!

You have not given me anything of value;
you have not honoured me at any cost to yourselves.
I have not made any demands of you,
or hassled you for gifts or fragrant incense.

You have not spent a cent on sweet spices for me,
nor offered me the prime cuts
from the animals roasted on my own altar.
All you have ever brought me is grief;
you have made me sick with your offences.

But I am the One who wipes your record clean;
because of who I am,
I will keep no record of what you’ve done wrong.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I, the LORD, have chosen you, King Cyrus of Persia,
as a messiah to do my work.
I am leading you by the hand to subdue world powers
and to strip despots of the trappings of office.
Because I am with you, every door will open to you
and you will come and go wherever you please.

I will go before you
to smooth the way.
I will smash down every obstacle
and blast through the strongest defences.

I will hand their ill-gotten gains over to you;
the fortunes they have stashed away in secret.
Then you will know that it is I
– the LORD God whom the Israelites worship –
who has singled you out for this job.

I am calling you by name and giving you your title,
even though you do not know who I am.
I am doing this for the benefit of my own people,
my chosen ones, Israel, who serve me.

I am the LORD, the one and only.
There is no other god, just me.
I am the one who arms you,
even though you do not know who I am.
From one end of the earth to the other,
in every place under the sun,
everyone will know that there is no god but me;
that I am the LORD, the one and only.

I create all things and commission them.
Light and dark, good times and bad,
I, the LORD, am at work in them all.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Everyone, from coast to coast, listen up!
All you people, far and near, don’t miss a word.

Before I was born, the LORD had chosen me.
While I was still in my mother’s womb
I was given a name and a job.

I was created to be a surgeon’s knife,
razor sharp in the hand of the LORD;
ready and waiting to slice through any defence
and cut to the core with a word.

The LORD said to me, “Israel, you are my servant,
the one who will put my name up in lights.”

But I said, “Then how come every thing I do comes to nothing?
I’ve worked my guts out but there is nothing to show for it.
But I gave it my best shot for you LORD,
so you decide whether I’m worth my pay.”

And now the LORD has more to say to me;
this God who chose me as a servant before I was born;
who gave me the job of bringing home the people of Israel
for a great reunion with God.
It is a privilege and an honour to do this for the LORD,
and God has given me the strength to see it through.

But now the LORD says to me,
“Getting the people of Israel back on their feet is great,
but it’s a piece of cake for my number one worker.
Now I’ve got a real challenge for you!
I want you to help the whole world to see the light!
I want you to give my saving love a global reach!”

I, the LORD, the one and only, who puts things right for Israel,
have this to say:
“You have been treated like dirt.
kicked around by the nations,
and forced to work in chains for their rulers;
but let me tell you how it is going to be:
Kings will stand up when you walk in;
Governors will snap to attention at your approach.
You have my word on this and I can be trusted;
I am the LORD, your one and only, and I have chosen you.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Wednesday of Holy Week
Palm/Passion Sunday
Proper 19 in Year B  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The LORD God has given me the gift of the gab
so that my words can teach others
and put a spring in the step of the weary.

As I wake up each new day,
God makes me hungry for learning.
The LORD cleaned out my ears
so that I could hear every word.
I learned eagerly;
I never rebelled or quit.

I was opposed by others,
but I gritted my teeth and stood my ground.
I looked them in the eye
when they insulted me and spat in my face.
I took it on the chin and did not fight back,
when they gave me a belting and tore out my hair.

The Lord GOD is always there for me,
so no disgrace ever gets to me.
I have steeled my jaw and dug in my heels,
and I’m sure I’ll never be ashamed of my stand
because I can trust God to back me up.

So, who thinks they can take me on?
Let them stand up and face me!
Who are my opponents?
Let’s see what they’re made of!

The Lord GOD is backing me;
so who is going to accuse me of doing wrong?

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Eve/Day),
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Talk about a sight for sore eyes!
Here comes the messenger, galloping down the mountain,
bringing the news that God’s people have been hanging out for:
“You are saved!
God is in control!
Finally there will be peace!”

So now its time to celebrate like crazy!

Those of you who were standing, tense and silent, on the lookout
can let your hair down and sing and dance.
Fearing the worst, you saw the best:
the LORD returning home to reclaim the city!

You whose streets and homes were reduced to rubble
can raise your glasses and sing together,
for the LORD has put an arm around your shoulders,
reclaimed your streets, and begun rebuilding.

In full view of every nation
the LORD has brandished a hard fist,
ready to deal with would-be oppressors.
Now is the time for the whole earth to see
the freedom God promised,
the peace we longed for!

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The LORD says:
“This one who serves on my behalf will succeed.
He will come out on top
and be honoured by everyone.

Many people were shocked by what happened to him;
his appearance was enough to make them throw up.
Torture had disfigured him beyond recognition;
at first sight he no longer looked human.

The next time he’s seen will be an even greater shock;
nations and their kings will fall to their knees, speechless.
All of a sudden, what they had never seen or understood
will be as plain as day, and all they can think about.”

The people reply to this news, saying:
“Who could have believed what we now know to be true?
Who would have recognised what the LORD was doing?

This one who serves on the LORD’s behalf
grew up hard like a plant taking root in the stony desert.
To look at him, you wouldn’t think he’d amount to much;
nothing about his appearance would make you look twice.

Others wrote him off, and treated him as scum;
pain and suffering were his constant companions.
He was despised and abused, but we looked away;
we didn’t consider him worth caring about.

The sickness and brokenness he endured turned out to be ours;
if it wasn’t for him, it would have wiped us out.
But back then we thought it was his own fault
and that God was punishing him for what he had done.

In reality, it was what we had done that was to blame.
It was us who deserved to be punished,
but him who copped the flak.
When he was left battered, broken and bleeding,
we were off the hook;
free to enjoy the fruits of health and wholeness.

We were all doing our own thing in our own way;
as far off-track as a penguin in the desert;
as far off-key as a mob of galahs.
And yet the LORD accepted his offer to take the rap
for the actions of each and every one of us.

He was ripped off and kicked around,
but he took it on the chin.
Not once did he ever whinge or protest;
he was as silent as a lamb that trots to its fate,
knowing neither shearer nor slaughterer.

His arrest and trial made a mockery of justice.
No one knew or cared what he was up against.
He was dragged off in the midst of life;
put to death for crimes committed by our people.

Although he had never breathed a lie
or done anything to hurt anyone,
they buried him alongside the callous and corrupt
– thoughtless profiteers who died rich.”

The LORD says,
“It was me who decided to allow this tragedy
to befall the one who serves on my behalf.
He made the ultimate sacrifice at your hands,
and won forgiveness for you in the process.
So now he will be rewarded with life;
he will live to see his children and their children.
Through his actions,
my plans are able to succeed.

In the depths of agony and despair he discovered the truth,
and with the truth he found true peace.
The one who serves on my behalf was beyond reproach,
but he took the rap for what others did,
and left their record as spotless as his own.

Because of all that he has done,
I, the LORD, elevate him to the hall of fame
and give him the rewards of true greatness.
He deserves the best, for he made the ultimate sacrifice,
accepting the death of common criminal
so that through his suffering and prayers
others might be cut free from their sin.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

This is what the LORD says:

Hey you! Are you thirsty?
Come, then. Drink from these fresh waters!
Are you too penniless even to eat?
Never mind! Come! Help yourselves; eat your fill!
Come and stock up with food, wine and milk.
What will it cost you? Not a red cent!

Why sink all your money into things that leave you hungry?
Why bust a gut working for things that can never satisfy?
Listen carefully to what I have to say
and you will feast at a rich banquet of fine foods.

Stick with me and tune in to what I’m saying,
for without my words, life is bland and tasteless.
I will surround your lives with love and loyalty,
making a permanent alliance, just as I did with David.
I gave him influence and authority over the nations,
and he was my witness among them.

You will be the same – a light to which others flock;
even those who don’t know you will come running;
they’ll be drawn to my glory, seen in you,
the glory of the LORD, the one and only God of Israel.

The LORD says,
Track me down before it is too late,
make contact while I’m in your neck of the woods.
Clean up your act and get your head straight;
give up your corrupt practices and plans.
Get yourself back on my wavelength
and I’ll pour out mercy and generous forgiveness.

I don’t think the way you think, says the LORD,
and I don’t do things the way you do.
Your ways and mine are like cheese and chalk,
your thoughts and mine are lightyears apart.

Everything I say has a powerful purpose;
no empty words ever pass my lips.
My words are like drops of rain in the cycle of nature:
wherever they fall they give life;
they replenish, renew and nourish life,
and then the earth gives them back and they start again.
My words always achieve their purpose;
they flourish where I plant them,
they nourish all who feed on them.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

God has told me to shout until you people hear;
to hammer home the message until it gets through.
You are God’s people, but God feels betrayed by you.
Listen to what God has to say about your sins:

“Day after day, you look good:
you turn up to worship and pay attention to my teachings.
You act like a people who want to do what is right;
like a people who want to obey to the letter.
You ask me for directions before you do anything,
and you seem enthusiastic about getting closer to me.

“Do you want to know why your religious behaviour turns me off?
Do you want to know why I ignore your fasting and bowing?
I’ll tell you why. You put on a great performance of it all,
but then you go straight back to feathering your own nest
and ripping off your workers in the process.

“When you fast, it just makes you irritable and violent;
and when you behave like that, I’ll just hang up on you.

“Do you really think this is what I like to see:
a day of pious misery?
black clothes, long faces and crocodile tears?
giving up chocolate and ice-cream?
Do you think that’s worship?
Do you think that pleases me?
Give me a break!

“Do you want to know what I’d really like to see?
Dismantle the structures of injustice;
take your feet off the throats of the poor;
stop jailing the victims of unfair laws;
and quit plundering nature’s resources.

“Do you want to know what else I’d like to see?
Open your tables to the hungry;
open your hearts and your homes to the refugees;
open your wardrobes to those without clothes;
and don’t go hiding every time you see someone in need.

“Do that, and I’ll put your name up in lights!
Do that and our relationship will be healed in an instant!
I’ll put you under my personal protection;
anyone who attacks you will have to deal with me, the LORD!
I’ll be on hand to respond whenever you need me;
just say the word, and I’ll be there for you.

“If you abandon all forms of exploitation,
and avoid bad-mouthing others to gain an edge;
if you share what you have with those in need,
and respond to the real needs of suffering communities;
then you’ll find that the world will light up for you
and life will be one beautiful day after another.

“I, the LORD, will always be there to guide you;
even in the grip of drought,
I’ll keep you healthy and well fed.
You’ll be like an irrigated vineyard with its own deep bore,
green and lush and full of life!

“Your ruined houses will be renovated and new;
you’ll be able to restore the homes
that have been in your families for generations.
You’ll get a reputation for making dreams possible,
for enabling everyone to find a good place to live.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

On your feet, people of God! Let everyone see you!
The glory of the LORD
has set you aglow with light
like the sunrise on the rock.

Darkness overpowers the earth and its peoples,
blinding them, weighing them down;
but for you the sun always shines,
because the LORD has lit up your lives with glory.

As the brightness of your light intensifies,
nations and their rulers will be drawn to you
like moths to a flame.

Open your eyes! Look around you!
The crowds are streaming towards you.
Everyone is coming,
even the children you thought had gone forever.

What a sight for sore eyes!
You’ll be elated and proud – positively aglow.
You’ll be showered with gifts by those who arrive,
priceless gifts from overseas and around the world.

They’ll arrive by the truckload from everywhere,
from places rich and exotic and mysterious.
People will bring gold and frankincense,
and lavish their praise on the LORD.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is working through me,
because the Lord picked me out
and commissioned me for the job.

I have been sent to deliver good news
to all who have been used and abused,
to tend the wounds
of those who are brokenhearted.
I have been sent to preach a message;
a message that means freedom for the detainees,
a message that will break the shackles and release the people.

I have been sent to announce
that now is the LORD’s chosen time;
that the date has been set
for our God to give the enemies of life their just desserts.

I have been sent to bring comfort
to everyone who is grieving.
I am to provide for those who mourn in the holy city;
to deck them out in bright flowers
instead of sombre funeral clothes;
to hand them a glass of bubbly
instead of their bitter cup of tears;
to set them singing and dancing in celebration
instead of collapsing in despair.

They will be called the pillars of integrity,
erected by the LORD,
a magnificent display of what God can do.

They will rebuild what has long laid in ruins,
they will construct something grand from what is now rubble.
They will restore cities that have been destroyed;
places that have known generations of devastation.

This is what the LORD has to say:

“I love the way you do the right thing
and give everyone a fair go.
I hate it when people do the wrong thing
and rip each other off.
I will be true to my word and reward you well;
I will make an alliance with you
that will stand the test of time.

Your descendants will be famous all over the world;
your offspring will be talked about by people everywhere.
Everyone who sees them will know without doubt
that I, the LORD, have set them up for life.”

Because of the LORD, I will sing and dance in celebration;
everything inside me is bursting with joy over my God.
The LORD has decked me out in the splendour
of faithfulness and integrity,
clothes fit to celebrate a dream come true.
I am like a bride and groom dressed for a wedding;
with flowers and jewels and everything done just right.

Indeed, just as the earth brings forth its vegetation,
and just as rich soil causes seeds to sprout and grow,
so too the Lord GOD will produce a bumper crop
of honesty and integrity,
and all the world will see it
and give due credit to God.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Because of the LORD, I will sing and dance in celebration;
everything inside me is bursting with joy over my God.
The LORD has decked me out in the splendour
of faithfulness and integrity,
clothes fit to celebrate a dream come true.
I am like a bride and groom dressed for a wedding;
with flowers and jewels and everything done just right.

Indeed, just as the earth brings forth its vegetation,
and just as rich soil causes seeds to sprout and grow,
so too the Lord GOD will produce a bumper crop
of honesty and integrity,
and all the world will see it
and give due credit to God.

Jerusalem, I will speak out on you behalf;
I will stick to my guns and not shut up
until your name has been cleared in public
and you shine like the blazing sun at dawn,
safe and secure and radiant.

Jerusalem, the nations and governments around you
will all see that the LORD is on your side.
You will stand tall before them,
and take pride in the new name that God will give you.

You will be like a badge of honour to your God,
a gold medal hung around the LORD’s neck.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Eve/Day),
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Jerusalem, I have sent the town criers up onto the wall.
I have told them to shout day and night,
and never let anyone shut them up.
Their job is to shout and chant without a break,
to keep up the pressure
until the LORD puts Jerusalem back on her feet
and makes her the toast of all the earth.

“I have given my word,” says the LORD,
“and you can count on it.”
“Never again will I let your enemies in
to plunder the food and wine
that you have put so much work into.
From now on everyone will enjoy the fruits of their own labour;
those who bake the bread
will eat with thankful hearts;
those who pick the grapes
will enjoy the wine in my temple.”

People of Jerusalem, throw open your gates.
Get everything ready for the home comers.
Resurface the road,
fill the potholes, clear the stones,
put up signs to show everyone the way.

The LORD has an announcement to make,
and all the earth will hear it;
“I am coming soon to save you, Jerusalem,
and I will bring a reward
to make up for all you have suffered.

You will be known as a people dedicated to me,
as the people I have reclaimed and brought home.
You will be called “the place to be,
the city no one wants to leave.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

If only, LORD!
If only you would rip the sky open and come on down!

The mountains would tremble in your presence,
like water boiling when the fire is stoked beneath it.
Then the nations too would be shaking in their boots
and your opponents would realise who they were up against!

You have done it before, LORD.
You have surprised us by turning up among us
and doing amazing things that set the earth quaking.

Never, in the history of the world
has anyone seen or heard of any God but you.
No matter how hard people looked, or how hard they listened,
they never found a shred of evidence
of any other god doing anything for anyone.

You are the one who responds to those who love doing what is right;
to those who keep you and your ways in mind.

But now, LORD, you are angry over the wrong we have done.
We thought you were out of sight and we became corrupt.

It was all downhill and now we are horribly polluted.
Even our best efforts to do the right thing
must seem like a gift of used toilet paper to you.
Our lives become drab and brittle like a dried leaf.
Our immoral behaviour sweeps us away like the wind.

There is no one left who prays to you, LORD,
or even attempts to stick with you.
You have turned your back on us
and left us in the mess we made for ourselves.

And yet, LORD, you are the one who conceived us.
You are the potter who moulds us like clay.
Every one of us has been hand-crafted by you.

Please don’t be too hard on us, LORD.
Don’t dwell on our sins and stay angry forever.
Think of us, instead, as your own people.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 20 in Year B  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The first I knew of the plot against me
was when the LORD tipped me off about it.

Until then I was like a lamb trotting to its fate,
knowing neither shearer nor slaughterer.
In my blissful ignorance I never guessed
that they were plotting my downfall, saying,

“Let’s cut him down in his prime
and make sure he never breeds.
Let’s rid the world of him
and erase all memory that he ever lived!”

But you are the LORD who rules over everything.
Your investigations uncover our motives
and your judgements get it right every time.
I have put my case in your hands.
Hit them with everything they deserve!

©2012 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jeremiah poured out his complaint to the LORD, saying:

Come on, LORD. You know what is going on here.
Don’t forget it is for you that I am copping this abuse.
Don’t keep giving my enemies second chances.
Dish out a harsh dose of justice before they finish me off.

When I first came across your words,
I consumed them with great gusto.
They were the best thing I had ever tasted.
They were a feast for my whole being!
Being named as one who belongs to you
filled me with pride, O LORD, ruler of everything.

But now I don’t get invited to parties any more,
and I’ve got nothing to smile about.
Doing what you asked of me cost me all my friends
because you made me so serious and angry.

Why must I live with this constant pain?
Why does my wound fester and refuse to heal?
The fact is, you are like a mirage in the desert, God,
all promise but no action.

This is what the LORD said in response to Jeremiah’s complaint:

If you wake up to yourself and get back on track,
I will accept you and put you back on your feet.
If you choose your words well and quit your whingeing,
then you can continue to speak on my behalf.
Then the people will come seeking you,
instead of you always crawling to them.

I will give you a thick skin, like a steel plated wall,
to protect you from these people.
They can attack you all they like,
but they won’t be able to bring you down
because I am on your side
to keep you safe and see you through.
I am the LORD, and I give you my word.

I will break the grip of these evil people and set you free;
I will rescue you from their ruthless hands
and bring you back to where you belong.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says:

The writing is on the wall for you leaders of my people. You are supposed to be like shepherds, keeping an eye on my flock and seeing that they are kept united and safe. But you have butchered them and scattered them. You have driven them off and left them defenceless. But I can assure you that I, the LORD, have been keeping my eye on you! I will see that you get what you deserve for your crimes against my people.

I will bring back what’s left of my people; bring them home from the lands where I sent them when they fled as refugees. Back home where they belong, they will regain their strength and flourish once again. I, the LORD, will raise up new leaders for them who can be trusted to care for them like real shepherds. My people will no longer have any reason to fear or despair, and none of them will be lost.

You can be sure that the time is coming when I, the LORD,
will raise up a true king from the family of David;
one who will rule with wisdom and do the right thing;
who will bring justice to the land and set things right.

As long as he reigns the land will be secure
and my people will enjoy peace.
Whenever his name is mentioned, people will say,
“Ah! The LORD has put everything right!”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

This is what the LORD has to say:

Sing and celebrate with God’s people.
Raise the shout for the number one nation.
Broadcast the news and give due credit,
for I, the LORD, have come to save my people,
the few who have remained faithful.

See, I am going to bring them home from across the border.
I will gather them from the ends of the earth.
I won’t only bring the strong and agile ones,
but the blind and the crippled,
the one’s who are heavily pregnant
and those with small children clinging to their ankles.
I will bring them all back here,
the whole mob of them.

There will be floods of tears as they return,
but I will reassure them and lead them home.
I will make sure there are refreshments available along the route,
and that the road is clear and easy to follow,
for I have made these people my own children,
and I love them as my one and only.

Listen to what I, the LORD, have to say, you nations of the world,
and pass it on across the land and over the seas.
Let everyone know that the one who scattered Israel
is gathering them back together
like a farmer bringing his flocks in to safety.

You see; I, the LORD, have bailed out my people.
I freed them when the odds were stacked against them.

They will come and gather here at the city heights
to sing out loud.
When they see what I have prepared for them,
they won’t be able to wipe the smiles off their faces.
What a feast I will spread before them:
breads and wines and every delicacy,
the finest meats, cooked to perfection.
And it will go on forever!
Like a well watered garden,
their lives will go on and on flourishing.

They will break out into joyous dancing,
men and women, young and old, celebrating together.
I will replace their grief with a thousand reasons to smile.
I will comfort them, and turn their tears to laughter.

All of them, priests and people, will eat their fill
and be more than satisfied with what I provide.
I, the LORD, have given my word on this.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You can count on this, says the LORD. The time is coming when I will once again take Israel and Judah as my marriage partner. Our marriage will not be like the marriage I entered with their ancestors. Back then I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of slavery and carried them across the threshold into a home of their own. But even though I was loving and faithful, says the LORD, they broke our marriage vows.

But listen to the new marriage vows I will soon make with the people of Israel, says the LORD:

“I will write my values into your hearts and minds.
I will be your God, and you will be my people.”

No longer will they need lessons to learn how I want them to live. They won’t need to spur each other on, saying, “Get to know the LORD,” because all of them, from all walks of life, will know me well, says the LORD. I will erase all record of their past wrongs and let them start over with a clean slate.

©2001 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.

I have borne the brunt of your anger, God.
I have suffered the punishment you dished out.
You drove me away from the light
and left me facing the darkness alone.
You singled me out for a beating;
and belted me around day and night.

Under your hand, my body wasted away,
and my bones were cracked and broken.
You were constantly in my face,
standing over me, keeping me in fear.
You locked me up in darkness
and death seemed close at hand.

You have fenced me in with barbed wire,
and chained my ankles for good measure.
I can cry for help all I like,
but you’ve blocked your ears.
You built permanent blockades on every road.
Wherever I go, I am turned back.

The reality I’m facing is like a bitter taste in my mouth.
Grief and deprivation poison my mind.

I can’t stop thinking about it over and over,
but every thought makes me want to die.

The one thing that gives me hope,
the one thing I keep reminding myself of is this:

Your love and loyalty never die, LORD.
Your generous mercy never runs dry.
They are created new every morning
and you are as trustworthy as the solid rock.

So I keep telling myself that you are all I need
and that I can still trust you to come through for me.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Your love and loyalty never die, LORD.
Your generous mercy never runs dry.
They are created new every morning
and you are as trustworthy as the solid rock.

So I keep telling myself that you are all I need
and that I can still trust you to come through for me.

You are good to those who hang in there for you, LORD;
to those whose hearts continue to search for you.

The life for which you save us, LORD,
is worth patiently waiting for.

It is a good thing to shoulder unfair burdens
while we are still young;
to put up with solitary confinement
if that is what the LORD has imposed;
to eat dust
without giving up hope;
to turn the other cheek with courage
and cop the insults that are dished out.

I can’t believe
that the Lord will write us off forever.

The Lord might be dishing out grief to us now
but not willingly.

The Lord’s rock-solid love
will pour forth compassion for us
for the Lord does not take pleasure
in causing trouble or pain.

©2014 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

A voice spoke to me and said, “Ezekiel, young man, stand up on your feet and listen to what I have to say to you.”

When I heard this, a spirit moved inside me and stood me up on my feet, and I heard the voice speaking to me. The voice said to me:

“Young man, I am sending you to my people. They are a nation of scabs who turned against me. Just like their ancestors, they have repeatedly done the wrong thing by me and they are continuing to do so. This latest generation is the most callous and pigheaded yet. I am sending you to them, and it is your job to announce whatever the Lord GOD has to say to them. Maybe they will listen, maybe they won’t, because they are such a defiant mob. Either way, they will be left in no doubt that there has been a prophet among them.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

This is what the Lord GOD says:

I will personally choose a sprig
from the crown of a towering tree
and cut it loose.
I will get one with tender leaves
from among the new growth at the very top.

I will plant it myself
on top of the highest mountain.
I will plant it
on the great mountain of Israel
so that it may grow to be a mighty tree
with massive branches and loads of fruit.

Birds of every kind will find shelter in it,
building nests in its shady branches.
Everything that flies will be up there!

Then every tree in every field will know for sure
that I am the LORD.

I cut down the big trees
and raise up the little ones.
I wither the lush green trees,
and make the dry ones flourish again.

I the LORD give you my word on this,
and I do what I say.

©2009 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I received another message from the LORD:

Why are you repeating the old saying, “The parents eat junk, and their kids’ teeth rot”? I am the Lord GOD and I swear I do not want to hear this saying from any of my people ever again. Get this into your heads: I have the power of life and death over everyone, both the parents and the children, and it is only the person responsible for the sin who will die for it.

Yet I hear you whingeing, “The way the Lord treats us is not fair.” Well listen up, my people: is it my ways that are not fair? Isn’t the reality that it is your ways that are not fair? When people who have previously done the right thing turn their backs on what is right and start doing things that are corrupt, they are making a fatal mistake. They will die because of the corrupt things they have done. On the other hand, if corrupt people mend their ways and begin living by what I have taught and doing the right thing by others, they will save their lives. They have woken up to themselves, turning their backs on corruption and getting their lives back on track, and so they will no longer be under sentence of death. And yet I hear my people whingeing, “The way the Lord treats us is not fair.” Give me an answer, my people: is it my ways that are not fair? Isn’t the reality that it is your ways that are not fair?

So, my people, I am telling you that I, the Lord GOD, will judge each of you on the basis of how you, yourself, live. Give up corrupt ways and get your lives back on track; otherwise corruption will be your downfall. Put behind you all the corrupt things you have done against my express instructions, and make a fresh start. Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why go on trudging towards death, my people? I am the Lord GOD, and I am never happy to see anyone die, no matter who they are. So do an about face and live!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The LORD God said to me:

“Ezekiel, I have given you the job of standing guard over my people. You are to pass on to them, word for word, every warning you hear from me. If I give you a message for those who have gone off the rails, saying, ‘You people are corrupt and it is going to destroy your lives and kill you,’ you are to give it to them in no uncertain terms. If you fail to warn them of the need to turn their lives around, then they will continue on their fast track to an early grave, and I will hold you culpable for their deaths. But if you give them fair warning to mend their ways, and they take no notice, then they will still end up dead, but you won’t have their blood on your hands.

“Now, young man; can you hear what my people are saying? They are saying that their past has caught up with them, and that the mistakes that they once made will go on ruining their lives from now on. They think they are stuck with no way out, and no life to look forward to. This is what I want you to tell them, Ezekiel: ‘I am the LORD your God who lives forever, and I can assure you that I take no pleasure in seeing those who have done wrong pay for it with their lives. I would so much rather see them mend their ways and rebuild their lives. So you people who think your past is killing you, turn around and get your lives back on track. Come, my people, why should you let these things kill you when there is a way out?”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I, the Lord GOD, will personally undertake the search and rescue mission for my missing people. When a mob of sheep has been attacked and scattered, a good farmer will mount a search and not rest until they are all safely back together. I am just like that farmer. I will seek out my sheep. On a day of violent storms and clouds of black smoke, they were scattered in all directions, but I will rescue them from wherever they ended up. Even if my exiled people have disappeared among other peoples in other countries, I will gather them up, one at a time, and bring the whole mob back home to their own land. I will let them graze contentedly on the rolling hills of this promised land. They will be free to stroll beside rivers and creeks, and to make their home among their friends and family. I will give them the best pasture to feed on, and the rich and fertile high country will be their home. They will have it easy, and want for nothing. The rich high country pastures will provide them with everything they desire. I, the Lord GOD, will personally take care of my sheep and see to it that they can lie down with nothing to fear.

Those who are lost, I will seek.
Those who have wandered off track, I will bring back.
Those who are wounded, I will bandage up.
Those who are weak, I will nurse back to full strength.
But I will come down hard on the powerful fat-cats.
Justice will be their staple diet.

I, the Lord GOD, have this to say to those who have grown fat off the misery of others. You will have me to answer to when it is time to judge between you and those who have been trampled down and deprived. Like a bullying ram, you stood over them and butted them with your horns, exploiting their weakness and throwing your weight around until they were scattered, helpless and half starved. So I am going to step in and save this mob of mine. They will no longer have to put up with your violent stand-over tactics. I will sort out the sheep and cull out the rogues.

I will find a shepherd who I can trust to put him in charge of them, one from the family of King David who works for me. He will provide for them and take care of them. I, the LORD, will be their God, and David, who answers to me, will be their king. I the LORD, have given my word.

©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.

I, the LORD, will bring you home from exile.
I will gather you from your foreign hideouts,
and settle you safely in your own homeland.

I will wash you down with clean water;
scrub the defilement from your lives,
and clean off the filthy residue of your flirtation with idols.

I will renovate your lives from the inside out,
and give you a new heart and new spirit.
I will remove your cold stone hearts,
and replace them with hearts of healthy flesh.

I will put my spirit inside you,
to give you a passion for following my ways
and a commitment to doing what I say.

Then you will live in the homeland I gave to your ancestors.
You will be my people,
and I will be your God.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The LORD took hold of me and the LORD’s Spirit carried me away and dropped me off in the middle of Death Valley. I took a look around but there was nothing to be seen but bones – old human bones, baked dry in the sun – thousands and thousands of them. The LORD questioned me saying, “Ezekiel, mortal man, can these bones come back to life?”
I replied, “Lord GOD, only you can answer such a question.”

Then the LORD told me to preach boldly to the bones, saying:

“All you dry bones, listen to what the LORD is saying to you. Though you are long dead, I, the Lord, will put breath into you again, and you will live. Muscles, ligaments, organs, veins; all these I will give you, wrapped in healthy new skin. You will have whole new bodies and I will breathe life into you. Then you will know for sure that I am the LORD.”

 So I did what the LORD told me and I preached to the bones. Even while I was in full flight, the noise of rattling bones began to echo through the valley. They were coming together, linking up, one bone to another. As I watched, muscles appeared and grew. Bodies filled out with new flesh, and fresh skin was wrapped around them. But they were still lifeless.

Then the LORD told me to call to the winds, saying:

“North Wind, South Wind, East Wind, West Wind, listen to what the LORD is telling you to do. Come from everywhere and blow the breath of life into these corpses, so that they can live again.”

 Again I spoke as the LORD had said, and even as I did, gusts of wind swirled among the bodies, resuscitating them before my very eyes. Rising to their feet like a finals’ crowd, they could have easily filled the biggest stadium.

Then the LORD explained to me what it all meant:

“Ezekiel, mortal man, my people are just like old dry bones. They are always whingeing that life has become one long drought and they’ve been left for dead with no reason to hope that the future might be any better. So preach boldly, Ezekiel, and tell them this:
“All you people, listen to what the LORD is promising: I am going to dig up your graves, and open your coffins. I will bring you back as my people to the promised land. When I do this for you, my people, when I restore life to your bodies, then you will know for sure that I am the LORD. My Spirit will be within you like the breath in your lungs, and so you shall live. I will once again plant your feet on your own patch of dirt. Then there will no longer be any doubt that I, the LORD, have spoken and that what I say goes.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Beloved Israel, I, the LORD, will win you back.
I will take you out to that wilderness place
where our love was first awakened,
and whisper tender words in your ear.

I will give you back your wedding presents,
and transform the Valley of Heartbreak
into the Pathway of Hope.

There you will again respond to me
with the delight you had as a young bride
when you first came to me from the land of Egypt.

From that day on, you will call me, “My loving husband.”
Never again will you call me, “Owner” and “Master.”
I will wash you clean of the memories of those would-be gods.
You will never again have cause to utter their names.

I will make a deal with the wild animals,
with the birds of prey and dangerous creepy-crawlies,
to ensure that they never threaten you again.
I will eliminate war and get rid of all the weapons,
so that you can sleep soundly, with nothing to fear.

Then you will be mine and I will be yours;
partners in marriage forever.
Our marriage will be good and right,
rock-solid in love and rich in mercy.
We will give ourselves to one another
and be faithful to one another.
You will know me, the LORD, intimately and fully.

©2013 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Ring the alarm bells on the holy mountain.
Sound the sirens for the whole city to hear!
Put the fear of God into everybody,
for the day when the LORD will step in is near –
a dark and menacing day,
a day of fierce heat and dark choking clouds!

Like a raging bushfire sweeping down the mountain,
a terrifying army comes.
Wave upon wave,
it leaves nothing but scorched earth in its path.
It is more terrifying than anything ever seen before,
or anything ever likely to be seen again.

But even now, at the eleventh hour,
the LORD calls to us saying:

“It is not too late!
Get back on track with me.
Show me you mean it with your whole hearts.
Go off your food and get on your knees.
Weep and mourn from the depths of your hearts,
and don’t try to con me
with crocodile tears and cheap black arm bands.

“Come back to me, the LORD your God,
for I am compassionate and generous,
as eager to forgive as any mother.
My love and loyalty always hold back my anger.
Given half a reason I’ll withhold sentence
and give everybody a second chance.

“What have you got to lose by trying?
Perhaps you can convince me to change my mind.
Perhaps I’ll even send good times instead of disaster
and you’ll be eating and drinking in my honour.

“Ring the alarm bells on my holy mountain.
Declare a day of national repentance.
Rally the people, every one of them.
Get them together to pray and fast.
Make sure everyone has prepared themselves properly,
and make sure no one is missing.
Bring the aged and infirm,
the toddlers and the newborn.
Call back the newlyweds from honeymoons
and cancel all leave.

“In the heart of the place of worship
let those who lead you in prayer do so with tears.
Let them cry out to me, the LORD your God,
and beg me to have mercy on you.
Let them plead with me not to make you a laughingstock,
a classic example of a failed nation.

“For why should the rest of the world scoff
and conclude that your downfall is my failure?”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

I, the LORD, am heartbroken over you people
who seem so eager to see the day
when I will step in to put everything right.
What have you got to look forward to on that day?

What you see as a light at the end of the tunnel
is a train coming the other way!
For you, it will be like escaping from a crocodile
only to swim into the jaws of a shark;
or flopping down in your favourite chair
only to sit on a deadly snake.

Can’t you see that for you
the day of justice will be a dark and gloomy day
and not any kind of bright new tomorrow?

I can’t stand your religious festivals.
When you gather for worship, it makes me sick.

I will not accept anything you offer me in worship,
no matter what it costs or how beautifully it is presented.
You can offer me all your sacrifices and gifts,
but I will turn away in disgust.

Go and sing your noisy songs somewhere else.
I don’t want to hear another note you play.

Your worship will remain like a foul stench to me
until you flood your lives with justice;
until your passion for doing what’s right
is as unstoppable as a rolling river.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

God gave me a vision. I saw the Lord holding a plumb line against a wall to see whether it was straight. As I looked, the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”

I answered, “A plumb line.”

Then the LORD said:

“I am using this plumb line
to show how crooked my people Israel have become.
I will not turn a blind eye again.
The private shrines of Isaac’s descendant will be flattened.
Israel’s so-called sacred sites will be scorched earth.
I will declare war on the royal family of Jeroboam.”

Amos was getting into hot water over his preaching. Amaziah, the priest at the shrine in Bethel, sent a message to Jeroboam, the King of Israel, saying, “Amos is sowing the seeds of rebellion right in the heart of Israel. All his talk of doom and gloom will paralyse the nation. Have you heard what he is saying about you?

‘Jereboam will be killed,
and the people of Israel
will be marched off into exile in a far off land.’”

Amaziah also tried to send Amos away himself, saying, “Hey preacher-man, get out of town! Buzz off back to Judah where you came from and ply your trade there. Harangue them with your prophesies, but don’t open your mouth here in Bethel again. This is the royal chapel – the King’s worship place – and we don’t need your kind around here.”

But Amos answered back, “I am no professional preacher; nor was I raised to be a preacher. I was happy making my living droving cattle and cutting timber. But the LORD called me in from the bush and said, ‘Go and preach to my people Israel.’

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

For a second time, the LORD gave orders to Jonah, saying, “Get up, go to the great city of Nineveh, and sound the call there with the words I give you.”
So this time Jonah did as the LORD had told him to, and got up and went to Nineveh. Now the city of Nineveh was so big that even God was amazed, and it would have taken Jonah three days to walk through it. He made a start, walking through the city for a day, and as he went he sounded a call, “In just a few days, Nineveh will be in ruins!”
And the people of Nineveh believed that this call came from the great God, so they took immediate action. They called a day of repentance, and everybody, no matter what their rank in society, dressed in funeral clothes and went without food to show that they were serious about changing their ways.
Seeing what they did, and how they really were turning away from evil and getting their lives back on track, God had a change of heart, and cancelled the disaster that had been planned for the people of Nineveh.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

When the people of Nineveh called a day of repentance, God saw that they really were turning away from evil and getting their lives back on track. So God had a change of heart, and cancelled the disaster that had been planned for the people of Nineveh.

But this outcome was the last thing that Jonah wanted to see, and his anger raged like a bushfire. He exploded in prayer, saying, “Stuff it all, LORD! Right from the start I said that you couldn’t be trusted to destroy Nineveh! This is exactly what I was trying to avoid by running away in the first place. I knew that you were a God who is compassionate and generous, as eager to forgive as a doting mother. Your love and loyalty always hold back your anger, and given half a reason you withhold sentence and let everyone off the hook. Well LORD, I’ve had a gutful of it. Just kill me now and get it over with. I’d rather die than live, if this is how it is going to be.”

The LORD replied, “Do you think this burning anger is justified?”

But Jonah just stormed out of the city, heading east, and made a camp for himself in the bush. He plonked himself down on the ground and waited to see what would become of the city.

The LORD commissioned a small tree to shoot up and provide Jonah with shade in an effort to cool his head, so Jonah was pretty happy about the tree. But before the sun came up the next morning, God commissioned a grub to bore into the tree so that it shrivelled up. When the sun rose in the sky, God commissioned a hot muggy wind to blow on Jonah. With the heat of the sun boring into his head, Jonah was almost passing out from heatstroke and wishing he could just die and get it over with. He said to himself, “I would be better off dead anyway.”

The LORD said to Jonah, “Do you think this burning anger is justified over losing the tree?”

Jonah snarled back, “It is perfectly justified, even if it kills me!”

Then the LORD said:

“You felt a wave of compassion for the tree,
whose greatness was no thanks to anything you did,
and who sprouted one night and perished the next.

So what makes you think that I should not have compassion
for the great city of Nineveh,
whose streets are home to a hundred and twenty thousand people
who left to their own devices
wouldn’t know which way to turn,
and whose animals live there too?”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The LORD has had a gutful of you prophets
whose lies cause God’s people to go off the rails.
You always have good news
for those who put money in your pocket,
but you call down fear and misery
on those can’t afford to grease your palm.

Therefore the LORD says:
“Night after night you will be without dreams or visions.
Everything will go dark and you will see nothing.
You so called prophets have had your day in the sun.
Now your whole world is going black.
You visionaries will be exposed as frauds.
You expert forecasters will hang your heads in shame.
You will shut your mouths and hide your faces,
because I will leave you with nothing to say.”

That’s what the LORD says to you prophets,
but it is different for me, Micah.
The power of the LORD is with me
and the spirit of the LORD fills me,
keeping me honest, impartial and strong,
so that I can do my job of confronting God’s people
with the extent of their immorality and corruption.

So hear this,
you leaders who wield power and influence
over the whole nation of God’s people;
you who despise and pervert justice
and make a mockery of hopes for a fair-go;
you who built your power-base on the blood of others
and Jerusalem on a foundation of corruption!

Hear this:
The city’s magistrates are taking bribes.
Its religious leaders are taking cash for comment.
Its preachers have sold out to the highest bidder.
Yet they make a big show of their trust in God, saying,
“The LORD is on our side for sure!
The LORD will not let disaster come our way.”

The fact is, that because of you lot,
Jerusalem will be reduced to rubble and cleared like a field.
The Temple hill will be nothing but a tangled mass of weeds.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The LORD God comes! Let us all be silent!
The day of the LORD is dawning.
The LORD is ready to make the sacrifice,
and others have been invited to feed on it.

Listen to what the LORD has to say:

“At that time, I will march into the city, searchlights blazing,
and hunt down those who will be punished;
those who pickle themselves in their hot tubs
and smugly suggest
that I, the LORD, will never do anything,
either for good or for bad.

Their number is up.
Their wealth will be carried off.
Their fancy houses will be smashed to the ground.
All they have built up will come to nothing.
I will not let them live in the mansions they built
or enjoy the wine they carefully cellared.”

The great day of the LORD is almost upon us,
approaching at the speed of sound;
approaching with a horrifying noise;
bloodcurdling shouts and screams of fear.

That day will be a day of fury,
a day of grief and tearing hair out,
a day doom and disaster,
a day of filthy darkness and gloom,
a day of choking smoke and clouds of dust,
a day of sirens and screams and the sounds of battle,
a day when the defences will crumble
and cities and strongholds will fall.

The LORD will decimate the people.
They will stagger around, dazed and confused,
because they have offended the LORD with their evil ways.
Their blood will be poured out on the dirt;
their dismembered bodies spread out like dung.

Despite their millions and all their finery,
they won’t be able to buy their way out of trouble
on the day of the LORD'S fury.
The LORD'S passion will set fire to the earth
and incinerate it entirely.
With a terrifying completeness,
the LORD will terminate life on earth.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Lift your voices, all you children of Israel.
Sing and shout for joy!
Let your hair down, Jerusalem.
Celebrate with all your heart!

The LORD has let you out of jail
and forced your enemies to turn tail and run.
The one who rules over Israel – the LORD
is right alongside you, so you have nothing to fear.
No disaster can touch you now.

The great day is coming, Jerusalem,
when you will hear this message:

“Relax! Don’t be afraid, people of Zion.
Your hands can stop trembling now!
The LORD, your God, is right alongside you;
a champion who always comes out on top.
God will be bursting with joy over you,
celebrating as though it was always your birthday!
God will nourish you with love
until the spring is back in your step.”

The LORD, your God, says to you:

“I will bring your misfortune to an end;
and set you free from its humiliation.
Those who have kicked you around
will have me to deal with!
I will rescue and reunite
the crippled and the refugees.
No longer will they be treated with contempt.
I’ll see that they are honoured all over the world.
When that time comes,
I will gather you together and bring you all home.
With your own eyes
you’ll see me restore all that is rightly yours.
Then you will be honoured everywhere.
Everyone on earth will sing your praises.
I, the LORD, have spoken.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The LORD who rules over everything has this to say:

“Look, I am sending my own messenger to get things ready for my arrival. Then, all of a sudden, the Lord you have been looking for will turn up in the temple. You have been longing to see the messenger who will come to put my promises on the table. Well, he’s coming alright. But will anyone be able to cope with him when he does? Will anyone be able to stand firm in his presence?

You see, he’ll be like a bush fire that clears all the debris from the forest floor, or like paint stripper that takes a surface back to bare metal. He will tear through the whole family of priests and burn away the rubbish once and for all, until they shine like pure polished gold. Then they’ll do what they are supposed to do and bring the right kind of offerings to the LORD. That way the offerings of the people of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to God again, just like they were in the past.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

God is not the author of death.
God created all things so that they might live.
Death never brings a smile to God’s face.

The natural way of the earth is to generate life.
The forces of nature are not destructive or poisonous.
The kingdom of death does not govern the planet.

A life lived in truth and integrity is immune to death,
because God created us for life without limit;
permanent and incorruptible, just like God.

But the devil got jealous and screwed it all up.
His greed and envy infected the world with death,
and for those who side with him, it will prove fatal.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 20 in Year B  (themed series)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Those who shun God are getting in to bed with death.
You can see it in everything they say and do.
They yearn for death like an absent lover.
They have signed up to a partnership with death
because they seemed to be made for one another.

Listen to their thinking, and see how screwed up it is.
They say,
“Life’s a bitch and then you die.
Here today and gone tomorrow, and there is no cure for death.
Down you go, and no one ever comes back.

And then they say,
“These holier-than-thou do-gooders are such a pain.
Let’s knock off the next one we see.
They are always in our way,
stopping us from getting what we want,
calling us sinners and law-breakers,
and lecturing us about being a disgrace to our upbringing.

“They claim to know God
and they make themselves out to be the Lord’s children.

“They make everything we think look bad.
We’re sick to death of the sight of them
because they are so different from everyone else
and their way of life gets up our nose.

“They look down on us
and avoid our ways like the plague.
They reckon that do-gooders will die happy
and that God will call them his children.

“Let’s grab the next one we see
and make an example of him.
Let’s see if his puffed up words about dying happy
hold up when put to the test.

“If this do-gooder is such a child of God,
he can expect God to help him, can’t he?
Let’s see if God can rescue him
when we get our hands on him.

“Let’s see what happens to his patience and gentleness
when we humiliate him, torture him,
and make him fear for his life.

“Let’s kill him slowly and humiliate him as he dies.
Then we’ll see whether his ‘divine protection’
is half as good as he says it is.

So that’s how corrupt people think.
You can see how how screwed up it is.
The lures of evil have sucked them in,
and blinded them to everything else.

They have never know what God is on about.
They have never tasted the fruits of living right.
They have never glimpsed the prize in store
for those with a clean record.

©2012 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Wisdom is a radiant beauty
and her beauty never fades.
Those who love her always recognise her
and those who seek her have no trouble finding her.

She is open and generous
with all who desire her.
Get up early to track her down
and you’ll have no trouble.
You’ll find her right outside,
ready and waiting for you.

Anyone who gets their mind fixed on her
is on the way to understanding everything clearly.
Anyone who stays awake to her
will soon be without a care in the world.
She is always on the lookout for those who are worthy of her.
She bowls up and generously introduces herself.
She is there in their minds whenever they need her.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The first sign of wisdom in a person
is a genuine hunger to learn from others.
Those who seek guidance from others
are clearly proving their love of wisdom,
and the love of wisdom
is shown in living by her laws.
Living by her laws
guarantees unending life,
and unending life is lived
in close relationship with God.

So the desire for wisdom
leads directly to the Kingdom of God.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The Spirit of Wisdom is like a polished mirror,
reflecting bright light onto everything God is and does.
In her we see a crystal clear image of God’s goodness.

Although there is only one of her,
there is no limit to what she can do.
Without needing to change, she is always fresh,
and she renews and refreshes everything she touches.

Agelessly passing from one generation to the next,
she embraces those who dedicate themselves to God.
Making a home in their hearts,
she nurtures their friendship with God.

She enables them to pass on God’s word to others,
for God’s greatest delight is in those
who are at home with wisdom.

The beauty of Wisdom outshines the sun,
and the stars in the sky look pale by comparison.

She is more illuminating than light itself,
because light is regularly subdued by the dark of night,
but there is no evil that can ever get the better of Wisdom.

She stretches out her arms and embraces the whole earth.
She uses her strength to set everything right for the benefit of all.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Lord, your Holy Spirit of Wisdom
rescued your dedicated and innocent people
from the nation who had oppressed them.

She got inside the heart and mind of your servant, Moses,
and enabled him to stand up to a dangerous king
with an awesome display of your power.

She rewarded the labour of your dedicated people.
She guided them along the best route through the wilderness.
She sheltered them from the heat of the sun,
and lit up the night sky above them.

She got them across the Red Sea,
leading them safely through the deep waters.

But she drowned their enemies,
and the sea spewed up their bodies on the shore.

And so, the people who were in the right
carried off the belongings of those in the wrong.
They sang songs in your honour, Lord,
singing your praises as one,
naming you as their defender.

Indeed, Wisdom gave voice to the mute
and the gift of speech to newborn infants,
so that all could join in singing your praises.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Wisdom outlines her own credentials,
and tells her people of her glorious deeds.

In front of those assembled by the Most High God, she speaks freely,
telling God’s gathered crowd of her accomplishments.

“I was breathed into existence by God Most High,
and I covered the earth like a rolling mist.

I lived at large in the skies,
and my throne was in the pillar of cloud.

I covered the entire universe in my travels,
from the outer reaches of space to the bowels of the earth.

I held sway over everything on the planet,
from the waves of the sea to the peoples and nations.

Everywhere, I searched for a place where I would be at home.
Whose land should should I settle down in?

“Then the One who created everything gave me an order.
My Creator told me where to roll out my swag.
God said, ‘Go and settle in the land of Israel.
There you will receive what I have prepared for you.’

God created me at the beginning, before time began,
and I will go on forever, from age to age.

I served the Creator in the sacred tent of worship,
and took my place in the Temple on Mount Zion.

God gave me a place to settle in the beloved city.
Yes, Jerusalem became my home town.

I put down roots among an honoured people,
among the chosen ones who belong to the Lord.

©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.

Listen up, Israel, and hear the rules of life.
Tune in and learn good common sense.
What’s going on, O people of Israel?
How come you are still trapped in the land of your enemies?
How come you are growing old so far from home?
People avoid you like something dead.
You are written off like those in the grave.
How come?

It is because you turned your back on the fountain of wisdom.

If you had stuck to the track God had marked out
you would have lived in peace your whole life long.

Wake up to yourselves and learn.
Learn where to find wisdom,
where to gain strength,
where to get a clear picture of what is going on.
Do that and you will find that you have also discovered
the secret to a long and full life,
to a future that looks bright,
and to peace that will last.

But who has succeeded in finding Wisdom’s house?
Who has entered her warehouse and placed their order?
Who? The one who knows everything knows her well,
and with a sharp mind, easily tracked her down.

The one who set up the earth in the first place,
and filled it with everything on four legs;
the one who throws light into the sky,
and who can send it cowering away with a word;
the one at whose call the stars stepped forth,
eagerly signing up for the night watch
and lighting up with joy for the one who made them.

This is our God;
and no other god is in the same league.

God has marked out the track to Wisdom’s home
and shared her secrets with his servant Jacob,
and with Israel, his beloved child.
From that time on, Wisdom appeared on earth
and made her home among the people.

She is the book of instruction given by God;
the law laid down that lasts forever.
All those who hold fast to her will live,
but those who give up on her will die.

Turn around, people of Jacob, and reach out for her.
Turn towards her light and head straight there.
What a glorious gift you have been given!
Don’t squander it and leave it to others to cash in on it.
We’ve got it made, O people of Israel,
because we are in the know about what pleases God.

©2013 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in the territory of Judea, during the reign of King Herod. Some time after his birth, a group of eastern mystics turned up in Jerusalem looking for him. “Where can we find the child who has been born to be the king of the Jews?” they asked. “We observed the appearance of the star that heralds his birth, and so we have come all this way to pay our respects.”
When King Herod heard this, he went berserk, and when Herod was agitated, everybody in Jerusalem was on edge. Pulling himself together, he called in the city’s top priests and religious scholars and asked them whereabouts the Messiah was supposed to be born. They were in no doubt: “Bethlehem in Judea,” they said. “The prophet Micah spelt it out quite clearly:

‘Bethlehem in Judea, you’re it!
I’m going to put you on the map!
You will be the home town of my chosen ruler,
the one who will lead my people on the right track.’”

Having sorted that out, Herod met behind closed doors with the visiting mystics and pumped them for information about exactly when the star had first appeared. He then gave them directions to Bethlehem and sent them on their way, saying, “Go, and leave no stone unturned until you find the child. When you’ve found him, drop me a line so that I can come down and pay my respects too.”
So, having gained this information from the king, they hit the road. As they did, they spotted the star again, the same one they had first seen appear. Taking a line from the star, they were able to track down the exact place where the child was. Their search was finally at an end, and they were over the moon! They were allowed into the house and there they saw him, a little child in the arms of his mother, Mary. Overcome with awe, they fell to their knees in reverent wonder before the child. From their luggage, they gave him exotic gifts of gold, aromatic frankincense, and myrrh.
They were warned in a dream to avoid contacting Herod, so they kept a low profile and took the back roads out of Judea as they began their journey home to their own country.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus found himself increasingly surrounded by crowds of people, so one day he headed off up the mountain. He sat down up there and his committed followers gathered around to hear what he had to say. This is what he taught them:

“Those who depend entirely on God for their welfare
have got it made,
because they are already at home in the culture of heaven.

“Those who are stricken with grief
have got it made,
because they will receive the ultimate comfort.

“Those who allow others to have first claim on everything
have got it made,
because the whole world will be given to them.

“Those who hunger and thirst to see the world put right
have got it made,
because they will be richly satisfied.

“Those who readily treat others better than they deserve
have got it made,
because they will be treated with extravagant mercy.

“Those whose hearts are unpolluted
have got it made,
because they will see God.

“Those who forge peace and reconciliation in places of hostility
have got it made,
because they will be known as God’s own children.

“Those who are attacked and abused for sticking to what is right
have got it made,
because they are already at home in the culture of heaven.

“When people turn on you
and do all they can to make your life a misery;
when they make false allegations about you
and drag your name through the mud,
all because of your association with me,
you have really got it made!
Kick up your heels and party,
because heaven is coming
and you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams!
You are in great company,
because they were just as vicious
to God’s faithful messengers in the past.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

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

While Jesus was teaching his followers on the mountain, he said:

“It is good to put the disciplines of godly living into practice, but be on your guard against the temptation to start doing it for show. The God who conceived you knows what’s going on, and if the good things you do are done only to impress people, you’ll get no credit for them in heaven.

“Don’t go blowing your own trumpet every time you do something charitable. If you give money for the relief of poverty, don’t go asking for public acknowledgement. The world is full of sponsorship schemes and naming rights deals, but it is all hypocrisy. It’s got more to do with image management than with concern for the poor. Of course it works as a business strategy, but I can assure you that there will be no rewards beyond that. God brought you to birth and understands everything you do, even what you do in secret. So if you want credit from God for giving money to charity, give it anonymously. Go out of your way to keep it quiet – don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. It is that sort of unpretentious generosity that God will reward.

“The same principle holds true when it comes to the inward disciplines such as prayer and fasting. When you pray, don’t turn it into a exhibition. In the media and even in worship services you’ll see people leading so-called ‘prayers’ that look and sound more like campaign speeches, carefully crafted for public consumption. It’s nothing more than hot air; sheer hypocrisy! No doubt they’ll succeed in impressing lots of people, but I can assure you: that’s the only reward they’ll ever get. Take my advice: do your praying behind closed doors so that you won’t be tempted to start grandstanding. Find a place where you can take off your masks and just open yourselves to God in quietness. By getting yourself out of the spotlight, you’ll have a chance of becoming aware of God’s presence – a reward in itself!

“When you are fasting, don’t go drawing attention to the fact. Some hypocrites make a big display of sitting at the table with long faces while everyone else eats. They might gain a reputation for being very religious and self-controlled, but they won’t get anything else out of it. It’s a waste of time training yourself to control one appetite while simultaneously indulging your appetite for adulation. Instead, when you are fasting, maintain your usual outward appearance and demeanour as best you can, so that no one will twig. God always has a loving eye on you and will see to it that your secret fasting reaps rich benefits.

“Don’t go piling up investments here on earth, where they can be wiped out in an instant by fire or flood, or a market crash. There is only one investment strategy that can never fail or be eroded. Invest everything you are and everything you have in the ways of heaven. It is a simple fact that whatever you invest yourself in will monopolise your concerns and therefore shape the person you will become.”

©2001 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.

Once his followers had identified him as the Messiah, Jesus began to make it clear to them that he would have to go to Jerusalem where he would be put through the wringer by the politicians, the priests and the religious lawyers. He told them that he would be executed there, but that three days later he would be raised to life. But Peter would have none of it. He pulled Jesus aside and gave him a piece of his mind, saying, “God forbid! Lord, this can’t be allowed to happen to you!”

But Jesus turned on Peter, saying, “Get out of my face, you satan! You’re like a roadblock in my path because you have got no idea what God is on about. You’re just pursuing the same things as everyone else.”

Then he spelt it out to his followers, saying: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to hand over the keys, sign their own death warrant, and then do as I do. If you try to hold on to control of your life, you’ll end up losing the lot. But if you let go, even if you pay the ultimate price for your commitment to me, you’ll discover real life. What’s the point of getting control of the whole world if getting it kills you. There’s no trade-in on a burned out soul. The New Human is going to arrive on the scene, full of the glory of God and surrounded by the angels, and he will see that everyone is paid what they deserve for what they have done. I kid you not, there are some people around now who will live to see the New Human arrive and take charge.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

While teaching his followers, Jesus said, “If another one of the brothers or sisters in the congregation does the wrong thing by you in some serious way, go and try to sort it out between the two of you. If the offender takes on board what you have to say, then you have rebuilt the relationship. If your approach is rejected, have another try, but this time take one or two others with you, so that there will be witnesses to all that is said and done between you. If the offending brother or sister still refuses to accept responsibility for the problem, then bring the issue to the congregation. If even the congregation’s decision is rejected, then it is time for them to sever ties and to relate to the offender as they would to anyone else whose behaviour is beyond the pale and who is yet to respond to the call to turn around and become part of the people of God. I kid you not, when you make decisions together about what may and may not be done as you live your life in the congregation, heaven will back you up. And again I’m not kidding when I say that if two of you make a joint commitment to something in prayer, then my Father in heaven will support you in it. For whenever two or three people gather together, identifying themselves with me, I will be right there with them in the gathering.”

©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.

While Jesus was teaching his followers, Peter raised a question: “Lord, how many times should I forgive someone in the congregation who does the wrong thing by me? Is seven times enough second chances, or should I draw the line before that?”

Jesus replied, “Try seventy times seven and then some! Take it from me; you should still be forgiving when you can’t count any more!”

He went on to say:

“That’s why this story is a good illustration of the culture of heaven. A corporate boss wanted to end his investment in a small single-operator subsidiary. He called up the operator and demanded repayment of almost one billion dollars. The operator was unable to pay, and unable to adequately account for the money, so the corporate boss ordered the repossession of the operator’s house and all his belongings, casting him and his family into the street, and began proceedings to have him arrested for fraud. But the operator fell to his knees and begged for mercy, saying, ‘Just give me a little more time and I will pay you the full billion.’

And in a sudden fit of compassion, the corporate boss let him go and wrote off the entire debt. But later the same day, the operator called in one of his own contractors who owed him just five grand. He grabbed him by the lapels, pinned him to the wall, and said, ‘Cough up, now!’

The contractor fell to his knees and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Just give me a little more time and I will pay you every cent.’

But the operator would have none of it, and repossessed his house and all his belongings and had him and his family thrown out into the street. When some of his fellow contractors saw what had happened, they were absolutely gutted, and went to the big boss and blew the whistle on the operator. The boss called the operator back in and tore strips off him. ‘You scumbag! I wrote off your entire debt out of the goodness of my heart. Don’t you think you could have gone easy on your contractor the same as I went easy on you? At the very least you could have given him more time.’

And in anger the boss called in some of the boys and had the operator beaten to a pulp, and then had the claim for the billion dollars served on him again.

And you can take it from me, that if you are not generous in your forgiveness of one another, you can expect the same kind of response from the One we answer to in heaven.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 20 in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

While teaching his followers, Jesus said, “Here is a good illustration of the culture of heaven. A building contractor turned up at his job site first thing in the morning and found a queue of casual labourers at the gate looking for work. He offered to pay them the award wage for a day’s labour, and on that understanding, they signed on for the day and got stuck into it. At morning smoko, the boss wandered out the front gate and found another group of labourers standing around with nothing to do, so he said to them, ‘Come and work the rest of the day on my site, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’

They signed on and got stuck into it. At lunchtime and again at afternoon smoko, the boss went down to the gate and signed on still more labourers. About an hour before they were due to down tools, the boss went down to the gate again and found still more unemployed labourers. He said to them, ‘What are you doing standing around here with your hands in your pockets?’

They replied, ‘We’re out of work and nothing has come up for us today.’

The boss said to them, ‘The day’s not done. Sign on here and you can work on my site for the rest of the shift.’

At knock-off time, the building contractor said to his leading hand, ‘Call the labourers into the site office and give them their wages, starting with those who signed on last and working through to those who signed on first thing.’

When those who had only been on the job for an hour reported in, they were each paid the award wage for a full day’s labour. So when those who had been hired first came in, they figured that they would get a substantial bonus, but each of them was also paid the award wage for a day. When they saw what they had been paid, they were ropeable, and sent one of their number in to take it up with the boss, saying, ‘Some of these blokes barely worked an hour, and you’re treating them as though they were worth the same as us who worked our guts out in the blazing sun for the whole day.’

But the boss replied, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong by you, Mister. You signed on for the usual daily wage didn’t you? Well, that’s what I’ve paid you, so put it in your wallet and get off home. I can pay the latecomers as much as you if I want. It’s my site and my money, so I can do what I like with them, can’t I? Or are you offended by my generosity?’”

“And so things will be completely different,” Jesus concluded. “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

©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.

While Jesus was teaching the people in the Jerusalem Temple, the chief priests and the political leaders came up and challenged him, saying, “What authority do you have for what you are doing, and who authorised you to do these things?”

Jesus replied, “I’ve got a question for you too, and if you tell me the answer to mine, I’ll answer yours and tell you what authority I have for what I am doing. Where did John’s authority to baptise people come from? Was it from God, or did he just dream it up himself?”

They thought for a moment, weighing up their options and saying to themselves, “If we tell him we think God was behind it, then he’ll want to know why we failed to get on board. But if we say that John just dreamed it up himself, we will be in trouble with the people, because the popular opinion says that John was a messenger from God.”

So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

And so Jesus said to them, “Well then, neither am I going to answer your question about what authority I have for what I am doing. Listen to this story though, and tell me what you think.

A man had two teenage sons. One day he said to one of them, ‘Son, the garden needs a bit of work. Would you give us a hand?’ The boy said, ‘No way!’ but later he had second thoughts and went and got stuck into it. Meanwhile, the father went to his other son with the same request. The boy answered, ‘Sure, Dad, I’ll get into it in a few minutes,’ but he never got around to it. Which of the two did what the father would have hoped for?”

They replied, “The first one.”

Jesus looked at them and said, “I kid you not; when it comes to becoming part of the culture of God, the prostitutes and the collaborators who sell out to the occupation forces are miles ahead of you lot. Why? Because John was on the right track when he came to you, and you didn’t believe him. But the people you had written off as moral garbage did. They took what he said seriously, and even though you saw the difference it made to them, your minds were set like concrete and you wouldn’t take any notice of him.”

©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.

While speaking with the chief priests and the political leaders in the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus said, “Listen to this scenario: A man owned land in a wine making region. He invested heavily in developing the property: erecting fences, planting vines and building a fully equipped winery. Then he handed responsibility for it to a team of winery operators and went and lived elsewhere. After allowing plenty of time for the fruit to ripen and be picked and processed, the owner sent some of his workers to the winery to collect the first vintage made from his own fruit. But when the workers arrived, the winery operators attacked them viciously, leaving one bruised and beaten, another dead, and a third critically injured. The owner sent a second group of workers – a larger number this time – but they too were violently driven off. Finally the landowner sent his own son to the winery, assuming that the operators would respect his son. But when they saw the son coming, they plotted together saying, ‘This is the bloke who stands to inherit this estate. Come on, let’s knock him off and claim it for ourselves.’ So they grabbed him, dragged him off the property, and killed him. Now, when the Landlord comes to take control, what do you think he will do to those winery operators?”

They replied, “He will have those murdering thugs strung up by the neck, and he will hand responsibility for the operations to a new team who will give him the fruits of his land in due season.”

Jesus said to them, “Anyone would think that you lot had never read the scripture that says:

‘The stone the builders tossed out as useless
is now the one that holds everything together.
This was obviously the work of the Lord,
and we can hardly believe our eyes!’

And so, I’m giving you notice: you are to be relieved of any responsibility for the culture of God. It will be taken from you and put in the hands of a people who are up to producing the fruits God expects. Watch out for this stone. If anyone falls on it, they will be smashed to pieces. If it falls on anyone, they’ll be mincemeat.”

When they heard what he was saying, the chief priests and the leaders of the devoutly religious Pharisee party knew that he was pointing the finger squarely at them. They wanted to have him locked up straight away, but they were afraid of the public reaction, because the popular opinion on the streets was that Jesus was a messenger from God.

©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.

While speaking with the chief priests and the political leaders in the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus used another story to illustrate his point, saying, “Here is a good illustration of the culture of heaven. The son of a great king was getting married, and the king had invited many guests to the wedding feast. When the day came, he sent his chauffeurs to collect the guests, but they wouldn’t come. The king sent a second lot of chauffeurs with instructions to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come. The dinner is ready to serve. No expense has been spared and the table is laden with good things. The finest meats have been cooked to perfection. Come and feast with us!’

But the invited guests thumbed their noses at the invitation and went on their way. Some headed off to their farms, others opened their offices for business, while others attacked the chauffeurs, roughing them up and killing them. The king blew his stack. He sent the army after those murdering thugs to wipe them off the face of the earth and reduce their city to scorched earth. Then he said to his chauffeurs, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those who I first invited did not deserve to be on the guest list. So go out onto the streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.’

The chauffeurs went out onto the streets and gathered up everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and brought them in until every seat in the reception hall was filled.

But when the king arrived on the scene to greet the guests, he discovered one man among them who had failed to put on the required wedding attire. The king said to him, ‘Mister, how did you get in here without getting dressed appropriately?’

But the man had no answer, so the king called the security guards and said, ‘Chain him up, hand and foot, and throw him into the deepest, darkest dungeon where everyone will be cursing themselves and tearing their hair out.’

“And so,” Jesus concluded, “many are invited to take up the opportunity, but few make the grade.”

©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.

Some members of the devoutly religious Pharisee Party were out to get Jesus. They put their heads together and came up with a plan to get him to trip himself up with what he said in public. They sent a delegation to him consisting of some of their own followers and some members of Herod’s party. The group approached him in the Temple and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You are honest and straight down the line in your teaching about the way of God. It is clear that you do not think anyone is above the law, because you call a spade a spade, without fear or favour, no matter who is listening. So give us your opinion on this: is it okay by our law to pay taxes to the Roman emperor, or not?”

But sensing the venom that lay behind their attempts to butter him up, Jesus replied, “Why are you trying to force me into a catch twenty-two, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that is required for paying the tax.”

So they handed him one of the Roman coins that was the only legal tender for the tax. He held it up and said to them, “Who is shown in this graven image? Who is named with a divine title on this coin?”

They answered, “The emperor.”

"Well then,” said Jesus, “if it belongs to the emperor, then give it to the emperor. But don’t go short-changing God. Give to God everything that rightly belongs to God.”

His reply left them in shock, and they turned tail and left.

©2002 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.

Jesus had clearly floored the members of the ruling Sadducee Party when they had tried to take him on in a public debate, and it wasn’t long before the devoutly religious Pharisee Party heard about it. They gathered together a delegation to challenge Jesus, and one of their members who was a religious lawyer began to test him out with a question. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the most important?”

Jesus replied:

You will love the Lord your God with everything you are, with all your heart and soul and mind.
This is the most important and number one commandment. And this next one comes second only to it:
You will love your neighbour as attentively as you love yourself.
Everything else in the law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments.”

Now while the Pharisee delegation were planning their next move, Jesus took the initiative and put a question to them: “What is your thinking about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

They replied, “The son of King David.”

Jesus responded, “Can you explain then why David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, calls the Messiah his Lord? For in the Psalm he says:

‘God said to my Lord,
“Sit here as my right hand man,
while I put your enemies under your heel.”’

“Clearly King David is calling him Lord. Why would he address his own son in such terms?”

They were completely stumped, and from that day on, nobody dared to try taking him on with questions.

©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.

When the religious leaders had given up arguing with him, Jesus turned to his followers and the gathered crowd, and said:

“The religious experts and the devout Pharisee party hold the authority to teach in the tradition of Moses. For that reason you should pay attention to what they teach and put it into practice. But do not do the things you see them doing, because they do not practice what they preach. They weigh everyone else down with heavy demands for rigorous religious discipline, but when people stagger under the load, they themselves won’t get off their bums to help. Everything they do is done for show. They wear eye-catching ornaments displaying scripture quotes, and they are always waving their bibles around for everyone to see. They love to be seated among the distinguished guests at formal occasions. They get a kick out of always being invited to appear at openings and premieres. They love to bask in the adulation of a gullible public, and to have everyone calling them Reverend. But among you, no one is to be called Reverend, because there is only one you are to revere. To one another you are all brothers and sisters, so don’t call anyone on earth Father. Your only Father is the one you have in heaven. Nor should any of you allow yourselves to be described as anointed teachers, because you have only one anointed teacher – the Messiah. The one who will be regarded as the greatest among you will be the one who is always bending over backwards for others. Those who big-note themselves will be knocked off their perches, but those who avoid the limelight will end up as everyone’s hero.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

While speaking to his followers, Jesus said, “When the time comes, the arrival of the culture of heaven will be like this:

At a wedding celebration, ten young women were given the job of holding up oil lamps and forming a guard of honour to greet the bridegroom when he arrived at the reception hall. Five of them had their wits about them, but the other five were not the full bottle. These five dim-wits had their lamps alight, but they didn’t bring any spare oil. The five bright-sparks had some extra with them, just in case. The bridegroom was delayed by several hours, and the ten girls all fell asleep in the foyer while they were waiting for him. Finally, on the stroke of midnight, there was a shout, ‘Quick! The bridegroom has just come around the corner. On your feet and get those lamps waving!’

The ten young women all jumped up and trimmed their lamps, but by that time the five dim-wits were almost out of oil. They turned to the well-prepared women and said, ‘Our lamps are going out. Can you spare us some oil?’

But the well-prepared women replied, ‘Sorry! If we try to make it go around all ten of us, then all the lamps will run out and there’ll be no lights at all. You’ll have to go down to the shops and get some more for yourselves.’

But while the five who had not kept their stocks up ran down to the shops, the bridegroom pulled up, and those who had been ready for him waved their lamps and followed him into the wedding feast. The door was locked behind them, and when the other five returned, they couldn’t get in. They banged on the door and called out, ‘Sir, Sir, open the door for us.’

But the bridegroom replied, ‘I’m telling you straight, I don’t recognise you.’”

“And so,” Jesus concluded, “Keep yourselves ready, because you have no way of knowing when the time will come.”

©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.

While speaking to his followers, Jesus said, “Here is another illustration of what the culture of heaven will be like when the time comes:

“A big-time entrepreneur decided to take an extended overseas holiday, and to leave substantial investment funds in the hands of his three employees to do with as they saw fit. Taking account of the relative abilities of the three, he gave one of them five million dollars, one of them two million, and the other, one million. Then he cruised off and left them to it. The one who had received the five million got straight to work, buying and selling, and managed to generate a profit of another five million dollars. The one who had received the two million also managed to generate a hundred percent return. But the one who had received the one million went and locked the money in a safe and left it there.

A long time later, the boss returned without warning, and called in the three to present their performance reports. The one who had received the five million reported first, saying, ‘Boss, you gave me five million bucks to work with, and I have doubled your money.’

The boss replied, ‘Well done. What I gave you was peanuts, but you have earned my trust and admiration in your handling of it. Now I am going to put you in charge of much bigger things. Come and celebrate with me!’

The one who had received the two million reported next, saying, ‘Boss, you gave me two million bucks to work with, and I have doubled your money.’

The boss replied, ‘Well done. What I gave you was peanuts, but you have earned my trust and admiration in your handling of it. Now I am going to put you in charge of much bigger things. Come and celebrate with me!’

Finally, the one who had received the one million made his report, saying, ‘Boss, I knew how you were only too happy to reap the profits from other people’s work without contributing yourself, and how harsh you are on those who fail; so I was afraid to take any risks. I kept your money locked away safely. Here, have it back.’

At that, the boss went off his tree, saying, ‘You lousy gutless bludger! So you knew that I am only too happy to reap the profits from other people’s work, did you? Well then you ought to have at least deposited my money in the bank where it would have earned me a bit of interest. So now I am taking your million and giving it to your mate with the ten million. Everyone with something to show for what they are given will be given even more and they will be rolling in it. But those with nothing to show will be stripped of even the little they have. As for you, you worthless piece of garbage, you’re out on your ear, and I’ll put the word around so that you’ll never get another job. You can spend your days cursing and kicking yourself on the dole queue.’”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- New Year's Day
- Christ the King Sunday in Year A
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

While speaking to his followers, Jesus said, “The day is coming when the New Human will return in all his glory, accompanied by all his angels, and he will be crowned as king. He will sit down on the judgment seat, and all the nations of the world will be summoned to appear before him. Like a quality controller sorting out the good fruit from the rejects, he will carefully sort the nations into two groups, one on his right side and one on his left. Then the King will say to the group on his right side:
‘Welcome, you who have been given the thumbs up by my Father. Ever since the foundation of the world, there has been a kingdom ready with your name on it. Come now, and inherit it; because
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I came seeking asylum and you made me welcome,
I didn’t have a stitch to wear
and you gave me clothes,
I was diseased and you took care of me,
I was in detention and you visited me.’

Then those compassionate nations will ask him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When were you a refugee and we welcomed you, or in detention and we visited you? When did we find you without clothes or sick and do something about it?’
And the King will reply, ‘The fact is, you did these things for people who were regarded as the dregs of society, but who I love as my own family; and each time you helped one of them, you were helping me.’
Then he will say to the nations on the other side:
‘You lot have been written off. Get out of my sight! A time of fire has been prepared for the devil and his agents, and you have doomed yourselves to go into it with them; because
I was hungry and you didn’t give me a bite,
I was thirsty and you gave me nothing,
I came seeking asylum and you wouldn’t let me in,
I didn’t have a stitch to wear
and you left me to freeze,
I was diseased and in detention
and you wouldn’t come near me.’

They too will ask, ‘Lord, when was it that we failed to take care of you? We don’t recall seeing you hungry or thirsty or seeking asylum or naked or sick or in detention.’
But he will answer, ‘The fact is, you failed to do these things for those who were regarded as the dregs of society, and each time you turned your back on them, you were turning your back on me.’
And with that they will be marched off into the time of punishment. But the nations who did the right thing by others will enjoy life without limit.”

©2002 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.

A few hours after Jesus had died, a wealthy man from Arimethea went to Pilate and asked permission to take the body of Jesus for burial. The man’s name was Joseph, and he was a follower of Jesus. Pilate gave orders for the body to be released into his care. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in clean linen cloth. He buried Jesus in a new tomb which he had had cut into the rock for his own eventual use. He rolled a boulder over the entrance to the tomb to seal it, and then went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting opposite the tomb watching all this.

The next day was still part of the sacred festival, and a deputation of the chief priests and members of the Pharisee party held an early meeting with Pilate. They said, “Sir, we have remembered that while that con man was still alive, he claimed that he would rise again three days after his death. So please give orders to have guards secure the tomb for the next three days so that his fan club can’t steal his body and start telling everyone that he has been raised from the dead. A fraud like that would be even more dangerous than the pack of lies he was pushing before.”

Pilate said to them, “Fair enough. There are security guards at your disposal. Go and do whatever you think is necessary to prevent anyone tampering with the tomb.”

So they took the security guards, taped off the area around the tomb, sealed the stone, and kept it under constant surveillance.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The morning after the Sabbath, just as the first day of the new week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb. Suddenly the earth shuddered and shook beneath them and an angel from the Lord appeared from heaven right in front of them, rolled back the boulder that had sealed the mouth of the tomb, and sat on it. The angel was as radiant as lightening, and wore clothes as white as freshly fallen snow. The angel’s appearance had the security guards quaking in their boots and falling like flies, scared stiff. But to the women, the angel said, “Do not be afraid of me! I know you have come here looking for Jesus, the one they executed, but you won’t find him here. He has been raised to life, just as he said he would be. Come and I will show you the place where his body was laid to rest. Then run and tell the rest of his followers that he has been raised from the dead. Tell them that he is heading back to Galilee and you are all to follow. There you will see him for yourselves. This is what I have been sent to tell you.”

So they left the tomb on the double, awestruck and overjoyed, and ran to tell the rest of his followers the news. On the way, they suddenly ran straight into Jesus himself. “Good morning!” he said.

They threw themselves at him and fell down kissing his feet and worshipping him. Jesus said to them. “There is nothing to be afraid of. Go and tell the rest of my brothers and sisters to go on up to Galilee and I will meet them there.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

This is the great news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. The prophet Isaiah had already written about the opening scene:

“Take note: I am sending my messenger ahead of you
to blaze the trail for your arrival.
In the desert a voice is shouting:

‘The Lord is coming!
Get the road ready.
Clear the track. Straighten it out for him.’”

John the baptiser showed up in the desert preaching to the people. He called them to be baptised, to completely turn their lives around and receive God’s forgiveness for their toxic ways. Everyone came flocking to John from Jerusalem and from all the rural districts of Judea. They owned up to their wrongdoing and were baptised by John in the Jordan River, promising to mend their ways.

John was dressed in rough clothes made of camel hair and animal skins. He lived on bush tucker – grasshoppers and wild honey. This was the guts of his message: “After me comes the One who is way out of my league – I wouldn’t even qualify to get down on my knees and lick his boots. I’m only baptising you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

John the baptiser showed up in the desert preaching to the people. He called them to be baptised, to completely turn their lives around and receive God’s forgiveness for their toxic ways. Everyone came flocking to John from Jerusalem and from all the rural districts of Judea. They owned up to their wrongdoing and were baptised by John in the Jordan River, promising to mend their ways.

John was dressed in rough clothes made of camel hair and animal skins. He lived on bush tucker – grasshoppers and wild honey. This was the guts of his message: “After me comes the One who is way out of my league – I wouldn’t even qualify to get down on my knees and lick his boots. I’m only baptising you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”

During those days, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. The moment he came up from the water, he saw the sky open up and the Spirit coming down like a diving kookaburra and taking hold of him. And a voice filled the air, saying, “You are my Son; the love of my life. You fill me with pride.”

©2001 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.

During those days, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. The moment he came up from the water, he saw the sky open up and the Spirit coming down like a diving kookaburra and taking hold of him. And a voice filled the air, saying, “You are my Son; the love of my life. You fill me with pride.”

Straight after that, the Spirit drove him out into a remote wilderness area. He had to prove himself for forty days in the bush, while the devil tried every trick in the book to lure him off-track. Jesus was in tough country, surrounded by wild animals, and God’s angels took care of everything he needed.

After John the baptiser was arrested, Jesus headed up to Galilee and began spreading the good news of God. This was the guts of his message:

“The time has come!
The culture of God is close at hand.
Turn your lives around and accept the good news.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

After John the baptiser was arrested, Jesus headed up to Galilee and began spreading the good news of God. This was the guts of his message:

“The time has come!
The culture of God is close at hand.
Turn your lives around and accept the good news.”

One day, as he was walking along the beach at Lake Galilee, Jesus came across Simon and his brother Andrew setting their nets in the water, because they made their living from fishing. Jesus called to them and said, “Come with me, and I’ll have you bringing in people rather than fish.”
Right then and there, they gave the fishing away and followed Jesus.
A bit further up the beach, he came across James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee. They were on board their boat, repairing their fishing tackle. Straight away Jesus called them, and they left their old man in the boat with the hired crew, and set off with Jesus.

©2002 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.

Jesus and his new followers travelled to the city of Capernaum. On the Sabbath day, he taught in the synagogue there and the locals were stunned by his teaching. It was like nothing they had ever heard before. His words carried great weight and it was clear that he stood behind everything he said, which was quite a contrast to the religious teachers they were used to!

While he was in their synagogue, a man who was defiled by a corrupt spirit came in and began screaming, “What business have you got with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to wipe us out? I’ve got you figured out: you are God’s Special Agent.”

But Jesus cut him down to size, saying, “Shut up, and get out of him, now!”

And the corrupt spirit screamed loudly, threw the man into a fit, and then cleared off. Everyone was gob-smacked, and couldn’t stop talking about it. “What’s going on?” they kept asking one another. “Is this some kind of new teaching? It’s certainly got some weight behind it. He even pulls rank on the corrupt spirits and sends them packing.”

His reputation began to spread like wildfire all over the Galilean countryside.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus finished teaching in the Capernaum Synagogue and left with his followers. Taking James and John with him, he went to the family home of Simon and Andrew. On arrival he was told that Simon’s mother-in-law was crook in bed, burning up with fever. He went to her bedside, took her by the hand and lifted her to her feet. The fever cleared, then and there, and she set about making them welcome in her home.

By sunset that day, the word was out and a crowd was gathering at the door. It seemed that the whole city was there, bringing everyone who was sick or tormented by demons. Jesus cured many people from various kinds of disease, and freed many from the grip of demons. He would not allow the demons to say a word, because they had him figured out.

Before sunrise the next morning, Jesus got up and left the house on the quiet. He went bush in a remote area and spent the time alone in prayer. When he was missed, Simon and his mates began the search. They tracked him down, and said to him, “Come on, you’ve got everyone looking for you.”

Jesus answered, “Let’s hit the road, so that I can broadcast the message in the other towns in this neck of the woods. That’s what I came to do.”

And so he hiked the length and breadth of Galilee. In every town he preached the message in the places where the people gathered, and drove out the demonic powers.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus was approached by a man who was suffering from a hideous skin disease that made him a social outcast. The man got down on his knees and pleaded for help, saying, “You could make me clean if you wanted to.”

Jesus was deeply moved by the man’s sorry state. He reached out his hand and touched the man, saying, “I do want to. Be made clean!”

At that moment, the symptoms vanished and he was made healthy and clean. Then Jesus gave him his marching orders and a tough talking-to, saying, “Keep your mouth shut about this. Go straight to the priest and have yourself examined so that you can be certified fit to return to normal social contact. As a sign that you are well, give the offering that Moses said was to be given in thanks for your cleansing.”

But despite his instructions, the man went straight out and began to tell everyone what Jesus had done for him. The word spread like wildfire, and before long Jesus couldn’t even show his face in the towns without being mobbed. He had to stick to the outback tracks, and people from everywhere came out to find him.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

When Jesus arrived home in Capernaum after a few days away, the word quickly got around that he was back. A large crowd flocked to the house to hear what he had to say. As he spelt out his message, so many people crammed in that it was standing room only, right through the house and out the front door into the street. While he was still speaking, some people arrived carrying a paralysed man on a stretcher. They wanted to bring him to Jesus, but they soon saw that there was no way of getting through the crowd. Not willing to give up, they climbed up on top of the house and ripped open a section of the roof above Jesus’s head. Then they used ropes to lower their friend on his stretcher right down in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw how firmly they believed that all this effort would pay off, he spoke to the paralysed man and said, “Mate, all you have done wrong is forgiven. You’re in the clear!”

Now some of the local religious experts were there in the crowd, and they immediately began thinking, “Who does this bloke think he is? This is a gross insult to God, because no one but God can put people in the clear.”

Being tuned in to what was going on around him, Jesus could tell that these questions were bubbling up among them, so he turned to them and said, “Why does this set your heads spinning? Which do you think would be the bigger challenge for me, to tell him he was forgiven, or to tell him to get up, fold up his stretcher and walk out of here? So, if you want to know whether the New Human has the authority here on earth to put people in the clear, watch this!” And he turned to the paralysed man and said, “I’m telling you, get up on your feet, fold up your stretcher and get off home.”

And sure enough, the man got to his feet in front of everybody, and promptly folded up his stretcher and headed out the door. The people could hardly believe their eyes. They all began giving God the credit for it, saying, “This is like nothing we have ever seen before!”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus went down to the beach. A huge crowd of people gathered around him, and he taught them there. As he was walking along, he saw a man named Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office where he worked collecting taxes for the Roman occupation forces. Jesus said to him, “Come and join me,” and Levi got up and began following him.

That evening at Levi’s house, Jesus and his followers had dinner with a group that included many disreputable characters whose lifestyles were considered offensive by the more respectable members of society. There were many such people among his followers. Some religious experts from the Pharisee party saw that he was eating in such bad company and confronted his closest followers over it, saying, “What does he think he’s doing, sharing meals with people whose behaviour is beyond the pale?”

When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Who needs the help of a doctor: the fit and healthy, or the sick? I didn’t come to spend my time preaching to the converted, but to call back those who are off the track.”

During a time when John’s followers and the members of the Pharisee party were going without food for religious reasons, some people came and asked Jesus, “How come the followers of John and the followers of the Pharisees give up food at this time, but your followers are still eating?”

Jesus replied, “If you are the guests at a wedding feast, you don’t refuse to eat and drink while the bridal couple are still with you, do you? As long as the reason for the celebration is still in your midst, you celebrate! All good things come to an end, and when the reason to celebrate is taken away, then they will go without.”

“The thing is, sometimes the old ways don’t fit the new situation. If you patch an old coat with a brand new piece of fabric, the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole. If you try to recycle some brittle old bottles for a fresh batch of sparkling wine, you’ll end up with nothing but smashed glass and an expensive puddle. Fresh content gets fresh packaging.”

©2013 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
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

It was a Sabbath, the day of rest, and Jesus was leading the way through some wheat fields. As they walked, his followers were casually plucking off a few heads of grain. The next thing you know, some members of the devoutly religious Pharisee party popped up and challenged Jesus, saying, “Look at that! What do they think they are doing? Haven’t you taught them that it is against the law to harvest grain on the Sabbath?”

But Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read in your Bibles what our national hero David did when he and his followers were hungry and had nothing to eat? He went into the house of God and took the sacred bread off the altar and ate that, right under the nose of Abiathar the high priest. The law clearly says that only the priests are allowed to eat that, but not only did he eat it himself, he gave it to his followers to eat too. Don’t you lot get that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of the people, not the other way around. The New Human is in charge now, and even the Sabbath falls into line.”

Arriving back at the synagogue, Jesus went on in. There was a man there who had one hand that was wasted away and useless. Some people there were keeping a close eye on Jesus to see if they could catch him doing a work of healing on the Sabbath and then dob him in to the authorities. Jesus saw the man with the crippled hand, and said to him, “Come out here, up the front.”

Then he looked around at the people and asked, “What do you all think the law would want from us on the Sabbath, to do good or to let things go bad, to save a life or to destroy one?”

But they bit their tongues and said nothing. Jesus was outraged; gutted by their lack of compassion. Turning back to the man, he said, “Stretch out your hand.”

The man stretched out his hand, and that was all it took: it was back to full strength. That was too much for the Pharisees. They went straight out and began conspiring with Herod’s mob to destroy Jesus.

©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.

Jesus was at home with his followers when once again such a big crowd gathered around the house that they couldn’t even get out to buy food. There was a rumour going round that Jesus was losing the plot, and when his family heard what was going on, they set out to take him in hand. The religious experts from Jerusalem had arrived too, and they were ready to give their opinion: “He has gone over to Beelzebul,” they said. “It’s all black magic. His power over the demons comes straight from the supreme commander of the demons.”

But Jesus gathered the people around him and responded with a riddle. “If there is an attempt to expel the satan from our midst, could his own evil finger-pointing be driving the purge? Think about it. When an empire breaks into factions that undermine one another, it collapses. When a team is split and at war with itself, it all comes crashing down. So if the satan’s mob are divided because they have turned on their own, then he has shot himself in the foot and his game is over.

“The fact is, no one can raid the house of a violent thug and carry off his belongings without first dealing with the thug himself. But if you can disarm him and tie him up, then you can help yourself to everything in his house.

“I kid you not, people will be forgiven for all their toxic ways, even the most despicable things they have said or done. But those who spit in the face of the Holy Spirit when they see the good things that God is doing have gone too far. There is no turning around once you go down that slippery slope.” Jesus said this in response to allegations that he had teamed up with the forces of evil.

When his mother and his brothers arrived, they sent a message in to let him know they had come for him. The crowd sitting around him inside passed on the message, saying, “Your mother and your brothers are outside and they want to see you.”

But Jesus replied, saying, “Who are they?” And looking around at those who were with him, he said, “Here are my true family! My brothers and sisters and mothers are those who are doing what God wants.”

©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.

Jesus used some stories to teach his followers, saying, “Here is a good illustration of the culture of God. A bloke empties a few packets of veggie seeds all over his back yard, and then just goes about his business, night and day, without giving them a second thought. The seeds sprout and grow, but the bloke has got no idea how it happens. Nature does the job, all by itself. First the shoots pop up, then before long the plants take shape, and then one day there is a bumper crop of veggies in the back yard. And once they are ripe, it doesn’t matter that the bloke doesn’t know how it happened. It’s not going to stop him going out into the yard with his knife and picking himself a feast at harvest time.”

Jesus also said, “What else can we compare the culture of God with? How can we picture it? It is a bit like a mustard seed. When it gets planted in the garden, it is so small, you wouldn’t even know it was there. But once planted, it grows into a huge weed. It goes berserk and starts throwing out branches big enough that a flock of galahs could build nests in its shade!”

Jesus used lots of these sort of illustrations to get the message through to the people. Everything he had to say to them was said in stories, but when he was alone with his closest followers, he explained things in more detail.

©2006 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.

One evening, after Jesus had spent the day teaching the crowds on the shore of Lake Galilee, he said to his followers, “Let’s go. Let’s sail across to the other side.”

So they piled into the boat, just as they were, and left the crowds behind. They weren’t completely alone though, because a few other boats came with them. Suddenly a huge storm whipped up, and the waves were smashing against the boat. It was a desperate situation – they were taking on water fast, but Jesus was sound asleep with his head on a cushion at the back of the boat. His terrified followers shook him awake, yelling, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are all about to die here?” Jesus got up and began barking orders at the wind and the waves: “Calm down! Let’s have some peace here!”

Right on cue, the wind dropped to a whisper and the sea was as smooth as glass. Jesus turned to his astonished followers and said, “Why are you so gutless? Where’s your faith?”

Now they were really quaking in their boots! “Who is this man?” they asked one another, “Even the wind and the sea fall into line at his command!”

©2000 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.

Jesus arrived by boat back on the Jewish side of Lake Galilee. A huge crowd gathered to meet him on the beach, and a man named Jairus – a respected leader of the synagogue – was among them. Jairus fell on his knees at Jesus’s feet and begged him repeatedly, “My precious little girl is on the verge of death. Come and lay your hands on her and make her well, so that she will live.” Jesus agreed and went with him. Much of the crowd tagged along, all jostling and pushing, trying to be near him.

Hiding in the crowd was a woman suffering from prolonged bleeding. For the previous twelve years her condition had meant that everyone treated her as defiled and contagious. She had spent all her money on doctors and healers who had prescribed everything under the sun. Despite all their remedies and promises, her problem just kept getting worse. She had heard about Jesus and was sure that he was her last chance. Unnoticed, she pushed her way through the crowd and managed to touch the edge of his coat. She was thinking to herself, “Surely even touching this man’s clothes will be enough to make me well.”

Sure enough, the moment she did it, she felt the bleeding stop. She could feel a real change in herself and she knew that she was finally free of the illness. Jesus felt something too, a sudden release of energy from within. He spun around, looking at the crowd, and asked, “Who touched me?”

“Who hasn’t?!” his followers asked incredulously. “If this crowd get any closer they’ll have to hoist you onto their shoulders, so there’s not much point in asking who touched you.”

But Jesus knew that it was something more than that and kept looking around to see who it was. The woman knew he meant her, and she knew that she was going to be found out. Shaking with fear, because she had defiled everyone she had touched, she fell at his feet and spilled out the whole story. But Jesus lifted her by the hand and said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith and it has paid off for you. Welcome back to the world of the healthy! May peace, health and happiness be yours, and may your illness be gone for good.”

As he was saying this, some people arrived from Jairus’ home and said, “It’s too late. Your daughter is dead. It’s no use bothering the teacher now.”

But Jesus heard what they were saying, and said to Jairus, “Don’t give up. Trust me.”

He sent the crowd on their way and wouldn’t let anyone come with them except Peter and the brothers, James and John. When they arrived at the home of the synagogue leader, it was in a state of chaos. Everywhere there were people crying, and you could hardly move for funeral directors, neighbours, and people bearing condolences and casseroles. Jesus didn’t mince his words: “That’s enough. The child is not dead. She’s only asleep.”

But they rubbished him. They knew she was dead. Unperturbed, Jesus took charge of the situation and kicked them all outside. Taking only the child’s parents and his three companions, he went into the room where the child was laid out. He clasped her hand tenderly and said to her, “Talitha koum!” which is Aramaic for “Little girl, get up.” That was all it took – she was up and walking around, as healthy as she had been for the previous twelve years! Of course everyone there was blown away – overcome with joy and amazement. Jesus gave them strict instructions not to breathe a word of this to anybody. Then he said, “The girl’s probably hungry. Find her something to eat.”

©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.

Jesus returned to his Nazareth, his hometown, and his closest followers went with him. On the Sabbath he gave a public lecture in the local synagogue. Many of those who attended were surprised and impressed by what he had to say. “Who would have guessed that a local lad would have done so well?” they said. “Where did he pick up such wisdom? And look at the miraculous things he does with just a touch of his hands!”

But the next minute they were getting their noses out of joint. “Who does he think he is? Mr Big-shot! He’s just a carpenter – Mary’s boy – no better than any of us. We know his brothers – James, Justin, Jude and Simon. His sisters all live here, and they’re no different from us.” So they ended up resenting him.

Jesus responded to all this, saying, “It’s always the way. Prophets are appreciated everywhere except at home among the friends and relations they grew up with.”

There was very little he could do there. He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them, but that was about it. He couldn’t get over how stubborn and skeptical they were, so he moved on and did a teaching tour through the neighbouring towns.

Jesus called his chosen twelve together and sent them out in pairs. He commissioned them to deal with any spirit of evil they might encounter. He gave them orders to travel lightly and live simply – no carting luggage around or buying things along the way. He told them, “If anyone invites you to stay in their home, do so until it’s time to move on. No shopping around for a better place! And if you arrive somewhere and they refuse to welcome you in or hear what you have to say, just move on. Turn your backs and walk away. Scratch their names off your map and forget them.”

So they hit the road. Everywhere they went they preached with enthusiasm, calling people to turn their lives around and get back on track. They flushed out numerous demons, and healed a lot of people of various illnesses, anointing them with oil and praying that God would make them whole.

©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.

The word was getting around about Jesus, and soon even King Herod had heard what was being said. Everyone had an opinion. Some people thought he was a reincarnation of John the baptiser and that that explained his miraculous powers. Others were of the view that he was Elijah or one of the other great prophets of the past. Herod was backing the John the baptiser theory. “It’s John for sure,” he said. “I had his head cut off, but he’s come back anyway, and more trouble than ever.”

It had been on Herod’s orders that John had been arrested, chained and put in prison in the first place. He had done this at the insistence of Herodias. She had been the wife of Herod’s brother Philip, but she had left him and married Herod. She had it in for John because he had been publicly denouncing their relationship as adultery. Although Herodias simmered with murderous rage against John, she couldn’t touch him because Herod held him in an almost superstitious awe. He was convinced that John was a unique holy man, and he was afraid of what might happen if he didn’t protect him. Herod took a perverse pleasure in listening to John speak. Everything John said aggravated him, and yet he kept coming back for more.

But it was only a matter of time before Herodias got her chance. On his birthday, Herod threw a huge birthday party and all the silver-tails and top brass were there – everybody who was anybody in Galilee. Herodias had a very attractive and alluring daughter who came in to the party and danced for the men. Herod and his guests were so mesmerised by her charms that the king said to her, “Anything you want, I will give you. Just ask!” He was so entranced by her that he shot his mouth off without thinking. “I swear I will give you whatever you ask, even half my kingdom.”

The girl went out and consulted her mother. “What should I ask for?”

Herodias had no hesitation. “The head of John the baptiser,” she said.

Intoxicated by this thought, the girl raced back to the king and placed her order. “I want the head of John the baptiser. I want it served up on a platter, right here, right now.”

That took the wind out of his sails quick smart, but he could hardly go back on his word in front of all his guests. It was lose face or lose John, so he caved in and gave the order. The executioner was sent for and John was dragged out of his cell and beheaded. His head was then carried in on a serving platter, and presented to the girl. She in turn gave it to her mother.

When the gruesome news reached John’s followers, they came and collected his body so that they could give him a decent burial.

©2000 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.

After travelling through the villages preaching, Jesus’s chosen ambassadors returned and met up with him again. They filled him in on everything they had been doing and teaching on the road. Jesus said to them, “It’s time to put your feet up for a bit. Let’s head off to a deserted beach somewhere and get some well earned rest.”

They certainly needed it. With all the coming and going of people wanting this and that, they hardly even had time to take proper meal breaks. So off they went. They piled into the boat and headed off by themselves for a secluded beach. It was no use though. Several people saw them leaving and managed to figure out where they were headed. Word travelled faster than the boat, and by the time they pulled ashore a crowd was already gathering from the nearby towns. Walking up the beach among the growing crowd, Jesus could feel his heart going out to them. They were like a ship without a rudder, so despite himself, he went straight back to teaching.

Much the same thing happened the next day. They had crossed back over in the boat and pulled ashore at Gennesaret. They had barely secured the boat and climbed onto the jetty when someone recognised Jesus and a buzz went through the town. All over the region people were rushing off to their sick friends or relatives and bringing them to wherever they heard Jesus had gone. There were stretcher crews coming from all directions. The story was beginning to repeat itself everywhere he went. City, town or outback road station – if the grapevine said that Jesus was there, there would be people queuing up in no time, bringing the sick for his attention. Day and night they came, all reaching out to him for help, begging for the chance to even just touch the sleeve of his coat. And all who did so were healed.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

A group of religious lawyers and members of the devoutly religious Pharisee party had come from Jerusalem and were keeping a close eye on Jesus and his followers. They noticed that some of them were eating their meals without first washing their hands in the customary way. The Pharisees, like most Jewish people, observed strict purification rituals before eating. There were numerous rules spelling out the required ways of washing, not only for people’s hands, but for the food and the cooking utensils as well. Careful observance of these traditions was believed to protect people from defilement, and the religious types wouldn’t have dreamed of taking any shortcuts. So, when they saw what was going on, they spoke to Jesus and demanded an explanation. “Why do your followers spit in the face of our ancestors by flouting the rules they passed down to us? Look they are eating with defiled hands!”

Jesus said to them, “Isaiah hit the nail on the head when he spoke about you. He saw right through your hypocrisy when he wrote this:

‘These people mouth all the right words,
but their hearts aren’t in it.
Their worship is just one big sham.
They invent rules to suit themselves
and then teach them as the word of God.’

“At the end of the day, you lot are more concerned about your own rules and traditions than you are about what God really wants of people.”

Having said that, Jesus turned and spoke to the crowd again, saying, “Listen up, and try to get this clear in your own minds. The things that really pollute people are not the things that they put into their mouths, but the muck that spews out from within them.

“If you are looking for the cause of evil, look inside yourselves. Evil intentions are conceived in the human heart, every one of them: lechery, disregard for people’s rights, murder, sexual betrayal, unbridled greed, callousness, deceit, promiscuity, jealousy, vilification, conceit, senselessness. All these things bubble up from inside people. They don’t get in from the outside. And these are the things that really pollute your lives.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus moved on to the district around the city of Tyre, and stayed in a house where he didn’t think anyone would be able to find him. He stuck out like a sore thumb though, and the word got around in no time. He’d barely had time to take the weight off his feet when there was a woman bowing and scraping before him, begging for help. She wasn’t even Jewish, but came from the part of Syria known as Phoenicia. She had a daughter who was deeply disturbed by some demonic force, and she begged Jesus to set her free from it. But Jesus said to her, “First things first. You can’t snatch food out of the children’s mouths and throw it to the dogs.”

But she didn’t give up. “Sir, even dogs know to sit under the table when the children are eating because there is always plenty of scraps for them.”

Jesus was won over. “You’re absolutely right! Your words have carried the day. Go home. The demons are gone. Your daughter is free.”

So she hurried home and sure enough, her daughter was relaxing on the bed and the demonic torment was completely gone.

Jesus moved on again, leaving the district of Tyre and heading back towards Lake Galilee via Sidon. As he passed through the district of the Ten Towns, some people begged him to stop and lay a healing hand on a man who was stone deaf and had such a severe speech impediment that he could hardly make himself understood. Jesus took the man aside, away from the eyes of the crowd. In the customary way, Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears and then spat on his finger and touched the man’s tongue as he prayed for him. Looking heavenward, Jesus gave a deep groan and said, “Effatha!” which is the Aramaic word for “Open up.”

And it happened, just like that. The man’s ears began to hear perfectly and his speech became steady and clear.

Jesus gave them strict instructions to keep this to themselves, but he was wasting his breath. The more he tried to hush it up, the more energetic the grapevine got! Everyone was just so blown away by the things he did, that they told anyone who would listen. “You should see the things he can do – wonderful things. He even restores hearing to the deaf and the power of speech to the dumb!”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 19 in Year B
- 2nd Sunday in Lent in Year B  (v.31-38)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Jesus and his followers made a trip out to the villages in the district of Caesarea Philippi. As they talked on the way, Jesus asked them, “What do people make of me?”

“Some say you are John the baptiser,” they reported. “Others reckon you are Elijah or some other prophet from the past.”

“Well, what about you?” he asked them. “Who do you think I am?”

It was Peter who spoke up. “You are the messiah – God’s anointed one.”

Jesus warned them to keep that opinion to themselves and not to breathe a word of it to anyone.

Then he began to fill them in on what was going to happen to him. “The New Human is going to be put through the wringer. He’ll be done over by the politicians, the priests and the religious lawyers. They’ll have him executed, but after three days he’ll rise to life.”

He didn’t beat about the bush on this – he spelt it out as clear as you like. But Peter would have none of it. He pulled Jesus aside and gave him a piece of his mind. Recognising that his followers were losing the plot, Jesus made an example of Peter, saying, “Get out of my face, you satan! You’ve got no idea what God is on about. You’re just pursuing the same things as everyone else.”

Then he called everyone to gather round – his followers and the whole crowd – and he said to them, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to hand over the keys, sign their own death warrant, and then do as I do. If you try to hold on to control of your life you’ll end up losing the lot. But if you let go, even if you pay the ultimate price for your commitment to me and to our message, you’ll gain real life. What’s the point of getting control of the whole world if getting it kills you. There’s no trade-in on a burned out soul. There are some who find it embarrassing to be associated with me and with what I’m on about, when they’re hanging around with their deceitful and easily distracted peers. If they don’t sort themselves out, they’ll find that when the New Human arrives, full of the glory of God and surrounded by the angels, he’ll be too embarrassed to associate with them.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain away from everyone else. Before their very eyes, the way Jesus looked was suddenly changed from the inside out. His clothing became so white that it was dazzling – an effect beyond anything soap powder could ever achieve. Suddenly they saw Moses and Elijah there too, in deep conversation with Jesus.

Peter said, “Boss, this is fantastic! What a moment! How about we knock up three huts, so that you, Moses and Elijah can all stay here longer.” He was just shooting his mouth off without thinking because they were quaking in their boots.

An awesome cloud engulfed them, and from deep within the cloud, a voice boomed forth: “This is my Son, the love of my life. Listen to him!”

Peter, James and John looked around and suddenly everything looked normal again and they saw no one there but Jesus.

As they were coming back down the mountain, Jesus gave them strict instructions not to breathe a word to anyone about about what they had seen, until after the New Human had risen from the dead.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 20 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Jesus and his group moved on and travelled through Galilee. He was keeping their location secret because the things he was teaching his closest followers were for their ears only. “Soon the New Human will be betrayed,” he told them, “and handed over to a hostile mob. They will kill him, but three days after his murder, he will rise up, alive again.”

His followers, however, could not get their heads around any of this, but they couldn’t bring themselves to ask him to go over it again.

They arrived home in Capernaum and after settling back into the house, Jesus hit them with a question: “You blokes sounded like you were having a bit of a barney back there on the road. What was it all about?”

The silence was deafening! None of them were willing to own up, because they had been arguing over status – which of them was number one. Jesus sat down and called the twelve to gather round. He said to them, “Whoever wants to be number one must take a place at the bottom as the servant of everyone else.”

He called over a small child, and right there in the midst of them, gathered the little one up into his arms and said, “Anyone who welcomes little tackers like this as though they were gold-medalists is welcoming me. And those who welcome me are not just welcoming me – they are welcoming the One who sent me.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus and his followers were getting close Jerusalem, and their last stop was just outside the twin townships of Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of his followers into the township, saying, “As soon as you get into the main street you will see a young donkey tied up to a fence. It is an awkward looking thing and has not yet even been ridden. Collect it and bring it to me, and if anyone asks you what you are doing, just tell them the boss needs it and will return it in no time.”

So they headed into the township, and found the donkey tied up outside a gate in the main street. As they untied it, some of the locals challenged them, saying, “What do you think you’re doing untying that donkey?”

They told them what Jesus had said and the locals let them go.

They brought it to Jesus and made an improvised saddle from items of spare clothing. When Jesus got on and began riding slowly up the road to Jerusalem, people began giving him the red-carpet treatment. Some were spreading their coats on the road before him while others were cutting down branches of leaves and flowers and spreading them along the road. Both in front of him and behind him, the cheering crowd began to chant:

Hooray!
God’s blessing is on the one
who comes in the name of the Lord!
God’s blessing is on the coming kingdom
of our ancestor, King David!
Hooray for God, the greatest of all!

Once he was inside Jerusalem, Jesus went on into the temple and had a good look around. However, it was already late in the day, so he and the twelve went back out to Bethany and stayed overnight there.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

While looking at the temple, Jesus spoke to four of his closest followers, saying, “As the end approaches, there will be a time of great chaos and trauma on the earth. Then, in the days after that, it will seem as though the whole cosmos is going berserk. The sun will go black, the moon will not shine, the stars will come crashing to earth, and the elemental powers of the universe will be shaken. Then, and only then, everyone will see the breathtaking arrival of the New Human, riding on the clouds in power and glory. He will send out the angels, and will gather everyone who has made the side from all points of the compass, from the most far flung corners of the earth to the furthest reaches of heaven.”

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

There were only two days to go until the religious festival known as Passover, and the chief priests and the religious lawyers were getting anxious to find a way to get Jesus arrested and killed on the quiet. They wanted it done without delay, because they were afraid that if it was done during the festival it might provoke a riot among the people.

At this time, Jesus was a dinner guest in the home of Simon the Leper, in the town of Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. During the dinner, a woman approached him with a very expensive bottle of blended fragrant oils. She broke open the bottle and tenderly poured out the oils on his head. But some of the other guests got their noses out of joint over this and began growling, “What do you think you’re doing? That stuff is worth a fortune. Why was it not sold and the money put to work to do something for the poor?”

They were giving her a hard time over it, but Jesus came to her defence, saying, “Give it a break. Why are you picking on her? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You will always have the poor with you, so you can go and do something worthwhile for them any time you like, but you won’t always have the opportunity to do anything worthwhile for me. She has done what she could, using these oils to prepare my body for a decent burial. I can tell you now, without a word of a lie, that wherever the great news is broadcast, anywhere in the world, she will be remembered for what she has done today.”

That was the last straw for Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve – the inner circle of Jesus’s closest followers. He arranged a secret meeting with the chief priests, and offered to rat on Jesus and give them the information they needed to arrest him. They were over the moon about his offer and promised to pay him for his trouble. So Judas began looking for the right moment to double-cross Jesus.

On the first day of the Festival – the day during which the Passover lamb is sacrificed – the disciples asked Jesus where they should go to book a room for their celebration of the Passover Meal. He sent two of them off to take care of it, saying, “Go into the city and you will be met by a man carrying a bucket of water. Follow him, and when you see him arrive at a house, speak to the owner of the house and say, ‘The Teacher wants to book your guest room to celebrate the Passover with his followers.’ He will show you a large room upstairs which is already set up for such an occasion. You two go and prepare the meal for us there.”

So the two disciples set off for the city. They found everything just as Jesus had described it, and they made all the necessary preparations for the Passover Meal.

When the evening came, Jesus arrived with the rest of the twelve to share the meal. When they were all seated and eating, Jesus said, “I kid you not; one of you will double-cross me; one of you who is sharing the meal with me.”

They were all quite shaken by this, and began asking him in turn, “Surely it is not me, is it?”

He answered, “I will be betrayed by one of the twelve, one of the very ones who pass me the sauce and top up my glass as we share the meal. And while the fate of the New Human is well known to scripture, the writing is on the wall for the one who stabs him in the back. That one is going to wish he had never been born.”

During the meal, Jesus took a loaf of bread in his hands and praised God. He broke the loaf, and gave it to them, saying: “Take some. This is my body.”

Then he picked up a glass of wine, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them, and they all took a drink from it. He said to them, “This is my blood, which is spilled for countless people in sealing God’s new alliance. I tell you without a word of a lie, that not another drop will pass my lips until the day when we drink in celebration of the culture of God.”

Then, after singing the hymn that concludes the meal, they went out to the Mount Of Olives. As they went, Jesus said to them, “You lot will all chuck in the towel. It will be just like the old saying in Scripture,

‘Knock off the shepherd,
and the sheep will run in all directions.’

But when I have been raised, I will go on up to Galilee ahead of you.”

Peter protested, saying, “Everyone else might lose their nerve and shoot through, but not me. I will hang in there no matter what.”

Jesus said to him, “Don’t bet on it. This very day, this very night, before the rooster crows a second time, you will have sworn three times that you don’t even know me.”

“Over my dead body!” thundered Peter. “I’d die before I would deny you.”

And all the others swore the same.

Soon they arrived at the Gethsemene Gardens. He asked most of them to wait for him while he went to pray, and took only Peter, James and John with him. As they went, he became increasingly disturbed and distraught. He said to the three, “I feel totally gutted. It feels like it’s killing me. Wait here and hang in there while I pray.”

He went ahead a little and threw himself down on the ground and prayed for the possibility of a way out of what was about to happen to him. He said, “Abba, Father, you can do anything. Get me out of this without having to drink this bitter cup! But still, the bottom line is whatever you want.”

When he got up, he found that his followers had fallen asleep. He woke Peter, saying, “Simon, have you nodded off? Couldn’t you hang in there with me for even one hour? Stay on the watch, and pray that you will not have to face anything that’s too tough for you to handle. Your spirit is raring to go, but your body can’t hack the pace.”

Then he moved off again and prayed in the same words as before. When he came back, he found them all asleep again, simply unable to keep their eyes open, and they didn’t know how to explain themselves. When he came back the third time, he said, “Are you lot planning to sleep right through? Enough! The time is up. A traitor has dealt the New Human into the hands of the corrupt. On your feet, and get moving! Look, here comes the one who has done the dirty on me!”

Immediately, even before he finished getting the words out, Judas, who was one of the twelve, arrived on the scene with a heavily armed mob. They had been dispatched by the coalition of chief priests, religious lawyers, and political authorities. The traitor had given them their cue: “The one I greet with a kiss is the target. Bust him and drag him off under guard.”

So when he arrived, he walked straight up to Jesus saying, “Rabbi!” and gave him a kiss.

Immediately the mob surrounded Jesus, grabbed him roughly and began to drag him off. In the confusion, someone pulled a knife and began lashing out, slashing a personal attendant of the High Priest and cutting off his ear. Jesus said to the mob, “Do you think I am some kind of dangerous thug, that you need your weapons drawn and your batons ready when you come out here to take me in? I have been sitting in the temple with you nearly every day, teaching the people, and you could have easily busted me if you had wanted to. But you are proving the scriptures right by doing it this way!”

By this time, everyone had run for their lives and abandoned him to his fate. There was one particular young bloke who had been following him, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. The mob tried to grab him too, but he broke free, losing the towel in the process, and ran off into the night, stark naked.

They dragged Jesus off to the High Priest, where all the chief priests and the political heavy-weights and the religious lawyers were waiting for him. Peter followed at a safe distance, and made it all the way into the High Priest’s central courtyard. He sat down there with the security guards and kept himself warm by their fire.

The chief priests and the ruling council were doing their best to put together a case against Jesus that would lead to a summary execution, but they couldn’t get the evidence to stick. A procession of witnesses brought false allegations against him, but they kept contradicting each other. Eventually though, some shonky witnesses testified that they had heard Jesus claim to be able to demolish the Temple, which the people had built in Jerusalem, and to build a replacement in just three days without any human help. They still couldn’t get their stories to line up properly, but the High Priest got to his feet, put Jesus back on the stand, and said, “You have heard the allegations that you claimed to have powers which only God could possess. What do you have to say in your own defence?”

But Jesus remained silent and offered no reply. So the High Priest put a different question to him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

Jesus replied, “I am. And you will see the New Human seated as God’s right hand man and riding in with the clouds of heaven.”

At that, the High Priest feigned utter dismay and turned to the council saying, “Why should we bother with further witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemous claim to be on a par with God. What is your verdict?”

Their unanimous verdict was that he deserved to be condemned to death.

There was a near riot as they all began to stick the boots in, spitting in his face and roughing him up. They blindfolded him and bashed him repeatedly, saying, “Come on, prophesy for us!”

He was handed over to the security guards and they assaulted him further.

Peter was still keeping a low profile downstairs in the courtyard, but a girl from the High Priest’s domestic staff saw him there keeping warm by the fire. She recognised him and said, “You were with that Nazarene bloke, Jesus, weren’t you?”

But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you mean. I’ve got no idea what you are talking about.”

He walked out into the entrance courtyard, but the girl saw him again and began saying to everyone there, “Look, this bloke is one of them.”

But again Peter denied it. A little while later, some of the bystanders became more insistent, saying to Peter, “You’ve got to be one of them. You are a Galilean – it’s a dead give away.”

Peter began foul-mouthing them and yelling, “I’ve never even set eyes on the bloke you are talking about. I swear it on a stack of bibles!”

But the moment the denial was out of his mouth, a rooster began to crow for the second time. The words of Jesus came flooding back – “Before the rooster crows twice, you will have sworn three times that you don’t even know me” – and Peter fell apart, bawling his eyes out; a broken man.

At the crack of dawn the next morning, the chief priests, the politicians, the religious lawyers, and the whole ruling council held a meeting to plan their next move. They handcuffed Jesus, marched him off, and transferred him into the custody of Pilate, the Roman governor.

Pilate began his interrogation by asking Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

“They are your words,” answered Jesus.

The chief priests raised a string of allegations against him, and Pilate turned to him and said, “Aren’t you going to defend yourself? These are serious crimes they are accusing you of.”

But, much to the governor’s amazement, Jesus offered no further reply to any of it.

Now it had been Pilate’s practice to release a political prisoner – any prisoner nominated by the people – during the annual celebration of the Passover festival. At the time, there was a group of prisoners being held on murder charges after a terrorist attack, and among them was a man named Barabbas. A crowd had gathered and were beginning to call on Pilate to make his customary release for them. He answered, “Would you like me to release the king of the Jews for you this year?”

Pilate said this because he realised that Jesus had only been charged to get him out of the way of his religious rivals, and so he saw the annual custom as an opportunity to solve two problems at once. But the chief priests were busy stirring up the crowd to call for the release of Barabbas instead. Pilate asked the crowd, “Then what am I supposed to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?”

The shout came back, “Execute him!”

“Why? What evil has he done to deserve death?” Pilate asked them.

But the crowd just kept chanting, “String him up! String him up!”

So Pilate, wishing to keep the crowd happy, gave orders for the release of Barabbas. After having Jesus flogged for good measure, he handed him over to the executioners.

The governor’s security guards kept Jesus detained for a while in the Roman headquarters while the whole battalion gathered round and entertained themselves at his expense. They clothed him in a purple dress-coat, and twisted some barbed wire into a crown and jammed it on his head. They began saluting him and saying, “Heil, King of the Jews!” and then bashing him over the head with their batons. They spat on him and knelt down in mock worship of him. When they’d finished their brutal sport, they stripped the purple dress-coat off him, put him back in his own clothes, and marched him off to be executed. They pulled a man out of the crowd, and forced him to carry the large wooden cross on which Jesus was to be strung up. The man was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, and he had come down to the city from the bush.

The place where the executions were carried out was called Skull Hill, or in Hebrew, Golgotha. When they got there, they offered Jesus a strong drink – wine spiked with a common drug – but he turned it down. At nine o’clock in the morning, they strung Jesus up on the cross by driving nails through his flesh. Then they divided up his clothes among themselves, tossing a coin to see who should get what. The sign informing onlookers of the offence for which he was being executed, read, “The King of the Jews.”

A couple of convicted thugs were executed at the same time. The three crosses were erected in a row with Jesus on the middle one. People passing by hurled insults and ridicule at him. They shook their heads and said, “What happened to the big man who reckoned he could demolish the Temple and rebuild it in three days? Show us what you’re made of! Get yourself off the cross and save yourself now!”

The chief priests and the religious lawyers were there too, making jokes about it to one another with the best of them. “He reckoned he could save everyone else, but he can’t even save himself!” they said. “Let’s see the Messiah, the King of Israel, get himself down off the cross. If we see him do that, we’ll be ready to believe in him!”

Even those being executed alongside him hurled abuse at him.

When midday came, the sky went black for three hours and it was dark everywhere. At about three o’clock Jesus screamed out in agony, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you turned your back on me?”

When the people standing around heard this, some of them thought he was calling for help from Elijah. Someone soaked a sponge in wine that had turned to vinegar and held it up on a stick for him to drink, saying, “Let’s hang around and see whether Elijah will turn up to rescue him.”

Then Jesus let out a loud cry, and breathed his last. At that very moment, the curtain that closed off the most holy place in the Temple tore open, all the way from the top to the bottom. The commanding officer was standing at his post facing Jesus, and when he saw how Jesus died, he said, “Fair dinkum, this bloke must have been the Son of God!”

There were a number of women there too, watching it all from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Salome, and another Mary who was the mother of Joses and James junior. They had been among Jesus’s followers since the days in Galilee and had provided most of the resources needed by his group. There were also numerous other women who had come to Jerusalem with him.

It was the day of Preparation which comes immediately before the sacred Sabbath day, and so Joseph of Arimethea plucked up the courage to go to Pilate and ask permission to take the body of Jesus for burial. Joseph was a respected member of the ruling council, and was himself someone who was genuinely looking forward to the culture of God. Pilate was doubtful whether they could already be certain that Jesus was dead, so he sent for the commanding officer and asked him how long Jesus had been dead. Having heard from the commanding officer that Jesus was well and truly dead, Pilate gave orders for the body to be released to Joseph. Joseph took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a linen shroud which he had purchased. He buried Jesus in a tomb which had been cut into a rock wall, and rolled a boulder over the entrance to seal it. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses witnessed the burial.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

When the Sabbath rest day was over, three of the women – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome – went and purchased the spices required to anoint the body of Jesus in the customary way. At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the first day of the week, they went to the tomb. On the way there they had been discussing whether they would be able to find anyone to shift the large boulder that sealed the entrance to the tomb, but when they arrived within sight of it, they could see that the massive stone had already been rolled aside. They went into the tomb and nearly jumped out of their skins when they found a young man, wearing a white robe, sitting on the right hand side. He said to them, “Don’t panic. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was executed. He has been raised up. You won’t find him here. Look, this is the spot where they laid his body. Off you go. Tell his disciples, and especially Peter, that Jesus is going on up to Galilee ahead of you. There, in Galilee, you will see him, just as he told you you would.”

The women bolted out of the tomb and fled as fast as they could, shaking with fear and their heads spinning. They were so frightened that they didn’t breathe a word of it to anyone.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

God sent the angel Gabriel to a town called Nazareth in the region of Galilee, to speak to a young woman named Mary. Mary was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, whose family line went back to King David. The angel approached Mary and said, “Hello there! You’ve got it made! The Lord is with you and has chosen you.”

But Mary was freaking out over this and didn’t know what to make of the angel’s words, so he spoke to her again, saying, “There is no need to be frightened, Mary. God is smiling on you. Look what God is about to do: a child will be conceived in your womb. You will give birth to a baby boy, and you will name him Jesus. He will have a great future, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will put him on the throne established by his ancestor David. He will lead God’s people forever, establishing a culture that will never die out.”

Mary replied, “How can this possibly happen? I am still a virgin.”

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will take hold of you, and the life-force of the Most High will enfold you. Therefore the child that is born will belong to God, and will be called God’s Son. Check it out: your wrinkly old relative Elizabeth is also carrying a baby boy in her womb. Even when she was young she was infertile, but now she is six months pregnant. It just goes to show that when God gets involved, nothing will ever be impossible.”

So Mary said, “Okay. Count me in. I’m at the service of the Lord. Let these things happen to me just as you have said.”

And with that, the angel was gone.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

When the angel told Mary that both she and her relative Elizabeth were going to have babies, Mary took the first opportunity to make the trip to visit Elizabeth. Elizabeth lived with her husband Zechariah in a Judean town in the hills. Mary sang out as soon as she arrived at their house, and when she heard the greeting, Elizabeth felt the baby jump in her womb. The Holy Spirit welled up in Elizabeth and she cried out with joy, saying:

“You have been blessed like no other woman!
And doubly blessed is the child in your womb!
And what about me? Why am I so blessed,
that my Lord’s own mother should knock at my door?
The moment your greeting reach my ears,
the baby in my womb began bouncing with glee!
Clearly you are God’s favoured one,
because you believed what God said to you;
trusting God to follow through on every promise.

Mary too was bursting with joy. She said:

“Let me turn the spotlight on God’s greatness!
With all that I am I dance with joy over God, my saviour!
God has smiled upon me, though I was no one special.
Now I’ll be remembered forever as the favoured one.
The supreme God has done wonderful things for me.
No other name is in the same league as God’s.

In every generation, those who treat God with respect
are rewarded with showers of mercy.
With sleeves rolled up, God has made a show of strength,
and sent packing those who were so full of themselves.

God has kicked the power mongers out of office,
and lifted the downtrodden back to their feet.
God has put on a feast for those who were hungry,
and slammed the door on the rich without giving them a bite.

The Lord’s servant Israel receives a helping hand.
God always remembers them with tender care.
This is exactly what God promised long ago,
a vow made to Abraham and Sarah for every generation.”

Mary didn’t return home for about three months, but stayed until Elizabeth’s baby was born. Elizabeth gave birth to a boy who was given the name John.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
the 3rd Sunday of Advent in Year B,
-the 4th Sunday of Advent in Year B,
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to to them
.

We turn the spotlight on your greatness, God!
We dance with wholehearted joy over you, our saviour!
You smiled upon us, though we were nothing special,
and the memory of your generosity will last forever.
You have done wonderful and powerful things for us.
There is no other name in the same league as yours.

In every generation, Lord, you shower mercy
to those who treat you with respect.
You have rolled up your sleeves in a show of strength,
and sent packing those who were so full of themselves.

You kicked the power mongers out of office,
and lifted the downtrodden back to their feet.
You put on a feast for those who are hungry,
and slam the door on the rich without giving them a bite.

You give a helping hand to your servant Israel,
and always remember them with tender care.
This is exactly what you promised long ago, Lord,
when you made a vow to Abraham and Sarah
for every generation.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
-
the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Eve/Day),
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Many years ago, the Roman Emperor Augustus gave orders for a census to be conducted throughout the whole empire. This was the first time it had been done while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Every man was required to go and register himself and his family in the town where he had been born. For Joseph, this meant travelling all the way from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. Bethlehem had been the home town of King David, and Joseph, being a descendent of David, had been born there too, so that was where he had to report. Joseph’s fiancée, Mary, travelled with him to Bethlehem for the census. She was pregnant and the baby was due any day. There was no accommodation left anywhere in the town, so they ended up sleeping rough in the stables behind a pub. Sure enough, she went into labour while they were there and gave birth to her first child – a baby boy. Mary wrapped the baby in a bunny rug and made up a bed for him in a feed trough.
The region around Bethlehem was sheep country, and that night there was a bunch of shearers spinning yarns around their campfire. Suddenly the whole sky lit up with the glory of God, and the Lord’s messenger stood among them. They were packing death, but the messenger said to them, “It’s okay! There’s no need to panic. I’m here with good news, news that will give everyone everywhere good reason to celebrate. A saviour has just been born in David’s town. He is God’s chosen one, the Lord of all. Go and see for yourselves. You’ll know you’ve found him when you see a baby wrapped in a bunny rug and lying in a feed trough!”
The moment he’d finished speaking, the messenger was joined by a whole crowd from heaven, all praising God and shouting at the tops of their voices, saying:

“All the glory belongs to God in heaven,
and let there be peace on earth for all God’s people!”

Then it was all over – the crowd went back to heaven and the shearers were left sitting there looking at one another, gob-smacked. “We’d better go and check this out,” they said. “Let’s go into town and see if we can see what’s happened, what the Lord has let us in on.”
So without messing around they headed straight into Bethlehem, and sure enough, they tracked down Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the feed trough. When they saw all this, they began telling everyone what they had heard about this child. People could hardly believe their ears when they heard what the shearers were saying. But their words were precious to Mary and she repeated them over and over in her mind, wondering what would become of it all. The shearers headed off towards their camp again – a rowdy mob, singing and shouting in the streets about how fabulous God was because of everything they had seen and heard. Everything had been just the way they had been told it would be.

©2000 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.

When the angels went back to heaven, the shearers were left sitting there looking at one another, gob-smacked. “We’d better go and check this out,” they said. “Let’s go into town and see if we can see what’s happened, what the Lord has let us in on.”
So without messing around they headed straight into Bethlehem, and sure enough, they tracked down Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the feed trough. When they saw all this, they began telling everyone what they had heard about this child. People could hardly believe their ears when they heard what the shearers were saying. But their words were precious to Mary and she repeated them over and over in her mind, wondering what would become of it all. The shearers headed off towards their camp again – a rowdy mob, singing and shouting in the streets about how fabulous God was because of everything they had seen and heard. Everything had been just the way they had been told it would be.
Mary and Joseph followed the law and custom of their people and held a ceremony for the baby boy when he was eight days old to circumcise him and name him. They named him Jesus – the name which God’s messenger had given him before he was conceived in the womb.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary went up to the Jerusalem temple to undergo the purification ritual required by the religious law. They took Jesus with them, and offered the sacrifice which the religious law required of new parents. In their case, because they could not afford much, the required sacrifice was “a pair of young pigeons or doves.” While they were at the Temple, they took the opportunity to make the ritual presentation of the baby to the Lord. This too was in line with God’s law, for it specified that “every firstborn son will be marked out as being dedicated to the Lord.”
A man named Simeon came into the temple that day at the prompting of the Spirit. Simeon was a man of deep integrity and prayer; a man clearly under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He was living in eager anticipation of the day when the sorrows of God’s people would be brought to an end, and the Holy Spirit had let him know that he would see the Lord’s chosen Messiah in person before he died. So when Joseph and Mary brought the child into the temple to do all the customary things that the law required, Simeon was there. He took Jesus in his arms, and began to praise God in prayer, saying:

“At last you are letting your servant go in peace, Lord,
just as you promised you would.
For now, with my own eyes,
I have seen your rescue operation underway.
I have seen the launch of the life you have been preparing
in the midst of the world and its peoples.
I have seen the light which will make you known to the nations,
the light which will have your people basking in glory.”

The parents couldn’t believe their ears when they heard what was being said about their child. Simeon gave them both a blessing, and spoke to the child’s mother, Mary, saying, “This child is destined to be the making or breaking of many people in Israel. He will be a sign of what God is now up to, and many people will turn against him, and thus expose what they are really made of. And as for you, his mother, it will tear your heart out.”
There was also an elderly prophet in the temple that day. Her name was Anna, and she was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was eighty four years old, and had lived as a widow ever since her husband had died after only seven years of marriage. She spent all her time in the temple, worshipping God there, day and night, with prayer and great discipline. As Mary and Joseph presented the child in the temple, Anna came up and began to speak of how wonderful God is. She spoke about the child to all those who were looking forward to the day when everything would be put right again for Jerusalem.
When the family had completed everything that the law of the Lord required of them, they headed back north to Galilee, to their home town of Nazareth. The child grew up strong and healthy, with a wise head on his shoulders, and showing every indication that God was pleased with him.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Among the followers of Jesus there were some women who had come from Galilee with him. At the crack of dawn on the Sunday, they came to the tomb where his body had been laid, bringing with them the embalming spices that they had prepared. They found the tomb open with the stone rolled out of the way. They went in, but there was no sign of the body. They were standing there shocked and confused when, out of the blue, two men appeared right beside them. Their clothes were dazzling light and the terrified women had to look away. The two men said, “Why are you looking in a graveyard for one who lives? You won’t find him here. He has risen! Remember what he told you back in Galilee. He said that the New Human would be handed over to godless people and executed, but that on the third day he would rise to life again.”

Suddenly the memory of those words came flooding back to them. They returned from the graveyard and told all these things to the eleven and to all the other followers too. Now the group of women who brought this news included Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; but even so, the men wrote it off as some sort of hysterical delusion and they didn’t believe a word of it. Peter was the only one who ran off to look for himself. He bent down and peered into the tomb. All he could see was the linen grave clothes lying there by themselves. He went home scratching his head, with no idea what to make of it all.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Resurrection Sunday Evening
- 3rd Sunday of Pascha in Year B (v.36b - 48)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

In the afternoon of the day that the tomb had been found empty, a couple who had been followers of Jesus were heading back home to the small town called Emmaus. As they walked the ten kilometres or so from Jerusalem, they were talking over everything that had happened in the past few days. Along the way, Jesus himself joined them, but to their eyes he was just another stranger on the road. He asked them, “What’s all this you are discussing so intently as you travel?”

They pulled up in their tracks and looked at him with long faces. One of them, a man named Cleopas, said to him, “You must be the only stranger in and around Jerusalem who has not caught up with what’s been going on in the last few days.”

“What has been going on?” Jesus asked.

They replied, “It is all to do with Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet whose words and actions electrified the people in the presence of God. The religious and civil authorities had him arrested and then pushed for the death penalty. They got their way and he was executed. We’d had our hopes pinned on him being the one who would set Israel back in its rightful place. It’s all been over for three days now. A strange twist has rocked us all today, though. Some women from our group apparently went to the tomb first thing this morning and couldn’t find his body. They came back and told the rest of us that they had seen a vision of angels who said that Jesus was alive. We sent a group down to check out their story, and they found things just the way the women had said, but there was no sign of Jesus anywhere.”

When they had finished filling him in, Jesus said to them, “What a thick-headed pair you are! Why are you so slow to get your heads and your hearts around everything that the prophets spelled out?! Hasn’t it always been the case that the Messiah would have to cop all this suffering before getting in on the glory that was in store for him?”

Jesus spent the rest of their journey explaining the scriptures to them. Passage by passage, he showed them what Moses and the prophets had said about him.

When they reached the turn-off to the town they were heading for, Jesus appeared set to push on up the highway, but they put the hard word on him to stop at their place overnight since the sun was going down and the day was almost over. So he accepted their offer of hospitality and went home with them. When he sat down to the evening meal with them, he picked up a loaf of bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them. Suddenly their eyes were opened and they realised who he was; and just as suddenly he disappeared from sight. They looked at one another and said, “No wonder there was such a fire burning in our guts when he was explaining the scriptures to us on the road!”

So, without a moment’s delay, they were on their feet and hurrying back to Jerusalem to tell the news to the eleven and the rest of the crew. When they found them, they were all together and abuzz with news: “The Lord really has risen! He has appeared to Simon Peter!”

The couple from Emmaus filled them all in on what had happened on the road, and how it had dawned on them who he was when the bread had been broken.

While they were talking about all this, Jesus himself suddenly appeared, standing among them. “Greetings!” he said, “Peace be with you.”

Taken by surprise, they thought he was a ghost, and were scared spitless. Jesus said to them, “What have you got to be afraid of? Why are you letting your doubts get the better of you? Here, take a look at my hands and feet. See for yourselves that it really is me. Reach out and touch me and you will know that I am made of flesh and bone. No ghost can claim that!”

As he spoke, he showed them his hands and feet. It all seemed too good to be true; so wonderful that they couldn’t believe their eyes. Their heads were bursting with joy and disbelief! Jesus asked them, “Have you got anything here I can eat?”

They gave him a piece of grilled fish and he took it and ate it in front of them. Then he said to them, “The things I have said while I was with you amount to this: everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms is to be fulfilled.”

As he spoke they began to see how to read the scriptures with open minds so as to understand what God was saying in them. Jesus said to them:

“What was written will now be clear to you: that the Messiah is to suffer and then rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that the people of every nation must be told of the Messiah’s call to turn their lives around and receive forgiveness for their toxic ways. You can get started here in Jerusalem. You have witnessed these things first hand, so you can tell everyone what you have seen and heard. And don’t miss this: I myself am sending you the gift that my Father promised, so wait here in the city until you have been fitted out with God’s power.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

On the last day that Jesus was on earth after his resurrection, he said to his disciples, “The things I have said while I was with you amount to this: everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms is to be fulfilled.”

As he spoke they began to see how to read the scriptures with open minds so as to understand what God was saying in them. Jesus said to them:

“What was written will now be clear to you: that the Messiah is to suffer and then rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that the people of every nation must be told of the Messiah’s call to turn their lives around and receive forgiveness for their toxic ways. You can get started here in Jerusalem. You have witnessed these things first hand, so you can tell everyone what you have seen and heard. And don’t miss this: I myself am sending you the gift that my Father promised, so wait here in the city until you have been fitted out with God’s power.”

Jesus then led his disciples out as far as Bethany, where he lifted up his hands and spoke a blessing over them. Even as he was blessing them, he parted from them and was carried into heaven. Falling to their knees, they worshipped him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy and, after that, they were always in the temple praising God.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas Eve/Day)
- the 2nd Sunday of Christmas
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

At the very start, there was one who is called the Word.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
From day one, God and the Word were inseparable.

It was through the Word that everything was created.
There is absolutely nothing that doesn’t owe its existence to him.

In the Word was life.
He is the source of the life
that turns on the lights for everyone.
The light of his life breaks open the darkness,
and the darkness could not snuff it out.

Once there was a man on a mission from God;
his name was John.
John gave a first-hand report about the light,
spelling it out so that everyone could believe.
He wasn’t the light, himself,
but he made it his job to draw everyone’s attention to the light.

The real light was on his way into the world;
the light that lights up inside of everyone.

He was in the world
but the world didn’t even notice him
even though it owed its existence to him.

He turned up on his own planet, among those he created,
but his own people turned their backs on him.

Some people accepted him, though,
and put their trust in who he said he was
and what he said he was on about.
He gave to those people all they needed
to become children of God.
Becoming God’s children had nothing to do
with sperm and egg,
or three-stage labour;
they became God’s children
when they were born of God.

The Word, though, was born flesh and blood like everyone else.
He cast in his lot with us
and rolled out his swag in our midst.
We have seen him in all his glory,
like father, like son;
warm and generous to a fault,
solid and true to the core.

John was blowing his trumpet the minute he turned up:
“This is the one I was telling you about,” he said.
“Second to me only by the clock:
he’s way out of my league – always was, always will be.”

We are the beneficiaries of his open-handed love;
from the depths of his being
the gifts tumble forth in wild profusion.

Moses gave us some basic operating instructions,
but it was through Jesus Christ that life broke through
in all its richness, passion and integrity.

No one has ever found out what God looks like,
but that’s no obstacle to getting to know God.
The one who is closest to God’s heart,
the one and only Son,
has put God within reach of us all.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

    Once there was a man on a mission from God, and his name was John. He gave a first-hand report about the light, spelling it out so that everyone could believe. He wasn’t the light, himself, but he made it his job to draw everyone’s attention to the light.
    John spelt out his position when he was questioned by a delegation of priests and temple officials who had been sent by the religious authorities in Jerusalem. They asked him who he thought he was, and he made no bones about it, but came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”
    So they asked, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
    “No, I am not,” he replied.
    “Are you the prophet like Moses?”
    “No.”
    So they said, “Who are you then? We need an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
    John answered them with a quote from the prophet Isaiah: “I am the voice in the wilderness shouting, ‘Clear the track for the Lord.’”
    Now this delegation was from the devoutly religious Pharisee party, and they wanted more information. They asked him, “If you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet, why are you baptising people?”
    John gave them his answer, “I am only baptising with water, but rubbing shoulders with you, unrecognised, is the One who is coming to take over where I leave off. I wouldn’t even qualify to lick his boots.”
    This incident took place at Bethany — the one on the other side of the Jordan — where John was baptising.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus went up to Galilee and there he came across a man named Philip who, like Andrew and Peter, came from the city of Bethsaida. “Stick with me,” said Jesus, and Philip did.
Philip later came across his mate Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one everyone has been waiting for; the one who was written about in the law of Moses and in the prophets. It is Jesus, the son of Joseph. He comes from Nazareth.”
Nathanael replied, “Nazareth! You’ve got to be kidding. How could anything good come out of Nazareth?!”
But Philip just said, “Come and see for yourself.”
Jesus took one look at Nathanael and said, “Here we have a fair dinkum Israelite. There’s no bullshit in this bloke!”
Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get your information on me?”
Jesus replied, “I spotted you back there under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the one who will rule God’s people!”
Jesus answered, “Are you ready to put your trust in me just because I told you that I knew what you were made of the minute I spotted you under the fig tree. You will see things that make that pale into insignificance!”
And turning to them all he continued, “I kid you not, you lot will see the New Human become the bridge between heaven and earth, and the messengers of God going back and forth between the two.”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus travelled up to Jerusalem shortly before the Jewish religious festival known as Passover. He walked into the Temple and found people selling the cattle, sheep and pigeons required for the religious sacrifices. He also saw the money changers seated at their tables supplying the required currency for the temple taxes. Jesus grabbed a length of rope and, wielding it like a stock-whip, drove them all out of the Temple and trashed their stalls. It was bedlam, with cattle and sheep going in all directions and coins spilling everywhere as he kicked over the money changer’s tables and shouted at those selling the pigeons, saying, “Get those things out of here. Stop treating my Father’s house like a shopping mall!”

It reminded his followers of the passage of scripture that says, “I will be consumed by passion for your house.”

The Jewish authorities were soon on the scene demanding to know whether he could produce any evidence that his actions were authorised. Jesus answered them, “Tear down this temple, and in three days I will raise it back up.”

The authorities snorted, “The construction of this temple has taken forty-six years, and it’s still not finished. Are you so out-of-your-tree that you think you could rebuild it in three days?”

Of course, Jesus was really describing his own body as the new temple. After he had been raised from the dead, his followers remembered that he had said this, and it reinforced their belief in the words of scripture and in the words spoken by Jesus.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Trinity Sunday in Year B
- the Feast of the Holy Cross (v.13-17)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

There was a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Pharisee party and a leader in the Jewish nation. Late one night he came to speak with Jesus. He said, “Rabbi, we recognise that God has sent you as a teacher and that God is with you. How else could you do these things which are so clearly the work of God?”

Jesus answered him, “Right you are. And let me tell you this: no one will see the full life of God without being born into it from above.”

Nicodemus was taken aback. “How can this be?” he asked, “A person can only be born once. None of us can go back to the womb and be born again.”

Jesus replied saying:

“Listen again, for it is important that you get this. There is only one way into the full life of God, and it is through a birth of water and Spirit. A baby that emerges from a womb got its body from the bodies of its parents. But a growing person is not just a body, and the life-force within them emerges from the womb of the Spirit. So don’t be surprised that I said you have to be born from above. You can’t control or predict these things. They are like the wind. You can hear it coming and see what it does, but what’s driving it or where it is going next is anyone’s guess. God’s Spirit is like the wind, and so are all those who are born of the Spirit.”

But Nicodemus said, “I’m not with you. How can these things be?”

Jesus replied:

“How can you set yourself up as one of the teachers of Israel when you are struggling to get your head around the basics?

“Listen carefully because I’m speaking the truth. We know these things from our own experience, we’ve seen them with our own eyes, and yet you fob us off as though we were reporting a rumour we’d heard in the street. If I told you the sky was blue, you’d blink and take another look, so what chance is there of you believing anything I have to say about the ways of God? How are you going to check out what I say? None of you have ever gone up and stood face to face with God. The only one who has done that is the New Human, the one who came from God in the first place. You know the old story from the desert: the one about Moses lifting up the hand-made snake so that the people could look at something that would help them to focus their trust in God. Well, the New Human is going to be lifted up for much the same reason. Everyone who looks up to him in trust and hope will receive life without limit.

“God’s love for the world is so overwhelming that even giving up his own son was not too great a cost to ensure that no one need succumb to death. All those who put their trust in him can have boundless life instead.

“God didn’t put his son’s life on the line merely to bring down the hammer and pass sentence on us. Rather, God saw the world in desperate trouble and sent the Son on a cosmic rescue mission.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

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

Jesus said:

“You know the old story from the desert: the one about Moses lifting up the hand-made snake so that the people could look at something that would help them to focus their trust in God. Well, the New Human is going to be lifted up for much the same reason. Everyone who looks up to him in trust and hope will receive life without limit.

“God’s love for the world is so overwhelming that even giving up his own son was not too great a cost to ensure that no one need succumb to death. All those who put their trust in him can have boundless life instead.

“God didn’t put his son’s life on the line merely to bring down the hammer and pass sentence on us. Rather, God saw the world in desperate trouble and sent the Son on a cosmic rescue mission. Those who put their trust in him are no longer facing sentence; but those who turn their backs on him are already condemned, because they have rejected the only Son of God and all he stands for. This is, in fact, the way the judgment is happening: the light has come into the world, and the truth about everyone is being found out by the way they react to it. Many people beat a fast retreat back into the shadows, because the things they are doing are so corrupt that they need the cover of darkness. People can’t stand the light if they are doing the wrong thing. They avoid it like the plague because they don’t want the things they do exposed. But those who live by the truth and act with integrity have nothing to hide. They are more than happy to step into the light where it will be plain for all to see that they have been acting in close cooperation with God.”

©2003 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.

Shortly before the annual Passover, a sacred Jewish festival, Jesus took a trip over to the other side of Lake Galilee. As usual, a sizable crowd followed him. Indeed, every time he helped a sick person, people said it was a sign, and growing numbers began to follow his every move. After beaching the boat, Jesus headed up the hill with his closest followers. As they sat down, they looked back and sure enough, there was the crowd coming up to join them. Jesus put a question to Philip: “Where can we buy bread to feed all these extra guests?”

He actually knew what he was going to do, but he wanted to see how far he could stretch Philip’s thinking. Philip replied, “Even if there was a bakery out here, you’d need to take out a mortgage to pay for a slice each!”

Another of the disciples, Simon Peter’s brother Andrew, spoke up: “There is a lad over here with five bread rolls and a couple of fish. It’s a drop in the ocean for this mob though.”

Jesus said, “Get everyone to sit down,” and they did. The grassy clearing where they sat was quite spacious, and it needed to be — there were close to five thousand people there. Jesus took the bread rolls, and after giving thanks to God, he began handing them out among the people sitting on the grass. He did the same with the fish, and somehow there was enough to go around. More than enough in fact. When everyone had eaten their fill, he sent his disciples to gather up the leftovers, saying, “Don’t let anything go to waste!”

Having started with only five bread rolls, they gathered up twelve shopping bags full of bits that people couldn’t eat! When it began to dawn on people what he had done, they started saying, “It’s a sign! He’s got to be the great prophet who God promised to send into the world.”

Jesus realised that they were getting carried away and that if he wasn’t careful they’d be starting a revolution and proclaiming him king, whether he liked it or not. Discretion seemed the better plan, so he slipped off and went bush by himself.

That evening his disciples went back down to the lake. Jesus hadn’t come back but darkness had fallen, so they loaded the boat and pushed off toward Capernaum. A squall blew up and they’d been pushing through rough waters for about an hour when they saw Jesus walking across the waves, not far from the boat. It scared them half to death, but Jesus called out to them, “Look who I am. There’s no need to be afraid!” They pulled themselves together and were keen to bring him on board, but suddenly the boat ran aground — in the exact place they had been heading for!

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 13 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

When the crowd who Jesus had fed realised that he and his disciples were gone, they piled into the boats and headed across to Capernaum to look for him.

When they tracked him down on the far side of the lake, they questioned him, “Rabbi, when did you arrive here?”

Jesus took them to task, saying, “If the truth be known, you’re not looking for me because you saw signs of God in what I did, but simply because you got a free meal out of me. You’ll never satisfy your real hunger with a belly full of food, no matter how much effort you put into it. Put your energy instead into finding the life-giving food that will never stop nourishing you. The New Human will give it to you, and he has been guaranteed by God the Father.”

Hearing that, they asked, “What do we have to do to get in on what God’s doing?”

Jesus replied, saying, “This is all God asks: that you stake everything on the One he has sent.”

But they began beating around the bush, saying, “Show us a sign. What proof can you give us so that we’ll know it is right to commit ourselves to what you say? Show us what you can do. Moses brought down bread from heaven for our ancestors to eat in the desert. It says so in the scriptures.”

Then Jesus set them straight: “If the truth be known, Moses wasn’t the one who gave you the bread from heaven. It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. The bread that God is offering you is the real stuff — bread direct from heaven that gives life to the world.”

“We’ll take it, Sir!” they said. “Give us this bread from now on.”

Jesus said to them, “It’s me. I am the bread of life. Anyone who comes on board with me will never hunger or thirst again. Put your trust in me and you will always be satisfied.”

©2000 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.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Anyone who comes on board with me will never hunger or thirst again. Put your trust in me and you will always be satisfied.”

Because of this, people began to grumble about him. They objected to him claiming to be the bread that came from heaven. They muttered to one another saying, “What does he take us for? We know who he is - Jesus, Joe’s lad. Is he forgetting that we know his mum and dad? How does he expect us to take him seriously when he says, ‘I have come from heaven’?”

Jesus answered them:

“Don’t go getting all worked up over me. The One who sent me is responsible for drawing people to me — otherwise no one would come. I’ll always be there for those who do come - each and every one of them. Even on the last day, I’ll be there, raising them to new life. One of the prophets put it this way, ‘Every last one of them will learn directly from God.’ So everyone who really tunes in to God and takes in what they hear will recognise who I am, and come to learn from me. Everyone wants to learn from an eyewitness and the only person who has seen God is the one who came from God. No one else has. Let me set you straight on this: whoever has faith has life — life without limit.

I am the bread of life. Sure, your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they still died. Now it’s different. Now the real bread has come from heaven and you can eat it and be protected from death forever. I am the bread — living bread — straight from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live life without end and without limit. The bread that I’m offering is my own flesh, and I give it for the life of the world.”

©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.

Jesus said, “I am the living bread — straight from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live life without end and without limit. The bread that I’m offering is my own flesh, and I give it for the life of the world.”

This got the people all worked up and they began arguing among themselves, saying, “What is this bloke talking about? He can’t serve a meal of his own flesh, can he?”

Hearing this, Jesus said to them:

Let me set you straight on this. Unless you swallow the New Human — consume him flesh and blood — you’ll be lifeless. Those who do consume me are nourished by my flesh and blood and have life without limit. I’ll be there for them on the last day, raising them to new life. You see, my flesh and blood are the real stuff — true food and drink. What you eat and drink becomes a part of you, but when you consume my flesh and blood, not only will I become a part of you, but you’ll find yourself in me, becoming a part of me. The God who conceived me is the source of my life and has sent me, serving me up to you. In much the same way, I will be the source of life for whoever digests me. Do you see then? This is the real bread which has come from heaven. It’s not like what your ancestors ate in the desert. They still died. This is different. Those who eat this bread will live life without end and without limit.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
Proper 16 in Year B
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

While teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus said:

“Whatever you eat and drink becomes a part of you, but when you consume my flesh and blood, not only will I become a part of you, but you’ll find yourself in me, becoming a part of me. The God who conceived me is the source of my life and has sent me, serving me up to you. In much the same way, I will be the source of life for whoever digests me. Do you see then? This is the real bread which has come from heaven. It’s not like what your ancestors ate in the desert. They still died. This is different. Those who eat this bread will live life without end and without limit.”

When the people who had been following Jesus heard him say these things, many of them began to say, “Who can stomach what this man teaches? It is too tough by far.”

Jesus got wind of their complaints and said to them:

“Are you ready to throw in the towel over this? How would you react if you saw the New Human entering heaven? After all, that’s where he came from. Real life comes only from the Spirit. Without it you’re nothing. Everything I’ve said to you is life-giving and backed up by the Spirit. But for some of you, that will make no difference — you’ve already put the shutters up.”

Jesus could tell, right from the start, that some wouldn’t have a bar of him once they knew what he was on about. He also knew who would betray him. He spelt it out to them, saying, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: like a Father taking his children where they could not go alone, God is drawing people to me. Otherwise, no one would come.”

This was the last straw for many of those who had followed him. They cleared off and wouldn’t have anything further to do with him. That prompted Jesus to put the question to the twelve: “What about you? You’re free to join them if you want to give up on me too.”

Simon Peter answered for them: “Lord, who else could we turn to? Your words have opened our eyes to life without limit. You have won our trust and we are convinced that you are God’s Holy One.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus said:

“I am like a first-rate farmer. Have you noticed how easy it is to pick the difference between the real farmers and their hired hands. The real farmers would die for their herd if they had to, but the hired hands, who don’t own the stock themselves, don’t really care what happens to them. If a bushfire threatens the farm, the only thing the hired hands are concerned about is getting themselves to safety. They hit the road straight away, because they don’t give a toss what happens to the herd. The fire roars in, unopposed, and the stock are killed or scattered in all directions. I am the real thing. I know my own herd well, and they know me. It is just like the relationship between me and the Father – we know each other intimately. And I lay down my life for the stock. Not all the stock that belong to me belong to this herd, but they will respond to my voice just the same. It is my job to round them up too and unite them all in the one new herd with me as the farmer over them all. If you want to know why the Father loves me, it is because I lay down my life in order to start life anew. No one can take my life against my will, but I can choose to sacrifice it. I have the power to lay down my life, and I have the power to take it up again. This is the assignment the Father has given me.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Six days before the celebration of Passover, Jesus arrived in Bethany. He stayed overnight in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus; the man he had previously raised from the dead. Martha prepared a dinner party in honour of Jesus, and everyone was there, including Lazarus. During the evening, Mary broke open a very expensive bottle of blended fragrant oils. She poured out the oil and used it to massage Jesus’ feet. She then wiped them dry with her own hair. The intoxicating fragrance of the oils filled the whole house.

Judas Iscariot, however, took exception to her behaviour. Although he was one of Jesus’ closest followers, the seeds of betrayal were taking root in his mind. When he saw what Mary was doing, he growled, “What do you think you’re doing? That stuff is worth a fortune. Why was it not sold and the money put to work to do something for the poor?”

He wasn’t really the least bit concerned about the plight of the poor, but he was their treasurer and liked to keep their shared account topped up so he could help himself to it without anyone noticing.

Jesus said, “Get off her case, Judas! She brought that oil and kept it to use in preparing me for a decent burial. There will never be any shortage of opportunities to do something worthwhile for the poor, but you won’t always have the opportunity to do anything worthwhile for me.”

The news that Jesus was back in Bethany spread quickly and the crowds gathered to see him. Many were also keen to see Lazarus, because they had heard about Jesus raising him from the dead. When news of this reached the senior religious authorities, they began plotting to have Lazarus killed as well. They wanted to get rid of him because he had inspired so many of their followers to give up on them and switch their allegiance to Jesus.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus set out to complete his journey to Jerusalem on the Sunday before the religious festival known as Passover. Huge crowds had gathered in the city for the festival and, when they got word that Jesus was due to arrive, they lined the streets, waving palm branches, to give him a hero’s welcome. As he approached, a loud chant went up:

Hooray!
God’s blessing is on the one
who comes in the name of the Lord,
the King of Israel!

Jesus found a young donkey, and rode in on it. It was just as the scriptures had said:

“Do not be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, here comes your king
riding a simple little donkey!”

At the time, his followers couldn’t get their heads around the meaning of all this. Only later, when Jesus was known in all his glory, did it dawn on them that the things which had been written about him had, in fact, happened to him.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Tuesday of Holy Week
- the 5th Sunday in Lent in Year B (v.20-33)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

Many people were arriving in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Jewish religious festival known as Passover. However, not all of the people were Jewish, and one group of foreigners made contact with Philip, and said, “Sir, we would like to meet Jesus.”

Philip, who was from the Galilean town of Bethsaida, told Andrew, and together they went and told Jesus about the request from the foreign visitors. On hearing about it, Jesus said, “If the foreigners are asking after us, we’ve reached the point of no return. The time has come for the New Human to be lifted up in all his glory.”

He went on to say:

“I kid you not, a grain of wheat is nothing unless it hits the dirt and loses its life. But if it gives up its life as a single grain, then it will begin to produce a bumper crop of life. Anyone who prizes their own life above everything else will end up losing the lot. But those who treat their individual survival in this world as a matter of no consequence will find life opening up before them without limit. If any of these people want to apprentice themselves to me, they will need to come and stick with me. Those who work for me will be going wherever I go. Whoever works for me will get the thumbs-up from the God who conceived me. But at the moment, I’m all churned up inside. Should I call on the Father to bail me out of what is about to happen? No, I can’t do that because what is about to happen is the pinnacle of everything I came to achieve. So then, I call out to God and say, ‘Father, put your name up in lights!’ ”

And a voice answered from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.”

The crowd who were gathered there heard the voice. Some of them said it sounded like thunder, and others said, “A messenger from God has spoken to him.”

Jesus addressed them, saying, “This voice has spoken for your benefit, not mine. The world is being weighed in the balance right now; and the one who has been calling the shots in this world will now be driven out. As for me, I will be lifted up off the ground, and when that happens, I will draw all people to myself.”

With these words, he gave an indication of the kind of death he was going to die. The crowd questioned him about this, saying, “The Bible tells us that the Messiah will be with us forever, so how can you say that the New Human will be strung up? And who exactly is this New Human?”

Jesus said to them, “The light will only be with you for a little while longer, so make your move while it continues to light up the way. If you leave it too late, the darkness will catch up with you, and if you try to make your move then, you’ll have no idea where you are going. Put your trust in the light as long as you have access to it, so that you may become people of the light.”

And having said this, Jesus cleared off and made himself scarce.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

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

Even before the sacred Passover festival began, Jesus knew that his time was running out. He knew that he had come from God, and he knew that it was time to leave this world and return to God. He had consistently loved his followers in this world, and he continued to demonstrate his love for them right up to the end. A seed sown by the devil had taken root in the mind of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, and by the time they gathered for supper, he was planning to double-cross Jesus.

Jesus knew that everything was up to him, because God had put everything in his hands. During the supper, he got up from the table, took off his jacket and tied a towel around his waist. Filling a large bowl with water, he began to wash the feet of each of the disciples in turn and to dry them with the towel tied around his waist. When it was his turn, Simon Peter objected saying, “Surely it’s not your job to wash my feet, Lord?”

Jesus answered, “I know you don’t yet understand why I’m doing this, but in time it will make sense to you.”
But Peter said, “No way! I’ll never let you wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “If I don’t wash you, then it’s all over between us. You’ll have nothing further to do with me.”

“In that case,” Simon Peter replied, “don’t just wash my feet! Wash my hands; wash my head!”
Jesus said to him, “You had a bath before you came! Once someone’s had a bath, they don’t need to wash anything on arrival other than their feet and they’ll be completely clean. You lot are clean.” But then, because he knew who was going to double-cross him, he added, “Well, most of you are clean anyway.”

When he had finished washing their feet, he put his jacket back on and sat back down at the table. He said to them:

“Do you understand what I have just done to you? You lot call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and that’s fair enough, because that’s exactly what I am. So if I’m your Teacher and Lord, and I’ve just been down on my knees washing your feet, then you too ought to serve one another in the same way. I’m modelling the way I want you to live. Do as I have done. You can take it from me: servants do not outrank their boss, and the postie who brings the letter does not rank as importantly as the one who wrote it. When you get these things sorted out for yourselves, you’ll discover just how good life can really be.

“Now the moment of glory has arrived for the New Human, and it is God’s glory too. If God’s glory is made known in him, then God will pour out his own glory on him. It’s all happening right now.

“You are my children, but you’re about to be on your own because our time together is almost up. You’ll keep looking for me, but as I said to the people before, where I am going, there is no way you can come.

“I’ve got one new instruction for you – in fact take it as an order – love one another. I want you to love one another in the same way that I have loved you. If you do that – if you really have love for one another – then it will be apparent to everyone that you are following in my footsteps.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

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

While Jesus was speaking with his disciples at the supper, he began to get quite churned up, and before long they all knew why. “I kid you not,” he said, “one of you lot is going to double-cross me.”

The disciples began scanning each others faces, looking for a clue as to who he was talking about. Simon Peter whispered to one of the other disciples – the one with whom Jesus was most intimate and who was sitting next to him at the time – saying, “Ask him who he’s talking about.”

So he did. He leaned over and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus answered quietly, “I’ll dip this bread in the gravy and hand it to him. He’s the one.”

So Jesus dipped a piece of bread in the gravy and handed it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. When he received the piece of bread, the satan got into his head and took over. Jesus said to him, “What you’ve got to do, you’ve got to do. Go, and get it over and done with quickly.”

At the time, no one else at the table understood what he meant when he said this to Judas. Judas handled their finances, so some of them just assumed that Jesus was telling him to go and buy some things they needed for the Passover celebration, or perhaps to go and give some money to people in need. Anyway, after receiving the piece of bread, Judas immediately disappeared off into the night.

Once he was gone, Jesus spoke to the remaining disciples, saying, “Now the moment of glory has arrived for the New Human, and it is God’s glory too. If God’s glory is made known in him, then God will pour out his own glory on him. It’s all happening right now.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

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

Jesus said:

“I am the true vine. My Father is the chief gardener who regularly gets out the pruning saw to clean up the vine. Any branches that fail to bear fruit are cut clean off, and the fruitful branches are cut back clean so that they will bear even more fruit. You have already been cleaned up by the message I have been preaching to you. Go on living in me, just as I live in you. No branch can bear fruit if it has been cut off and can no longer draw its life from the vine. Neither can you unless you continue to live your life in me. I am the whole vine, and you are my branches. Those of you who remain united to me and allow me to live my life in you will produce a solid harvest of good fruit. By contrast, if you are cut off from me, you won’t produce a thing. Those who try to go it alone rather than drawing their life from me will be disposed of like broken branches. Such branches are tossed aside to dry out before being bundled up and burned on the fire. If you go on living in me and my words go on receiving a home in you, then you can ask for whatever you hope for and it will be done for you. My Father receives due glory when you begin following in my footsteps, and showing it by bearing plenty of fruit.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Jesus said:

“I have loved you in the same way that I have been loved by the Father. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you live by the instructions I have given you, you will be living in my love. I do the same, following the instructions and living in the love of my Father. I have let you in on these things so that you can share my joy and be completely fulfilled.

“My number one instruction for you – in fact take it as an order – is this: love one another in the same way that I have loved you. No one can outdo the love that is shown by people who lay down their lives for those they love. You are my loved ones if you do what I have instructed you to do. I am not going to call you my labourers any more, because labourers just do as they’re told without knowing what the boss is on about. I now call you personal friends, because I have let you in on everything my Father has told me. But it was not you that chose to forge this friendship; it was me. I gave you the tap on the shoulder and sent you out to bear fruit, fruit that will last. And when you’re working on my behalf, you can ask for whatever you need and the Father will give it to you. I am giving you these instructions so that you can truly love one another.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

On the night that he was betrayed, Jesus said to his disciples, “I am going to send the Spirit to you from the Father. The Spirit will be your companion, your advocate and supporter, and will confirm for you the whole truth about me. You too are to speak up for the truth, because you have been with me ever since we started.

“Up until now I have always been with you, so there was no need to explain these things, but now I am going back to the One who sent me. None of you have even asked me where I am going. Instead you are just sitting there getting more and more down in the dumps with each thing I say. All the same, I’ll say it again: the truth is that you will be better off after I’ve gone. You see, the Spirit can’t come to be with you until I leave. Once I’m gone though, I will send the Spirit to you.

“The Spirit will come and show everyone just how wrong the world has been in its opinions about sin and righteousness and judgment. As the Spirit will show, people have the wrong idea about sin because they don’t trust my ways. They have the wrong idea about righteousness because they don’t know that it only comes from the Father. It won’t be any easier to see now that I’m going back to its source. They have the wrong idea about judgment because they think it’s all in the future, when in reality, sentence has already been passed on the one who steered this world into its godless ways.

  “There is a whole lot more I would love to say to you, but it would all be too much for you at the moment. The Spirit will come, full of truth, and will lead you by the hand into the pathways of truth. The Spirit does not speak independently, but on my behalf. Through the Spirit, I will let you know what is going to happen and what it all means. I will be honoured by everything the Spirit says, because they are my words delivered to you. All that the Father has is mine. So now you understand why I have been saying that the message the Spirit will deliver to you is actually coming from me.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

After the supper, and after giving his final teaching to his followers, Jesus prayed to God, saying:

“Father, you have given me some followers from this world,
and I have given them the full picture of what you are like.
They were yours to begin with,
but you gave them to me,
and they have done what you asked of them.
Now they know for sure that everything I have
was given to me directly by you.
I gave my followers the same message you gave to me.
They took it on board and were convinced that I came from you. They believe that it was you who sent me.
I pray for them.

My prayer is not for this hell-bent world
but for the followers you gave me,
for they are rightfully yours.
Everything that is mine is yours,
and everything that is yours is mine,
and my image lights up in them.

I will no longer be seen in the world,
but they will continue on in the world
while I come back to you.
Holy Father, protect them
by writing your name on them,
giving them the same identity you gave me,
so that they will be one with each other,
just as you and I are one in heart and mind.

While I was with them, I kept them safe
by assigning to them the name you gave me.
I stood guard over them, and didn’t lose a single one,
except the one who was lost from the beginning,
the one whose demise showed the Scriptures to be true.

Now I am on my way to you.

I say these things while the world is still in earshot,
so that those who listen may, like me,
experience a joy that goes right off the scale.
I have given them your message,
and now this godless world can’t stand them,
because they won’t play by the world’s rules,
just as I never played by the world’s rules.

I am not asking you to take them out of the world,
but I do ask that you keep them safe from the evil one.
They don't take their cues from this world,
because my dance has a different tune.

Immerse them in truth to make them a sacred people,
for your word is the truth which makes things holy.
Just as you sent me into the world on your mission,
so now I am sending them into the world.
I have dedicated myself one hundred percent, for their sake,
so that they in turn may commit themselves totally to the truth.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

After the supper, and after Jesus had prayed for his followers, they went outside and headed across town to the Kidron Valley gardens where they had often met together before. Judas had now betrayed Jesus, and of course, he knew they would be heading for the gardens. Judas showed the way to those sent to arrest Jesus – a detachment of Roman soldiers and some Temple security guards sent by the chief priests and the hard-line Pharisee party. It was now late, and so the heavily armed group carried torches and flood lights. Jesus knew what he had coming to him and so when they arrived he just stepped out in the open and asked, “Who are you looking for?”

They answered, “We’ve been sent to find Jesus of Nazareth.”

“Well you’ve found him,” he replied, “I’m Jesus.”

When he said that, they were so taken aback you could have knocked them over with a feather. Judas, the back-stabber, was still with them. Because they were looking so uncertain, Jesus asked them again, “Who are you looking for?”

And again they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus answered, “Like I said, I’m Jesus. And since I am the man you’re looking for, you can let these others go in peace.”

In so saying, he backed up the promise he had made in his earlier prayer when he had said, “I didn’t lose a single one of those you entrusted to me.”

Suddenly Simon Peter pulled a knife and began slashing wildly. He struck a man named Malchus – a servant of the high priest – and cut off his ear. Jesus yelled at his, saying, “Peter, put that thing away. Do you think I’m going to back out now and refuse to drink the cup that God has poured for me?”

At that point, the soldiers and the Temple security guards surrounded Jesus and made the arrest. They handcuffed him, and dragged him off to see Annas, who had issued the arrest warrant. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphus, who was the high priest that year; and Caiaphus was the one who had persuaded the authorities that, for the sake of the rest of the population, it would be best if this one person died.

Simon Peter and one of the other disciples followed as Jesus was dragged off. When the arrived at the high priest’s residence, Peter was refused entry at the gate, but the other disciple knew the high priest and got in. Having got in, he spoke to the woman in charge of the security gate and had Peter let in too. As he came in, the woman looked at Peter and said, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples are you?”

He replied, “No, I’m not.”

The soldiers and guards were standing around an open fire in the middle of the courtyard warming themselves, because it was a cold night. Not knowing what else to do, Peter joined them.

Inside, the high priest was interrogating Jesus about his followers and about the things he had been teaching the people. Jesus answered him, saying, “Everything I’ve said has been out in the open. I have always done my teaching in the public places where the people gather – in the synagogues and in the temple. I’ve kept nothing behind closed doors, so what are you asking me for? Why don’t you ask the people who heard what I said. They can tell you what it was all about.”

When he said this, one of the security guards gave Jesus a whack in the face, saying, “You think you can get away with back-chatting the high priest, do you?”

But Jesus stood his ground, saying, “If you think there’s something wrong with what I’ve been saying, then put your evidence on the table. But if what I’m saying is correct, what are you smacking me around for?”

While this was happening, Simon Peter was still keeping warm by the fire with the guards. They asked him, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?”

“Not me,” said Peter, denying everything.

One of the Temple guards there was a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off when he’d pulled the knife in the garden. He said, “Come on mate, you’ve got to be one of them. Didn’t I just see you with him in the garden when we picked him up?”

But Peter denied it again, and the words were barely out of his mouth when he heard the sound of the rooster crowing.

Shortly after that, in the early hours of the morning, Jesus was transferred from the residence of Caiaphus to the headquarters of Pilate, the Roman governor. The Jewish officers themselves did not go inside the headquarters, because it was nearly time for the sacred Passover festival, and going into a gentile home would have ruled them out of participating. Pilate agreed to come out and meet their delegation, and asked them, “So, what have you charged this bloke with?”

They answered, “You can take it for granted that he’s a dangerous criminal – otherwise we wouldn’t have bothered you with his case.”

Pilate replied, “I’m sure you are quite capable of dealing with him yourselves. Get him out of here and deal with him according to your own local laws.”

But the Jewish officers said, “We don’t have the power to authorise an execution.”

Clearly the things Jesus had previously said about the sort of death he would die were coming true.

Pilate went back into his headquarters and had Jesus brought inside so he could interrogate him. “Do you see yourself as the King of the Jews?” he asked.

Jesus replied, saying, “Is that your own question or has someone else been wording you up?”

“Give me a break,” Pilate retorted, “I’m obviously not one of the Jews, am I? It wasn’t my people who had you dragged in here. It was your mob, your own race, your own religious leaders. What in the world have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My reign is not tied to this world. If my power base depended on this world, those who have given their allegiance to me would be fighting tooth and nail to keep me out of the hands of that mob. But it’s not like that. My reign is not tied to this world.”

Pilate latched on to that: “So you are claiming to be a king then?”

“You’re the one who’s putting the ‘king’ label on me,” Jesus replied. “If you want to know what I’m on about, what I was born into the world for, it’s this: I’m the key witness whose job it is to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Everyone who has given their allegiance to the truth responds to my voice.”

“Truth,” Pilate sneered. “What is truth?”

Then he went back outside to the delegation from the Temple and told them, “I can’t find any basis for a case against this prisoner. It is customary for me to release a political prisoner for you at Passover time. How about I release this ‘king of the Jews’ for you? He seems harmless enough to me.”

But they shouted back, “No way! Not this man. Release Barabbas!” Barabbas was a convicted terrorist.

At that point, Pilate handed Jesus over to some of his own soldiers and told them to give him a flogging. The soldiers thought it was huge joke. They hung a purple robe on him and wove a crown out of barbed wire and jammed it on his head. They took turns at coming up to him, saying, “Heil, King of the Jews!” as they saluted him, and then smashed their fists into his face. When they’d finished their brutal sport, Pilate went back out to the Temple delegation and said, “Look, I’m handing him back over to you and telling you that I can’t find any basis for a case against him.”

Jesus was dragged back out, still wearing the barbed wire crown and the purple robe. Pilate said “Here he is: the man!”

But the minute the chief priests and the Temple security guards saw him, they began screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Pilate replied, “You take him and crucify him yourselves. I can’t see that he’s done anything wrong.”

The delegation replied, “The case against him is clear in our law. He claimed to be the Son of God and our law makes the death penalty mandatory for that.”

When Pilate heard this, he began to really worry, and went back inside his headquarters to interview Jesus again. “Where have you come from?” he asked him, but Jesus didn’t answer. Pilate said to him, “It’s no use claiming the right to silence. Don’t you understand that I can say the word to have you released or to have you tortured to death?”

Jesus replied, “You wouldn’t have any authority over me at all unless it had been given to you from a higher power. It is the one who handed me over to you who is going to have to answer for the greatest wrongdoing.”

After that, Pilate tried to have Jesus released, but the Temple crowd would have none of it. They insisted, “If you release this man you are no friend of the emperor, and we’ll see that he hears about it. Anyone who claims to be a king is setting himself up in opposition to the emperor.”

With that, Pilate capitulated to their demands. At noon on the day of Preparation for the Passover festival, Pilate sat down at the judge’s bench at the Stone Pavement Court – known in Hebrew as Gabbatha – and had Jesus stood in the dock. He said to the Temple delegation, “Here is your king!”

They shouted in chorus, “Get rid of him! Kill him! Crucify him!”

“Crucify him?” Pilate replied. “You want me to crucify your king?”

“We have no king but the emperor!” they shouted.

With that, Pilate passed sentence and handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus out to the place called Skull Hill, or in Hebrew, Golgotha. Jesus was made to carry his own cross on the way out there. When they got there, they hung him on the cross by nails driven through his flesh. They crucified a couple of other convicted men at the same time – the three of them in a row with Jesus in the middle. On Pilate’s orders, a sign was hung on the cross Jesus was on, saying, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many people read the sign because the crucifixion occurred in a public place on the main road into the city and the sign was written in three languages – Hebrew, Latin and Greek. The chief priests from the Temple went to Pilate objecting to the sign. They wanted the sign changed from “The King of the Jews” to “This man claimed to be the King of the Jews” but Pilate told them that what was written was written and that was the end of the story.

When the soldiers had hung Jesus up on the nails, they divided up his clothes between the four of them. His robe was left over, and when they saw that it was woven from a single piece of fabric, with no seams, they decided that rather than tear it, they’d have a round of two-up, and award it to the winner. This backed up what the scriptures had said long ago:

“They divided up my clothes,
and tossed for my coat.”

While the soldiers tossed coins, a group of women stood near Jesus’ cross. They were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Jesus saw that his mother was standing with the disciple with whom he was most intimate, and so he said to his mother, “Woman, this man is your son.” And then he said to the disciple, “This woman is your mother.” From that day on, Mary moved into the home of that disciple.

After that, Jesus knew it was all over. He did one more thing that the scriptures had spoken about. He said, “I’m thirsty.”

Someone had half a bottle of wine that had turned to vinegar, so they poured some into a sponge and held it up to his mouth. He drank it and then said, “Everything is finished.”

With that, his head dropped and he gave up his spirit.

Because it was the day of Preparation for the Passover, the Temple authorities wanted to make sure the bodies were not left hanging up on the sacred festival day. They went to Pilate and got him to authorise the soldiers to break the legs of the three crucified men, so that they’d die quicker. The soldiers broke the legs of the other two crucified men, but when they came to Jesus, they saw that there was no need – he was already dead. Just to make sure, one of the soldiers drove a spear into his side, and blood and water gushed out.

The eyewitness to these things has given a sworn account of it all. His report is true and can be trusted. Scripture was again shown to be true, because it was written that not one of his bones would be broken. Similarly in another place the scriptures said, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

When it was all over, a man went to Pilate and got permission to take the body of Jesus for burial. His name was Joseph of Arimethea, and he had been a closet follower of Jesus, because he was afraid for his reputation with the Temple hierarchy. He and Nicodemus, who had first spoken to Jesus in the quiet of night, removed the body. Nicodemus supplied the embalming spices, and as was the Jewish custom, they wrapped the body with the spices in linen cloth. There was a memorial garden not far from the place where Jesus was crucified, and there was a tomb there which had not yet been used. Because it was the day of preparation and there was little time, they buried Jesus in that tomb.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton Laughingbird.net

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

Early on Sunday, the first day of the week, even before it began to get light, Mary Magdalene went to visit the tomb where Jesus had been buried. When she got there, she discovered that the stone had been removed and the tomb was open. She fled as fast as she could, and found Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus had been closest to. Mary blurted out, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have taken him.”

So Peter and the other disciple set off on the double. They were both running at full tilt, but the other disciple was faster than Peter and reached the tomb first. He didn’t go in, but he bent down to peer inside and saw that the linen burial shroud had been unwrapped and left behind. Moments later, Simon Peter arrived, and barged straight into the tomb. He too, saw the unwrapped shroud lying there, and noticed that the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head was not with the rest of the shroud, but had been rolled up and left in a different spot. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, followed Peter in. They had not yet got their minds around the scriptures that said that Jesus must rise from the dead, but what he saw was enough to convince him that this was no grave robbery, but something far more extraordinary.

The two men left, and headed off to their homes, but Mary stayed behind and stood weeping outside the tomb. A little later she bent down to look into the tomb, and through her tears she saw two angels dressed in white. They were sitting where the body of Jesus had previously been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She replied, “Someone has taken away my Lord, and I have got no idea where they might have put him.”

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing behind her, but she didn’t realise it was him. Jesus asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Mary assumed that he was the cemetery gardener, so she said to him, “Mister, if you have removed his body from the tomb, please tell me where you have put him, and I will take him off your hands.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She spun around and said, “Rabbouni!”, which is a Hebrew word meaning ‘Dear Teacher’.

Jesus said to her, “Don’t try to hold on to me, because I have not yet fully risen to the Father. But go now, and tell my whole family of disciples that I am rising up to the one who conceived me and conceived you, to my God and your God.”

So Mary Magdalene went straight to the disciples, and was the first to make the announcement, “I have seen the Lord!”

She went on to fill them in on all that he had said to her.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

It was a Sunday – the first day of the week – when the tomb was found empty. That same evening, the disciples met together. They locked all the doors of the house where they were meeting because they were afraid of being tracked down by the religious authorities. Suddenly, Jesus appeared and stood among them saying, “Good evening to you all!”

He proceeded to show them the deep scars in his hands and side. The disciples, of course, were over the moon at seeing the Lord again. Jesus spoke again, saying, “All the best to you. God sent me into the world, and in the same way, I’m sending you.”

Having said that, he breathed a big breathe onto them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit; all of you. If you forgive anyone who has sinned, then their sins are forgiven. If you withhold forgiveness for any sins, they remain unforgiven.”

When this happened, Thomas – known as “the Twin” and one of the twelve – was missing. The other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, but they couldn’t convince him. “I’m not falling for that one!” Thomas replied. “I’d have to see the nail holes in his hands before I’d believe it. In fact I’d have to feel the holes myself, and touch the spear wound in his side.”

A week later, the disciples again gathered behind locked doors in the same house, and this time Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood among them again and said, “Good evening to you all!”

Then he turned to Thomas and said, “Here are my hands, Thomas. Put your finger here in the wound.” And pulling up his shirt, he said, “And here is my side. You can put your hand in the hole. Let go of your doubts and trust me.”
Thomas, of course, was blown away, and said, “You are my Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Believing is not that hard when you’ve seen me, is it? Imagine how much God will smile on those who put their trust in me without ever having seen me!”

The disciples saw Jesus do many other things that demonstrated to them the reality of who he was, but they have not all been written down in this book. But what has been written here has been written for you, dear readers, so that you will know enough to see that Jesus is the anointed One – the Son of God – and so that by putting your trust in him you can come to have real life: the life that he lived and shares.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Dear Theophilus,

In my first book, The Gospel according to Luke, I wrote an account of all that Jesus did and taught from the time he started until the day he said goodbye and was taken up to heaven. Before he left, he gathered the apostles, who he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and spelled out his final instructions.

For forty days after his suffering and death, he repeatedly showed up and proved in many ways that he really was alive again. Face to face with the apostles, he spoke with them about the culture of God. While he was still meeting and sharing meals with them, he put them on notice that they were not to leave Jerusalem yet. “Instead,” he said, “you must wait here for the gift I told you about - the gift my Father promised. You remember how John baptised with water. Well, you will be baptised with Holy Spirit in just a few days time.”

When they were all together for the last time, the apostles had one burning question: “Lord, is this the time? Will you regain our freedom now and give us our own king to reign over Israel?”

Jesus replied, “Only the Father can decide such things and the timing is none of your business. Just focus on this: the Holy Spirit will flood over you and drench you with power, giving you the passion and courage to be my witnesses. Then you will be able to tell everyone about me, in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”

That was it - his last words. Right before their eyes, he was carried up into the air where he soon disappeared into the clouds. They just stood there stunned, staring into the sky. Suddenly two men appeared next to them, dressed in white robes! They said, “You Galileans! What are you standing here for, staring into the sky? Jesus has been taken into heaven, but don’t worry. He’ll be back, just as surely - and just as mysteriously - as he left.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

One day, after Jesus had been taken into heaven, there was a gathering of about one hundred twenty of his followers. Peter stood up and addressed them, saying:

“Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled. What the Holy Spirit said through David about Judas has now happened. He was one of us, taking his place alongside us in this ministry, but in the end he was the one who showed the lynch mob where to arrest Jesus.
“So we need a replacement for Judas — someone to stand with us as a primary witness to the resurrection life of Jesus. It should be someone who was in our company for the whole time Jesus was among us, right through from the day he was baptised by John to the day when he was taken into heaven.

There were two nominations: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus, and Matthias. The group prayed saying, “Lord, you know us all, through and through. Make it clear to us which of these two you are choosing to take on the task of ministry and leadership that Judas turned his back on.” And then, trusting God, they tossed a coin. On the fall of the coin, Matthias was declared to be the twelfth apostle.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

On the Feast Day of Pentecost all the believers were together in one place. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, there was a sound like a raging cyclone - and nothing could be heard above it anywhere in the house. And then the Holy Spirit burst in among them like a bushfire, with sparks and fireballs leaping out to engulf every one there. With fire in their guts and the Holy Spirit unleashing their tongues, they began to speak of God in languages they had never learned.

Now in Jerusalem at that time, there were faithful Jewish pilgrims from all over the world. The wild noise among the believers quickly drew a crowd. What they heard bewildered them because everyone, no matter where they were from, heard their native language being spoken by the believers. Almost unable to believe their ears, they asked:

“Don’t all these people come from Galilee? How come we can all hear them speaking our own native languages? Some of us are Parthians, some Medes, others Elamites. There are people visiting here from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the Cyrenene occupied parts of Libya. There are immigrants from Rome, both ethnic Jews and converts. Some here are even Cretans and Arabs! But these Galileans are speaking all our languages and telling us about the extraordinary things God has done.”

They were all in a spin, unable to make head nor tail of what was happening. They kept asking one another what was going on and what it could all mean. Others though, just sneered and said, “They’ve been on the turps. They’re just a bunch of drunks.”

Peter stood up with the other eleven and addressed the crowd as loudly and clearly as he could:

“Men and women of Jerusalem, locals and visitors, listen up and I’ll let you in on what this is all about. If you think that these people are drunk, you are wrong. Think about it - the pubs aren’t even open this early in the morning. No, what is happening here was explained long ago in the words of the prophet Joel:

“This is what I will do
when time reaches its climax, God declares:

I will pour out my Spirit on everyone.

Your sons and your daughters
shall speak as prophets.
The young among you will see visions,
and the old will dream dreams.

  I even have men and women among those
whose rights no one cares about,
and in those days
I will pour out my Spirit upon them too;
and they shall proclaim my justice.

  I will perform miraculous signs in the sky above
and awesome wonders on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and clouds of smoke.

  The sun will go black and the moon blood-red
before the dawning
of the awesome and glorious day of the Lord.

  And everyone who cries out to the Lord
shall be saved.”

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

A crowd flocked around Peter and John after they had healed a crippled man at the Temple Gate. Peter addressed them, saying:

“People of Israel, why does this come as such a surprise to you? And why are you staring at us? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that we have any special magical powers or spiritual secrets that enabled us to make him walk. The God of our ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has done this and given all the glory to Jesus. This Jesus was God’s servant, but you lot turned him in to the Romans and shafted him in Pilate’s court. He was the Holy and Righteous One, and even Pilate could see that he was innocent, but you shafted him and asked for the release of some murdering scumbag instead. You killed the Author of Life, but God has raised him from the dead. We know this first hand. The healing of this man today is all to do with Jesus – the authority of his name, and our trust in his authority. You know this man well, and you can see with your own eyes what has happened to him. It is the faith inspired by Jesus that has given this man a perfectly healthy body right here before your very eyes.

“Friends, I know that you didn’t understand what you were doing, and neither did your leaders. Through your ignorant actions, God’s Messiah copped the full bucket of human suffering, just as God had foreshadowed through the prophets. So wake up to yourselves and turn your lives around. Get yourselves back on track with God, and God will scrub out the black marks against your name.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Peter and John were arrested after preaching to the crowds who gathered when they healed a crippled man at the Temple gate in Jerusalem. The next day they were brought before an assembly of the temple authorities, the political leaders and the religious lawyers. The assembly included Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and the whole high-priestly family. When the prisoners were on the stand in their midst, the assembled authorities inquired, “By what power, or on whose authority did you do what you have done?”

Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit as he answered them, saying,

“Honourable members of the Assembly, respected dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen: if we are being questioned today over an act of kindness towards a person who had a disability; and if what you are wanting to know is how this man came to be made whole, then I am happy to give the answer to you and to all the people of Israel. Let it be on the public record that this man was healed, and is now standing before you in perfect health, on the authority of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. This Jesus in the one who you had killed on a cross, but who God raised from the dead. It is just as the scriptures said of him:

‘the stone that you builders got rid of
has become the centrepiece
on which everything depends.’

“It is through Jesus that we must all be saved and made whole, because there is no other authority on earth to which anyone can appeal that can save them and make them whole.”

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

There was an extraordinary harmony in the group of those who had put their trust in Christ. They shared a common heart and a common spirit. They also shared their possessions, giving up claims of private ownership and holding everything in common. With electrifying effect, the apostles shared the stories of their experience of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The evidence of God’s generous love and mercy was apparent in all they did. No one among them was left battling to make ends meet, because those who owned houses and land sold up and handed over the proceeds to the apostles, with no strings attached, and the money was distributed to each person according to their needs.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The Lord’s messenger said to Philip, “Get moving and head south until you hit the Jerusalem-to-Gaza road.”

So Philip headed off and found the outback track to which he had been sent. A chariot came along the track, carrying a high ranking Ethiopian official who had travelled to Jerusalem to worship and was now on his way back home. He was the treasurer in the court of Queen Candace of Ethiopia, but because he was a eunuch, he was excluded from full participation in worship at the Jerusalem temple. He was reading the writings of the prophet Isaiah as he rode along in his chariot. The Spirit said to Philip, “Catch up with that chariot and walk alongside it.”

So Philip got running, and as he pulled up alongside, he heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand the meaning of what you are reading?”

The official replied, “How am I ever going to understand it without someone to help get me on the right track?”

He then offered Philip a lift and they sat side by side and looked at the passage of scripture together. The passage said:

“Silent as a lamb that trots to its fate,
knowing neither shearer nor slaughterer,
he never whinges or protests.

“His public humiliation made a mockery of justice.
No one will ever speak of his descendants,
for in the prime of life, he is wiped off the earth.”

The eunuch said to Philip, “Now here’s a question for you: who is the prophet saying these things about? Is he talking about himself, or about someone else?”

Then Philip launched into an inspired response, and with this passage of scripture as his starting point, he spelt out the great news about Jesus to the official. As they continued along the road, they came to a water hole, and the eunuch said, “Look, here is some water! Is there anything to stop me being baptised here and now?”

He gave the order to pull over and park the chariot. The two of them went down into the water together, and Philip baptised the eunuch. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord whisked Philip away. The official never saw him again, but continued his journey home, bursting with joy. Philip turned up at Azotus, and set off from there, broadcasting the great news in every town he passed through in the area, all the way to Caesarea.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Peter addressed the gathered people saying:

“Now it is all perfectly clear to me — God does not play favourites! Whoever you are and wherever you are from, if you take God seriously and do the right thing, God will welcome you with open arms! Jesus the Messiah preached God’s message about a peace deal to the people of Israel, but clearly it did not stop with them — he is Lord of all! No doubt you have heard the news about Jesus of Nazareth, because since it sparked off in Galilee, it has spread like wildfire all over Judea. The story began after John started calling everyone to turn their lives around through baptism. God singled Jesus out then and there, charging him with the Holy Spirit’s power. From then on, Jesus travelled around working for good and helping people out from under the devil’s thumb and back onto their feet. God was with him in all this. We saw it all ourselves; everything he did in the Judean backblocks and in the city of Jerusalem. They strung him up on a post and killed him, but three days later God raised him to life and let us see him. Not everybody got to see him, but God had picked us out to be the ones who would know first hand what had happened. We got to spend time sharing meals and a few drinks with him after he was brought back from the dead. He gave us the job of getting his message out to the people and going public with the fact that he is the one who God has appointed to make the final assessment of everybody on earth, past and present. You don’t have to take our word alone on this; all the prophets back us up. Everyone who puts their trust in Jesus receives pardon for their sins on his say so.”

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Peter was preaching in the home of Cornelius, an officer from the Italian regiment. The gathered people were taking his words to heart, and even before he had finished his speech, the Holy Spirit fell upon them. The other believers who had come with Peter were all good Jews, and they were absolutely gob-smacked when they saw that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on people who weren’t even Jewish. There was no disputing it though, because they could hear these outsiders speaking in unknown languages and singing the praises of God. Then Peter turned to his companions and said, “Can there be any justification for refusing to baptise these people into the community of Christ’s followers, when it is clear that God has treated them exactly the same as us, and given them the Holy Spirit in the same way?”

So, on Peter’s say-so, they were baptised in water into a declared allegiance to Jesus the Messiah. At their invitation, Peter stayed on in Cornelius’s home for the next few days.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Paul travelled through Turkey by the inland road, and arrived in Ephesus. He found some students of the faith there who assured him that they had been baptised, but while speaking with them he asked whether they had received the Holy Spirit when they had become believers. They replied, “No, we’re not even sure what you are talking about. We’ve never heard of a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked them what sort of baptism they had received, and they answered, “The baptism of John the baptiser.”

“It’s a different thing,” Paul told them. “John baptised people as a sign of their commitment to turning their lives around, but he told them that they should put their trust in the one who would take over where he left off. The one he was pointing to was Jesus.”

When they had got this straight, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul laid his hands on them in prayer, the Holy Spirit took charge of them, and they began to speak in strange languages and to preach inspired messages from God. There were about twelve of them in the group.

©2002 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.

When God promised Abraham that he and his descendants would inherit the earth, it was not because Abraham had earned it by following God’s instructions to the letter. Instead it was a gift given when God put things right for Abraham in response to the trust he had shown. If it were possible to earn the rights to the earth by rigid compliance with the law, then basic values like trust and promise would be irrelevant. It would all become just another legal contract to be negotiated. Tie it all up in fine print and it will only end up serving as evidence against you; but where the relationship is conducted on the basis of trust, no one goes on the lookout for very possible breach.

So instead of being a legal matter, the fulfilment of the promise is conditional only on people’s willingness to put their trust in God. It is simply an expression of God’s generosity, and that’s why it is guaranteed to always be available to everyone. Whether you were raised in a culture where observing the religious law was the norm, or whether you have simply stepped out and put your trust in God like Abraham did, the promise is open to you. After all, both groups can rightly trace their line back to Abraham, and the scriptures say that God promised to make him the father of many nations.

When it looked like Abraham wouldn’t ever become the father of anyone, he trusted his future into the hands of God, believing that the God who can bring life out of death could create something out of nothing. He hung onto his hope even when it seemed utterly hopeless. He kept on believing that he would have many descendants because he was sure that God had promised him that. Even the cold hard biological facts didn’t cause him to throw in the towel. He knew that his hundred year old body was past it, and that Sarah was an old woman who hadn’t even been fertile when she was young. Yet he didn’t allow even such obvious obstacles to break down his trust and make him cynical about God’s promise. Instead his faith actually grew stronger as he went right on crowing about the greatness of God. He remained dead-set certain that God was more than capable of making good on the promise. That is why God counted his trust as the equivalent of a perfect life. Now when the scriptures say “it was counted as the equivalent of a perfect life”, it is not speaking of a special arrangement for Abraham alone. No, it refers to all of us. We will all be accepted on that same basis if we too put our trust in the One who raised Jesus our Lord to new life from the dead. Jesus was put to death even though it was us who had done the wrong thing; but he was raised to new life so that we could be put right with God.

©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.

Surely you know that all of us who have been baptised into union with Christ were, in that baptism, dying with Christ. You will understand then, that having died in baptism, we have been buried with him; and so now, in the same way that Christ was raised from the dead by the awesome power of God, we too can re-enter life in a whole new way.

You see, if we have been united with him in sharing the same kind of death, you can rest assured we will be united with him further in sharing the same kind of resurrection. We are no longer the people we used to be. Our former selves were put to death with him on the cross in order to eradicate the sin that had taken over our lives, and to thus allow us to live free of it. Everyone knows that death is the only escape from a sin-infested life — once you are dead, you are free of it. For us, though, that’s no dead-end solution. If we have died with Christ, we are convinced that we will live with him too. This much we know for sure: Christ has been raised from the dead and will never have to die again. Death has lost any further power over him. When he died, he took sin out with him, once and for all. The life he now lives, then, is lived in union with God. So you should now think of yourselves in the same way — your former lives, ended; your new lives, begun. Your old relationship with sin, dead; your new relationship with God, alive and flourishing in Christ Jesus.

©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The truth is, brothers and sisters, that we owe nothing to the preoccupations of our former life. We need no longer have our lives dictated by the mindless pursuit of fashionable dreams and selfish desires. After all, the attraction was fatal. But thanks to God’s Spirit, we can now be rid of all that — give it a decent burial and get on with our new lives. All those who dance to the Spirit’s tune are God’s beloved children. We were not sold into slavery where we would grovel timidly in the dust, afraid to put a foot wrong. Rather we were adopted into a family full of love and joy. Like eager children crying, “Daddy! Mummy!” we come running to God, and with loving arms, God’s Spirit gathers us up, demonstrating clearly to whom we belong. And since we are children of God, we are actually on the same footing as Christ. With him we will inherit all that has been kept in trust for God’s children. But we have to take the good with the bad, and we know the price he paid. We need to be willing to cop it on the chin with him now if we want to share the glory with him later.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

The time of deliverance is near. After a long pregnancy, the whole creation is now groaning and shuddering in the final stages of labour. And we are not just witnesses to this birth. We ourselves, having been impregnated by the Spirit, are labouring to bring the new life within us to fruition. For then, with our bodies set free, our longing to be God’s children will be fulfilled. This joyous expectancy ensures that our deliverance will come. If there was never to be anything more than our present reality, these longings within us would be in vain. But we are eager to see a promised new reality, and this hope sustains us.

There will be times when our strength fails us and we will feel like just accommodating ourselves to the way things presently are, but the Spirit will always be there for us. Even when our prayer dries up and words fail us, the Spirit is there within us, keeping the communication lines open by turning our deepest achings and yearnings into prayers that pass wordlessly from heart to heart. And God, being of one mind with the Spirit, is able to hear the cries of our hearts because the Spirit offers them, along with the prayers of all God’s people, in a language that connects with the cries of God’s heart.

©2000 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Proper 17 in Year A
- the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (v.9-16b)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

See to it that your love is for real and without pretence. Avoid corruption like the plague. Dig your heels in and don’t be budged from the side of good. Love one another, and not just in theory but with warmth and friendly affection. If you need something to compete over, see who can score the most points for treating everyone else like royalty. Don’t let your enthusiasm get slack, but keep yourselves on the boil and work hard for the Lord. Celebrate in anticipation of all that is to come. When you are being put through the wringer, tough it out, and pray all the harder. Do what you can to help out other Christians who are in need, and work at making strangers feel welcome and at home among you.

When others persecute you, wish them all the best and pray that God will look after them. Seek the best for them; don’t wish disaster on them. When others are celebrating, celebrate with them. When others are hurting, share the pain with them. Stay in tune with one another, living a shared life based on common commitments. Don’t be full of yourselves, but hang out with those who the world writes off as nobodies. Don’t go getting over-inflated opinions about how smart you all are.

If anyone does the wrong thing by you, don’t go trying to pay them back in kind. Instead, take a deep breath and find a way to respond that anyone else would think of as going above and beyond the call of common decency. Do all that can be done at your end to live at peace with everyone else in the society around you. My dear friends, never take the law into your own hands to get revenge. Leave it up to God to sort the offenders out. As the scripture says, “Vengeance is my job, says the Lord, and I will give them what is coming to them.” So, follow the proverb instead: “If those who hate you are hungry, give them a feed; if they are thirsty, pour them a beer; because that’s the way to spark a meltdown in their heads.” Do not let what is evil get the upper hand over you, but get the upper hand over what is evil by doing what is good.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Keep yourselves out of debt. Let the only thing you owe anyone be love. If you are loving others you are measuring up to the standard that God’s law has always been seeking. The law contains lots of detailed commandments such as don’t betray your marriage partner, don’t kill anybody, don’t pinch other people’s stuff, and don’t get preoccupied with the desire to possess things you don’t have. All such commandments can be summarised into the one simple instruction: “Love your neighbour as attentively as you love yourself.” Love never does the wrong thing by anybody, so if you really love, you will measure up to the whole law without even thinking about it.

You will realise how important these things are, because you understand the significance of the times we are living in. It is time to wipe the sleep out of your eyes; to be on your feet, fully alert. Salvation is at hand. It has been approaching ever since we first put our trust in God, and it is now drawing near. The night is almost gone; the new day is about to dawn. So let’s make sure that we get rid of any old ways of living that belong to the darkness of our past. Let us live our lives in such a way that we’ll be able to hold our heads high when the broad light of day shows up everything for what it really is. Avoid the desperate pursuit of pleasure with its common pitfalls of substance abuse, sexual sleaze, hostile belligerence, and crippling jealousy. Instead, take on the persona of our Lord Jesus the Messiah and don’t give any encouragement to the selfish desires that clamour for your attention and seek to hijack your life.

©2001 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.

Don’t put anyone down for being timid in their faith. Welcome them into the congregation, and don’t give them a hard time for being hung up about things that cause you no concern. Some people believe that it is okay to eat anything, while those who are more timid would rather eat only vegetables than risk eating meat that might not be kosher. Those who eat with confidence must not make fun of those who play it safe; and those who play it safe must not pass judgment on those who eat. The fact is that God has extended a welcome to both. What gives you the right to criticise the workers in someone else’s employ? They don’t rise or fall on your say so. It will be sorted out between them and their Lord directly, not through you; and they will get the thumbs up, because the Lord is quite capable of getting them to stand where they should without your help.

Some people are of the opinion that certain days should be treated as special and sacred, while others reckon that no day is any more important than any other. There are good arguments either way, so let everyone faithfully practice what they believe to be right. Those who observe a particular day as special are celebrating it in honour of the Lord. Those who eat meat without asking questions are eating in honour of the Lord, and you can see this in the way they thank God for the food. Likewise, those who abstain from eating certain things are doing so in honour of the Lord, for they too give thanks to God.

You see, we are not our own bosses; we do not have the final say on how we are to live or die. We dance to the Lord’s tune in our lives, and we will dance to the Lord’s tune when we die. We belong to the Lord for the entire journey. The Messiah made this possible by dying and returning to life again. Having been through it all, he is now able to call the shots among everyone in life and in death.

So, you there! Why would you write off another brother or sister as too lax? Or you: why would you look down your nose at another sister or brother for their lack of confidence? Everyone of us will have our day in court, and it will be God who brings down the verdict on what we have done. As the scriptures say:

“Every knee will bow to the Lord who lives,
and every tongue will sing the praises of God.”

So, at the end of the day, each and every one of us is accountable to God for the way we live our lives and the way we treat one another.

©2002 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.

To God be the glory forever! It is God who enables you to stand strong, and who does so through the message about Jesus the Messiah which I was given the job of broadcasting. My message uncovers the great truth which had remained shrouded in mystery for centuries, but which is now out in the open for every one to see. Through the writings of God’s inspired messengers, it is even being made clear to those who have had no prior contact with our religious traditions. God, who knows no limits, gave the order for this to be done, so as to gain the cooperation that arises from genuine trust. So here’s to the one and only wise God, through Jesus the Messiah, to whom belongs all the glory forever! And so say all of us!

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

We greet you as God’s own children and wish you all the best – God’s love and peace, given through the Lord Jesus, the Messiah.

I am forever thanking my God for you, especially when I think about what God’s extravagant generosity has brought about in you since you entered into the life of Jesus the Messiah. Since you linked up with him your lives have become so much richer in every way; but most notable is the richness of your knowledge and of the things you have to say. Indeed, the truth about the Messiah has become more and more strongly a part of who you are, and of all you have to offer. Now, it seems, you are not short of anything. All the spiritual gifts are in action among you as you live in eager expectation of the grand finale when our Lord Jesus the Messiah takes centre stage. God is with you and will make you tough enough to hold the line until the end, so that you can stand with your heads held high on the great day when our Lord Jesus brings everything to completion. Jesus is the Messiah, our Lord, and God’s Son; and it was into his shared life that you were called by God, who is worthy of all our trust, and who will never let you down.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):
- Tuesday of Holy Week
- 3rd Sunday in Lent in Year B (v.18-25)
- the Feast of the Holy Cross (v.18-24)
and other resources based on it can be found by clicking through to there.

The message about the cross sounds like a lot of mindless cock-and-bull to those who have thrown their lot in with this present world order and are going down with the ship. But to those of us who are being saved from that, it is nothing less than the power of God! God spoke about this in the Scriptures:

“I will expose the brilliant insights of your experts
and the wise counsel of your gurus;
I will expose them for what they really are,
a load of codswallop!”

So where are the intellectuals now? Where are the religious experts? Where are those who have an answer for everything? What have they got to show for all their cleverness now that God has turned all the conventional wisdom on its head and made it look foolish? Seeing that no amount of human cleverness had ever woken anybody up to God’s ways, God made the wise decision to use something that seemed utterly foolish to everyone — our preaching! — to rescue those who would trust the message. Most people want something more than this. Those with a religious world view demand to see miraculous signs to prove that it is from God. Those with a modern rational world view insist that it should have to prove its intellectual credibility. But what we are preaching is a Messiah who was strung up and killed. The religious people find this unthinkable, and the intellectuals regard it as primitive nonsense; but to those who have heard the call of God, whatever their background, it is the ultimate good news of God’s chosen one — as miraculous and profound as one could ever wish for! When it’s all said and done, the sum total of the human race’s intellectual achievements don’t even begin to stack up against the foolishness of God; and the combined force of all the world’s powers is puny in comparison to the weakness of God.

Sisters and brothers, you don’t have to look any further than your own experience of God’s call to see the truth of this. Not many of you were academic hot-shots. Not many of you were movers and shakers in the corridors of power. Not many of you were feted as celebrities. But God chose you! God chose those who were dismissed as fools to expose the bankruptcy of the world’s accepted wisdom. God chose those who were weak and vulnerable in the world to show up the corruption of those who wield power. God consistently chooses what is despised as the dregs by the world, things which are seen as worthless, to expose the worthlessness of things which are seen as being ‘it and a bit’. Because of this, no one who is accepted into God’s presence has any grounds for blowing their own trumpet. God and God alone is the source of the life you share in union with the Messiah, Jesus. It is only in Jesus that we have been able to tap into God’s wisdom. And it is only in Jesus that our lives have been put back on track, given a clean bill of health, and set on the path to wholeness. For this reason, the scriptures make sense to us when they say:

“If you are going to blow your trumpet about something,
blow it about the Lord!”

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You do realise, don’t you, that it only takes a little bit of yeast to leaven a whole batch of bread dough? A little bit of corruption can similarly affect a whole congregation, so get rid of it. Just as we have traditionally cleaned out every trace of yeast from our homes in preparation for the Passover festival when we use only unleavened bread, so you should clean the corruption from your midst. You are to be the new batch of unleavened bread. In Christ, our Paschal lamb has been sacrificed. Now is the time for us to celebrate the festival, and just as we can’t celebrate it with yeast-leavened bread, neither can we celebrate it with the old yeast of inhumanity and evil. We celebrate this festival with the unleavened bread of truth and integrity.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You people say:

“There is nothing I am not allowed to do.”

Sure, but the fact that you are allowed to do something doesn’t mean it is a good idea to do it.

“There is nothing I am not allowed to do.”

Sure, but I am not about to let such things start taking over my life.

You also hear people say:

“Food belongs in the stomach,
   and stomachs were made for food.”

Sure, but that’s not exactly the meaning of life! God could abolish both food and stomachs and leave untouched the things that really matter. Here’s a saying worth getting your teeth into:

“The human body deserves better than sleaze.
   The body belongs to the Lord,
      and the Lord belongs to the body.”

Indeed, God cares about bodies. God raised the Lord, body and all, and will raise us, body and all, just as powerfully. You do know, don’t you, that your bodies are now integral parts of Christ’s body? So how could I take a part of Christ’s body and make it part of a sleazy and degraded body? No way! For you do know, don’t you, that when bodies are joined in sexual intimacy — no matter how cheap and sleazy — they are united to one another forever. As scripture says, “The two become one flesh.” But because you are united to the Lord, you are one with the Lord. Steer well clear of sleaze!

Some say:

“The sins people commit are ‘out there’
   and have no consequences in the body;”

while others say:

“If you get involved in sleazy sin
   you are only hurting yourself.”

You do know, don’t you, that your body is a sacred dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and your life is therefore not your own to trash as you please? You have the Holy Spirit within you, given to you by God. Your whole being, body and soul, belongs to God, and it didn’t come cheap. So, see to it that your bodily life always reflects well on God as its owner and occupier.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Sisters and brothers,
the present circumstances of our lives
are not the be all and end all,
because time is almost up.

From now on, don’t get too bound up in anything,
but live in light of what is to come:

those who are married
as though they are still waiting for love;

those who are grieving
as though comfort is within reach;

those who are celebrating
as though real joy is yet to come;

those who are shopping
as though there is nothing worth owning;

those who are involved in business and politics
as though they are of no consequence.

Why?
Because the world as we know it
is on the way out.

©2003 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.

Let us now look at your question about food that has been sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples. You ask whether it is okay for Christians to eat at meals where such food is served. What you have said is true:

“superior knowledge dispels superstition.”

But it is also true that superior knowledge can swell your head; while love will clear your head and underpin sound moral judgment. Anyone who claims that their superior knowledge enables them to make their own moral decisions without worrying about anyone else is just proving how little they really know. By contrast, those who love God and seek to express that love in all they do, are truly in-the-know with God.

So, what does knowledge have to say about whether or not it is okay to eat food that has been offered to idols? Plenty! We enlightened people know that “idols are actually nothing,” and we know that “there is only one true God.” No matter how many so-called gods and lords there may be in the world — and there are certainly any number of things to which people devote themselves — we know better. We know that the one and only God is the Father, who brought all things into being and for whom we exist. And we know that the one and only Lord is Jesus the Messiah, through whom all things were brought into being, and through whom we exist.

However, not everyone is up to speed on all this. Some people who, until recently, have been involved in the worship of idols, are not so easily able to make the separation in their heads between the food and the worship of the idols. Their moral warning lights go off more easily, and so if they go ahead and eat the food, they feel defiled by it and wracked with guilt. You can depend on this saying:

“We won’t get into God’s good books for what we eat.”

No one loses anything by abstaining from such food, and no one gains any special benefits from eating it. But — and this is a big but for those of you who feel free to eat it — unless you are very careful, this precious freedom of yours could turn into a minefield for those who are more morally timid. Because of your superior knowledge, you feel free to accept invitations to banquets held at pagan temples, and that’s all very well. But what if some less certain and secure Christians see you go? Perhaps, because they look up to you, they might feel that they should disregard their moral warning lights and join you in eating food that has been offered to idols. And once they start distrusting their own warning lights, they are in trouble because they no longer know which way to turn. Your superior knowledge would then be responsible for crashing the moral integrity of a timid believer for whom Christ laid down his life. You’ve wounded them, causing their fragile conscience to short-circuit. And if you dish out a kick in the guts to one who, under God, is a member of your own family, then you are kicking Christ in the guts. So, for myself, if such food could risk derailing someone, then I’d happily give up eating meat altogether in order to make sure that no one ever goes crashing off the rails because of something I did.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

Preaching God’s message is not some great accomplishment for which I can expect to be applauded and rewarded. I am just doing what I was created to do, so I’d be up the creek without a paddle if I failed to preach God’s message! If it was just a job I had applied for, then I could expect to be paid an award wage. But since I am not doing this because I want to, but because it is what I was made for, I am simply being true to the call that God has wired into my brain. So is there anything in it for me? Sure! The privilege of being the mouth-piece that brings people into contact with the good news of God’s love is worth more than wages to me. And even better if it doesn’t cost them a cent, so I refrain from calling in the favours I could, by right, claim for my role in bringing that message to you.

Certainly I am free. No one has the right to tell me what I can and can’t do. But despite that, I have voluntarily made myself a slave to everyone else’s customs in order to win over more people. Among Jewish people, I stuck religiously to the Jewish customs in order to avoid offending them, and to maximise the odds of winning them over. Among those who carefully observe the religious law, I too lived as one governed by the law. I did this even though I am free from the law, in order to maximise the odds of winning over those who are bound by the law. Among those who have never lived under the religious law, I didn’t make a display of law-keeping, but lived according to the local customs. I did this in order to maximise the odds of winning them over, even though I am by no means lawless, because Christ calls the shots in my life. Among those who are timid and uncertain, I played it safe, just as they do, in order to win over as many timid and uncertain people as possible. I have become anything and everything to others — whatever it takes to find common ground with people and win their trust — so that by whatever means I can employ I might help people take hold of the lifeline God is throwing them. I do everything I can to promote the message of God’s love, and I look for nothing more in return than to share in the benefits that it brings.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

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

You do understand, don’t you, that no matter how many runners there are in a race, there will only be one winner at the end. So if you are aiming to become the best, you are going to have to train long and hard. Elite athletes discipline themselves strictly in every area of their lives, and they do so in pursuit of nothing more than a medal hung around their necks or a record that could fall the next week. The prize we are working towards will be in place forever, so such single-minded discipline is even more essential for us. I can’t afford to be like a runner who doesn’t know where the finish line is, or a footballer who doesn’t know where the goals are. Instead I subject my body to a punishing regime of training and work it like a slave, so that I don’t end up, after coaching everyone else in the right way, being disqualified myself.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

This passage is set for the following occasion(s):