Grace Northeast Sunday Sermons
Blessings for the Least — Rev. Margaret Kelly

Blessings for the Least — Rev. Margaret Kelly

February 3, 2020


L:  The Hebrew Bible reading is from the prophet Micah, and is read responsively.

L: Hear what the Lord says: 
Stand up! Plead your case before the mountains, 
and let the hills hear your voice.
All: Hear, you mountains, the quarrel of God; 
and listen, all the layers of earth:
the Lord has a quarrel with God’s people, 
and God will now content with Israel.

L: God asks, "O my people, what have I done to you? 
How have I made you weary? Answer me!
All:  Look: I brought you out of the land of Egypt, 
and saved you from the house of slavery; 
I gave you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam for leaders.

L: Remember, O my people, how there was a king named Balak
who plotted against you,
and to him I sent Balaam to answer him
and stop his schemes.
Remember this, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord."

All: With what offering shall I come before the Lord?
How should I bow myself before God most high?
Should I bring burnt offerings, calves only a year old?
Would the Lord be pleased if I brought thousands of rams,
ten thousands of rivers of oil?
What about my firstborn - is that what God wants,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

L: God has told you, O mortal, what is good; 
remember, what does the Lord require of you? 
All:  To do justice, to love kindness, 
and to walk humbly with our God.
L: The Word of the Lord. A: Thanks be to God.

Who Are Jesus’ First Words For? — Sunday, January 26, 2020

Who Are Jesus’ First Words For? — Sunday, January 26, 2020

January 27, 2020


The leader says: The Hebrew Bible reading is from the prophet Isaiah, and is read responsively.

L: Listen! There will be no more gloom for those who have been in anguish.

A: A long time ago, God let the lands of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali fall into contempt -
but now, in these new days, the Lord will glorify the road by the sea,
the land beyond the Jordan River, the Galilee of the nations.

L: The people who walked in despair have now seen a shining hope;
those who lived in deep darkness have awakened to find light and life.

A: You have multiplied the people, you have increased our joy;
we rejoice before you like we are gathering an abundant harvest.

L: For the yoke of our burden, and the rod of our oppressor,
you have broken, just as you have done before.

A: All the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned like fuel for a fire.

L: For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;

A: and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

L: His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.

A: He will establish and uphold justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The strength of the Lord of heaven will do this.



The leader says: The good news of Jesus Christ, according to the gospel of Matthew, the fourth chapter.

All respond: Glory to you, O Lord.

John the Baptist had been arrested by Herod Antipas for speaking out against him. When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he went back to Galilee. He did not stay in his hometown of Nazareth, but went to the city of Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan,
the Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who dwelled in despair
have now been filled with hope;
those who sat in the shadow of death
have awakened to find light and life.

Then Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” Immediately they dropped their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Why Does Jesus Matter? — Sunday, January 12, 2020

Why Does Jesus Matter? — Sunday, January 12, 2020

January 13, 2020

L: The Hebrew Bible reading is from the prophet Isaiah, and is read
L: The Lord says,
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom I delight;
I have put my spirit on him; he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not cry or shout, or force his voice to be heard;
All: Even a bruised reed he will not break,
even a flickering candle he will not blow out;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not end his work till he establishes justice on earth.
L: Thus says God the Lord—
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that is in it,
who gives breath and life to every person—
All: God the Lord has called you in righteousness;
God will take you by the hand and keep you;
God will give you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to protect those who are in need, to free the prisoners,
to liberate those who sit in darkness.
L: I am the Lord, that is my name;
I will give my glory to no one else.
A: Look! what is in the past is past;
God has now declared something new.
L: The Word of the Lord. A: Thanks be to God.

✠ THE GOOD NEWS Matthew 3:1-17
L: The good news of Jesus Christ,
according to the gospel of Matthew, the third chapter.
A: Glory to you, O Lord.

John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (John is the one the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make God’s paths straight.’”)

Now John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. The people of Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region along the Jordan River would go out to see him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the religious leaders coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that shows you have repented. Do not think you can just say to yourselves, ‘We are safe, for Abraham is our ancestor’; I tell you, God could take these muddy stones and create children of Abraham. Right now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who will replace me is more powerful than I am; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His pitchfork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor; he will gather the worthy wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John wanted to stop this, and said, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; in this way we fulfill all righteousness.” Then John agreed. And when Jesus had been baptized, as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens split open, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and landing on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son,
the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

L: This is the gospel, the good news of our Lord.
A: Praise to you, O Christ. (You may be seated.)

Star Words 2020 - Sunday, January 5, 2020

Star Words 2020 - Sunday, January 5, 2020

January 6, 2020

Isaiah 60:1-6

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For darkness shall cover the earth, and deep gloom shall fall on all people;

but the Lord will arise upon you, and God’s glory will appear over you.

Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brilliance of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and see; the people gather and come to you;

your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.

Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice,

because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

A multitude of camels shall converge on you, camels from the far-off lands of Egypt and Midian.

They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod the Great, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all of Jerusalem with him. Herod called together all the chief priests and scribes, and he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and worship him.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Jesus, Immigrant — December 8, 2020

Jesus, Immigrant — December 8, 2020

December 9, 2019

Jeremiah 31:1-17

At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel,
and they shall be my people.

Thus says the Lord:
The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest, the Lord came from far away and was with him.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have dwelled with you faithfully.
Again I will build you, and you shall be strong, O reborn Israel!
Sing aloud with gladness for your ancestor Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of the faithful.”
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
even those who cannot see and cannot walk,
those with child and those in labor, together;
as one great assembly they shall return home.
They will come weeping,
but with consolation I will lead them;
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in an easy path in which they shall not stumble.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and trade their sorrow for gladness.

Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted, because they are no more.
Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears;
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future;
your children shall come back to their own country.

Matthew 2:13-23

After the magi had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to try to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet Hosea: “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent for his soldiers to kill all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee, where Herod Antipas ruled. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth.

Jesus, Immanuel — Sunday, December 1, 2019

Jesus, Immanuel — Sunday, December 1, 2019

December 2, 2019

Reading from the Hebrew Bible: Isaiah 7:10-17, 10:20, 10:27, 11:1-3 

Ahaz was king over Judah, and two of the kings of Israel threatened to attack Jerusalem.  Ahaz’s heart was shaken to its core. And through the prophet Isaiah the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, “Ask for a sign from me, the Lord your God; it can be deep as the pit of death, or high as heaven.”

But Ahaz said, “No, I will not ask! I will not put the Lord to the test.”

Then Isaiah said:
Hear then, O house of David!
Is it not enough that you wear out your fellow humans, 
that you tire God also?
God will chose the sign for you:
Look, there is a virgin who is pregnant and shall bear a son,
and shall name him Immanuel.
He will eat rich foods, curds and honey,
by the time he is old enough to reject evil and choose good.
For before he is old enough to reject evil and choose good,
the land of the two kings whom you dread will be laid waste.

On that day the faithful remnant of Israel 
will not lean on the one who struck them,
but on the Lord, the Holy One of truth.

On that day the burden of the Assyrian oppressors
will be removed from your shoulder,
and his yoke broken from your neck.

Then a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of its roots.
The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and awe of the Lord.


The Good News: Matthew 1:18-25 

This is how the birth of Jesus, the Anointed, took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but they did not live together. She was found to be pregnant, with a child from the Holy Spirit. Her fiancé Joseph was a righteous man, and knew she would be publicly disgraced, so he planned to break the engagement quietly. But the same night he decided to do this, in a dream he saw an angel of the Lord, who said to him:

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child she carries truly is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did exactly what the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took Mary as his wife, and when she gave birth to her son, he named him Jesus.

Gifts to God, Gifts for Others — Sunday November 24, 2019

Gifts to God, Gifts for Others — Sunday November 24, 2019

November 25, 2019


Moses told the people: Every seventh year you will forgive all debts. And this is how: every lender shall forgive the loans they made to a neighbor, because God’s forgiveness has been proclaimed. If there is a stranger among you, then you may continue to ask for the money back, but you must forgive whatever any member of your community owes you. But there should not be any needy among you - God will surely bless you in the land you are being given, if you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today. When the Lord your God has blessed you, as is promised, you will lend to many nations, but you will not need to borrow; you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.

If there is among you anyone in need, any member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your neighbor in need. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be on guard against selfish thoughts, such as, “But the seventh year, the year of forgiveness, is near, and thus my neighbor might not ever pay me back;” your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would be found guilty. Give liberally and be generous when you do give; when you follow this commandment, then God will follow the promise to bless you. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you: “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”


LUKE 20:45-21:6

Where everyone could hear him, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “Beware of the religious leaders, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in public, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at dinner. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the
temple collection; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their
abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

When others were looking at the temple, admiring its beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Whose Face Is On This Coin? — Sunday November 17, 2019

Whose Face Is On This Coin? — Sunday November 17, 2019

November 18, 2019

The readings for this Sunday: 

Deuteronomy 14:22-29

When you reap the harvest of your field, set aside ten percent of everything you gather. When the Lord your God has chosen a place for the temple, where the name of God will live, you will bring that ten percent - grain, wine, and oil, and the first-born of your herds and flocks - and there you will eat it as a great feast, so that you will learn to give thanks to God. You shall eat right there in the temple, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your family rejoicing together. And do not neglect the priests when you do this, for remember - they were set aside to serve, and have no land to farm.

But every third year, when you bring ten percent of what you have gathered, you will not eat it in the temple, but store it in your own town: and the priests, the foreigners, the orphans, and the widows may come and eat their fill, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.


Luke 20:20-26

The religious leaders watched Jesus and sent spies, who pretended to have honest questions, in order to catch him in something he said and hand him over to the governor. So these religious spies flattered him, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach. You do not compromise for anyone, but teach the way of God in truth. So tell us: is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But he could see through their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a coin. Whose face and name is on it?” They replied, “Caesar.” He replied, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they could not trap him in what he said, and were struck silent by his answer.

The Lamb on the Throne — November 3, 2019

The Lamb on the Throne — November 3, 2019

November 4, 2019


L:  O Lord, you are my God;
      I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
    plans made far in the past, faithful and sure.
A:  Even the powerful city you have made a heap
    the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of strangers is a city no more,
    it will never be rebuilt.

L: Therefore even the powerful will glorify you;
    cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
A:  For you have been a refuge to the poor,
    a refuge to the needy in their distress,
    a shelter from the monsoon and a shade from the heat.

L:  On a holy mountain the Lord will make for all people
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
    of rich food that melts on the tongue.
A:  On this mountain, God will destroy
   the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
   the pall that is spread over all nations;
   the Lord will swallow up death forever.

L:  Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
    and the people’s disgrace will be taken away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
    It will be said on that day,
A:  Lo, this is our God; we have waited for God,
     so that we might be saved.
     This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
     let us be glad and rejoice in the salvation of God.

L:  This is the word of the Lord.
All:  Thanks be to God.


L:  John wrote: I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They called out together:

A:  “Salvation belongs to our God
      who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

L:  And all the angels fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,

A:  “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving
       and honor and power and might
       be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

L:  There were twenty-four elders seated on chairs around the throne. One of them spoke to me and said: “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” He replied: “These are they who have come out of the great trial; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
    and worship God day and night within the temple,
    and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
    the sun will not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
    who will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Righteousness and Grace — October 27, 2019

Righteousness and Grace — October 27, 2019

October 28, 2019

Readings for the day:

Psalm 46

L: God is our refuge and strength,

a helper always near in times of trouble.

A: Therefore we will not fear, even if the earth should shake,

even if the mountains crumble into the sea,

even if its waters roar and rage,

even if the mountains shake because of its surging waves.

L: Even when the seas rage, there is a river that sustains us,

a stream that waters the city of God,

bringing joy to the dwelling of the Most High.

A: God is in that city. It will never crumble.

When morning dawns, we will see how God has sustained it.

L: Nations roar; kingdoms crumble.

But God speaks, and the earth melts.

A: The Lord of heavenly forces is with us!

The God of Jacob is a strong tower, a safe place for us.

L: Come, see the Lord’s deeds,

how God puts an end to the evils of the world:

bringing wars to an end,

breaking the bow and shattering the spear,

burning chariots with fire.

A: God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.

I am praised among the nations.

I am praised throughout the earth.”

The Lord of heavenly forces is with us!

The God of Jacob is a strong tower, a safe place for us.


Romans 3:19-28

Paul writes, “We know that whatever religious law says, it says to those who are still under its power. In this way, every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For as the psalmist says, ‘no human being will be justified in the sight of God’ by the works the religious law requires, because the law only reveals our sin and our failure to live up to the law. But now, entirely apart from religious law, the righteousness of God has been revealed! We can find support for it in religious law and in their voices of the prophets: the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. There is no distinction: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; they are now justified by God’s grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement in his death through faith. God did this to reveal such divine righteousness; in patience and tolerance God passed over the sins of the past, to prove at the present time that God is righteous and that God justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of boasting, by one who has done what religious law requires? It is nothing. By what law? By that of works? No! By the law of faith. For we believe that a person is justified by faith, apart from works required by religious law.”


Luke 18:9-17

Jesus also told this parable to those who trusted in their own righteousness and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a religious leader and the other a tax collector. The religious man, standing by himself, was praying like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like that tax collector over there. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was pounding his chest in mourning and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

People were bringing even babies to Jesus that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they grew angry and loud, sending them away. But Jesus called them back, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them. The kingdom of God belongs to people like these children. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”