Luke 20:9-19 by Andrew Hargy (J2A)


A man went away on a trip and left his vineyard to be maintained by some farmhands. During his trip the man would send servants to collect the profits from the vineyard for him. He did this three times. Each time the farmhands would either beat the servant, or work them to an inch of death and leave them in the street and send them off empty-handed.

 The man thought that if he sent his own son, the farmhands will respect him and give him the profits that he was owed. The man however did not think that the farmhands would kill his son.  The farmhands believed that killing the son would allow them to keep the vineyard to themselves. The man, instead of collecting the money himself, had other people collect it for him, resulting in the deaths of his son and servants.

This parable shows that in order to achieve your goals and do the things you want to do, you have to do it yourself. You have to take the initiative. You can’t just live life thinking that someone is going to do it for you, because thousands to millions of people are also thinking the same way. If everyone has that kind of mindset then nothing will happen and we will become stagnant. The only reason we are moving forward in society is because of the people who are themselves actively participating. Be a leader, not a follower. Be proactive, not reactive.

Philippians 2:5 – 11 by Ryan Hargy (J2A)


A man of great power, is equal to slaves. Christ becomes humble, not because of outside forces, but because he wants to. He wills it. Christ is the son of god and an equal to man.

 The beginning of the passage starts off with “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself”. Stop. Pause for a minute, or a second, and reflect. Think. What does it mean to be humble? How am I humble?

Do we look down upon people in our society? Perhaps, people who aren’t as well off as we are. Do you look down upon them and say “they did this to themselves” and ignore their pleas? Truth be told, some of us have seen people in need and turned away. Be humble, see others not as lower than you, but as equals. Smile with them, laugh with them, console them. See each other as brothers and sisters, and not as different.  


Philippians 3:8-14 by Ben Larner (Rite 13)


This passage is about many different things, but most importantly it focuses on loving God and Jesus above everything else. It talks about throwing out everything they used to take credit, for so they could embrace Christ. They wanted to know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering and go all the way with him to death itself. They wanted to resurrected above all else, which in my opinion defeats the purpose of everything they’re doing.

I think that the person throwing away everything relates to our lives because may people do throw a lot of things away to be with Christ. It relates to me because sometimes I can’t do things because I come to church



Following Jesus isn’t easy.

I mean, loving your neighbor sounds all well and good…until you start contemplating who your neighbor actually is.

Forgiving people sounds fine, as long as we keep it to the people who just cut us off in traffic.

Loving and praying for our enemies? Forget it.

Being a peacemaker has a ring of nobility to it if we’re talking about peace in the middle east or something… but what about peace in our hearts, our homes, our relationships?

For two thousand years, Christians have had a school for helping people learn and follow this way. At this school the scriptures are read and wrestled with. Prayers of thanksgiving are offered for all the blessings we’ve been given. We seek forgiveness for the ways we’ve fallen short of the kind of life we’re meant to live. And we gather around a table where we’re offered a meal.

This school… well… it meets on Sunday mornings. Here at St. Mark’s in Basking Ridge school meets at 8AM and 10AM.

From January 7th to Easter Sunday (April 1st) there are thirteen Sundays.

What if you committed to coming to church for these 13 Sundays? Or, if you absolutely can’t come to church, we broadcast our services live (and archive them) on our Facebook page. And, of course, if you’re not here you could go to a church wherever you happen to be.

13 Sundays. That’s it. That’s less of a commitment than most Netflix series.

And who knows, by the end of 13 Sundays you might have gotten following Jesus down a little better. And, you might have helped someone else follow Jesus a little better.


Jesse Tree: Mary

A lesson: Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

A reflection
What was she doing? No one knows. But at some time of some day, while she was doing who-knows-what… an angel appeared to her. Was he shining like the sun? Was his voice like thunder? We have no idea. But, he told her that of all the women ever born, she was the one chosen by God to bear the Messiah into the world.


Icon by Gabriel Toma Chituc

The Gospels never tell us why Mary is the chosen one. No incredible stories of virtue or righteousness. No tales of a heroic childhood faith.

What we do have is a story about a woman who said “yes” to God. A woman who stood by her son through the hard days of his ministry, and then stood by him at the cross. What we have is a story of a woman who went to her son’s tomb and found it empty.

God met Mary not in a church or temple, but in the midst of what started out to be a normal day. God met Mary, not as a perfect person, but as a real person who God loved dearly, and who God chose. God met Mary not with a demand, but with a holy possibility.

In this sense, the Incarnation is pregnant with possibility for all of us, at any moment, and in any place. God may come shining like the sun or with a voice as soft as distant thunder at any moment, and invite us into something we never could have dreamt for ourselves.

A prayer
O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer)

Jesse Tree: Joseph

A lesson: Matthew 1:18-25
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her 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 from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

A reflection
We don’t know a lot about Joseph. People wonder if he was much older than Mary. People wonder if he had been widowed previously and had children from that previous marriage. People wonder if he died early on in Jesus’ life, like sometime in his adolescence or early adulthood.

joseph.gifWhen it comes to Joseph, there are lots of questions that we just don’t have the answers to.

But, there’s one thing that we are sure of: he was a good man.

He could have, according to Old Testament law, have had Mary stoned when he learned that she was pregant. He could have just picked up and left. He could have dragged her reputation through the gutter.

And, quite frankly, no one would have blamed him one bit.

He was such a good man though that he first tried to have her quietly dismissed. He was certainly hurt and angry, but he wasn’t going to take those feelings out on her.

He was also a good man, in that when God told him in a dream that Mary’s child was in fact God’s child, he stuck with her – and God. He willingly chose to become Jesus’ adopted father, and he kept Jesus and his family safe when the government was trying to hunt down Jesus to kill him.

This we know: Joseph is the good and righteous husband of Mary and the attentive and protective father of Our Lord. I don’t know about you, but he makes me wonder if I could ever be as good, as faithful, and as steadfast.

A prayer
O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)

Jesse Tree: David

A lesson – 2 Samuel 6:1-5
David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

A reflection
The first king of Israel was Saul – though Saul didn’t work out so well. While Saul was floundering, the prophet Samuel went looking for a new king, and God directed him to David, the youngest of the sons of Jesse. While he had no leadership experience (save for shepherding flocks of sheep), he proved to be an excellent King. He unified the people, he remembered the covenant that God had made with us, he established Jerusalem as the capital city, and he began plans for a great Temple in that city.

Another prophet, Nathan, told him that unfortunately he would not be the king to build this Temple for God; that would have to wait. However, while delivering this bad news, he offered him some good news too: God would P59.JPGpreserve his descendants and do great things with his family. Even though David had some moral failings, people looked to the house and lineage of David for centuries after him as a family whom God had blessed. And, when the prophets and sages of old foretold the coming of the Messiah into the world they reminded people to look to this family, to a descendant of the house of David.

Interestingly, there are two distinct and separate histories of King David in the Hebrew Bible – one in the Books of Samuel and Kings and the other in the Books of the Chronicles. The author of Chronicles spares us of almost any details where David would look bad, even to the point of completely glossing over the episode with Bathsheba. The author of Samuel I & II and Kings I gives us a more rounded telling of David’s story, where he is depicted as a great leader AND a human being who is subject to normal human failings.

The authors of the Gospels go to great lengths to remind us that Jesus comes from David’s stock, and that Jesus coming from the house and lineage of David was a fulfillment of the promises of God.

A prayer
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
(From Psalm 51, a psalm that is said to have been composed by David after the Bathsheba affair.)