The Sabbath Sets Us Free

A Homily for the Second Wednesday in Lent

Text: St. John 5:1-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sets us free. Amen.

What comes to your mind when I say “blue laws?” Usually, banning the sale of alcohol on Sunday, right? Maybe laws about hunting and car sales, but most of us think about those laws that kept the beer aisle in Georgia grocery stores dark on Sunday until about eight years ago (depending on which county you lived in).

These laws date back to a time when Sabbath observance was serious business – in this country, most famously in Puritan New England. Shops were closed and work was strictly prohibited. More than working, though, New England’s blue laws targeted anything that would distract from the Lord’s Day – even punishing public displays of affection. Continue reading “The Sabbath Sets Us Free”

Nevertheless, She Persisted: The Faith of the Syrophoenician Woman

A Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: St. James 2:10-17; St. Mark 7:24-37


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who came to feed the children of God. Amen.

We’ve seen something like this before.

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The Syrophoenician Woman, 17th. century Coptic manuscript

Jesus is staying at a home in the area near Tyre when a woman comes to him, asking that Christ might cast a demon out of her daughter. There’s a familiar pattern for healing stories and exorcisms like this. There will be some little exchange, the disciples will get annoyed, onlookers will scoff at the entire situation, and Jesus will tell the woman that she has great faith and the daughter will made well. Standard enough fare for the Gospels.

We see these healing narratives over and over again. So much so that we get used to them and, to be honest, we stop paying attention until the end. “Oh, hey. Jesus healed the person with…what was it this time? Another leper? Leprosy! Jesus healed the person with leprosy. Yea. Alright.” They get a little boring, we lose focus, and the details often evade us as long as it’s a happy ending.

Usually, any sort of disturbing details are floating just under the surface; they demand a close reading of the text to really get at the real point of the story. But not this time. Today, one point of the story grabs us by the collar and slaps us in the face. A Gentile woman approaches Jesus and she needs help. She follows the social conventions of the day, coming to him in a home and throwing herself at his feet. She’s trying to follow the cultural norms for approaching a teacher with a request. And Jesus of Nazareth compares her to a dog. Continue reading “Nevertheless, She Persisted: The Faith of the Syrophoenician Woman”

The Sign of the Cross

Question: Why do we make the sign of the cross?

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Christ the King Cathedral, Reykjavik, Iceland

The sign of the cross serves as something of a liturgical barometer. Want to know where a parish falls on the scale between “low” and “high” liturgy? Look for how many people make the sign of the cross and how often. On the one side, there are congregations that shy away from the sign of the cross for fear that it’s “too Catholic.” On the other side, there are parishes in which people seem to cross themselves at every turn.

In either case, though, one has to wonder: do the people actually know what it means? If Baptists understood the full implication of the sign of the cross, would they adopt the practice? Have liturgical Christians let the sign of the cross become a mere reflex?

What is this weird hand gesture? How old is this tradition? And what does it all mean?

Short Answer: Tracing the sign of the cross is an ancient physical reminder of our connection to Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Holy Trinity, and God’s blessing.

Continue reading “The Sign of the Cross”

Jesus Came to…Work Wonders

A Homily for the Fourth Wednesday of Lent

Text: St. Mark 8:11-26


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who came to work wondrous miracles. Amen.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about our Lenten readings is the sort of haphazard way in which texts are put together. Our Sunday lectionary readings tend to focus on short chunks. We see a single thought or event play out, maybe even skipping over verses to smooth things out; Jesus does one or two related things, and there ends the reading. The daily lectionary, though, follows a different pattern: it flows over two years rather than three and moves day-to-day rather than week-to-week, which means it covers more ground in a single go. And sometimes the result can leave us wondering. Continue reading “Jesus Came to…Work Wonders”

Jesus Came to…Heal

A Homily for the First Wednesday in Lent

Text: St. Mark 1:29-45*


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who brings Good News and healing. Amen.

As we move towards Jerusalem throughout Lent, the lectionary is taking us through Christ’s ministry, moving towards Holy Week, the Passion, and our Lord’s glorious Resurrection.

There is a movement in certain circle that reduces Christ’s work in this world to the Crucifixion, as if to say that God the Son became incarnate and lived for thirty-some years just to die. In this view, everything else – even the Resurrection – play second fiddle to the events at Golgotha, and God’s redemptive work is limited to Good Friday. The Gospel is reduced to the Cross. Continue reading “Jesus Came to…Heal”