Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who is coming with power and great glory. Amen.
I’m going to be uncharacteristically brief today, my friends, because this week hurts. There is no way around it. Yesterday, we commended our brother Bill Moses to God’s care, and many of you have gone by the hospital to say your goodbyes to our sister Anne, who is nearing the hour of death. Sisters and brothers, I am not ashamed to say that I have cried this week.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who will topple every stone from its place. Amen.
Imagine, if you will, that we have taken a trip to Washington, DC. As we wander around the seat of our national government, we of course marvel at the beautiful neo-classical architecture. DC — ok, well, the heart of DC, not so much the sprawling suburbs — is a well-designed city which draws on the great monuments of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman culture to communicate our country’s loftiest ideals. The Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln memorials call to mind the Egyptian obelisks, the Roman Pantheon, and the Greek Parthenon. Instead of divine heroes, these monuments stand to elected human leaders, flaws and all. Continue reading “Not a Stone Left on Stone”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who allots us a portion with the great. Amen.
“Can you do me a favor?”
That question always gives me pause.
“What do they want? How much time will this require? What am I about to get myself in to?”
In my mind’s eye, I picture someone asking for the keys and title to my car or my ATM PIN or holding up a mask and asking me to help knock over the Atlanta Federal Reserve.
“Can you do me a favor?”
Knowing that I’m being ridiculous and just a bit paranoid, I wonder, “Can I really take that chance?” And so I respond, half-jokingly, “Maybe…”
Invariably the request in mundane. “Grab me a cup of coffee while you’re up?”
Enter the sons of Zebedee.
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
That’s where I would pause. Not a favor. No, they’re hinting at something far beyond that.
What does Jesus think? Does he see what’s coming? Does he see the hesitation in their eye, that James is fidgeting nervously and John, though he’s doing all the talking, is avoiding eye contact with the other disciples? Is that why he is so coy in his response? Is that why he asks what they want before agreeing to it? Or does he want to force them to say it aloud themselves? Continue reading “Sons of Thunder”→
This past Sunday, Jesus covered quite a bit of ground. Too much ground for one sermon, really. He hit on points of marriage, divorce, gender, and children. Any one of those topics could have been a book, let alone a fifteen-minute homily.
And because this week’s texts have been used as a cudgel to bludgeon rather than as a balm to soothe the afflicted, it’s important that we spend more time with the text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who came to make us children of God. Amen.
Like any early ‘90s sitcom, you can almost hear the studio audience go, “Awwwwww” when our Lord “took the children up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.” It’s like something out of a Precious Moments figurine, those round-faced and doe-eyed ceramic figures that seem to be on sale at every Christian book store. Jesus cares about children, and we should include them in the ministry of the Church.
I spend a lot of time around self-described fundamentalists — perhaps because I live in the Southeast, in the land of Southern Baptist churches. One of the defining doctrines of the modern SBC (and of fundamentalism in general) is their belief in a literal interpretation of Scripture; this tenant is spelled out in the first article of the Baptist Faith and Message, the SBC’s statement of faith:
It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. [Emphasis added.]
It is worth noting that fundamentalism is a new position, dating back less than two centuries, and it would not come to dominate the Southern Baptist Convention until a concentrated campaign called a “resurgence” by its champions (men like Albert Mohler and Paige Patterson) and a “takeover” by its detractors.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who will make us truly great. Amen.
Do you think Jesus ever turned to the disciples, irritated, and yelled, “What did I just tell you?” Or greet their frequent questions with the same exasperated sigh of a parent who has just been asked for the millionth time why her son couldn’t have a pre-dinner snack?
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who bids us take up our cross and follow him. Amen.
Saint Peter is hot-headed and impulsive, eager to step out in faith but fast to fall short, in equal measure profoundly faithful and unruly. And it kind of makes you wonder, given some the guidelines about teachers that James and Isaiah put forward, would either of them have called Peter as a pastor to their congregation?
The readings from Saint James and the prophet Isaiah give us a short glimpse of just some of the requirements for those called to lead God’s people. Teachers should have the ability to sustain the weary with a word, open ears, remain steadfast. They should tame their mouths, uttering blessings rather than curses. And, James is quick to remind us, those called to leadership as teachers “will be judged with greater strictness.”
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.
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”→
Texts: St. James 1:17-27; St. Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, our Perfect Law Giver. Amen.
If we’re being honest, we’ve all known someone like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading: quick to chime in with an accusatory question and judging “side-eye.” In contemporary speech, “Pharisee” is synonymous with exactly this type of person, an arrogant and legalistic disciplinarian slavishly devoted to a strict interpretation of the rules quick to render an unrequested verdict.
“Your disciples eat without washing their hands? Bless their hearts.”
“Oh. You let your children watch that movie? Aren’t you worried that it might corrupt their young mind?”