Disturbing the Peace

September 9, 2018 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “Disturbing the Peace” recorded in worship (14:58)
16th Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 23B (Proper 18B)
Texts: Isa 35.4-7; Jas 2.1-17; Mk 7.24-37

Immediately after Jesus’ showdown with the Pharisees and Jerusalem scribes over their narrow understanding of defilement, he needs a break. He decides to leave Galilee, and goes to Tyre where there is nobody to bother him. Tyre is Gentile territory, full of nobodies. When one of these nobodies hears that Jesus is in town, she immediately seeks him out and asks for his help.

According to Jewish law and the tradition of the elders, this woman is unclean: she is unclean because she is a strange woman, unclean because she is a Gentile. Her daughter is unclean for both these reasons, and more so because she has an unclean spirit. Although it may make us uncomfortable, Jesus’ rudeness would not have surprised Mark’s original audience; he was
simply addressing her as any Jew might address an impertinent, unclean Gentile woman with the audacity to approach him.

Bazzi Rahib, Ilyas Basim Khuri. The Canaanite Woman asks for healing for her daughter, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55922

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A Special Place in Hell

September 2, 2018 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “A Special Place in Hell” recorded in worship (14:18)
15th Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 22B (Proper 17B)
Texts: Deut 4.1-2, 6-9; Jas 1.17-27; Mk 7.1-8, 14-23

I’ve had many different things stolen from me over the years, but nothing is quite as frustrating and makes me feel quite as powerless as having a bicycle stolen. There is a special place in Hell for bicycle thieves.

I once had a bike stolen from a church. On Sunday morning. During worship. I was working at Messiah Lutheran Church in Vancouver, WA as their summer intern. They had set me up in a duplex for the summer that was about a mile away from the church, so I rode my bike in to work every day. One Sunday morning, I walked out the door without the lock. I had already locked the door behind me and didn’t want to go back as I was already pressed for time. “It’ll be fine for one day,” I thought. So I rode to church and parked it out of the way, inside the church building where nobody would find it.

Well, somebody found it. The pastors’ younger son reported that a young man had come in asking to use the phone, so, being the nice and helpful kid that he was, he had showed him where it was. Unfortunately for me, they happened to walk past my unlocked, hidden bicycle to get there. So, the young man stole my bicycle out of a church full of worshipers.

I reiterate: there is a special place in Hell for bicycle thieves.

“Bicycle Thief!, You’re Seen” it says on this sign near the Kanaleneiland shopping centre in Utrecht, Netherlands. Bicycle theft is a serious problem in the Netherlands. Photo by Flickr user harry_nl. [Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0)%5D

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The Abiding Truth of God

August 26, 2018 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “The Abiding Truth of God” recorded in worship (11:30)
14th Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 21B (Proper 16B)
Texts: Josh 24.1-2, 14-18; Eph 6.10-20; Jn 6.56-69

Imagine you had never set foot in a church before, and you came in today and heard John’s gospel talking about eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood. You might think you’d stumbled into some ritualistic murder cult rather than a church service. It’s no wonder that the crowd of people and even Jesus’ own disciples are confused, perplexed, even disgusted by his words. It’s no wonder that after hearing all this, many of them leave.

Photo by Flickr user Eric Brochu. [Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0) ]

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Categories: Uncategorized

Back into Plumb

July 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “Back in Plumb” recorded in worship (14:21)
8th Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 15B (Proper 10B)
Texts: Amos 7.7-15; Eph 1.3-14; Mk 6.14-29

Nobody likes Amos. The question came up in our Wednesday Bible Study this week: “Aren’t prophets supposed to proclaim good news?” You’ll have a hard time finding any in Amos; he preaches death and destruction, he proclaims God’s anger and God’s intent to completely wipe away everything and start over. We can easily identify with Amaziah, crying out, “O Seer, go, flee away from our lectionary readings!”

Nobody else likes Amos, but I sure do. I love the way that Amos pulls no punches when calling out people’s bad behavior. He is a good, old-fashioned fire-and-brimstone preacher proclaiming the wrath of God. “Woe to you who sell the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals,” he writes (8.6). Or this gem: “Hear this, you fat cows… you who oppress the poor, who crush the needy… The LORD GOD has sworn by his holiness: the time is surely coming upon you when they will take you away with… fishhooks [in your noses].” (4.1-2) The wrath of God makes us uneasy; we’d much rather hear about the love of God. And that is why I love Amos: because he brings us face to face with the uncomfortable truth that God’s love and God’s wrath are the same thing.

“The Plumb Line and the City” by Clark Fitzgerald. Photo by Jim Linwood [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Our Weakness is God’s Power

July 8, 2018 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “Our Weakness is God’s Power” recorded in worship (13:15)
7th Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 14B (Proper 8B)
Texts: Ezek 2.1-5; 2 Cor 12.2-10; Mk 6.1-13

I had a dream some several weeks ago. I don’t remember much of it, but it really stressed me out. I think I may have woken up in a sweat. I dreamt it was Sunday morning, but I still didn’t have a sermon, and worship was starting. I was trying desperately to lead the liturgy and also come up with something to say when it was time to preach. On top of that, everything that could go wrong, did. The wrong songs were printed in the bulletin. There were no ushers. The sound system wasn’t working. People kept interrupting the service. Underneath my alb, I was in my pajamas.

With every mistake, I just kept getting more and more flustered, the panic that already filled my chest just kept growing and growing until it felt like I might burst; because I knew that this was all my responsibility, and I was failing at it. Then, all of a sudden, it was time to preach. As I made the short walk from my seat up to the ambo, I tried in vain to collect a few thoughts to string together into some sort of a sermon, but I couldn’t even get them to form into a sentence. When I got up to the front and looked out at everyone, I had nothing. I think that’s about when I woke up. Read more…

Have You Still No Faith?

June 24, 2018 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “Have You Still No Faith?” recorded in worship (15:23)
5th Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 12B (Proper 6B)
Texts: Job 38.1-11; 2 Cor 6.1-13; Mk 4.35-41

Reading this story, Mark is hoping we will laugh at the disciples a little bit. Sure the storm was powerful—it must have been if the seasoned fishermen are afraid—but they had JESUS in their boat! We know from the opening line of Mark’s gospel that he is “the Son of God;” and so we know that this little old storm is nothing he can’t handle. Mark sets us up to laugh at the silliness, the ignorance of these poor buffoons in the boat with Jesus. After the miracles they have seen and the parables he has just taught them, how can they still not trust him to keep them safe through the storm? Read more…

Did You Hear The One About The Mustard Seed?

June 17, 2018 Leave a comment

Audio Recording of “Did You Hear The One About The Mustard Seed?” recorded in worship (14:55)
4th Sunday after Pentecost; Lectionary 11B (Proper 6B)
Texts: Ezek 17.22-24; 2 Cor 5.6-17; Mk 4.26-34

Stephanie and I went to Granada in Southern Spain a few years ago, and while we were there, we visited the Alhambra, the royal palace and fort complex that housed the capital of the Moorish territory of Al-Andalus. In one of the palatial courtyards, there is a fountain surrounded by 12 stone lions. The story goes that the fountain was built as a clock: water would pour from the mouth of a different lion every hour. When the Spaniards reconquered Granada, they were amazed by this piece of advanced engineering and took it apart to see how it worked. After detailed investigation, they remained baffled, and so put it back together, just as they had disassembled it, but it never worked again.

Lion fountain at the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. Photo by User:MauroMarinelli [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

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