Pentecost 25 / Lectionary 33, Year B.
Texts: Dan 12.1-3; Heb 10.11-25; Mk 13.1-8
Once again, we find ourselves in the grip of fear. Our news headlines and social media feeds are full of stories about the terror attack in Paris. The stories hit close to home for us as we remember the domestic terror attacks in this country that have become increasingly common. On top of that, we are also thinking about global warming, cancer, earthquakes, nuclear waste, refugees, Presidential Campaign season. It is enough to make us fear for our very survival.
In addition to these things, Christians in America worry about the survival of the Church. It can sound pretty dire. We are being told that students aren’t allowed to pray in schools anymore; the Ten Commandments are being removed from municipal buildings, we hear of wars and rumors of wars against us and our favorite holidays.
I can’t help wondering, though, when I hear of these “wars and rumors of wars,” are we being led astray? Even many who call themselves Christians use fear and outrage to whip us into a frenzy and call us to action; but reflecting on the words of Jesus today, I wonder what kind of action are we being encouraged to take? Read more…
Pentecost 21 / Lectionary 29, Year B.
Texts: Isa 53.4-12; Heb 5.1-10; Mk 10.35-45
How are you doing? Good! That’s a pretty common greeting for us, a way of checking in. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty meaningless. It means basically the same thing as “Hello! Good to see you.” More often than not, we ask or answer the question without really paying attention to the response. I do this a lot, myself.
The trouble is that even though it is a cultural habit for us to ask one another “How are you doing?” we aren’t prepared to deal with the answer. On any given day, most of us are probably “good” or “fine,” but some of us are not—but how do you respond then? When a stranger asks how you are doing, do you go into the whole story of how you are feeling sad or angry or disappointed? When I asked just now, was anybody inclined to truly answer that question from the heart, or did we all just complete the ritual with, “Fine, thanks”? Read more…
Pentecost 19 / Lectionary 27, Year B.
Texts: Gen 2.18-24; Heb 1.1-4, 2.5-12; Mk 10.2-16
Welcome to “Let’s-make-all-the-divorcees-feel-awkward-at-church-day!” This is one of those stories we sometimes wish we could just write out of the Bible, isn’t it? It almost seems a little uncharacteristic of the Jesus who heals on the Sabbath and touches lepers to be so randomly hardline about something like divorce.
Unlike lepers, divorce is something that is common today, and many of us have some experience with it, which is why this story is so discomforting. We want to rationalize it away. “Well, Jesus couldn’t have meant this” or “This doesn’t apply to me because it’s not the same.” And it’s true that there are a few things going on here that we need to understand about this story before we can wrestle with it. Read more…
Pentecost 16 / Lectionary 24, Year B.
Text: Isa 50.4-9; Jas 3.1-12; Mk 8.27-38
Immediately prior to this story, we hear another one. Jesus and his disciples are in Bethsaida, where the villagers bring him a man called Bartimaeus, who is blind. Jesus lays his hands on him and restores his sight. He asks Bartimaeus, “Can you see anything?” Bartimaeus replies, “I can see people, but they look like trees walking around.” So, Jesus touches him again. This time, when Bartimaeus looks up at Jesus, he can see everything with perfect clarity. Then Jesus and his disciples go to Caesarea Phillippi. (Mk 8.22-26)
It is no accident that Mark prefaces our reading today with this story of healing a blind man. What we hear today is the turning point of Mark’s gospel, the beginning of the second act, so to speak. Up until now, Mark’s story has been all about the first question Jesus poses to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” He has been teaching and healing and performing signs, all demonstrating what Mark has claimed from the beginning of chapter one: that this is “the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.” After all that they have seen and heard, Peter and the others show that they can see that this is true: “You are the Christ.” However, when Jesus begins to teach them what it means to be the Christ, we find out that Peter cannot yet fully see what is going on. Read more…
Pentecost 14 / Lectionary 22, Year B.
Text: Deut 4.1-2, 6-9; Jas 1.17-27; Mk 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Worship for this Sunday was built around a hymn-sing, a celebration of our congregation’s favorite hymns. For two weeks, we took requests for favorite songs, and then we used each of those songs (usually 2-3 verses of each) as the prelude, hymns, sung portions of the liturgy, and musical interludes. All told, we sang 19 hymns as part of this service. In order to accommodate the music and not go too terribly late, I wrote a shorter sermon and let the music preach.
It’s nice to do this once in a while, isn’t it? One of the things that unites us as a congregation and as Lutherans is that, in general, we love to sing. We all have our favorite hymns, and it’s good to take some time to celebrate them. These hymns come from many different traditions—not just Lutheran—and from many different countries, and from many different time periods. They represent the many different paths that have brought us all here.
Pentecost 12 / Lectionary 20, Year B.
Text: Prov 9.1-6; Eph 5.15-20; Jn 6.51-56
From July 26-August 23, the Lectionary follows one long story in John’s gospel. These 6 Sundays are often called the “Bread Sundays” because the story they follow begins with Jesus feeding the 5000 by the Sea of Gallilee and records his following discourse in which he says “I AM the Bread of Life.” This year, during the Bread Sundays, I have the opportunity to preach twice, so I decided to use the text as a jumping-off point to talk about some of our practices and beliefs surrounding the sacrament of Holy Communion.
If we kept reading, we would hear Jesus ask, “Does this offend you?” Does this make you sick, gross you out? If it doesn’t, maybe it should: it’s graphic, it’s vivid, it’s disgusting. What do we know that eats flesh? Predators like lions or wolves, scavengers like vultures or coyotes. What do you think of when you think of drinking blood? Probably vampires, mosquitos, or ghouls. These are not pretty images. Jesus is being intentionally shocking, disgusting for a purpose. But why? Maybe it’s to make sure we are paying attention. Read more…