Nobody’s Going to Heaven

April 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Easter 5, Year C
Texts: Acts 11.1-18; Rev 21.1-7; Jn 13.31-35

We most often hear these words from Revelation at funerals. This image has become for us a picture of heaven, a place where all “good” people go when they die, the eternal reward of the righteous. Within the Church there is some disagreement about what exactly is meant by “good” people: maybe it’s those who keep God’s commandments, or maybe it’s people with good hearts, or maybe it’s those who believe in Jesus. Regardless, most of us have been taught one way or another that getting into heaven is decided on a case-by-case basis, and is dependent on some action or characteristic of each person being judged, leaving us to work hard or hope that we make the cut.

What we almost always look past in this vision of “heaven” is that this is not heaven at all, but earth. “I looked, and I saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven…”  “I heard the voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals.’” Heaven is actually being emptied out as God makes God’s home on Earth with us. This is not a vision of salvation for only a select few, or even for only humanity; this is a vision of salvation for all creation. As my New Testament professor in seminary once said, “God is not interested in saving a handful of individuals; God is saving the whole frickin’ universe!” Read more…

In Defense of Doubt

April 3, 2016 Leave a comment

Easter 2, Year C
Texts: Acts 5.27-33; Rev 1.4-8; Jn 20.19-31

First things first: let’s all agree to stop calling the poor guy “Doubting Thomas.” When Thomas got back from whatever errand he was on and heard the insane story his friends told him, it’s easy to understand why he didn’t believe them. People don’t just come back from the dead.

And yet we’ve come to give him that awful nickname, we’ve come to read this story as a story about how terrible or dumb or untenable it is to doubt, and in the midst of our exultation over the risen Christ, sometimes we might even feel the tiniest bit of glee at how “Doubting Thomas” is put in his place.

I can’t help but wonder if that’s because Thomas’ “doubt” threatens us. Thomas is one of Jesus’ disciples—someone who walked and talked with Jesus, who saw firsthand what he was capable of doing—and yet he is not immune from disbelief. If Thomas doubts, then how can we ever hope not to? Read more…

The Story

March 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Maundy Thursday
Texts: Ex 12.1-14; 1 Cor 11.23-26; Jn 13.1-17, 31-35

Every time we receive Holy Communion together, we hear these familiar words from Paul’s letter: “On the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread…” It’s just like when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with relatives and you share stories of your family. These words are part of our shared story as God’s family.

Tonight we gather together in darkness around this table to tell that story again. But this story begins long, long before that night in the upper room with his disciples. Our story begins in a garden, the first garden. There, along the banks of a stream, the One Holy and Mighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, bent to kneel in the mud and create a figure. God’s hands were dirty with the muck of the stream as God formed arms and legs, a head and a heart. Then God breathed life into the mud-thing, gave it being and movement, and called it “human;” an act of supreme joy and love from the Supreme Being to the creature God called “child.” Read more…

The Ministry of Reconciliation

March 6, 2016 Leave a comment

Lent 4, Year C
Texts: Josh 5.9-12; 2 Cor 5.16-21; Lk 15.1-3, 11-32

There’s a reason why the father in this story is often understood as God. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, God was reconciling the world to Godself through Jesus Christ, not counting all our trespasses against us. That sounds a lot like this father.

Consider Jesus’ story. The younger son goes to his father and demands his share of the inheritance. You may know that, normally, he would not receive this inheritance until his father died. You may not know, however, that his request is unorthodox and extremely insulting. He is essentially saying to his father, “I can’t wait for you to die. I want my share of your stuff now so I can get out of here and never have to see you again.” Then he packs up everything and leaves for a foreign country—a place far away from the things his family holds dear, the priorities they value, even the God they worship.

When he eventually finds himself broke and starving and alone, he decides to go back to his father’s house. He has no right to go back there; he took all his rights with him on his back when he left. Nor does he have any guarantee that his father and brother will accept him back since he disowned and embarrassed them by flouting his father’s authority and leaving as he did. Knowing this, he prepares a speech. We have no idea if he is actually sorry, or if he is just desperate. What we do know is that when he gets home, he recites his memorized speech word-for-word—but his father doesn’t care. Read more…

Three Wishes and a Promise

February 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Lent 2, Year C
Texts: Gen 15.1-18; Phil 3.17-4.1; Lk 13.22-35

When reading scripture, it is important to pay attention to repetition. Something I notice in reading today’s gospel lesson is that there is a repetition here that may help us make sense of it. The verb “to wish for” is present three times in the Greek; so our story today is a story about three wishes. Read more…

Paradox, Dust, and the Reign of God

February 10, 2016 Leave a comment

Ash Wednesday
Texts: Joel 2.1-2, 12-17; 2 Cor 5.20b-6.10; Mt 6.1-6, 16-21

Today is a day of contradictions. Spring is beginning to creep in around us, and instead of the joy of the brightening skies and warmer weather, our worship instead focuses on the sorrow of our sins and the mortality of our bodies. We—though very much alive and walking—come forward to receive ashes on our foreheads and be reminded that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return.” Even our scripture readings for tonight hold us in tension between two extremes: the reading from Joel proclaims a public observance of repentance, while Matthew’s gospel recalls Jesus’ admonitions to pray in secret and not to show any outward signs of their piety. Welcome to Ash Wednesday. Read more…

We Need to Talk about Race…

January 31, 2016 Leave a comment

Epiphany 4, Year C.
Texts: Jer 1.4-10; 1 Cor 13.1-13; Lk 4.21-30

Barbara Brown Taylor shares the story of a weekend retreat where the opening exercise was to tell a story about someone who had been Christ for you, in your life.  After some reflection, one person shared about a friend who had stayed with them through a long illness when all their other friends deserted her.  Another spoke of a neighbor who took the place of an absent father.  Story after story was shared, of compassion and warmth and caring, and everything seemed so cozy and comfortable, until this one woman stood up and said, “Well, the first thing I thought about when I tried to think who had been Christ to me was, ‘Who in my life has told me the truth so clearly that I wanted to kill him for it?”  (Home by Another Way, p. 42f) Read more…

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