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These six verses are about listening and accountability -- and about a larger vision of Godís kingdom.
Like Christians of times past, we are inclined to absolutize the values and mores of the age in which we live. Unless we live in some Hitlerian society, there is bound to be real worth in the dominant values of any moment in history.
Mindful of the ghosts of Herod’s excess, our business in this Advent season is to treat our own children as God’s gift to us, despite the overwhelming burdens and responsibilities of parenthood and child-rearing in our society.
How might your life be different if you were born again? How would you re-edit the narrative of your life?
The new life in the desert signals the presence and power of God. Water in abundance brings forth life, the barren desert blossoms with fragrant flowers.
The author is pleased that doubting Thomas didnít let any of the disciples off the hook, for they still had a job to do.
Johnís story of Jesus and Lazarus becomes another allegory about baptism.
Jesus is asking those of us who have been called, first to understand the nature of the kingdom that has been initiated with his coming, and then to be workers with him. We will be great only by becoming othersí servants; we will be exalted only by humbling ourselves.
Like all true poetry, the Psalms seem to be newly minted, disarming, to be an utterance that comes straight from the gut as well as from the heart.
This story is not just about what we do personally; it has implications for what we do together.
For Amos the connection betwen "profits" and "prophets" was more than a matter of literary elision. His words crackle with a telling contemporary ring.
Looking at Adam and Eve, I see a family resemblance: a picture of my own fear and shame.
By our very agreement with Jesus we stand accused despite our moments of righteous living. Given that we are rich when the world is poor, that we cling to our nuclear arms as if world extermination were a noble risk, destroy ancient forests, gouge the landscape, pollute the soil, water and air, that we copulate and abort with unrestrained abandon -- how then are we to interpret Jesusí words, "It is what comes out of a person that defiles," so as to come up smelling like roses?
What it means to be an obedient servant of the Lord as in the example in which Mary asked a question of God’s angel in contrast to the way Zechariah asked one.
The move from Moses and YHWH in the Sinai to Jesus and Peter at Caesarea Philippi presents something of a role reversal. Now the "I Am," the God-with-us, speaks, and Moses the questioner becomes Peter the questioned. "Who do you say that I am?" asks Jesus. Peterís confident reply of "Messiah" is quickly followed by Jesusí command for silence about his identity.
We are afraid to waste time, but waiting takes time and if we model our lives after Jesus, time is a gift to experience.
Despite our frustrations and doubts, we have seen the intimacy promised by Jeremiah partially realized in the coming of Christ. In Advent we are impelled to look beyond the first to the second coming, when Godís covenant will cease to be only a hint and a promise, when it will become our eternal destiny.
It took more than a decapitation (of the head of John the Baptist) to stop the truth of God, more than a crucifixion to stop the Son of God, more than persecution to stop the mission of God.
What is really going on here is not only a family crisis in Bethany but the crisis of the world, not only the raising of a dead man but the giving of life to the world.
Lent requires a severe discipline on the part of the church. It is the discipline of waiting, waiting for Easter but knowing nobody gets in on Easter who was not here for Good Friday.
Our Western privilege is at odds with a faith that supposedly began in radical simplicity. Faith blooms in dispossession. When you donít have anything else to hold onto, when you can no longer clutch lesser things, you hold onto your God, and your God holds onto you.
Baptism reminds us that Godís creative force is still birthing us, claiming us, renewing us.
Many of us find it hard to perceive the voice of the Lord.
Perhaps in our public prayers we ought to make room for yet another category: "prayers of encouragement," For it is our spiritual obligation to encourage one another.
As essential as lively biblical, doctrinal and liturgical catechesis is the desire to connect with God and people in ways that have depth and can last.
Jesusí image of vine, branch and fruit is not about viticulture. It is about abiding. Loving is the highest form of abiding, of being present for another.
Even as the ascension leaves us here, in the modern world, ascension points beyond it. Jesus may have risen, but in another sense he remains on the ground.
After carefully watching guests do their subtle ballet of who should sit higher than whom, Jesus says, "Whoa. Why don’t you try this? Head for the lowest seat available; then your host will say in front of everybody, ‘Friend, come up higher,’ which would be a very satisfying experience."
The author uses the story of the man born blind to show what difficulty religious people have in acknowledging the power of God.
We join Isaiah and Jesus and Paul and all the rest of them, longing for the heavens to open, for justice to come for the living and the dead., for mercy to make right this damned and beloved world. We will not choose indifference or resignation.
The tension between our moment and the eschatological moment must be retained. For instance, when speaking eschatologically about the nuclear arms race, a preacher would refer to such things as the blasphemy of destroying God’s handiwork and the idolatry of the bomb, not simply to a nuclear freeze. And those eschatological statements are, in fact, more realistic about the nature of the present darkness than is any political solution.
Christians need to realize that the liberation struggle and a responsible love ethic must come together in our way of living.
The biblical message is that in the midst of all fearful events of our day, God is opening up a new future for us. He has given us this hope in Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation is about this hope -- the hope for the future which God is bringing about.
Psalm 51 is one of the seven classic penitential psalms used on occasions of confessing sin. Sin is acknowledged with frequent repetition for intensification of feeling; petition is made for divine favor; a vow to God is made; worshipers affirm what really matters between them and God.
The Galilean fishermen learned how to become fishers of men, even though they -- like us -- were amateurs.
When we are Christians in name only, we are invited to the wedding feast but we do not attend. Are others invited to take our places?
Jesus was laughing with delight when he prayed, "I thank thee, Father. . ."
If Jesus had answered only that "man must love god with all his heart, mind and strength..." when asked which is the great commandment and stopped there, the greatness of Christianity would not exist.
We have been given a foretaste of the righteousness and justice promised by Jeremiah, and we have some experience of the holiness and abounding love described by Paul.
We are anxious about many things: having enough money, having good enough health, being secure and safe. Perhaps the Eucharist addresses our need: "Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdensÖ"
The 1 Corinthians reference mirrors the thoughts of Isaiah as does Paul when he addresses what it means to be Godís people.
A reflection prompted by viewing the movie, The Apostle, and a visit from a traveling missionary.
The route from suffering to hope can be a very winding road, but fellow travelers along that road can give the lost traveler direction.
The author confesses he doesnít want to leave this body, to die, but when he is dragged out Ė kicking and screaming all the way Ė "at home with the Lord" is where heíll be.
The mother hen has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first.
The Spirit gives us the peace to withstand the pain, loss and ridicule we will encounter on the way to discovering new life after being as good as dead.
The author writes of those dying in traumatic moments and how their struggle with their illnesses is also a struggle of faith.
The author reminds us that we have a home in God and that God abides also in us.
Going to church makes a difference in how we live and in how we die.
Jesusí death is planned by Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin because he had brought forth life in Lazarus -- a double irony.
In the story of the blind man, John tells us the allegory that with completely good eyes, we canít see the truth, that we arenít worthy of the good things we get.
Jesus may have been making the point that nothing belongs to Caesar. In the conflict between the secular and the religious, how liberating it is to say, "No, I cannot attend, I will be at church."
The Beatitudes place our lives in the context of the whole realm and scope and community of Godís love and justice. More description than instruction, more report than directive, they compose a litany in which all promises point to the same reality.
That Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead is an article of our faith. Unfortunately, the mainline churches have left it to the sectarian groups to teach and preach on the second coming.
All families need access to adequate housing, a healthy diet, good education and security. But for huge numbers of people, those kinds of needs are fantasy. The answer just might lie in churches that are begging -- begging for the privilege of standing with those in need and applying a holistic gospel to the systems that deprive people of their dignity.
Trinitarian images ground Christian faith, love and hope by providing for the experiences of separation and distance in Christian life, while insisting on a unity with God that transcends all temporal and spatial boundaries.
Preachers seem to feel the need to explain the Trinity. But when you approach the mysterious feast of God, the direct approach simply will not work.
Our task "between the two advents" is simple faithfulness in our work and in our attitudes -- the kind of faithfulness that shows we are being drawn forward by the magnet force of the kingdom of God.
Jesusí feeding of the loaves and fishes to thousands is a metaphor of Paulís insistence that the gospel is to be fed to everyone, gentile and Jew alike.
What are our blind spots, what corners of the church and of society need serious reformation in the 21st century? What do we allow to go unchallenged today that will one day cause our grandchildren to shake their heads at how blind we were to the gospel?
In the season of Ascension we are asked to behold a beauty that until now has been only inferred, conjectured, dreamed.
This article appeared in The Christian Century, March 11, 2008, p. 20. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscriptions information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
If we asked the question "who are we and what is our destiny?", and if we refuse to accept answers from the world, the question will not be what we ask but what is asked of us.
Things were fine in Nazareth until Jesus opened his mouth and all hell broke lose.
Exposing our hearts to God, we are "branded" by the word that makes us community. Pain, indelibility and identity are the hallmarks of God writing the covenant on the heart of the people.
Johnís story about feeding the five thousand tells us that God wants hungry people fed. But the miracle, because it is also a "sign," teaches us that God wants more than stomachs filled.
The sign of the times, the clue to the breaking in of Godís reign, is the gracious and patient hand that reaches out to halt the ax, the merciful voice that says, "Letís give this hopeless case one more year."
Christians should care for the afflicted simply because they are human and because the need us, because we or they will never again have this chance. Even if we can do nothing to mend or to prevent the tragedy, we can warm the night.
For some of us it is always time to start getting ready to worry.
Paulís words are both instructive and troubling to us today. They teach us that there can be no such thing as community without unity of consciousness, collective action free of individual greed, humility and respect for the other and as much concern for the other personís welfare as for our own.
The love Jesus shows his disciples is the love we are called to show others.
In our day, the word of the Lord is cheap, visions are widespread and telemarketers call us by name. How do we distinguish Godís call?
If the word turns out not to be true, or the prediction does not come to pass, then it is evident that it was not a true word of Yahweh, but only prophetic arrogance.
As the church continues to reflect on the gift of the Spirit and the challenge of our calling, it is time to once again take up the mantle of speaking truth in love and exposing the big and small lies that entangle us and threaten our undoing.
Many of Jesusí teachings are not only hot, theyíre revolutionary But when they become too hot to handle, we retreat into one passage -- "Blessed are the meek" -- and throw it over any sparks that might ignite into a reordering of the world.
John had prepared the way Jesus would traverse, though not in the manner the Baptizer may have thought.
In the eating and drinking the church becomes the eucharistic presence of Christ in the world.
Seeing the master go, made it clear that now it was up to Elisha.
e employ human terms to communicate who God is, and here is God in human form among us in Jesus Christ.
Pilate and all the other tyrants who have come after him for 20 centuries challenge Jesus and his way of living and dying. Some of the challengers think that they have come up with a new move to get the best of the champion. But they never will.
Paul said, "We were gentle among you." (RVS) James Howell points out the word could be translated as "infants," and he writes a commentary on the possibilities of this.
God shares the experience of terror and death and answers not in the language of hatred and rejection, but in giving us the Word made flesh, God with us.
Not all Christology fits the contours of our lives, not all Christology can be consumed without remainder in moral examples and ethical preachments. While Christ is as we are, and therefore will help, Matthew’s Christophanies remind us that he is not as we are, and therefore can help.
We have no scientific evidence or rational proof that Jesus is risen from the dead. But the church exists because of the Easter event. Because Jesus is risen, he has become not only our judge in whose presence all of our life is an open book, but also the source of our forgiveness, our healing and our wholeness.
Leviticus reveals a God who is Wholly Other.
Christian spirituality is liberation, it is freedom. It is freedom to participate in the suffering of God for the world. It is suffering love. In Jesus we are liberated from self-seeking to share in the agony and pain of others.
Disconnectedness is the greatest threat to our spiritual security, both in the here and now and in the hereafter. Paul was the embodiment of a "living sacrifice" as he shared Godís reconnecting love with peoples all across the Greco-Roman world.
Lost sheep and coins are parts of a whole, the search is a quest for restoration and wholeness. Thus, all of us are part of Godís creation and should be just as anxious as God until the lost are restored and are made whole.
The author believes that the Abraham-Isaac scripture comes to us not only to demonstrate how very arduous it is to have a true, abiding faith in God, but also to paint for us the magnificence of the Creatorís grace in our lives.
In Godís new world order, it is possible to be a widow and prosperous rather than poor. It is possible to be self-possessed rather than powerless. It is possible to be an agent of ministry instead of an object of ministry.
A major clergy killer is the gap between our momentary but stirring mountaintop visions of the kingdom of God and the grubby sociological reality of the church in the valley. How do we keep at it?
Jesus thanks the Father for revealing to the simple and unlearned what has been hidden from the wise and the learned.
The disciples were suddenly alone, and felt afraid and forsaken. Jesus was to have been the conquering messiah with an "In your face, Rome" attitude. What went wrong? More important, where would the disciples go now.
We are ordained and baptized for the tragic moments of history Ė a priestly ministry of liturgy, articulation, peacemaking, programs of comfort and renewal justice-seeking -- and a ministry of word and sacraments that embraces other faith journeys and a world hungry for a communal story.
There are difficulties in recognizing and knowing Jesus. He is often noticed only as a stranger, an alien. Perhaps alien isnít such an ugly word.
How a cynic might delight in our liturgies that come stocked with prayers of confession.
A relationship to God does not remove one from but often places one in the line of fire.
Jesus goes beyond simply providing a model of charity, such as those who rescue abandoned babies. He also links acceptance of them with acceptance of himself.
Theologically, Christians must wonder why the only couples legally living under Jesusí proscription against divorce are same-sex couples.
The poetic imagery of Jeremiah invites us to sit with this textís recurring dance of reversal and triumph. In it we rediscover one of scriptureís principal themes: the story of Godís grace and compassion triumphing over Godís judgment.
Thomasís caution makes him a more credible witness. Furthermore, after the invitation to touch the wounds of Jesus, he penetrates even beyond the superficial excitement of the moment.
Advent is a time for uncovering, for facing up to various cover-ups.
Nothing is more crippling to our souls than working at hiding shame. We think we are keeping the world out, but in fact we are keeping ourselves locked in. It doesnít matter what you do, or how hard you try -- you are never going to have a better past.
Nothing is more crippling to our souls than working at hiding shame. We think we are keeping the world out, but in fact we are keeping ourselves locked in. It doesnít matter what you do, or how hard you try -- you are never going to have a better past.
Preachers are always saying, "Bless, bless, bless" when they ought to be saying. "Damn! Damn! Damn!"
Regarding the Alabama judge carrying from place to place a two and three quarter ton monument of the ten commandments, it seems the ethical demands of that document have become burdens, weights and heavy obligations to him and to many.
The author comments on Markís gospel ending and what his intention might have been in the suggested shorter version. What might we make of the various possible endings?
Jesus, like Moses before him, was about to set God’s people free, only it was not bondage to pharaoh they needed freeing from this time. It was bondage to their own fear of sin and death, which crippled them far worse than leg chains ever had.
Physical deafness and spiritual deafness are alike; Jesus confronted one type in the man born deaf, the other type in the Pharisees and others who were dulled to his message. The writer shares out of his own experience some of the insights he has gained about both kinds of impairment.
It all starts when God says, "I will be your God; you will be my people." Israel doesnít apply for the job; itís God who takes the initiative. God chooses. But then the chosen are challenged: "Choose this day whom you will serve."
If we stop pursuing justice, peace, healing and wholeness for our lives and for our world, we become supporters of that which we oppose.
At the marriage in Cana Jesus shows that the destruction of carefully laid out plans can be changed by unexpected circumstances.
The vineyard, left to us by God, is to be tended and made productive. His gift was luxuriant, creative and beautiful. How have we tended this garden God has given us?
The academic language of distancing analysis and explanation also serves to obfuscate the clear moral dimensions of life and the need to choose between right and wrong. On some issues, analysis and explanation are themselves a form of collusion.
The text confronts stark and conflicting sayings of Jesus that sit poorly with contemporary images of God. Nevertheless, This gospel lesson calls us to witness to the good news and to the crisis that is Godís consuming and compelling presence.
Justice alone is cold and calculating. The heart gives justice some breadth of emotional engagement, some passion. And the heart of God, whose preference is for all of us in our mortality and our various poverties, hears our cry for vindication and comes close by, speedily.
With Paul, we only have the right for one boast, and that is for the Love of God as displayed on the cross.
Jesus loses the argument and changes his mind 180 degrees as he learns something new and different through the remarks of a pagan. Whatís more itís from a pushy woman who is dogging his track.
We do right when we understand our differences as gifts of God and not devices of the devil. We do the right thing when we publicly acknowledge that left to ourselves we can do nothing right. We do right when we keep Christ in the center.
The fullness of the Spirit comes only when we are emptied of all the ego and self preoccupation that promises so much and delivers so little; emptied of all that is foolish and dying and ridiculous.
As Jesus was about to descend the Mount of Olives to enter Jerusalem, Mark reports, he dispatched two of his disciples to fetch a colt. A seemingly minor matter of transportation it would seem, but surprisingly, over half of Markís story of Jesusí entry into the city is occupied with mundane details about acquiring this animal -- where to go to find it, what kind of colt to seek, what to do, what to say.
God says, "You are forgiven." What are we to make of that?
Alas, we would strip the body off the cross, embalm it and cover it with cosmetics, render the cross in bronze, polish it, make it triumphant and clean.
Dreams have fallen on hard times in our jaded world. We should be grateful that a previous age preserved their legacy in Scripture.
What is the appropriate dress for a special occasion? Scripture tells us that our own righteousness is as filthy rags, so we understand that only God has the appropriate wardrobe for us.
The author reviews a book about the perplexing book of Job. †The book concludes that questions about the world, human existence, and God necessarily remain open.
The author asks: what is more tragic than to be dead spiritually, yet be acting as if we were alive?
Appearing to two nobodies going no where is an interesting choice when you think of all the other possibilities for the debut of the risen Lord.
If we test for what we know or envision, then the god we discover will be only the size of our certainties, and as dead as our faith. Resurrection invites us into the mystery of creation and into the presence of the living God. In that place, even death itself is not a certainty.
Eavesdropping on others as a way of getting operating instructions from God.
It is somewhat reassuring to realize that the first Christian sermon ever preached did not register high on the Richter scale. When the women came back from the cemetery on Easter morning, they brought with them word of an empty tomb and astonishing news: "He is not here but has risen!" All Christian preaching begins here,
Having heard the invitation to follow so long ago, we need to hear it again, and then to act.
The rapturous beginnings and sufferings mean nothing if we havenít entered by the right door. For Christians the door is the person of Jesus Christ.
After the resurrection, every time he came to his friends they became stronger, wiser, kinder, more daring. Every time he came to them, they became more like him.
Cynthia Campbell defends each generationís scholarship in searching for the real Jesus providing the search is accompanied by the Holy Spirit.
The parables of Jesus demonstrate that sometimes we may be forced to change our standards to make traditions more accessible.
In Advent, dare we risk exploring the meaning of our longing for God?
Jesus finds himself in the middle of a kind of theological cross-examination free-for-all. Priests, scribes, elders and other assorted defenders of the letter of the law are swarming all over him in a frenzy of entrapment.
Weíre not to be haughty or set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches hut instead rely on our richly provident God.
Through Godís graciousness, both Sarah and Hagar are blessed despite the fear they face -- Ishmael does become the father of a nation, and lo and behold, Abraham becomes the progenitor of both Jews and Arabs.
The author reviews four books which offer theological, ethical and empirical reasons to be indignant about persistent domestic and global poverty and inequality.
We are to address the bored and idle among us by gently fostering hope. This demands that we not rush to alleviate boredom, but that we negotiate true desire over hopelessness.
Without the grace of Christ, who makes Godís reconciliation a reality despite human sin, the devastation of relationships might get the best of us.
The death of Jesus only yielded three days of calm before the disciples came out of hiding claiming that he was raised to new life. By Pentecost the flames were beginning to roar. As the high priestís frustration escalated, so did his attempts to deter Jesusí disciples from teaching, healing and preaching.
Too much cheerfulness is displayed at many celebrations of the Pentecost. It is time to take Pentecost back from the celebrants of exuberant but easy triumph.
Every Christian struggles with the tensions of pragmatism and vision. But there is no one-time solution.
That Jesus can and does identify with the uprooted, the pursued, the victim, is in itself an encouraging and redeeming word. In Jesus, God has identified with those who suffer violence and with the homeless, those who have no place to lay their heads (Matt. 8:20).
Even a persecuted Christianity had a humanizing impact on the culture at large.
The flock that Jesus so lovingly describes in the Gospel of John is the same flock that is divided today, for when modern Christians cannot even agree on the date of Easter, it seems that something has gone terribly wrong.
We must confess that, by and large, we Christians prefer flood control -- Godís love tamed, so that we can have his blessings within the framework of the order we have created.
The author remembers meeting a woman in Russia who was not ashamed to be a fool for Christ's sake.
The news that some mainline Protestants have decided to recognize one anotherís communion table means little to those who sit in our pluralistic pews. Theyíve been bouncing around in their own private ecumenical movements for years, attending a wedding here and a baptism there. They have a growing sense that denominational divisions are a thing of the past.
Dr. Wall examines the meaning of I Corinthians 4:10: "we are fools for Christ's sake."
An eschatology without ethics is futuristic and irrelevant. Ethics without an eschatology is desperate and futile. But joined together, they can produce the power to wash feet and sustain Peterís rebuke; to live fully today because God is in the present as well as in the tomorrow, and to work for the impossible because with God all things are finally possible.
Here is a message for grown-ups at Christmas that is an essential part of the feast.
The good efect of the righteous, though they are a minority, must have healing power in the community.
The parable of the unforgiving servant reminds us that to receive forgiveness, we must ourselves be forgiving.
Our varied approaches to scripture, our theories about depth versus breadth of coverage, and our work and worry over students with vastly different degrees and kinds of formation donít matter nearly so much as the ways we practice and embody the virtues of a faithful lover or a religious reader.
The redemption of the body of Christ surely calls for the timely and literal adoption of every child who is waiting to be wanted, accepted and loved, be the adopting couple straight or gay.
After Easter, the disciples witnesses to the victory of God -- not expert witness, just witnesses -- witnessing to the risen Christ within them. We too are to witness to the risen Christ within us.
In the Christmas event, God confounds our claims of self-sufficiency and our self-image as generous givers by putting us on the receiving end of Godís love.
What does it mean to become a Christian? The text of Ephesians answers: You have been created again as Godís masterpiece for two purposes: to show what God can do through Jesus Christ, and to serve human need, engaging in good works which reflect the nature of God as gracious love.
God took upon God's self the wrath deserved by humankind.
Our calling now and always is not to sugarcoat the gospel as entertaining diversion from a writhing world but as the power from God for sharing in its convulsions as people of indestructible hope.
Instead of perpetuating a world of violence, Isaiah proposes a vision that demands a reality that requires peacemaking: doing good, seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan and pleading for the widow.
There are no boundaries to Advent hope, because there are no boundaries to God.
The Pharisee has kept a precise record of his religious temperature and informs God of every change in degree.
We who so often feel powerless over the elusiveness of language, the scarcity of natural resources, the horror of world hunger, are thrilled to witness the unveiled, magical power of Jesus.
Like Jesusí life and work, our marriages share in the same irony -- the full weight and glory of each appears only when death comes to part the bride and groom.
As always, God takes us by surprise.
Nobody likes prophets; there are other, more soothing, more entertaining voices uttering less demanding words. These are the voices of dreams, claiming to speak the will of God but not holding the dreams up to the light of the promise; few people ask if the dreams speak to love of neighbor. Instead they listen to voices of blame raised against whoever is not the listener and voices of painless solutions saying peace when there is no peace, but only cheap grace.
Maybe the only comfort we the comfortable can legitimately embrace lies in the realization that God cannot be forever mocked -- that his grace will not forever endure ridicule, that the mockery of easy American Christianity will not endure forever.
The voice of God can be heard outside the protective walls of the church -- but you might not like what you hear.
In the midst of our trivial moralizing, our scolding, supererogation, and scrambling for a few penitential brownie points, John reminds us of why we’re here. We are on the way of the cross not because of what we have done or left undone but because of what God has done.
The world is divided into the poor and the rich, those who long for freedom, and those who have freedom but donít know what to do with it; those who long for God to come and bring justice, and those who fear that he just might.
Paul shows what the prophet Isaiah has in mind about "seeking the Lord while he is near." The interests of my neighbor are always near: But like the prophet and parable, he also reveals how far these thoughts are from being ours.
Unlike the gods and goddesses of the other nations and unlike the philosopher’s vision of a transcendent goodness, the God of Abraham has taken a stake in human affairs.
It was God’s eternal plan to make us what he himself is.
The Christmas story raises this fundamental questions: Did God act?
When we suffer together, God becomes present to us in the arm of the other resting upon our shoulders.
Analysis of an apparent contradiction between these two passages of scripture, indicating a "wicked sense of humor on someoneís part."
The world wants Christmas jingles and the church sings a lament! The world has visions of sugar plums dancing in its head and the church sees only angry Jews standing by the fence, wailing toward heaven: We Americans are doing better, better and better. And the old church had better get in step or it shall be left behind as our joyous parade of happy, successful, progressive, positive people moves upward, upward and ever onward.
Trying to get to God, the people of Babel ended up being scattered, for they had separated themselves from the people around them.
"Good Shepherd" to us means what we seen in a stained glass window, but in this country Good Shepherds come in all sizes, shapes, ages and colors -- Men in jeans, boys in cowboy hats, a Navajo with lamb in hand keeping it from the coyotes Ė to Ezekiel, all are images of God.
John is convinced that life is double-plotted, that ordinary events unfold around us but that hidden among all the mundane props are signs of the eternal .
Itís this standing in grace. Itís this having no other way to account for where one is. Itís this sense of having been held and fed and loved, as a child is loved, that drives us, as it certainly drove Paul, to a sense of grace universal.
When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, he declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Talk about a grand introduction! What could Jesus have felt in that moment?
Our very struggle with Paulís injunction to give thanks for everything has its redemptive benefits.
Walking in the light of loving behavior often appears to others as groping in the darkness.
Jesus is 12 years old and has been separated from his parents in a huge city. He has an encounter that changes him forever, teaching him self-awareness and, above all, knowledge of the One whom he will always think of as a loving Father.
The way to entertain strangers is to invite everybody, all the nobodies, the transgressors of class boundaries. Donít lower you standards, have none Ė all of them angels Ė sent by God. Simple acts and words can be a welcome, civilizing social lubricant.
Epiphany, the feast of the shining, is here and we are expected to walk in his radiance as he guides us into the way of peace.
For someone to be simultaneously atheistic and optimistic strikes us as the dumbest of all possible attitudes. How can we have it both ways except through the most exaggerated effort at ignorance? For roosters, optimism comes easily.
The parable is not concerned about the conflict between the principle of good and evil. It is a story neither of fatalism nor of retribution. It suggests no philosophical system. It confronts us irresistibly, disturbing our conscience and urging us toward an ethic of social responsibility.
Mark did not need an appearance of the risen Christ to affirm his faith in the resurrection.
Easter is the Christian Genesis: death and despair displaced by life and hope.
We may or may not be cured by engaging and wrestling with God, but we will be healed. The difficulty is that engagement is hard work, and the vulnerability it requires is terrifying.
God’s favor is granted to those whom society regards as the ones left behind: the poor in spirit, the meek, the mourners, the merciful, those hungering for justice, the purehearted, the makers of peace, those mistreated for the cause of justice.
The transfiguration helps us see beyond Jesus of Nazareth, radically transformed into the Son of God, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, fully human and fully divine.
Division is so much a part of human experience that we are often divided against ourselves. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians will always have their differences, but he wants them to see that it is only the unity found in Christ that matters.
What is heaven like? -- uninhibited presence with God.
"The post-Easter blahs that most churches face": Freebairn sees Easter as a process. Two of Jesus’ followers meet a stranger on the road and their hearts are strangely warmed in an hour of empty coldness. Then they began the task that changed this world.
There is no way the disciples could imagine that, in the death and resurrection of the one they called Lord, God would defeat Leviathan?
We can never be certain that we are not among the false prophets.
Knowing you may die intensifies the mission. You risk, you love, you speak. How many of us, when facing death, have felt more fully alive than at other times in life?
As Simeon held the future in his arms, so we also have children now briefly intrusted to our arms for blessing and who will, we hope, live on after us.
This is what baptism is: God places a song in your heart. Your godparentsí role is to learn that song so well that they can sing it back to you when you forget how it goes.
If we want to be Jesusí followers, we need to face both the public pain of humiliation and physical agony, and the private grief of losing our precious selves in order to be conformed to Christ.
The disciple who can fast, who can depend on God for sustenance for a whole day or two, will not be easy prey to purveyors of instant gratification and immediate solutions, or to advertising, which dominates the contemporary world, with its promise of rapid -- and empty -- reward.
We love to dream of the promised land. In Advent, however, we tread the wilderness, out where fiery John induces nightmares. In the wilderness, prepare a way! God has raised up children from stones. Swim along, singing!
Too much of our times are drowning in mutual holy hateó"Youíre wrong, but Iím right." But even "you and I" need to pray a variation of what he whom they mocked cried out: "Father, also forgive me; for I do not know what I am doing."
Faith, the author reminds us, is a matter of the heart.
Of all the prophets ever slain in Israel, America or anywhere else, God raised this one, this healer of gentiles and friend of sinners, so we might know that God has forgiven everything, and continues to do so even today.
The imminence of death has a way of making things clear -- the uncertainties of life, the importance of love, the startling discontinuities and continuities between this life and eternity.
To keep our heads clear of the narcotic of war, we must cultivate an alternative power, an alternative source of meaning. Good Shepherd Sunday may be the time to recall that we derive our identity not from the prestige of our country but from the presence of our Lord.
Mourning elicits courageous, hopeful engagement, so be busy grieving and working on solid ground, not 17,000 feet in the air.
Hospitality is vital not because of the food shared but because of the word shared.
We cannot corrupt the memory of those faithful servants of God like Paul whose suffering is part of a witness to the gospel.
A display of the sinful excesses of the age upon the environment.
God feeds our deepest hunger with the bread of life, therefore we are to do his will.
An unexpected halt is a religious experience if it occasions a discontinuity in one’s identity. Discontinuity, whether spiritual or physical, presents a crisis, a moment of truth. Is not this what religion is essentially about?
To the writer, the important question, in a religiously diverse culture, is how does one maintain Christian identity and integrity? The answer is found in Jesus: love God and neighbor.
Too much like the Athenians, we want to engage God only as a concept, not as a God-man who lays a claim upon our lives.
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. [Luke 14:7-14]
MIT requires all students take the swim test. The Rev. Christian Coon compares a studentís question: "Why is this test necessary?" with the same question we might ask of Jesus and his temptation in the wilderness.
If we are to find Christ in others we must exercise our imaginations.
How can Christians speak of about the purposes of God -- hence, in some way, God's nature -- when we have no knowledge of the divine timetable. The miraculous wonder of what we have been gifted to comprehend drives us to admit that we know nothing.
Hope is the one thing for which there is no acceptable alternative. The most difficult thing about faith is how much faith it requires.
Jamesí persistence and how it demonstrates the power to transform us and thereby our speech through the work of the Spirit.
The reign of God is a reign of compassion in which we are to participate.
Jesus ignored the details of life, yet the best news is that once weíve learned to look for Jesus, weíll find him in every detail of life.
One must fathom the mystery of death and resurrection in facing the trauma inflicted upon those who worked the edges of the New York abyss at ground zero.
It’s a sobering thought -- as surrogate parents, you and I are about as good as Jesus, on balance, is likely to find. If the love of God cannot be advanced through such as we, it is not likely ever to be advanced. It is time for us to grow out of our juvenile, neurotic absorption with our frailties and begin assuming our roles as God’s earthly parents.
It is the nature of Jesus--and of God--to keep showing up when and where we do not expect him.
Jesus had compassion on the crowed for they were hungry and thirsty. This is the immediate context of the feeding of the five thousand. It is not a demonstration of Christís miraculous power. He was not a magician or wonder worker. The feeding of the people was the natural outcome of his compassion.
Itís difficult for mortals to forgive totally but Jesus did. Mortals often fail, but to God all things are possible.
Why does Jesus a Jew, choose a woman--a Samaritan woman whom the Jews hated, a woman who had had many husbands, a prostitute living in sin, an outcastóas the first to receive the message as to who he really is?
A priest must not only be of God but also of the people. He must become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, tested through suffering in order to help those being tested, and Jesus is so qualified.
All the synoptic gospels record that Jesus spoke of Israel as Godís vineyard. The parables make it clear that God cared for his vineyard and how disappointed he was that it didnít produce the expected fruit. In the fourth gospel, Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches.
We prefer the gentle Jesus, but how can we ignore that side of Jesus that is white-hot with righteous rage and impatience over the sinfulness and unbelief of the world? Indeed, in the Gospels the harsh sayings outnumber the gentle ones, but Jesus did not return from the grave casting his threatened wrathful “fire upon the earth.” In the cross, the fire of divine wrath had already fallen. Transposed by the resurrection, the threat of Jesus became a blessing.
The summary of the law, as simple as it may seem, is actually complex. Jesus ingeniously combined love of God (Deut. 6:5) and neighbor (Lev. 19:18). Jewish scholars had devised other summaries of Torah, but Jesusí summary is unique, and his assertion that the two laws are inseparable is also distinctive.
Paulís vision is that when Christians are joined together they find strength rather than distress. They will be stronger together because they are together in Christ. Itís when they split up that they get into trouble.
Lent calls us to return to the source of our power: the victory of Christ.
Judas’ attitudes parallel our own. We are so caught within the iron vise of our secular, materialistic, hedonistic perspectives that the God of Jesus is like an illicit mistress or lover whom we, like Judas, kiss in the dark.
Dr. Long agonizes between his rejection of petitionary prayer and his need for it in traumatic situations.
Speaking is not truthful if it does not also "build up" and "give grace." When we speak truth and love together, we give the riches of Godís grace.
The Magi represent forever for all of us the wisdom that recognizes human life to be a journey taken in search of One who calls us beyond ourselves into faithful service.
When we get it right, the work of love is hardly work at all.
Telling the thought in a story is far superior to simply thinking. It is not so much a matter of thinking as doing--and not doing so much as being and witnessing. Just come and see, and we might realize that Jesus came to make us both more holy and more fully human.
God sends patient caregivers, dedicated researchers and physicians, devoted family and friends to walk with the ill through their painful journey, whether it be a journey toward cure or a journey toward a fuller life. Such people are sent from God whether they know it or not.
We give Nicodemus a bad rap, reducing him to a foil, a cowardly dolt. But Jesus received him as a pilgrim, a sincere religious seeker. In truth, he is the Patron Saint of Seekers, a fellow traveler and a kindred spirit, someone to be embraced.
For the one who believes in the God who gives life to the dead, the Lenten journey is not only to Good Friday and Easter, but is also a revisiting of oneís own experience.
The Son of Man must suffer because he will reject every compromise with the authorities, the crowds, the Romans and even with his own beloved Peter.
Many of us have sung our own Magnificat without realizing that what we sing echoes Maryís song.
Whether we look to the liberation of peoples living in lands dark as death, or to that inner liberation that comes by the discipline of grace, we must hear creationís imbongis sing praise as the psalmist commanded, "Glory to God in highest heaven, and on earth peace."
When he spoke of what happened to him on the Damascus Road, Paul never knew whether to call it being born or being killed. In a way, it felt like both at the same time. Whatever it was, it had something to do with letting go.
Jesus proposes some very troubling conditions for discipleship. We are asked to "hate" our parents, spouse, children, siblings, even life itself. Jesusí teaching must have surprised and confused the enthusiastic crowd, and quickly thinned out the ranks of his supporters.
Terrible things happen, and you are not always to blame. But don’t let that stop you from doing what you are doing.
Critical self-examination brings two painful revelations of faults: faults that are proud, even arrogant, strutting openly and defiant, in full view of all; and faults buried so deep in the heart that even the transgressor is unaware of them. But God knows. As nothing is hidden from the sun, so nothing is hidden from God.
Isaiah, Paul and Luke note an ongoing theological tension between the assurance of Godís kindness and the call to immediate repentance. Godís unaccountable mercy provides additional time for repentance. Yet there will be a reckoning, and human presumption can push even Godís patience too far.
To listen to Jesus, to be a disciple of Jesus, is to walk with Jesus to Golgotha. As we walk with him, as we talk with him, our human nature is being transformed into the likeness of divine nature.
Abramís life was devoid of purpose or passion until he heard the word from the Lord. He needed this call to help him separate from his past and embrace Godís future for his life. He followed that voice to a place he had never seen before.
Advent invites us to live in hope and not in despair. The violent death of Jesus on the cross was not the end, for in Jesusí resurrection we are assured of new life. Violence will not have the last word.
In the world of power politics, connections are hard-earned and easily lost; in the reign of God, power flows from a connection that is freely offered and must be freely received, for faith is grounded in a relationship, an encounter with the living God, who is the source of true and lasting power in this life.
Being able to confess Jesus as Messiah is a critical thing, but having a sense of what that means is an ongoing process. When confession is only knowledge, then the cross is only death on a tree and the resurrection is only reward.
Contemplation of nature is a reliable remedy for the worries that can paralyze and plague us. When Jesus points us toward the birds of the air or the lilies of the field, he is not just trying to get our minds off our worries; he is pointing us to a way of discerning the larger purposes of God.
Jesusí miracles are not an in-your-face showcase for divine power. Instead, they herald Jesus' dying and rising, his relinquishment and resurrection. We who die and rise with Christ are lifted up even as we lift others.
Jesusí miracles are not an in-your-face showcase for divine power. Instead, they herald Jesus' dying and rising, his relinquishment and resurrection. We who die and rise with Christ are lifted up even as we lift others.
The kingdom of god, the power of God, is like the leaven that works only when combined with flower.† It is among us, permeating every aspect of our lives, changing, enlightening and transforming us.
Everything changes when we realize that the only rewards that matter can't be earned. Trying to earn the blessing causes much unhappiness and pathology. Our inner striving becomes insatiable and cannibalizes itself into a black hole of exhaustion.
Both passages suggest that this is a time of waiting, of letting things grow and unfold. But it's also a time of looking forward to some sort of resolution, an end time, in a not-yet time trusting that godís promise will be fulfilled.
Through his death and resurrection, Jesus will save the whole creation. For Christians, this is the mystery of baptism, the paradoxical drowning that brings life.
Through his death and resurrection, Jesus will save the whole creation. For Christians, this is the mystery of baptism, the paradoxical drowning that brings life.
From words about Abraham, "He grew strong in his faith" we learn that faith is not only a gift from God, but also an aptitude that grows with use: we learn how to be faithful in the process of trusting God.
God's extravagant act of mercy toward sinners in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should inspire hope and confidence in us sinners in all our dealings with God. The cross of Christ reveals that grace toward sinners lies at the very heart of God.
The waters of baptism offer more than explanations. They speak the silent, miraculous language of grace--the language that invites us, in rhythms deeper than words, to be buried, united, freed.
The first half of Romans easily subverts our faithfulness to the second half.† If the first half had been subordinated to the second half, the past few years might have been quite different.
We may quite unconsciously speak a mixture of our own deceits and the word of God.
Jesus location far from Galilee and Jerusalem suggests that defilement and purity are not determined by physical, attributable or demonstrative components, but that purity is ultimately assessed by what one says and does.
In the economy of Godís grace those who are hired at the very end, those whom no one else wants, are the closest to Godís heart. In that economy the last are placed first in line.
The questions in the temple are still the questions in our communities. Too many of us believe that God's activity is all past tense, or believe that the Spirit has nothing new to renew in us.
These verses are a pep talk by Paul to the ďbody of Christ.Ē †Remember who you are and who got you where you are and who is the source of your strength.
The goal of being together in the body of Christ is not to agree or get along. The hope is to help one another become more Christlike, to love God and neighbor in ever more praising ways.
Simeon and the Annas invite reflection on whether what we know of the story of Godís redemption shapes our lives in ways that keep us open and attentive to Godís presence and present work.
Jesus has universalized the worship of God and has moved away from the central place given to temples made with hands. While the Jewish high priest enters the earthly sanctuary in Jerusalem, Jesus Christ the high priest has entered the heavenly one -- a temple made without hands.
Jesus as host gives consent for troubled people to be filled with promise. We are to join them and be ready to put our whole selves to serve.
Christians are to encourage one another in faithful stewardship, challenged by the idea that we are stewards of much and owners of nothing.
We seem to have become complacent about our denominational and racial divisions. The pain of Christian division is rarely felt by any of us.
John thought that it was important to remind those who had never met Jesus in the flesh that Jesus was still present, but in a new way.
The first Christians were thought to be drunk with new wine, and Festus thought Paul’s defense of the faith merited a court-ordered psychiatric examination. By the world’s standards of what works, and who is greatest, and what is practical, the Christian faith can look foolish indeed.
Much of the training in nonviolent change consists of self-purification and the cleansing of hatred from the heart of those who would change the hearts of others.
Some speculations of cosmologists come tantalizingly close to being religious.. We know by our faith that the triune God is how the world came to be, the energy that keeps it going, and the future toward which it -- and we -- move.
Once in a while Christian congregations act like true communities.
There are many perils in the travels of life, but out of such darkness Godís glory appears in the midst of our journeys to the cross.
Mark 10:32-45 summarizes all the major themes of Markís Gospel. In a nutshell, it offers everything that is quintessential Mark: the journey toward the cross, suffering and death, wrongheaded disciples, the reversal of power and Jesusí reflection upon the meaning of his mission. For Mark, this is the guts of the gospel: that we follow a suffering Christ, a crucified criminal.
In our baptism, we celebrate the incomparable gift we receive as creatures who are beloved of God. Baptism is also about the responsibility this gift requires.
As Christ surprised Mary in the garden, he may also surprise us in the routine of the liturgy, the lections and hymns, perhaps even in the preaching.
Neither Catholic nor Protestant tradition and practice have done Mary justice. Her story reminds us that the oddest, most inglorious moments are packed with the annunciation of God’s presence and God’s call to serve.
In the annunciation God waits in breathless suspense for Maryís answer Ė and for ours.
Mary’s song sticks in our throats. But perhaps it can become our song.
Something deep and universal in the human person needs hope in order to live, and many things in our society masquerade as hope but are not.
We define ourselves by our belongings, by our consumption. However, the materialism Jesus calls us to requires not the accumulation of material goods, but an engagement with people, especially those in need.
Jesus takes issue with those whose spiritual focus is on the surface, who are concerned solely with outward actions. He is perturbed by those who have reduced religion to doing the "right things," to looking good, to maintaining outward appearances.
A narrative of a Lenten meditation in poetic form written from the standpoint of the apostle Thomas: And if it were not for his love, his grace that sought me out behind locked doors, called me to touch and then believe, I would not be here at your humble table ready now with you, to break the bread and pour the wine as he did years ago.
Nature surrounds us and we are a part of it. Yet we have a spiritual quality that transcends the dictates of nature. This quality must constantly be nurtured to avoid falling into a variety of idolatries.
The biblical meaning of faith cannot be reduced to individualistic voluntarism. Faith is the miracle of God-given trust, that willingness beyond willfulness that says, "Whoever I am thou knowest, O God, I am thine."
The biblical meaning of faith cannot be reduced to individualistic voluntarism. Faith is the miracle of God-given trust, that willingness beyond willfulness that says, "Whoever I am thou knowest, O God, I am thine."
In the violence and hatred weíve made of our world, can mercy really be at the heart of God? There is room for Godís mercy if we will only believe that Godís patience is salvation for us all.
As did John, Jesus points away from himself and seeks to deflect the messianic expectations put upon him. Trying to evade his superstar status and the attributions ofí glory, he points instead to what is near and soon and already stirring in the lives of those to whom he speaks.
Christ is pulling us out of darkness into light that we might be a witness to that light.
We set the evidentiary bar so high for a miracle of healing that a dozen miracles happen to us and we donít notice any of them.
The mystery of the incarnation holds our greatest solace and comfort, namely that wherever we go in suffering, in hurt and sorrow and despair, God has gone there first, goes with us, shows up (!), and is glad to be there with us and for us. It is amazing that the first great heresy in the church was not the denial of Christís divinity, but the denial of his full humanity.
Every model of inclusivity entails specific convictions -- which will exclude somebody.
Jesus tells the story of the owner of the vineyard to show that his listeners, members of the religious establishment of his time, have missed the point. The story is breathtakingly clear. Those who "get it" have to do away with him. They mock him, deride him and finally kill him.
The early church was quick to build a case against Judas. What would have happened if Judas had repented, recanted and re-joined the twelve?
One ought not be intimidated by the judgmentalism of religious people for it has very little of God in it. Jesus gets out of the Saccucess trick question by quoting Exodus: "ÖGod is not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all alive to him."
The key to the politics of love, the key to that limitless imagination that sees only abundance, that desires only the things that are not in short supply -- that key lies in worship.
Charles Hoffman shows that to John, religion is not melancholy, but full of Godís grace mediated through Christ. Godís grace is more prodigal than it is miserly.
Forgiven much, this woman loves much more than good taste allows.
The author criticizes the tendency of Americans to gloat in triumph over its victories. He is saddened when Christians pick up a new sword of Constantine, a wicked instrument of triumphalism.
Most of the time, the ragged human convoy of divergent perceptions, piqued honor, high-minded posturing, insecurity, good humor and basic generosity will wend its way to insight and accomplishment.
Jonah, Prophet of the Lord, may or may not have accepted the counterintuitive morality so prevalent throughout the Bible. Samaritans can be good neighbors; stutterers can be lawgivers; theophanies are likely to be encountered in the still, small voice; and not even Nineveh is beyond Godís compassion.
The situation is bizarre: a hostile pagan king asks an impossible favor for his generalissimo, thereby setting the stage for disappointment and what might well be the next political disaster. Jesus plays with the politics implicit in the story, making good use of the perennial tensions between Jew and gentile, us and them.
The name "Legion" of the man from Gerasa is key to the story. Itís about Rome whose legions possessed Israel. This story is a coded identification of Jesus the liberator.
Paul suggests to Timothy that remembering his ancestors increases his faith, and more: it is a warrant for recognizing faith.
Those who know that they are owned by God recognize that their primary identity is not as cogs in the economic machine, for their baptism has taught them who they are and whose they are.
Jesusí baptism is tied to a history that leads back from John the Baptist to Isaiah to the first words of Genesis. Our new life is bound to those who prepared us for faith, and through them to the history of the church, to the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to the affirmations and promises of the "First Testament" and to Godís kindness in creating the universe.
"Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times." This is strange language to us. We have mainlined grace so cheaply that we no longer understand the disconnect in our own spiritual lives.
The greatest songs often come out of a generation facing pain and suffering. Observing Zephaniah, Isaiah and Paul, it is salutary to look at the extraordinary music generated through the difficulties faced by these great men.
By worshiping its way to renewal and hope, the community of faith has something to offer a world full of weariness, faintness, powerlessness and despair.
After the resurrection, Jesus is in the room with the disciples. Jesus says a most ordinary but absurd thing -- "Peace be with you." Is this a joke in their fear and guilt? The words are neither a salutation nor an attempt at ironic humor, but the fulfillment of a promise.
We cannot tell someone who has suffered a great evil at the hands of others that God is bringing good out of the tragedy. If it is going to happen at all, the victims must discover for themselves that God has somehow created something new out of their suffering, that out of their survival Godís grace can even provide food to save someone else from famine.
Faithful to the unknown and unknowable, love not only transfigures the lover, but calls her by name:
Though we often donít "stand firm" as Paul admonishes the Philippian believers to do, we long for Jesus to reach out and draw us to him in spite of ourselves.
If our hearts are closed to hearing the cry for justice, mercy and bread, the words of the resurrected One will not be convincing, but convicting.
A theology of grace does not negate the law, but it seeks to transform those aspects of human relationships which the law cannot touch and which may even make law a vehicle for hatred and sin.
Here is the agenda for the post-Easter journey -- joy and peace, mission and forgiveness, faith and proclamation, love and life.
How is our obedience to God mediated or intersected by loyalty to institutions and to our friends?
The life of Paul was an adventure of exploring the meaning of Christ for the Jews as well as for the Gentiles.
Bethlehem is nine miles south of Jerusalem. The wise men had a long intellectual history of erudition and a long-term practice of mastery. But they had missed their goal by nine miles. It is mind-boggling to think how the story might have gone had Herodís interpreters not remembered Micah 2.
The disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration not only saw a vision; they also heard Godís voice coming out of the cloud, saying, "This is my child, my Chosen; listen to him." I hear that voice, too, when members of the church hear and heed those things Christ has said: Love one another. Forgive, as God has forgiven you. Follow me.
In a world that continues to "bend" womenís lives, we must follow Jesus in claiming that the lives of women are sacred, and that women are invited to be healed and flourish in the presence of the Holy One.
No stranger to the ways of the real God, Abraham would know that a mad, disordered, barbaric age needs more than a faith with no claim but that its god can be served without cost.
Should civilization’s survival be our only issue in the nuclear age? As Jesus walked down a road to a place of the skull, survival was definitely not the issue.
In Holy conversation with God we make known our needs, we learn to pray for the essential requirements and recognize Godís generous gifts providing our day to day necessities.
Yes, said Isaiah, they were being judged for their sins and the judgment was severe. But that was not Godís ultimate purpose in sending the Babylonians to drag the Hebrews away. The real purpose was to call them to a deeper understanding of the covenant.
To be at a beginning is to find that we are not prisoners of the past. We can always begin again.
Before the end-times, world problems will multiply. Problems in our times are climactic heralding the predictions of end-times. But Jesus indicated that no one knows when the end will appear.
The annunciation of the good news to Mary makes it clear that she was able to sing her song because she had listened well and said yes to God. We can trust that even in this violent, unjust and despairing world, Godís word of hope is true.
"He must increase but I must decrease." If we had heard nothing else from Johnís lips, those seven words would assure us that he was no demagogue trumpeting an agenda of the self. Here is a sure way to assess the claims of anyone professing to have a message for us from God.
The belief that Christians have "superseded" Israel as the chosen of God -- that we have replaced the Jews as the apple of Godís eye, that we are the singular recipients of Godís election -- has led, in the extreme, to the Holocaust. It has also kept the church from an honest examination of its flawed relationship with God.
The early believers grasped on to an image of Jesus as the priest who is in solidarity with humanity at its most vulnerable.
An essential part of Christianity is that the truth is not to be found in denying or escaping the arena of natural and historical activity, but within it.
The author compares the "party" with the golden calf with the parables of the kingdom that describe a great party that God throws for the elect.
The world that is overcome by darkness and death is itself overcome by the light of Christ.
Our prayers will be answered, in Godís own time and Godís own way, and when they are, I hope we wonít brag about it, but rather be humbly grateful and give the glory to God Almighty.
An Advent meditation in which Goetz explores the abstract and paradoxical account of the advent of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of John.
Confinement can bring into being a bursting-out into wide expanses, can send the mind and the heart on journeys toward the most distant horizons.
Now that Pentecost has come, the primal divine command to have dominion over creation requires the church to get on with good stewardship of the earth. We do so not to the neglect of the gospel, but because we believe it and act upon it.
It is possible to pray for success in achieving such goals as weight reduction without being blasphemous as long as one understands the appropriate context of prayer. If we are prudent, we will never ask God to do anything for us unless we are prepared to pay the price in our own blood, toil, tears or sweat.
The only person who has ever been truly free of a messiah complex was the Messiah.
The meaning of conversion, with the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus as case study.
We are so shaped by modern skepticism that we may even be tempted to doubt the certainty of our own experience of Christ when he cannot be produced on command in a narrowly positivistic or rationalistic manner.
The church at large is not heeding the gravity of the message of the prophets. It cloaks itself in comfort, ignoring the politics of poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia that spreads oppression in the world like a fire out of control. The church thinks its task is to steep itself in spiritual exercises that have nothing to do with justice and righteousness in the world.
We know God is out there because the Logos became flesh. Now weíve seen him; now we know.
Blessing and sacrifice are closely linked in Christian living.
Voices from all sides beckon us, but amidst all the noise of competing authorities, the voice of the Lord breaks the heavens open to deliver a word of love.
The popular view of the ascension should be changed. If the ascension is understood as not about a direction but instead about the place Jesus occupies in creation and in our hearts, it becomes a powerful counter to the economic and political powers of our day.
We may experience great religious heights, but itís the valleys and deserts that tend to draw us nearest to God.
Times of silence of questioning are the prelude to new works of God in our lives.
The Rev. Rachel Srubas confesses she does not know fully how to pray as she ought. She trusts that the Spirit, who deeply sighs where words leave off, intercedes for her -- and for us, and for "all creation." And that is enough.
From the foundation of the world, God had a plan and purpose for his creation. It was kept secret, but now he was pleased to reveal it to us in Jesus Christ. It is about the unity of all things.
Who is Jesus? He is God become man. How can we say so radical a thing? It is because through his humanity, we are able to see the fullness of his majesty -- a majesty so sure that it can serve and die and still be the source of life.
How is what you say shaped by whether or not you are heard or valued in the hearing?
Awaiting with expectation and preparing to receive the Lord are two important aspects of the Advent season. We must prepare a straight path for the Lord, removing all obstacles which stand in the Lordís way preventing him from coming. All the crooked ways in our life, in the life of our society need to be straightened out. Every mountain and hill should be brought low and every valley be lifted up.
Perhaps there are times when we need to be more aggressive than merely asking Christians to give. Sometimes a bit of Paulís persuasiveness is needed.
Current articles and subscriptions information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Jesus teaches that those who are faithful in little are faithful in much, and those who are dishonest with earthly resources will be untrustworthy with more significant responsibilities. The small details matter.
Stock analysts were endorsing corporations even though they knew that the corporations would soon crumble into bankruptcy. Who can you trust? We can trust God. Our confidence rests in knowing that the promises God makes to us are connected to Godís presence with us.
Music can inspire glimpses of glory, the proof of the existence of God. The author gives illustrations of how music can make this happen.
Before the empty tomb, the disciples did not comprehend the words of Jesus, but rather were divisive in competition for seats of favor in the coming kingdom. But thereafter, they remembered and they understood, they regrouped and were faithful in continuing the work of Jesus, even in the face of opposition as strong as any Jesus himself had to endure.
Christians must never be taken in by worldly attacks on humility -- not only for our souls’ sakes, but for the sake of the world itself. A prideful Christian is perhaps the world’s most dangerous citizen.
Belief in the saving and redeeming work of Jesus Christ, in his incarnation and his teaching, guiding and redemptive ministries is the sine qua non of salvation.
He who is coming will not preside over us. He will teach us how to make peace from within and to learn how to make it possible, so that we will be saved from our own self-destruction.
In the midst of our celebrations we also listen to Rachelís lament because today her children and her neighborsí children are still dying with their hands on each otherís throats in blind rage over disagreements as old as her own jealousy of Leah.
The writer shares an epiphany experience.
They held all things in common. Despite the fear of being called communist, the reality is, thatís what they didóthey shared all things in common. It was as radical as that.
A book review of Robert Jewettís massive volume on Romans (1250 pp.). Jewett sees Paulís concern with the individual rather than the group, and not with faith/works but with Jew/gentile. Romans is unlike the other Pauline writings.
We celebrate the coming of the power that is confident enough to be vulnerable, indeed, confident enough to be vulnerable to us.
Since Christianity has been such a civilizing success, it is doubly hard for us to return to the time when Christianity’s message was primed in the wilderness. But now this "prime time" has come again. As our exile looms, and marginality becomes our reality, is there any word from God? Any word for those streaming back into the wilderness?
The means by which John and Jesus meet their deaths should convince even the most hardened skeptics of the revolutionary nature of their ministries.
Both Marys and many others were there near the tomb watching from a distance. The writer suspects many people live their spiritual lives from a distance, in a threshold of silence, having not seen, yet believing.
The abrupt appearance of a soaring mountain in the transformation story is an invitation to scale its heights with Peter, James and John so that we too can see what we cannot see in the valley.
Too many Christmas songs are "warm fuzzies." If the Baptizer can be described as a killjoy, it is because the joy that he kills is the false joy of manufactured sentimentality and superficial jolliness.
All debts and sins and our unfinished businesses are dumped in the graveyard. What we bury there never comes back, but he does, not to judge but to forgive.
What is the problem and what is the solution? Psalm 51 does not offer popular answers: The problem is sin. The solution is repentance.
Prophetic ministry is most effective when it is engaged reluctantly, when itís difficult and even frightening, and when the speaker is compelled by a power that will not be denied.
Who are we? We are at the same time entirely insignificant in the context of all creation and of utter importance to the God who created it all.
The readings for Ash Wednesday leave us with conflicting admonitions: to put on sackcloth and ashes, and to wash our faces and comb our hair.
All are sinners -- how did we forget this? It is not the offices we occupy or the structures of power that govern our common life that save us. It is God who saves, and God will save.
Neither repentance nor obedience is very high on the American scale of values. A culture that exalts individualism, self-affirmation, independence and assertiveness has a hard time digesting repentance and obedience.
Christian loves demands that we become involved in the political processes and social movements advocating the elimination of poverty through the economic restructuring of our society? This means Christians working for and advocating the redistribution of goods and services so that poor people can experience a positive, productive quality of life.
In the times we most need to worship, we find it most difficult.
Although Christmastide is a time of praise, we must no forget the whole narrative is beset by dangeróby risk, flight, conspiracy, treachery and violent rage.
It is not the fragility of goodness that stands out in these texts but the sturdiness of righteousness.
The story of the road to Emmaus is not about Cleopas and his companion and their disappointment, but about life, the universe and everything in it.
Few texts are more subversive than Paulís words at the end of his letter to the Ephesians.
God, who is terrible in glory, stoops to our need.
Some of my African-American slave ancestors tried to leave me and my people a message about compassion that defies what many of us want to hear. We do not want judgment to equal compassion and compassion to equal judgment in our relation to those who have so seriously sinned against us.
The experience the disciples had with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee preceded the cross, the resurrection and Pentecost. No wonder they asked themselves who this man was -- this man who could rebuke the wind.
As we remember the strong shoulders of the saints on which we stand, we are challenged to strengthen our own shoulders.
This is the standard New Testament designation for saints: the forgiven who know it, act upon it and live by grace without angling for stained-glass-window status.
The Christianís task is to be the salt of society, preserving, reconciling, adding taste, giving meaning where there is no meaning, giving hope where there is no hope. We are called to be the light for the world. Jesus Christ is the real light which enlightens everyone.
The lasting mark of conversion is not one date circled in red on the calendar, but the whole story of oneís life.
No one is ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place where hope cannot be seen. What the Gospels ask is not "Do you believe?" but ĎHave you encountered a risen Christ?"
How complimentary is it to refer to the members of a church as a flock of sheep, and how appropriate is it to speak of clergy as pastors? Is that Jesusí point in John 10?
Power always protects itself. Those in religious leadership are just as venal as any in the world. We speak sanctimoniously of peace and unity and shut out those who challenge our authority.
Simon the rebuker is rebuked, while the rebuked woman is named the perfect hostess and is forgiven her sins even though she seems never to have confessed them, at least not in words. Unconditional love has a way of pulling one to grow to be more worthy of it.
Out of the obscurity of these verses in Mark and James, there seems to be the challenge of those on the margins, to be drawn by the generosity of Jesus closer inside the circle of disciples. Believers must not allow each other to wander away.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he did so as a king, but his royalty was not pomp and power but humble obedience. Thus, he entered the city to make peace with the offering of his own life.
Jesus is unimpressed by the disciplesí tidy argument about their need to know who is the greatest. He calls a child to their presence to teach a lesson.
Jesus seems to care inordinately about the ones who aren’t here. This interest in the absent may seem unreasonable to those of us who show up and keep the institutional church humming, but it is the gospel.
vIt was the self-emptying Christ who was the attraction for the Hindus. Jesus emptied his life utterly that he became the transparent medium in which.
It was the self-emptying Christ who was the attraction for the Hindus. Jesus emptied his life utterly that he became the transparent medium through which people can see God.
Vouchers to beggars -- "not valid for alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco" --.but what if this stranger wanted to rent The Sound of Music, or tour the city in an air-conditioned bus?
John is portrayed here (John 1:19-4) vastly different from the one we met earlier in the synoptics.
When the world did not end as Jesus himself had said it would, his followers stopped expecting so much from God or from themselves. They hung a wooden cross on the wall and settled back into their more or less comfortable routines, remembering their once passionate devotion to God the way they remembered the other enthusiasms of their youth.
The author tells how two small children helped him to understand the doctrine of the Trinity.
These texts shatter the "structure" of my unbelief, my idolatrous hold on my own interpretation of the world, my own despair at the lack of the worldís possibilities. They say to me: this is not a closed system but one open to its creator, whose possibilities are endless.
What's wrong with the title "pastor"?
The reason both the psalmist and Jesus spent so much time describing us as lost was not to judge us, but to help us find our salvation. Confessing that we are frightened and lost is the first step.
The trust of the sheep with its shepherd is a radical trust empowering us to believe life has Christian meaning even though immediate experience may seem otherwise.
The mission is everywhere, and we must drop the language of home church and mission field.
The Pharisees knew it was easy to say "Lord, Lord," but not so easy to do what God asked. Most of us know the first son did the right thing, but we are more like the second son.
Jesus offers more commentary on how to deal with wealth than on how to handle sex -- a fact ignored by todayís church, which is preoccupied by matters of sex while it says very little about money.
Although comfortable about rescuing a farm animal on the Sabbath, the religious leader has trouble rejoicing when a bound woman is freed. But for Jesus, Isaiah, the woman, and the crowd, the healing of the broken does not distract from delighting in the Sabbath, because it is a way of delighting in God.
What a difference in plants and people when someone tends their needs! Their growth is not stunted. They not only survive but thrive.
Would it not be better, in the time of grace in which we still live, to proclaim to all people the good news, to confess and bear witness that Christ died for all, that Christ suffered also for them?
None of our ideas reflect Godís concept of kingship (human or divine) completely.
Godís steadfast love, the basis for Mosesí plea, Davidís hope, and Paulís ministry -- all these are available to each person because Godís abundant mercy continues to find us and make us new.
Sin means being separated from the ground of life; it means having a disturbed relationship to ourselves, our neighbor, the creation and the human family.
Allowing ourselves to experience gratitude to God for the good we can do may truly provide some healing for our scornful souls.
Acknowledging sin entails the happy assessment that nothing wrong with us is finally beyond forgiveness.
Commentary on Lectionary Texts, Deut. 18:15-20,I Cor. 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28
The lesson we learn from Deborah is the need to "sit." She was a wise, powerful woman who lead, counseled advised, preached, and sometimes just sat in silence.
If you choose the right one to whom you are a slave, Paul believes rich benefits can be produced. Those who become slaves to God reap the benefit of holiness, the results of which are eternal life.
May God forgive us, his churchpeople, for using our social capital to attract to our churches those who are powerful and rich while we ignore those who might seem a burden -- those whose humble worship surely pleases God.
Injustice, immorality and inhumanity need to be changed into smooth paths so that everyone will see Godís salvation. That is Godís plan, and it is not wishful thinking to proclaim it.
The author argues that the doctrine of the Trinity is a useful unifying tool for witness. It has been called a great hinge, this day of the Trinity. It stands between the two halves of the church year. The first half on the life of Christ, the second half on the life of the church, While some call it a great hinge, others call it a great pain!
From love comes glory, not vice versa. Glory which is not rooted in love tends to be a false glory.
In scripture, being called by oneís name is a rich gift. Names tell us we are loved and call us into accountability.
Where ambition exists, it can be redirected and purified. But where it is entirely absent, mediocrity takes hold, the status quo hardens, and professors and committees debate endlessly about methodology and procedure.
Jesus seems to be prefiguring his death with phrases about his "hour" which was to come, and the temple of his body to be destroyed, about the kind of love that leads one to give one's life for a friend and a shepherd to give his life for the sheep.
Even though God has revealed himself fully in Jesus Christ, there is a sense in which God remains hidden.
Jesus challenges us to choose to live free and close to God -- the word of life. This living word from God bestows freedom upon us to live the lives God intends.
What the Samaritan woman sees is Jesus the Living Water who summons her from her ageless racisms and divisiveness into eternal life. We do not walk this path of love and righteousness under our own power. The Living Water is reaching out to all in love.
Are we blessed people, standing in Godís favor when we have devastated Godís creation with war and willful misuse? We hear from a prophet, a psalmist and the writer of an ancient epistle that no matter what befalls us, God is faithful, and Godís promises are true.
When we approach the waters of baptism we remember Noah and the flood. Both the flood story and a baptism remind us that we stand in need of Godís cleansing.
Jesus does not say, "follow me" to every one. Sometimes he says, "Return home and be a witness."
People will be found turning away from solid teaching, filling up on spiritual junk, seeking catchy opinions, turning their backs on truths and chasing mirages. Keep your eye on what youíre doing and keep the Message alive, doing a thorough job as Godís servant.
The author, diagnosed with breast cancer, sees gratitude as bringing buoyancy, as an antidote for fear. It flips despair on its back and says, "Youíre not robbing me of today!"
Everyone preaches about an "Emmaus road experience." Nobody preaches about a "stayed-in-Jerusalem-and-waited-to-see-what-happened" experience.
The ground beneath us may be no more substantial than water. The challenge in Peter attempting to walk on the water toward Jesus is that Jesus holds his hand toward each of us grasping us if we should fall.
Though we are tempted to hide behind barricades, guns and bombs, the stories of the martyrs remind us of the one who overcame evil not by defeating the enemy but by loving the enemy and thus defeating death itself.
The story of Elijah and his successor comforts us with the realization that while a good man is hard to find, there is always an Elisha to prove the rule with a glorious exception.
If we struggle with Jesusí being "fully human and fully God," it should not be surprising if the child Jesus wrestled with his identity too.
We may think we cannot endure what the future is thrusting upon us, but when that future arrives we have strength enough to sail in peace even across a sea of troubles.
May the stories of faith refresh us along the way, for they are the word that is near us, on our lips and in our hearts.
The author exposes the many ironies in John's account of Jesus' meeting with the Samaritan woman.
There’s a deep human tendency to idolize one’s own perspective on the world.
.What is it like to be stretched out in a wrathful world in expectation of the arrival of an incommensurable power who is not wrathful?
We must learn to see adversity as a sign pointing us toward the fullness of communion.
Because of Paulís relationship to Philemon, he could have turned his request into a simple command, but Paul uses persuasion rather than the imperial imperative, for Philemon owes Paul his "very self" because he has won him for Christ.
Jesus Christ is the coherence of creation. He is not only "before all things," but "in him all things hold together." He is the glue that never dies, the bond that never fails, the togetherness of the complex world we inhabit.
Face to face with God catches us by surprise and interrupts our regular patterns and challenges our assumptions.
If we prodigals see the father running in our direction with open arms, we should know in our souls that this as an event so unexpected, so undeserved, so out of joint with all that life should bring us, that we fall down in awe before this joyful mystery.
The church is not a full realization of the New Jerusalem, but the citizenship of those whose primary loyalty is there, already alive in itís transforming light.
People saw him eating and they knew who he was: someone who had lost all sense of what was right, who condoned sin by eating with sinners and who might as well have spit in the faces of the good people who raised him.
Ah, to be free from time’s tyranny, measuring time as our ancestors did -- by the gentle passage of seasons, by sunrise and sunset, not by seconds, minutes and hours. But to live as if there will always be a tomorrow is to live like a fool.
Jesusí program continues today.
We, like Peter, still find it inordinately difficult to believe that the Christ of Easter is the same Son of man who must suffer, be rejected and killed. Even more than Peter, we resist the notion that the cross is the definition of what it means to follow Jesus.
Nature, for the great 17th-century scientific pioneers was God’s Book, inscribed with holy laws every bit as valid as the laws of the other book, Holy Scripture.
Temptation is deceptive, not obvious, and it definitely is not a caricature. The tempter often looks and sounds like a friend or relative, offering no debauchery often associated with temptation. Personal, social and professional ruin is in the small print at the bottom of the temptation.
It was this serving, suffering, dying Jesus whom God vindicated by raising him from the dead. A church too fond of power, place and claims would do well to walk in his steps.
The apostolic messengers would proclaim one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, in whom all those made new in the Easter Lord are no longer male or female, slave or free, Jew or gentile, but one in Christ Jesus.
Israelís sin was not unlike the sin of which our nation has been guilty: the sin of supporting the wealthy and ignoring the poor.
The traditions of both Paul and Peter were driven to say things about the universal implications of Christ’s death that the historical Jesus as a first-century Palestinian Jew would not and could not have imagined.
(ENTIRE BOOK) A simple and clear analysis of the nature of the Bible. What is the Bible? How do you approach it? The Old Testament. The New Testament. Revelation. The Bible and the modern historical view. History and the Individual.
All of us struggle in the battle between good and evil, right and wrong choices, thoughts and actions. Who can see us free? Paul could not answer this question.. All we can say, with Pau,l is "Thanks be to God Ė through Jesus Christ our Lord."
It is easy to assume that relationship with God translates into entitlement.
Will we need all our body parts at the resurrection? "I must say that something is terribly missing from the Christianity of anybody who is more concerned about what happens to a liver after death than about what happens to somebody who needs a sound liver while still alive."
Jesus’ language in all its vigorous overstatement still reflects a sense of divine fury over the failure of the divine purpose to work itself out in the actions of human beings that does not compute with our urbane, 20th-century middle-class liberal Christianity.
Without the cross, our faith wouldn’t be a comfort to anybody. What would you say to the terminal cancer victim? The mother of a starving child in an Ethiopian desert? The 80-year-old resident of a shoddy nursing home? “Smile, God Loves You!”
A religious community can pressure us not to think outside the lines of its doctrine. We must, of course, make commitments and honor allegiances. But Paulís experience warns us that even religious commitments can defeat the purposes of God. We must examine all our allegiances for their capacity to distort our integrity.
Commentary on the Lectionary Texts for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.
Jesus proves that perfect obedience to God is perfect freedom. Sin is not freedom; it is a malignant pollution of freedom. Sin is death. Sin thereby brings the very possibility of freedom to an end.
We donít have to live as if God is angry with us. The God does not need anything from us. Our baptismal covenant reminds us that to be incorporated into Godís mighty acts of salvation is a gift from God, offered to us without price.
We must testify of the God who willed the cross of Christ, that this selfsame God is love. God has taken up into himself, through the person of his Son, our human outrage. God himself has turned the other cheek. He has not rejected that outrage; he has endured it and has answered it with the risen Christ.
The Gotcha game still goes on. Every time it does, Christ is crucified anew.
The season of Easter reconciles times and dimensions, exercising the substance of love within us to see into the reality beyond.
The recognition that God was in Christ is both a statement about Godís doing and a summary statement of the whole of human destiny. To say that God was in Christ is to say that it is within the power and promise of God to make us "partakers of the divine nature" (II Pet. 1:4).
God as Trinity had happened in the experience of the early church before it was formulated into a doctrine. The challenge which the theologians faced was how to express the faith that God is one and at the same time affirm that Jesus Christ was divine, and the Holy Spirit was divine.
The author imagines a committee of congress set up to report on the disquieting events on the Jerusalem-Jericho road and their aftermath: The good Samaritan loses.
Too often we are exhausted by the busyness of plans and preparations, instead of being exhilarated by enjoying the bread of life.
The careful reader will notice that Matthew casts the religious experts of the day (those robed in canonical or clerical dress) in the role of "them," a move that supports a tongue-in-cheek, foot-in-mouth reading of the disciples when they claim to understand it all.
The author discusses Lent as a journey of faith.
Judas portrays the tragic story of a fall from the heights to the depths. It is a fall that all of us will make sooner or later. But the greatest tragedy was that Judas was not at the cross to hear Jesus say, "Father, forgive . . ."
In the perspective of the kingdom, those who are powerful and influential will not get more. A society is just only to the extent that the underprivileged, the disabled, the poor and the oppressed receive special care.
Our sense of the inevitability of suffering compels us to affirm dimensions in the cross of Jesus that Paul might not have found.
The wealthy and the mighty of this world trust in their wealth and influence. The poor are favored in the kingdom not only because injustice is done to them in this world, but also because they trust in God.
The kingdom does not operate according to human calculations. The little things we do will bear fruit in their own time. We trust in God to bring about the result. We wait in hope.
Luke leaves it at "he breathed his last." The ultimate question is not "What happens when I die?" but "In whom can I trust to the end?" The Christian is called to trust in God who sides with Job, who will not let his people go, who dies alone.
In this Gospel, different metaphors are used to describe the person of Christ: living water, life giving water; living bread, bread which gives eternal life; light of the world, light of life; good shepherd, shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. Whatever metaphor we use, he is the true source and giver of eternal life to the individual as well as to the world. He is the source of true and authentic human existence.
Christ rules those who have received the redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness that result from his death on a cross.
Who better than Mary illustrated the fact that every one of us is a passive and indeed virgin recipient of Godís purpose and calling?
The meaning of the kingdom of God, which is the central message of Jesus, is the unlimited love and mercy of God.
As prophet, teacher and champion of God’s dominion, Jesus bid us see not himself but the will of God. So it is with the gift Mary holds on Christmas morning. In desire for us, God has forgotten himself. The words and implications come later; but now, first, the Word is an infant and cannot, need not, speak.
The same Jesus who in Mark 9 says that it would be better if child abusers had never been born, in Mark 10 points to his own abused body as a sign of hope for all.
Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to look to Jesus and follow the same mind we find in him and which we can also receive from him. Then Paul in a sentence or two very graphically describes the person of Christ: What is he, what is his mission, and what it is that we learn from him?
I am nervous and uncomfortable on Ash Wednesday because I must confess publicly that I am a sinner; not only that, but I must stand within the faith community and witness while others confess the same.
The biblical themes of scattering the proud, putting down the mighty, and elevating the lowly are an important part of the symbolism of comedy and the repertoire of clowns and fools. The uplifting of the lowly is particularly evident in the story of the nativity.
Though driven by the Spirit to speak and act, our expectation of the perfect freedom of the reign of God can be uttered and our praxis realized only in terms of particular metaphors, projects or cultural prejudices.
Jesus' parable of the two sons points to the radical obedience of Jesus himself, which is a model for Christians.
Impatience can be a healthy sign of life, part of the yearning to cast off old ways.
Hospitality was a strong aspect of Jesusí teaching, and the church could use more of it today concerning homosexuality, race, disability and women.
What should we be doing in the face of the violence portrayed to us on television as well as in the real world?
Our first calling, the baptismal call, is the one that simply loves and names: You are my child. I delight in you. Anointing is a sign of blessing, but it is also a commissioning. As for Jesus, so for us.
The mature Christian utilizes the mystical ability to be "awake" to things kept in the dark and thus has a new perspective and an alertness to the passing day.
One of the many things this story tells us is that Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix.
The Bible contains more warnings about the dangers of wealth than about the pitfalls of poverty.
Laws that treat offenders as subhuman are certainly sinful. Violence sanctioned by the community begets more violence.
Jesus proclaims that the words of the prophet are not about some distant future, nor even about the near millennium. The jubilee year, the good news for the poor, the release of captives, the recovered vision, the liberation of the oppressed: these are proclaimed now, here, this day.
If Catholics and Protestants in these enlightened times share any belief, it is that God and the word of God are not constrained by the cultural context and prejudices in which we have been accustomed to operate.
The Biblical writers talk about bodily, physical characteristics of life (heart-flesh-pulse-being born). The resurrected body is at the heart of the Easter proclamation.
Jesusí parable requires discernment beyond human ways of thinking, discernment of the new creation that compels the ministry of reconciliation.
It is important for our children to see us and to help us be involved in tending the soil beyond our own little vineyards -- to see and help us work in the larger society to make a better and more just world for all people. This kind of involvement introduces our children to goals not inspired by the greed of our capitalist culture gone wrong.
The Bible reminds us that the word of the Lord is accessible, perhaps even too close for comfort. God may ultimately be unknowable, but loving the Lord and walking in Godís path are possibilities open to anyone.
Generations of believers have found hope in the notion that someone (or something) is coming to relieve them of their burden.
The darkest fear of all, the fear that has the power not only to shape a life for death-dealing, but also to distort an entire community, is the fear that lurks beneath the pretense of power and privilege, the fear which crouches behind the doorways of prejudice and preys upon the least of those in the community.
Why do we assume Zacchaeus was short? Maybe he couldnít see Jesus because Jesus was short. How easily we become trapped in unrealistic cultural ideals of the perfect being.
Doubts and uncertainty frighten us. Thatís why we reject Thomas -- he dares to bring doubt into our lives of faith.
Sound doctrine has deep social roots, not merely the ephemeral ones in wealth, strength, prestige and power -- though, thank goodness, the church as its share of those -- but also in humanity’s awesome diversity.
The United Methodist Bishop’s pastoral letter on peace, In Defense of Creation, is theologically flawed and focuses too much on mere survival. Resisting the historic Wesleyan emphasis on sanctification -- making better people -- they take up a more acceptable activism -- doing effective politics. Jesus called us to a change of heart and life -- but now it’s enough, it seems, simply to be politically effective. Politics has become our only means of transcendence.
The fish story thus becomes not about luck, but about blessing. It becomes personal, and Simon’s wonder turns from simple and greedy pleasure to deep awe at the unearned gift. The translation from luck to grace is what makes a miracle of what might otherwise have been just another fisherman’s tale.
Ascension recognizes the separation of the Risen Lord from the disciples as He goes to dwell at the right hand of the Father.
Did Abraham leave his homeland because the older generation refused to change. Is the membership decline in our older churches caused by the alienation of the younger aged members?
People still fear sin, death, and the devil.
Jesus does not urge the Samaritan woman at the well to repent or change her behavior.
Without the word, there would be no human race, no civilization. If you take from me the ability to speak and to record words, you take away all that is. Without the word, there is nothing. If it is true that nothing exists without a word, then everything that is, is the speech of God.
The Bible and the desert land of Arizona both offer the author a foundation laid out for her by the solid rock of faith.
God criticizes his own people, for the God of Moses and of the Israelites is a unique God. No other Gods are impartial.
How dependent we are upon the Holy Spirit to get anything right.
If there is to be peace in the Middle East, in Afghanistan or in the United States, it will come about through peacemakers whose grace and power flow from some explicit or implicit anointing by the Holy Spirit.
These things are written not that you might have the facts, but that you might believe.
Paul declares that the revelation of Christ makes a real difference in at least three different dimensions: the personal, the communal and the cosmic.
When we decide to follow, we are called to lay down some of our most valuable possessions: our understanding of the world, our view of right and wrong, our assumptions about whom God favors and whom God despises, our ways and our thoughts.
Christ is born in a manger and not in a palace. This is why the religious leaders, the rich and powerful of his as well as our day failed and fail to recognize him. Only the poor shepherds could recognize him, and only to the poor and the frightened does Christmas comes as a message of good news.
We are there for each other but why are we reluctant to tell each other that we will be there in their need?
Those of us who are not ill or elderly are busy living in the middle of things. But what if we all needed to prepare for the end? End times call for alertness, sharpness. They tingle with expectation. They are times of uncertainty and fear only for those whose faith is thin.
By proclaiming the invisible and the unknown, Paul refuses to let God become just another novelty, just another idol.
Acceptance, encouragement, trust and hope come through in the touch of hand upon hands as the risen Lord touches us through others.
The word "talent" for the Greek word talanta, is really a miss-interpretation. It probably means a whole "bag of gold." According to the author, this huge amount gives the parable an entirely different emphasis.
Joshuaís willingness to affirm what he believed challenges, but how do you do it without damning other faiths? How does one retain the essence of Joshuaís covenant without its exclusivity?
Jesusí followers are still tested in offices and cubicles, at school desks and cafeterias, at the boundary lines between nations, races and cultures, around breakfast tables and family rooms.
Paulís traumatic experience on Damascus road is not the only way one can be transformed by Christ.
The power of intercessory prayer.
To cling uncritically to the past is to purchase security at the price of denying that God is a living God, continually doing new things among us,
The trouble with liberation theology is not Jesusí death and resurrection and sending of the Spirit, but his earthly life of solidarity with the oppressed is normative. Paulís attention to the life of the spirit is not taken as a "fulfillment" but at best as a distraction, at worst a distortion. Paulís puzzlement over Godís "inscrutable ways" in a crucified Messiah is replaced by a simplistic "preferential option for the poor."
Christian theology has always seen Jesusí terrible, degrading death as a victory, indeed the victory by which God vanquished the power of evil once and for all.
The Scriptures have always used the widow and orphan as symbols of society’s most vulnerable and defenseless people. Both justice and compassion require that Christian churches make the gospel a real word of good news by reaching out to such people.
More than anything else, the unwillingness to perform the difficult task of forgiveness and reconciliation in the love and spirit of Christ is what robs the church of that quality of life that first attracted outsiders.
Love must have been hard to come by in this beloved community which I John addresses; 29 times in the space of 15 verses the author uses one form or another of agape.
Not only is she a woman, but a divorced woman with a shady past and a Samaritan. By custom, Rabbi Jesus ought not even speak with her in public, let alone drink from her Samaritan bucket. But what transpires between these two is nothing short of miraculous. These strangers, these enemies, discover at the well that they need each other.
The church is commissioned not to proclaim the advent of hell to all who are on their mad way there, but rather the advent of Jesus Christ. He has come, as John promised. Alone and abandoned he descended into the depths of hell. Thus, there is absolutely no possibility for us that is beyond the reach of God’s inexhaustible grace.
In Godís family, all of us are adopted and none has a birthright. Whatever our experience of family loss and brokenness we will always belong to God.
Dr. Chapman fears that many churches have relegated primary concerns to the background by pushing secondary matters up front, so that what is central to the gospel is lost.
The most insidious thing about being a "parson" (the person), who agrees to be on display as an example of what the gospel actually does to a person, is that an insidious, largely subconscious form of compensation begins to produce a kind of "virtual virtuosity" The performance becomes the product.
Christians wait for the feast to come with grateful hearts even though in the interim their minds are set on unresolved troubles and unreachable horizons.
Jesus reminds us that life is far too precious to allow us to put up with business as usual.
We want to think of ourselves as good and others as bad. Jesus continues his work of tearing down walls and extending Godís mercy to those who are scattered and alienated.
To say that Jesus is risen from the dead is not to say he has returned to his earthly life, but to say that God lifted Jesus up to new life. It says that God will do the same thing for us.
We are even more driven than our predecessors by the demand for visible results and achievement.
Markís purpose, not just in this story of quelling the storm but in all of his Gospel, is to tell us "who this man is" and how he may be trusted. Not only is he the Savior of the world, he is also our close, storm-proof companion, our fellow traveler.
"Whom do you say that I am?" Dr. Hawkins suggests the answer is most difficult, but suggests: "We have come to know and to believe that you are the Holy One of God," is an affirmation to stake a life on, a Lord not to explain but to follow.
The author identifies with Zebedee, who stayed in the boat when the others jumped out in response to Jesusí call.
Pay attention to your dreams. Josephís dream named his son, but he did not own him any more than we own ours.
A reflection on the significance of the palm branches with which Jesus was greeted on his entry into Jerusalem. The tradition of waving the fronds is not what we think.
From the perspective of the biblically illiterate, the final question may be, as one student put it: "Why read a book telling about a kingdom coming when technology has already created paradise? And itís getting better every day."
Can we expect an ethical God to punish us for our injustices through vengeance upon the innocent with a surging tsunami or a ravaging cancer encrypted into human tissue?
Some of the difficult verses of Johnís gospel, those words that are often contested, are confronted, discussed and given broader and more meaningful interpretation.
In John's time, Israel practiced proselyte baptism -- that is, gentile converts had to be bathed as a sign of radical change, purity in the new faith and birth into the people of Israel. John makes the shocking assertion that even Israel must be washed. Remember, our Lord comes not only to save us but also to change us.
The scriptural command to die to self has been used for centuries to reinforce social systems that limit the ability of women, people of color, poor people and other oppressed people to claim their full human dignity.
Even after the response of the Greek woman to Jesus who had compared her to the dogs, Jesus does not hold his saving power in reserve, but expands the circle of Godís mercy to include those once considered outsiders.
The lesson from Revelation contains words for those who strive to be faithful, but who are ground down by life.
What must we do to inherit eternal life? We must let go of all that we have and all that we do that gets in the way of seeing that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.
So much of Markís gospel seems to be some kind of joke. The defining moment of our ministry may leave us feeling foolish too. It comes when we, like Jesus, realize we are near the end of our journey; and we finally face up to evil, bringing nothing in our hands but what he had: peace and truth and love.
In a risky but effective homiletical strategy: Isaiah proclaims the greatness of the Lord in contrast to the insignificance of the people. Who are they to question Godís ways, Godís abilities? He is a master at putting God and humankind in perspective.
I don’t know that the Holy Spirit has ever been compared to a babysitter. But if you can imagine Jesus as a mother, then it may not be so hard to imagine the Spirit in this other role, as one who cares for the church in the interim between Jesus’ departure and return, as one who comforts, teaches, reminds and, yes, sometimes even romps with the sons and daughters of God.
Christís living bread is quite adaptable to all kinds of circumstances. He feeds us anywhere, anytime, in all ways, for Christ is our constant benefactor.
The changes that have taken place in relations between Roman Catholics and Protestants since Vatican II.
Because we follow a crucified Christ, we enter into solidarity with the world’s suffering masses. We experience the power and love of God through the vulnerable and suffering.
The issue is not how much we have in the bank, but what that money is for us. Is it our heart, our security, our source of power, or is it a tool for our stewardship?
Perhaps we should feel insecure in making the claim that Christians are called to suffer, but consider the vision of Job, who sees God only "after my skin has been thus destroyed." And so we must claim that we are called to suffer if we want to see the living God.
John Killinger speaks of the Holy Spirit, itís miss-use its value. He is led to say that the more eloquently and confidently we discuss the Holy Spirit and commemorate the Spirit in our high holy days, the less we are truly in touch with the Spirit.
John Killinger speaks of the Holy Spirit, itís miss-use its value. He is led to say that the more eloquently and confidently we discuss the Holy Spirit and commemorate the Spirit in our high holy days, the less we are truly in touch with the Spirit.
The wind is blowing. God is at work through the church and beyond the church. Political systems resist anything beyond themselves and the elite class they serve, while at the same time the countryís churches may be poor, weak and helpless. But Jesus demonstrated that there is always room for surprises.
In todayís world, especially in our anxious Western culture, we seem hell-bent on happiness and on any shortcut that can get us there. Generally we seek a happiness that is a far cry from what went on that day of Pentecost.
Christ invites us beyond the ruts weíve worn, the truncated lives weíve settled for. Embrace the new; relish Godís continuing creative energy, and find a way to modify priorities so that all benefit!
The cross is central to all accounts of Christian wisdom. The crucified and resurrected Christ is the standard by which that wisdom is measured.
Who wants to be wise anymore? People want to be right, rich, popular and in control. Information is fast, loud, superficial, numbing. We canít get away from it. Wisdom is slower, deeper, lasting, more elusive.
Jesus’ prayer for unity among his followers has not been answered. We are not all one.
God does not declare unto us our sin in order to destroy us. In the very moment he accuses us as sinners, we are already forgiven.
Jesus takes the risk of doing something more pertinent and more useful than complying with the crowd's misguided agenda. These people followed Jesus for the wrong reasons. This should not surprise us; today it's still common practice.
Itís possible the mundane words of the street are closer to Godís Word, then some of our pious words from the pulpit.
The public message of Pentecost is a challenge to all the peoples of the earth to discover their unity as children of God. It does not support isolation in Christian sects, which claim an exclusive monopoly on the Spirit and demand conversion to the language and mores of their tribe as the price of salvation.
Walls are needed to keep out the predator and to protect against the elements, but literal walls and spiritual ones can lead to grief, division and violence. All walls have a purpose, but not all walls serve the purposes of God.
Prodded by Jean-Luc Godard’s provocative film Hail Mary, Janet Karsten Larson meditates on the annunciation to Mary and the theme of embodiment.
God’s tenderness and generosity is fundamental to the Christian faith. The holy God is a tender and generous God. This is the heart of the Christian sacrament.
Scripture is not meant primarily to fit or foster individual inner lives -- not in the modern sense, anyway. It is meant first for shaping, celebrating, instructing, warning and vexing the life of a people, a community chosen to show God’s glory to the world.
At the baptism of Jesus God has declared to the world that Jesus is the Son of God in whom he is well pleased . Therefore, in our baptism, our identity as sons and daughters of God is established.
Our self-understanding is challenged by a God who prepares a table -- a feast, not a fortress with guns! -- for us in full view of our enemies.
One’s life is not to be determined by friend or foe but by God, who relates to all not on the basis of their behavior or attitude toward God but according to God’s own nature, which is love.
A fair wage for an unfair days work? God is being merciful, not fair, and this is what mercy looks like. God is truly love, and wills that all may be saved.
The Christmas story calls us to be willing, like Mary, to take the words in, to treasure and ponder them, because so much is possible when we do.