A Child Shall Lead Us (Is. 11:6, 8-9; Mk. 10:15; Matt. 18:1ff; Lk. 11:11ff)

Article by Lamin Sanneh

In many non-Western societies, children are regarded not as incomplete adults but as collective symbols of social and personal fulfillment. Consequently, children figure prominently in rituals of purification, healing, restoration, various forms of divination and in rites of passage. in much of Christianity, however, children are deemed unfit for the central rites until puberty. Growing …

A Generation Ago (Ezk. 37:1-14; Ps. 130; Rom. 8:6-11; John 11:1-45)

Article by Frederick Niedner

A generation ago, Ernest Becker taught us that the fear of dying is the mainspring of all human activity, from our smallest efforts at survival to our loftiest cultural achievements. So far as I can tell, our species continues to confirm that thesis. Even if it bankrupts Social Security, takes down Medicare and leaves half …

A New Moon Sensitivity (Amos 8:4-7, I timothy 2:1-8, Luke 16:1-3)

Article by Lamin Sanneh

The scripture readings for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost contain an extraordinary consistency. Amos 8:4-7 describes God pressing a serious charge against his people for oppressing the poor and seeing religion as an annoying "new moon" inconvenience. The Epistle reading in I Timothy 2:1-8 speaks of the cessation of anger and quarreling as marks of …

Acknowledgment (Ps. 23; I Sam. 13:1-16;Eph. 5:8-14;John 9:1-41)

Article by Richard Lischer

In a church I served, one of the pillars of the congregation stopped by my office just before services to tell me he’d been “born again.” “You’ve been what?” I asked. “I visited my brother-in-law’s church, the Running River of Life Tabernacle, and I don’t know what it was, but something happened and I’m born …

After Liberation, What? (Lev.19:1-2, 15-18; Mt. 22:34-46)

Article by Delores S. Williams

Often when I address affluent church audiences on the subject of liberation theology I am asked: When oppressed people get liberated, what then? Further honing of the question yields this: What kind of ethic will they (oppressed people) develop to prohibit them from becoming oppressors? And doesn’t the liberation struggle destroy law and order? I …

Apocalypse Now (Is. 64:1-9; Ps. 80:1-7, 17-19; 1Cor. 1:3-9; Mk. 13:24-37)

Article by Kathleen Norris

The most prophetic thing that Thomas Merton ever did was to say to a drugstore clerk who asked him which brand of toothpaste he preferred, "I don’t care." Intrigued by the clerk’s response, Merton wrote, "He almost dropped dead. I was supposed to feel strongly about Colgate or Pepsodent or Crest. . . And they …

Baffling Blindness (1 Sam. 16:1-13; Ps. 23; Eph. 5:8-14; Jn. 9:1-41)

Article by Frederick Niedner

In Richard Powers’s novel The Echo Maker, a young man suffers a brain injury in an auto accident and is afflicted with Capgras syndrome. When he wakes from a coma, he can see and even recognize family members and friends, but he takes them for impostors. As the delusional fellow tries to learn why he’s …

Between the Lines (Prov. 8: 1-4, 22-31; Ps. 8; Rom. 5: 1-5; Jn. 16: 12-15)

Article by Peter S. Hawkins

According to Emily Dickinson, you speak the truth best when you tell it “slant.” I am quite sure when she penned this line the blessed Trinity was far from her thoughts. Nonetheless, her characterization of truth-telling is good to keep in mind when approaching this mysterious feast of God, the three in one and one …

Blinded by the Light (John 17:20-26)

Article by Suzanne Guthrie

In Edwin A. Abbott’s story Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions, the two-dimensional square narrator encounters a three-dimensional sphere that changes his perception of reality. While trying to find a scientific metaphor for religious experience in 1884, Abbott created a delightful story that is still a favorite among students of mathematics and physics, religion and …

Boast Not (I Cor. 9:16-23)

Article by Ray Rhoads

Several decades ago, when I was filling out my application for seminary admission, I came to a question that asked me to provide biblical justification for my calling. I knew I wanted to attend seminary, but found it difficult to state why. Then I remembered my Wesley Foundation pastor preaching on 1 Corinthians 9:16b, and …

Building Bigger Closets (Ec. 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23;<I> </I>Ps. 49:1-12; Col. 3:1-11 Lk. 12:13-21)

Article by Martha P. Sterne

We are building a house. I have noticed that there is some instinctual urge in empty nesters to do that. My husband and I are mesmerized by this project — reading books and doing Internet searches. Every time I go through the checkout line at the grocery store I succumb to the siren song of …

Building Community Amid Troubles (Phil. 22-4; Matt. 21:28-32; Ezek. 18:1-4)

Article by Delores S. Williams

One of the hardest things to do in our troubled North American society is build community. This is no less true in the Christian sector than it is in the secular world. Viable, wholesome community is what each of us needs in order to experience well-being, care and support. Yet in our capitalist, technological society …

Called to Order (Deut. 18:15-20; Ps. 111; I Cor. 8:1-13

Article by Paul Keim

HOLY MOSES! The first surprise in this passage from Deuteronomy is that the biblical lawgiver par excellence is also the prototypical prophet. In 21st-century America, prophets are not so easily disguised as congressmen and senators. What does Washington have to do with Waco? Law, or the codification, enforcement and interpretation of community mores, does not …

Chapter 2: The Approach to the Bible  in  The Bible Today

Book Chapter by C. H. Dodd

The critical method finds its way between the horns of a dilemma: It rejects restraint from without upon liberty of interpretation, and at the same time excludes an arbitrary or capricious use of liberty by accepting the intrinsic control of the historical movement within the Bible itself.

Chapter 4: The New Testament  in  The Bible Today

Book Chapter by C. H. Dodd

Like many new movements, Christianity exhibits in its earliest history three successive stages: expansion, conflict, consolidation. The writings of the New Testament connect themselves naturally with these three stages, which may serve to provide a rough chronological scheme.

Chapter 7: History and the Individual  in  The Bible Today

Book Chapter by C. H. Dodd

In the biblical history we are to find a revelation of God that can be understood as to give meaning to history in our own time. Those who hear, in the setting of the Church’s corporate worship, are summoned to place themselves within the history which is God’s revelation, at the point where it culminates in Jesus Christ, and to lay themselves open to the Word of judgement and of renewal which is spoken there to every human being.

Christ For The World (Is. 7:10-16; Ps. 80:1-7, 17-19; Rom. 1:1-7; Matt. 1:18-25)

Article by Ruth A. Meyers

When I think of the Christmas story, I see the crèche that was displayed each year in the front hall of my family home. The manger scene began to take shape during the last week of Advent, when we cut fragrant pine branches and spread them on the hall table, then placed figurines of oxen …

Consorting with Aliens (Luke 24:13-35; 1 Peter 1: 17-23)

Article by Edgardo Antonio Colón-Emeric

A funny thing happened to a pastor friend of mine. His congregation was baptizing a family in a river that ran not far from the Hispanic church that be served. As the newly baptized members came out of the water he handed them their baptismal certificates. Afterwards, in true Latino fashion, they celebrated a fiesta. …

Couples (Mark 10:2-16)

Article by Andrew Warner

In a few weeks voters in six states will decide on state constitutional amendments that will bar same-sex marriage and any other legal recognition of same-sex couples. Most mainline denominations have come out against the amendments even though some of them do not allow same-sex couples to wed in their churches. Most evangelicals and Catholics …

Cover-ups (Psalm 85)

Article by Fleming Rutledge

Blaise Pascal evokes a sense of existential dread in this famous line: “The eternal silence of those infinite spaces terrifies me. ” In his poem For the Time Being: A .Christmas Oratorio, W. H. Auden pictures the human being forsaken in a blank, fathomless universe: We are afraid Of pain but more afraid of silence; for …

Doing the Right Thing (Is. 66:10-14; Ps. 66; Gal. 6:1-6, 7-16; Lk. 10:1-11, 16-20)

Article by Mary W. Anderson

The family is a funny institution. We make much of being related to each other, of sharing common ancestors, common history, common DNA. We speak of fierce loyalties with phrases like “Blood is thicker than water.” As parents and children, brothers and sisters, we have bonds that go beyond words. We love each other even …

Dust and Ashes

Article by Bruce van Voorst

Book Review: Job (Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary). By Samuel E. Balentine. Smyth & Helwys, 714 pp.   The book of Job is one of the most beautiful and perplexing books of the Bible. G. K. Chesterton said, "The Iliad is great because all of life is a battle; the Odyssey is great because all …

Easter (Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Lk.24:13-35)

Article by Debbie Blue

I like the fertility symbolism surrounding Easter–bunnies scattering colorful eggs all over the place for children to find, the Teutonic goddess of spring, earth renewing itself, etc. If these ancient rites hadn’t been co-opted by capitalism, hadn’t morphed into pastel M&Ms, plastic grass and My Little Ponies with bunny ears, I might find it a …

Eavesdropping (Mic. 6:1-8;I Cor. 1:18-31;Matt. 5:1-12; Ps. 15)

Article by Barbara Lemmel

In her book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, Anne Lamott describes the afternoon she misplaced her father. His brain cancer had progressed to the point where he was functioning much like an eager-to-please three year-old. Lamott had brought him along with her one day as she ran errands. Just before she …

Encore (Jn. 21:1-19)

Article by James C. Somerville

“After these things,” John says. After Jesus had been crucified and buried, after he had risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples — after all these things, “Jesus showed himself again.” Why? I remember a concert at which the singer left the stage before we in the audience were ready for him to …

Enter Here (Acts 2:42-47,1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10)

Article by Amy B. Hunter

I had already attended two colleges when one day I wandered into a third. The sign above the door of an old mansion in Fort Vancouver, Washington, read “Evergreen State College.” “What seminars are you offering this fall?” I asked a woman behind the desk. “Reality,” she responded. “Sign me up!” I replied. Fifteen years …

Excellence Beyond Standards (Is.25:6-9; Phil.4:4-13; Mt.22:1-10)

Article by Delores S. Williams

We who teach in seminaries, colleges and universities often hear the issue of standards and excellence raised. Time and again I have heard colleagues, deans and presidents say, “We can’t compromise our standards.” Usually this statement surfaces when the discussion is about increasing ethnic minority enrollment or increasing the number of women and ethnic-minority faculty. …

Exposed and Waiting (Ps. 146; Is. 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; Matt. 11:2-11)

Article by Rosalind Brown

There’s a phrase tucked away in Psalm 146 that provides the basis for our Advent hope: God “keeps his promise for ever.” Without that assurance there is no hope and no sense in Advent. Our hope is in God. The psalm underlines that conviction, as the confident prayer for the king of last week’s psalm …

Facing Up To Inequalities

Article by Harlan Beckley

  Book Review: Inequality and Christian Ethics. By Douglas Hicks. Cambridge University Press, 287 pp.; also in paperback. The Common Good and Christian Ethics. By David Hollenbach, S.J. Cambridge University Press, 269 pp.; also in paperback. What Government Can Do: Dealing with Poverty and Inequality. By Benjamin I. Page and James R. Simmons. University of …

Fit for the Reign of God (I Kings 19:19-21; Luke 9:57-62; Gal. 5:1, 13-25)

Article by Joseph M. McShane, S.J.

Fit for the Reign of God Israel’s covenant with God Stipulated that no other powers, divine or human, would rule the people’s lives. Yet the biblical story repeatedly tells of the nation’s turn away from God’s rule to other gods or to the misguided political judgments of the kings and rulers who did not heed …

Foolhardy Faith (Ps.66:7-18;John 14:15-21;Acts 17:22-31;I Pet.3:13-22)

Article by Michael W. Spangler

Just where Lenin Avenue makes a turn, coming out of downtown Moscow and heading out toward the southwest suburbs, stands St. Nicholas’s Church. The first sight of St. Nicholas’s is like a friendly ambush by a clown jumping out to surprise you, all dressed up in orange and green and white. Against the gray and …

Foolish Wisdom

Article by James M. Wall

In the matter of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the Washington Post, we stipulate that compassion be shown to Joan Biskupic, a Post writer who reported on Scalia’s April 9 speech in Mississippi on religion and public life. Using secondhand accounts, without a full text of the original speech, Biskupic reported that Scalia “delivered …

From Wrath to Grace (Zeph. 1: 7,12-18; Ps. 90:1-12;I Thess. 5:1-11; Matt. 25:14-30).

Article by Bruce Modahl

A young seminarian could effectively caricature the preaching of his supervising pastor. “Repent!” he would holler at the top of his lungs. “Too late,” he would add sotto voce, his head turned aside, as if walking away. His supervising pastor, the Zephaniah of the Great Plains, must have been stuck on the texts for the …

General Principles

Article by J. Mary Luti

I had a childhood friend whose mother yelled at her a lot. Her mother’s ravings, however, were rarely attached to identifiable offenses. Asked why she was yelling, she’d snarl, “On general principles!” It was a free-form thing. Sometimes she’d yell about real crimes, but Tina was innocent of many of them. Her mother was unbowed. …

Hearts Sing (Is. 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9;1 Cor. 1:10-18; Matt. 4:12-23)

Article by Kathleen Norris

Our hearts may sing as we hear the glorious prophecy of Isaiah, as repeated in Matthew’s Gospel: "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." But as we listen to the epistle a nagging voice suggests that the Corinthians have been remarkably busy in their attempts to put that light out. On …

Here be Dragons (Acts 11:1-18; Ps. 148; Rev.21:1-6; Jn. 13:31-35)

Article by J. Nelson Kraybill

Medieval mapmakers, with their limited knowledge of distant lands and uncharted seas, sometimes depicted dragons on the far edges of their maps. Hic sunt dracones ("Here be dragons!"), they warned. One map from 1430 has this text written above a ferocious creature: "Here also are huge men having horns four feet long, and there are …

Holy Heartburn (Acts 2:14a,36-41;Ps.116:1-3,10-17;I Per.1:17-23;Lk. 24:13-35)

Article by Susan R. Andrews

The texts for the third Sunday of Easter are not for the fainthearted. They are about pounding hearts, wounded hearts and burning hearts. And they invite us to encounter the living Christ in the heart of who we are. Kathleen Norris and others remind us that “to believe” is not a matter of the mind, …

Home Court Disadvantage (Jer. 1:4-10; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; Lk. 4:21-30)

Article by Frederick Niedner

Early on, even Jeremiah could have located himself somewhere within Frederick Buechner’s pithy essay on vocation in Wishful Thinking. "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet," says Buechner. Jeremiah would later recall for God that initial gladness: "Your words were found, and I …

How Do We Live with Dying? Job 19:23-27a, II Thess. 2:13-3:5, Luke 20:27-28)

Article by Joseph M. McShane, S.J.

"Now God is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all are alive to God" (Luke 20:381). How do we live with dying? What hope does our Christian faith offer for the real anguish of death’? Most of us resent the thinned-out version of Christian hope, "He/she is happy in heaven." That …

Imagine Being Brilliant (Genesis 2:15-17; Matthew 4:1-11)

Article by Christien Coon

Imagine being brilliant–Massachusetts Institute of Technology kind of brilliant. You’ve aced the course work in electrical engineering and computer science and you’re ready to work as a Wall Street analyst. But there’s one test left, and it has absolutely nothing to do with electrical engineering or computer science. You have to swim 100 yards. That’s …

Imagining Christ (Ezek. 34:11-16,20-24; Ps. 95:1-7a; Eph. 1:15-23; Mat. 25:31-46)

Article by Kathleen Norris

As we approach the season of Advent, we find Ezekiel being outrageous in true prophetic style. If we pride ourselves on being spiritual seekers, Ezekiel insists that it is God who seeks us out and not the other way around. Can’t we prize the maturity of knowing who we are and of finding communities where …

Jesus’ Final Exam

Article by Martha Greene

The problem with any speech that one hears repeatedly is that a hardening of the ears sets in. That may be the case with the first portion of our lectionary reading containing the summary of the law: we have undoubtedly overheard it. There is something appealing about what Jesus does with the theology professors and …

Kingly Presence (Is. 60:1-6; Ps. 72:1-7; 10-14; Eph. 3:1-12; Math. 2:1-12

Article by Herbert O'Driscoll

Because we know almost nothing about the wise men, our imaginations take wing. If we were brought up in the Christian faith, these characters have ridden across our minds and hearts ever since we were taken to our first Sunday school pageant. Even the most sophisticated children secretly envy those who have been selected to …

Let the Imbongis Sing! (Ps. 96; Is. 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Lk. 2:1-20)

Article by Peter Storey

Back in 1994 TV viewers all over the world watched transfixed, as South Africa’s first democratically elected president took the oath of office. While a dignified Nelson Mandela addressed the heads of state, many viewers wondered about the man dressed in leopard skins, standing directly behind him with a little flag stuck quaintly in his …

Life-and-Death Choices (Deut. 30:15-20; Ps. 1; Lk. 14:25-33)

Article by Christine Pohl

In a culture that is deeply ambivalent about personal sacrifice, and often equates it with co-dependency or some other form of emotional dysfunction, Jesus’ challenge to “carry the cross” is difficult to hear. But then it probably did not sound appealing to the folks following him 2,000 years ago either. In this passage from Luke, …

Life-Giving Fear

Article by Barbara Brown Taylor

When I was a hospital chaplain, the calls I dreaded most did not come from the emergency room, the psychiatric ward or even the morgue. They came from the pediatric floor, where little babies lay in cribs with bandages covering half their heads and sweet-faced children pushed IV poles down the hall. One day I …

Life-Giving Law (Psalm 19)

Article by Fred B. Craddock

Lent carries in its bosom a seductive danger: excessive inwardness. The seduction is this: a season of prayer, repentance and preparation for Good Friday and Easter necessarily involves trips to the heart, but tarry there too long and repentance can stall out as melancholy. The danger is this: self-examination may spawn attempts at self-improvement, with …

Limited-Time Offer (Is. 55:1-9; 1 Cor. 10:1-13; Lk. 13:1-9)

Article by A. Katherine Grieb

“God will forgive my sins,” quipped Heinrich Heine on his deathbed. “It’s his job.” How different are the viewpoints of Isaiah, Paul and Luke! They note an ongoing theological tension between the assurance of God’s kindness and the call to immediate repentance. Yes, God is merciful, not punishing as we deserve, not automatically correlating our …

Living by the Word Matthew 16:13-20

Article by Karoline M. Lewis

The conversation at Caesarea Philippi is a defining moment for the synoptic Gospels, although only Matthew and Mark name it as the location for Peter’s confession, "You are the Messiah." For the Gospel narratives as post-Easter interpretations, reflections and perspectives, who Jesus is constitutes the most important question for those early communities that claimed belief …

Living by The Word (1 Corinthians 4:1-5: Matthew 6:24-36)

Article by Tom McGrath

My wife and I have found a great remedy for those times when life seems overwhelmingly stressful, our worries mount, and our inner resources seem depleted. We consider the birds of the air. Specifically, we pop in a DVD titled Winged Migration, Jacques Perrin’s Oscar-nominated documentary that follows dozens of species of birds on their …

Makeshift Communities (Is. 9:1-4; Ps. 27:1, 4-9;I Cor. 1:10-18; Matt. 4:12-23)

Article by Barbara Lemmel

A young rabbi found a serious problem in his new congregation. During the Friday service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and half remained seated, and each side shouted at the other, insisting that theirs was the true tradition. Nothing the rabbi said or did moved toward solving the impasse. Finally, in desperation, the …

Marked for a Purpose (Is. 42:1-9; Acts 10:34-43; Matt. 3:13-17)

Article by Kathleen Norris

Several years ago I was invited to preach on this gospel passage from Matthew at the National Cathedral on the Sunday designated to honor the state of Hawaii. I struggled with the subject of Jesus’ baptism, partly because baptism is not an easy concept to explain, and this story seemed strange indeed. Why would Jesus …

Missing the Resurrection (Acts 1:15-17, 22-26; Ps. 1; 1 John 5:9-13; Jn. 17:6-19)

Article by John Killinger

Imagine being Judas and having your name be come synonymous through the ages, in every country on earth, with an act of treachery. That would be heavy wouldn’t it? Years ago, when my wife and I saw Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar on a London stage, the cast came down …

More than Enough

Article by Samuel Wells

The vocation of the church is to celebrate the politics of love. That may sound curious. What does the gentle, touching gift of love have to do with the ugly, underhand machinations of politics? Most people think of politics as a regrettable but necessary business. Necessary, because we live in a world of scarce resources, …

Muddling Through (II Kings)

Article by J. Mary Luti

When I became a seminary administrator, a colleague at another school gave me this advice: “People always act from self-interest. When you approach them with a plan, they’ll invariably ask themselves, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Figure out the answer to that before you propose anything, and approach issues accordingly.” Pared to its core, it …

Namaan‘s No-nonsense Cure (2 Kings 5: 1-14)

Article by Peter S. Hawkins

Traditional Christian appropriation of the Hebrew scriptures often flattens them. Stories become precursors of later New Testament events rather than genuine events in themselves. Vivid multidimensional characters become mere prefigurations instead of figures in their own right, and complex narrative situations are reduced to a single theological point. This is due in part to the …

No Keeping Score (Gen. 45:3-11,15; Ps. 37:1-12, 41-42; I Cor. 15:35-38,42-50; Lk. 6:27-38)

Article by Phyllis Kersten

Keeping score and getting even — that’s what enemies do. Time after time the Tutsis and then the Hutus have waited their turn to get even with each other in Rwanda. In the last outbreak of violence, loyalty to tribe even outweighed allegiance to religious vows for some clergy. Sacred sites in Jerusalem separate rather …

Now What? (Acts 4:32-35; Ps.133; 1 Jn.1:1-2:2; Jn. 20:19-31)

Article by Stanley S. Harakas

The terminus of the Lenten journey is Easter, and Christians celebrate it with triumphant joy. In the Eighth Ode of the Eastern Orthodox Paschal Canon, the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ is exalted: “This is the chosen holy day, the first of all Sabbaths, their queen and sovereign; the feast of feasts and festival …

Off the Mountain (Ex. 34:29-35; Ps. 99; 2 Cor. 3:12-4:2; Lk. 9:28-43)

Article by Phyllis Kersten

What did they expect when they set off with Jesus that afternoon? An intimate conversation among the four of them? A chance to talk Jesus out of that strange, scary stuff he had been saying about suffering and dying, about saving or losing their lives? Of course, whatever they expected, they got much more than …

Participating in Revelation (I Kg.19:9-18; Rom.9:1-5; Mt.14:22-33)

Article by Luke Timothy Johnson

These readings invite reflection on the puzzling proposition that God encountered in the world. We may put it differently or even mean different things by it, but 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. …

Paschal Light (Acts 10:34-43; Cor. 15:1-11; Jn. 20:1-18 or Mk. 16:1-8)

Article by Stanley S. Harakas

When my daughter Katherine was 16, she and her friends decided to put on a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. The parents of the actors gathered in a neighbor’s living room for the performance. My wife and I were impressed by our amateur thespians. We were also impressed with the play itself — that is, …

Pent-Up Power (Jer. 33:14-16, Ps. 25:1-10, 1 Thess. 3:9-13, Lk. 21:25-36.)

Article by Herbert O'Driscoll

Born in the vast mountain ranges of British Columbia, the Fraser River floods southward to its rendezvous with the Pacific. At one stage of that long journey the mountains gather themselves to form a deep narrow canyon through which the Fraser must pass. It does so in a thunderous flood, gouging an almost 200-foot deep …

Pick it up, Read it. (Ps. 121;Gen. 12:1-4a; Rom. 4:1-5,13-17; John 3:1-l7)

Article by Richard Lischer

One of the disadvantages of being both a Lutheran and an academician is that you hear so few good conversion stories. The weight of my tradition identifies regeneration with the work of God in baptism. Those who tell their conversion stories with great gusto or whose spiritual c.v. runs on for pages (or hours) are …

Piety and Preparation for New Life (Am.5:18-24; I Th.4:13-18; Mt. 25:1-13.)

Article by Delores S. Williams

The prophet Amos warned the people that their shallow piety would not prepare them for the new life they believed God would bring. God finds no pleasure in their feasts, solemn assemblies, burnt offerings or peace offerings. Their pious acts are of no avail, for God’s pleasure is in justice that must "roll down like …

Preface  in  The Bible Today

Book Chapter by C. H. Dodd

This book represents a Course of ‘open lectures’ given under the auspices of the Divinity Faculty of the University of Cambridge. The text is partly based on shorthand notes taken by hearers of the lectures, among whom I am particularly indebted to Miss M. Buchanan. Both the substance of the lectures and the general arrangement …

Proof of God (Matt. 17:1-9; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Ex. 24:12-18)

Article by Christien Coon

Kurt vonnegut, the renowned writer and self-avowed humanist, once said that his epitaph should read, "The only proof he ever needed of the existence of God was music." I wonder if Vonnegut had been listening to Franz Jackson; hearing Jackson on the saxophone would inspire such a statement. Although not everyone has heard of Jackson, …

Proud to be Humble

Article by Ronald Goetz

For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. . . . therefore, as it is written. “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” [I Cor. 1:26, 31]. Text: When Paul wrote these words, he was obviously addressing …

Provoked to Repentance (Eph. 2:1-10; Jn. 3:14-21)

Article by Stanley S. Harakas

Two themes dominate these Epistle and Gospel readings: faith and works. These inevitably lead to a third theme — repentance. All are important in the spiritual reorientation fostered by our observance of Lent. Unlike the theological controversies of past generations, these two passages serve not to contrast faith and works but to define and order …

Punctured

Article by James Alison

One of the things I love about the liturgical life of the church is the way that the Holy Spirit, quietly and gently, works on us. Through the texts and prayers set out each year in the lectionary the Spirit draws us ever more fully into the Presence. If we read the texts in a …

Rare Sightings (Is. 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matt. 3:13-17)

Article by Barbara Lemmel

The water flows cleanly here, just a few miles from the source of the Hudson River, deep in the Adirondack Mountains. The big puffs of foam that form on the surface of the water aren’t evidence of agricultural runoff, but rather the result of rainwater leeching through the forest floor. One early summer morning, as …

Reading Romans

Article by Luke Timothy Johnson

Book Review Romans: A Commentary. By Robert Jewett. (Fortress), 1,250 pp. Those paying the $90 price for this commentary in the distinguished Hermenia series can scarcely complain that the book was lightly tossed off. It includes 70 pages of front matter (such as bibliography), 125 pages of back matter (indices and the like) and over …

Reading the Signs (Is. 7:10-16; Ps. 80:1-7, 17-19; Rom. 1:1-7; Matt. 1:18-25)

Article by James Alison

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (Matthew 1:23). We are on the very brink of the nativity. Our sense of the power of the One coming in has been stretched, challenged and recast over the past three weeks. Now the reality of that power begins …

Reflections on the Lectionary (Col. 3:1-4; Matt. 28:1-10)

Article by Frederick Niedner

Rarely are cemeteries as peaceful as they seem. My boyhood friends visited them by night to consult with spirits–86-proof spirits, as I recall. Sometimes we’d glimpse young couples having soulful, breathy talks among the tombstones. The Mount of Olives, Jerusalem’s ancient cemetery, hummed with political conversation when Passover pilgrims spent the night there. The prophet …

Remorse and Hope (Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Matt. 6:1-6, 16-21)

Article by Susan B. W. Johnson

Last week my daughter came home from school with an assignment to write a poem for her Spanish class. "I need an oxymoron for ‘hope,"’ she announced. I sifted through my mental catalog of silly oxymorons: army intelligence, feminist humor, adolescent charm. We talked about her assignment and I lamely offered her the idea of …

Repent, Then Obey (Jer. 31:31-34; Ps.; 51:1-12; Ps. 119:9-16; Heb. 5:5-10)

Article by Stanley S. Harakas

Two dominant themes weave through these readings. The first is the permanent need for repentance. The second is obedience: Christ’s obedience to his heavenly Father and the Christian’s obedience to Christ. 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 …

Representatives and Partners (2 Sam.7:8-16; Lk.1:26-38)

Article by Delores S. Williams

The birth of Jesus calls our attention to God’s tradition of selecting representatives and partners from lowly places. During Advent we naturally focus upon Jesus as such a representative, and we sometimes forget that Jesus’ birth began with a humble woman. Mary was selected by God as a partner for producing the divine child that …

Risk and Fulfillment (Is. 63:7-9; Ps. 148; Heb.2:10-18; Matt. 2:13-23)

Article by James Alison

All of the Spirit’s labor–the pruning of our imagination, the background work on our expectations–comes to fruition on Christmas Day, when we are brought into the Presence. The virgin who for nine months has been weaving the veil of the temple out of the material of her own body sits in stupefied and exhausted silence. …

Risky Business (Prov. 25:6-7; Ps. 112; Heb. 13:1-8, 15-16; Lk. 14:1, 7-14)

Article by Christine Pohl

In The Fragility of Goodness, author Martha Nussbaum writes, "The peculiar beauty of human excellence just is its vulnerability." Goodness is fragile and its vulnerability is part of its beauty. But in several of these scripture texts, it is not the fragility of goodness that stands out but the sturdiness of righteousness. The psalmist proclaims …

Road Trip (Luke 24: 13-35)

Article by Amy B. Hunter

The storyteller weaves it all together — an unknown traveler named Cleopas and his companion; the resurrected Jesus, who is present but in an unrecognized, mysterious fashion; the travelers’ sudden recognition of Jesus; and his sudden disappearance. I have always loved the story but have never understood why this particular resurrection appearance is so much …

Rub Poor Lil’ Judas’s Head (Revelation 21:10-11; 22:5; Is. 26:21)

Article by Delores S. Williams

While researching the spiritual songs of African-American slaves I was surprised to come upon a line that commanded: "When you get to heaven, rub poor lil’ Judas’s head." Most Christian teaching casts Judas into hell as an unforgiven sinner. Never had I heard a kind word about Judas. What is going on here? Is this …

Sharing in the Holy Spirit (Gen.1:1-2:4;Ps.8;Matt.28:16-20;2 Cor. 13:11-13)

Article by David L. Beck

It is getting harder in the modern translations of the Genesis stories, to extract what Christians have traditionally assumed were references to the three persons of the Trinity. What was clearly translated as “the spirit of God” in the King James Version is “a strong wind from God” in the New Revised Standard Version. If …

Shattering the Closure of Unbelief (Is. 55:10-11; Rom. 8:18-25; Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23)

Article by Luke Timothy Johnson

Lectionary readings tease our minds because of their odd combination of openness and closure. They can become a deconstructionist’s dream. By providing only fragments from biblical books (in this case part of an oracle from Isaiah, a reassurance from Paul, a parable from Jesus) , they leave a suggestive opening, not only to other texts …

Shriveled Delight (Is. 58:9b-14; Ps. 103:1-8; Heb. 12:18-29; Lk. 13:10-17)

Article by Christine Pohl

As a weekend gardener, I have discovered the deep satisfaction of seeing the fruit of a well-watered garden. Months of tending and watering yield a delightful harvest of well-formed, abundant produce. In contrast, a hot summer with little water yields plants that are shriveled and produce that is unusable. For a casual gardener the difference …

Shrubs and Scrubs (Jer. 1 7:5-10; Ps. 1; 1 Cor. 15:12-20; Lk. 6:17-26)

Article by Phyllis Kersten

I do not have a green thumb. I don’t speak to my plants. Instead I make them grab their throats, gasping for water, before I recognize their parched condition. Then I drench and almost drown them. This is no way to treat any living thing, plant or otherwise. Plants treated this unkindly are spindly and …

Sin Insulation (Ex. 32:7-14; Ps. 51:1-10; 1 Tim. 1:12-17; Lk. 15:1-10)

Article by Christine Pohl

The sins revealed in these first three scripture passages are blockbusters — betrayal, idolatry, adultery and violence — the raw material for larger-than-life stories and films. The Bible does not whitewash the sins of its major characters. Their awful failures and wrongdoings are part of the story, as are the human consequences, divine judgment and …

Sins and Sensibilities (Deut. 18:15-20, I Cor. 8:1-13, Mk. 1:21-28)

Article by Mary W. Anderson

Where I grew up, everybody was pretty much just like me. It was a small, southern community, with a long history, deep roots and consistent Christian morality The only visible difference was our whiteness or our blackness. Ethically speaking, that’s how we saw everything too: white or black, good or bad. For example, in my …

Sit on It (Judges 4:1-7)

Article by Talitha Arnold

Deborah: Judge. Prophetess. Wife or “spirited woman,” depending on how you translate the Hebrew. Powerful woman who advised generals and led troops into battle. Creative woman who composed songs of victory. Wise woman who “sat.” As a seminarian, I was impressed by Deborah’s many roles and responsibilities. She was a leader of men when women …

Slave Wages (Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42)

Article by Bill O'Brien

In 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation marked the beginning of the end of slavery. The new air of freedom brought an unintoxicated euphoria. But a century later, freedom was redefined, this time as an absence of responsibility. The new air of license was inhaled and produced an intoxicated forgetfulness of anything that smacked of authoritarian inhibitions …

Smoothing the Path (Mal. 3:1-4; Lk. 1:68-79; Phil. 1:3-11; Lk. 3:1-6)

Article by John C. Morris

I cherish the vision of what could have been a great moment in American poetry. One day my American literature professor told our class about Emily Dickinson, the quiet and reclusive woman who was satisfied to live in a circumscribed world in Amherst, Massachusetts. Then he told us about Walt Whitman, the wild man of …

Spellbound (Deut. 18:15-20; Ps. 111; 1 Cor. 8:1-23; Mark 1:21-28)

Article by Ray Rhoads

In the days before every district superintendent carried a cell phone, driving the charge conference circuit was a great opportunity to listen to the radio. My favorite station was NPR. More than once I found myself totally enthralled by a broadcast story. Sometimes I would pull into my own driveway but be unable to get …

Standing on Promises (Is. 6:1-4,8-11; Ps. 16; I Thes. 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28)

Article by Kathleen Norris

It is hard to believe what we hear, that we are a blessed people, standing in God’s favor. Hard to believe that God will bring righteousness to our world as mysteriously and yet naturally as a seed sprouts and grows out of the earth. We know it is foolish to put stock in such promises, …

Staying Power (Luke 24:36-49; Acts 3:12-19)

Article by William Brosend

Cleopas and his unnamed (female?) companion get all the credit. Everyone preaches about an "Emmaus road experience." Nobody preaches about a "stayed-in-Jerusalem-and-waited-to-see-what-happened experience." Everybody preaches about how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread, but nobody preaches about what happened after Jesus asked, "Have you anything here to eat?" …

Sticks and Stones (Ps. 31:1-5; Acts 7:55-60; 1 Ptr. 2:2-10; Jn. 14:1-4)

Article by Scott Bader-Saye

Who would have thought that being a waiter could be so dangerous? One might expect impatient customers, lousy tips and long hours — these come with the territory. But more dire consequences? Surely not. Yet in the sixth chapter of Acts Stephen is chosen as one of seven who will “wait on tables,” an occupation …

Story Time (Dt. 26:1-11; Ps. 91:1-2, 9-1-16; Rom. 10:8b-13)

Article by Jennifer M. Ginn

It was Christmas afternoon. The living room was littered with spent wrapping paper, while gifts were scattered willy-nilly under the tree. Christmas dinner dishes crowded the counter, one daughter-in-law was assembling yet another batch of cookies, and teenagers were picking at Christmas goodies and sampling the dinner ham. Then my mother-in-law began a story. “When …

Strangers in the Night (Psalm 95; Ex. 17:1-7; Rom. 5:1-11;Jn. 4:5-42)

Article by Richard Lischer

A stranger approaches Jacob’s Well at high noon. He is tired and thirsty. There he meets a woman who has come to draw water. Something happens between them. . . . The original readers of the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman must have felt themselves on familiar ground. The scene and characters would …

Stretched Hearts (Is.:1-10; Ps. 146:5-10; Lk. 1:47-55; James 5:7-10; Matt. 11:2-11

Article by James Alison

With each Sunday of Advent, it is as though the Spirit brings us deeper into the Presence by bringing us closer to having our feet on the ground, closer to the present, and closer to our own hearts. The divine Heart Surgeon is reconfiguring our desires so that we can inhabit both the Presence and …

Suffering and Victory (Mk. 8:31-38; Mk. 9:2-9)

Article by Stanley S. Harakas

Lent leads to a set of powerful and paradoxical realities manifested in Holy Week and the paschal event: death and life, defeat and victory, crucifixion and resurrection. Chapters eight and nine of Mark set the tone for the Lenten journey and mirror its conclusion by inextricably binding together two dimensions of salvation: suffering in abandonment …

Surprise Encounter (Jn. 1:43-51; I Sam. 3:1-10 [11-20])

Article by Christine Pohl

After meeting Jesus, an excited Philip seeks out Nathanael to tell him they have found the one ‘about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” But Nathanael’s response is not very promising. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he responds skeptically It’s true: Nazareth was …

System Failure

Article by J. Nelson Kraybill

"A virus breached the campus computer network last week and the entire system crashed. Repair has been difficult, but I bring a word of hope." The director of information technology at the college where I was about to lecture on eschatology added, "This has been frustrating for everyone. Files have been corrupted and programs do …

Table Manners

Article by Barbara Brown Taylor

P>I saw them eating and I knew who they were. That is a Middle Eastern proverb that Jesus probably knew. It does not make much sense in our own age of fast food and family suppers around the tube, but in Jesus’ day what you ate and whom you ate it with were critical matters. …

Testing That Never Ceases (Matt.4:1-2; 4:3-11; Gen. 3:5; Deut. 8:2; Deut. 34:1-8; Deut. 18:18)

Article by Fred B. Craddock

Still wet from his baptism in the Jordan, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted 40 days and 40 nights, and afterward he was hungry" (Matt. 4:1-2) . With these words Matthew addresses those who gather for the first Sunday of Lent. What …

The Bible Today

Book by C. H. Dodd

(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.

The Discovery Channel (Gen. 15:1-l2, 17-18; Lk. 13:31-35; Phil. 3:17-4:1)

Article by Hal W. LeMert Jr.

Some grow in their faith by imitating the faithful. Some enhance their faith through study. But today’s lessons suggest that faith involves discovery. Discovery happens in the moment when we shout, "I see!" In that moment we not only learn what was discovered, but we make our own discovery. The apostle Paul was trying to …

The God’s Aren’t Angry (Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20;1 Peter 3:13-22)

Article by Kelly Lyn Logue

On the night before Thanksgiving, a clergy friend and I went to hear maverick preacher Rob Bell, who is touring the country on his "The Gods Aren’t Angry Tour." Most folks were home dressing their turkeys, but an interesting crowd of baby boomers, Generation X pastors like me, punk "throw back to the ‘80s"- looking …

The Jericho Affair

Article by Samuel Wells

Imagine that congress has set up a committee to report on the disquieting events on the Jerusalem-Jericho road and their aftermath. Here are some excerpts from its findings. "The Inquiry is satisfied that the priest acted in a thoroughly professional manner. We are aware that he is a man of high profile in Jerusalem society, …

The Journey Begins (Psalm 32;Genesis 2:15-l7;3:1-7;Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11)

Article by Richard Lischer

In l932 my father met my mother by means of one of the great pick-up lines of their era. After a “young people’s” social at their Lutheran church, he followed her along the park on the near north side of St. Louis to the streetcar stop. When he caught up to her, he said with …

The Last Word: A Good Friday Meditation on Luke 23:46 (Luke 23:46)

Article by Patrick Henry

What happens when we die? An unsettling question, but this way of posing it does keep it at arm’s length, a subject for theological or philosophical or medical discussion. What happens when you die? What happens when I die? Surely the question cannot come closer to home than this. But it can. The Christian gospel …

The Offense (Lk. 4:21-30)

Article by John Stendahl

Jesus’ behavior surprises me. Not his challenge of the narrow expectations in his hometown — an attack on parochialism, nationalism or ethnocentrism fits what we know of him. But I’m surprised by the offensive way he picks this fight. Hearing his stirring words in the synagogue, his old neighbors approve of him, are proud of …

The Proclamation (Neh 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Cor. 12:12-31a; Lk 4:14-21)

Article by John Stendahl

Majestic now Christ stands and proclaims the prophet’s words fulfilled. Well, that’s not quite accurate. He does read the words standing up, but then in good rabbinic fashion he sits down to teach. Still, there is majesty to be imagined in that sitting and in the brief sentence pronounced to the expectant hearers: “Today this …

The Protestant Dilemma (Jer. 31:7-9; Ps. 126; Heb. 7:23-28; Mk. 10:46-52.)

Article by Peter J. Gomes

Once upon a fairly recent time it was common knowledge, at least to Protestants, what a Protestant was. On the last Sunday in October Protestants gathered together to celebrate the fact that a Protestant was not a Roman Catholic. Reformation Sunday was meant to affirm the inheritance of a reformed and evangelical Protestantism, with a …

The Psalmist (Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Ps. 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Jn. 20:19-31)

Article by Debbie Blue

The psalmist has a body, and it figures prominently in his poetry. His kidneys lash him, his heart rejoices, his pulse (or liver) beats with joy. His body is not gross matter imprisoning him; it pulsates, breathes, dwells securely and participates fully in the overflowing joy and delight he feels in God’s right hand forever. …

The Sent and the Sender (Is. 61:1-2, 65:17-25; I Th. 5:16-28; Jn. 1:6-8, 19-28.)

Article by Delores S. Williams

One of the most important motifs of the Advent season is that of "the sent" and "the sender." Generations of believers have found hope in the notion that someone (or something) is coming to relieve them of their burden. This someone will be sent by a higher, divine power who has seen the people’s affliction …

The Shadow Side

Article by Cynthia A. Jarvis

“Fear,” writes Karl Barth, “is the anticipation of a supposedly certain defeat.” This is what rules the emotions of Joseph’s brothers, who fear and hate their brother’s favored status. This is what strikes the hearts of Jesus’ disciples when they see him walking toward them on the water. And this is how it is with …

The Waters of Solidarity (Gen. 1:1-5;Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11)

Article by Mary W. Anderson

After the hectic and holy Christmas season, after the unusual turning of a new century, and, wonderfully, a new millennium, the church and the culture will settle back into familiar rhythms. For the church and its calendar, this means the season of Epiphany with its festivals of Magi, miracles, baptism and transfiguration. On the cultural …

Touch and See

Article by F. Dean Lueking

Touching can be as routine as a handshake or a high five. It can be as exploitative as lustful pawing, as threatening as a clenched fist. Or, as the Easter account in Luke 24 proclaims, touching can be the means whereby the risen Lord Jesus chooses to make himself known. After Jesus’ Emmaus appearance, the …

Turn in the Road

Article by Mary Schertz

Christians tend to compare their personal conversion experiences to Saul’s encounter on the road to Damascus. Not all of us, of course, talk freely about what happened in us and to us on the way to becoming Christian. Our levels of comfort with such talk vary widely depending on our congregational culture, our notions of …

Twice Healed (2 Cor. 1:18-22; Mk. 2:1-12)

Article by Douglas R. Loving

When the congregation I serve initiated a prayer chain several years ago, its participants were amazed at the response: healing intercessions requested for all manner of illnesses and ailments — physical, emotional, 1 spiritual, societal. The calls poured in from members and nonmembers alike. Why so well received? In part, because those seeking out intercessory …

We Are Aliens (Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56)

Article by William H. Lamar. IV

Only 87 entries separate America and amnesia in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Tenth Edition. Perhaps the name of our nation and the term designating memory loss live in the same lexical neighborhood because they are so fond of each other. I like to imagine them taking road trips together, drinking cognac, smoking cigars and reminiscing about …

What Does the Bible Say? (Ezek. 34:11-16; I Cor. 15:20-28; Mt. 25:31-46.)

Article by Delores S. Williams

While giving lectures at a mid-western college I came face to face with a major affliction among young people: biblical illiteracy. As we tried to interpret some literature crammed with biblical allusions (all of which functioned symbolically), the students were at sea. They knew none of the biblical contexts. Finally we got to the theme …

What God Wants

Article by Thomas G. Long

Last year, just in time for Easter, Mel Gibson released an edited version of his controversial film The Passion of the Christ. A few brutal scenes had been cut and camera angles had been changed, all in an attempt to soften the graphic violence of the original. Gibson said that the new edition of the …

Wildfire (Acts10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-7)

Article by John Killinger

Like a fire out of control, the Holy Spirit leapt from the Jews to the gentiles, amazing Peter and his fellow Christians from Jerusalem. The Spirit was wild, unpredictable, totally beyond human restraint. Opinions vary about how important the Spirit was in Judaism before the Christian era. The Spirit had some connection to Sophia, the …

Windblown (Acts 2:1-11)

Article by Jim Callahan

It was a great day for multiculturalism. It was the Tower of Babel turned upside-down, and what fell out was a glorious manifestation of the grace of God. It was also a tough day for future lay readers: all those forbidding names — Parthians, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Cappadocians, Phrygians, Pamphyilians — that whole crowd. In Luke’s …

Wine Tasting (2 Corinthians 3:1-6; Mark 2:13-22)

Article by Douglas R. Loving

As the gusty winds of change blow unpredictably through the church, Jesus provides an intriguing sound bite in the Gospel lesson: "One puts new wine into fresh wineskins." Fresh wineskins, as faith communities experiment with alternative worship rituals. Fresh wineskins, as local congregations adopt new administrative structures. Fresh wineskins, as denominations reshape their organizational patterns …

You Are Israel

Article by J. Mary Luti

Devout Christians often appropriate the Bible’s language and patterns to frame their spiritual experiences. When feeling dry or abandoned, we speak of exile or desert sojourns. Prodded to an unknown destination, we invoke the memory of a wandering Aramaean. After long vigils, when we finally know, we say we’ve heard a still, small voice. Summoned …