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Showing posts from August, 2015

What is our response to Jesus?

Here is the Gospel lectionary reading for today.... Luke 4:16-30 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.' And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, 'Is not this Joseph's son?' He said to them, 'Doubtless you will

God's Word & Human Tradition

Cajun humorist Justin Wilson tells the story about two boys who were neighbors. They were best of friends every day of the week except Sunday. They were enemies on Sunday because one was a Catholic and the other was a Baptist. Their parents did not like the fact that these religious differences were producing such uncongenial relations, so they agreed to have their sons visit each other’s church services so that a mutual understanding might foster a more tolerant attitude. On the first Sunday, the Baptist boy visited the Catholic Church. Just before they sat down, the Catholic boy genuflected. “What’s that mean?” the Baptist asked. All through the mass, the Baptist boy wanted to know what this and that meant, and the little Catholic boy explained everything very nicely. The next Sunday it was the Catholic boy’s turn to visit the Baptist church. When they walked in the building, an usher handed them a printed bulletin. The little Catholic boy had never seen anything like that before i

Herod & John the Baptist

"St John the Baptist" by Leonardo da Vinci What sells magazines? One only has to take a glance at the publications on offer at the checkout counter in the grocery store to answer that question. At least three things seem to sell magazines…. Royalty. One can most always see photos of the British royals on display. Sex. “Who was in bed with who?” is a perennially favorite topic. Religion. Though this topic is not as popular as the other two, the tabloids do take an interest in the fall of a popular preacher, which seems to happen often enough. Now, if you mix these three topics together, then you have a bestseller on your hands. That is precisely what we have in our Gospel lectionary reading for today from Mark 6:14-29…. King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet,

Will we be ready?

When I was in seminary I helped to start a church that met in a theater. I wrote drama sketches which illustrated the sermon each week and organized people from the congregation to perform these dramas in worship. The first sermon series in that church was on the Gospel of John. I wrote drama sketches all about a relationship between a man and a woman. The pastor used these dramas to compare human romance to our relationship with God. That church was the place where Becky and I met. And I recruited her to play the woman opposite me in the dramas. There was even a wedding drama. So, as we often like to tell people, we got married before we got married! In the drama the groom had some mishap on his way to church and so didn’t have any pants to wear. He stood in front of the congregation with a sheet wrapped around his waist until it came time for the kiss. He forgot all about the sheet, and while embracing his bride, dropped the sheet, revealing some very colorful boxers. Now

Signs of the End of the Age

When my wife got pregnant the first time we read everything we could about what was happening in the womb during each month of the pregnancy. But as we approached her due date we were  especially looking for signs of her going into labor: her water breaking and/or the pains of contractions. It’s sort of funny now looking back on it, but none of the three births worked themselves out in text book fashion. With the first, Becky’s water didn’t break on its own; they did that for her in the hospital. That time the contractions were strong and obvious; it was time for the baby to be born. With the second, Becky thought her water broke so we went into the hospital. There we found out that her water hadn’t broken, but she was so close to her due date that they kept her in the hospital and induced labor. With the third birth there were neither the signs of contractions or water breaking. Becky had complications with that pregnancy and so Joshua was delivered by C-section. In Matthew

Seven Woes

My father had a phrase he used frequently around the house when I was growing up. It was: “Woe be unto you!” This may sound strange, but not too strange for a preacher who grew up as the son of a preacher. The phrase would usually be used something like this: “Woe be unto you if I go out to the garage and don’t find my hammer in its proper place!” Today we are going to start into Jesus’ fifth major discourse in Matthew’s Gospel. Remember Matthew structures his Gospel around five major blocks of teaching material from the mouth of Jesus. These five discourses are meant to remind us of the five books of Moses, the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Matthew intends us to see Jesus as a greater Moses. In Matthew 23 we are going to hear seven woes from the mouth of Jesus which correspond to and contrast with the eight beatitudes of Matthew 5. In fact this fifth discourse in Matthew 23-25 corresponds roughly in length to the first discourse in Matthew 5-7. One int