Count the cost

September 8, 2019; Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 18C (RCL); Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33.

We don’t like this passage of Luke’s Gospel (and similar passages in all the other Gospels). Commentators try to explain it away, saying Jesus didn’t really mean ‘hate,’ but that the Greek misein is translating some Aramaic phrase that means something like ‘ranked lower in value,’ or some such. The problem with that is Luke wrote reasonable good Greek. He would have picked his vocabulary carefully. Continue reading “Count the cost”

Come up higher

September 1, 2019; Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17C (RCL); Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-16; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14.

One of the real potentials for embarrassment when visiting another culture is transgressing the rules of precedence. Several times on my visits to Lui in South Sudan, I found myself having made a faux pas. On one occasion, we were dining with Archbishop Daniel at the Mundri Cathedral, in the payat outside. We had entered the payat and taken our places. The archbishop came in and sat opposite the doorway, and then invited one of our party, literally, to come up higher. We all had to rearrange the seating pattern to make this happen.

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What is church for?

25 August 2019, The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 16C (RCL) Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17.

There are several resources for choosing hymns to go with the lectionary readings. The Episcopal Musician’s Handbook is one. Marion Hatchett published a index of the Hymnal 1982 keyed to the old Prayer Book lectionary. There is a three volume set called Liturgical Music edited by Carl P. Daw, Jr., and Thomas Pavlechko. Every time there is a healing in one of the Gospel readings, you can be sure all three resources will recommend “Thine arm, O Lord, in days of old,” or “O for a thousand tongues to sing.” If you expand out to include Voices Found, Wonder, Love and Praise, LEVAS, and My Heart Sings Out, you can be sure you’ll see recommendations for “Heal me, hands of Jesus,” or “From miles around the sick ones came.” But, often, the point of a healing story isn’t about the healing. Continue reading “What is church for?”

Casting fire

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 15C (RCL); Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18; Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2; Luke 12:49-56.

Passages like this one in Luke’s Gospel don’t square well with our picture of gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Jesus is certainly supposed to be concerned with justice issues, but the idea of casting fire on the earth doesn’t seem particularly helpful. Where is the non-violent Jesus? And isn’t it Matthew who has Jesus talking about people being thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and their fire never goes out? Continue reading “Casting fire”

Do not fear, little flock

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 14C (RCL); Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40

The old prophets sound so relevant these days, one might almost think they’re speaking to us. Unfortunately, the lectionary this week leaves out some particularly trenchant remarks — Ah! sinful nation, people laden with wickedness, evil race, corrupt children! But then in the passage we read: “Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeed from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.”

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The sword rages

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 13C (RCL)

Hosea 11:1-11

Psalm 117:1-9, 43

Colossians3:1-11

Luke 12:13-21

We have lived through another horrible week in this country; two mass killings in less than 24 hours, in cities hundreds of miles apart. Nearly 30 dead. Hatred and racism finally show their ugly faces unmasked. In the reading from Hosea, we hear God’s anguished cry that Israel has forsaken the divine parental love – like an infant God had lifted us to God’s cheek. But we have worshiped false gods — the gods of nationalism, power, violence, division — and so the sword rages in our cities. God is heartbroken, and yet will not abandon us. Continue reading “The sword rages”

On saying goodbye

Today, after more than twenty six years at the same congregation, I said goodbye. There were a lot of tears on many faces, mine included. I won’t quickly process what all of my emotions around those years, and this day. I stood looking out over all those people whose parents, and spouses, and in several cases, whose children I’ve buried. There were many couples whose weddings I officiated, and whose children I baptized; and in several cases, children I had baptized holding children of their own I have had the privilege to baptize.

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Mary and Martha

21 July 2019
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11C (RCL)

Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

Oh, we don’t like the story of Mary and Martha. Someone has to wash the dishes, right? If Martha doesn’t bang those pots and pans, Jesus will not be welcomed as necessary in her house, right? But Jesus doesn’t seem to give her a pass by honoring the work she is doing. Continue reading “Mary and Martha”

What is it to be human?

30 June 2019
Third Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 8C (RCL)

2 Kings2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

Luke 9:51 is of course a turning point in Luke’s account of Jesus. From this point onward, his narrative is directed toward the events of Jerusalem. Luke immediately connects this turn to four short sayings. The first about a village of the Samaritans. James and John want to imitate Elijah and call down fire upon them (2 Kings 1:10-12). Elijah operated primarily in the Northern Kingdom, so the connection would be obvious. Continue reading “What is it to be human?”

The politics of swine

23 June 2019
Second Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 7C (RCL)

1 Kings 19:1-15a
Psalm 42 & 43
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

Poor Elijah; he’s had enough, enough to be ready to die. He’s just slaughter 400 of the prophets of Ba’al, and now Jezebel promises to make him just like one of them. He runs away into the wilderness (a smart move), and sits down under a broom dry and asks to die. One suspects that the author of the book of Jonah had read 1 Kings. Instead, he takes a nap, and an angel gives him bread and water (just as God gave the Israelites manna and water on their wilderness journey). This happens twice, and then he journeys to the mount of God. Continue reading “The politics of swine”