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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Lost and found

31 March 2019
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Lent 4C (RCL)

Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

The parable of the Lost Son comes as the third of three parables concerning things lost and found. The first is the one sheep out of 99, and the second is the one coin out of ten. Now, we have one of two. Stories of younger sons and elder sons abound in the scriptures of Israel. Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers – always the younger son comes out on top. Perhaps Israel experienced itself as the unlikely, lucky younger son. Continue reading “Lost and found”

Expect glory

3 March 2019
Last Sunday after Epiphany
Last Epiphany C (RCL)

Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2
Luke 9:28-43a

The passage we read from 2 Corinthians has unfortunately often been used as a proof-text for supersessionism – that Christianity has superseded Judaism. Of course, Paul was a Jew, and was critiquing his own religion, so I suggest that we should use this passage as a critique of Christianity. How often do we read our scriptures with a veil over our eyes? Paul’s great criticism was that we had used the law to draw distinction, rather than to create a righteous community. It seems like we do that with our Christian texts as well. Whom can we exclude is often the question we ask. Continue reading “Expect glory”

God’s economy

19 November 2017
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 28A (RCL)

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-7
Matthew 25:14-30

This parable sticks uncomfortably in our craw. If we are to read it as an allegory, with the man going on the journey as God, we get a picture of God as judgmental and even vengeful: take the talent away from him who has one and give it to him who has ten. We react strongly against this image of God. Continue reading “God’s economy”

Whatever is just

24 September 2017
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 20A (RCL)
Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

We often read this parable as an assessment of the reaction of Jewish Christians to the admission of Gentiles into their fellowship. Much like the story of the prodigal in Luke, which aligns Jewish Christians with the older brother who has observed the father’s commandments, we align the Jewish Christians with those hired first in this parable, who have born the heat and burden of the day. These late comers receive the same reward, and the first are justifiable perturbed. In my evangelical days, we read this as a comment on death-bed conversions. This interpretation did not make the bulk of Christians very happy. Why not play around until the last minute? Continue reading “Whatever is just”