2 April 2017
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Lent 5A (RCL)
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

The raising of Lazarus is the last of the seven signs in John’s Gospel. And if understanding Jesus on the basis of the signs is a misunderstanding, then it is very easy to misunderstand this sign. Everyone in the story misses the point — even Mary and Martha. Part of our problem in understanding the story is a history of mistranslation. Continue reading “Resurrection?”

Now I see

26 March 2017
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Lent 4A (RCL)
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

This is the central chapter of John’s Gospel and pulls together many of the themes of the Gospel. And central to the chapter is the encounter between the Jews and the parents of the man born blind. The parents refuse to answer “for fear of the Jews,” because the Jews have already agreed that anyone who confesses the Christ will be thrown out of the synagogue. The chapter takes up the question of the nature of sin. The chapter opens with the disciples asking, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” and closes with Jesus telling the Pharisees that since they claim to see, their sin remains. The action in this chapter points to the disciples after the resurrection, locked in the room, “for fear of the Jews,” when Jesus appears, breathes on them, and says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. The sins of whoever you forgive are forgiven them. The sins of whoever you retain are retained.” Continue reading “Now I see”

Athirst for God

19 March 2017
Third Sunday in Lent
Lent 3A (RCL)
Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

Most of the patriarchs met their wives at a well. Abraham’s servant met Rebekah at the well at Nahor, in the evening, “the time when women go out to draw water” (Genesis 24:11). Jacob met Rachel at the well at Haran, in broad daylight (Genesis 29:7). Moses met Zipporah at a well in Midian (Exodus 2:15). The stories of the Patriarchs and the story of Moses were initially the founding stories of Israel, the Northern Kingdom of the United Monarch under David. John is certainly aware of these stories and aware of their connection to the Northern Kingdom, whose capital was at Samaria. Continue reading “Athirst for God”

Born again?

12 March 2017
Second Sunday in Lent
Lent 2A (RCL)
Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

The Gospel reading for this Sunday contains one of the most oft cited verses in the Bible. Who has not seen someone holding a poster with the words “John 3:16” at some sporting event? This verse contains the promise of eternal life for all who believe, and is taken as a kind of summary of the Christian Gospel. But the whole passage that comes before this verse serves precisely to problematize our understanding of eternal life. For John, it means something different from an everlasting life in the Kingdom of God. Continue reading “Born again?”

Knowing good and evil

5 March 2017
First Sunday in Lent
Lent 1A (RCL)
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

In the reading from the Old Testament, we leave out several verses. Those are the verses where the Lord God decides it is not good for the human being to be alone, and creates all the animals, and finally the woman. I have always believed that the story of the temptation in the garden can be read as a coming-of-age story. When we are young, we do not know good from evil, and life is wonderful. When we reach maturity, and sexuality has something to do with that, we can begin to make moral distinctions, and life gets harder. That the man blames the woman, and that they recognize their nakedness reinforces, to my mind, that this can be read as a coming-of-age story. Continue reading “Knowing good and evil”