Serving Wealth

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113
1Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

The gospel reading for this Sunday is one of the stranger passages in the New Testament. The steward is identified as both unrighteous and clever. In addition, it looks like the master who tells his steward that he is being fired for embezzlement then commends him a few verses later for fraud. It gets worse. When Jesus says that you cannot serve God and wealth it would seem that in the parable we are invited to see the master as God. As you might imagine, this passage invites a lot of scholarly gymnastics. Read more

The Sought, the Found, the Welcomed Home

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

I suppose this is somewhat atypical, unless you too were a farm kid, but I have such distinct memories from my childhood of lost livestock and going out to find them.

Our small farm was surrounded by large fields, and my dad as a hobby farmer often used what he had on hand for fencing, or patched together parts of things he picked up at auctions. We were always tying together wood pallets with baling twine left from open bales of hay, or twisting wire or plastic zip-ties around hog panels for makeshift fencing. Most of the time these solutions worked, until they didn’t.

And so I have memories of walking fast with determination and strategy through waist-high corn in my muck boots, keeping my eyes on where the tassels were rustling as I followed pigs or sheep down the crop rows to herd them back to the barn, trying to get in front of them and turn them back toward home. Read more

Estimating the Cost

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 14:25-33

This text begins with the statement that large crowds were traveling with Jesus. We know that will change. By the time of his crucifixion, even the twelve will have abandoned him to his death. Read more

Where is the Lord?

“Where is the Lord?” When we hear that question, it usually comes from someone who is lamenting the loss of an older practice or custom, such as prayer in public schools or businesses closing on Sundays. There is often a depth of frustration hidden beneath the question, presuming that the Lord is nowhere to be found. In other words, when this question is asked, the speaker sees things going awry. Read more

The Only Time is Now

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

The only time is now.

We often conceptualize time as linear, as if the garden of Eden stands at one end of time and the New Creation stands at the other. But the truth is that the only time is now. In the words of Doctor Who, time is more like “a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey. . . stuff.”

Right now we experience the breathtaking wonder of new creation, of new relationships, of new discoveries.

Right now we experience the heart-breaking disillusionment as the thing we once thought was perfect is in fact shown to be as ordinary and corrupt as anything else.

Right now, if we are brave, we experience the joy of relationships mended, and of creation restored. The wonder at seeing that which we were convinced was ordinary and corrupt, made divine — cracks, wounds, and all. Read more

Which Side?

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 5:1-7 or Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 80 or Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

They say in Harlan County
there are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
Florence Reece, “Which Side Are You On?”

Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.
1 Corinthians 11:19

Much has been written lately about the uncivil disintegration of contemporary American society, and for good reason; each day occasions new, often vicious spoken and written attacks calling into question the veracity, integrity, and intentions of those holding views different from the speaker or writer. Christians haven’t opted out of all the name calling, and have penned missives – some against their brothers and sisters – every bit as strident as those of our secular neighbors. I recently read part of such an exchange, which left me, as the news these days tends to do, despondent. And then I read the lectionary texts for this week, which offered a bit of perspective, if not consolation. Read more

We See What We Say

Because we live in a world marked by nationalism, racism, and horrific violence, we need voices that can help us lament, voices that can call us to prayer, and voices that can point us to faithful action and engagement with those around us. This week, we’re sharing a piece written by EP member and longtime board chair Debra Dean Murphy.
It is our prayer that Debra’s short but powerful piece, “We See What We Say,” will help guide you to faithful words and actions in the midst of a week of grief and anger.

Crisis of Faith

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 33:12-22
Luke 12:32-40

“Crisis of faith.” So often, these words are used to describe the process in which someone begins to ask questions, to make probing inquiries, about the doctrines and the traditions handed down to them.

To emerge from a crisis of faith, then, is to reach some level of comfortable affirmation that what we said we believed all along was, in fact, true. That the questions and even the doubts that vexed us during that brief period of spiritual struggle were not ultimately a threat to our certainty. That we can return to the way things were, before our convictions were unsettled by this unwelcome crisis. Read more

Rich Towards God

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 12:13-21
I work in development for a Human Services non-profit that meets people’s basic needs, while we advocate for systems that distribute resources in a more just and equitable manner. As a result, I spend 40+ hours a week thinking about people and our relationship to resources, primarily money. People who have it; people who need it; the systems in this country, county, town that have privileged and continue to privilege some people’s ability to amass it.

I think a lot about how to motivate people who have money to share it, but I also wonder why our society – our life together as organized through a system that we call government – is structured such that basic needs are not considered a right or subsequently funded with public dollars, i.e. our gathered resources. Honestly, it would be great if jobs like mine didn’t exist because the political will to care well for each other did. So, I welcome Luke’s willingness to talk bluntly about our relationship to resources. To be honest, I could use some help in knowing what to think. Read more