Science, Church Signs, and the Hope We See

Proper 14, Year A

Matthew 14:22-33

I have long been a fan of the church marquee.  I don’t generally pay attention to the service times or the pastor’s name written large; what I look for is a good word, a funny saying, some pithy call to the Christian life.  I am, of course, often disappointed.  Some jokes fall flat, some scriptures are ripped from their contexts, and often the theology is an abuse of all that is good and beautiful about our faith.  But often enough the signs are just right.

I recently saw a few online that gave me laugh or at least a humored groan: “Honk if you love Jesus, text if you want to meet him.”  Or “Adam and Eve, the first people to not read the Apple terms and conditions.” Or “This too shall pass, it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.”

As I drove past a church in my city, I recently saw a LED marquee with the message: “We are praying for scientists that they may find a vaccine.”  There was something in that message that didn’t sit well with me, a problem that I couldn’t quite articulate.  It wasn’t that I am against scientific inquiry or that I think praying for scientists or even a vaccine is a bad idea.  Much of my own life has been formed by scientific modes of understanding, I once even imagined that science would be my career.  I often read books written by scientists and I own a microscope, telescope, and dissecting kit with which I engage in my own explorations of the world, often with my children, whom I encourage to pursue knowledge through scientific means. But still, I had some sense that there was another message the church should have been offering. Read more

The Cost of Compassion

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

 

 

Genesis 32:22-31

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:13-21

Quoting Henry Ford, Dale Carnegie wrote in his seminal, bestselling self-help work How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), “If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own.” While Carnegie might not have been the first public figure to package this brand of empathy for the masses, he was certainly one of the most prominent. In the decades since, the move he describes here, of understanding “the other person’s point of view” has come to be adopted by businesspeople, politicians, gurus and ministry experts as an effective sales technique, a surefire campaign strategy, a can’t-miss item in our evangelistic toolkit. Empathy sells. Compassion pays off. Read more

The Present and Hidden Kingdom

By Johnny Tuttle

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

I am a sucker for the universality – the “catholicity”[1] –  of this string of parables. They seem concerned, not simply with identifying the Kingdom of God, but the universal reach of its presence.

Certainly, the mustard seed is a speck in the field. Yet, as the parable announces, it grows into “the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” I suppose you could debate whether the mustard seed is indeed the smallest seed, or whether it is the greatest of shrubs when it is grown; I’ll pass on that debate. It seems the point, rather, is that the entirety of this “sprawling” plant – one large enough to house the birds of the air in its branches – is contained by the seemingly insignificant seed. Read more

Waiting With Eager Longing

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 28:10-19a and Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 

Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or Isaiah 44:6-8 and Psalm 86:11-17

Romans 8:12-25

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

What a strange and interesting time we live in! It has been fascinating to observe the reactions of people in my networks as they grapple with feeling trapped at home, with having to teach or simply appease frustrated, restless kids, and with the fears of the impact of the virus (real and imagined) on communities, on families, and ultimately (you knew this was coming) on themselves individually. In other words, what about ME? Read more

The Yoke of Injustice

Proper 9, Year A

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

The July lectionary readings from the Gospel of Matthew are threaded together with agricultural images that run through Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus invites his disciples in this week’s scripture to shoulder his “easy yoke.” Next week’s teaching will bring news of productive soils and seed. The third week of July finds Jesus talking about weeds and wheat, and the last Sunday reading of July provides a cornucopia of agrarian themes: the small mustard seed that blossoms into something big, a field that contains a treasure, and vivid images of the harvest. Read more

Desires of the Heart

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Genesis 22:1-14

The saga of Abraham’s life collapses into one terrible command. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering.” These murderous words in the mouth of God are heart-stopping, and whatever uneasy peace we might make with them, they tend to linger, adding fuel to the fire of our deepest suspicions about God. Read more

Weekly Prayer – week 2

We will gather again this week for prayer on Zoom at 9pm eastern/ 6pm pacific. If you’ve already registered, you can join directly at this link: Evening Prayer. If you would like to register for the upcoming service, you can register here: Registration. 

At our first service, we had about a dozen people from places throughout the U.S. You can view the text from that service (and from future services) here. 

Though we regret that we won’t be gathering this year, we are glad that we can stay connected in this small way. If you can’t join us but have a prayer concern you’d like us to be aware of, you can email info@ekklesiaproject.org or leave a comment anonymously on this Google form. If you are interested in helping to plan or lead upcoming evening prayer services, you can contact us at the address above.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6

George Herbert-Lectionary Poem for the Second Sunday After Pentecost

Throughout this church year, The Englewood Review of Books has been curating a weekly series of classic and contemporary poems that resonate with the themes of the lectionary readings. Here is one of the poems for this coming Sunday (Second Sunday after Pentecost – More poems for this Sunday can be found here)

 

Grace
George Herbert

 (to accompany the lectionary reading: Romans 5:1-8)

MY stock lies dead, and no increase
Doth my dull husbandrie improve:
O let thy graces without cease
               Drop from above!

If still the sunne should hide his face,
Thy house would but a dungeon prove,
Thy works nights captives: O let grace
               Drop from above!

The dew doth ev’ry morning fall;
And shall the dew out-strip thy Dove?
The dew, for which grasse cannot call,
               Drop from above.

Death is still working like a mole,
And digs my grave at each remove:
Let grace work too, and on my soul
               Drop from above.

Sinne is still hammering my heart
Unto a hardnesse, void of love:
Let suppling grace, to crosse his art,
               Drop from above.

O come! for thou dost know the way:
Or if to me thou wilt not move,
Remove me, where I need not say,
               Drop from above.

*** This poem is in the public domain,
  and may be read in a live-streamed worship service.

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh-born poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. His poetry is associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets, and he is recognised as “one of the foremost British devotional lyricists.” He was born into an artistic and wealthy family and largely raised in England. He gave up his secular ambitions in his mid-thirties and took holy orders in the Church of England, spending the rest of his life as the rector of the little parish of St Andrew’s Church, Lower Bemerton, Salisbury. He was noted for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill and providing food and clothing for those in need. He was never a healthy man and died of consumption at age 39.  (bio via Wikipedia)