Nathan confronts David

Discerning What Displeases the Lord

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 11: 26 – 12: 13a

Our Old Testament lesson brings us to one of the most dramatic moments in this extraordinary narrative of David when he is confronted by Nathan the prophet. It is high drama in this narrative and it is a high drama in the history of prophetic speaking truth to power.

David stole Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, committed adultery with her, and then when it was discovered that Bathsheba was pregnant, he used his power to have Uriah killed by the Ammonites. The last sentence of chapter 11 says, “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” The next sentence, which begins chapter 12, says, “And the Lord sent Nathan to David.”

My question is “how does the church come up with Nathans?” Read more

David mourning

Between the Narrative and the Psalm

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 11:1-15 , Psalms

“I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic… I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I had a liaison with another woman. I was painfully honest with my family and I asked my wife’s forgiveness. I have been stripped bare….”

– John Edwards, August, 2008

“I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. There is no one else responsible for my sins. I am responsible…. I don’t think God is through with me. I really believe he thinks there are still some good things I can do, and whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I’m hopeful about is all those kids I’ve seen…in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world that I can help them in whatever way I’m still capable of helping them.

– John Edwards, May 2012

In the summer of 2008 I departed from the lectionary to preach a sermon series on David. That was the summer the scandal involving then presidential candidate John Edwards broke. The David story is among the readings for this summer’s lectionary cycle, coinciding with the news of Edwards’ trial that filled North Carolina media.

Like it or not, I wonder how to read one story in the light of the other. Do we pass off Edwards as just another politician doing religious things? Do his emotional confessions stem from political expediency or from refiner’s fire? Are they expressions of hand-in-the-cookie-jar panic or scalpel-in-the-heart contrition? And if we hear John Edwards’ words with nothing but suspicion, can we hear the David story with anything other than the hermeneutic of suspicion? Read more

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The Shepherd Who Feeds Us

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23: Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34; 53-56

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is striking beauty in the appointed texts for this weekend.

And there are shepherds.

And the shepherds are beautiful.

I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. (Jer. 23:4).

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Ps. 23:1)

. . . and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. (Mk. 6:34b)

The lesson from Ephesians does not mention shepherds but its images and metaphors are equally beautiful, and shepherd-like:

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Eph. 2:14)

When one reads these four lessons together, going back and forth among them, savoring their beauty, noting their obvious (and not so obvious) connections, it is difficult to reconcile the vision they cast of the shalom of God with much of what constitutes ecclesial life in our time. Especially in this season of denominational gatherings in which the worst of ourselves, individually and corporately, is often on display: the petty bickering; the refusal to really listen to each other; the lack of charity and humility in our dealings with those we disagree with.  Read more

Our Weak God

From a recent sermon preached by EP endorser Matt Morin, in keeping with our Slow Church theme . . . .

Mark 6:1-13; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Milwaukee Mennonite Church
July 8, 2012

The scene in today’s gospel passage begins with Jesus entering the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. According to Mark, this is not the first time that Jesus has attempted to teach in the synagogue. In Mark 1, Jesus does so, but his teaching is interrupted by a demonic spirit. In Mark 3, Jesus’s actions in the synagogue anger some of his rivals, who in turn begin plotting ways to kill him. And, as you just heard in today’s scripture reading, Jesus’s third attempt to teach in the synagogue is met with scorn by members of his own hometown.

So, three times, Jesus enters the synagogue to teach, and three times, he is met with some resistance or rejection: first from evil spirits, then from his political adversaries, and finally from his own people.

It is clear, then, that the synagogue is not going to be the site where the good news is received and shared. In fact, this is the final time in Mark’s gospel that Jesus will enter a synagogue at all. Following this final rejection, he begins a new strategy for sharing the good news.

We’ll take a closer look at that strategy in a moment, but first let us give greater attention to the rejection Jesus experienced in Nazareth. “Where did this man get all this,” the people ask in verse two. “What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Isn’t this the carpenter? And they took offense at him.”

It is odd that the people would reject Jesus because he spoke with wisdom and worked deeds of power. We would understand if the passage said, “What is this man blabbering about? Why is he going on and on about nothing? He hasn’t done anything, he hasn’t said anything…. BOORRRING.”

To read the rest click here.

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The Banquets of Two Kingdoms

Proper 10 (B)

Mark 6:14-29

Psalm 85:8-13

This is what repentance is about.  It is a call to renewal—turning from the fallen, petty kingdoms East of Eden to the love, peace, and abundance of the Kingdom of God.  This is a reality that we can begin to live into now, but to do so we must switch our allegiances and become members of another kingdom—the Kingdom of Life against the Empire of Death.

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