Enduring Desire


Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Having passed through the devil’s testing in the wilderness in last week’s lectionary text from Luke, Jesus contends next with testing that takes on a decidedly more human and communal face.

Some friendly Pharisees counsel Jesus to get out of Dodge before the menacing Herod devours him. That villain has already imprisoned and executed Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist, and even the not-so astute can foresee that Jesus will share a similar fate should he linger within Herod’s jurisdiction. Discretion is the better part of valor, says conventional wisdom. Dodge the threat, and live to preach another day. 

Jesus himself can see that Jerusalem, the axis around which all of Israel and world history revolves, has turned its back on him and that a prophet’s death awaits him should he complete his journey to the center. Self-preservation dictates that he pull up short of the city and ward off the rejection of those who ought most to receive him. Read more

As Good As Done

 

Micah 5:2-5a; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-55

We arrived at the village and were greeted by the headman and the welcoming committee. As the honored guests, we were made to sit on chairs under the mango tree. The only others who sat on chairs were men. The women and children sat on mats or on the dusty ground amid the chickens that had free run of the village.

While the important people sat “enthroned,” the clear leaders of the celebration were the women. They had come dressed in their best clothes, shiny and clean. They raised their voices in song, loud and bright. With call and response, joyful ululation, and bodies moving in vibrant celebration, these poor rural village women in Zambia gave voice to God’s victory over disease, hunger, and death.

In many times and places, it is the women who best celebrate the triumph of God. Read more

Ultimate Imagination


Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-38a

Some years ago, a friend of ours who was a major player on the Nigerian political scene nearly met an untimely death but survived. After confronting his mortality—his end, Takai abandoned his ascendant career trajectory and told his children that they would receive no inheritance from him. Their inheritance would now come in the form of a ministry he would establish to care for needy widows and orphans. Today that ministry cares for and brings together hundreds of Christians and Muslims in fractured northern Nigeria. Takai’s confrontation with the end unleashed imaginative energy for discipleship and ministry.

Admirable as it is, Takai’s story makes little sense to us because we believe something entirely different: it’s a world without limits that allows for creativity and life at its fullest. Read more

What to Wear in Battle

1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69

The culmination to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has ample capacity either to thrill or repulse us. For those who already envision themselves locked in a mortal struggle against enemies of various stripes, Paul’s use of militaristic imagery fits and heartens. But for those who find the very thought of warfare hateful, even or especially against the demonic, this text chills and embarrasses.

But perhaps, in both cases, we get off on the wrong foot with Paul’s battlefield imagery. We begin with instincts formed by the kind of power that dominates our world instead of the power that fires Paul’s imagination. We can hear Paul’s exhortations to “be strong in the Lord” and to “put on the whole armor of God” much as we might hear admonitions from TV car ads that promise us that their vehicle will help us feel “safe in an unsafe world.” In this vein, Paul merely calls us to be strong in the way that we already know to be strong and to engage in more of the self-protective patterns we already practice. Since God was the one who provided us with our leverage, it follows that we must employ these sources of strength in our struggle. Read more