Getting Some Real Rest

Matthew 11:16-30

This week’s gospel passage features that well-known statement of Jesus’: “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Rest. That’s a difficult word for today’s society, because it’s not clear that what we mean by “rest” and what Jesus means are the same thing. Read more

The Truth on the Other Side of the Resurrection

Easter Sunday
Acts 10:34-43
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-18

Easter is a good time for doubt. It’s a time when people occasionally dare to ask the pointed questions: “Jesus was good and all, but – you don’t really think he rose from the dead, do you?” They want the truth – and rightly so.

So consider what it means to read the Gospels in terms of what is true. The passion narratives grip us, filled as they are with raw emotions and experiences. Like all good stories, they invite us in, and at the least we can probably admit that the emotions are likely to be true.

In my Roman Catholic tradition, we call this practice of putting ourselves into the story the “Ignatian Method” of reading – but I think that many Christians confronted by the pathos of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection put themselves there at the cross naturally.

So at last week’s Passion Sunday service, when I heard Peter denying Jesus before the cock crowed three times, I thought, “Yup, I probably would have denied him too.” Read more

Desert Transformations

Third Sunday of Lent
Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

During Lent, God calls us to the desert and we go. We become like the Israelites in today’s first reading from Exodus, called and saved by God from slavery in Egypt, brought safely through the Red Sea, and now wandering in the desert for forty years (although for us, it’s only forty days). Our salvation may not be from slavery, but we still claim that salvation as ours and we often use terms related to slavery to describe our salvation: freedom from addiction, from slavery to sin, from bondage to a world that wants us to worship money, power, and false gods.

Christians have loved deserts, real and symbolic. We have preserved sayings of various desert fathers and mothers from the early centuries of the church in Northern Africa. We want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus himself. So we manufacture our own deserts: giving up some sort of food here, contributing more money there, adding some prayer to the whole. Each of these becomes one way of paring our lives to essentials, so that we can see God.

Yet today’s scriptures suggest for us that the thing we think we are doing in the desert – the spiritual preparation we are doing to receive God – might not in fact be the thing we are doing. Read more

Our Pious Disbelief in “God-With-Us”

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 7:10-17
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

King Ahaz – the king in today’s prophecy from Isaiah – is a man standing in great fear. To understand why, we have to go back a few verses to get the context of this passage. Two of Ahaz’s nearest enemies have united against him: the Northern Kingdom of Israel (a Jewish nation that had, in previous days, been part of a united kingdom with Judah), and Aram, a non-Jewish nation. Ahaz fears the bloodshed and destruction that war inevitably brings.

We, today, can understand Ahaz’s fear. Surely we have all been in some kind of position like that where we have stood among enemies, where no help or hope seems to be found. Read more