eyes

Eyes to See

Third Sunday after Pentecost
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Mark 4:26-34

In an era with a six billion dollar election cycle and more than 90% of elections won by the candidate with the most money, these understated stories of anointed shepherd kings and mustard shrub kingdoms make little sense to our calloused senses. The prophet Isaiah warned, and Mark quotes just prior to the telling of these parables, that people would “look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand” (Mark 4:12). Read more

fishing nets

The Far End of the Net

Third Sunday After Epiphany
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jonah 3:1-5,10
Mark 1:14-20

Only one time in each three-year lectionary cycle do we get a chance to read the prophet Jonah (twice if you’re Episcopal or Catholic and following the lectionary). The entire story takes only 48 verses to tell, but by the time it’s done the reader has been taken on a whirlwind tour of the ancient world, explored the character of God, watched Israel wrestle with its calling to be a conduit of God’s grace for all of the nations rather than its terminus, and felt both sympathy and anger towards a self-centered prophet more concerned with his public standing as a prophet than with the destiny of an entire nation. Read more

row of shovels

Jesus is Coming – Look Busy

Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Judges 4:1-7 OR Proverbs 31:10-31
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

With the attention demanded by All Saints, Christ the King, and the First Sunday of Advent this month, the preacher has little time to spend with this last so-called Ordinary Sunday of the Church year. In my own United Methodist tradition this also happens to be the time of year when Finance committees are urgently preparing 2012 budgets and pastors are nervously writing stewardship sermons in hopes of funding those budgets. This weekend’s gospel text seems to play right into this pattern with a pre-packaged message about stewardship lined up for the occasion. Investing our time, talents, and even money for the up-building of the Kingdom of God might well be a legitimate reading of this text, but could likely fall on deaf ears this time of year. Who, while readying themselves to enter the bustle of this season of the year, wants to be told they’re not already doing enough for the Kingdom of God? Read more

Peter crucified

Follow the Leader

11th Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 16:21-28

“We believe that the truth of the gospel cannot be separated from the kind of lives required for the recognition of that truth” -Stanley Hauerwas

“Our instinct to embrace Jesus’ exemplary goodness while avoiding the blood of the cross is a “stumbling block” to God’s mission in the world.” -Charles Hambrick-Stowe

At some point in my growing up years I remember seeing, on the bookshelf in our living room, the spine of a book whose title was Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. Even at a young age, I can clearly remember sensing the irony and nonsense of that phrase. Who makes war to get peace? Now I understand why its author would have suggested that the dominant ethos of our time is the notion of perpetual war for perpetual peace. Now I see why the world is so easy to believe that the means for achieving peace in the world need not match the ends. Why? We do it all the time. Read more

912170_party_candles

Apokatastasis and the Birthday of the Church

Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27; John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15 (Pentecost Sunday)

One of the first things that I remember learning as a seminary student in my introductory class on Church history was the word, apokatastasis. The word, which is Greek, most simply means “the end will be like the beginning” and is most commonly used to refer to the idea of a universal restoration of creation. At the time, we first year students cataloged this word away along with a long litany of other doctrines and heresies that comprised the first 1400 years of church history, ready to proudly (if not arrogantly) pull it out alongside other useful information such as the meaning of communicato idiomatum, why Augustine really stole those pears, and the gruesome tale of Abelard’s castration at the next party to show just how enlightened we were. I hardly think that any of us at the time assumed these words and stories would have any relevance for the day-in, day-out life of parish work in any church we’d ever serve. Yet as I read these lectionary texts for Pentecost Sunday, it seems to me like the word apokatastasis speaks directly to what is happening in Jerusalem some 50 days following the Resurrection. It is a word that the 21st century Church might do well to recover. Read more