Hope for the World

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:24-47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10

I suspect there will be a lot of sermons this Sunday about sheep. John 10 is the locus of a lot the New Testament’s of sheep imagery. I am basically an urban and suburban person. I’ve little direct experience of sheep. I have a lot of direct experience of sermons that aim to teach me a lot about sheep from people who have no more agricultural experience than I do. I have seen a rabbit herd sheep on YouTube. I’ve had rabbits as pets. Their brains cannot be much bigger than an olive. Instead of focusing on the habits of sheep, I think our attention might be better directed elsewhere. Read more

More Righteous than the Scribes and Pharisees

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 58:1-12
1 Corinthians 2:1-12
Matthew 5:13-20

In a world where ever more people think of themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” one may be suspicious of any serious concern with and reflection on ritual observance. That suspicion may draw some energy from this Sunday’s reading from Isaiah 58. The people of God to whom Isaiah shouts out like a trumpet seem genuinely baffled by the criticisms lodged against them. Their ritual observance seems to have been devout. They seek God. They “delight to know [God’s] ways.” They fast, humble themselves, and observe the Sabbath.

As we read further in this passage, it is clear that all of this ritual devotion is completely disconnected from the common life of their society. There is rampant injustice in their commercial dealings. They are indifferent and inattentive to the needs of the poor. They neglect their own family members. As the LORD makes clear, these are the activities that form the basis of worship that pleases God.

It would be a mistake, however, to see ritual devotion and social justice as mutually exclusive. Read more

Money and Friends

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 16:1-13

There are a number of interpretive puzzles in this story of the so-called dishonest manager that forms the gospel reading for this Sunday. I will try to say something about them in due course. First, let us look at the end of the story. Here Jesus is talking, adding some comments to the story he has just told. He concludes these comments by saying that no one can serve two masters for obvious reasons. Then he says, “You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Whether or not I always serve God, I hesitate to accept the idea that I might be serving wealth. Rather, wealth is there to serve me. I think that is what many of us both in and outside the church think. We are free and wealth or money is to be used by us. It is a tool; it serves us. We may not always use our money wisely, but we definitely use it rather than serve it. Unless we think this, it would be very difficult to sustain the idea that money is something neutral. As long as money is a tool we can treat it as something to be used but it is neither good nor bad in itself. Read more

Neighboring

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 10:25-37

Our gospel reading for this week contains the story of the Good Samaritan. The story is so well-known that the phrase Good Samaritan has made its way into everyday English usage. We use it to refer to someone who unexpectedly and out of the blue does a generous or even heroic act for someone in trouble. Unfortunately, the past month has given us far too many opportunities to point out good Samaritans.

The phrase made its way into our everyday discourse from our Gospel reading for this Sunday. Our familiarity with this story and our conventional use of the term Good Samaritan might lead us to miss some of the more interesting details of this story from Luke’s gospel. Read more

The Death of Jesus

Palm/Passion Sunday

Luke 19:28-40
Luke 22:14-23:56

Beginning with his entry into Jerusalem and culminating with his crucifixion, this Sunday is devoted to the death of Jesus. He died as part of a public execution. Until relatively recently states, governments and empires always executed their perceived enemies publicly. It was an opportunity for the powers that be to make a statement. Read more