The Toughest Psalm

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
Psalm 137
Lamentations 1:1-6

This week we read the Bible’s toughest, darkest Psalm–137. The lectionary scriptures from Lamentations 1 and Psalm 137 are poems of lament that look back to the same event…the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC at the hands of the Babylonian war machine.

Imagine the fear that gripped the people of Jerusalem when they heard that Nebuchadnezzar’s war machine was headed their way. Imagine hearing the city gates clang shut for the last time. Imagine how peoples’ stomachs knotted up as food, water, and supplies became more valuable than gold. Imagine the terror that gripped citizens hearts as the guards on the walls hurled stones, arrows, and fire at the attackers. Imagine the raw panic that broke out in the streets when the foreign army broke through the walls and there was nowhere to run. Imagine the sick hopelessness that overtook husbands and wives who knew what was about to happen to their spouses and children. Imagine the terror on the day the city burned to the ground and blood flowed in the gutters. Read more

Bringing the Kingdom Near

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Galatians 6:7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

This week’s reading outlines the process by which disciples move from observation to practicum. For some time, Jesus’ disciples must have felt almost a part of the crowd as they followed Jesus around, listened to him preach, teach, heal and cast out demons. They were as surprised about “what came next” as anybody would be. They belonged to Jesus’ inner circle, but they had absolutely no idea what he might say or do, or where the whole thing was going.

Then Jesus came up with a new plan. “Alright guys, today I want you to count off by twos. One…two…one…two…” …and so it went until all were numbered. “You’ve watched me preach, teach, and heal. Now it’s time for you to put it into practice what you have learned. I’m sending you two by two into the harvest fields. Speak out the good news. Cast out demons. Heal the sick. Spend time with those who welcome you. Shake off the dust of those villages that reject you. Don’t take anything with you—no food, clothing, or money. Any questions?” Read more

Six Days Before the Passover

Fifth Sunday in Lent
John 12:1-8
“Six days before the Passover.” Five words let us know the clock is ticking. The disciples didn’t know they were down to six days. But someone in that Bethany home smelled the approach of death. Read more

Nine Miles from Bethlehem

Epiphany
Isaiah 60
Micah 5:2-4
Matthew 2:1-12

Sunday is Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas. On that day we won’t sing: “Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping,” but songs about magi from the East bringing gifts to Jesus. Although no manger scene would be complete without these exotic strangers from afar, Matthew says that they showed up some time after the birth of Jesus, and found Joseph’s little family in a house at Bethlehem. Read more

Implicating Prayer

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
James 5:13-20

The little boy seemed perfectly formed. Five years old. His tanned skin contrasted sharply with the crisp white sheets, and hinted of summer fun around the pool, maybe rides at the local carnival. But something had gone terribly wrong. Unknown to anyone, he had carried a hidden, ticking time bomb in his chest since the day of his birth, and one day as he played with his brothers and sisters, it detonated. When I got there the breathing machine and the drips and tubes were simply marking time. He was gone.

His parents’ preacher had come in the night before, talking big, staking a claim for the boy’s recovery. Faith would raise this child up, he said, and the only thing that could ruin the boy’s healing was lack of faith. The preacher was home in bed when the child was pronounced dead, which was a good thing, because several of us present around that bed would have welcomed a few minutes alone with him. Instead we were left to watch, and wait, and weep. Read more