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Classic posts

For this week’s lectionary, we have two great posts from previous trips through the cycle: Debra Dean Murphy’s  “The Hemorrhaging Woman”  from 2009 and Brian Volck’s  The Encounter More Than the Cure from 2012.

Hurricane

Storm of the Spirit

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Psalm 107
Mark 4:35-41

Mid-May of this year, the Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life released findings from a recent survey that indicates a decline in the number of Americans claiming Christian affiliation, especially among Mainline Protestants and Catholics.

When the report was first released, reactions among those I know varied widely, from alarm, to those who met the findings with resignation and acceptance, or frankly as old news. As a divinity school student, preparing for perhaps a lifetime of full-time Christian service to the church, I have wondered at my curious position as someone apparently hoping against the odds. Am I tying myself to the bow of a sinking ship? Read more

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Large Things in Small Parishes

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 4:26-34

The Texas historian of a generation ago, Walter Prescott Webb, has a wonderful paragraph in his classic book, The Great Plains. He contrasts the West with the East in the raising of cattle and notices that even though the West raised fewer cattle than the farms of the East, it was the West that defines for us what cattle raising is all about.

Webb writes, “A thousand farms in the East will each have six or seven cows, with as many more calves and yearlings – ten thousand head. But they will attract no attention … In the West a ranch will cover perhaps the same area as the thousand farms, and will have perhaps ten thousand head, roundups, rodeos, men on horseback, and all that goes with ranching. … The East did a large business on a small scale; the West did a small business magnificently” (p. 227).

I like Webb and I like what he says. The romantic notion of ranches, big cattle drives, cowboys, horses, spurs jingling, dust blowing, with perhaps some rousing Elmer Bernstein music in the background is magnificent. Nevertheless, I am more taken with his line, “The East did a large business on a small scale.” It was the small farms that did the large business of raising cattle.

Webb’s line reminds me of one from the Welsh poet and Anglican priest R.S. Thomas who wrote, “I was vicar of large things in a small parish.” It is a line, along with Webb’s, that keeps telling me of my vocation and the vocation of the church. Read more

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Rejecting the God Who Is

Second Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 8:4-20
Mark 3:20-35

Even those sympathetic to the cause of the young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were a bit shocked by the brazenness of the young organizer. President Johnson, the same president who would later sign the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts into law, asked King to tone down the spectacle a bit—there were, after all, elections to be won and constituencies to satisfy.

As the Civil Rights movement began to gain strength through the tactics of non-violent resistance, the establishment grew increasingly uncomfortable. White pastors across the South, in an attempt to keep the peace, appealed to King to be patient. Those with less sympathy to the cause of Civil Rights were quick to vilify and attack the calling and character of the preacher-King.

The great irony of all this was that it was taking place in the South, in the midst of one of America’s most deeply religious landscapes. In a time and place where you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t say ‘God is our King,’ or ‘Jesus is our Lord,’ the man whose life so clearly sought to resemble that Lord and King was vilified and ultimately silenced. Read more

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The Economy of God’s Redemption

Trinity Sunday
Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

When I teach Christian Ethics, I try to compensate for my students’ general lack of theological literacy by taking them on a whirlwind tour of the biblical narrative. The main thing the Bible has to teach us, I often tell them, is who God is and what God is up to, with the latter showing us a lot about the former. What God is up to, I suggest, is some variation of the same thing he’s been up to since he approached Abram somewhere around 4,000 years ago: a work of healing, cosmic in its scope, in which (as some of the Ekklesia Project’s own literature points out), God’s called and gathered people are both recipients and partners.

This is the fundamental economy of God’s ongoing work to heal the brokenness of his beloved Creation. God calls regular folks, all of whom share in Creation’s brokenness, often profoundly so, and then empowers them, collectively and individually, to be embodied witnesses to God’s now-yet-coming reign. Read more