A Complex Mess

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
1 Samuel 17
Psalm 9:9-20
2 Corinthians 6:1-13

If you read selectively a la the UMC lectionary edit, David and Goliath is a binary bad-versus-good easy side to pick. Goliath, the God-defying giant and professional warrior, wears heavy-duty armor, requires a shield-carrying person for extra defense, taunts people and brandishes multiple weapons. He’s the villain. On the other side, David is young and untrained in combat. The armor doesn’t fit, but it doesn’t matter. He’s driven by indignant righteousness and the Spirit of God is with him. A good-looking model-of-faith volunteers for action, and he wins to boot! Read more

A New Creation

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
2 Corinthians 5:6-17

So here we are, once again in the long Season After Pentecost (after Easter, after Lent, after Epiphany, well, you get the idea). Having moved through the great, narrative seasons that remind us of who Jesus was and is and is to come, we are launched into a season of deep, practiced discipleship, out in the world God so loves. And just as the Earth is literally in a physically different place from the last time we encountered the Season After Pentecost, so too is the world, our congregations, and ourselves. Continuing to travel in Jacob Bernoulli’s Spira mirabilis* the hope is that we are spiraling ever closer to the final fulfillment of God’s Creation. Read more

Divided Houses and the God Who is King

Third Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 8:4-20
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

When I was younger, I heard many sermons about King David. Of course, David’s story and several Davidic themes form a significant strand of Old Testament thinking. These sermons usually elevated David as a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Because he was king of Israel, he was God’s person for the job. Often, the focus on this central Israelite ruler was set alongside a fervent push for Christian leaders to be in positions of power and a strong sense that the United States was/is a Christian nation. Israel was God’s nation, and they had a king. Why should this version of God’s nation be any different (even if the official title of the leader is different)?

My experience is not unique. Many churches emphasize David’s story as a way to say something about our own time and setting. For example, we can easily find folks defending their chosen political figure’s indiscretions by invoking David’s story. They say, “Yes, David made mistakes, but God still backed him. Therefore, this political leader’s place is safe because we are certain that God also backs him or her.” In the end, the activity of the nation (including military action) is legitimated as part of God’s plan and purpose for the whole world. When turning to the appointed texts for this week, however, we find a different story unfolding. Read more

Taking Scripture Seriously

Second Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 2:23-3:6

Is Scripture the whip of the oppressor or the hope of the oppressed?

At my church, Holy Family, we talk a lot about the difference between taking Scripture literally versus taking it seriously. Sometimes to take Scripture seriously, we must read it literally. And sometimes, reading Scripture literally is a failure on our part to take it seriously. Read more

Polyphony of Glory

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of God’s glory.
Isaiah 6:3

The creeds can seem like rote, take-it-or-leave-it dogmatic moments in the liturgy, rather than expressions of hard-won, blood-stained wisdom wrung from centuries of wrestling with the meaning of God and human experience.
Tom Long

Talk about the Trinity sounds a far cry from “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Actually, the former can help illuminate the latter, and vice versa, but there are a couple of things one must keep in mind. The first is that Christian theology is a conversation that has been going on across two millenia and in countless historical situations. Taking it seriously involves the effort to become more fluent in this vast language.

The other thing to acknowledge is that each and every discipline has its unique vocabulary, from a CNA conversation in the hospital hallway to a quarterback calling plays in the offensive huddle. Theology is the kind of language that probes, clarifies, parses, distinguishes between ‘not this, not this, but this.’ One who properly uses this language admits with fear and trembling that even though words about God are “a raid on the inarticulate,” we must not settle for “the general mess of imprecision of feeling / Undisciplined squads of emotion (T.S. Eliot, ‘East Coker’). Read more