Declare How Much God has Done for You

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Kings 19: 1-15a
Psalm 42 & 43
Galatians 3: 23-29
Luke 8: 26-39

It is, in the Northern Hemisphere, the season of summer – of fun on the water in many forms. We, ourselves, live by three lakes and spend much time in them, on them and by them at this time of year. Our impending visit to my sister’s on the Saskatchewan prairies holds the promise of a visit to their cabin with boating, tubing, skiing and skipping stones on the to do list – unlike our last visit when our son learned to sandbag for the first time as his uncle and cousins sought to keep the lake water from drowning the cabin.

This last image of flooding and water out of control, unfortunately a prominent one on the weather news of late from so many different places, is, as N.T. Wright points out in the first chapter of his Evil and the Justice of God, a biblical symbol of the chaos evil creates – so much so that in the new creation of Revelation there is no sea (Rev. 21:1). Just before our text from Luke for this Sunday, Jesus and his disciples find themselves caught up in the chaos of a storm on the lake of Galilee. Jesus, apparently a sound sleeper, is not aware of the storm until his disciples awaken him in their full-fledged panic. Easily rebuking the wind and waves, a calm ensues while Jesus rebukes the lack of faith in his disciples and they wonder just who this guy is. Read more

More Than a Prophet

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

I live in a small city that loves to fund raise with lavish galas. The nails get polished and the clothes are glamorous. The food is decadent and the entertainment stunning. For a few hours this jeans-only oil town puts on the Ritz. And people want to know who is going; facebook, twitter and local gossip heats up. Will the beloved mayor be there? How about the multimillionaire industry leaders? Are there national and international celebrities coming to town?

It makes me wonder what kind of buzz Simon’s dinner party was generating. Luke tells us Jesus was garnering attention across the countryside after he raised a widow’s son from death to life. Now Jesus the healer and prophet is in town and Simon has snagged him for dinner. Simon has the food prepared, the setting elegant, the invited influential and important guests arrive as uninvited townspeople crowd around to see the Pharisee and his guests.

In Simon’s eyes, all is going according to plan until one of the onlookers pushes through the crowd and clings to Jesus’ feet. As she kneels anointing his feet, her tears bathe his toes and she wipes their moisture away with her hair. Read more

The Hope of Widows

Third Sunday after Pentecost
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 17:8-24
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17

Together this week’s lectionary readings bespeak a current that flows throughout the biblical narrative. These are vibrant stories and exaltations, full to the brim with joy and gladness at the beauty of a life restored. The world of the bible, like our own, is a world fraught with difficulty and marred by suffering and sadness. But, like seedlings which break through concrete, the power of resurrection—of life itself—breaks forth and beats the odds. These are stories of hope amidst hardship, light in the deepest shadows; they bear witness to the power of God which, in the end, holds sway even over Death itself. Read more

Overcoming Epistemology

Trinity Sunday


Psalm 8

…one God, the one beginning of all things, the wisdom by which every soul is wise, and the gift by which all things blessed are blessed…the Trinity of one substance…the beginning to which we return, the form (or pattern) we follow after, the grace by which we are reconciled…the one God whose creation gives us life, through whose re-forming we live wisely, by the love and enjoyment of whom live blessedly.” – Augustine, Retractions

The doctrine of the Trinity can present itself as quite an intellectual puzzle, perhaps especially to the monotheistic believer, and it is therefore rightly called a “mystery.” However, attending to Trinitarian orthodoxy and its implication of us and God can bring spiritual renewal, when we first make ourselves aware of certain habits of thought we moderns possess that render the Trinity a moral and intellectual “problem.” Read more

Where in the World?

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17 (25-27)

One of my prized possessions is a cassette recording of Thomas Merton lecturing his fellow monks at their Kentucky monastery during Advent of 1964. He tells them that we must come to see that Christianity exists in history, and that we have to see Advent in terms of contemporary history. He details some then-current events: the shootings and killings in Mississippi, the war in Rhodesia. Then he says, “Pious meditations on how rough Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus had it are meaningless unless I have some response to the sufferings in the flesh today. Events are manifesting a reality which is present. We’re living in Advent. What’s happening around us is the Advent liturgy of 1964.”

Merton’s words shed light on every season of the church year. In this case, they raise the question of the difference between mere pious mediations on the early disciples gathered at the festival in Jerusalem and the events that indicate we are living in Pentecost. In seeking an answer, we do well to remember John Howard Yoder’s caution against reading “the surface of history,” that is, making simplistic connections between current news reports and the mysteries of what God is up to in the world. But with that due caution, what is the 2013 Pentecost liturgy? Each appointed Scripture text provides not only a lens through which to see the world but also a unique focus on the gift of the Spirit.

In Acts 2, the out-pouring of the Spirit is a dazzling convergence of Passover and Pentecost, signs and wonders that extend God’s message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations. The coming of the Spirit crosses countless barriers, and, in Augustine’s words, “gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages.” Where in the world is that happening? Read more