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The Way Down

by Brian Volck
Matthew 2:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7(8,9); Phillipians 2: (5)6-11; Matthew 16:14-27:66

“I will bury Jesus (in) myself.”
From The Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244; Part 2, No.65

I’m not qualified to judge the theological soundness of that old saw, “God draws straight with crooked lines.” We know that Palm Sunday’s readings are a push into the arcing current of a great river. We know the river flows toward the unimaginable Paschal triumph.  But the readings today have one and only one direction: down.

Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, in a procession rich with political significance befitting a messiah, save for the public relations gaffe of riding a donkey rather than a military charger. But as soon as the cloaks are retrieved and the branches trampled beyond recognition, the triumph goes awry, spinning precipitously toward complete disaster.  Read more

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Snorting at Death

Fifth Sunday in Lent
Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:1-45

The texts for this Sunday leave no doubt about where the Lenten journey will end. A week before Palm/Passion Sunday and the start of Holy Week and it’s not the scent of spring flowers in the air but death–as shrouded, four-days-dead Lazarus is stinking up the place. Dry bones are on Ezekiel’s mind—brittle, rattling remains beyond the stages of rot and stench. “Our hope is lost,” the people in exile say, “we are cut off completely” (37:11). The Psalm, too, the de Profundis, commonly read at funerals or included in settings of the requiem mass, acknowledges the depths of human despair and hopelessness. Read more

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Internalizing what Externals Mean

1 Samuel 16:1-13

We live in a culture obsessed with appearance.  Tanning beds promise us sun-kissed bodies year round.  Moleskine notebooks remind others of how creative we are and our designer eye wear helps us not only to see but to be seen.  In this image obsessed culture we are tempted to continually modify the external, often in an effort to avoid the work of tending to the inner life which cannot be so easily dressed up.

God, however, is not so easily distracted by the temptation of the external.  This episode in the life of God’s people is a brilliant example of the declaration God made to Isaiah “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” says the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55.8-9) Read more

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Engaging Jesus

John 4:5-42

How long does it take to know someone truly? A year, a decade, a lifetime? Whether working alongside someone, putting in the hard work of committed friendship, or sharing the blessings and labors of marriage, we can be confident that we can know a person’s identity, aims, and motivations with the passage of time.

Yet after two millennia, can we be so certain that we know Jesus? Read more

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Being Born From Above

Lent 2:  Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17

Through rain, desert, wind and snow
Abraham and Sarah had to go
even though they nothing know.
– Oskar Sundmark, 11 years

Even though they nothing know.  This is what it means to trust in the God we see revealed in Jesus, what it means to be Christian – to drop our nets, pick up our cross and follow Christ.  Or as Soren Kierkegaard puts it:  “To be joyful out on 70,000 fathoms of water, many, many miles from all human help – yes, that is something great!  To swim in the shallows in the company of waders is not the religious.” Read more