How Much is Enough?

Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Numbers 11: 4-35
Mark 9:38-50

Years ago in a cartoon in the Houston Chronicle, in the first frame was a man, obviously an American middle-class male, standing next to his car, saying to it, “Because of you, the air is foul. The globe is warming.” In the next frame, the man is pumping gas into the car saying, “Because of you I’m entangled in the affairs of countries that cause me headaches.” Next frame, while he is slumped in his seat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, “Because of you our central cities are empty and I waste half my life in traffic to the burbs.” Next frame, kids are getting in and out of the car, “Because of you my family is one big frantic snarl of hectic schedules.” Next frame, while holding his paunch with littered paper cups and french-fry containers around him, “And because of you I’m an obese drive-thru addict, a coronary just waiting to happen.” In the last frame, the man is hugging his car, “What would I do without you?” Read more


A Hard, Simple Truth

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Mark 9:30-37

For the past few weeks my wife, 9 month old daughter, and I have been on the road.  Somehow or other it worked out that September was a month where we had several out of town engagements and we decided that rather than travel back and forth we’d make one month long trip of it, visiting friends along the way, and making a quick beach trip in between engagements.  Traveling is one of those tricky things that depends on your perspective.  On the one hand it can be an incredible experience of seeing new places, embracing the beauty of creation, and catching up with old friends.  On the other it can be a painful disruption of sacred routines, full of stress filled hours finding ones way in unknown places with a crying baby and hours of hellish interstate.  I alternate back and forth, but lately I’ve been on the grumpy side, missing the hard fought routine I’d carved out back home.

We’ve been at the beach for the last few days and while my wife and daughter relax by the ocean, I mostly sit in a coffee shop working—writing, catching up on emails, etc.  The other night, after a day of trying to fit in my writing, feeling stressed over completing a task list without my regular routine, I went for a run on the beach.  I was working hard, pounding out the miles for an upcoming race I’m training for.  I felt tired, my body a little overworked and I started to mourn the bad eating I’d done earlier in the day.  I didn’t feel as fast as I wanted and began to wonder whether I’d be able to really finish the race or achieve the respectable time I had my sights set on.  When I got back to the beach where my wife and daughter were enjoying the wind and waves and sea gulls, my wife said, “God loves us!  Look around at all of this,” she said pointing to the crashing waves, a gathering storm in the distance, the wind whipping across the shore, “We are small in all of this.  God loves us!”

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Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 1: 20-33
Mark 8: 27-38

Ah, it has finally begun to cool off where we live. There is a hint of autumn crispness in the air. The new school supplies are bought and our son has begun grade four. In the lectionary we have been learning too – what might be new things about Jesus for us, if we have been paying attention in class. Like how even Jesus is a little surprised to find himself debating with a Gentile woman, who is seeking healing for her daughter, and opening the hearing and speaking of a Greek man. A Jesus surprised about the direction his mission is taking may not be what we are used to envisioning.

We get yelled at this week. Yelled at by both Wisdom and Jesus. In public. Read more


Hearing and Obeying

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 35:4-7A
James 2:1-17
Mark 7:24-37

My mother – who, while alive, would have been mortified to be called a saint – often told us how God spoke to her in her prayers. She said so without irony or apparent metaphor, nor did she claim special standing, privilege, or insight. In fact, she gave no reason to believe her experience wasn’t available to every praying person. Furthermore, she never claimed to speak for God to others and, as far as I could tell, God’s speaking to her was more important than the words themselves, if indeed what she understood herself to hear were words. In truth, I’ve never understood quite what she meant. Her experience was not mine, though I’ve never doubted she had profound encounters with real presence. Read more


The Heart of the Matter

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The Pharisees have travelled from Jerusalem out to the region of Lake Galilee to find Jesus, but this is not a spiritual pilgrimage. We quickly discover they have come to find fault: “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Isn’t it interesting that the accusation is not leveled at Jesus himself, whom we might assume was performing all of the rituals the Pharisees were so focused on?

But, before we get to Jesus’ response, we need to pause and really hear the Pharisees. Read more