Mustard Seeds and Evangelism

Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52

Being a Baptist in Texas the very air that I breathe is full of evangelism, growth, outreach, and marketing.  Everything is either big or needs to be bigger and it seems that the church is no exception.  Here in Big Texas (and America seems to be just a bigger version of Texas) it’s all about Big Business and trans-national corporations, mega-churches, and mega-plexes.  We want Big Answers and Big Solutions to Global Problems and we want to super-size everything from fries to storage buildings to football stadiums.  Politicians and economists of every persuasion keep telling us that a bigger economic pie is the answer to everyone’s concerns.  Closer to home, every day I receive mailings and emailings on how to grow, be bigger, reach more people, raise massive amounts of money, train more people, build bigger buildings, have a bigger sound system, a bigger music program, a bigger youth program, get a bigger church van, where to order a bigger pulpit, or how I can get a bigger Bible with larger print (okay, so I’m keeping that one).  In other words, bigger is always better; it is a sign of blessing and success, and if we’re not getting bigger then something is wrong. Read more

Van Gogh, Vincent. Harvest in Provence. 1888. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel..

Life Among the Weeds

Pentecost +5:  Romans 8:12-25 and Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

We live among the weeds—they crowd around us, their roots intertwine with ours, and sometimes the suffocate us.  Surely the harvest will be less bountiful when we allow the weeds to grow among the wheat—we can imagine the full vibrant growth of their grain as they have the full resources of the soil.  Couldn’t we just have some genetically modified wheat, some holy Round-Up to kill the weeds?

Perhaps, but Jesus’ hearers would have understood something important about the wheat that came out of a field of weeds—it was strong and sure, tested by the weeds and able to grow in spite of them.  The seeds of that wheat will carry that strength too—it is this seed that a farmer would want to plant next year, not the untested wheat that can’t stand up to the pressures that will inevitably come.  The question is one of endurance—of surviving until the apocalyptic harvest. Read more

Birth of Jacob statue

Jacob, Despite Jacob

JacobIn Preaching and Reading the Lectionary: A Three-Dimensional Approach to the Liturgical Year, O. Wesley Allen Jr. advocates for a what he calls a cumulative preaching strategy that focuses more on the sweep of a year’s worth of preaching than any one particular sermon.  As Allen explains “all pastors know (or at least hope), deep in their hearts, that the great power of preaching lies less in the individual sermon and more in the cumulative effect of preaching week in and week out to the same congregation, to the same community of believers, doubters and seekers…sermons offered Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year weave together to have an immeasurable cumulative influence on individuals’ and the congregation’s understanding of God, self, and the world.” (ix)  To that end, Allen examines the patterns of the lectionary and the way the lectionary can be used a whole year at a time.

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(Mis)Remembered Words

Zechariah 9:9-10; Matthew 11:25-30

In an October 13, 1813 letter to his former political rival, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson described his work on a short book, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. This was Jefferson’s own distillation of gospel texts, in which he meant to include, “the very words only of Jesus,” while eliminating all elements Jefferson deemed irrational.  Jefferson assumed the parts he found superstitious were simply the result of ignorant men who misremembered or misunderstood Jesus’ “pure principles.”

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Caravaggio Sacrifice of Isaac

Here I Am

Pentecost 2, Year 2 (Sunday, June 26, 2011): Genesis 22: 1-14, Psalm 13, Romans 6: 12-23, Matthew 10: 40-42

Here we are.  The latest Advent to Easter cycles of the Christian seasons have now been rounded out by the great gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, the formation of the church and time to reflect on the Trinitarian God we worship.  The church, now equipped with everything it needs to proclaim to the world Christ, crucified and risen, begins the long season after Pentecost of ever deepening discipleship.  And what a story we have to start off with – Genesis 22!

To be honest, this is a story I have skirted somewhat with my almost 8 year old son.  Maybe because it hits a little too close to home, he being a long awaited (13 years) child.  How do I tell him of a God who demands of Abraham the sacrifice of his beloved son, Isaac, as a way to test him?  Read more