Wade in the Water

6th week of Epiphany

Feb. 12, 2012

2 Kings 5:1-14

Psalm 30

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Mark 1:40-45

 Eighteen years ago, the Mississippi Annual Conference planted the next “mega church” in a small but rapidly growing community just outside of the state capital of Jackson.  The congregation started with an average worship attendance of around 90, a number that has dropped slowly but consistently over the years.  When I was appointed there 4 years ago we averaged about 35 on a Sunday morning.  This past Sunday we had eight.  As a worshiping community, it is getting harder and harder for us to have hope for our future, not to mention paying our utility bills. 

In an effort to encourage our struggling church our District Superintendent assured us that if there was even one family who could say that they were genuinely called by God to continue to worship and witness as New Covenant UMC then he would do everything he could to help us stay open and pursue that calling.  So it is that in the last few weeks, we have begun to ask each other very seriously and very concretely “What is God calling you to do?  What is God calling us to do as a Church body? Who is God calling us to be?” 

“Now Naaman was a commander…” Read more

Sibiu Cathedral (Jesus washes Peter's feet)

Power Politics and the Politics of Weakness

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Mark 1:29-39

In this election year, the headlong scramble for power is front and center. Candidates, political parties, and super PACs climb over one another to gain access to the levers of power.

Could it be that the church is little different in its craving for potency? Waning influence in American culture, declining membership, or just the plain desire for some kind of noticeable impact on our communities makes us long for the capacity to make stuff happen. If only we had more money, more influence, more people, more resources, our congregations could really execute on our mandate to be the church.

At first glance, Jesus’ ministry looks emblematic of the kind of ministry we wish we could have. Jesus exercises the kind of power that changes lives. Jesus heals the sick and liberates the demonized. He “gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:2-4).

And people stand up and take notice. Mark tells us that “the whole city was gathered around the door”—something we wish could happen in our ministries. If only we had that kind of “juice”, we could really make a difference.

Read more

Ravenna Christ

The Holy One of God

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
I Corinthians 8:1-13 OR I Corinthians 7:32-35
Mark 1:21-28

Here we are, halfway through this Epiphany season. In perusing through some of the Revised Common lectionary texts I noticed for the first time that we, the church, spend nearly this entire seven week season of Epiphany in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. For a gospel that is very much about being on the move – forty times in sixteen chapters the Greek word for immediately/at once/then occurs – this seems counterintuitive.

It is not, though, if we consider that Epiphany is the season for the church to try and get its head and heart and life around just who Jesus is and what is the good news he heralds and (spoiler alert!) is. It’s all there in the first chapter of Mark, so it is here we sit and ponder for a while. Read more

fishing nets

The Far End of the Net

Third Sunday After Epiphany
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jonah 3:1-5,10
Mark 1:14-20

Only one time in each three-year lectionary cycle do we get a chance to read the prophet Jonah (twice if you’re Episcopal or Catholic and following the lectionary). The entire story takes only 48 verses to tell, but by the time it’s done the reader has been taken on a whirlwind tour of the ancient world, explored the character of God, watched Israel wrestle with its calling to be a conduit of God’s grace for all of the nations rather than its terminus, and felt both sympathy and anger towards a self-centered prophet more concerned with his public standing as a prophet than with the destiny of an entire nation. Read more

Goon Priest

The Goon Priest

Second Sunday after Epiphany
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Samuel 3:1-20
John 1:43-51

I wonder what a rewrite of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad would look like if the setting shifted from punk rock and public relations to church and public witness. What if someone could draw the unforgettable characters in ecclesial matters that Egan does with musicians? (They might have to tone down the bohemian debauchery a little bit). Read more