Isenheim Baptist

Outside the Inn-siders

Second Sunday of Advent

Luke 3: 1-6

The word of God came to John out in the wilderness, so says Luke. After giving us the names and offices of the powerful in his day – Tiberius Caesar, Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, and Annas and Caiaphas the high priests – Luke says the word of God comes to none of them. Bypassing the centers of power, the word comes to one outside. Read more

Preparing for Disaster

First Sunday of Advent, Year C (RCL)
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

We’ve become all too familiar with disasters and the whole genre of reporting them (is there a disaster TV cable channel yet?).  The reporter, looking like some alien that dropped from the sky, surrounded by a landscape of devastation. There are the stories about hope, the stories about good neighbors, the stories about this or that agency not doing enough, and then there seems to always be the guy who didn’t see it coming.  The “I was just going to wait it out” kind of guy.  You have to wonder about those people—every siren is going off, the new channels shriller than ever, big winds sweeping through and yet they decide to just sit there until the flood waters come in and they swim through their front door.  They just can’t believe that the way things were is all going away. Read more

So It Is To Be. Amen.

The Reign of Christ

Revelation 1: 4b-8
John 18: 33-37

Grace to you
and peace from him
who is and who was and who is to come…

The most frequent command of the Bible is “to be not afraid!” It is the first thing Angels say when they arrive with the divine, demanding messages they have been charged to deliver. Joseph says it to his brothers in forgiving them, Moses says it to the Israelites, God says it to Joshua and numerous times to Jeremiah, Isaiah sings to God that he will not be afraid. Jesus says it the most – to his disciples and to those he heals.

I remember once making this claim to a group of youth I was training (a more accurate translation of the Greek word didache, one of the ancient marks of the church, than “teaching”). One of them looked at me incredulously and wondered, honestly, if that was even possible. I stumbled a bit in my reply. The texts for today, the final Sunday in the Christian year, offer a more succinct answer to Annie’s question (who has now, by the way, grown into a rather fearless young woman). Read more

Living into the Mystery

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time


Daniel 12:1-3 OR 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8 OR Mark 13:24-32

It’s November, the closing weeks of the liturgical year, when those in the northern hemisphere see what had recently appeared so green and full of life now wither and die. We see signs in the trees and know that winter is near.

For those in the United States, it is also post-election season. Despite the predictable posturing of winners and losers alongside quadrennial promises of pragmatic cooperation and “reaching across the aisle,” it’s difficult to find real joy in the just concluded, nearly two-year electoral process that left many feeling like a James Bond martini. I, for one, found little to be stirred by in the ugly accusations and dire predictions that now pass of campaigning.

As grace would have it, our readings take a seasonally appropriate turn, looking beyond “current events,” reminding us that what appears deadly serious now will, soon enough, be revealed as inconsequential. For Christians, this so-called eschatological turn can be difficult to negotiate, and scripture’s use of apocalyptic language – unveiling hidden realities through frightening images and strange events – worsens our collective vertigo. Read more

The Lord Upholds the Orphan and the Widow

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 OR 1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

Christian history teaches us many lessons, chief among them that the church has an on-again, off-again relationship with economic justice and the prophetic proclamation of Jubilee. The church does justice in fits and starts, it seems. We started off particularly strong, with the Messiah coming onto the scene and announcing the Reign of God, a world-order marked by mutual self-giving and a reversal of first-century patronage politics. But lest I be called a naïve restorationist with a rose-colored rearview mirror, it should be noted that even the glory days of economic justice and mercy showcased in the Gospels and Acts were apparently short-lived, or at the least not universal to all churches throughout the empire (cf. 1 Cor 11:22; Philemon). With the forward march of history and the diversification of the churches came a certain forgetfulness with regard to the politics, economics, and faithful concern that is, at a foundational level, wrapped up in the confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Read more