Jesus and John the Baptist

Again!

Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

1.
I’ve learned from spending time with little kids that they are universally into repetition. How many times in a row have you played the “so-big” game? Read a book straight through only to be met with demands for an immediate encore…or three? Or watched a favorite TV episode or movie on loop?

There’s good reason – repetition helps kids learn and facilitates brain development. Repetition and routine also provide comfort and stability, bonding children with parents, teachers and other adults who love and care for them.

2.
After spending time with the epistle lesson, I’ve also come to see repetition as a means of grace. Reminders about “the reason for the season” are sorely needed when things like blackfridaydeathcount.com have cause to exist. Read more

End Times

First Sunday of Advent

 

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

The story of the end, of the last word
of the end, when told, is a story that never ends.

From Mark Strand’s “The Seven Last Words”

Christianity makes the brazen claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the end of history, and the double-entendre is deliberate.

On the one hand, the consummation that Christ’s resurrection makes possible cannot be an event in history, enclosed by history, any more than creation can be an event enfolded in time. On the other hand, the life, death, and resurrection of this first-century crucified Jew is the telos, the goal, the realized hope of all human (and non-human) existence. Jesus of Nazareth is history’s end.

In other words, the crucified and risen Christ not only completes history but ruptures it. Precisely in and through the historical contingencies of first-century Palestine—this specific set of laws and customs, that particular Roman procurator—the future, God’s good future, begins. In a backwater province of Empire, the truth of the triune God breaks history open not through political coercion or insurrection but with a revolution of forgiving, reconciling love. As John Howard Yoder put it:

The point that apocalyptic makes is not only that people who wear crowns and who claim to foster justice by the sword are not as strong as they think—true as that is . . . It is that people who bear crosses are working with the grain of the universe. Read more

King/Fool

Christ the King

2 Samuel 5:1-3 OR Jeremiah 23:1-6
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

I spent three years and a lot of money at a good divinity school so I could fit theology into a system. I read a lot of books by dead white guys who tried to accomplish the same project. What is the system that makes sense of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?

This Sunday we recognize Christ as king. It is the end of the church year, bringing our story from Advent through Easter and all that ordinary time to a close. But there is nothing about the image of Christ as king that settles my stomach or makes sense of my expectations. Nothing about this coronation service feels like closure or victory.

If Jesus is a king, then his followers are fools. He has no army, no political alliances, no worldly power, no throne, no heir, his bloodline is marred with controversy. It is all wrong. Read more

What is the Good News Anyway?

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 65:17-25
Luke 21:5-19

Years ago I heard Walter Brueggemann say that the task of the church is to always proclaim the vision and vocation of God’s reign. Always. But at the same time always be patient with one another as we fail to live up to that vision and vocation. Always.

Keeping that tension is part of the task of the pastor. Read more

To Sweet Impossible Blossom

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 20:27-38

“Indeed they cannot die anymore… being children of the resurrection.”

It is these words of Jesus that cause my soul to catch; these my worn heart snags on.

In the gospel text this week, the Sadducees come with a theoretical question concerning a resurrection they don’t believe in. Jesus knows their unbelief. Perhaps he knows he also won’t convince them, even appealing to the Torah, as he does. But he still answers the question.

They’ve come up with the perfect quandary for Jesus. A woman marries seven brothers, gives not one of them a child to carry his name and tether her to him. In the resurrection, whose will she be?

It occurs to me that because of their denial of the resurrection they’re asking about, they mean their question to be purely a matter of theory. It does seem a little absurd, this poor woman meeting the same tragedy seven times.

But in reading their question, I feel like I know her. Read more