strangely warmed

First Things First

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


Psalm 146
Mark 12:28-34

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:
1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy.
2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

-John Wesley, October 6, 1774

On most Christian calendars, this Sunday is the 23rd after Pentecost. Those with longer historical roots may also mark November 4 as All Saint’s Sunday. I suspect, however, in many a preacher and parishioner’s mind these are overshadowed by the calendar that proclaims this as the Sunday before the American quadrennial election. One more public opportunity to remind parishioners of their citizenship duties, however one defines that. One more sermon exhorting the faithful to choose the correct boxes on the ballot, however one defines that. One more intercession as a congregation for the politicians and policies that will be crowned victors, however one defines that.

And there is a lot of debate in Christian circles about how one should define citizenship duties, who is the right candidate, and how to pray for national politics and politicians. Some, like Miroslav Volf in Values of a Public Faith, set forth conversation starters; others argue partisan politics with a vengeance. Even those of us outside the USA recognize that these election results will have worldwide impact for years to come. So the political headlines of the day hang heavy on hearts and minds as we turn to the texts and allow God to address us through these ancient words made alive today. Read more

Home is Often a Troubled Place

Jeremiah 31:7-9

Jeremiah offers a compelling vision: the people together, a great company, coming home. But the picture is all wrong. They seem to be marching triumphantly like a military party coming back from war. They move along the banks of the water in plain sight. But this is no army. This is a bunch of worn down and broken nobodies. And they seem to know it.

They walk back home through a curtain of tears. Forget those translations that say they come home with “tears of joy” (Jeremiah 31:9, CEB, NLT). The text does not say that. It simply says that they were weeping. Read more

Strange New World

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

“What house is it to which the Bible is the door? What sort of country is spread before our eyes when we throw the Bible open?”
-Karl Barth

The Lord God Almighty through the prophet Amos: “Seek me and live…. Seek the Lord and live…. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you.”

Check.

Got it.

Now what? Read more

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