Of Birth Pains and Birthday Parties

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Exodus 12:1-14

I remember well the days my two boys were born, one in September and the other in May, four years apart. When they were born, although we were obviously expecting them, they each decided to arrive earlier than expected and we were not fully prepared for their arrival. But their births, at least for this mother, were memorable. Read more

The Power of Naming

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Exodus 1:8-2:10

Matthew 16:13-20

I share a name with both my father and my grandfather. Due to our family circumstances, I grew up mostly away from both men, seeing them only occasionally on summer breaks or special events. Sharing their name feels like a special connection to them, and to my family. 

However, I never thought much about the origin of our name. It was my grandfather’s and my father’s name, and that seemed sufficient for me. Until recently, I didn’t think to dig any deeper.  Read more

For She Keeps Shouting After Us

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

Matthew 15:10-28

This gospel passage takes us into uncomfortable territory. We travel from a land of Pharisees and parables to one of Canaanites and demon possession. The words of Jesus to the Pharisees are harsh, the words of the woman to Jesus are insubordinate. It does not sound like the comforting gospel hope we crave in the midst of this chaotic year.

It begins simply enough with the usual characters—Jesus, a crowd, Pharisees, disciples. Jesus tells the crowd that their words have meaning and significance enough to defile them. It is what they say, and not what they eat, that makes them unclean. This brings about the anger we expect from the religious leaders, and then, of course, the parable, the confusion, and the explanation. Everything is shaping up for this to be a standard gospel tale. Read more

The Cost of Compassion

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

 

 

Genesis 32:22-31

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:13-21

Quoting Henry Ford, Dale Carnegie wrote in his seminal, bestselling self-help work How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), “If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own.” While Carnegie might not have been the first public figure to package this brand of empathy for the masses, he was certainly one of the most prominent. In the decades since, the move he describes here, of understanding “the other person’s point of view” has come to be adopted by businesspeople, politicians, gurus and ministry experts as an effective sales technique, a surefire campaign strategy, a can’t-miss item in our evangelistic toolkit. Empathy sells. Compassion pays off. Read more

Desires of the Heart

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Genesis 22:1-14

The saga of Abraham’s life collapses into one terrible command. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering.” These murderous words in the mouth of God are heart-stopping, and whatever uneasy peace we might make with them, they tend to linger, adding fuel to the fire of our deepest suspicions about God. Read more