Ana_Bondžić,_Do_not_cross_do_not

Neighboring

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 10:25-37

Our gospel reading for this week contains the story of the Good Samaritan. The story is so well-known that the phrase Good Samaritan has made its way into everyday English usage. We use it to refer to someone who unexpectedly and out of the blue does a generous or even heroic act for someone in trouble. Unfortunately, the past month has given us far too many opportunities to point out good Samaritans.

The phrase made its way into our everyday discourse from our Gospel reading for this Sunday. Our familiarity with this story and our conventional use of the term Good Samaritan might lead us to miss some of the more interesting details of this story from Luke’s gospel. Read more

Paintings. Netherlandish. 15th Century, ca. 1425-30
campin, Robert (ca. 1375-1444), and Assistant
The Annunciation Triptych. (Merode Triptych)
Oil on Wood.
Central Panel: H. 25-1/4 in W. 24-7/8 in. (64.1x63.2 cm.)
Each Wing H. 24-3/6 in. W. 10-3/4 in. (64.5x27.3 cm.)
Photography by MMA1996, transparency 2AD
scanned by film and media (jn) 1-07-05

Snaring Satan

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 5:1-14 OR Isaiah 66:10-14
Galatians 6:7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

“The cross of the Lord was the devil’s mousetrap. The bait by which he was caught was the Lord’s death”
– St. Augustine, Sermon 263

The modern mind doesn’t know what to do with the idea of “Satan,” and, try as I might to make it otherwise, I have a modern mind. Like many others, I don’t know if the Hebrew, S-t-n, “the adversary or accuser,” or the Greek, diabolos, “the slanderer,” can still be understood a personal, superhuman enemy of God Rather than catalogue modern answers to that question, I’ll pose a riddle: “Is Satan’s first deception persuading us that he exists or that he doesn’t?” Read more

Ilia_chariot

Found in Translation

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-61

“My 1865 Webster’s defines translation as ‘being conveyed from one place to another; removed to heaven without dying.’ We must have an art that translates, conveys us to the heaven of that deepest reality which otherwise ‘we may die without ever having known’; that transmits us there, not in the sense of bringing information to the receiver but of putting the receiver in the place of the event – alive.” — Denise Levertov, “Great Possessions”

“The Translation of Elijah” has always seemed to me a strange title for the chariot of fire scene. “Translation,” I thought, was merely a matter of substituting words in one language for words in another language. At this crucial juncture in the Elijah story, however, translation is a fiery threshold, the means by which Elisha receives a double portion of the Spirit that animates the Prophet Elijah’s life. Not the spirit that animated Ahab and Jezebel. Not the spirit that animated the whole religious industry that had made its peace with Ahab in order to ensure its success. “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha prays of Elijah.

This story occurs in the book of the Bible entitled “Kings,” but the main characters are prophets, especially Elijah and Elisha. The book title is tongue-in-cheek irony. Beyond the headline stealing royal pretensions and exploits, there is an alternate history going on, seen clearly, spoken obediently, and lived courageously by those animated by the prophetic spirit. Read more

Mooddisorder

Pain and Hope

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kings 19:1-15a
Psalm 42
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

Eternal God, lead me now out of the familiar setting of my doubts and fears, beyond my pride and my need to be secure, into a strange and graceful ease with my true proportions and with yours; that in boundless silence I may grow strong enough to endure and flexible enough to share your grace. Amen.
–Guerillas of Grace, 28

These are tough days for those who mount pulpits to proclaim the Word of God. Sitting, as I am, on this Monday before Sunday, wondering how to write faithfully about these appointed texts for the week, I find my thoughts repeatedly drifting to my newsfeed. These stories cry out for the preacher to say a word about them, too.

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the shootings at Mother Emmanuel AME in Charleston. Is there a word from the Lord for those who yet grieve the daily violence and injustice perpetrated against the black community in this country? Is there a word from the Lord for young women in the pews who watch these same newsfeeds in fear and disgust as a rapist walks away from his crimes with not much more than a slap on the wrist and we are all reminded of the power of privilege–or is it the privilege of power? Is there a word from the Lord for members of the LGBTQ community whose fragile (if they had it at all) sense of security was shattered yesterday when a gunman walked into a nightclub and perpetrated the largest mass shooting in US history? A word for those who might use this tragedy to pit this one vulnerable population against an equally vulnerable Muslim population? Is there a word from the Lord on days when the demons that threaten to break us are Legion and their names are racism, misogyny, homophobia, and religious extremism? Is there a word from the Lord on days like these when there are simply no words at all? Read more

Photographer: Brad Coy (CC 2.0 License)

What We Owe

Luke 7:36-8:3 (Proper 6:Year C)

At one time I taught at a Christian high school where most kids were relatively well off and for the years I taught there I always worked in a discussion on privilege. The students would assure me that they were not privileged and that their parents weren’t either. “My dad built his business from scratch,” they’d say, or “my parents have worked hard for everything they’ve got.” The lines, rehearsed and repeated, were the same every time.

I’d lead them through a series of exercises and thought experiments that would help most, in the end, see their advantages—the head start, however hard the work, they had over many others from different backgrounds and races than their own. But I’d always leave a little sad, because since this was a Christian school it should have been one saturated in gratitude. These children had been firmly raised in the belief that salvation comes from Jesus, but they’d also been taught that everything else comes from hard work and the beneficence of the free market.

I thought of that time when I read the Gospel for this Sunday. It is a passage about gratitude and the hospitality that comes from it; about debt and the jubilee release of all debts. It is a profound study in vulnerability and knowing the truth about our selves.

Simon doesn’t know that he’s in debt. He enters the scene as someone confident that he is not a sinner, wondering in his mind how Jesus could not immediately know that this woman was someone who owes a debt to God and to society. Read more

Afghan_girl_begging

A Morsel From Your Hand

Third Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kings 17:8-24

As I lifted my eyes from the letter I was writing seated in the bookstore café, I searched for a thought while I watched a woman ride in the door on a Walmart motorized cart. My son, across from me, was lost in the pages of a fantasy novel. I looked back down, pen to the paper to finish my sentence, and when I looked up a moment later, she was next to our table, had come straight to us.

She said, “hello,” then looked away, fighting the words and gearing up for rejection. Half through her explanation, feeling awkward and wanting to end her humiliation, I gently cut her off and said, “Do you need money?” Her answer was, “Yes, $26,” an amount so exact, so without explanation, and so more than what I was expecting and yet still modest, that I startled.

As I looked in my bag to see what I had, she said, “and also I really need a ride just over there,” gesturing toward the distance. Before I could gather words, my twelve year old said, “We can give you a ride.” Then seeing my face, which must have been processing the moment poorly, he followed with, “Or… we can, right?” Read more

candybars

Choices

Second Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39, Psalm 96Galatians 1:1-12Luke 7:1-10

One of the stories my parents like to tell on me involves a trip to the local convenience store when I was about six years old. It seems that my parents wanted to give me a treat, so they took me to the aisle where the candy bars were on display and told me I could pick one out. Instead of making a beeline toward the M&M’s or the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, grabbing one, and calling it a day, I simply stood there, looking at the vast array of sugary snacks, unable to make anything even approaching a selection. In fact, the sheer number of options overwhelmed me, paralyzing my decision-making capabilities until finally, I broke down in tears and my dad had to pick out a candy bar and hand it to me.

Read more

rublev-angels-at-mamre-trinity

Trinity Sunday

The Ekklesia Project Lectionary Reflections archive is deep and wide, so when we don’t have a new post for a week, it is not difficult to go back and find a previous post that is still rich and relevant. For Trinity Sunday of 2016, we have chosen three posts for you to re-discover.

2008 from Debra Dean Murphy

2010 from Ragan Sutterfield

2014 from Anna MacDonald Dobbs

Hortus_Deliciarum%2c_Pfingsten_und_die_Aussendung_des_Heiligen_Geistes_auf_die_Apostel

What Wishes Pentecost to Be?

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34
John 14:8-17

The UMC Lectionary Calendar suggests a framing question for Pentecost, which curiously doesn’t mention the Holy Spirit at all: What can you do to make Pentecost the day that you as a congregation witness about Jesus Christ to your neighbors who do not yet know his saving love?

The question is not without merit, but it may be getting ahead of itself. Among the dangers in approaching Pentecost with a question that directs us to focus on what we do to a subset of other people is the assumption that we can identify the needy neighbor. Once you’ve pegged somebody who “needs,” it’s remarkably easy to fall into the us-versus-them trap of thinking that we, the God-knowers, “have” God to offer, that we mediate God to the world.

This week’s lectionary passages, which all highlight the Spirit as a person of what Richard Rohr calls the “eternal flow” of the Trinity, speaks otherwise. Read more

Wańkowicz_Singers_of_the_Vilnius_Cathedral

Improvisational Gospel

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 16:16-34

Theologian David Ford uses the term “improvisation” in his book Self and Salvation to describe our worship and our singing. God gives us God’s good gifts and the church takes those gifts and transposes them, giving them back to God in offering. We take the tune God gives and we improvise with it, playing it in our context, with our particular gifts and our particular voices to bring further glory to God. Or the principalities and powers give us violence, despair, and hopelessness and we take that and improvise, transpose, and turn it into something for God’s glory. This is the meaning of worship and witness. Read more