Don’t Panic (The End is Good News)

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 65:17-25 OR Malachi 4:1-2a
2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Updated Post

At the end of the liturgical year, as darkness falls each night a couple of minutes sooner than the last, the church turns our attention to the end of all things. We are mortal and our world will come to an end, for each of us and for all of us, and this both terrifies and fascinates us.

People love stories about the end of the world. The long winter is coming, meteors hurtle toward earth, zombies overwhelm civilization. Such stories indulge our wish to be heroes. The thrill of adrenaline blows the cobwebs off our humdrum little everyday routine, and we can abandon the confusing struggle of managing all the different concerns of the day to embrace one simple mandate: survival. End of the world stories make great escapist fiction.

But scripture tells a different kind of story – good news even in bad times– for quite a different purpose—to draw us into the patient ordinary work of the present moment. Read more

New Endings, New Beginnings

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 8:1-12
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

My father and I often respond to absurd news reports shared by text message or email forward with the tongue in cheek response: “A sure sign that the apocalypse is upon us.” In the past few weeks I have not been sure if that’s an appropriate joke to make. Wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and violence and death plague every news cycle. My cries have been “Come, Lord Jesus” more often than they’ve been jokes or hashtags.

When I read the Old Testament lesson appointed for this coming weekend and hear Amos’ denunciation of 8th century Judean social, economic, and religious practices, it sounds so familiar. Income inequality, corrupt business practices that benefit the wealthy, religion that’s nothing more than form without substance. It was bad news for Judah. Amos told them it was the end of the line.

This weekend I’ll be mounting the pulpit in a comfortably wealthy, white, mainline church. Are there ways in which Judah’s bad news needs to become our bad news as well? Read more

All Will Be Thrown Down

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8

By any measure, the Temple Jesus and his disciples visited on their Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem was an impressive structure. Commissioned around 20 BCE by Herod the Great, the Roman client King of Judea, “Herod’s Temple” was on one hand a conciliatory gesture toward the priestly class and leaders of the Temple who were deeply suspicious of the king (Herod had slaughtered a number of priests when he took power not that many years earlier), and on the other hand a narcissistic monument to Herod’s ambition to be regarded among the day’s great rulers, all of whom taxed their citizens mercilessly to fund extensive, self-aggrandizing building programs.

Herod’s reconstruction of the Second Temple employed more than one thousand priests, who worked as masons and carpenters, and although the Temple proper was rebuilt in less than two years, the surrounding buildings, courtyards, and walls were not completed until nearly eighty years later. It was a massive project, occupying the entire plateau atop the Temple Mount and reflecting in its design Herod’s affinity for Hellenism.

It must have come as something of a shock, then, when Jesus told the disciples who pointed out the monstrous stones from which the buildings were constructed, “See these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 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