Nicodemus and Jesus

The Womb of the Church

Second Sunday of Lent

John 3:1-17 (18-21)

It is dark, night, perhaps even the evening after Jesus goes on a rampage in the temple, flipping tables, coins flying, would-be sacrifices scattering. The Jews had confronted him, asking for a sign. He’d made quite the scene.
Now in the dark, Nicodemus comes to Jesus.

A leader of the Jews, an authority in the temple where such a scene was made, he comes to appease, smooth things over a little, perhaps appeal to the madman in hopes of preventing further disruption. It’s Passover, after all, and the temple at that. A repeat of such antics would be deeply shaming.

Or perhaps the dark is more than simple night, and Nicodemus wants in, closer to the power he sees in the signs. Something real is at work in Jesus, something light, something that looks like God.

Perhaps, he comes for a little of both. Read more

weaving

Whose You Are

Third Sunday after Epiphany
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

While in Divinity school, I went on a travel seminar to the Middle East with thirty-nine other seminary students and lay people. During our time in Jerusalem, we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which sits atop the traditional site of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

It is a place of immense consequence for the Christian faith, and it’s unsurprising that representatives from multiple denominations are housed inside the church. The description “sharing space” would be too strongly worded and ultimately inaccurate, for these six denominations have partitioned the churches down to the tile. Armenians are only allowed in a certain area, Orthodox in another, Catholics can process in a certain area for a determined amount of time, etc. Our guide recounted stories of garbed priests name-calling and throwing punches because a priest moved a piece of furniture or stepped a couple of tiles too far to the left during a procession.

Despite the fact that these men all follow the Prince of Peace, they’ve allowed their denominational affiliation to supersede their common Christian identity. Centuries of very public bickering and violence is the result. Read more

baby

Body Matters

Second Sunday of Christmas
Solemnity of the Epiphany

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:1-18


“The Word became flesh and lived among us…”

The deepest of human hopes has taken body, form: there is skin on God. Soft tissues wrap bone, the divine bound willingly in the swaddling clothes of human substance, fibered all through with yearning and will. The creator inhabits created form. There is no room for metaphor here; flesh on God is no parable, no allegory. Make no mistake: this is body, like yours, like mine, mystery as intimate as your own face.

What difference does it make for flesh to mean flesh? How much would it matter if the scriptures said instead, “the Word became soul and lived among us?” Is an enfleshed God just a magnanimous detail for the sake of good story? Read more

singing

How Do You Sing the Lord’s Song?

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Lamentations 1:1-6
Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Funny enough – there ain’t a whole lot of communing going on in the scriptures provided for World Communion Sunday.

Exiled from the Promised Land, the people of Israel are inconsolable and vengeful. (Make sure you read that last line in Psalm 137. Read it again. You got it – they want somebody to enjoy bashing baby heads into rocks). Her streets empty of God’s people, Jerusalem also suffers, mourning and shedding tears (Lamentations). Separated from each other, holy people and place are incapable of singing the Lord’s Song.

Yet, World Communion Sunday sounds so nice. I have thoughts of happy people at church standing in a big circle holding hands, singing together, sharing Eucharist and a tasty potluck, earnestly wishing God’s peace and goodwill to fellow hand-holding, encircled singers around the globe. Read more

sheep

Amazing Grace

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 15: 1-10

About a year ago I buried one of our church’s founding members. Back in 1968, Archie McDonald and a handful of others started our congregation, in order to have a local church with membership policies that were not segregated. Archie was a professor and historian, ornery and rough-hewn, but he had a profound sense that it was only due to the grace of a loving God that he existed at all and only by God’s grace did our church exist. He knew what the dying priest knew in Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest, “It’s all grace.”

The very meaning of the word “grace” is “undeserved favor.” We do not deserve it. If it is deserved, then it is not grace and it is certainly not amazing.

Which is why Archie’s favorite hymn was “Amazing Grace.” As he said, “it is the one hymn most about me, especially the part about saving wretches and being found.” And he liked to call our congregation, the “Amazing Grace Baptist Church” because there was and continues to be a sense that we’re all lost yet we’ve been found by the loving Good Shepherd. Read more