The Reckoning

13th Sunday After Pentecost

Exodus 14: 19-31
Psalm 114
Romans 14: 1-12
Matthew 18: 21-35

Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, admits to her admiration of those who understand “the risk of prayer.” She describes the tearful, sorrowful response of two faithful Jews leaving each day to engage in the always dangerous practice of prayer, not knowing if they would survive the experience to return to their families. It is this same risk we undertake when we host scripture, actually seeking to encounter a Word from the God whose fury can consume like stubble, whose answer to our “Here I am” will not leave us untransformed. And so we come to the collision of these texts with this time, just over half way through the season after Pentecost, when the church is called to full participation in what God is up to in the world so loved (how goes that with all you all?). Read more

The Way Down

by Brian Volck
Matthew 2:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7(8,9); Phillipians 2: (5)6-11; Matthew 16:14-27:66

“I will bury Jesus (in) myself.”
From The Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244; Part 2, No.65

I’m not qualified to judge the theological soundness of that old saw, “God draws straight with crooked lines.” We know that Palm Sunday’s readings are a push into the arcing current of a great river. We know the river flows toward the unimaginable Paschal triumph.  But the readings today have one and only one direction: down.

Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, in a procession rich with political significance befitting a messiah, save for the public relations gaffe of riding a donkey rather than a military charger. But as soon as the cloaks are retrieved and the branches trampled beyond recognition, the triumph goes awry, spinning precipitously toward complete disaster.  Read more

Still the Crucified

Isaiah 58:1-9a; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; Matthew 5:13-20

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Paul’s description of his preaching is enough to stop any preacher in her or his tracks.
It is certainly enough to stop this one.

What do I regard as essential in my preaching? Do I rely on sounding scholarly or worldly wise? Do I trust in having something new and captivating to say? Read more

Three Funerals and a Wedding

Maple syrup has no business running off my pancakes into the sausage links. Sweet and spicy don’t belong together. It’s a violation of the natural order of things.

This was my settled culinary worldview until something unexpected happened on a visit to Mexico City. At the mercado, my family ordered a heaping cup of sweet, succulent mango. But because we had crossed the border, the mango slices came with a liberal dusting of chili powder. Mango with chili sounded like an unnatural combination. But after we tried it, we couldn’t get enough of it. The union of spicy and sweet created something new and beautiful: a bold, vibrant flavor standing out from the drab palette of tastes we were accustomed to.

We’re used to Paul speaking of the cross as the center of his theology: “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ….” The cross has become conventional for us, our theological “meat and potatoes.” But what we may not be used to is the bold and vibrant way that Paul speaks of the cross intersecting with realities we would normally keep separate. Read more