Trusting the Way

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

Gathered together in an upper room with Jesus, the disciples give Jesus their full attention. They’ve just shared this meal with him and watched him kneel and wash everyone’s feet. They’re shocked to hear that one of them is a betrayer and they’re highly aware that outside the doors of their small room, the powers are organizing to put a stop to their small movement that only a few days before looked like it might become a successful revolution. Now, things look dire. To top it all, Jesus tells them that he is leaving them and they can’t go with him. So when Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” it is because their hearts are troubled. Read more

Shame, Scars, and Resurrection Hope

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3–9
John 20:19–31

I have too many scars.

Some of the most prominent are actually from small scratches. One on my arm is from rubbing carelessly against a branch doing yard work over a decade ago, causing a small but inch-long scrape along my forearm. But my body develops what is called keloid tissue, so that what for others would certainly not have even left a mark becomes an evident reminder of my chronic klutziness – and my body’s tendency to embarrassingly proclaim my history, to tell tales about how I what I have done or had done to me.

As I reflected on these texts, I puzzle over this encounter with the risen Christ and the disciples. I have always thought Thomas gets a rather bum rap; who can blame him for thinking some collective psychosis has overtaken his friends? Hoping in a resurrection seems delusional; to give oneself to it exposes us to ridicule by others or seems to indulge in intellectual dishonesty.

Then I focused on the strange sequence before Thomas’ infamous interaction. Remarkably, the disciples do not recognize Jesus as himself – they do not respond with the delight appropriate to this astonishing appearance – until he shows them his wounds. It is not his face or his eyes that makes him recognizable or reveals his identity. Rather, it is the viewing of his wounds – that very aspect of his life story meant to render him ineffective and gut his witness to God’s peculiar power – that evokes joy in his friends. Read more

To Sweet Impossible Blossom

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 20:27-38

“Indeed they cannot die anymore… being children of the resurrection.”

It is these words of Jesus that cause my soul to catch; these my worn heart snags on.

In the gospel text this week, the Sadducees come with a theoretical question concerning a resurrection they don’t believe in. Jesus knows their unbelief. Perhaps he knows he also won’t convince them, even appealing to the Torah, as he does. But he still answers the question.

They’ve come up with the perfect quandary for Jesus. A woman marries seven brothers, gives not one of them a child to carry his name and tether her to him. In the resurrection, whose will she be?

It occurs to me that because of their denial of the resurrection they’re asking about, they mean their question to be purely a matter of theory. It does seem a little absurd, this poor woman meeting the same tragedy seven times.

But in reading their question, I feel like I know her. Read more

Declare How Much God has Done for You

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Kings 19: 1-15a
Psalm 42 & 43
Galatians 3: 23-29
Luke 8: 26-39

It is, in the Northern Hemisphere, the season of summer – of fun on the water in many forms. We, ourselves, live by three lakes and spend much time in them, on them and by them at this time of year. Our impending visit to my sister’s on the Saskatchewan prairies holds the promise of a visit to their cabin with boating, tubing, skiing and skipping stones on the to do list – unlike our last visit when our son learned to sandbag for the first time as his uncle and cousins sought to keep the lake water from drowning the cabin.

This last image of flooding and water out of control, unfortunately a prominent one on the weather news of late from so many different places, is, as N.T. Wright points out in the first chapter of his Evil and the Justice of God, a biblical symbol of the chaos evil creates – so much so that in the new creation of Revelation there is no sea (Rev. 21:1). Just before our text from Luke for this Sunday, Jesus and his disciples find themselves caught up in the chaos of a storm on the lake of Galilee. Jesus, apparently a sound sleeper, is not aware of the storm until his disciples awaken him in their full-fledged panic. Easily rebuking the wind and waves, a calm ensues while Jesus rebukes the lack of faith in his disciples and they wonder just who this guy is. Read more

Home is Often a Troubled Place

Jeremiah 31:7-9

Jeremiah offers a compelling vision: the people together, a great company, coming home. But the picture is all wrong. They seem to be marching triumphantly like a military party coming back from war. They move along the banks of the water in plain sight. But this is no army. This is a bunch of worn down and broken nobodies. And they seem to know it.

They walk back home through a curtain of tears. Forget those translations that say they come home with “tears of joy” (Jeremiah 31:9, CEB, NLT). The text does not say that. It simply says that they were weeping. Read more