Defiant Requiem

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Revelation 21:1-6

I have read Revelation 21:1-6 at numerous funerals, and have done so as tenderly as I could for the sake of those who were grieving. In that setting, I believe that was the right tone of comfort and hope. But this passage is far from a lullaby. Other tones ring out from these words, which is why it is important we read them on occasions other than funerals. Read more

Enter Into the Lord’s Joy

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

Our Gospel reading for today comes from Matt 25. Paired as it is with the passages from Zephaniah and 1Thessalonians, it seems to paint a rather stark and uncomfortable picture of judgment. This is the sort of thing that is easily caricatured by those throughout the ages who have thought of Christianity as little more than a religion whose adherents’ faith is based on the fearful desire to avoid some future judgment by God.

Although Christians have from time to time evangelized the world by calling people to believe in order to be saved from God’s coming judgment, these passages cannot easily be enlisted in such a project. Strikingly, the readings from Zephaniah and Matthew speak about God’s judgment of believers, not unbelievers.

In fact, the gospel reading for this Sunday is part of a series of parables that Jesus tells in quick succession. Each one builds upon the theme of God’s coming judgment of believers at the end of the ages. These three stories themselves build on Jesus’ response to a question from his followers about when God’s coming judgment will happen. Jesus’ answer takes up all of Matthew 24 and is filled with a wide variety of confusing images and symbols. These do little to answer the disciples’ question. In fact, they seem designed to short circuit this question of when all these things will happen. Instead they focus on being ready at all times. Read more

Why I Need the Terrible Judgment of God

 

Proper 25: Year C

Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; Luke 18:9-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

I knew what I was supposed to say. I was supposed to say, “Sure. Of course I will meet to work out our difficulties, listen to his complaints.” But the words stuck in my throat. You see, I knew that I was more in the right than he. In truth, I couldn’t see how I had done anything worthy of this person’s mean and petty actions. A mutual friend was offering to mediate between us. In our phone conversation, she noted how the other party felt hurt, needed to be cared for, experienced abandonment, etc. The friend insisted that this other person had gifts to offer and had to be set free to do so. Internally, I balked. You gotta be kidding me, I thought to myself. I have been kicked around publicly and privately; I am not the one in the wrong here. I don’t want to care; I want them to acknowledge my pain, not attend to theirs. And to be honest, I don’t want to accept their offerings of talent or resources for the community, not until they act like a grown-up, own up to their faults, and stop hurting others.

When I am obviously in the wrong – for example, I blow a gasket in anger at my children or husband – I feel ashamed. Crippling shame presents its own unique challenge for being in communion with others. But while I profess forgiveness of enemies and want to participate in the ministry of reconciliation with those who have wronged me, in this case I slammed up against not my sense of shame but rather my sense of honest justice. I want to be seen as the one who has been mistreated; particularly if their violence toward me has been public, I crave judgment of the others’ actions. Read more

Lamb and Shepherd: The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The Reign of Christ
Christ the King

Ezekiel 34: 11-16
Ephesians 1: 15-23 OR 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Matthew 25: 31-46

There is a poster on the wall in the weight room of our local recreation centre where I go twice a week for strength training, along with some amazing 70 and 80 year olds (yes, at forty-six my nickname is “the kid”). I try not to look at the poster as it gets my goat, blithely proclaiming that the destination matters not, only the journey is important. Except, of course, the destination in large part determines the journey and without a destination the journey can get pretty lost and chaotic. This coming Sunday, Reign of Christ or Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in this liturgical year, is set aside to highlight the destination of our journey together in Christian faith. Having come full circle and before we begin again a new Christian year, it is to remind us, with our hearts enlightened, of who we are and whose we are and of the hope to which Christ has called us. Read more

The Terrible Speed of Mercy

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

Six months ago I was doing my part to rail against the folly of doomsday predictions and the dangers of rapture theology. At the time, Harold Camping and his May 21 prediction were the epicenter of media frenzy, not only in The Rapture Gazette and late-night paid programming, but also in above-the-fold NY Times articles and primetime NPR stories. This truly bewildering sensation spawned billboards, talking head reports, and “end of the world” parties.

I still shake my head and wonder if the madness in May was not only Harold Camping’s, but also biblical eschatology’s proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. Did the words we needed to speak six months ago have the unintended effect of making people sink more deeply than ever into living as in the days of Noah? Read more