Who and Whose

First Sunday After Epiphany-Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 43:1-7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14-17
Luke 3:15-22

Baptized as a teenager, I have clear memories of the pastor whose hand poured the water and invoked the Spirit over me. In addition to the prayer of the liturgy summoning the power for faithful discipleship into my life, she concluded her blessing by looking me in the eyes and saying: “Always remember who and whose you are.” Read more

Scandalous Promises

I’ll be honest – I didn’t have a clue how to go about understanding this week’s readings. There are multiple parables about everything from mustard seeds to rotten fish and burning lakes – and that’s just in the Gospel. The Genesis text is about a tricky man who gets tricked into marrying the wrong sister, the Romans text gets into predestination, and the Psalm is all “Praise God! She’s got a good memory!”

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The Kingdom Unleashed on the World

Baptism of the Lord
First Sunday after Epiphany

Isaiah 43:1-7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14-17
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Before there was an ekklesia, before there was a Messiah, before there were mangers or magi or shepherds or heavenly hosts, there was talk among the common folk in and around Jerusalem—furtive whispers and improbably hopeful snippets of conversation among a people long since accustomed to injustice and subjugation at the hands of series of imperial oppressors and collaborators from among their own leaders. The topic of conversation was not new in any absolute sense. Its roots were a thousand years old, and exchanges like it had emerged and reemerged over the years whenever things became grim and the people wondered whether the God of their ancestors had abandoned them altogether.

The conversation invariably revolved around hope, and the hope voiced was for deliverance, a liberation such as their ancestors had experienced under the leadership of Moses in the Exodus from Egypt. This time the liberation was expected to come through the leadership of a “new” Moses, a descendant of King David, under whose rule the people would be freed, their oppressors vanquished, and shalom — peace and prosperity — established, not simply among the people Israel, but throughout Creation; not simply for now, but for all time.

In the second century before the Common Era, when the Seleucids sought to destroy Judaism by completely assimilating it into Hellenistic culture, the authors of the book of Daniel and some of the apocryphal texts gave this hope a name. They called it the reign (or kingdom) of God, and they looked for its advent through God’s anointed one, the Messiah. Read more

The Power of Fear

Epiphany Sunday

Isaiah 60: 1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

On Monday of this week, a grand jury in Ohio declared that the police officers who shot and killed 12-year old Tamir Rice while he played with a pellet gun in a Cleveland park and then left him unattended on the ground for four minutes before administering comfort or assistance would not be indicted on any charges related to his death. The officers said the boy looked like he was 20. They said they told him to stand down. He was a large black boy in a park and they were afraid. People do stupid and sometimes horrible things when they are afraid.

As a country we’re being told that we should be afraid of a lot of things lately: immigrants, Muslims, crazy men with guns, black men (with or without guns), ISIS, the jobs report, tap water. We’re told that there are forces afoot in this world, embodied in these and many other things, which threaten our way of life. We’re told that if we do not eliminate these threats, bad things will happen. We’re told to hold nothing back, however immoral or inhumane, to keep ourselves and our way of life safe: border controls, internment camps, religious tests, militarized policing, racially skewed drug laws, carpet bombing, suppression of unions, bottled water.

Fear maintains order. Collateral damage is to be expected. When those in power fear that they are losing hold on that power, ramping up the fear of the general populace is a surefire way to secure and maintain power.

Exhibit A: Herod the Great. Read more

Party Prep

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

Matthew 25:1-13

I am a female older sibling; I was an only child for exactly 2 years and 10 months of my life. It may come as no surprise to you, then, that I am Type A through and through. I am always early, always (over) prepared and embarrassed if I’m not. I flush easily. I plan ahead to very minute detail, and I appreciate external approval. I now would like for you to acknowledge, dear reader, my self-awareness about my neurotic tendencies (…and my self-awareness about asking for approval about my self-awareness. This is getting very meta.).

Imagine reading the Gospel text this week about the Kingdom of Heaven from my perspective.

Long story short, it 100 percent stresses. me. out. Read more