Authority and the Madness of Love

It’s tempting to want to know just what exactly Jesus said at this synagogue in Capernaum. What does this “teaching with authority” sound like?

Often I hear people try to fill in that gap with some explanation about Jesus’s style or content. But the evangelist’s silence on this point is important. He did not just forget to mention what Jesus said or overlook our interest in his tone of voice, gestures, rhetorical tools. He didn’t include those details because they are not what we need to know. What we need to know about Jesus is that he is, as the unclean spirit says, the Holy One of God. Jesus teaches with authority because he is the authority, Emmanuel, God with us.

So the question we should ask when Mark writes that people heard Jesus’ teaching to be “with authority” is not “How did he do it?” but “Who is he?” Read more

Don’t Be Afraid

 

 

The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 16:9-15 (RCL); Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 (LM)
Psalm 67 (RCL); Psalm 67:2-8 (LM)
Revelation 21:10- 22:5 (RCL); Revelation 21:1014, 22-23 (LM)
John 14:23-29

“When love has entirely cast out fear, and fear has been transformed into love, then the unity brought us by our savior will be fully realized, for all [people] will be united with one another through their union with the one supreme Good.”

St. Gregory of Nyssa,
from a homily on The Song of Songs

In a wide-ranging conversation with Bill Moyers early last year, writer Marilynne Robinson spoke about fear in American life. With eloquence and insight (and no little exasperation), she noted how we have managed to convince ourselves—or, rather, how we have been persuaded by powerful interest groups—that fear is really courage.

We fashion, she said, “little narratives” that make each of us the hero of an imagined drama and anyone else a potential threat. And all the ways in which we prepare (expect? secretly hope?) for our fear-driven stories to unfold constitute something of an addiction, a cultural obsession, a collective pathology.

Robinson’s insights are as timely as ever these many months later. Why is America’s culture of fear taken as a matter of course? Read more

Love = Obedience

Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 13:31-35

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

Commandments. Rules. Can’t live with them; can’t live without them. We scoff at rules. We chafe under the control of those who make them. We bend them and break them and try to explain them away. Sometimes rules seem out of date, senseless.

Have you ever seen those lists of the nutty rules some states still have on the books? In Tennessee, it’s illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle. In Indiana, it’s against the law to shoot open a can of food. In Kentucky, it’s a crime to use a reptile during any part of a religious service.

Many Christians are big on rules. It’s common in my community to see Ten Commandment signs posted in driveways. Don’t you find it a little odd that the one religious message we stake out in our front yards is the Ten Commandments? Why don’t we see signs that proclaim, “Jesus is Lord! God is love! Christ is risen!?”
Read more

The Death of Jesus

Palm/Passion Sunday

Luke 19:28-40
Luke 22:14-23:56

Beginning with his entry into Jerusalem and culminating with his crucifixion, this Sunday is devoted to the death of Jesus. He died as part of a public execution. Until relatively recently states, governments and empires always executed their perceived enemies publicly. It was an opportunity for the powers that be to make a statement. Read more

The Unwelcome Word

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 1:4-10
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

This Sunday’s Gospel gives us the conclusion to the gripping story we heard last week about the Jubilee Year. Last week, Jesus read from Isaiah about bringing good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor – the year of Jubilee. More than that, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” It has been fulfilled NOW. And NOW. And NOW.

We discover that the year of Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor, isn’t only the Jubilee as we have it from Jewish law, where debts are forgiven and an unjust society is reordered, ever forty-nine years. When Jesus proclaims the word has been fulfilled, the Jubilee becomes now, and every moment. The Jubilee is constant.

Last week’s Gospel ended on that joyful note – but this week’s Gospel presents those same words – “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” This week, we experience some of the effect of what it means to say that the Jubilee is now, and always. Read more