Love of Neighbor and the Mystery of God With Us

 

Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost

Matthew 22:34-46

As someone tasked with weekly sermon preparation, I often find that the most helpful reflections are those that, rather than make a single, uniform point about the text, offer a few possible directions for exploration and uncovering.

As I read this passage from Matthew’s Gospel, there are a number of directions I think any homilist could go, and I hope that the following possibilities are helpful in either your preparation and writing, or in your prayerful reflection on the text as a spiritual discipline. Read more

Freedom Sunday

Third Sunday After Pentecost
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62
The invitation came across my Twitter feed last week: a prominent evangelical pastor sharing the news about a “Freedom Sunday” gathering to be held at his church on June 30th. In the video that accompanied the tweet, a narrator described the event as “A patriotic service featuring worship, fireworks, and a message from our guest speaker, Lt. Col. Oliver North,” as an enthusiastic crowd waved flags, a large worship band played, and a choir sang, “Oh I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in!” The video ended with the proclamation that this powerful service will provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate “The freedom we have as Americans, and the freedom we have in Christ.” Read more

A New Creation

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
2 Corinthians 5:6-17

So here we are, once again in the long Season After Pentecost (after Easter, after Lent, after Epiphany, well, you get the idea). Having moved through the great, narrative seasons that remind us of who Jesus was and is and is to come, we are launched into a season of deep, practiced discipleship, out in the world God so loves. And just as the Earth is literally in a physically different place from the last time we encountered the Season After Pentecost, so too is the world, our congregations, and ourselves. Continuing to travel in Jacob Bernoulli’s Spira mirabilis* the hope is that we are spiraling ever closer to the final fulfillment of God’s Creation. Read more

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