Four_cigars

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 Sometimes rules seem out of date, senseless.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!?”
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Isenheim detail

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

USMC-15326

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

love

What Is Love?

Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 15:9-17

I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another (15:17)

Love, love, love. All you need is love. Warm fuzzies! What is this longing in our hearts for togetherness? Is it not the sweetest flower? Love!

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (15:12)

Um. As I have loved you?

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (15:13).

Ohhhhhhhh.That.

John reminds us that the kind of love Christians are called to embody takes a particular, cruciform shape. Read more

planet earth

Loving the World

Fourth Sunday of Lent

John 3:14-21

Likely the most well known verse in the entire Bible is John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life (which is the way I memorized it in the King James version).

In the Texas Baptist life in which I grew up this was the essence of the gospel or as old Luther said a few centuries earlier, it’s the gospel in miniature. Along with the entire story of Nicodemus secretly coming to Jesus during the night and being told earlier in the conversation that he must be born again, this was our canon within the canon and it interpreted everything else. To this day in most Baptist churches in my part of the world I can stand up in the pulpit and say, “For God so loved” and the entire congregation will respond reciting the rest of the verse from memory.

Unfortunately, for most of us so formed by this understanding of the gospel, it has reinforced our Gnosticism. Read more