Solomon: Unedited and Uncut

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
1 Kings 2.10-12, 3.3-14

And the Academy Award for Selective Biblical Editing goes to…the architects behind today’s assigned reading from 1 Kings! The lectionary for this Sunday instructs us to read three spare verses of chapter two, followed by twelve more carefully curated verses from chapter three. From these selections, we are introduced to young King Solomon as son of David, builder of the great Jerusalem Temple, and the very embodiment of wisdom, as evidenced by his prudent, faithful, and selfless prayer in chapter three: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” Pleased by Solomon’s request for wisdom, God responds with this promise to seal the deal: Because you have asked this… I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. (1 Kings 3.11-12) Read more

Don’t Panic (The End is Good News)

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 65:17-25 OR Malachi 4:1-2a
2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Updated Post

At the end of the liturgical year, as darkness falls each night a couple of minutes sooner than the last, the church turns our attention to the end of all things. We are mortal and our world will come to an end, for each of us and for all of us, and this both terrifies and fascinates us.

People love stories about the end of the world. The long winter is coming, meteors hurtle toward earth, zombies overwhelm civilization. Such stories indulge our wish to be heroes. The thrill of adrenaline blows the cobwebs off our humdrum little everyday routine, and we can abandon the confusing struggle of managing all the different concerns of the day to embrace one simple mandate: survival. End of the world stories make great escapist fiction.

But scripture tells a different kind of story – good news even in bad times– for quite a different purpose—to draw us into the patient ordinary work of the present moment. Read more

Neighboring

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 10:25-37

Our gospel reading for this week contains the story of the Good Samaritan. The story is so well-known that the phrase Good Samaritan has made its way into everyday English usage. We use it to refer to someone who unexpectedly and out of the blue does a generous or even heroic act for someone in trouble. Unfortunately, the past month has given us far too many opportunities to point out good Samaritans.

The phrase made its way into our everyday discourse from our Gospel reading for this Sunday. Our familiarity with this story and our conventional use of the term Good Samaritan might lead us to miss some of the more interesting details of this story from Luke’s gospel. Read more

Waiting in a Violent Time

It has not been a peaceful Advent. The news of the past several weeks has been filled with guns, violence, death, and fear. What might we be required to surrender as we wait for the Lord? Who needs to change? Here are two reflections that use this Sunday’s Advent lectionary readings as a starting place: one by Matt Morin, and the other from Fritz Bauerschmidt.

Where Mercy and Justice Meet

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Genesis 2:18-24 OR Job 1:1, 2:1-10
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

The readings this Sunday are thickly planted with pastoral land mines. Even the revised common lectionary, which typically supplies a kinder, gentler Old Testament alternative to the Catholic selection, offers a passage from Job with a theologically problematic encounter between God and Satan and an unkind reference to women. You decide if that’s safer to preach on than God’s fashioning the woman from the man’s rib. Happy is the preacher observing World Communion Sunday this week.

God knows – and we take as a matter of faith – that Scripture is meant to help and unite, not hinder and divide, but these selections have often been sources of discord. They are hard readings some have used as weapons, particularly against women. They are interpreted differently between and within churches and denominations, dividing the Body of Christ into a host of fractious camps and labels: liberal from conservative, progressive from traditionalist, “accommodators” from “fundamentalists.” Dangerous texts, indeed.

What makes them dangerous is that they touch bedrock aspects of our personhood: bodies, gender, sexuality, and intimate relationships. Many current (and former) Christians conclude that the Church has selectively misinterpreted such passages across the centuries, mercilessly enforcing literalist readings of scattered passages while ignoring behaviors the scriptures more forcefully and consistently condemn: ignoring the poor, harming a neighbor, withholding hospitality from strangers. Agree or disagree, the challenging task remains: how do we, as a Christian community, read these texts together? Read more