Taking Scripture Seriously

Second Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 2:23-3:6

Is Scripture the whip of the oppressor or the hope of the oppressed?

At my church, Holy Family, we talk a lot about the difference between taking Scripture literally versus taking it seriously. Sometimes to take Scripture seriously, we must read it literally. And sometimes, reading Scripture literally is a failure on our part to take it seriously. Read more

Wrestling with Assumptions

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Matthew 22:34-46
When I first read the texts for this week, I began salivating at the opportunity to hit on all cylinders of my social justice values, liberation theologies, and “preferential option for the poor” interpretations. So I was gleefully typing away at my manifesto when suddenly this week’s text from Leviticus stopped me cold. Particularly verse 15 where it says, “you shall not be partial to the poor.” In that moment I had to stop and wrestle, once again, with who I claim God to be. Read more

An Astonishing Thing!

Fourth Sunday in Lent

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9: 1-41

There were things I learned in my theological studies that really stood out for me, which I don’t have to return to my notes or books to remember. One of those is how 90% of the “you”s in the Bible are plural, referring to either Israel or the church (and the difficulty caused by a language that does not currently distinguish between the plural and singular forms of that pronoun—Canadians don’t have the “you all” found in parts of the United States—in a North American culture that is highly individualistic). Another is that the purpose of the four gospels is to convince the reader(s) of who Jesus is. This is particularly true for the gospel of John, for it is on this—belief that God is revealed in Jesus—that everything hangs. Read more

More Righteous than the Scribes and Pharisees

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 58:1-12
1 Corinthians 2:1-12
Matthew 5:13-20

In a world where ever more people think of themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” one may be suspicious of any serious concern with and reflection on ritual observance. That suspicion may draw some energy from this Sunday’s reading from Isaiah 58. The people of God to whom Isaiah shouts out like a trumpet seem genuinely baffled by the criticisms lodged against them. Their ritual observance seems to have been devout. They seek God. They “delight to know [God’s] ways.” They fast, humble themselves, and observe the Sabbath.

As we read further in this passage, it is clear that all of this ritual devotion is completely disconnected from the common life of their society. There is rampant injustice in their commercial dealings. They are indifferent and inattentive to the needs of the poor. They neglect their own family members. As the LORD makes clear, these are the activities that form the basis of worship that pleases God.

It would be a mistake, however, to see ritual devotion and social justice as mutually exclusive. Read more

The Far Country

EP endorser Matt Morin preached this sermon not long after the Summer Gathering: Immigration meets the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Luke 15:11-32; Ephesians 2:11-22

The fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel begins with a group of scribes and Pharisees grumbling about Jesus’s habit of becoming friends with social outcasts: “This fellow welcomes law-breakers and eats with them.”

It might be tempting for us file this episode under the heading of “pride” and use it to repeat the old trope about self-righteous Pharisees: “There they go again, those elitist Pharisees—always thinking they are better than everybody else, when in fact they are sinners just like the rest of us.”

Or, it might be tempting for us to file this episode under the heading of “nice” and use it to repeat the old trope about everybody’s friend Jesus: “There he goes again, that Jesus—always kind, always accepting of everyone he meets.”

And yet, to read the story in this way—either as an example of individual pride by the Pharisees or as a display of sentimental kindness by Jesus—is really to have the story read us; it is to be shown by our own words what really matters to us; it is to find exactly what we had hoped to find in God’s word. So to whatever extent we are tempted to give an individualistic and moralistic interpretation of this Scripture is the extent to which we must reject such an interpretation. For surely nothing could make us happier than to hear a quick sermon asking us to try a little harder to not be so full of ourselves, and to try a little harder to be nicer—and then to go about our business as usual until next week. Read more