prayer

They Cried to the Lord

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99
I Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

“They cried to the Lord, and the Lord answered them” (Psalm 99:6b)

The Psalmist’s words will be the entrance into this week’s Scripture passages. The hope as we gather in our respective places of worship is that the words of the texts will not only say something, but also do something. Paul Simon’s song “Wartime Prayers” helps bridge that divide. Simon, who admits he is as surprised as anyone at how God keeps showing up as the subject of his songs, has the poet’s gift of speaking in image rather than in proposition. He also unashamedly joins the chorus of the needy.

“Show me your glory,” Moses cries to the Lord. His plea is occasioned by God’s command to leave the Mountain, the place of special revelation, for an unknown future. He yearns for certainty. “Show me your glory,” he cries. Read more

Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!

Palm Sunday

Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Luke 19:28-40

Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!

These celebratory words plunge us into Palm Sunday pageantry: greens waving, draped cloaks, children processing, and hosannas resounding. Six weeks into Lent, we may be looking for an escape. We hear the cry, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” and we catch a brief glimpse of Jesus as coming king. Finally there is light in the darkness!

The crowds that gathered some 2000 years ago are also relieved; it’s not simply six weeks from which they seek reprieve, but a lifetime (and an ancestry) of heaviness, oppression and fragility. At last Jesus will take hold of Jerusalem! Maybe even a wisp of smugness laces the festivities; finally the powers that reign are going to be put in their place. “That will show those Roman occupiers who our God really is!”

Mixed with our anticipation, we also are prone to gather with a waft of conceit. Read more

Outside the Inn-siders

Second Sunday of Advent

Luke 3: 1-6

The word of God came to John out in the wilderness, so says Luke. After giving us the names and offices of the powerful in his day – Tiberius Caesar, Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, and Annas and Caiaphas the high priests – Luke says the word of God comes to none of them. Bypassing the centers of power, the word comes to one outside. Read more

So It Is To Be. Amen.

The Reign of Christ

Revelation 1: 4b-8
John 18: 33-37

Grace to you
and peace from him
who is and who was and who is to come…

The most frequent command of the Bible is “to be not afraid!” It is the first thing Angels say when they arrive with the divine, demanding messages they have been charged to deliver. Joseph says it to his brothers in forgiving them, Moses says it to the Israelites, God says it to Joshua and numerous times to Jeremiah, Isaiah sings to God that he will not be afraid. Jesus says it the most – to his disciples and to those he heals.

I remember once making this claim to a group of youth I was training (a more accurate translation of the Greek word didache, one of the ancient marks of the church, than “teaching”). One of them looked at me incredulously and wondered, honestly, if that was even possible. I stumbled a bit in my reply. The texts for today, the final Sunday in the Christian year, offer a more succinct answer to Annie’s question (who has now, by the way, grown into a rather fearless young woman). Read more

First Things First

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time


Psalm 146
Mark 12:28-34

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:
1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy.
2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

-John Wesley, October 6, 1774

On most Christian calendars, this Sunday is the 23rd after Pentecost. Those with longer historical roots may also mark November 4 as All Saint’s Sunday. I suspect, however, in many a preacher and parishioner’s mind these are overshadowed by the calendar that proclaims this as the Sunday before the American quadrennial election. One more public opportunity to remind parishioners of their citizenship duties, however one defines that. One more sermon exhorting the faithful to choose the correct boxes on the ballot, however one defines that. One more intercession as a congregation for the politicians and policies that will be crowned victors, however one defines that.

And there is a lot of debate in Christian circles about how one should define citizenship duties, who is the right candidate, and how to pray for national politics and politicians. Some, like Miroslav Volf in Values of a Public Faith, set forth conversation starters; others argue partisan politics with a vengeance. Even those of us outside the USA recognize that these election results will have worldwide impact for years to come. So the political headlines of the day hang heavy on hearts and minds as we turn to the texts and allow God to address us through these ancient words made alive today. Read more