A Multitude of Ruptures

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:46-55

“A Christian’s authenticity is shown in the difficult hours…. And by difficult hour, I mean those circumstances in which following the gospel supposes a multitude of ruptures with the tranquility of an order that has been set up against or apart from the gospel.”
– Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

The word “preachy” has never been a complimentary term, even less so these days. The ministers rightly highlighted in the national news who have been doing their vital and admirable work are described as “compassionate, not preachy.” Those of us who not only have to preach but believe we should preach have been faced with how in God’s name do we preach the last two Sundays of Advent 2012, and how to do so in such a way in which compassion and preaching are not pitted against each other. Read more

Discerning What Displeases the Lord

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 11: 26 – 12: 13a

Our Old Testament lesson brings us to one of the most dramatic moments in this extraordinary narrative of David when he is confronted by Nathan the prophet. It is high drama in this narrative and it is a high drama in the history of prophetic speaking truth to power.

David stole Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, committed adultery with her, and then when it was discovered that Bathsheba was pregnant, he used his power to have Uriah killed by the Ammonites. The last sentence of chapter 11 says, “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” The next sentence, which begins chapter 12, says, “And the Lord sent Nathan to David.”

My question is “how does the church come up with Nathans?” Read more

Between the Narrative and the Psalm

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 11:1-15 , Psalms

“I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic… I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I had a liaison with another woman. I was painfully honest with my family and I asked my wife’s forgiveness. I have been stripped bare….”

– John Edwards, August, 2008

“I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. There is no one else responsible for my sins. I am responsible…. I don’t think God is through with me. I really believe he thinks there are still some good things I can do, and whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I’m hopeful about is all those kids I’ve seen…in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world that I can help them in whatever way I’m still capable of helping them.

– John Edwards, May 2012

In the summer of 2008 I departed from the lectionary to preach a sermon series on David. That was the summer the scandal involving then presidential candidate John Edwards broke. The David story is among the readings for this summer’s lectionary cycle, coinciding with the news of Edwards’ trial that filled North Carolina media.

Like it or not, I wonder how to read one story in the light of the other. Do we pass off Edwards as just another politician doing religious things? Do his emotional confessions stem from political expediency or from refiner’s fire? Are they expressions of hand-in-the-cookie-jar panic or scalpel-in-the-heart contrition? And if we hear John Edwards’ words with nothing but suspicion, can we hear the David story with anything other than the hermeneutic of suspicion? Read more

Leadership Lessons

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Let’s give credit where credit is due. I had never read the stories about Moses in light of what it means to be a leader of God’s people until I heard Lillian Daniel preach at an Ekklesia Project Gathering many years back. As a good seminarian I had only thought of Exodus as a witness to God’s preferential option for the poor or as a testimony to the fact that the people of God have always been whiny. Lillian delightfully re-narrated one of the Moses stories and suggested that if he were to be an effective leader he might need to take a course in anger management. Read more