Signpost

Signposts and Seeds

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

This week’s comments are pointings and plantings rather than a single extended reflection. My focus is on Matthew 16, but first a word about the other readings.

Rene Girard’s seminal insights, as well as those of his able interpreters (and critics) provide a profound context for the lectionary passages of the day. It is worth wrestling with how these insights shine light on parts of the texts that can be overlooked in more conventional readings: seeing through the “official” policy of “justified,” veiled violence by telling the story from the perspective of victim; turning “the logic of sacred violence” and blood sacrifice on its head, unveiling God’s revelation of Christ’s atonement and the witness of the Church as “living sacrifice.” Psalm 124 then becomes testimony. (Athanasius says that most Scripture speaks to us; the Psalms speak for us).

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Now some signposts and seeds from Matthew 16: Read more

576588_20350478

Whose Word is It Anyway?

In late summer 2004, I was approached by the Chair of the Democractic Party in the county in which I lived to offer a prayer at an upcoming appearance of John Edwards, then-Vice-Presidential candidate and pre-fall media darling. I received this phone call just weeks after returning to full-time pastoral ministry from maternity leave. I hemmed and hawed in response to her invitation, explaining that I was still trying to figure out each day how to get a shower, tend to pastoral duties, and be my son’s main food source. She was shocked at my lack of enthusiasm. Even though we had never met and she did not know me, she exclaimed, “I thought you would be honored to do it!” Truth be told, I faced the prospect with dread. The maternity issues were only part of my concerns. I knew I would have to speak the truth.
Read more

isaiah-scroll

The Word Read

 

Psalm 19; I Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:14-21

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Not acceptable to me,
not acceptable to us,
not acceptable to others.
Acceptable to you, O LORD, our rock and our redeemer.

Because the words may very well, if faithful, make us weep in remembrance of who we have been and who we really are. Because they may at first be sweet as honey, but later bitter to the point of making us want to try to pitch Christ off the nearest cliff.

We have such rich texts to host this week in anticipation of Sunday’s liturgy. In the middle of Nehemiah, which can sometimes read like a campaign for re-election, sits this gem, chapter 8. There has been a great build up, literally, to this point. Nehemiah, made governor of Judah by King Artaxerxes of Persia, has heard of the vulnerability and trouble of those Israelites left behind when the elite and learned of Judah were all carted off to Babylon. Nehemiah’s heart is powerfully moved. He roots out corruption and unites the people in the rebuilding of the wall that surrounds Jerusalem. The culmination of this comes when all the people gather together into the square before the Water Gate. They tell Ezra, priest and scribe, to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel. Now, anticipation builds. The book sits above the people, when it is opened the people stand, the LORD is blessed and worshipped. The book is read from for the entire morning. The words read in Hebrew and interpreted into Aramaic, so the people might understand – something not done in Jerusalem since the exile to Babylon. The people weep. Bittersweet tears? For what they have endured; for the reminder of who they are: Read more

1115844_97749696

Setting Nature on Fire


James 3:1-12

As a young person growing up in the evangelical church I remember always considering James to be my favorite book of the Bible. In reflecting back on why I found it so important at the time I think what drew me to James was the sort of clarity I seemed to find there. It is certainly no accident that this passage is paired in the lectionary readings with the Proverbs. Among all the books of the New Testament there is a sort of practicality to James—strong vestiges of the Hebrew Wisdom tradition.

Because of this sort of practical approachability James has long been a field ripe for memory verses and nice practical sermons. James’s statements about the tongue have been a particular source of this sort of hortative guidance for many of us. In my days in youth groups and the like it was trotted out regularly to make clear to us younglings why cussing was inexcusable for Christians. Read more

makingbooks

The Making of Many Books

I oversee a book club in the church where I work. We haven’t come up with a name more descriptive or imaginative than “book club,” so many people assume we’re a lot like the stereotype: women who gather to discuss the latest Oprah pick and drink lots of wine. We do drink wine and share a meal together every time we meet, but no Oprah books for us. And there are men in our group, too. And our members range in age from their early 30s to their late 60s. (One woman in an assisted-living community is a “virtual” member, keeping up with the club through our email discussions; she’s in her mid 90s). Read more