Desperate and Joyful

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17

Reading the book of Revelation always takes me back to the years my family and I spent down south. In the mountains of east Tennessee, we were fed a steady apocalyptic diet just driving around town. Revelation showed up on homemade county highway signs warning, “Repent! Jesus is coming back! Get right…or get left!” complete with little hand-painted flames at the bottom. After nearly twenty years living up north, I miss those signs more than I ever knew I would. Maybe not the flames so much, but the announcement that there’s another reality out there—something beyond our culture, our country, something beyond ourselves. There’s something more to hope for, and God is responsible for it. And that something is so big, it belongs on a billboard in giant red letters. Read more

Bread from Heaven

14th Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 16.2-15, Psalm 145.1-8, Philippians 1.21-30, Matthew 20.1-16

I’m the oldest of four lively children. As an adult I’m very aware of the strain that my siblings and I put on my parents. Raising children does not come with a “How To” guide and the four Wilson children found every kind of way to put parents to the test. Growing up, my father could often be heard to say in both frustration and resignation, “with you kids if it’s not one thing it’s another!” I suspect that something very much like this sentiment could be heard in the grumblings of the Israelites. As they left the Red Sea they immediately encountered a trial in the form of draught. The scarcity of water was overcome by the gift of Elim, where “there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees.”(Ex. 15.27) In Exodus 16 as the Israelites set out from Elim they are once more confronted by scarcity. This time it’s a shortage of food. As my father would say, “if it’s not one thing it’s another.” On the surface of the reading, the occasion for such grumbling is yet another occasion of lack. However, the real problem the Israelites face in the Wilderness of Sin is one of memory and identity. Read more

Asleep at the Wheel

John 2:13-22; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; Exodus 20:1-17 (Lent 3B)

There is a joke that occasionally passes through pastors’ circles now and again with a bit of light-hearted commentary on the passion (or lack thereof) of worship in a particular pastor’s church. Says one pastor: “My congregation is so dead in worship that if someone were to have a heart attack, when the EMTs arrived they’d wonder to whom they should attend.” Those of us who worship regularly in congregations that bear any resemblance to that description chuckle uneasily at this joke. Yet truth be told, it hits a little too close to home. What has happened to our practice of worship that it has become yet another instance of a religious institution “going through the motions” rather than true, life-shaping (rather than sleep inducing) encounter with the living God? I don’t know about you, but a few cattle and sheep in the narthex of my church might be just the ticket to breaking our somnolence and accommodation to the “way things are” in congregational worship. Read more