Today is September 11th. 9-11. The words will always have a bitter and ominous ring for those of us who value human life and peace, especially in this country. We all remember the television pictures of all the horrendous damage that was done on that day, which, to use FDR’s phrase, that shall live in infamy. We remember. What’s important, of course, is what we remember and how we remember as those who follow the Prince of Peace – which, in Hebrew, which means the sovereign of wholeness and fullness of life, not for some, but for all.
I never… Continue reading
So, therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
Really? All of them? Is that the way it really is? In the early 1960’s a punctuation mark that was a superimposition of the question mark and the exclamation mark came to be called the “interrobang.” The mark was used for a question asked with passion. When many Christian people read Luke’s words put in Jesus’ mouth here as the climactic statement of this passage, at least the hint of the interrobang comes into things
In reality, this saying is made… Continue reading
This was one of those weeks when, after looking at the passages in the Lectionary, I thought, “O no, not again!” These passages are about getting things wrong and being abandoned or destroyed because of it. Even when we get to Jesus in the Gospel it’s about how he has come to bring “fire” to the earth and not to unite people, but to divide, even one family member from another. And these words come into our lives when, in this country, we are under siege to self-centredness, hatred, and just plain nastiness, not the least in the name of… Continue reading
The stories from Genesis 12-25 are about Abraham, called the Father of the Faithful by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Genesis 12 God promised to bless Abraham by being his God, by giving his wife Sarah him many descendants, and by giving those descendants a land in which to live. Although most Christians have not tied themselves to a specific territory or land (unlike Judaism and Islam), they have, until relatively recent times, understood God’s promise of many heirs to Abraham to be fulfilled in the growth of the Christian Church. Many still do.
Today, although what the 1970’s called… Continue reading
The writer who gave us Ecclesiastes can certainly not be accused of painting an over-optimistic portrait of life. Probably most contemporary Christians have never really read much of this book at all because, frankly, it’s a bit of a “downer,” and, life’s depressing enough without getting depressed from reading the Bible. Nonetheless, this is our lesson today.
Let me start with a little vocabulary lesson. This writer’s Hebrew title and name of the book is Qohelet, a form derived from a verb meaning “to gather,” and, so “a gatherer,” of everything, anything, wealth, health, wisdom, etc. Qohelet began by saying… Continue reading
The Bible is full of stories set in specific times and places that tell of the work of God in the world. One of the difficulties of reading and understanding these stories is that, while they are all specific, at least in their origin, as generations of communities, first of all, transmitted them, and, then, read them, the stories have come to be understood in more general or even universal ways. To take the most obvious example for Christians, the coming of a specific, real Jewish baby named Jeshua (Jesus in Greek) at a certain place in the land of… Continue reading
Today’s lessons are understood best if we start by seeing them within the social context of life in an ancient Mediterranean culture. The story in Genesis 18, although probably composed much later than Abraham’s time, does have a genuine remembrance of ancient social customs and roles because, in many ways, these had not changed for the centuries between Abraham and the writing of this story about him. The culture dictated that males took the lead in matters outside of the home, while females were in charge within it. That is why Abraham is the one who actually invites and welcomes… Continue reading
I cringe a little when I get these purple passages from which to preach, and “The Good Samaritan” is, surely, one of these. We’ve all heard (or preached) many sermons that purport to be about this passage. Most of us are familiar with approaches that that attempt to make us feel guilty about some opportunity that we had to “be nice” to someone who needed help and didn’t get it from us. I think this parable has become diminished by overexposure and dumbed down into just being nice. Now, it isn’t a bad thing to be nice, but I think… Continue reading
Ancient and modern literature is full of examples that suggest care in choosing what we deem important and valuable in the world. What seems, initially, to be of first importance, may not be. There are priorities in life. Sayings such as “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” or “Nice things come in small packages,” or even “Look before you leap” offer the lesson that common cultural values are not necessarily the ones that will lead to lasting satisfaction in life or are of the highest priority. Even an old Beatles’ song has the lyric: “I never cared too much… Continue reading
Years ago, the CBS Evening News used to have a weekly human interest feature called On the Road in which Charles Kuralt introduced viewers to unusual stories and people, out in the highways and back roads of the USA. Kuralt is long gone, but, in more recent times, on Fridays, the correspondent Steve Hartman (not the one who was a minister in Wisconsin) has revived the “On the Road” segment. He always seems to be going somewhere. In the old days, Kuralt was happy enough sometimes to introduce viewers to quirky, or odd folks. The newer ones almost always have… Continue reading