The musical “Fiddler on the Roof” is set in the little Jewish village (the Yiddish word would be shtetl) of Anatevka in Russia.. The Russian powers (that were Christian by name at least) had co-existed with the Jewish folk for a long time, but now, a cold wind blew from the Czar that dictated that Jews were no longer welcome as they had been, and Anatevka was to be purged of its inhabitants. They all had be leave or face violence. One of my favourite lines is spoken, at almost the end of the play, by the old rabbi (or… Continue reading
Last Wednesday was All Saints Day and today is All Saints Sunday. In the Bible (either Testament) being a saint is being “holy.” To be holy means “set apart to God’s values and service in the real world. These last words are crucial. God’s “saints” are in touch with the realities of life in the real world. The Bible is clear that God made the world (now “how,” but “that”), and, according to John 3:16, God loves the world. God puts saints in the world to be a blessing for the world as an active demonstration of that love. The… Continue reading
Today we’ll have our third quarterly luncheon and meeting, even though we’re now almost a month into the fourth quarter of 2017. Hard to believe. It always seems to me that we start moving more and more quickly toward the next year by the time we get to the fourth quarter. As we have gone on together, I have realized that no one predicts the future very well. What will 2018 bring? How will we, as a community of faith, meet the new year with a vision of mission to our communities? I hope that some things will stay the… Continue reading
One of the things we hear about quite frequently in the news now is the tax reform the congress is preparing to take up. There is no question that it has been a long time since the tax-code has been worked through and brought up to date. I am old fashioned enough to believe that it would be much better with free debate and bipartisan cooperation, but I am not naïve enough to think that it will probably go that way. As far as taxes go, most of us think that we pay too much and everyone else pays too… Continue reading
In the last two weeks, we have listened to Jesus take on some very religious people who thought they had God’s ways all figured out. They came from families that had been “good” for a long time, and had a good deal of community prestige. Their local communities of faith trusted them to be leaders. It’s possible that if many of them were alive today, they’d be among the 1% who would benefit from the repeal of the estate tax. They were everything most congregations want lots of. Matthew tells three of Jesus’ parables in a particular way, not really… Continue reading
As many of you who listen week by week will know, I struggle with the view that God is an angry, vengeful deity who demands as many good things as we can do in order to win our way to glory, and if we don’t is anxious to punish us either immediately or eternally. It won’t surprise you, perhaps, to know that I have struggled against that view all my adult life. I am happy to tell you, yet again, that the bedrock of my faith in God is that God loves each one on earth and is not angry… Continue reading
Do you remember the old line: “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear a word you say”? It’s designed, of course, to point to the truth that our words certainly need to be consistent with our actions. This ought to be true of everyone. Even politicians. But it ought to be especially true of those who are disciples of Jesus. Today’s scriptures emphasize how important what we do is to our witness. Sometimes religious people seem to think their first duty is to confess what is orthodox (which means what is “straight, right, or correct), and so some affirm… Continue reading
In a few minutes we’ll sing a hymn about God’s eternal giving of gifts enumerated as “nature’s wonder, Jesus’ wisdom, costly cross, grave’s shattered door.” And we know that these are but some of God’s gifts. Here’s the thing: from our human standpoint it’s often difficult to recognize these gifts, let alone receive them or respond to them. Our passages today all help us to think about receiving the gifts, mostly by negative example.
In the introductory passage from the Book of Exodus, the Israelites – after being out of slavery about six weeks – were “complaining” to Moses and… Continue reading
Most of us like stories that have happy endings – it’s just one of those built-in ways in which we cope with our own stories that we hope will turn out well, but don’t always. Jesus told a story one day that dealt with the topic of forgiveness. And it didn’t turn out in a way that would make many of us comfortable or happy.
The story is found in Matthew chapter 18, which gathers together materials that give the Gospel writer’s take on Jesus’ teaching about how to be a community of faith together in hard times. He said… Continue reading
Each of today’s readings, though diverse, can be read as making a distinction between “us” and “them.” First, there’s the story of the establishment of the Passover from Exodus 12. We are used to hearing this text as a call to remember what God has done for us. We’ve been taught, at least tacitly, to hear this text as triumphant Israelites, about to be delivered from slavery by the God of our ancestors who will make quick work of the might and wealth of Egypt. The commemoration of this event remakes Israel’s year. Before, it had begun in the autumn,… Continue reading