This week is Palm
and/or Passion Sunday, and choices will vary as to the form of worship and the
point at which the sermon falls. Palm Sunday, with its palms waving and
salutations sung to the Savior, is an event that children will enter into
readily even if adults are a bit shy. If the choice is for a Passion Sunday
emphasis, a dramatic reading is memorable for those who speak the parts and
those who listen--and the passion narrative lends itself particularly well to
Among the most
stimulating books I've read recently is Samuel Wells's Be Not Afraid, from which I picked up the phrase repeated several
times in my current lectionary columns for the Century: "What's God up to?" This is the question that counts.
It's Thursday afternoon or later, and Sunday is coming. For a pastor, the push is on to compose a sermon with application that's relevant to its hearers, along with compelling stories that illumine the connection to daily life. I do not disparage these pressures; I know them myself.
is the season uniquely applicable to us who are Gentiles, the grafted-on
branches to the tree of salvation, those who do well to marvel at the magnitude
of the grace of God Christ that includes us. This is not common in our religiously
pluralist setting, especially in our part of the world where the common
assumption is that we're not grafted on at all--we're mainstream.
I am among those called to lead people in confessing sin and announcing God's forgiveness in the Sunday liturgy, an essential action never altogether free from the threat of routinized going-through-the-motions. This action is anything but routine, however, when it occurs in the setting I described in my lectionary column for the Century on this week's Gospel lesson.
"The trouble with the church in Finland,” a Finnish Lutheran pastor told me, “is that everybody loves it and nobody goes there.” Some 85 percent of the 5.2 million Finns are disengaged from the church except for brief pit stops for baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial.
When westerners think about the Balkan peninsula, they think of conflict. After all, the area that includes Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Kosovo has a history of over nine centuries of complicated rivalries that have often exploded into bloody entanglements. Even historians despair of sorting out the bitter patterns of conquest and reconquest, peace and war.
For well over a thousand years November 1, or All Saints Day, has been marked in red on the Christian calendar. The meaning behind the celebration speaks to our time, especially when distinguishing between saints and celebrities, and remembering Karl Barth's word about reading the Bible with the daily newspaper in hand. The latter tells of celebrities, the former offers saints.