Pure praise: Luke 19:28-40

For a number of years our church has had a pastoral internship program designed for intensive discipleship training and character formation. From time to time, our interns are asked: “Is your church a cult?” We laugh about this, but the concern is understandable, especially given the society we live in. The ancient monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that our interns take make little sense in a country founded on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Forgiveness, with music and dancing: Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:11b-32

In my (southern) Baptist tradition, preachers don’t generally use the lectionary. If we come up with a decent reflection that’s somewhat related to one recognizable biblical passage, it’s been a good week. But these three passages together pack a powerful punch. They offer insights into the entire sin-alienation-forgiveness process, which is so central to human life and to Christian existence.

Permanent diaspora: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126

I spent my entire childhood in Vienna, Virginia. From infancy to my eighth year we lived on Hillside Circle. In the back yard, a swing took me up above a honeysuckle bush with every push from my mother. I can still smell the honeysuckle. Eventually Mom and Dad bought a nicer home, and although they sold it several years ago, I remember every beloved detail of the place. I can “return home” to experiences that happened in every room of that house, and especially in the front yard, which became our neighborhood baseball field.