Monday lectionary email, archived here on Friday.
This election season, we've seen a lot of hatred and inhospitality directed toward Muslims and toward migrants. There is talk of building walls instead of bridges, a focus on fueling the politics of fear instead of concern for human need. In 1 Kings 8 we see an alternative.
The Gospel of John addresses a community facing trouble because of its faith in Jesus. Its original readers needed to hear a message of affirmation. No wonder Jesus says "I will not leave you orphaned" and promises the disciples peace.
Lutherans are trained to hear the scriptures as proclaiming either law or gospel. By "law" they mean not passages from the Old Testament but all of the Bible's bad news: the sins we commit, the misery we experience, the sorrows we inflict on one another, the death we anticipate, the distance from God that diminishes our lives. By "gospel" they mean not the final reading on Sunday morning but the good news of the mercy given by a loving God, wherever in the Bible it is proclaimed.
It is striking that the psalm appointed as the response to the reading from Acts 16 is appointed also for the morning of Christmas Day. One of the gifts of the lectionary is that a biblical text wears different vestments depending on when it is shows up for Christian worship. Thus those preparing to preach need to attend not only to biblical commentaries but also to liturgical unfolding of scripture and theology in the assembly.
Go to Google Images and look at some depictions of the ascension. This makes clear how difficult a festival this is for contemporary believers to celebrate.
I have always been intrigued by Lydia. Acts describes her as a worshiper of God, one whose heart has been opened, a dealer in purple cloth, and a woman willing to offer her home for others to stay. She is often associated with images of hospitality in the church.
On a recent work trip, I took a break to see Beautiful, the Carole King musical. I had not realized her songs' impact on me. I sat mesmerized as I heard the story of King's life woven together by songs she had written or co-written. I could sing along with every single song. They were not just the story of her life--I wondered if they had something to do with my own life and its trajectory as well.
“You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd.” So begins “Christus Paradox,” a hymn penned by Sylvia Dunstan more than three decades ago. According to notes on the hymn text, Dunstan first scribbled down the lyrics--rich with paradoxical, tension-laden images of Jesus--while she rode the bus home after a difficult day of prison chaplaincy.
"I dream of walking the streets of Damascus," sighed a Syrian refugee whose radio interview I heard on my evening commute. His voice trailed off into a wistful silence. I had been engrossed in his story, but at the interview's end, my mind connected the refugee's lament and longing for a Damascus road story of long ago.