Amid pandemic and protest, will we turn to each other and live?
The questions that plunge me into a cloud of unknowing most often come from my Sunday school students.
I preached a word of judgment. The stranger in the back row heard grace.
Hart thunders like Amos against cruel, incoherent religion.
What the Bible doesn't say about hell
Pontius Pilate shows us what happens when the historical and the eternal intersect.
As the first Advent candle is lit, world leaders will be making their way to Paris to try to create a climate treaty.
Preachers and teachers are really missing those summer days when we got to preach on wonderful parables about mustard seeds and loaves of yeast bread. Now it's judgment-parable season, and many of us wish we were on vacation.
We might Bible-study our way through most of this difficult parable, but what do we do with the guest who is pulled in off the streets and then kicked out?
It is tempting to sit in judgment on others. Sometimes we do it in jest, as Mark Twain did when commenting on Adam. “Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” But sometimes the serpent eats us, and then we judge in earnest.
God will forgive my sins,” quipped Heinrich Heine on his deathbed. “It’s his job.” How different are the viewpoints of Isaiah, Paul and Luke! They note an ongoing theological tension between the assurance of God’s kindness and the call to immediate repentance. Yes, God is merciful, not punishing as we deserve, not automatically correlating our misdeeds with disasters. But there is no room for complacency: if we think we’re standing, we should watch that we do not fall.
Those of us who have been trained to make rhetorical peace with the congregation marvel at the freedom of Jesus to preach over their heads, to wound in order to heal, to use their own beloved texts against them. How sly of the common lectionary to pair this linguistic assault by Jesus at Nazareth with Paul’s pretty words on love. Poor preachers. Sometimes we love our people in the name of Christ, enduring just about everything with them, and sometimes we love them by throwing the Book at them.