I like homiletical challenges. I enjoy preaching on Trinity Sunday and when Jesus tells us that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. I like tackling the tough doctrines and demands of the gospel. But Sunday's Gospel lesson, the parable of the dishonest manager? That takes difficult to another order of magnitude.
Luke seems to mislead us in his description of the dinner exchange we will read in this Sunday's Gospel lesson. He tells us, "When [Jesus] noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable," but the words that follow aren't really parabolic. They're just good advice.
A few years ago, our church installed a new water cooler—not the kind with the clear jug on top but the kind that we used back in grade school. It's a rectangular prism that rises straight from the floor. When you press the circular silver button, water flows in a gentle arc so that you can lap the cooled water up into your mouth. (I had always called that a water fountain, but David, who helped us install it, taught me that a fountain is a landscape feature in your front yard.) We hadn't had a working water cooler at St. John's in a long time, and it was a welcomed addition.
This morning, when I read this Sunday's epistle lesson (Galatians 6:1–16), something jumped out at me: "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." It was that phrase "law of Christ" that caught my attention. Law of Christ? What's that? And why is Paul, the suspected antinomian, writing about any sort of law as if it belonged to the one who set us free from the law?
Each week when I preach, I write out a whole text, but I don't bring it with me into the pulpit. I have found that, if I know well the biblical texts and the sermon that I have written, a few bullet points are enough to keep me on task. That way, I can connect with the congregation, react to them, listen for the Holy Spirit, and adapt the sermon as I go along. Sure, it's risky.
I trust that my wife knows that I love her even if I do not tell her that on a daily basis, but I tell her anyway because hearing and saying “I love you” does both of us a lot of good. When Elizabeth sprints through the day, running errands, transporting children, taking care of our house, and preparing our supper, I tell her how grateful I am for all that she does for our family. Even though she probably knows that I am appreciative of her efforts before I say a word, I say it anyway because some things cannot be said often enough. I hope that it goes without saying that everything we do as a church is all about Jesus, but I think that it is time for us to move beyond that assumption and begin to proclaim that Christ-centered focus clearly and boldly.
One doesn't need to be a biblical scholar to recognize the link between the story of the Tower of Babel and the story of Pentecost. The former is the divinely appointed confusion of human languages, while the latter shows how the Holy Spirit transcends that barrier to translate the good news of Jesus Christ into every language. In many intentional ways, the two stories go together, and I'm a little surprised that the Genesis 11 reading is only available in lectionary Year C.
In Acts 9:36-43, we read again how the power that Jesus had has been imparted to the disciples. In Acts we've already read about the lame and sick and demon-possessed being healed by the disciples. They're doing amazing things. But in this story we read about Peter raising Tabitha from the dead.
I've been following with interest the conversation between Christian leaders about fixing the date of Easter to a particular day in the calendar—like the second or third Sunday in April. Back in January, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, voiced his support for the idea, joining leaders of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Coptic churches. Welby was even so bold as to suggest that the date of Easter could be fixed in as few as five or ten years, saying, "School holidays and so on are all fixed—it affects almost everything you do in the spring and summer. I would love to see it before I retire."
The Gospel according to Luke has its distinct features: the storybook birth narrative; the poetic songs of Zechariah, Mary, and Simeon; and the heart-warming parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. In this Sunday's lectionary reading (Luke 4:14–21), however, we get to the heart of the matter and hear what truly makes Luke distinct: a Jesus whose focus is salvation for those in need. Only Luke gives us this encounter, in which Jesus chooses for himself a scripture passage that defines his ministry.
Over the years, I've taught three different series on the Acts of the Apostles, and I'm sure that by the time I hang it up I will have taught at least five more. Each time, I try to do something a little different—never a straight, verse-by-verse exposition of the text but always a particular angle or take on the text as a whole. Most recently, I led a group through an exploration of the first ten chapters of Acts that focused on the different characters of the story. Eventually, we got to Acts 8 and read about Philip, the evangelist who first took the good news of Jesus the Christ to Samaria.
Earlier this week I e-mailed my parents an article from NPR that caught my attention: "It's Never Too Soon To Plan Your 'Driving Retirement.'" Using the story of a 94-year-old woman who decided to give up driving on her 90th birthday, the article explores this one particular challenge of getting older. In sending it to my parents (who are in their mid-sixties), I was mostly joking. Still, though, there's a little bit of interest—though not at all concern yet—behind my sharing that article with them. All things come to an end.
Sunday is All Saints' Day, and, many churches will read the Roll of Remembrance, which includes the names of the faithful who have died in the past year. Yes, I know there's a separate occasion for that on November 2, when the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed is observed. Yes, I understand that confusing those who have died in the past year with all the saints who have gone before undermines our ability to focus and properly celebrate either. Yes, I know the Episcopal Church has an underdeveloped theology of sainthood. But, sweeping all of that aside for a moment, when I read John 11:32–22, I find myself wondering just how big of a hope we are celebrating.