Sunday, October 8, 2017

What We Plant: 27th Sunday OT

This is the third consecutive Sunday we’ve heard Jesus tell a story about a vineyard. They make a powerful trilogy and I think of them like a classic boxing combo. Jab. Jab. Today, the haymaker.

One beautiful thing about the three-year lectionary cycle is you get the chance to look at things a little differently as they keep coming around. You can pick different angles. And something really stood out to me from the second reading, from Philippians 4, “Finally, brethren, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.”

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Getting Behind Him: 22nd Sunday OT

If you took a piece of paper and started a list titled “things I offer to God,” what would you write down? Give that a second’s thought, or just mull it over in the background, while we take a look at Jeremiah. We’re in the 20th chapter, and you can tell that Jeremiah is fed up. “You duped me, O Lord.” You might call this venting… it’s one of those prayers that isn’t pretty but it is honest. Well, fine. We should never be afraid to be honest with God. What we’re feeling might not be good, we might need to ask for healing and conversion about it, but there’s no point in pretending. Give God the real you. And right now the real Jeremiah is frustrated and angry and tired.

Read his book and you’ll understand. He’s had a hard time. Working for God has not been a cush job. It’s been brutal. It’s been costly. It’s been big sacrifices for what seem like little or no results. Don’t make the mistake of imagining the Prophet as some kind of superhuman who can handle all this with perfect composure. Imagine how you’d feel if every time you went out in public in these small towns, you could hear people laughing as you went by, making fun of you, scoffing and judging you. Jeremiah says “the Word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.” Let’s just assume he enjoys that about as much as we would.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Silence, Rejection, and Faith: 20th Sunday OT

The woman got what she wanted, and Jesus praised her very highly for her faith. Why the tortuous path to get there? Why the hard words, and repeated slights? I can’t 100% explain this conversation, but whatever Jesus did, he had good reasons for, and meant for some good to come of it. So maybe we can approach this tricky passage by asking what good does come from it?

There are lots of answers to that, but my favorite is the spiritual example and lessons that she gives us, and every other Christian until Jesus returns. Jesus praises her faith, so let’s let her be our teacher.

One way we can learn from her is to put ourselves in her place. Imagine yourself as her in this story. It shouldn’t be hard to do, because we’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced everything she experiences.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Weight: 14th OT 2017

My friend Chris went to Lourdes with a pilgrimage group. Being a man of notable and apparent strength, Chris naturally ended up as the go-to pusher of a wheelchair for another pilgrim, a nun. He served happily, but Sister was a hefty woman and Lourdes is a hilly place. The moment came when she was pointing
up at a church waaaaaay up a huge steep hill, and he was thinking, “there’s no way.” So he grabbed a few even younger guys, like high-school age, and had a little conference. He asked them, “I don’t want to make Sister feel self-conscious, but I’m really going to need some help getting her up there. You guys look like you’re in shape?” They said, yeah, they lift weights and spot each other all the time. He said, “great, we’ll do it like that. When I give you the signal, just help me out, just like in the gym.” So up the hill they started. He did pretty well. Got most of the way. Then, starting to give out, he silently mouthed to the guys, “help!” And they nodded enthusiastically, and got on each side of him, and started shouting into his ears: “Come on! Push! You can do it! You’ve got this!” All the way up the hill.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ascension 2017

The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles, also by Luke, are sort of a two-volume story. Luke’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus from his birth to his Resurrection. Then Acts of the Apostles takes over and tells the story of what happened next.

The Church happened next. After Jesus ascended into heaven, Luke tells all about the coming of the Holy Spirit and everything that followed. The preaching of the Apostles and the spread of their message throughout the world. The debates and conflicts that had to be worked through right from the beginning. The appointment of more leaders in the role of the Apostles, like Matthias and Paul, continuing the Apostolic ministry. And the coming of Jews and Gentiles to believe in the name of Jesus, ready to serve Him by life or by death.

Trinity Sunday 2017

There are moments - when you’re making a friend, or maybe in the early stages of a relationship - there are these moments when you share something that’s really important to you. Because you want to be known. You’ll never feel close to anyone if you don’t feel like they really know you. Maybe you're sharing something profound and huge, like a trauma from the past or a secret you carry. Or maybe it's something really simple, like playing a song a movie that’s really important to you, that you feel really expresses something about who you are.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2017

Life is beautiful. It speaks of God in every sunrise and every raindrop and every breeze. Life is good. Love is good. God’s fingerprints are all over it.

And yet, with Good Friday still seared in our minds, we can’t deny… it hurts so much. To begin with, there’s the baseline brokenness; we want things we can’t have, and sometimes we get what we thought we wanted and we still aren’t satisfied. Sometimes we don’t even know what we want. We just know it’s… more.

And that’s just the background noise, the everyday brokenness of the human heart. Punctuating it are the true sorrows: the truly crushing losses and disappointments. And the end and ultimate of these is death. It’s the ultimate affront to us because it’s the ultimate affront to love. Our hearts were made for forever. We use the word all the time when we talk about love, despite the obvious glaring fact that we don’t get forever… at least not here.