Genesis 1 is a grand symphony of a text: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
In the opening verses of Genesis, God exhibits a certain creative style.
Both the Old and New Testament texts focus on "firsts."
The major obstacle in this text is getting past the first verse.
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … ”
It is easy to miss the wonder of a well-known biblical passage.
"Community" and "relationship" are "in words" in current environmental and creational discussions.1 All creatures of God constitute a community in relationship.
Translation renders the opening verses of Genesis 1 deceptively clear and straightforward.
After a first, poetic account in Genesis 1, Genesis 2-3 offers a complementary narrative account of the beginnings of creation.
This text (Genesis 2 and 3) marks the beginning of the nine-month narrative lectionary.
The text of Genesis 2:4b-25 will feel familiar to many preachers.
Tell all the truth but tell it slant -- Success in Circuit lies (Emily Dickinson).1
The lectionary reading for this first Sunday of Lent has often suffered from some serious misinterpretations:
The Old Testament lectionary texts for the six Sundays of Lent each year typically touch on selected high points in the story of God and Israel.
Context means everything.
Genesis is an origin story: a prosaic telling of how things came to be the way they are.
It could very well be that the familiarity of this passage breeds contempt, or at least, a desire to investigate the other lectionary texts for this Sunday!
The book of Genesis begins with two different but complementary stories of God's creation of the world.
Reading the Genesis 3 text in light of Jesus' confrontations with people who thought he was "out of his mind," focuses our attention on expectations about the relationships between God and humans, and humans and creation.*
Reading the Genesis 3 text in light of Jesus' confrontations with people who thought he was "out of his mind," focuses our attention on expectations about the relationships between God and humans, and humans and creation.
Like the charming tales in Kipling's Jungle Book, the stories in Genesis 3-11 originally tried to answer age-old questions such as: Why is childbirth painful?
The Old Testament readings for the first three Sundays in Lent give us glimpses of three covenants: God’s covenant with Noah, God’s covenant with Abraham, and God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai.
The story of Noah and the flood is one of those biblical narratives that we are so familiar with we think we know the whole story.
What does it mean for God to give an eternal promise to every creature, including the animals, the birds, and the earth?
God unsettles Abram and Sarai, both literally and figuratively.
Genesis 12 is a chapter of new beginnings.
The promise to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12:1-4 marks one of the most dramatic transitions in the entire story of the Old Testament.
Something that all the cultures of the world share is ancestor stories.
What could God possibly do to counter the spread of sin that dominated the story in Genesis 3 through 11?
Having made the world and seen it succumb to violence and sin in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, in Genesis 12 God suddenly zeroes in on one couple -- Sarah and Abraham.
This text is best interpreted with the entirety of Genesis 15 in view.
The brevity of this text belies its theological weight: in just six verses, we have messages about the reliability and timing of God’s promises, lessons about prayer, and a verse so packed with import that it is quoted in two New Testament passages as a lynchpin for understanding the relationship between faith and works.
To understand the divine promises to Abraham here in Genesis 15, it is helpful to step back and look at what has been happening in Genesis up to this point.
The stars of a Serengeti night are enough to take your breath away. I had the privilege three years ago of going on safari in Tanzania.
In Genesis 1-11, the LORD struggled with all humanity to redeem a sinful and violent world. Beginning in Genesis 12, the LORD tried a new approach.
Our lesson from the Old Testament is not the first occasion in Genesis where God speaks to Abram, but it is the first time that Abraham responds so that a back-and-forth exchange takes place.
The language found in the opening verse of the chapter shapes the reader's perception of Abram.
Last week’s Old Testament reading featured God’s covenant with Noah and “all flesh.”
A name is a powerful thing.
God's promises are the central feature of the Abrahamic story.
Genesis 18 occupies the place of the First Lesson for the next two weeks.
When I was a child, one of my family’s common dinner prayers was, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed.”
This passage (Genesis 18:1-10) has literally become iconic: the fifteenth century Russian icon by Andrey Rublev that depicts the three visitors to Abraham as a type of the Holy Trinity appears as a now-familiar image everywhere from mouse pads to refrigerator magnets.
Last week we read about the wonderful promises God made to Abram (Gen 12:1-3). A major theme in the stories of Genesis 12-50 is how God overcomes obstacles in order to keep these promises.
In this week’s passage, God makes an appearance to Abraham by the “Oaks of Mamre,” located in the city of Hebron (cf. Genesis 13:18).
The assigned story for this week in the narrative lectionary might be termed the Old Testament version of the Christmas story.
This week’s first lesson moves the narrative from a divine encounter under the terebinths at Mamre to the road to Sodom.
Whenever we think about or talk about God, there is a wonderful tension between certainty and mystery.
What I love about this passage is the way in which Abraham appeals to God's better nature, as one does when one is trying to persuade someone with power to do the right thing.
My husband has been very intentional about walking our daughter to school over the last few years.
We are accustomed to talking about the “sacrifice of Isaac,” but this story could be called the “sacrifice of Ishmael.”1
We are accustomed to talking about the “sacrifice of Isaac,” but this story could be called the “sacrifice of Ishmael.”
This continuation of Genesis 21:1-7 describes the conflict in Abraham's family caused by Isaac's birth.
There is a Yiddish folk tale that goes something like this: Why did God not send an angel to tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?1
There is a Yiddish folk tale that goes something like this: Why did God not send an angel to tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?
The near-sacrifice of Isaac, or the Akedah as it is called in the Jewish tradition, is a narrative filled with narrative suspense.
"Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him." This protest from heaven halts Abraham in the horrific act of slaughtering his own son.
After two harrowing stories -- the near-deaths of both Ishmael and Isaac -- today we have a love story, a love story that has been foreshadowed already in the account of the sacrifice of Isaac.1
After two harrowing stories -- the near-deaths of both Ishmael and Isaac -- today we have a love story, a love story that has been foreshadowed already in the account of the sacrifice of Isaac.
Genesis 24 constitutes an expansive narrative regarding the quest of finding a wife for Isaac.
What appears to be a simple account of an arranged marriage turns out to be the intersection of several faith journeys.
Genesis 25:19-34 begins a group of narratives that biblical commentators usually call “the Jacob Cycle” and which the Hebrew Bible calls “the toledot (generations or descendants) of Isaac” (25:19).
Our lectionary text for today starts with the reference that Rebecca was barren, and that after her husband Isaac prayed for her, she conceived (verse 21).
God may be commonly associated with the gifts of peace and unity, but this story of the struggle between Jacob and his brother, Esau, highlights family conflict as a context within which God also works.
Biblical scholar Renita Weems has described Jacob as “the first real human being” in the Book of Genesis.
Jacob’s surprising encounter with God at Bethel leads to reflection about where we as individuals and as congregations meet God unexpectedly on life’s journey.
In the lectionary reading for today, we encounter Jacob on the way. Jacob is portrayed as a fugitive fleeing for his life; a vagabond somewhere between a conflict-ridden past and an uncertain future.
Jacob finds himself all alone at nightfall. He is on the run from his brother Esau because of a blessing.
Love stories in the Bible, such as this First Lesson where Jacob marries his beloved Rachel (and unexpectedly her sister Leah as well!), reveal how much has changed since biblical times.
Genesis 29:15-28 is small slice of a much larger story.
Our text for this week is a continuation of the story of Jacob.
The story of Jacob’s encounter with a stranger at night belongs to the larger Jacob and Esau cycle (Genesis 25:12-35:28).
What does it mean for God to wrestle with a human being and have the human opponent “prevail”?
The character of Jacob is deeply enigmatic for many Christian readers.
Believers, take heart!
In Genesis 32, Jacob and his family have finally left the homestead of his father-in-law Laban who is responsible for much of Jacob's present circumstances:
The story of Jacob's wrestling with the angel provides an embarrassment of riches for homiletical possibilities.
The story in Genesis 32 about the wrestling match between Jacob and God is one of the key texts for understanding the character of Jacob.
Unlike the rest of Genesis, which comprises short, episodic stories that can usually stand alone, Genesis 37-50 reads like a short story or novella.
In our text for today, sibling rivalry comes close to murder and sets in motion a chain of events that occupy the rest of the book of Genesis (chapters 37-50).
The story of Joseph and his brothers is a timeless story of preferential parental love and sibling rivalry.
The story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 37-50 is a story of jealousy and sibling rivalry...
Introduction: The Context of Joseph's Story
The story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-50) is one of the longest sustained narratives in the Old Testament, and is the longest in the Book of Genesis.
Long before HBO had Tony Soprano, the Bible had Joseph, arguably the original bad-guy protagonist.
The story of Joseph's reunion with his brothers is among the most tender in the scriptures.
The text for today describes a moving scene of reconciliation, the self-revelation of Joseph to the brothers who sold him into slavery many years before, and gives us the theological lens through which to view the whole story of Joseph.
Just when you think all is right in the world of Joseph and his brothers, their family drama reminds us that trust is very difficult to earn.
Coming at the end of the Joseph narrative, this episode in which Joseph's brothers seek his forgiveness is not as straightforward as it seems.
Jacob showed special favor to his young son Joseph, the child of his old age (Genesis 37:3).
Introduction: A Sprawling Story -- The Exodus
This week's assigned narrative lectionary text is a big, sprawling story -- the story of the Exodus, plus a few verses from the start of the Wilderness story.
A lot has happened since we left Jacob in Genesis 32 last week.
The command to know “who you are and whose you are” has become a cliché in Christian preaching these days, often overused and under-explained.
These first verses of Exodus use concise prose to set a tragic scene of oppression.
Exodus 1:8 -- 10: From Welcomed Guests to Suspected Terrorists
September is the launching pad of congregational life -- Sunday school, regular worship times, choir, council meetings, confirmation, Bible studies, etc., etc.
This first revelation of sacred space identifies as holy the soil itself, God’s good land alive with vegetation.
Who Sees the Burning Bush?
The burning bush scene in this chapter of Exodus is surely among the top ten best known biblical stories.
Exodus 3:1-6: Coming Home--A Mountain, a Bush and the Call of Moses
These two passages give us the first narrative account of the Passover, the moment when God calls upon Israel to remember, and to ritualize the remembrance of, the central event in Israel’s corporate story with God: God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt.
The book of Exodus begins with all 70 members of Jacob's family living as immigrants in the land of Egypt.
This Passover text is appointed for Maundy Thursday each year.1
In the story of the Exodus out of Egypt, this lesson is key.
Passover in the Old Testament is at the heart of the Exodus experience.1
It can be hard to let go of the things, places, relationships, and systems that enslave us.
On Maundy Thursday, we come to the Exodus account of the Passover.
Passover in the Old Testament is at the heart of the Exodus experience.
The Passover narrative in Exodus is intriguing and frightening.
This Passover text is appointed for Maundy Thursday each year.
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week.
The church should reclaim the Passover.
The Past Becomes Present: The Ritual of Passover
Last week’s scenes from the Joseph story showed God at work quietly, delivering God’s people in subversive ways.
Have you ever taken your Bible to an unusual or unfamiliar place to read and study?
A cloud holds water, promise of rain and sustenance. It presages storm. It can obscure from view the heavens and the workings of God; it can form a barrier in which none can find their way (Exod. 14:19-20).
This fourth semi-continuous selection from the Book of Exodus focuses on what most people mean by the Exodus: the escape from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea.
Just as the central New Testament story of Jesus' death and resurrection comes to us in four different versions (the four Gospels), so the central Old Testament story of the exodus and Red Sea event in Exodus 14-15 comes to us in three different versions that have been woven together and placed alongside one another.
Much has happened in the biblical narrative between last Sunday and this one.
Exodus might be regarded as the beginning proper of the Israelite story.
What does it mean to know God?
Give us this day our daily bread...and meat.
The narrative of Exodus 16:2-15 is powerful and rich with homiletical possibilities.
"Whine, whine, whine.... Complain, complain, complain. That's all the Israelites do."
Exodus 16 has many themes that speak to Christians today--grumbling by the people of God, good provision by God, and the importance of Sabbath rest.
Exodus begins with the Israelites living as slaves in Egypt.
Exodus 17:1-7 is a narrative that shares much in common with the complaint narratives that have preceded it.
In the biblical traditions, the wilderness is a space of depravity where people’s most basic needs are lacking.
In this week's text, we continue journeying with the Israelites in Exodus' narrative of the wilderness trek.
I never fully appreciated the Hebrews grumbling in Exodus until two years ago when given the opportunity to journey through the Sinai wilderness on a Middle East travel seminar.
Exodus 17 records the fourth occurrence of "complaining" by the Israelites in the early days after the exodus from Egypt.
This elegant story is, first and foremost, a dual commentary on human nature and divine character.
My teacher James Arne Nestingen once said, “Every preacher should preach through the Ten Commandments once every three years.”
During the four years that I was a student at Luther Seminary I can recall only one assignment which involved memorization of Scripture. In his course on the Pentateuch, Professor John Milton required us to memorize Exodus 19:4-6.
The dramatic scene at Mt. Sinai signals the fulfillment of the promise made to Moses in his first encounter with God on this mountain back in Exodus 3.
This week's lectionary text is a bit daunting. The Ten Commandments!
Exodus 19:1 states that "on the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai."
The Decalogue was God’s direct address to Israel: “God spoke all these words” (“words,” not commandments).
God creates and recreates us, God calls us and names us.
Biblical law remains on the front pages, both in church and society.
What goes up, must come down.
A central theme in the biblical traditions regards the notion of the divine presence.
"Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.
Exodus 24:12--18 has shaped the traditions of transfiguration that we find in the Synoptic Gospels. Placed on Transfiguration Sunday, this passage, which describes Moses' encounter with the Lord on Mount Sinai, brings the season of Epiphany to conclusion. Thus, in this season of reflection upon God's manifestation and incarnation, today's lesson brings us to the place of revelation--God's holy mountain--where heaven meets earth and humans encounter the divine.
The people’s idolatry in Exodus 32:1-14 is difficult to read just a week after the lectionary’s had us reading Ex 20, in which God makes a covenant with the people of Israel and gives them the Decalogue to serve as the heart of that covenant.
With the golden calf narrative, preachers have an opportunity to explore with their congregations the stunning, and even surprising, character of God and God's way with the world.
Tell me, whose side are you standing on? I'm standing on the Lord's side. Whose side are you standing on? Standing on the Lord's side. I stand, I stand, I stand, I stand...
The story of the golden calf in Exodus 32 is one of the most complex and dramatic in the entire Bible.
In the prelude to the story of the Golden Calf, Moses has led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt through the wilderness to Mount Sinai, "the mountain of God" (Exodus 24:13).
I suggest we discontinue referring to this text as the “golden calf” incident and begin calling it the “God changes God’s mind at the request of Moses” incident.
The exchange between the LORD and Moses in Exodus 32:7–14 follows Israel’s greatest moment of failure, the golden calf incident, Israel’s paradigmatic sin.
A Commentary on Human Nature
Exodus 33 shows Israel in a state of panic. Plain and simple, God’s people were in triage management following the fiasco with the golden calf (Exodus 32).
We are entering this Sunday right into the midst of an ongoing argument between Moses and God about the shape of God's relationship with the newly formed people of Israel.
In Exodus 32:1-14, Moses appeared calm and collected as he successfully negotiated with God on top of Mount Sinai to save the Israelites from God's anger about the golden calf.
After the deliverance from Egypt and the establishing of the covenant at Mount Sinai, God had Moses go back up to the mountaintop, a distance removed from the Israelite camp.
In the Protestant lectionary, Transfiguration Sunday stands at the juncture between Epiphany and Lent, and as such, offers a glimpse forward to the Easter Season and the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.
The book of Leviticus is a minefield full of topics that nobody wants to talk about in church: animal sacrifice, blood-sprinkling, moldy walls, oozing sores, gashed flesh, “a swelling or an eruption or a spot” (Leviticus 14:56), and bodily emissions of any kind.
“I never realized I could fall asleep on a treadmill until I did so while trying to read Leviticus,” said one of my students in a Pentateuch class years ago.
The Old Testament Reading comes from the book of Leviticus this week.
Preachers really should talk about Leviticus, since it can cause great confusion and division among Christians.
The lectionary from Leviticus begins with the familiar Levitical refrain: "You shall be holy, for I the LORD am holy" (19:2b).
For additional lectionary resources on the assigned texts for Reformation Sunday, please see the Craft of Preaching articles.
The year begins with a benediction!
The year begins with a benediction!1
No sooner have the Israelites set out from Mount Sinai than the complaining begins.
These verses stand near the beginning of part II of Israel's time of wandering in the wilderness, having just departed from Mt. Sinai (10:11-36:13; see Exodus 15:22-18:27 for part I).
The book of Numbers can be a theological quagmire.
Nearly everything about this text feels far removed from twenty-first-century life.
The text for today doesn't seem like altogether good news.1
The text for today doesn't seem like altogether good news.
"You have lacked nothing!" (Deuteronomy 2:7).
Readers of Deuteronomy need to be prepared to travel through time and in the process experience the value of James Russell Lowell’s assertion that “new occasions teach new duties.”
Moses will never enter the land of promise.
Psalm 119:97 proclaims: "Oh, how I love your law!"
From the beginning of the story of the exodus from Egypt, the narrative lectionary jumps directly to a moment forty years later, just before Moses’ death and the entrance of the Israelites into the promised land.
This week we're talking about Law, and we have in our reading two texts that loom large in both Christian and Jewish theology: the Ten Commandments (obviously Law) and the Shema (more on that in a minute).
Both the book of Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic movement that followed the precepts of the book vigorously resisted plurality.
There's no denying that Jesus was a good Jew.
Chapter 6 begins a new unit in Deuteronomy that runs until 11:32.
Using a Creed as the basis for a sermon series might be viewed as a hybrid between the use of lectionary texts and developing a topical series.
I grew up in a home wherein virtually every room contained a publicly displayed Bible verse.
“How can you tell a true prophet from a false prophet?”
Prophets are a rather complicated gift.
Where are the prophets today? Who speaks for God?
The book of Deuteronomy records the orations Moses declared to the Israelites on the last day of his life.
The text for this week comes at the end of a well-fashioned legal corpus in Deuteronomy (chapters 12-26).
A friend of my sister’s, a member of my church youth group, chafed at the rules and expectations for behavior that our church taught its youth.
Many Christians today seem to assume that keeping God’s law is impossible.
The single-minded focus on the law in the book of Deuteronomy can too easily be summed up into catch phrases.
For a man who complains about being “slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exod 4:10), Moses is actually a gifted orator, if this passage is any indication.
This Pentecost text has commonly been considered the conclusion to the farewell speech of Moses to the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20).
It’s time to make a choice.
After what is surely one of the longest sermons in history -- all of Deuteronomy! -- Moses makes his final appeal to Israel in this passage.
"See I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity..."
The majestic speech of Deuteronomy nears its conclusion in this stirring exhortation.
This poignant account of Moses’ death takes place at the very end of Deuteronomy, and therefore at the very end of the entire Pentateuch.
In the first chapter of the book of Joshua, the title character is exhorted four times -- in the space of eleven verses -- to “be strong and courageous.”
The story of the crossing of the Jordan highlights the authorization of Joshua's leadership and demonstrates that sustained attentiveness to sacred tradition is foundational for Israel's cultural identity.
For additional lectionary resources on the assigned texts for All Saints, please see the Craft of Preaching articles.
The people of Israel are fresh out of the liminal space of the wilderness.
Even though the Old Testament reading for this week is brief, it plays a critical role within the book of Joshua.
Today’s passage contains one of the most familiar lines from the Old Testament, Joshua’s charge to “choose this day whom you will serve,” combined with his own response, “but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Bondage to a lie, or freedom's integrity.
Martin Luther King Jr. begins his autobiography by stating,
This lectionary is very similar to that of Year B, Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, which covers Joshua 24:1-2a; 14-18.
The closing address in the book of Joshua is a brilliant example of ancient Israelite rhetoric.
This Old Testament lesson has been excerpted from the second farewell speech of Joshua (see Joshua 23 for the first farewell speech).
These seven verses are an introduction to the larger story of Deborah, Barak, and Sisera, and to the larger themes in the book of Judges.
Judges 4:1-7 introduces two biblical chapters which focus on Deborah, in the form of a story (4) and a song (5). These materials are interesting for a number of reasons.
Deborah is among the most prestigious female leaders in the Old Testament and her exemplary leadership may provide encouragement to lay and ordained female leaders in the church today.
The story of Naomi and Ruth is set during the period before monarchs ruled in Israel.
People are often surprised to find that the words from Ruth 1:16b-17, often heard at weddings, are not about the joys of beginning a new life together.
The Old Testament readings for this week and next come from Ruth. The selections seem designed to evoke the whole short book.
Ruth is a story of biblical proportions including everything from famine, widows, gleaning in the fields, levirate marriage, and justice at the gate to the birth of children of destiny.
A story of human love reflecting and enacting divine love, the book of Ruth is a rich text for a sermon series, particularly in August days when farm fields flourish with the promise of an abundant harvest.
This week, we have as our text the first chapter of the book of Ruth, which gives us a good taste of the whole story, but just a taste.
By the time the reader gets to these passages, she knows that the characters in this story are beyond reproach.
This week's reading concludes the book of Ruth, which was begun last week. The prescribed passages appear to be representative of the book overall, and especially this week preachers must fill in the gaps.
After taking up Ruth 1:1-18 in the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, the lectionary now skips to 3:1-5 and 4:13-17.
The reader who wants to understand Hannah’s story must understand not only the intricacies of her story, but the context in which her story appears as well.
Hannah: The woman who gives voice to suffering
The first chapter of 1 Samuel presents itself as a watershed moment in the history of Israel.
The title for this narrative lectionary is apt: from a place of deep sadness Hannah prays to God, vowing that if God will give her a son, she will dedicate that son to God. And God answers!
A mother's prayer results in an unlikely beginning to kingship.
Christmas has come to be widely associated with gift-giving.
At first glance this text about Samuel's early years seems not to provide many resources for preaching and teaching.
The opening chapters of 1 Samuel provide background for the institution of Israel’s monarchy.
The narrative of the calling of Samuel is replete with irony and foreshadowing.
What does it mean to be called by God?
The story of God's people continues, and again time has passed.
Kingship was always initiated from the gods above, less one notable exception.
"We Want a King!"
It's hard to find a headline during this campaign season in which candidates, politicians, and special interest groups are not demanding "radical" change in the way things are done in America.
“Samuel then went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 15:34; 16:13).
While promise, covenant and anointing have become exalted terms in both Jewish and Christian traditions, ancient Israelites perhaps had a more realistic view of what they entailed.
In 1 Samuel 15, Samuel denounces King Saul for violating the rules of Holy War by sparing the king of the Amalekites and keeping booty from Israel's war against them.
The story of David’s anointing in 1 Samuel 16 follows a traditional biblical storyline in which God shows unexpected favor for a younger sibling, singling out an unlikely candidate.
You can have one of the most unforgettable dining experiences of your life at the Nalaga’at Center in the area of Jaffa in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In the tradition in which I was raised, Bible study material often tried to present a "Central Bible Truth" for each lesson--the one thing that the biblical text said was important to "take home."
One of the primary messages of this story is that God is (yet again) providing for the welfare of the people,
Most people have fond memories of David from Sunday school: shepherd, singer of psalms, king, brave warrior.
1The name David occurs more often than any other human name -- more often than Abraham, or Moses, or Jacob, or Joseph.
Since its inception, people have cherished David and Goliath as one of the most favored stories of all time.
The story of David slaying Goliath, violent though it is, has been used for generations to open the imagination of children to the LORD's power.
The lectionary's desire to include the story of David and Goliath in the Sunday lessons is made difficult by the length of the story in the Bible.
[This is Week 4 of a 4-week preaching series on Sacraments.]
It’s a classic trope of male-bonding and war literature.
David's lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, a fine example of Hebrew poetry, is a particularly difficult text to preach, for this convergence of difficultly intertwined relationships lacks any reference to the LORD.
The second half of 1 Samuel recounts the contest between Saul and David.
Last week, David’s drama took center stage as he grieved over his mentor, Saul, and his friend, Jonathan, two figures who represented possible one-time rivals for legitimate rule.
This pericope focuses on David's coronation and capture of Jerusalem.
David was anointed to be king three times.
God’s work is messy business.
If the last two weeks of the study of David’s consolidation of his reign are any indication, the new king certainly wore his emotions on his sleeves -- well, when he was wearing sleeves, that is.
Since the pulp-patron saint of archaeologists, Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr., appeared on the cinematic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1984), the ark of God has played a role in popular imagination beyond the pages of Scripture and the walls of any synagogue or church.1
Over the next three weeks, we move from a "yes-but" narrative (2 Samuel 6) to a "YES!" narrative (2 Samuel 7) to a "NO!" narrative (2 Samuel 11).
Second Samuel 7:1-16 (cf. 1 Chronicles 17:1-14) is about the establishment of two houses: (1) the “house” (i.e., dynasty) of David, whose foundations are Yhwh’s promises and fidelity and (2) the “house” (i.e., temple) of Yhwh, which would eventually be built by David’s son, Solomon.
Royal hope and an undisturbed place
The opening chapters of 2 Samuel describe protracted and bloody conflict over kingship between David and Saul's son Ishbaal, assisted by their respective armies.
Within David's checkered story (a patchwork of triumph and downfall) comes a pivotal glimpse into the Lord's relationship with David, Israel, and ultimately all of history by way of the promise of an eternal 'house.'
It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this passage for both Jews and Christians.
"I am living in a house of cedar, but the Lord lives in a tent."
The opening clause of 2 Samuel 7 sets up a tension that is explored throughout the chapter.
This key text of the “Davidic Covenant,” is similar to an airport or a train station insofar as one can go all kinds of places from here.
David wishes to build a temple-house, but instead, God builds a greater dynasty-house.
Author’s Note: The explicit nature of the biblical text calls for an equally explicit conversation about the text and, I argue, that includes from the pulpit.
Every week, a small group of seminarians and professors meet at a local watering hole here in Dubuque to talk theology and enjoy a beer.
The preacher needs to plan carefully how to allocate the segments of the David and Bathsheba narrative over the next two weeks.
2 Samuel 12 is one of the most compelling stories of injustice uncovered.
In last Sunday’s semi-continuous First Lesson (2 Samuel 11:1-15), we learned about David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the pregnancy that followed, and David’s attempt to get Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to sleep with her and thus cover up the crime.
The lectionary gives us only the terse conclusion to the lengthy and dramatic episode preceding Nathan’s parable.
Judgment rings out loud and clear in God's displeasure, in Nathan's sermon, in David's confession, and perhaps also in our own reactions to the text.
To make sense of the lectionary text, we have to back up to the beginning of Chapter 11: the story of David and Bathsheba.
On one level it is obvious: this is a story about David's sin. God knows it.
The story of the conflict between David and his son Absalom takes up 6 chapters (2 Samuel 13-18) and is full of intrigue and moral failings by both David and Absalom.
The tension of this text begins with the enigmatic order of David to his commanders: "'Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom'" (5a).
The long, violent conflict between David and Absalom has finally run its course.
When I was growing up in the church, the last Sunday of the church year was known as the Last Sunday after Trinity.
The narrator of 2 Samuel 23:1-7 tells us that these verses contain "the last words of David."
Whether these "last words" of David were spoken by the king himself or composed by a later supporter of the monarchy (as most scholars believe), their purpose is clear:
I was at a piano recital of my nephew and nieces last year.
The Old Testament readings for this week and next week both feature prayers of King Solomon.
"What would you wish for if you could wish for anything?"
“Ask me, what would you like me to give you?”
Today's Old Testament lesson is the famous text where Solomon asks God for wisdom.
It would certainly be easy to preach this week's lectionary text as offering contemporary believers a model of faithful prayer.
Any prominent public space needs a rationale and a dedication.
At the height of Israel's success as a monarchy, King Solomon stops and prays.
It was common in the ancient Near East for kings (in imitation of the gods in the mythic tradition) to erect a temple early in their reign, and for very good reasons.
When I was 19, I got my first pair of glasses.
Like last week's reading from Kings, this week's selection also features a prayer uttered by King Solomon.
Having been introduced to King Solomon in last week's reading, we meet him now eleven years later, as he finishes the work for which he is perhaps best remembered:
The lectionary reading of this week forms part of a very long section in 1 Kings 8 that comprises Solomon’s dedicatory prayer in the newly constructed temple.
Last year’s lectionary cycle included longer selections from 1 Kings 8, at the heart of which is Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Jerusalem temple (1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11] 22-30, 41-43).
Power. Oppression. Rivalry. These interrelated themes are universal across time.
It is much easier to talk about trust -- confidence in God’s goodness and provision in the face of despair and doubt -- than it is to live it.
Elijah and a Phoenician widow find themselves in serious trouble.
The widow of Zarephath labors under a death sentence.
The literary shifts that bring us to chapter 17 in the book of Kings make Elijah the central character of this narrative.
On the surface, 1 Kings 17:8-16 tells a familiar story of a prophet who performs miracles.
"Do not be afraid."
Chapter 17 of 1 Kings begins a series of stories about the prophet Elijah and his successor, Elisha.
Sometimes God's provision comes in the most unlikely of places and by means of the most unlikely of people.
Deprivation and despair are two words that come to mind when reading the stories narrated in 1 Kings 17.
How do we know that Elijah is really a “man of God”?
The wheels almost come off the wagon of the bold narrative known as the Elijah cycle, when the boy dies unexpectedly.
1 Kings 18:20-40 contains one of the most memorable Elijah narratives.
450 v. 1 is truly no contest.
This week’s passage focuses on the loyal prophet who is sent to persuade the wayward monarch and people to return to “the Lord” (Hebrew YHWH, called the tetragrammaton), the God of Israel.
These verses in First Kings have long captured the imagination of interpreters, especially the phrase: “the still, small voice” or “a sound sheer silence” (19:12).
Elijah is tired, discouraged, suicidal, and God is with the prophet.
The story of Elijah told in 1 Kings 19 is both comically tragic and awesomely powerful.
What is this story doing in the book of Kings?
This Old Testament reading ranks among the most famous of Old Testament texts.
When I was working my way through college, I was forced to take a year off to pay debts and start at a new school.
Elijah's story lends itself well to preaching, with plenty of miraculous deeds and his challenge of the ungodly authority of Ahab and Jezebel.
First Kings 19 is the lowest point in Elijah’s career.
Elijah has had a good run, literally and figuratively.
1 Kings 19 begins with Elijah fleeing, not only from Ahab and Jezebel, but also from his place of ministry and the struggles it entails.
We find ourselves in a season of change and transition.
The call of Elisha is not like other prophetic call narratives in the Old Testament.
At first glance this passage appears as a story of how Elisha becomes a prophet and succeeds in Elijah's position.
“I don’t preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Now is that political or social?’ He said, ‘I feed you.’ Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.” – Bishop Desmond Tutu.
The story of Naboth's vineyard, a tale of a wealthy and powerful person (Ahab) who oppresses (to the point of death) a less wealthy and powerful person (Naboth) who is simply seeking to do the right, is rich in lessons for our world today.
Prophecy is all about relationships and the expressions of loyalty.
Transition is never easy.
The story of Elijah's ascent into heaven by way of fiery horses and chariot on a heavenly whirlwind is a text with many boundary-crossings: the geographic crossing of the River Jordan, the passage of the prophetic mantle from one generation to the next, and the seeming rip in the fabric between earth and heaven.
The story of Elijah’s ascension to heaven in a whirlwind is paired in the lectionary with the Transfiguration of Jesus.
The book of Kings almost teases readers about the succession from Elijah to Elisha.
The opening verse of this pericope hints at the focus of the following narrative, reminding the reader that everything that follows must be read in light of the end of the story.
Our short reading has a number of essential elements to it.
Only two verses long, this lectionary selection is obviously -- and notably -- quite short!
Today's reading is one of two back-to-back but separate stories of Elisha providing food for his disciples.
In this election season, we have grown accustomed to news reports, Twitter feeds, and television ads filled with the faces and voices of the candidates.
“How can we pray for you?”
Set amidst international politics is a remarkable story about healing, humility, and universalism, which centers around the character of Naaman.
At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia there is a tomb of the Unknowns.
Last fall, the wife of a good friend and colleague was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Healing seems to be the big take away from the story of Naaman.
This delightfully pesky story of the healing of Naaman the Aramean by Elisha the prophet of Israel is a story of border-crossings, whereby the Lord works in mysterious ways -- unwelcome by anyone, ancient or modern, who wants the Lord to observe humanity's boundaries, and welcome by those finding themselves at the margins or on the outside.
The text this week centers on a common theme: the faith of a servant acted out on foreign soil.
This fascinating story takes place in the midst of a section that showcases Elisha’s amazing prophetic powers (2 Kings 4:1-6:7).
The story of King Josiah is a cautionary tale about what happens when a people stray too far from God’s commandments for too long.
In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the LORD. . . (2 Kings 22:3)
Cyrus’ decree allowing Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple is found not only in Ezra 1 but also in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are as distinct from the earlier books of Samuel and Kings as the times they narrate are different from the ages that preceded them.1
I challenge you: If you do not choose to preach on Nehemiah 8, then let this passage inspire you to preach on the Torah.
It’s unlikely that your audience knows the whole story of Esther, so give them a condensed story arc highlighting the main characters: Esther, Mordecai, Haman, and King Ahasuerus.
Preaching from the book of Esther is not for the faint-hearted.
If you haven't ever read the book of Esther, read it now.
Esther is a strange and difficult book for several reasons, first and foremost because it is apparently non-theological.
The Book of Job tells a very un-American story.
We enter this week into one of the most difficult and theologically sophisticated books of the Old Testament: the book of Job.
During the month of October (Pentecost 18-21), we are treated to a rare opportunity--a run through the book of Job, in shorthand.
Notes for a six-week preaching series on Job.1
Notes for a six-week preaching series on Job.
[This is Week 2 of a 6-week preaching series on Job.]
[This is Week 3 of a 6-week preaching series on Job.]
“I know that my Redeemer lives!” Perhaps you, like me, can’t help but hear music when you read those words. The great Easter hymn by Samuel Medley begins and ends with this proclamation:
Reading Job from the perspective of the character evaluation given in James 5:11, other religious texts, and the popular imagination presents us with one version of Job.
Handel Had It Right
Most of the Book of Job is fly-over territory.
Job sits on an ash heap, bereft of children and wealth, covered by painful sores and surrounded by three "friends" who tell him that it's all his fault.
The last line of Job 2:1-10 (last week's first reading, 18 Pentecost) reckons Job's behavior, above all his speech, as righteousness:
[This is Week 4 of a 6-week preaching series on Job.]
Finally and dramatically, God responds to Job from a whirlwind.
Like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, Job responds to his troubles by wishing he had never been born (Job 3).
"Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers," drawled Garth Brooks.
God’s speech from the whirlwind to Job has been a long time coming.
The book of Job, like the lament psalms, serves to keep us honest.
I remember well the first time I read the speeches of God in the book of Job.
[This is Week 5 of a 6-week preaching series on Job.]
What can Job possibly say to God after hearing God finally speak?
We have walked with Job the last few weeks through the book that bears his name. This week we read the final chapter of the book and find out what becomes of Job in the end.
In some ways I kind of hate the ending of Job, at least the very, very end.
[This is Week 6 of a 6-week preaching series on Job.]
This deceptively simple psalm serves as the introduction to the Psalter and sets before us, the readers, a vision of life as a journey marked by bifurcating paths: turn one way, happiness (1:1), another, destruction (1:6).
The poets and compilers of the Book of Psalms were clearly in touch with a perennial human issue -- happiness.
Scripture compares humans to trees far more often than contemporary discourse does.
Albeit an unlikely starting point, the place to begin any discussion of this short psalm is at the poem’s end: for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6, NRSV)
"Why do they keep messing with my Bible?"
How fascinating: the book of Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible, the hymnal of ancient Israel, opens with a poem about ethics, lifestyle, and decisions.
Commentary and hymns for a six-part preaching series on the Psalms.1
Notes (and hymns) for a six-part preaching series on the Psalms1
Transfiguration is a Sunday that suffers considerable theological confusion.
Psalm 2 makes a striking claim: in the face of terrifying threats, God creates and preserves order through God’s anointed one, a righteous messiah.
Psalm 2 does little to contradict the common stereotype that "the God of the Old Testament" is a deity overflowing with wrath.
The Gospel reading for this Sunday picks up the story of Jesus after the resurrection.
[Thank you to the members of the South Carolina Synod (ELCA) Commission on Inclusiveness for your reflections on this Psalm. Your shared wisdom is embedded in these comments.]
Psalm 4 is good for what ails you.
A problem with our hearing of Psalm 8, as with so many other biblical texts, may be our affluence.1
“Who am I?” is one of those questions I’ve asked of God on numerous occasions.
This psalm of praise is unique in the Psalter in that it is addressed directly to the Lord throughout.
While Psalm 8 is addressed to God, it’s really mostly about us: about the human relationship with the rest of creation and about the right exercise of human dominion.
Psalm 8 is a hymn of praise.
James Limburg has described Psalm 8 as "a psalm for stargazers"1 and indeed, it is that. But even more, this is a psalm for soul searchers.
A problem with our hearing of Psalm 8, as with so many other biblical texts, may be our affluence.
"Are We Alone?" asks the December 2009 issue of National Geographic, against the backdrop of a sky billowing with stars.
[This is Week 2 of a 5-week preaching series on Psalms.]
Psalm 15 is classified generally as a Community Hymn and more specifically as an Entrance Liturgy.
Psalm 15 is usually categorized as an entrance liturgy.
What makes a good guest?
There are two divergent ways to think about Psalm 15.
Our question was, “How do we get into this place?”
1LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill?
The opening verse of Psalm 15, asking who can be admitted to worship at the tabernacle/temple, makes for a daunting introduction to this "entrance liturgy" psalm.1
A Response to the First Reading
In the context (wake, aftermath, light) of Easter, Psalm 16 proposes a contrast of sorts, between “the holy ones” (verse 3) and “those who choose another god” (verse 4).
Life comes with the blessing of choices, although some philosophers have endeavored to make us think of them as a curse.
“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is yet to come” is a central passage in the Mark text for this week and it could serve as a parallel for Psalm 16.
Psalm 16 opens with a verse that expresses its main theme: “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge” (verse 1).
In recent years, Psalms scholarship has been inclined to attend more carefully to the sequencing of the poems.
If you are preaching on the Gospel text -- and its doom and gloom End Times themes -- then there might not be too much to back you up here in Psalm 16.
Psalm 16 is a very problematic psalm, and for a gaggle of reasons:
Praying with exclamation points!
Honesty is a core component of living in relationship with others.
We have a gift in Psalm 19. Bach, Beethoven, Handel, and Haydn expressed their delight with this Psalm through now well-known musical settings of its text.
It was a beautiful September day in Iowa and a group of students had gathered on one of the hills near the college.
Some scholars rather rashly declare Psalm 19 to be not one but two distinct Psalms, one on the glory of creation, the second on the goodness of the Torah.
Psalm 19 offers plenty of useful avenues of engagement. Indeed, it presents the interpreter with an embarrassment of options.
Preaching on a text about preaching is no small task.
As a college professor of biblical studies, I consistently find that the most important question for the course is: What kind of book is the Bible?
C. S. Lewis called Psalm 19 "the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world."1
The lectionary tries to steal this psalm from us, but we don't need to let it.
Psalm 22 has been described rather glibly as “the fifth passion narrative” for the imagery it has contributed to the evangelists’ depictions of the closing events of Good Friday.1
Borne out of a gut-wrenching anguish, Psalm 22 is the cry of one who knows what it is to be bullied by his enemies, rejected by his community, and abandoned by God.
Psalm 22 is a prayer of complaint that, perhaps more than any psalm, serves as a link between the Old Testament and the story of Jesus' passion. 1
I remember the conversation well, though it took place a number of years ago, in Germany.
Psalm 22 is a prayer of complaint that, perhaps more than any psalm, serves as a link between the Old Testament and the story of Jesus' passion.
This is one of the Bible's saddest texts, appropriately read by Christians on Good Friday, the saddest day of the church year.
This is one of the Bible's saddest texts, appropriately read by Christians on Good Friday, the saddest day of the church year. I find myself emotionally drawn into the agony of the speaker, and I also experience the speaker's joy as he celebrates his rescue and prospect for the future.
This psalm selection begins with a sharp transition calling upon God (“But you, O LORD,” v. 19a).
The Psalter lection includes portions of the two major components of an individual lament/complaint.
If we follow the lectionary reading for this Sunday, we enter Psalm 22 right in the middle of an anguished scream.
From the utter abandonment of its opening line to its exuberant, full-throated praise in its final strains, Psalm 22 is a study in contrasts.
Psalm 22 is a familiar psalm to most of us.
The final verses of Psalm 22 provide us with a wonderful hymn of praise.
Anne Lamott has famously said, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
How odd is it, during Easter, to return to the Psalm of Good Friday, the chilling scream of the crucifixion?
The 23rd Psalm is a perennial favorite.1
Many of us can only hear the first line of the Psalm in the King James Version (KJV): “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.1
If you have never preached on Psalm 23 -- or if you haven’t preached on it recently -- this is the week.1
Even audiences largely unfamiliar with the Bible’s contents are likely to know phrases from Psalm 23 (though whether or not they know what they are hearing is biblical is another question!).
Well, here you are, wondering whether to take the leap of faith and make Psalm 23 the text for -- or at least an important element of -- proclamation for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost.
Many of us can only hear the first line of the Psalm in the King James Version (KJV): “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Every preacher needs at least two sermons on Psalm 23: one for funerals, and another for ordinary time. Because Psalm 23 is so familiar, we’ll look at it in the particular framework of the lectionary texts for the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
Consider the vulnerability of a sheep.
If you have never preached on Psalm 23 -- or if you haven’t preached on it recently -- this is the week.
Notice this Psalm’s emphasis on our active Lord.
Psalm 23 is classified as an Individual Psalm of Thanksgiving.
Psalm 23 is one of the best-known and most often-quoted passages in the Bible.
Everybody knows Psalm 23. In an era of increasing biblical illiteracy, this is an encouraging sign.
The 23rd Psalm is a perennial favorite.
[This is Week 3 of a 5-week preaching series on Psalms.]
Psalm 24 is notoriously difficult to interpret.
Like Psalm 46, last week's psalm, Psalm 24 is related to Jerusalem (see Psalm 46, Reformation Sunday).
Psalm 24 is an entrance liturgy.
Are we teachable? Can we change? Can we grow into the image of God in which we are created?
The first lesson makes it clear that God will neither require children to pay for the sins of their parents nor allow them to rest satisfied in their parents' goodness; rather, God will judge each person according to his or her own deeds: righteous or wicked.
Psalm 25 may qualify as a poetic epitome of teaching ministry of the church.
At first blush, Psalm 25 may seem an odd song for Advent.
The psalms immediately preceding Psalm 25 form a collection that is arranged in a chiastic pattern as follows:
The Good Samaritan text for this Sunday is the equivalent of a fastball right down the middle, and most preachers will want to take a swing at it!
Psalm 25 is the reading for the first Sunday in Lent, the season in which Christians prepare themselves for the passion of Jesus.
Psalm 25:1-10 appears three times in the Revised Common Lectionary:
Psalm 25 is one of those Psalms which seems to lend itself less toward commentary and more toward verbalization.
I teach at a college that emphasizes the integration of faith and learning. We strive for students to realize that their knowledge and their beliefs should not -- and ultimately cannot -- be kept in separate compartments of their lives.
Psalm 26 is a sturdy prayer that can be prayed by any individual at any time.
As much as any psalm in the Psalter, Psalm 27 expresses trust in the lord and claims absolute dependence on God.
One of the brightest jewels in the Psalter is the Psalm 27.
Psalm 27 is classified as an Individual Lament.
[This is Week 4 of a 6-week preaching series on Psalms.]
Psalm 27 fits well with the Gospel reading in Luke 13.
Pastors regularly point to the psalms when people feel angry with God or despair of God's goodness.
Psalm 29 is classified as a Community Hymn, but is often considered an Enthronement psalm because of its striking similarities with Psalms 93-99.
Psalm 29 thunders forth a bold proclamation: God’s power reaches into the world and the whole world takes notice.
From one perspective, it may seem that the poet who composed Psalm 29 was an ancient version of what we might today call a storm-chaser.
A storm scene from our home on Woman Lake in northern Minnesota:
The 29th Psalm is notorious for being an originally Canaanite psalm, adapted by the Israelites.
Though it is impossible to know what tune accompanied Psalm 29 in its original recitations, the rhythms of its many repeated phrases convey a sense of musicality on their own.
The Bible speaks often of the effective power of the word of God.
Psalm 29 is a call to worship, not only by the assembled congregation in the Jerusalem Temple, but also by the angels in God's heavenly court.
There are a number of directions that the interpreter of psalm 29 could take.
There are a number of directions that the interpreter of Psalm 29 could take.
Because I am a Psalms scholar, I am always on the lookout for where and when the Psalms show up, whether it be in worship or in the public arena.
“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalm 30 presents the dramatic ups-and-downs of a life lived in relationship with God.
Psalm 30 is a song of thanksgiving. That label is appropriate for two reasons.
In his article, “Psalms in Narrative Performance,” Walter Brueggemann writes about making generic Psalms concrete: “To re-narratize the Psalms is to protest against vacuous generalization and to focus on concreteness wherein real people live real lives of agony and ecstasy.”1
Psalm 30 frames the struggles of the life of faith within a glorious edifice: the Jerusalem Temple, a powerful cultural icon that "narrates" the faith of the believing community, the enduring presence of God, and the inviolability of God's promises to Israel.
From Mourning to Morning
Psalm 30 is an Individual Psalm of Thanksgiving.
For centuries, Christians have found the book of Psalms to be a powerful resource for all dimensions of life -- the highs, the lows, and all the places in between.
[This is Week 4 of a 5-week preaching series on Psalms.]
This psalmist is a refugee.
Psalm 31, along with Psalms 22 and 69, is among the longest and most impressive of the genre known variously as lament, complaint, protest, and/or prayer for help.
The last words that Jesus spoke from the cross, according to Luke, were taken from this psalm:
One of the defining features of the prayer for help is the return to trust that defines its complaint.
Today marks the beginning of Holy Week, a time in the Christian calendar when we journey with Christ to the cross, remembering Christ’s suffering for our sake as well as our own dying with Christ in the waters of baptism.
“Our senses attach all the scorn, all the revulsion, all the hatred that our reason attaches to crime, to affliction … (E)verybody despises the afflicted to some extent, although practically no one is conscious of it.”1
Psalm 31 is one of three psalms that appear prominently in the story of Jesus’ passion.
Three psalms in particular have served as a treasure trove of evocative imagery for the Gospel writers’ renditions of the crucifixion.
If your congregation plans to highlight the Sunday of the Passion (instead of Palm Sunday), spending some time with this Psalm will benefit your preaching.
The Psalms enrich preaching during Holy Week and Easter, even if few preachers base an entire sermon on the Psalms.
We enter Holy Week hearing "Hosannas" from the crowd and move from triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the cross of humiliation.
Psalm 32 is one of the Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143).
Who knew? The ancient psalmist was a clinical therapist, saying in effect, “Don’t hold in your pain, or it will eat you alive!”
The Pursuit of Happiness
Psalm 32 is one of the six psalms the church traditionally identified for the rite of penance and to help model prayers of confession (the others are Psalms 6; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143).
Three of the readings for this Sunday, including Psalm 32, speak of sin and forgiveness.1
If the Sundays in Lent has named themes as in Advent, this fourth Sunday would be a festival to celebrate forgiveness.
For around a hundred years, “form criticism” has provided the dominant approach to interpreting the psalms.
Long before the insights from contemporary psychology concerning repression, biofeedback loops, and psychosomatic disorders, the ancient psalmist knew very clearly that unacknowledged and unresolved guilt could have serious physical consequences.
In Christian tradition, Psalm 32 has long been classified as one of the seven "penitential psalms," which are often read during the liturgical season of Lent.
Three of the readings for this Sunday, including Psalm 32, speak of sin and forgiveness.
The Hebrew Psalter is a marvelous resource for a living response to the God who has created us and redeems us in Jesus Christ.
So we wait.
God Watches. We Wait.
God is Great, God is Good
I work with college students in a Baptist university.
Music has a way of provoking memories of events long forgotten.
Psalm 34 is classified as an Individual Hymn of Thanksgiving.
Psalm 34 belongs to the so-called wisdom psalms in the Psalter, or maybe it is better to say that it contains several motifs which are connected to the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, since the genre of the psalm is disputed in the scholarly literature.
How many times a day do you use the phrase “It’s all good?”
9Fear the LORD, you saints of the LORD, for those who fear the LORD lack nothing.
Last Sunday's Psalm lection (34:1-8) contained some of the typical features of individual Psalms of Thanksgiving, where a worshiper invites others to praise God (verses 1-3) for an act of personal deliverance (verses 4, 6).
John Goldingay has claimed Psalm 34 possesses an ABC-type of spirituality.
1515The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and God's ears are open to their cry.
With the concluding verses of Psalm 34, the author has returned to the subject matter with which he began, namely the suffering from which God delivered him (verse 4).
The God of justice cares for refugees.
One could go in a variety of directions in preaching on this psalm.
Psalm 37 addresses an enduring concern, the seemingly untroubled and prosperous lives of wrongdoers (v 1).
Written as an acrostic poem, approximately every other line in Psalm 37 begins with a successive letter of the twenty-two letter Hebrew alphabet.
A dear relative once told me, "You know, people don't have good sense until they get old."
[This is Week 5 of a 6-week preaching series on Psalms.]
The lectionary selection from Psalm 40 includes ten verses that express thanksgiving (verses 1-10) and one verse of petition for help (verse 11).
Most of us can read Psalm 40 and admire its words, the depth of thought and faith conveyed in its phrases.
Psalm 40, classified as an Individual Lament, consists of two seemingly distinct parts, verses 1-10 and verses 11-17, suggesting to many scholars that two originally separate psalms were joined at some point to form a single psalm.
Most interpreters today treat Psalms 42 and 43 as one psalm because a number of Hebrew manuscripts present the psalms together in one text and because the psalms share vocabulary and themes.
An Initial Decision: Psalm 43? Or Psalm 42/43?
Psalm 43, in its canonical placement, is actually the final third of a longer poem which makes up all of Psalm 42-43.1
Psalm 46 is a song of trust in Yahweh.1
Psalm 46 provides the basis of Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God” -- Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.
Luther was right!
This Reformation Sunday is a time to ask whether the church, and by this I mean the whole Christian Church on earth, needs to have a big rummage sale.
This is the final week in the liturgical calendar. Christians around the world will proclaim and celebrate the reign of Christ before beginning the journey of the Christian year anew.
As always, preaching for a festival of the church brings competing goods: Do we preach the text or preach the day?
The good news of Psalm 46 is essentially the same as that of last week's psalm (see Psalm 91:9-16, Twenty first Sunday after Pentecost) -- that is, God is "with us."
"A Mighty Fortress is Our God" -- the hymn, which according to Ulrich Leupold, "more than any other epitomizes Luther's thought and personal experience" -- is a rather free paraphrase of Psalm 46.
Psalm 46 is a song of trust in Yahweh.
"Ein feste burg ist unser Gott..." is the original, German phrase that opens Martin Luther's famous hymn.
"A Mighty Fortress is Our God"--the hymn, which according to Ulrich Leupold, "more than any other epitomizes Luther's thought and personal experience"--is a rather free paraphrase of Psalm 46.
Notes for a four-week preaching series on Sacraments.
Affirmations of faith are varied across cultures and traditions.
Psalm 47 is a hymn celebrating Yahweh’s dominion over the entire world.
Psalm 47 is a hymn that celebrates God’s reign as king over the earth.
Since ancient times Psalm 47 has been used for worship.
So here is the hard truth.
“The One Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins.”
Lifestyles of the Rich and Ransomed
What will it take for us to see -- really see?
The chosen portion of Psalm 50 is rich with the light imagery that is common to all of the lectionary selections for Transfiguration Sunday.
How do you respond to the words, "The boss would like to set up a meeting with you?"
Psalm 51:1-10 provides us, the readers, with an opportunity to think deeply and critically about the complex and ever important issue of sin, about where it originates and how it can be put to death and about its nature and its effects.
Psalm 51 is classified as an individual lament in which a single voice cries out to God for deliverance from a life-threatening situation.
Psalm 51 is one of the most common psalms recited by Protestant Christians.
This is a text that must be handled with care.
Psalm 51 is, by any measure, one of the best-known and most often read penitential texts in the canon, and, as such, presents both opportunities and challenges for the interpreter.
A single voice speaks to us in this text.
Most psalms picture the supplicant as an essentially righteous person.1
On Ash Wednesday, people in churches, homes, and streets all over the world will receive ashes, beginning a forty-day period the Christian tradition calls Lent.
If my commentary on Psalm 50 for the Festival of the Transfiguration (three days ago) is correct, everything hinges on Nathan’s oracle calling David and us to see ourselves as others see us -- indeed, as God sees us.
Most psalms picture the supplicant as an essentially righteous person.
Our brothers and sisters in the faith before us have provided two important keys for unlocking this psalm.
It’s difficult for folks involved in ministry to come up with the right words for every prayer we offer.
Perhaps you've heard the old saw, "Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh" (or something like that).
Why the passion of this psalm?
This Psalm is for the asylum seeker, those who seek refuge from adversaries, those who yearn for security and stability.
Retain the Refrain!
Psalm 62 has elements of a Psalm of praise, thanksgiving, lament, and wisdom.
The psalm opens with longing.
Psalm 63 offers minimal words for a minimal place where experience is anything but minimal. The Psalmist’s poetics here are like a minimalist painting that shows only one or two strokes of paint across a field of white.
In a recent gathering, one of my students led a guided meditation.
Although the central section of this psalm is comprised of hymnic praise of God, the psalm as a whole suggests that the prayer exemplifies what Walter Brueggemann categorized as psalms of reorientation.
When one surveys Psalm 65 as a whole, what is most striking is the breadth of the psalm's subject matter.
[This is Week 3 of a 4-week preaching series on Sacraments.]
Chosen for a Sunday toward the end of the liturgical season of Ordinary Time that confirms the constancy of grace manifested mysteriously in the middle of doldrums, Psalm 66 blows in fresh air with its jubilant call for joy -- a common thread that all scripture lessons for this Sunday share.
As suggested in last week’s essay on Psalm 16, the sequencing of psalms sometimes seems intentional, or at least significant. In terms of today’s lection, the beginning of Psalm 66 follows beautifully the conclusion of Psalm 65.
God makes the whole world shout “Hooray!”
Psalm 66:8-20 is part of a hymn that extols God's mighty deeds on behalf of God's people.
I Love To Tell the Story
A few weeks ago I was browsing through our local Barnes and Noble bookstore and ran across a thin volume with the title: PRAISE BE TO YOU: Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home (Ignatius: San Francisco, 2015).
This psalm is a favorite for several reasons.
The sixth Sunday of Easter may feel a bit like the twelfth day of Christmas -- officially still in the zone but, practically speaking, most people have moved on.
A Liturgy of Blessing
As the twice-repeated refrain (verses 3, 5) indicates, Psalm 67 is a song meant for public worship.
As we had occasion to observe in relation to Psalm 148, last week's psalm, Israel's songs of praise regularly invite an expansive congregation to praise God.
When God shows up, everything changes.
While Psalm 68 is fraught with interpretive difficulties -- several one-of-a-kind words, obscure allusions, unknown geographical locations, and a less-than-clear structure -- its general character and movement are clear enough.
God of Power, God of the People
[This is Week 3 of a 6-week preaching series on Psalms.]
It was my favorite children’s game for a summer evening.
Psalm 70 is a prayer from an individual, almost a kind of sigh from this person of faith who seeks divine protection, perhaps manifested in the sanctuary.
Psalm 70's superscription, in the New Revised Standard Version, is "To the leader. Of David, for the memorial offering." Scholars offer two ideas about the phrase "for the memorial (from the Hebrew root zakar) offering."
In the well-loved Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott writes:
This psalm has long been one of my favorites.
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 is timely for the season of Advent. We come in these Advent Sundays to hear and experience the kingship of the Messiah, who has come, is present, and will come in power and glory as the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.1
Psalm 72 is a royal psalm -- a psalm about the earthly kings of Israel.
On the festival of the Epiphany, the church celebrates the coming of all nations to God’s light, now shining forth in Jesus of Nazareth. In Christ, the kingdom of God is thrown open to all!
Psalm 72 is an expansive, generic enthronement hymn that was likely a staple of coronations in ancient Israel/Judah.
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 is timely for the season of Advent. We come in these Advent Sundays to hear and experience the kingship of the Messiah, who has come, is present, and will come in power and glory as the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.
Psalm 78 is the second longest psalm in the Psalter; only psalm 119 is longer.
Psalm 78 is the second longest psalm in the Psalter (next to Psalm 119) and by far the longest psalm that rehearses Israel’s history (Psalms 105 and 106 are two other examples).
When one approaches an abstract painting by any one of the 20th century abstract painters -- Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and so on -- they are met by art work that prompts cognitive dislocation and reflection.
Psalm 78's superscription reads, "A Maskil of Asaph."
When a psalm is divided up, like the one for this Sunday (verses 1-7, 17-19), the integrity of the psalm is lost.1
We do not know how to pray as a community, together, for the community.
Don’t be a lectionary basher; respect the brothers and sisters responsible for the lectionary for the hard choices they’ve made.
In the conclusion to his excellent book, Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor, William Brown explains that "the power of metaphor . . . lies in its ability (and manipulability) to inspire new theological vision."1
When a psalm is divided up, like the one for this Sunday (verses 1-7, 17-19), the integrity of the psalm is lost.
Psalm 80 is a communal lament in which the worshipping community calls upon God to rescue them from trouble.
Psalm 80's thrice-repeated refrain (vv. 3, 7, 19) is a clue both to the psalm's liturgical origins and its driving theological concern.
Psalm 80 is a communal lament.
This portion of Psalm 80 responds to the first lesson from Isaiah 5 by employing the same metaphor of God's people as a ruined, forsaken vine and vineyard.
In Psalm 82, the poetic imagination of the Psalmist conjures a mythic heavenly court.
“The gods may be crazy . . . but they are definitely unjust!”
The Shaking of the Foundations
Psalm 84 is classified as a pilgrimage psalm, sung as praise by those who traveled to Jerusalem to worship.
The psalms chosen for lectionary use are often abridged for a variety of reasons -- sometimes valid, sometimes not so much, many of us would say.
Throughout life, we humans sometimes identify certain places or times as special.
[This is Week 2 of a 4-week preaching series on Sacraments.]
Sometimes we get confused early in the season of Advent, thinking we have a holy obligation to keep all joy and glory on hold until late in December.
The biblical texts for the second week of Advent are Isaiah 40:1-11, Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, and Mark 1:1-8.
The psalm assigned for last week (Advent 1) included a thrice-repeated refrain that included the petition, "Restore us, O God" (80:3, 7, 19).
Psalm 85 is a communal prayer for help and verses 8-13 express confidence that the help prayed for will indeed come.
This psalm lection contains a magnificent constellation of biblical terms, portraying them with a striking intimacy that catches modern readers off guard: “righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (verse 10)?
Reflecting on Psalm 85:8-13 without the first 13 verses is akin to a liturgy that omits the call and prayer of confession, moving instead straight to the assurance of pardon.
An interpretation of Psalm 85:8-13 needs first to find a context in the whole of Psalm 85.
No small amount of ink has been spilled trying to sort out the structure of this prayer song of the individual.
Psalm 86 is classified by most scholars as a psalm of individual lament, in which an individual expresses the pain of his present condition and seeks relief from God.
The assigned verses are a portion of a much larger psalm that concludes book three of the psalter.
At the heart of Psalm 89 is the question of faithfulness.
Taken as a whole, Psalm 89 contrasts the might and faithfulness of God,
This marathon of a psalm is found in the last psalm in Book III of the Psalter.
In ancient Israel, crisis brought a response of gathering at the holy place under the leadership of priests and other worship leaders.
This week's psalm selection is the opening section of one of the great lyrics of the Bible -- Psalm 90.
If, on occasion, the Revised Common Lectionary may be said to do the interpreter no favors in its delineation of the boundaries of a text, the reading before us from Psalm 90 surely presents such an occasion.
Psalm 90 has often been categorized as a wisdom psalm, which, like the book of Ecclesiastes (see 3:19-20; 7:2), is very much in touch with human finitude and the brevity of human life (see also Psalms 39:4-6; 49:10-12, 16-20).
This week's psalm selection is the closing section of one of the great lyrics of the Bible--Psalm 90.
Psalm 91 is the second psalm in Book Four of the Psalter.
This psalm is an exultant hymn of proclamation and praise.
It is not surprising that Psalm 91 is often read, frequently set to music, and much-loved.
Although it is not entirely unique in the Psalter, the most striking thing about Psalm 91 is that it ends with a divine speech in verses 14-16.
The psalm text for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost is the "promise" section of the famous Eagles' Wing poem, Psalm 91.
The superscription for Psalm 92 declares it to be “a song for the Sabbath day.”
Psalm 92 is the only Psalm with a superscription assigning it to the Sabbath.
The two portions of Psalm 92 chosen by the lectionary each offer interesting possibilities for interpretation and connection to the life of the church, and interpreters may find it useful to focus on one or the other.
Today’s psalm gives the opportunity to provide some content to the phrase “God is King” or “LORD is King.”
This brief, straightforward psalm is teed up for your Christ the King-themed sermon. Psalm 93 begins by proclaiming that "the Lord is king" (Hebrew: YHWH melek).
Psalm 95 is a bit unusual in that it is a hymn of praise that includes a prophetic warning, as do Psalms 50 and 81.
Psalm 95 appears in a grouping of psalms that focus on the reign of God (Psalms 93, 95-99).
“O come, let us sing.” So Psalm 95 begins.
How odd it is to be hearing and singing Psalm 95 in the middle of Lent!
According to 1 Chronicles 16, when David brought the ark to Jerusalem, he also appointed Asaph and other Levites to sing praises to God.
Psalm 96:1-9 calls all people of the earth and indeed the earth itself to sing praise to God and to worship God in God’s temple.
The Lord is king!1
God’s rule extends to everyone, everywhere, and for all time.
The Lord is king!
Psalm 96 is for royalty. It should start with timpani and end with a trumpet. (If you don’t have a drummer or trumpeter handy, read on.)
Somewhere in the list of top ten things preaching professors say to students stand the requests to “be specific,” “be concrete.”
Is it too idealistic to think that Christmas Eve is one of those times when so many of us (if not all) are ready and willing to do what this psalm exhorts us to do?
Psalm 96 is one of five psalms in Book Four of the Psalter that are classified as Enthronement Psalms, psalms that celebrate the reign of God as king over all creation.
On Christmas Day, when families in pajamas unwrap gifts under their trees, monks in monasteries all around the world rise to chant Psalm 97.1
The now well-known hymn “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was performed for the first time on February 12, 1900, at the segregated Stanton Elementary School in Jacksonville, FL. James Weldon Johnson, principal of Stanton and author of the poem, wrote the piece for his students as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
The first line of Psalm 97 marks it as one of several “enthronement psalms” found in the Psalter (Psalms 47, 93, 95-99).
On Christmas Day, when families in pajamas unwrap gifts under their trees, monks in monasteries all around the world rise to chant Psalm 97.
Ascension Day falls on a Thursday, but many churches observe it on the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
Psalm 97 is one of only seven psalms in the book of Psalms that is classified as an enthronement psalm (Psalms 47, 93, 95-99).
Imagine Psalm 97 as the psalmist's Christmas sermon.
Recent scholarly work on the book of Psalms has focused considerable attention on the collection to which Psalm 97 belongs -- Psalms 93, 95-99, the enthronement or God-reigns psalms.
The Christmas season always seems like a time to sing the good old songs.1
Psalm 98 invites hearers and readers into a new frame of reflection about the activity of God.
Psalm 98 is the fifth psalm in a group of six psalms in Book Four of the Psalter known as the Enthronement Psalms (Psalms 93, 95-99).
Like many psalms of praise, Psalm 98 begins with an imperative “call to praise” followed by a “reason to praise” introduced by the Hebrew word ki, “for.”
It was Dorothy Day who wrote, “Whenever I felt the beauty of the world in song or story, in the material universe around me, or glimpsed it in human love, I wanted to cry out with joy. The Psalms were an outlet for this enthusiasm…”1
Talk about inclusive!
"Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!" (Psalm 98:5)
"Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre ... and the sound of melody! With trumpets ... make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!" (Psalm 98:5).
Psalm 99 is the last of the six “Enthronement Psalms” in Book Four of the Psalter.
I write these lines just after hanging up the telephone.
Psalm 103, a masterful and well-loved composition, is classified as an Individual Hymn of Thanksgiving, a psalm in which a single voice praises God for God’s goodness to or on behalf of that individual, usually for deliverance from some trying situation.
In my preaching classes at Trinity Lutheran Seminary we talk often about "ignore-at-your-peril" preaching situations.
Psalm 103 begins as a shout. "Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
Psalm 103 is classified as an Individual Hymn of Thanksgiving, a psalm in which a single voice praises God for goodness to or on behalf of that individual, usually for deliverance from some trying situation.
All Those Bagpipes
Psalm 104 presents a glorious picture of God as creator and a sweeping view of the world God made.1
Ecological activist and author Bill McKibben suggests that “environmental devastation stands as the single great crisis of our time, surpassing and encompassing all others."1
In Psalm 104, the world that God creates and recreates is not just ordered, but rhythmic, each created thing a note that contributes to the Spirit’s song.
Psalm 104 presents a glorious picture of God as creator and a sweeping view of the world God made.
Psalm 104, a hymn of praise to God as creator, is remarkably comprehensive in its survey of earth and space, flora and fauna, topography and geology.
It is a blessing to the preacher when the movement of a passage of Scripture offers a ready guide to interpretation and proclamation.
It is a blessing to the preacher when the movement of a passage of Scripture offers a ready guide to interpretation and proclamation. This reading from Psalm 104 is a case in point.
Psalm 107 is a psalm of thanksgiving, extolling God for delivering God’s people from a variety of troubles.
The texts for this Sunday provide the preacher with a whole kaleidoscope of themes and images.
Psalm 107 opens with the words:
Psalm 107, classified as a community hymn of praise, was most likely a liturgy of thanks offered by worshipers at a festival at the temple in Jerusalem.
Psalm 107 opens with a typical call to praise.
Psalm 107:1 will always have a very special place in my heart.
Psalm 111 is a classic psalm of praise extolling the virtues of God presented as the praise of a single individual.
If I were tasked with introducing God as our “visiting” lecturer, I would use this Psalm.
Following an initial doxological summons to “praise the LORD” (hallu yah), the psalmist composed Psalm 111 in the acrostic form.
"The ABC's of Theology"
Psalm 111 is classified as an Individual Hymn of Thanksgiving, a psalm type in which the singer gives thanks for God's goodness in delivering him/her from various life-threatening situations such as illness, oppression, or enemy attack.
Have you ever known people who do both good and well?
There are two obvious connections a preacher might make between Psalm 112 and Matthew 5.
Psalm 112, a Wisdom Psalm, provides instruction in right living and right faith in the tradition of the other wisdom writings of the Old Testament.
Psalm 113, which begins and ends in “Hallelujah” (113:1a, 9c), participates in the grand drama of the Psalter which moves from lament to praise, from cries of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) to imperative calls to praise the LORD: Hallelujah!
Psalm 113 is the third psalm in a group of psalms in Book Five known as the hallelujah psalms (Psalms 111-118).
When I think of interpreting the psalms I am immediately thrust into a world that is both foreign and familiar.
[This is Week 2 of a 6-week preaching series on Psalms.]
Psalm 116 is a thanksgiving psalm.1
At first glance, a psalm of thanksgiving may seem like an ill-suited choice for Maundy Thursday.
Why is it called “Maundy Thursday?”1
Why is it called “Maundy Thursday?”
Psalm 116 is a prayer of thanksgiving.
A single voice speaks here, drawing me into the psalmist's experience and, in effect, leading me to compare my own with his.
Psalm 116 is fourth in a group of psalms known as the "Egyptian Hallel" psalms (Psalms 113-118), the psalms recited at the Passover meal on the eighth day of Passover.
Like Psalm 118, Psalm 116 is a psalm of thanksgiving that is part of the Egyptian Hallel (see essay on Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Resurrection of Our Lord).
Psalm 116 is sung or read each year at Passover celebrations in Jewish homes to this day.
The 16th Sunday after Pentecost is the only instance of Psalm 116:1-9 as a Sunday reading in the Lectionary that provides opportunities to use most of its second half (vv. 10-17) which are read on Maundy Thursday and Eastertide for Year A.
Psalm 116 is a song of thanksgiving of an individual, a poem written after a difficult time of life has been endured, survived, or overcome.
In the lectionary portion of Psalm 116, we do not get to the question of verse 12, "What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?"
Psalm 118 is called a “song of victory” in the New Revised Standard Version, and it invites Israel (and all who read/pray/hear it) to join its voices to that of the psalm, and to say -- to announce, sing, proclaim -- “The Lord’s steadfast love endures forever.”
It is easy to see why Psalm 118 is the psalm selection for Easter for all three lectionary years.
Psalm 118 is the last psalm in a group of six psalms in Book Five known as the “the Egyptian Hallel” (Psalms 113-118), psalms that are used in present-day Jewish life at the Passover meal on the eighth day of that annual spring celebration.
Psalm 118 has been and is an extraordinarily important psalm in the history of Judaism and Christianity.
Given that the occasion of this Sunday is so prominent (as it should be), we will inevitably end up interpreting this Psalm through the lens of Easter resurrection.
On Easter Sunday, the church proclaims, "O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!" (Psalm 118:1).
The most important lessons get taught by accident.
Psalm 119, the first eight verses of which is the appointed psalm for this Sunday, is the big dog of the psalter.
Most modern Christians find Psalm 119 rather difficult to engage.
Since this pericope represents the first eight verses of Psalm 119, it might help to say a word or two about the entire psalm.
Psalm 119 follows Psalms 113-118, known as the Egyptian Hallel, which are psalms recited during the Jewish festival of Passover.
Christians generally have not been in love with Psalm 119.
Reading Psalm 119, one can appreciate why Jesus’ contemporaries objected to his ambivalence about the law.
Psalm 119 is a massive alphabetic acrostic, in which its 176 verses are divided into stanzas of eight verses, each of which begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Psalm 119, the longest of the Psalter with 176 verses, is a great meditation on the torah, the law of God.
Here we are again, so to speak. As was the case about a month and a half ago, the psalm selection for this week is one stanza of Psalm 119.
At 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Book of Psalms, and yet it is perhaps the most noticeably, or even most rigorously, ordered.
God’s decrees are wonderful. What else can be said? For this Psalmist, nothing really. But there are a variety of ways to say it.
The appointed psalm for this week is a small section of Psalm 119, which is the longest psalm in the Psalter.
The passages for the second Sunday of Lent all consider issues of human faith and God’s faithfulness.
Psalm 121 is one of the Songs of Ascent, Psalms 120-134, as indicted by its opening words.
Many readers of Psalm 121 have connected it with life’s journey -- or at least with life’s journeys.
Fifteen psalms in the Psalter, Psalms 120-134, share a common superscription, “Songs of Ascents.
Psalm 121 is identified by its title as "A Song of Ascents."
Journeys tend to be significant times for those who take them.
It would be hard to imagine a more poignant, desperately needed, and timely appeal than Psalm 122:6: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Psalm 112 is an alphabetic acrostic that presents us, the readers, with a totalizing view of its subject matter: the happy life.
The psalm begins with an iconic, inspirational “poster verse” that in our day will likely be heard as referring to the Sunday morning worship high experienced by those who are feeling especially close to God, their communities, or both.
The lectionary readings for this Sunday offer a variety of preachable texts.
Psalm 122 is a perfect psalm for the beginning of a new church year on this First Sunday of Advent.
Psalm 112 is constructed as an acrostic poetic text.
Psalm 123 is the fourth psalm in the collection of psalms held together by the common designation “of Ascents” in their titles (Psalms 120-134).
Fifteen psalms in the middle of Book Five of the Psalter, Psalms 120-134, all share a common superscription, "Songs of Ascents".
One of the more helpful approaches to the Psalms is considering these poems as pilgrimage songs of faith.
The Psalms of December’s lectionary: three National Laments -- and now, the Sunday after Christmas? A National Thanksgiving! How fitting.
As Lent moves toward Easter, Jesus turns his face to Jerusalem.
Psalm 126 is among the relatively small number of psalms for which historical context is both fairly certain and highly useful for interpretation.
If you have studied Greek and Hebrew, you know that they differ in more than just the alphabet and which direction you read.
[Adapted from commentary posted for Third Sunday of Advent, Dec. 11, 2011]
In this psalm, the notion of reversal occupies a central place, inviting the reader to recognize that restoration by God does more than simply restore what was lost. The kind of divine restoration envisioned in this psalm means much more than compensation.
The theme of restoration that appeared in Psalms 80 and 85 during the first two weeks of Advent continues with Psalm 126.
Cyrus, a Persian emperor, ruled Babylonia from 538-530 B.C. His military victories put him in control of the largest empire of the world at that time.
The psalm selected for the Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, for those traditions and congregations that do not observe Reformation Sunday, is Psalm 126.
The theme of restoration that began with Psalm 80 in Advent 1, and Psalm 85 in Advent 2, is continued this week in Psalm 126.
One of the 15 “Psalms of Ascent” (120-134), Psalm 130 begins with the familiar cry for help, “Out of the depths.”
Psalm 130 is the eleventh of the fifteen Songs of Ascents in Book Five of the Psalter (Psalms 120-134).
In Psalm 130, the writer calls out to God from the depths of human suffering, hoping for, expecting, and insisting on God’s hearing.
Psalm 130, best known by its Latin incipit De Profundis, "Out of the Depths," has inspired church musicians for centuries, usually in the context of a Requiem Mass.
Once while leading a study tour of the Middle East, my group visited the chapel of the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.
When I read the first line of Psalm 131 -- "O LORD, my heart is not lifted up" -- I immediately think of the sursum corda,
Psalm 133 is fourteenth of the fifteen “Songs of Ascents” in Book Five of the Psalter.
Behold! A psalm that oozes with hopefulness even in the face of perceived impossibilities.
Psalm 133 is a Song of Ascents--a song for going up to a high place.
Psalm 138 is almost always categorized as a song of thanksgiving.
Psalm 138 is classified as an Individual Hymn of Thanksgiving, a psalm in which a single voice praises God for goodness to or on behalf of that individual, usually for deliverance from some trying situation.
Is it realistic to have faith?
On the day I called. . .
Psalm 138 is a song of thanksgiving and trust. The text is comprised of three main sections.
The word "extreme" seems to be especially popular in the language of our day.
The homiletical possibilities for Psalm 139 are numerous and varied, ranging from satisfying to complex to potentially problematic.
In the conventional understanding, the Psalm in the weekly lectionary is chosen to meditate on the First Reading and, like that reading, to anticipate the Gospel.
Psalm 139 is classified as an Individual Hymn of Thanksgiving.
Psalm 145 occurs just before the five-psalm doxological close to the book of Psalms (Psalms 146-150) and is the last in a group of Psalms (Psalms 139-145) in Book Five that are identified in their superscriptions as psalms “of David.”
As a response to the first lesson, Psalm 145 was chosen to show how Jonah knew that God was "merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing" (Jonah's version of verse 8).
The scriptures often describe people and things in absolute terms, with a rhetorical flair I advise my students to avoid.
Thomas Merton once stated "Praise is cheap," and it seems as though these words remain true today.
This entry consists of two parts: one that the working preacher might proclaim and one that she should not bring with her into the pulpit.
Psalm 145 is an acrostic in Hebrew,
The main subject of Psalm 145 is the eternal kingship of the Lord.
Psalm interpretation can sometimes feel like swimming against a swiftly flowing mountain stream.
Psalm 145 is the last of a group of eight psalms at the end of Book Five of the Psalter that are ascribed, in their superscriptions, to David (Psalms 138-145).
Psalm 146 lacks any evidence of context enabling the reader to hear it in her own time and place.
Psalm 146 is structurally simple, yet theologically profound.
Psalm 146 opens a collection of five hallelujah psalms at the end of the book of Psalms (146-150).
Psalm 145 ends with the words, “The praise of the Lord my mouth will speak, and all flesh will bless his holy name for all time and beyond” (145:21).
Each day began the same way in the elementary school where I grew up.
The first lesson addresses a fearful people with a prophetic promise that God will bring justice, salvation, and healing.
This psalm of praise resonates with peace and justice.
Israel has long employed three groups of hymnic praise or "Hallels" in worship:
As I have done with the previous three Psalm lections, I again tie the theme of worship with some other theme of the passage.
[This is Week 6 of a 6-week preaching series on Psalms.]
Many Advent wreaths feature a pink candle for the Third Sunday of Advent -- and it’s called “the Mary candle.”
Although the Psalm reading only offers the last six verses of this 10-verse psalm, a word about the psalm overall is in order.
Psalm 146 is the first of the five great Hallel (praise) Psalms (146-150) that conclude the book of Psalms.
Praise the Lord.” What more is there to say? “Praise the Lord.” Period.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 147 is part of a group of Psalms (146-150) which close the Psalter.
Psalm 147 is classified as a Community Hymn -- a hymn of the people that celebrates God’s sovereign reign over the community of faith and over all creation.
Let’s go with the snow. It stands out in the text, because it is rare in the Bible, as it is in Palestine.
One sure way to doom yourself as a preacher is to make a habit of beginning your sermons by quoting the commentaries.
Psalm 147 is one of five psalms that concludes the Psalter.
January has always seemed to be something of a letdown.
And Heav'n and Nature Sing1
Psalm 148 poetically reflects on the essence and expression of praise.
Psalm 148 is classified, along with Psalms 8, 19, 65, and 104, as a Creation Psalm.
The psalmist of Psalm 148 sings:
Praise songs for Christmas!
In the “Preaching from Psalms” class I am teaching, we are reading/singing/meditating our way through the Psalter.
Isaac Watts got it right: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!" -- which means, he writes, that every heart will "prepare him room" and that "heaven and nature" will sing.
And Heav'n and Nature Sing
In its songs of praise, Israel regularly invites an extraordinarily expansive congregation to praise God --
Psalm 148 is part of the Psalter's concluding section that offers and calls for praise to the Lord.
What is it that gives rise to the formation of a song?
Presumably, Psalm 149 was chosen as the lectionary psalm for All Saints Day because the “saints” show up three times in this psalm (verses 1, 5, 9 NIV).
This is a great psalm to preach on when you want to exhort your flock to (a) give praise to the Lord, (b) to sing a new song, and/or (c) to take up the sword in order to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment upon the peoples.
Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts series included a number entitled “Praise God and Dance,” a direct invocation of Psalm 150:4: “Praise the Lord! With trumpet sound, with lute and harp, with tambourine and dance!”
The celebration continues! On this second Sunday of Easter, the sound of trumpets still echoes in our sanctuaries and is joined by the Hallelujah Chorus of Psalm 150.
[This is Week 5 of a 5-week preaching series on Psalms.]
This four-week summer series highlights three biblical books -- Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon -- that garner little attention in the Revised Common Lectionary and in most mainline churches’ preaching.1
Wisdom Literature Worship and Preaching Series
Introduction: The following commentary and worship “Wisdom Literature” worship and preaching series is designed for congregations that follow the Narrative Lectionary (NL) during the normal North American congregational program year (September-May). Because the Bible contains many texts and books that are not “narrative texts” or “texts arranged narratively,” the NL delves into some of those non-narrative texts in summer.
The pericope introduces the enigmatic Woman Wisdom, a figure who is -- at the least -- a literary personification of a wisdom that permeates the creation.
Wisdom is introduced to the reader as a female character in Proverbs 1:20 and the following verses.
This is the first time that Wisdom, personified as a woman, speaks in the book of Proverbs (see 8:1-36; 9:1-6).
On this Holy Trinity Sunday, the Ode to Wisdom in Proverbs 8 offers congregations the opportunity to think of Wisdom in terms of what Samuel Terrien poetically has called, “the mediatrix of God’s presence,” and in particular the role she played in what came to be understood as the second person of the Trinity (Elusive Presence, p360).
What is the connection between wisdom and joy?
A Facebook friend recently posted an article on parenting entitled, "Good Parents, Bad Results: 8 Ways Science Shows that Mom and Dad Go Wrong When Disciplining Their Kids."
[This is Week 2 of a 4-week preaching series on O.T. Wisdom and Poetry]
Proverbs 9:1-6 is an invitation to wisdom.
Wisdom has built her house... Proverbs 9 continues what might be called the "Acts of Wisdom" begun in Proverbs chapter 8.
In many ways, the message in this text of Proverbs is quite simple: wisdom is better than foolishness.
The selection from Proverbs 22 bridges two major sections of the book as a whole.
The book of Proverbs includes a collection of folk wisdom sayings of various lengths so that in some chapters the individual verses are not actually related to each other.
Tradition assigns authorship of three biblical books to Solomon.
The lectionary-driven preacher is rarely invited to deliver a sermon based on a text from Proverbs.
This brief reading appears in a collection of instructions that seems in large part directed to courtiers.
Imagine yourself on vacation.
The Lectionary parsing of Proverbs 31 is unfortunate; without the opening verses the context is lost.
This familiar passage tends to draw a strong response, either positively or negatively, but rarely neutral.
Proverbs 31:10-31 is the famous poem celebrating the "capable wife."
[This is Week 3 of a 4-week preaching series on O.T. Wisdom and Poetry]
Beyond this text, the treasure that is Ecclesiastes appears for only one day in the Revised Common Lectionary.
What has been is what will be,and what has been done is what will be done;there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:9)
It is the beginning of August. You are two-and-a-half months into Pentecost with three-and-a-half months to go. Perhaps you are need of a little adrenaline rush.
Meetings are called to order. Calls for action are issued to correct problems of social justice. The ring of a cell phone is a call to conversation.
The Song of Songs is a celebration of erotic love,
"What in the world is this doing in the Bible?"
[This is Week 4 of a 4-week preaching series on O.T. Wisdom and Poetry]
With its stunning poetry, inspiring call for justice, and complex portrayal of God, Isaiah 1 is one of the most memorable chapters of biblical prophetic literature.
Everyone loves a courtroom drama, but what happens when God prosecutes God’s own people?
The first verse of the book of Isaiah invites the reader to hear the prophecy in the context of the eighth century BCE.
When I come to church, I do not usually imagine God covering the divine eyes out of disgust for my worship, but this is the exact image this passage places before its readers.
Scandals: they are part of human experience, and, unfortunately, churches are not immune to them.
Reform School - for Everyone
A single stop in the book of Isaiah should not presume a complete picture of the narrative texture of the book.
Christians share a common theological conviction with the authors of Isaiah 2:1-5: Our most precious promises are attached to tangible realities like land, mountains, temples … bread, water, and wine.
The First Readings for Advent, Year A, provide particularly rich visual gifts.
Isaiah's vision begins with "the mountain of the Lord's house" (2:2).
To preach on this text stands us in good stead: Isaiah preached on it, too! Or so it seems. The text occurs twice in the Bible-with minor variations-here in Isaiah and again in Micah 4:1-3.
For the second Sunday in a row, the lectionary features a poetic text from Isaiah with a strong emphasis on social justice.
The speaker is Isaiah (“my”; 5:1, 9); the prophet speaks in the first person for the first time.
In the classical show tune, “My Funny Valentine,” Billie Smith sings an ironic love song, describing her lover’s imperfections:“Your looks are laughable, unphotographable, yet you're my favorite work of art.”
The song of the vineyard is a ditty turned tragic.
Last week's Old Testament lesson from Isaiah 1 highlighted the importance of justice and righteousness.
Grape Expectations: Our experience with Isaiah 5:1-7 can be strangely similar to that of the characters in the passage itself.
This week’s texts (Isaiah 5:1-7; 11:1-9) provide a glimpse of God at work in God’s garden.
Finding a text for today from the Hebrew Bible, which knows nothing of the Christian Trinity, must have been quite challenging for the lectionary’s creators.
Holy Trinity Sunday is the First Sunday after Pentecost, ushering in the season when the church hears about Jesus' ministry and then about the church's own ministry.
For most of the country, this Fifth Sunday of Epiphany falls about the time when winter is at its worst.
This text is among the more famous in the Hebrew Bible, serving as a source for the centuries' old shape of worship (Praise, Confession, Forgiveness/Pardon, and Response).
In the World War II movie Fury, Shia LaBeouf’s character, appropriately nicknamed as “Bible,” because of his penchant for quoting biblical verses, sits at the gunner position of a Sherman tank during the final weeks of World War II.
It has long puzzled interpreters that the apparent call of Isaiah is not recounted until chapter 6.
This is a very challenging chapter to interpret, much less to preach, in part because it requires that one be familiar with a number of related texts (Isaiah 7:1-9; 8:1-8; 2 Kings 16).
Again, the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
Here is the promise: God is with us, so that we might live.
The difficulty of today's text is perhaps also its genius: God is with us-and the consequences are altogether ambiguous. Properly understood, is that not the ambiguity of Advent itself? God is coming: Rejoice! Or, God is coming: Beware!
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
As I write, fall is already upon me, summer is long past, and winter is rapidly approaching.
These first few verses of Isaiah 9 contrast sharply the previous states of subjection with God's current, mighty acts of deliverance.
Epiphany is a season that celebrates God's manifestation in the world through the person of Jesus Christ. When the divine becomes manifest in the world, then strange and marvelous things happen.
It is really the fault of Georg Frederic Handel.
Isaiah 9:1 is not a part of the lectionary text, but helps put this Christmas Eve text in historical and literary context.1
The propensity of too many preachers is to take a hop, skip, and jump over the challenges that underlie this text and go directly to the salvific reality of Jesus the Christ.
Children, especially new children, are often a cause for joy.
The NORAD website allows you to track Santa’s progress across the world on Christmas Eve.
For historical backgrounds that may underlie this complex passage, please see the entries by Terence Fretheim (Christmas 2009) and Karoline Lewis (Christmas 2010).
The appointed Old Testament lesson for Christmas Eve is always these poetic verses from Isaiah and likely, to be honest, will not be the basis of a sermon when Luke 2 is the Gospel reading.
Isaiah 9:1 is not a part of the lectionary text, but helps put this Christmas Eve text in historical and literary context.
Isaiah 9:2-7 has been chosen for Christmas Eve because of its the theme of light shining in the darkness (v. 2) and its reference to a child "born for us" who will usher in justice and righteousness "from this time forward and for evermore" (v. 7).
Isaiah 11 begins with the claim that new life will spring forth from an injured stump: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
There are so many things to see in this text that we hardly know where to begin.
Isaiah preaches hope in a time of terror and justice in a time of oppression.
It's a "dog eat dog" world, we say: "Nature, red in tooth and claw." It's survival of the fittest, and it's not pretty. All true in its way. But is it all that's true?
Why We Sing Carols, Psalms and Spiritual Songs
"I will trust, and will not be afraid" (Isaiah 12:2). These words were spoken by the prophet Isaiah to the people of Judah and Jerusalem more than twenty seven hundred years ago, when the Assyrian Empire was the dominant power, and Judah lived in the shadow of its might.
Isaiah 25 celebrates divine faithfulness in soaring, lofty words, words too lofty for everyday reality.
Feasts, festivals, banquets, and wedding suppers abound in the Bible, and with good reason: meal fellowship represents community of the closest kind, especially perhaps in tribal cultures (then and now); and feasts give rise to abundance, even in times of distress.
Giving attention to the text and getting at tension in the text:
In this remarkable passage, the Lord prepares a lavish feast at the Lord’s own sacred mountain.
Isaiah 25:6-10a serves up one of the most glorious images in the Hebrew Bible.
Food is not just the fuel that we use to propel our bodies through the challenges and joys of daily life.
If I had to pair this text with one Advent song, it would be O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
This text shouldn’t be here.
"They will rejoice."
This is one of those texts for which many of the hearers will know not only the words but the tune, because it stands behind the well-known alto recitative in George Frideric Handel's Messiah:
Why the lectionary excerpts only three and a half verses from Isaiah 35’s cohesive ten-verse poem is unclear.
The oracle begins with a command to speak, to proclaim words that remedy weakness and conquer fear (Isaiah 35:4).
In many of our churches, we tend to align salvation with God's grace, themes that we then set over against divine judgment.
Verse 1, with its command to comfort the people of God, sets the tone not just for this passage but for the whole of Isaiah 40-66.
The passage begins with an insistent double imperative: Comfort! Comfort!
With these opening words of Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55), the prophet offers a balm for the festering wounds of exile.
Isaiah 40:1-11 is one of the most important texts in all of Isaiah.
With its themes of comfort for the people and the transience of human powers by contrast with the enduring nature of God, Isaiah 40:21-31 is some of the most beautiful poetry in the Bible.
Given the choice between a source of relief that is distant and slow acting but guaranteed and one that is nearby but ineffective, most persons may tend to choose the relief close at hand.
The text this week holds two thoughts in tension.
God’s spirit, God’s servant, God’s delight.
This passage in Isaiah shows God speaking into the pain of exile to send a servant who will bring justice, and not to Israel only but to all nations.
For too long has Isaiah 42:1-9 been read solely within the context of the so-called "Servant Songs" (Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12).
"New things" are afoot. Israel's penalty paid twofold, her exile at an end, the prophet known as Second Isaiah whispers tenderly "Comfort, O comfort" (40:1) and heralds the approach of "the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth...the Holy One of Israel" (40:28; 41:20).
Louis Stulman and Hyun Chul Paul Kim describe prophetic literature as “meaning-making literature for communities under siege.”
The words of the prophet of Isa 40-55 to the people living in exile in Babylon are some of the most deeply comforting and profoundly transformative words of Scripture.
"But now" -- hear the jarring declaration of reversal (43:1). Whatever has gone before is now swept away.
Yesterday's gospel is today's law. We need to hear it afresh, every day.1
Yesterday's gospel is today's law. We need to hear it afresh, every day.
The prophet’s preaching is focused on God’s being.
Isaiah 44:6-8 is a short, defensible unit, marked off from the unit that follows (verses 9-20) which shifts to prose in the NRSV (contrast NIV and TNK),
Trauma theorists tell us that one of the essential steps for trauma victims reconstituting their shattered lives is to repair their narrative identity, i.e., constructing fragments of their former selves into a sense-making narrative.
This passage stands in the center of the first half of Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55), which was composed in the middle of the sixth century B.C.E. to encourage Judeans scattered by the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. to return and rebuild their city and temple.
"I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).
Messiah Cyrus and the sovereign will of God:
Soren Kierkegaard famously has said: “The door to happiness opens outward.”
As always, it’s important here to state the big story at work in Isaiah in order to grasp the power of Isaiah’s proclamation in chapter 49.
Isaiah 49:1-7 comprises the second of the so-called "Servant Songs" (Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12), a designation that I indicated in last Sunday's commentary on Isaiah 42:1-9 to be problematic.
One week after the Baptism of Our Lord, the lectionary texts from the Old Testament sit us squarely in the promise and pain of servanthood.
Isaiah 49:8-16a, the Old Testament lectionary text for this Sunday, is part of a larger poetic unit comprised of all twenty-six verses of chapter 49.
Isaiah 40-66 uses female images for God more frequently than any other Old Testament body of literature.
The lectionary selection constitutes the third of four so-called “Suffering Servant” songs that appear in Deutero-Isaiah.
Isaiah 50:4-9a is part of a larger poem that extends to 50:11.1
Isaiah 50 occurs in the second half of a section scholars call “Second Isaiah,” Isaiah 40-55, which arose toward the end of the Babylonian exile, as King Cyrus of Persia overcame Babylon’s regional dominance and established a new empire.
Isaiah 50:4-9a is part of the third of four “Servant Songs” in Isaiah 40-55 (a section of the book commonly called Second Isaiah).
In recent decades, the business world has begun to use the phrase “servant leadership” to designate one who leads by serving and empowering others, not by accumulating and hoarding power.
Isaiah 50:4-9a is part of a larger poem that extends to 50:11.
"I know that I shall not be put to shame" (Isaiah 50:7 NRSV).
Teresa of Ávila, the sixteenth century mystical writer, knew of suffering.
One of the challenges of preaching the lectionary in conjunction with the liturgical calendar is that of remaining true to the tradition of the church season while allowing the biblical texts to speak anew to our communities of faith.
The first reading for this week is the third of Second Isaiah's four Suffering Servant Songs.
What is the meaning of suffering?
When we preachers engage the Suffering Servant passages we enter territory that is both evocative and mysterious.
"God has given me the tongue of a teacher," says the prophet--something, no doubt, all preachers would like to claim.
Although the lectionary excludes the last two verses of this passage (verses 7-8), they are clearly related (see their repetitions of verses 1 and 6).
Large transitions disorient us. Moving, changing jobs, personal transitions...all of these mix up our lives by taking us out of our patterns.
Isaiah 51 emphatically seeks to break open an unimaginable future. Expectations are reversed; life is to be changed.
The text from Second Isaiah follows closely on Christmas Eve’s reading from First Isaiah though historically they are situated far apart.1
This passage is joyfully noisy.
The larger context of these verses (see 51:17-23) vividly describes how the people of Israel have been devastated and depopulated in the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 BCE.
This "servant song" (with 42:1-7; 49:1-6; 50:4-9) has been the subject of much scholarly debate.1
Preparing to preach on Good Friday is preparing to wander about in the heart of the mystery of God’s reconciling activity in Jesus Christ and (most importantly!) inviting your hearers and by extension the world into the all-important mystery of faith.
The church always reads this marvelous text on Good Friday. 1
When reading this text, Christians have typically wondered about the identity of the servant, and more specifically whether it makes reference to Jesus.
One of the most famous poems of Second Isaiah, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, depicts a human being, a servant of God, at what seems to be the very lowest point of his life.
In the history of Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, few texts are more revered than Isaiah 53.
This "servant song" (with 42:1-7; 49:1-6; 50:4-9) has been the subject of much scholarly debate.
The church always reads this marvelous text on Good Friday.
On Good Friday, the most somber day of the year, why should we preach on the Old Testament text instead of the Gospel lesson?
Whereas discussion of Israel’s role as God’s servant is one of several key themes in Isaiah 40-48, a new pattern emerges with chapter 49.
"Who is the suffering servant?"
The central movement of the Suffering Servant poem in Isaiah 53:4-12 is from humiliation to exaltation, from shame to honor, from weakness to greatness.
The prologue to Isaiah in the 14th century Wycliffe Bible asserts that the prophet is …
Like many other selections from the lectionary, Isaiah 55:1-5 is a small unit that, while relatively self-contained, has connections both to what precedes and what follows (preachers beware!).
Nothing in life is free. Particularly if one has grown accustomed to the harsh policies of the empire that is set to exploit the peasants by means of heavy taxation.
Chapter 55 serves as the conclusion to the section of Isaiah frequently dubbed "Deutero-Isaiah" (chapters 40-55).1
Chapter 55 serves as the conclusion to the section of Isaiah frequently dubbed "Deutero-Isaiah" (chapters 40-55).
Any preacher whose congregation will be celebrating the Vigil of Easter will encounter this text when the assembly listens to Old Testament (OT) readings.
When Cardinal Bergoglio, a Jesuit priest from South America, was elected Pope last year, many Roman Catholics were shocked that something so unexpected had occurred.
These last few verses of Isaiah 55 offer an image of new creation with the natural world serving as a metaphor for the life-giving movement and effectiveness of the word of the Lord.
The job description of the prophet contains among other less than coveted tasks the ability to speak a life-giving word of hope when all the events seem to point to the contrary.
Many people have sound reasons for disregarding or leaving church, not least of which is the insidious line-drawing done by Christians.
Imagine a trumpet bleating atop the highest peak to announce the gathering of all the peoples of the world.
"The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord" and "eunuchs who keep my [the Lord's] Sabbaths...and hold fast my covenants" are the particular marks of the salvation and deliverance that God will perform and reveal.
Given that the Gospel Lesson for this Fifth Sunday after Epiphany reminds us that Jesus did not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets, we might consider one of these ancient, Hebrew Scriptures for our preaching focus this week.
Among the many things darkness may symbolize in the Bible, one of them is the silence of God.
This final section of Isaiah, known as "Third Isaiah" (Isaiah 56-66), is written to the residents of Jerusalem during and after Israel's return in 539 BCE.
A prominent strand of Old Testament theology portrays the history of God’s people as cyclical -- a cycle in which the people cry out for help, God saves them, but then they forget, go astray, and find themselves in trouble again. (Judges 2:18-20 offers a concise and paradigmatic summary.)
If you have ever attended a Friday evening synagogue service, you know that at the conclusion the rabbi will often say, “We invite our visitors to join us for an Oneg Shabbat after the service in the community room.”
Isaiah 56–66, so-called Third Isaiah, addresses the post-exilic community struggling to make a new life in Jerusalem during the 530s and 520s BCE.
This pericope was likely teamed with the gospel reading because of its emphasis on the Sabbath. However, there is a lot more going on here that is worthy of attention.
Isa 60:1-6 is a piece of poetry brimming with energy and hope.
Isaiah 60 casts a magnificent vision of Zion’s future -- full of light, prosperity, and prestige.
Bleak midwinter seems a fitting stage for this lectionary text that likely dates to the early days of Israel's return from Babylonian captivity. Those days are cast easily in hues of grey -- the city of Jerusalem and its temple yet in ruins, the community rag-tag and divided, the once proud monarchy now a small colony on the fringe of the Persian Empire.
As has been the case for the past two weeks, the Old Testament reading for this Sunday comes from the latter chapters of the book of Isaiah.
Hope sprouts from the ruins
The passage begins with an announcement of divine presence and action.
With the Nativity of Our Lord drawing nigh, ponder this pericope in concert with Jesus' interpretation of his sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth.
The passage seems to contain multiple voices: a preacher and healer, an administrator, and YHWH.1 These three speakers play a major role in the Jerusalem renaissance.
The passage seems to contain multiple voices: a preacher and healer, an administrator, and YHWH. These three speakers play a major role in the Jerusalem renaissance.
The book of Ezekiel defines a true prophet in this way: one who repairs the wall and stands in the breach on behalf of the people (Ezekiel 22:30).
The lectionary's creators evidently viewed this portion of Isaiah as both eminently appropriate to Christmas and flexible in its boundaries.
Our text falls within the central section (chapters 60-62) of what is traditionally known as Third Isaiah (chapters 56-66).
Isaiah 62:1-5 is part of that section of the book of Isaiah which is often termed “Third Isaiah” and placed historically in the postexilic period of Judah, although a more precise date within this period is difficult to determine.1
I. Will. Not. Keep. Silent.
It is quite fitting to preach on this text on Christmas day.
At first glance this seems a strange text for this high celebration of the church -- the birth of our Savior.
The wedding metaphor that sets up our passage in Isaiah 62 is probably the reason it was chosen to serve as a Christmas text.
Isaiah 62:6-12 is the Proper 2 Old Testament Christmas reading every year.
Last night's Old Testament lesson came from First Isaiah (chapters 1-39) that covers roughly the 40-year period of the latter half of the Eighth century.
Isaiah 62:6-12 is the first reading assigned for Christmas Day.
In the lectionary text for this first day of the New Year, the central theme regards the importance of thanksgiving, of taking a moment and celebrating the gracious deeds of a gracious God.
Not many people will come to church on December 29th.
Unfortunately the long standing tradition of celebrating Advent and Christmas is becoming replaced by the sole focus on a one or two day event.
The Sunday after Christmas is typically a "low Sunday." The energy and anticipation of Advent has given way to wonder at the incarnation. Travelers weary from star-lit journeys now rest and rejoice in the light that shatters all darkness.
This pericope is found in the part of Isaiah often known as Third Isaiah (chapters 56-66).
A cry of misery. An appeal for mercy
These verses are part of a larger psalm of communal lament (Isaiah 63:7-64:12) that begins with a praise-filled account of God's mighty acts of deliverance throughout Israel's history.
This pericope is simultaneously rooted in the rich memories of God's saving acts and mired in the muck of dashed expectations and the experience of God's absence.
This text has three major movements: God’s patient suffering at the hands of a recalcitrant people (Isaiah 65:1-5), God’s decision to judge (Isaiah 65:6-7), and the merciful promise to save a remnant (Isaiah 65:8-9).
As I write this, the mass shootings of the past year are fresh in my mind.
Isaiah 65 begins with images of a long-suffering, patient deity.
If it seems to you that the passage from Isaiah has cropped up recently, you are correct.
Isaiah invites us into a theological vision of what life can be for God's faithful people.
This oracle addresses Persian period Jews in the form of pure promise.
You know what it’s like to be bone-tired.
Everything about this final chapter of Isaiah heralds God's sovereignty.
Since Jeremiah 1:4-10 functions to introduce and authorize the entire book of Jeremiah, it may be helpful to introduce the range of content in the book, from calls for repentance, to announcements of judgment, to personal laments, to pronouncements against the nations, and finally to stunning announcements of hope, renewal, and recreation.
Jeremiah’s first-person poetic account of God’s calling him as a prophet echoes in brief, elliptical form the narrative of Moses’ commission to lead the Israelite slaves from Egypt in Exodus 3. 1
Most prophetic books provide little or no information about the life of the prophet.
In one way, we have here a typical prophetic call story. God calls, the prophet objects, God assures (often through a specific action--here, the touching of Jeremiah's mouth) and then commissions.
"I have put my words in your mouth" (Jeremiah 1:9).
“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13 NRSV).
No one likes to be the bearer of bad news.
The first step in preparation for worship on August 29 is choosing the lector for this passage.
The preacher who chooses to preach this passage has no easy task. Walter Brueggemann calls it a “dangerous poem,” and rightly so.1
It’s bad enough when one knows one has a problem.
Many preachers avoid topics like divine judgment.
As I write (the date is July 8, 2016), it is three days since the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two days since the fatal shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, one day since the fatal shooting of five police officers during a subsequent protest in Dallas, Texas.
Jeremiah demonstrates to us the confidence of the Israelite.
Self-righteous judgment among humans, while all too common in today's religious landscape, is inconsistent with biblical thinking for at least two reasons.
According to tradition, Jeremiah is “the weeping prophet.”
The book of Jeremiah is filled with tears.
How are the faithful to respond in times of pressing difficulty?
It is hard to read Jeremiah in our contemporary context; it is such an alien text.
Jeremiah 14 drives us into the darkness.
In 2003, cartoonist Bruce Eric Kaplan published a cartoon in The New Yorker that depicts God standing on a cloud, saying to a man standing in front of him, "I am big. It's the questions that got smaller."
As I write this commentary, I am only 2 weeks removed from the events of June 5, 2014.
Prophets preach. Perhaps this sounds obvious. Actually, it is not.
One difficulty that preachers will face with this text is sorting out the individual and communal import of Jeremiah.
In this week’s Old Testament lection, God invites Jeremiah to enter a potter’s shed and there observe the potter working with clay, so that Jeremiah may better hear God’s words (Jeremiah 18:1), understand God’s way with Israel (18:6), and summon God’s people to conversion (18:11).
Anyone who reads Jeremiah 18:1-11 and expects that words from God are always words of comfort and reassurance will have to stop and think again.
The story of Jeremiah's visit to the potter's house and God's use of the potter's process as a metaphor for God's own work is wonderfully and frustratingly straightforward. We get it. But it immediately raises questions.
The call of Jeremiah used six verbs to characterize his prophetic activity: "pluck up," "pull down," "destroy," "overthrow," "build" and "plant" (1:10, New Revised Standard Version).
Jeremiah’s ministry extended for some forty years (about 625-585 BC).
Reading through this text brings to mind what Professor John Bright once wrote about these "confessions" of Jeremiah:
In a presidential election year, politics take center stage in the United States.
Just as sheep need a shepherd to guide and protect them, the people of Israel need responsible leaders to provide for them. Wise leadership matters.
Many readers of these comments will have multiple definitions and images of leadership circulating in their imaginations.
Leadership is a buzzword in many disciplines these days: business, law, medicine, education, politics, and congregational life.
Words one does not want to hear from God: "You have not attended to them. So I will attend to you" (Jeremiah 23:2).
The passage opens with an ominous tone: Woe! The voice is that of the prophet Jeremiah however the words are Yahweh's.
If there is any doubt that the preacher’s job is a difficult one, one need not look further than the book of Jeremiah.
God is nearby, not far off.
The scathing scolding present in Jeremiah 23 suggests that false prophets had become an insidious problem.
Which way is up? The answer to that question would appear obvious, but not so if one is underwater inside a capsized vessel.
My work on this text was interrupted by a telephone call from a Jewish friend. When I told him I was dealing with the encounter between Jeremiah and Hananiah, he immediately launched into a narrative telling of his role in a play produced at a summer Hebrew camp.
The truncated text of the lectionary selection distorts the message of the Jeremiah 29.
Jeremiah’s words here astonish, and yet they fulfill what he has proclaimed.
It was for all intents and purposes the end of the world.
Home. It is a word that evokes strong emotions, an idealized place even in the face of harsh reality.
Jeremiah’s oracle promises salvation for the scattered remnant of Israel, return from exile, and joyful homecoming.
The two visions of hope and homecoming from Jeremiah featured by the lectionary (Jeremiah 31:7-9 and 31:31-34) this week might best be characterized as anomalous when read in the context of the book as a whole.
This lection is quite short, a snippet from within a larger literary context.
These verses offer real good news to a people longing for it.
This beautiful mélange of promise oracles asserts the power of the Lord to gather those Judeans who have experienced forced migration and captivity.
Fans of Steve Well’s The Skeptic’s Bible could have a heyday with Jeremiah 31.
It is quite peculiar that a text from Jeremiah disrupts a series of Isaianic texts in the lectionary calendar.
This text is part of Jeremiah's Book of Consolation, often identified with chapters 30-31, but probably including chapters 32-33.
Chapters 30-33 constitute a distinct section of the book of Jeremiah, traditionally known as Jeremiah's "Book of Comfort" or "Little Book of Consolation."
The weeping Rachel of Jeremiah 31 is among the most powerfully drawn figures in Scripture.
The prophet’s job is twofold. In Jeremiah 31:27 God reminds Jeremiah of his commission by summarizing and reiterating the task in Jeremiah 1:10.
Jeremiah starts this passage on a hopeful note.
The promise of a "new covenant" in this passage may evoke the Christian scriptures, stories, and promises for many readers.
Rembrandt’s famous Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem captures what most of us picture when we think of the biblical Jeremiah: the prophet, forlorn, painted against a dark background, leans his head on his hand.
Early Christians recognized God’s utterly new and transformative work in Jesus Christ in Jeremiah’s description of the “new covenant.”
The images used in Jeremiah 31 are predominantly familial rather than political or military.
Reformation Sunday draws our attention to God’s ongoing work of renewal in the church, to the unmerited gift of divine grace that cannot be bought or sold, and to a history of courageous response to that free gift, embodied in reformers who have been willing to challenge abuses within the body of Christ.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 is an arresting set of verses.
The new covenant God makes with "the house of Israel and the house of Judah" (31:31) is both strange and familiar, rooted in and ripped from tradition.
Hope for a renewed future is an apropos theme on this fifth Sunday of Lent.
On this Reformation Sunday, we hear words of promise from the prophet Jeremiah, words about a new covenant and a renewed relationship between God and God's people.
The end of the church year brings several special occasions or festivals (Reformation, All Saints, Christ the King), which, like all such days, inevitably cause the preacher to ponder whether to preach on the event or on the text.
The book of Jeremiah is dominated by doom and gloom, condemning the people of Judah for their great sin and announcing the imminent destruction of the nation and the exile to Babylon that would come in 587 BCE.
In the first chapter of this book six verbs define the ministry of Jeremiah: pluck up, pull down, destroy, overthrow, build and plant (1:10).
This week we enter one of the few periods of the North American yearly calendar when we practice open expressions of thanksgiving.
From the very beginning of his ministry, Jeremiah was "appoint[ed] . . . over nations and kingdoms, to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant" (1:10; see 18:9; 24:6; 31:28; 45:4).
It is said that hope springs eternal.
This passage stands out as marking Jeremiah’s centrality to the Old Testament.
Hope often comes in the middle of judgment. Belief and courage become most pronounced in the face of despair.
Advent is a season for feeling out of kilter.
As Advent begins this year, we immediately hear God's assertion: "I will fulfill the promise I made... I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up... Jerusalem will live in safety."
On this first Sunday of Advent, one cannot read the prophecy of a "righteous Branch" springing up for David in anything but a messianic light.
We live in a world that is uncomfortable with feelings of deep sorrow, regardless of the loss.1
The book of Lamentations articulates the anguish of the Hebrews in the wake of the conquest of Jerusalem and the razing of the city by Babylon.
National tragedies threaten to render communities speechless. The collective grief can be overwhelming.
At first blush, it appears that the assigned text is a bold declaration of faith and hope in the midst of an unrelenting lamentation over the horrific events surrounding the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.
What if the center cannot hold, as William Butler Yeats feared in his famous poem, "The Second Coming"?
The small poetic book of Lamentations was composed during the fall of Jerusalem to the invading Babylonian armies in the early years of the sixth century BCE.
Stubborn. Impudent. Rebellious.
Preachers may "understand" this text too quickly -- as in, Yes, I get it: The preacher is called, like Ezekiel, to proclaim a hard word of God to a recalcitrant people.
Passages like this one can lead in two very different directions.
Three seemingly random verses plucked from the middle of the book of Ezekiel.
In this text, Ezekiel gives us yet another of the Bible's many images of God: God as tree planter and tree tender.
Anytime a text from Ezekiel is thrown up by the lectionary, most preachers hope against hope that it is the "dry bones" passage from chapter 37.
The word that comes to the prophet Ezekiel in today’s lesson is an argument between God and the exiles.
"The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."
"The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezekiel 18:1).
Wickedness, sin, death, blood -- this week's selection from Ezekiel 33 can be a difficult and jarring read for those of us not overly familiar with the book of Ezekiel and its sometimes bizarre judgment speeches.
Today's gospel lesson is a hard one for those of us who live in a culture whose motto "live and let live" quite often replaces the much more challenging work of mending broken lives by tending to the causes of brokenness.
"So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel" (Ezekiel 33:7).
The connection between justice and care is often lost in contemporary Christian practice.
The Times They Are A-Changin'
These days at the end of November are a season of changing times.
The "kingship" of Christ is problematic for some of us today because of its male and hierarchical overtones.
Luminous promises radiate from this passage in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel is not a very pleasant text.
Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones coming to life is offered alongside the stories of death and life from John 11.
In this well-known passage from the book of Ezekiel, the prophet speaks over a field littered with dry bones, and the dead are resurrected.
In this last Sunday before Holy Week, two texts promise resurrection.
Our culture seems obsessed with death imagery.
The "valley of dry bones" is almost certainly the most beloved and well known of Ezekiel's visions.
War scars the mind as much as the body.
The Book of Daniel is an amazingly complex work.
As the story begins, the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, erects a massive golden statue and commands that all must bow before it.
No Other God -- that assertion is at the core of this chapter as it is in the entire book of Daniel.
The beginning of the advent season takes us to Daniel 6. In the midst of the Persian Empire, diasporic Judeans struggle to maintain their fidelity to God.
Daniel 6:6-27 is written in Aramaic not Hebrew as most of the Old Testament is written. Scholars wonder why.
Daniel Chapter 7: four great beasts, resembling a winged lion, a tusked bear, a four-headed leopard, and a ten-horned and iron-toothed monster.1
As a commemoration of the dead, the festival of All Saints will always be an ill fit for the Bible.
Daniel Chapter 7: four great beasts, resembling a winged lion, a tusked bear, a four-headed leopard, and a ten-horned and iron-toothed monster.
The selection of Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 as a lectionary passage for the Feast of Christ the King reflects nearly two millennia of interpretation that identifies Jesus with the “one like a human being” in Daniel 7.
These verses from the Book of Daniel provide the reader with one of the most graphic depictions of God found in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (HB/OT) (cf. Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1; Exodus 33:17-23).
It would be easy to preach our lectionary text for today as referring to Jesus coming on a cloud.
Following stories of trial and contest, the book of Daniel culminates in a series of apocalyptic visions in which the book’s hero, Daniel, is shown his people’s future.
Today's reading from Daniel 12 consists of an apocalyptic scenario -- an unveiling (which is the meaning of the Greek word apokalypsis from which our term "apocalyptic" comes) of the end of human history.
Our lectionary text for today considers a question that these days may be all too real for those of us beleaguered by the free-fall of the economy, unemployment, a life-threatening disease
As the reader of the book of Hosea moves from interpreting to preaching, unresolved and highly debated issues are wisely set aside.
Preaching and teaching from the prophets is already difficult.
Hosea 1:2-10 introduces the metaphor that occupies chapters 1-2 and that resonates throughout the book -- a bad marriage that is saved by the loving forgiveness of the faithful partner.
Following the devastation of the previous verses, 5:15 is a word from God that introduces the response from Israel in 6:1-3.
However one seeks to wrestle a word of good news from these two excerpts from Hosea one cannot escape the end of the narrative for Israel expressed in 2 Kings 17:6 ("The king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria").
“Sorrow and love flow mingled down” from the lines of this poem.1
Long before the American sitcom “The Office” launched Steve Carell’s career and the U.K.’s version catapulted Ricky Gervais to fame, there were biblical offices that proscribed one’s identity.
At first glance, the parent-child metaphor for God’s relationship with Israel in the book of Hosea seems much more palatable than the marriage metaphor in chapters 1-3.
Like last week's Old Testament lesson (Hosea 1:2-10), Hosea 11:1-11 offers striking testimony to the gracious, merciful, and steadfastly loving character of Israel's God.
While gallons of interpretive ink have been spilt over the historical locus of the Prophet Joel, little can be said with certainty save that the book appears to be a post-exilic work and that it may have composed at the dawn of the 4th century BCE.
The assignment of this text to Ash Wednesday, while dependent on a long tradition, is problematic. It is unlikely that this text is concerned with the repentance of sin.1
The assignment of this text to Ash Wednesday, while dependent on a long tradition, is problematic. It is unlikely that this text is concerned with the repentance of sin.
The few occasions that Joel appears in the lectionary it seems to support material that frames the interests of Christian festivals.
Ash Wednesday begins the 40-day journey of Lent with a gathering of the community to confess our sins, to remind ourselves of our mortality and frailty, and to hear the call to repentance or turning around from our sinful ways.
Joel 2:1 commands the blowing of the shofar.
We know nothing about the prophet "Joel, son of Pethuel," aside from what we can glean from the writings that appear in his book.
There are two patches in Joel's prophetic quilt.1
There are two patches in Joel's prophetic quilt.
Were anyone to quiz congregants filing in to worship about the content of the little book of Joel, chances are good that few could cogently respond.
Joel 2 is, perhaps, most well known from its quotation in Acts 2:14 and following.
The prophet Joel writes in response to an ecological disaster, a plague of locusts that exceeded their regular breeding and feeding cycles.
Amos might just be the most famous of the biblical prophets.
Integrating life and liturgy has been a practice for Christian churches.
"Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time" (Amos 5:13).
Amos worked full-time for much of his life as "a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees" (Amos 1:1; 7:14) in the village of Tekoa in the southern kingdom of Judah.
This text begins and continues with the theme of lament and grief (“Alas”; also Amos 6:1, 4).
It doesn't go well for the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
A brilliant ironist, Amos reverses his audience's expectations at every turn in the book that bears his name.
The Old Testament reading of this Sunday is from the prophet Amos, as it was last Sunday.1
When we think of the prophet Amos there is a tendency to emphasize the outsider nature of his prophetic calling.
The Old Testament reading of this Sunday is from the prophet Amos, as it was last Sunday.
Amos 7 as the First Reading on this Sunday in July complements the Gospel Reading from Mark 6:14-29.
"You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting," mocks Prince Adhemar, as he admonishes William, a young squire posing as a knight in the 2001 movie adaptation of Chaucer's A Knight's Tale.
This brief passage consists of a vision (verses 7-9; the third of five visions in Amos), a report (verses 10-11), an eviction notice (verses 12-13), and a defense (verses 14-15).
Amos 7:7-17 describes two episodes in the prophetic career of Amos, set in the northern kingdom of Israel around 750 BCE.
Justice and judgment -- are they an inseparable pair?
Far from wishy washy is the judgment of the Lord that comes from the mouth of Amos. Rather, it is clear, to the point, biting...and surprising as it comes to Israel, the Northern Kingdom, in a time of peace and prosperity.
The week’s reading from Amos contains two different units: a prose vision report in Amos 8:1-3 and a poetic announcement of judgment in Amos 8:4-12.
“Amos was Israel’s first theologian,” says scholar John Barton. “As far as we know, no one before him had subjected the religious beliefs and practices of people in Israel to critical scrutiny."
"Silence!" is the Lord's command to Amos.1
The Theological Context of Amos 8:4-7: Justice
This week's Old Testament lesson from the prophet Amos offers a chance for preachers to explore with congregations the concept of justice, in order to "thicken" the church's understanding of this central biblical concept.1
The old truism that “pride goes before the fall” (Proverbs 16:18) is, at least for Amos, gospel truth.
God calls a man named Jonah. The man disobeys and flees, but God providentially brings Jonah back to the original call to which he finally obeys.
The Book of Jonah is simultaneously pathetic and hilarious.
Jonah is more than just a big fish tale.
"Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
Today is the day to tell the story of Jonah, for this is its only appearance in the regular lectionary cycle.
Not unlike the older brother of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31), Jonah resents the graciousness of Yhwh toward the repentant inhabitants of Nineveh:
For reasons that make the book of Jonah a ripping good story, it takes a good while for Jonah to get to Nineveh.
God commanded the prophet of Israel to preach repentance to a faraway city whose evil was so great it rose up heavenward like a stench.
It was Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor ...
This year, at least for many, Pentecost 20 is also Reformation Sunday, but we really need not change or manipulate the texts chosen for the former in order to observe the latter.
The prophet Micah was active during a tumultuous period in Israel’s history.
On this last Sunday of Advent, we come to another familiar prophetic passage, familiar at least in part because it plays a prominent role in Matthew's story of the birth of Jesus.
One of the most well-known half-verses in the Old Testament:
The historical situation of this text is not entirely clear.
Micah prophesies during the second half of the 8th century BCE in Judah.
The heading for the book of Habakkuk reads: “The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.”
“I resolved to expound this prophet Habakkuk so that he, too, may finally come to light and that his contents may be learned…”
When have the sainted people to whom you preach ever heard a sermon based on God's timeless word to Habakkuk? This week is their chance. Do not let them down.
Helen Keller was once quoted as saying, “Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings.”
My wife and I attended a Scottish Episcopal church in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Zephaniah threatens that God will annihilate all living things due to human wickedness.
What would happen if God interrupted us?
The third Sunday of Advent traditionally has a focus on joy. And, indeed, almost all the texts for this Sunday speak of joy.
Haggai is dangerous.
The small book of Haggai stands on par with other prophetic books in many respects.
The co-temporal prophets Haggai and Zechariah mark a shift in how the exiled community of Judah sees itself.
This text is familiar to us from its use in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem; however, it presents a number of puzzles for the preacher to solve.
For me at least, this is one of those biblical texts that cannot be read without hearing music. In the midst of puzzling over the visions and sayings of Zechariah, it comes as a refreshing surprise to find the words of our lectionary text for today.
Who can endure the day of his coming?
Familiar to many from its use in Handel's Messiah, this passage from Malachi speaks of purification and judgment,
The opening affirmation of the book of Malachi should be read across the book.
Most of the people sitting in the pews would have no trouble naming Genesis as the first book of the Bible.
This passage from Malachi is typical fire and brimstone scripture.
Treacherous days, treacherous texts.
Strictly speaking, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is the last Sunday in the season of preparation for celebrating the first advent (coming) and anticipating the second advent (apocalypse, second coming).
Coming so close to Christmas Eve, the reading for this Sunday prompts thoughts of the festive worship services that are to come.
This lection is, of course, one of the prime passages used and preached on during the Christmas season. The challenge is to say something fresh but yet familiar and reassuring about it.
With its focus on Joseph as the chief character, Matthew's unique story of Jesus' birth will probably not be the model for any children's Christmas pageant, in many of which Joseph seems to walk in the shadows as a necessary,
How is the birth of a Messiah supposed to take place?
The Genesis of Jesus
At the beginning of his genealogy (1:1) and at the beginning of his birth narrative (1:18), Matthew introduces what follows as the "genesis of Jesus the Messiah."
El centro del tiempo
Este pasaje está organizado nuevamente de acuerdo a una estructura concéntrica que llamamos quiasmo. Veámosla.
“Gospel” originally meant the “good news from the empire” -- namely, when a new territory was conquered, when an elite child was born -- but Mark changed the meaning to “good news to the poor.”
Matthew 2:1-12, the visit of the magi, is the gospel reading for Epiphany.
As I write this, the gap between God’s promises and reality as we experience it that I spoke about in reference to Zechariah’s song two weeks ago seems especially pronounced.
The story of the visit of the Magi has the ring of a folk tale, as is obvious by how the narrative threads begin to unravel when subject to the questions one might ask about a “real life” situation.
The story of the three magi is one of the central narratives in the church’s celebration of Jesus’ advent.
El capítulo 2 de San Mateo comienza con una tensión implícita.
Los Sabios del Oriente: Un Acercamiento Eco-teológico
Some churches today might opt for the Luke 2:22-40 story about Simeon and Anna’s joy over the dedication of Jesus.
¡Brutal y cruel!
The Gospel reading this day after Christmas strikes a new tone for the season by dramatically leading us away from anticipation of Advent and revelry of the holidays to the tenuous and dark days between promises and their fruition.1
I have never had a dream that told me to flee in the middle of the night to save my family.
The Gospel reading this day after Christmas strikes a new tone for the season by dramatically leading us away from anticipation of Advent and revelry of the holidays to the tenuous and dark days between promises and their fruition.
Church leaders and biblical interpreters often note that the Gospel of Luke reports Jesus' birth in terms of its effect on peasant people (e.g. shepherds), while the Gospel of Matthew presents it as a grand event,
It is hard to read this scripture passage in 2014.
Del Encuentro al Desencuentro
Hoy, el primer domingo de la Navidad, hay, en sólo once versículos, varios temas entre los cuales el predicador o la predicadora pueden escoger para desarrollar en el sermón: la fidelidad de parte de José y la hostilidad de parte de Herodes, la protección para Jesús pero el sufrimiento para “los niños inocentes,” y el tema de cómo los planes de Dios se cumplen a pesar de la oposición humana. Más que nada, oímos de “Dios con nosotros” – Emanuel.
El versículo trece de Mateo 2 inicia con la frase: "Después que partieron ellos," refiriéndose a los sabios o magos de Oriente que llevaron regalos al niño Jesús.
In traditional theological perspective, the main purposes of Advent are to prepare for remembering (and re-experiencing) the birth of Jesus at Christmas (the first Advent), and to prepare for the second coming of Jesus (the second Advent, or the Apocalypse) and the final and complete manifestation of the Realm of God (the “Realm of Heaven”).
Following the genealogy (1:1-17) and a relatively long birth and infancy narrative (1:18-2:23), Matthew jumps ahead over the decades to the time of Jesus as an adult.
John the Baptizer is a colorful prophetic figure who introduces the story of Jesus in all four Gospels.
What is it that we most deeply hope for, long for, or expect in our lives for the present or for the future? If we were to fill in the dots and draw the picture-
Entre Desiertos y Templos
La irrupción del tiempo
Este pasaje detalla el ministerio de Juan el Bautista con materiales que combinan sus fuentes.
Two related questions need to be addressed for interpreting this passage: Is it about our baptism or is it about Jesus’ baptism?
Water is one of the most powerful elements on the face of the planet.
As if on cue, Jesus sets foot on the stage immediately after John's contrast of his baptism and the superior baptism which is to come.
The Gospel lesson for this day presents the second of seven pericopes in Matthew's Gospel dealing with John the Baptist:
Amor y Reconocimiento
“En aquellos días…” (3:1).
Los versículos trece al diecisiete del tercer capítulo del evangelio según San Mateo nos relatan cuando Jesús fue bautizado en agua por Juan el Bautista.
It is no accident that Jesus winds up in the wilderness after his baptism.1
At Jesus’ baptism, the heavenly voice announces, “This is my Son, the Beloved.”
Temptation, seduction, betrayal...
It is no accident that Jesus winds up in the wilderness after his baptism.
Comenzamos una nueva época litúrgica, la Cuaresma, que nos lleva de la Epifanía a la Pascua y la Resurrección.
This rich passage comprises four subscenes as the Gospel positions Jesus in Galilee (Matthew 4:12-16) and narrates the opening acts of Jesus’ public activity (Matthew 4:17-23).
Jesus’ ministry begins after his temptation, with the news of John’s arrest.
For the third time in Matthew, Jesus finds himself embracing a new hometown.
In its narrative context, this pericope reveals a number of things about the person and ministry of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
El texto que nos ocupa este domingo viene inmediatamente después de la narración sobre la tentación de Jesús.
Nuestra vida es una constante transición de situaciones y de ciclos que se cierran y se abren.
Por tercera vez en Mateo, Jesús se encuentra adoptando un nuevo lugar de residencia.
The chance to preach four Sundays in a row on the Sermon on the Mount may seem to be less an opportunity and more like a burden.
When Jesus ascends a mountain and begins to address the crowds (verses 1-2), the reader is expected to make the connection to another teacher (Moses), and another mountain (Sinai).
Happiness has become a science in recent decades.
This is a strong text for All Saints Day, especially if we use the word "saints" as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 1:2: "to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..."
The familiarity of the beatitudes presents the preacher with a challenge.
No existe otro texto que resuma mejor las aspiraciones de la vida de la persona transformada por Cristo que el de las bienaventuranzas.
La lectura del evangelio indicada para esta semana es parecida a la de Lucas 6:20b-23.
Los macarismos o bienaventuranzas tienen su origen en textos del Antiguo Testamento (Sal 1:1-3, 32:1-2 y 41:1; Pr 3:13 y 8:34) y denotan un estado de aceptación ante los ojos de Dios.
La familiaridad de las bienaventuranzas presenta el predicador con un desafío.
“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”
Jesus’ teaching on salt and light is likely very familiar to you as preacher, as well as to your listeners.
The Gospel of Matthew portrays Jesus as the classic authoritative teacher.
Este domingo el texto nos invita a reflexionar sobre tres aspectos importantes de la vida cristiana.
Este texto es parte del Sermón del Monte que encontramos en Mateo 5:1-7:27 y que tiene una importancia central en este evangelio.
El Evangelio de Mateo presenta a Jesús como el maestro autoritario clásico.
Who you are as a disciple is not just about you, but about you as a disciple in community.
The antitheses in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount challenge any would-be disciples to consider what it means to be bearers of God’s kingdom.
In the last few weeks, we've read a series of lessons on the dangers of reducing the work of God to ritual formula, or trying to use our communal practices to avoid giving our hearts and lives to God and neighbor.
Aquellos que nos criamos en tradiciones evangélicas tal vez hayamos escuchado (e incluso cantado) el siguiente corito.
El Espíritu de la Ley
En las últimas semanas, hemos leído una serie de lecciones sobre los peligros de la reducción de la obra de Dios a una fórmula ritual, o tratando de usar nuestras prácticas comunales para evitar dar a nuestros corazones y vidas a Dios y al prójimo.
This section of the Sermon on the Mount is a more than fitting text for the final Sunday in Epiphany.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ first discourse in Matthew’s Gospel.
In this passage, Jesus continues to explore the relevance of the Law for his followers and society.
En esta última parte del capítulo 5 de Mateo nos encontramos de nuevo con una enseñanza en la que Jesús parece cuestionar la costumbre y las expectativas socioculturales y religiosas de su audiencia.
En Mateo 5:48 Jesús dice, “Sed, pues, vosotros perfectos, como vuestro Padre que está en los cielos es perfecto.”
En este pasaje, Jesús continúa explorando la relevancia de la Ley para sus seguidores y la sociedad.
The heart of this passage is found in an accurate translation of the key word in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your justice before others.”
It was a very cold afternoon in Philadelphia.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 is the traditional gospel lesson for Ash Wednesday, being read each year.
Today’s Gospel reading strikes many as an ironic choice for Ash Wednesday.
It would seem that Matthew has offered preachers quite a gift -- a ready-made three-point sermon on 1) charity, 2) prayer, and 3) fasting.
There is perhaps no worship occasion in the Christian calendar where the ritual practice and the appointed Scriptures seem to clash more profoundly than Ash Wednesday.
This section from the Sermon on the Mount is read at the beginning of the Lenten season, on Ash Wednesday.
Too bad no one observed Ash Wednesday during the first century.
La tradición cristiana y el contexto cultural de la comunidad de fe serán elementos importantes que determinarán el énfasis y la intensidad con que nos alleguemos a la celebración del tiempo de Cuaresma.
Por muchos años he preparado mis propias cenizas para el servicio de Miércoles de Ceniza.
El Evangelio para el Miércoles de Ceniza presenta un tremendo desafío para quienes deseen predicar sobre este complejo pasaje.
La Auténtica Manera de Mostrar la Fe
La imposición de cenizas en este día marca el inicio de la cuaresma, la temporada litúrgica más observada en el año cristiano.
The Lord’s Prayer has a central place in Christian worship.
Jesus recognizes the problem of possessions for his first-century audience.
Society has changed a great deal since the time of Jesus. Definitions of poverty, wealth, and the good life are much different today than they were then.
Jesús reconoce el problema de las posesiones de su audiencia del primer siglo.
Max De Pree, the well-known businessman and leadership author, is fond of saying that beliefs shape practices. If you want to know what you truly believe, you only need to examine your behaviors.
The Lectionary combines the First Gospel's account of Matthew's call with the twin restorations of the woman with the flow of blood and the ruler's daughter. Sandwiched between the Lectionary excerpts Jesus insists that old garments and old wineskins cannot withstand new cloth and new wineskins.
Healing and liberation certify the presence of the realm of heaven. Both Jesus' own mission and that of the Twelve bring not only proclamation but also healing. Jesus sends forth the Twelve to perform his own works, the very works that have defined his ministry from the beginning (4:23-25).
Fear. Is there any more pervasive or powerful motivating force in human experience?
Clarence Jordan is one of my all-time favorite Christians. He was an agriculture major at the University of Georgia and a Master of Divinity graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also earned a PhD in New Testament. Jordan founded the racially integrated Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia in 1942.
Este texto representa lo que el erudito bíblico F. F. Bruce llamó "los dichos fuertes de Jesús."
Jesus’ discourse on the disciples’ mission to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:6) alternates between images of warning and promise.
Our text comes at the end of Matthew 10, the second major section of Jesus' teaching after the Sermon on the Mount.
This is the third consecutive Sunday devoted to Jesus' instructions to the disciples as he sends them on mission. A pattern unites Matthew's entire missionary discourse.
La Paradoja de Ser “Pequeño”
Actos insignificantes... recompensa insuperable.
The question of John the Baptist to Jesus is one of the most important questions of Advent and of Christian theology more broadly.
In the Gospel for the previous Sunday (Matthew 3:1-12), we heard the stirring words of John the Baptist at the Jordan River concerning the one who is to come.
While in the Matthean lection for the second Sunday in Advent, we hear about John's testimony to Jesus, in this lection for the third Sunday in Advent we hear about Jesus' testimony to John (see verse 11).
John's question is really the question for hearers of every age. More clearly than perhaps any place in the gospel, the writer fairly leaps over the characters on the stage of the narrative
Escuelas Teológicas Diversas
Este es el tiempo
El pasaje debería extenderse hasta el v.15, pues obviamente constituye una unidad literaria.
Matthew persistently affirms that God’s empire, embodied in the proclamation and teaching of Jesus, brings both judgment and salvation, both healing and division.
"Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" John's disciples ask Jesus at the beginning of chapter 11.
Matt 11:16-19 is a brief parabolic take on how people responded to John the Baptist and Jesus, two prophets with two very different portfolios.
Jesús: entre rumores y Palabra definitiva
Jesús presenta la pregunta "mas ¿a qué compararé esta generación?"
Since chapter 4:17, Matthew’s Jesus has manifested the empire of God as the agent of God’s saving presence (1:21-23).
Like mid-summer weather, things start to heat up in the middle of Matthew's Gospel.
The main point of Matthew's version of the parable of the sower is to offer an explanation. In order to see this, one needs to review the narrative logic of the entire Gospel to this point.
El Reino de Jesús: La semilla que se escucha
Jesús se encuentra al aire libre con una multitud que le seguía y habló a la gente por medio de parábolas, como era su costumbre.
After explaining the parable of the seed and different types of ground, Matthew’s Jesus again employs an agricultural setting for the parable concerning weeds sown and growing among the wheat crop.
Jesus tells a second parable about sowing seeds, this time about two sowers -- one who sows good seed to grow wheat, and the enemy who sows weeds among the wheat.
Matt 13:24-30 and 36-43, the parable of the tares and its interpretation, recall in several respects 13:3-9 and 18-23, the parable of the sower and its interpretation.
La cizaña sin trigo no tiene sentido
Cizaña entre el trigo: Discordia en la comunidad
The parables assigned for the last two weeks comprise a narrative of moderate length followed some verses later by interpretations.
Talk about treasure in a field!
The parables of the mustard seed (13:31-32) and the leaven (13:33) are twins. Both recount the story of something small and hidden that, through an organic process, becomes great.
La primera reacción a la perícopa propuesta es que hay demasiado contenido para poder abarcarlo todo.
El texto del evangelio de Mateo nos presenta cuatro parábolas de Jesús: el grano de mostaza, la levadura, el tesoro y la perla.
This scene of feeding five-thousand-plus will be followed in 15:32-39 with the feeding of four thousand people.
Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus once fed 5000 (men, not counting women and children) and later fed another 4000 or so people.
Stories of Jesus feeding huge crowds with only a little were an important part of the earliest traditions of Jesus' followers.
Los evangelios de Mateo y Marcos incluyen cada uno dos relatos de multiplicaciones, a una multitud de “unos 5000” y a otra de “unos 4000” varones (más las mujeres y niños/as presentes, por lo que ¿podríamos hablar de un promedio conservador de 3 personas más por cada varón?).
Nos encontramos con uno de los relatos más conocidos del evangelio, la acogida de Jesús de quienes lo seguían y la alimentación de la muchedumbre.
There is an old hymn that testifies, “Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea.”
Stay in the boat!
The story of Jesus walking on water is so well-known that it generates art and humor in the wider culture.
Después de haber alimentado a una gran multitud, Jesús necesita su propio alimento, el contacto con su Padre, así que envía a sus discípulos/as por barco y sube a orar.
La perícopa de este domingo utiliza el tema de la tempestad y las aguas para ilustrar la condición del discípulo, dividido entre el terror, la duda y la incertidumbre por un lado, y la fe y la confianza por el otro.
Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman is unsettling.
Boundaries and Faith
Reversals and contrasts mark Matthew's wonderfully and intricately-woven story of a Canaanite woman's faith.
Preachers face a serious temptation with this week's reading from Matthew.
La escena (v. 21) comienza con un movimiento de retirada de Jesús y sus discípulos a territorio no judío, después de la confrontación con fariseos y escribas sobre asuntos de pureza-impureza (vv. 10-20, opcionales para este domingo).
Nuestro pasaje, junto al relato del Centurión en Cafarnaún (8:5-13), son de los pocos en los evangelios que se dirigen a una cuestión de suma urgencia en la comunidad primitiva: el lugar de los 'paganos' o 'gentiles' en la misión de Jesús, y por ende, en la iglesia.
“But who do you say that I am?”
Living the Questions
Questions have a way of marking important moments and events.
As they enter the area of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples two questions.
La distinción de Pedro
La predicación de la confesión de Pedro (Mateo 16.13-20) es una oportunidad de retornar al principio de la fe cristiana vis a vis la opinión post moderna sobre el cristianismo en general y quien Jesús es en particular.
Last week, the disciples got it, really got it.
Confession at Risk: Identity, Passion, and Death
"From that time on..." today's gospel lesson begins.
The placement of this pericope is the first thing to attend to in preparation for preaching.
La “segunda tentación” de Jesús: El enemigo desea acabar con la verdad
Al profesar, en nombre de todo el grupo discipular, a Jesús como el Mesías, el Hijo del Dios viviente, Pedro es digno de ser felicitado por el Maestro (Mt 16.13-20).
Mystery marks this transfiguration scene. Jesus is transfigured.
At the transfiguration Jesus’ fearful disciples watch as he is transformed and shines with heavenly glory.
Epiphany is about light, about illumination, about revelation.
Six days after foretelling his death, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John and "leads them up a high mountain, by themselves" (Matthew 17:1). Together with Peter's brother, Andrew, these three disciples have been with Jesus the longest of any of his followers, ever since Jesus called them away from their fishing nets alongside the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18ff).
Los evangelios sinópticos pretenden ser relatos en parte históricos, en parte biográficos, y fundamentalmente teológicos y pedagógicos.
Es una historia increíble, ¿no?
Epifanía es acerca de la luz, la iluminación y la revelación.
Churches are full of troublesome people.
Here's a question I'm sure you've been asking yourself: Is the "real presence" really present in the biblical material?
Here we have three independent pericopes brought together by Matthew dealing with an errant church member, the binding of sins, and Jesus' great promise of his presence.
El acuerdo como autoridad pastoral de la iglesia para restituir con dignidad
Esta perícopa es parte de uno de los cinco discursos que se encuentran en el Evangelio de Mateo.
Ask a child to apologize, to admit his or her wrong-doing, and you will discover the early limits of our empathy.
When Jesus taught (as often as not) he taught in parables.
There is an episode that occurs before this pericope which sheds light on Peter's question about forgiveness.
El perdón de corazón
Pedro le pregunta a Jesús cuántas veces se debería perdonar a un miembro de la comunidad que peca contra él.
One traditional interpretation of the parable has been to focus on 20:16 (“the last will be first,” etc.) and to insist on understanding the parable as a statement about the gift of eternal life, as the ultimate equalizer, that will be granted to all “laborers in the vineyard.”
What, in a word or two, is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard about?
Jesus certainly has an interesting definition of "fair wage."
There is no question that God cares about economic justice.
Un proyecto laboral donde hay espacio para todos y todas
Tenemos aquí una parábola que solo aparece en Mateo.
Modern people swim in a sea of “spectacle,” that is, the use of compelling or provocative public theatre to shape imagination, usually mingling images of power with religious symbols.
What actually happened at the temple when Jesus entered Jerusalem? Why was the Jerusalem leadership so disturbed by Jesus’ actions and words? Was this the turning point in Jesus’ overall mission?
Voltaire quipped that we ought to judge a person by his questions rather than his answers.
In my posting last week, I referred to Jesus' ministry as "a gracious transformation, a divine reclamation, of the world."
Cuando Jesús deslegitima el orden moral de nuestras sociedades
Este pasaje se divide en dos secciones: 21:23-27 y 21:28-32.
What should proper care of a vineyard look like? What should tenant farmers who lease the land give back to the one who owns all of the land?
When people in authority challenged Jesus, he often responded to their challenges with a parable.
This parable continues Jesus' response to the chief priests and elders who had questioned him about his protest in the temple (Matthew 21:12-17):
Una confusión de roles con pésimas consecuencias
Esta parábola es la segunda en la que Jesús se dirige a los líderes religiosos judíos y al pueblo de Israel, señalando su rechazo.
Matthew’s parable about a wedding banquet gone wrong is a challenge for preaching.
Think back over the recent celebration of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It was the event of the season!
This is one parable you won't find in your child's Sunday school curriculum.
More than a few elements in Matthew’s story of the wedding feast seem way over the top by any measure of civil, rational behavior.
Un banquete cuya importancia fue mal calculada
Esta parábola contiene tres temas importantes: 1) Jesús es el Hijo de Dios; 2) El rechazo del pueblo de Israel hacia los profetas enviados por Dios; 3) Inclusión de los Gentiles en el Reino de Dios.
Politically, just about the only thing Pharisees and Herodians have in common is that they don’t like Jesus.
We think of the last days of Jesus' final week as being full of vexation.
You can currently purchase online both a book, the title of which is Jesus is Not a Republican, and a T-shirt claiming that "Jesus Votes Republican."
DAD A CÉSAR LO QUE ES DE CÉSAR, Y A DIOS LO QUE ES DE DIOS
La pregunta que le hicieron a Jesús era de verdad tramposa.
This is not the meek and gentle Jesus we thought we knew.
Here ends, in this passage, the disputations and entrapments orchestrated by religious leaders during Jesus' final visit to Jerusalem.
EL MÁS GRANDE Y EL PRIMER MANDAMIENTO
"Maestro, ¿cuál es el mandamiento más importante de la ley?"
In Matthew 23 we encounter a sustained condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, placed upon the very lips of Jesus.
As a resident of Washington, DC, I recognize political rhetoric, caricatures, and trash-talk when I hear them, and I hear them loud and clear in Matthew 23:1-12.
NO HAGAN LO QUE ELLOS HACEN
Jesús acababa de tener una serie de encuentros con tres grupos judíos que, entre sí, tenían ideas políticamente divergentes y teológicamente, por lo menos, diversas.
Today’s congregation is sometimes perplexed as to why the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent focuses on the second coming.
The Gospel readings for the four Sundays in Advent, Year A, follow the pattern for all three years (A, B, and C).
Matthew 24:36-44 is part of a much larger passage, usually called the Olivet discourse, which discusses both events that transpired in the first century A.D. and those which as of yet have not come to pass.
Be honest! What are your first thoughts as you anticipate the first Sunday of Advent? For me, both as preacher and as worshiper in the pew, the church year and the gospel readings always seem somehow out of synch with other life rhythms.
Cambio Climático y Cómo Robarle a Dios
El comienzo del tiempo
El objetivo de este pasaje es apaciguar las especulaciones escatológicas sobre el tiempo del fin, incentivadas por 24:26-35, pero a la misma vez exhortar a la comunidad a estar preparada, pues nadie sabe el día y la hora de la venida del Hijo del hombre.
The parable of the bridesmaids stands second in a series of four distinctly Matthean parables, all bearing upon the relationship between the return of Jesus and a final sorting (24:43-25:46).
Nestled in what is sometimes called Jesus' eschatological discourse (Matthew 24:1-25:46), the parable of the bridesmaids follows Jesus' warnings about the end when many will fall away from the faith and the faithful will be hated by the world (24:9-13).
The fairy tale ending we all hope for does not happen in this parable.
On its face this parable seems straightforward enough, especially if we read it through the traditional allegorical lens: the bridegroom is Jesus, his delay is the “delay of the parousia,” and the banquet is the Messianic banquet.
PREPARADOS/AS PARA LA VENIDA DE CRISTO
El proyecto del evangelista Mateo no era simplemente escribir su apreciación de la vida y enseñanzas de Jesús.
There’s a lot at stake in the interpretation of this parable.
The parable of the talents is among the most abused texts in the New Testament.
"Enter the joy of your master."
En otro momento privado de enseñanza con sus discípulos en el Monte de los Olivos, estos le preguntan: “Dinos, ¿cuándo serán estas cosas [la destrucción del Templo] y qué señal habrá de tu venida y del fin del siglo?” (Mt 24:3)
A la parábola en cuestión se le ha atribuido diversos títulos, cada uno de los cuales enfatiza perspectivas y aplicaciones distintas e importantes de la perícopa.
The parable of the sheep and the goats may present one of the most outworn passages in the Bible.
The Lord's teaching on the final judgment challenges every disciple of Jesus to be a harbinger of God's kingdom in a broken world.
We come this Sunday, in Matthew's Gospel, to the final discourse of Jesus before his passion.
Scholars often identify this story not as a parable, but as a “figurative teaching” or an “apocalyptic prediction,” i.e., a story that depicts the final judgment and clarifies the criteria by which the judgment will be made.
La parábola del juicio de las naciones es propia del evangelio de Mateo y aparece a continuación de la parábola de los talentos que un rico dejó a sus siervos o empleados para usar, invertir, desarrollar y cuidar a otras personas durante su ausencia.
Esta es la lección evangélica que culmina el Tiempo Ordinario o la Temporada después de Pentecostés, dando paso para al nuevo año litúrgico, y su celebración inicial de Adviento.
The Gospel reading for Passion Sunday offers the preacher an embarrassment of riches.
This day is an image of ourselves and of the God who comes as a power so great that resurrection defeats even cruel execution.
How do we relate a story that much of our audience already knows by heart?
The Passion Narratives in the four gospels are similar to one another in major respects. They share in common the following major events: Jesus' arrest, his arraignment before officials of the Sanhedrin on Thursday evening, his trial before Pilate on Friday morning, his suffering, and his death. Beyond those things in common, there are distinctive features of each account.
Mateo narra el juicio de Jesús ante Pilato y el resto de las autoridades, tomando del evangelio de Marcos 15:1-15 muchos de los elementos fundamentales al mismo tiempo que añade algunos detalles realmente curiosos.
La hora ha llegado.
¿Cómo relatamos una historia que la mayoría de nuestro público ya se sabe de memoria?
Matthew’s resurrection story contrasts the life-giving power of God with death-dealing human authority.
We have to imagine our way into the moment described in this story.
Donald Juel, reflecting on the resurrection account in the Gospel of Mark, once wrote that:
The resurrection accounts in the four gospels have similarities and differences. They are similar in that in each case the event is on a Sunday morning (two days after the crucifixion), Mary Magdalene is present at the tomb, and the tomb was found to be empty.
When I was a child, I expected to wake up on Easter morning to find a basket, mysteriously delivered by a rabbit, filled with chocolate eggs waiting for me.
El miedo: un tema descuidado
Mateo 28:1-10 contiene dos de los tipos de relatos acerca de la resurrección que se encuentran en los evangelios del Nuevo Testamento: un relato del sepulcro vacío en los vv. 1-7 y un relato de la aparición del Jesús resucitado en los vv. 8-10.
Donald Juel, meditando en el relato de la resurrección en el Evangelio de Marcos, escribió que:
What does the Great Commission have to do with the Trinity?
Each of the Gospels ends in a distinctive way.
The concluding verses of Matthew's gospel give a vivid glimpse into what it means to be disciples of Jesus.
The arrest and crucifixion of Jesus was a deeply disorienting experience for his followers, ruthlessly dashing in a matter of hours the great hopes and dreams they all shared.
How do you conclude a Gospel?
Este texto bíblico culmina el evangelio de san Mateo y la presencia terrenal de Jesús.
El texto para el domingo de la santísima trinidad ha sido unos de los pasajes bíblicos más populares para el tema y la práctica de la misión de la iglesia.
El pasaje de este domingo es uno de los mas importantes para la misión de la Iglesia.
John the Baptist is best known as the forerunner of Jesus, the one who calls on people to prepare the way of the Lord's coming.
Beginnings are important. They set the tone for what is to come. They clue us in on what to expect.
To an observant reader, one notes that the first verse in the gospel of Mark does not contain a main verb: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (1:1).
La historia del pueblo judío, tal como se relata en sus escrituras sagradas, estaba marcada por dos recuerdos profundos y significativos.
¿Está la Iglesia preparando el camino para la manifestación de Dios?
One of the striking things about the four Gospels is that each of them seems to think of the “gospel-genre” a little bit differently.
Mark relates no stories of Jesus' birth or childhood, but launches right into Jesus' adult life and the beginning of his public ministry.
Mark is the only book in the Bible that announces itself as a “gospel” (Mark 1:1), the good news about Jesus, a verse read 5 weeks ago on the second Sunday of Advent.
The text for the Baptism of our Lord, January 8, 2012, is Mark 1:4-11. This is a gospel which begins with words that exclude a main verb.
On the first Sunday after Epiphany, we recall Jesus' baptism.
El Bautismo de Nuestro Señor: Una Lectura Eco-teológica
El bautismo de Jesucristo es el inicio oficial de su ministerio.
Just what’s going on out there in the wilderness, anyway?
The sheer brevity of Mark's story seems to offer little material for the preacher.
En este pasaje bíblico vemos una breve descripción del comienzo del ministerio terrenal de Jesús de Nazaret.
El versículo 9 introduce por primera vez a Jesús en la historia que Marcos narra.
Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming the “good news” of the gospel, which is that “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15).
The text for the Third Sunday after Epiphany continues the dramatic action in the Gospel of Mark.
The text consists of two parts: a summary of Jesus' preaching in 1:14-15; and a call story in 1:16-20.
Tomando Decisiones Difíciles
Un Cambio Repentino
Possessed by the Holy Spirit, fresh from successfully confronting Satan in the wilderness, preaching the reign of God, and now in the company of at least four followers, it’s time for Jesus’ public ministry to gather momentum.
Our initial approach to this text is from a first person response to what took place on Sabbot at the synagogue in Capernaum, a city on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
A central theme in this section is the nature and issue of Jesus' authority (exousia), especially seen through the literary structure of our material.
Una Historia de Relaciones
Luego de haber sido bautizado, tentado y comenzar a formar su grupo de seguidores, Jesús entra en Capernaúm un sábado a aprender e intercambiar conceptos teológicos con el resto de la congregación.
One of the striking things about Mark’s Gospel is that it is not the disciples, first and foremost, who serve to proclaim the Good News; in fact, the disciples are in many ways last to that particular dance-floor.
This passage continues the one assigned for last week.
This passage is loaded with wonderful possibilities for the preacher.
Perhaps the special character of the stories in the New Testament lies in the fact that they are not told for themselves, that they are not only about other people, but that they are always about us.
Me Duele tu Dolor
Marcos nos deja saber desde el comienzo cuál es el propósito de su evangelio: "Principio del evangelio de Jesucristo, Hijo de Dios."
In this short and apparently simple story Jesus is approached by a leper whom he heals.
Last Sunday's gospel lesson impressed upon us the scope of Jesus' ministry and mission,
El final del capítulo uno, Marcos continúa el tema de la sanación y la inminencia de responder en proclamación y servicio.
Things move quickly in the opening chapters of Mark’s account of Jesus.
After a preaching tour in Galilee, Jesus returns to his home base in Capernaum, where he continues preaching, teaching, and healing.
It’s happening “again.”
Jesus did not fit in. He was at odds with his family's sociological script and with the religious authorities.
En este texto encontramos al menos dos partes bien diferenciadas.
"Cada loco con su tema," canta el autor español Joan Manuel Serrat.
Mark 4:1-34 offers us four parables (the parables of the sower, the light and the bushel basket, the growing seed, and the Mustard seed), and two explanations of how Jesus intends the parables to work (or not work) upon the hearer.
In Mark chapter 4, the evangelist spins a series of parables and narratives about seeds, planting, harvesting, and seafaring.
The opening line of Mark’s gospel announces its theme about as directly as it gets: it’s about the “good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”
Building on the parable of the sower that opens this parable chapter in Mark, this week's reading offers two more agricultural parables of the kingdom of God,
If only Jesus had provided a blueprint, a constitution or at least a tourists' brochure,
El otro día mi familia y yo visitábamos el observatorio de pájaros “Sand Bluff,” ubicado en una reserva forestal al norte de Illinois.
La lectura nos presenta dos parábolas construidas en torno a imágenes de la naturaleza: la semilla que crece por sí sola y el grano de mostaza.
“On that day.” The phrase is so brief the reader could almost ignore it.
The first half of Mark is a seaside tale. Jesus' ministry begins as he is walking along the Sea of Galilee.
What really happened?
En un viaje al Amazonas, estábamos regresando en una canoa hecha de un tronco por el mismo río que, aunque ahora era de aguas tranquilas, más abajo se convertía en uno de los saltos más grandes del mundo.
El pasaje de este Domingo describe un escenario lleno de dramatismo.
As Jesus disembarks on the other side of the sea, the disciples fade from the story.
A sense of déjà vu accompanies the introduction to today’s reading.
Two Healings in One (story)
In this chapter, Mark describes Jesus healing two daughters of Israel.
The text at hand is one of those two-for-one deals where one story is used to frame another, and they mutually interpret each other.
The healings of Jairus’ daughter and of the woman suffering from a hemorrhage are stories told in each of the Synoptic Gospels (compare Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:40-56).
After healing the Gerasene Demoniac, Jesus crosses back across the sea immediately and a large crowd gathers around him.
En esta perícopa nos encontramos con la dimensión sanadora de Jesús.
Como experiencia netamente humana, las narrativas de Marcos nos conducen al estado de la fragilidad en la forma de la enfermedad física.
This Sunday’s pairing of Mark 6:1-6 and 6:7-13 kindles the preacher’s imagination.
Before Mark reports John the Baptist's death, the only story in which Jesus is not the primary subject (6:14-29), Mark tells the story of Jesus' hometown rejection.
This is one of those instances where the lectionary disturbs the narrative flow of Mark's gospel.
Esta semana tenemos dos historias distintas que muy bien se pueden tratar separadamente.
El leccionario nos confronta en esta ocasión con dos lecturas que podrían tratarse como unidades separadas una de la otra.
Jesus messes things up.
Turning the Tables
The stories leading up to the beginning of chapter 6 have generally been taking place in Galilee, but in 6:1 Jesus specifically goes home.
The preacher of this text for this Sunday’s sermon receives my congratulations for originality and guts.
The report of John's death, Jesus' mentor (cf. 1:9), was the end of innocence for Jesus' mission.
Today's text is probably one of the best known birthday party stories ever!
La historia de la muerte de Juan el Bautista se encuentra en el medio de la historia del envío misionero y el regreso de los doce discípulos de Jesús.
La lección de Marcos de esta semana, nos acerca hacia un texto desconcertante, un texto tan complicado como la vida misma.
A lot happens in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is rejected in his hometown.
The Disciples Return from the Mission (Mark 6:30-31)
Mark reported the re-gathering of Jesus' "apostles" (6:30) from a successful mission (cf. 6:7-13) after depicting the death and burial of John.
This Gospel reading begins with an account of the disciples' return after they had been previously sent out by Jesus in Mark 6:6-13, and follows the unpleasantness of John's beheading described in Mark 6:14-29.
Tal como sucedió hace dos semanas, también en este caso el texto bíblico se divide en dos partes.
Desde su capítulo tercero, Marcos nos ha dejado en claro que los discípulos de Jesús han sido elegidos con un propósito particular.
In this text, Jesus addresses three different audiences: a group of Pharisees and scribes who raise the question of defilement, the crowd that is perpetually present, and the disciples who, true to character in Mark's Gospel, don't understand.
At least one part of this passage is straightforward, although disturbing: Jesus explains where evil comes from.
Three things right off the bat:
La lectura del Evangelio para este domingo plantea un relato de diferentes intercambios entre Jesús y varios interlocutores, aún así, se puede reconocer en el pasaje un mensaje englobante que descansa en la contraposición entre pureza ritual y ética.
This passage shows us a response to one issue within first-century Judaism, which was hardly homogenous across the Greco-Roman world.
The key dynamics of this story seem easy enough to grasp.
Now here's a Gospel reading capable of kicking off a church's new program year with gusto.
In the next three weeks, we'll look at three texts from Mark in which a person or a group comes to Jesus with a request or a demand.
Otra vez el énfasis en el silencio, típico de Marcos, no sólo sobre las palabras, sino también sobre los hechos de Jesús.
La lectura del Evangelio para este domingo contiene dos relatos de milagros: una niña liberada del demonio y un hombre sanado de impedimentos en la audición y el habla.
I am working on this entry for Working Preacher at home today, so instead of using “my” Bible in my office, I pulled off the shelf the Bible my wife used when we were in college (almost) 20 years ago.
These verses are crucial for understanding the Gospel according to Mark as a whole and for fathoming what it means to be Christian.
Last week, we began a three week exploration of the question: "What if?"
The confession at Caesarea Philippi marks one of the high points of Peter’s discipleship.
The question, "Who is Jesus?" is fundamental to Mark's Gospel.
Muchas veces nos hemos preguntado quién era Jesús.
La lectura del Evangelio para este domingo presenta el relato de una conversación mantenida entre Jesús y sus discípulos de camino entre las aldeas de la región de Cesarea de Filipo, ciudad romana al norte del lago de Galilea.
We know that the ways of God are different from the ways of the world.
Contradictions and perplexities dominate the gospel for the day.
With the power of brevity, Mark puts before us Jesus' correction of Peter's clear identification of Jesus as God's anointed one.
El texto que hoy nos ocupa es el primero de una compleja sección en el evangelio de Marcos.
En Marcos 1:1-8:26, el evangelista presenta el poderoso ministerio de Jesús en Galilea, levantando en los testigos la interrogativa en cuanto la identidad y autoridad de este hacedor de milagros.
Probably the greatest challenge about preaching on Transfiguration Sunday is dealing with the pressure to explain what the Transfiguration means.
Transfiguration is one of those "non-holidays" that appears in lectionaries with its own particular set of readings, but doesn't draw much attention from local congregations.
The previous Sundays of Epiphany have essentially followed the opening chapter of Mark's Gospel.
Un Arcoíris de Posibilidades
La lección para este domingo trata acerca de la transfiguración de Jesús.
Mark’s intercalations (also known as “sandwiches”) are well known (e.g., Mark 5:21-43).
First, I assume you will read the excellent commentary on this passage from workingpreacher.org 2009.
This is the third week of our "What if?" approach to texts from Mark.
Jesus goes through Galilee but he does not want anyone to know (Mark 9:30).
Antes de desarrollar el tema, digamos que se cree posible que el niño que Jesús puso en medio de los discípulos fue quien después sería obispo de Antioquía y que murió en Roma en una de las persecuciones: Ignacio de Antioquía.
El texto correspondiente para este domingo puede dividirse en dos partes teniendo en cuenta la locación geográfica que el mismo evangelio nos marca: el camino y "la casa".
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, when many of us choose to renounce a habit or a pleasure as a symbol of our devotion to God.
In Mark 9:38, John directs a comment towards Jesus on behalf of the disciples that is the epitome of myopia
Context in Mark
This week's passage from chapter 9 of Mark, resides within the larger context of the second major section of Mark (8:22-10:52), as did last week's.
Coming from the villages of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus first announced his suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection (8:31),
En los versículos 38 al 41, Juan habla con Jesús acerca de una persona que expulsaba demonios en su nombre.
Si la discusión central del texto anterior era sobre la relación de los discípulos entre sí (quién era el más grande), ahora el tema se dirige hacia la actitud que los discípulos tienen en relación a otros, primero los que realizan actos poderosos en nombre de Jesús pero no están con ellos (vv. 38-41) y luego la actitud hacia "estos pequeños" (vv. 42-50).
This day’s lesson actually consists of two pericopes.
Let's be honest. Few, if any, preachers out there will want to write a sermon on this Gospel text.
Mark's original readers probably found Jesus' uncompromising statements about divorce and remarriage as challenging and counter-cultural as we do today.
En este pasaje bíblico, Jesús se encuentra enseñando a un grupo numeroso de gente, lo cual es una escena común en los evangelios, como también lo eran las constantes intervenciones de los fariseos con la intención de probarlo, de que se equivocara o de que se mostrara incongruente delante de la gente que lo seguía.
El texto para este domingo nos sitúa en otra geografía y otros personajes aparecen.
This lesson includes two stories connected by the theme of the real cost -- including a financial one -- of becoming a disciple of Jesus.
The story of Jesus and the rich man, presented variously in all three synoptic traditions, is notoriously challenging and has elicited any number of creative approaches to ameliorating what seems to most of us a ridiculously extreme demand.
Nearly irresistible is the urge to soften this passage's demands.
“ … A man ran up to Jesus.”
When I approach this passage, many people ask me whether they, too, are required to sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor. I answer, "Maybe."
Jesús tiene un encuentro con una persona que apresuradamente viene ante su presencia, reconociendo que el “Maestro” puede aclarar sus preguntas sobre la vida eterna.
El texto correspondiente a este domingo vuelve a situarnos en el camino.
The narrative of Mark, like that of all the gospels, climaxes with the cross and resurrection, but we should not speed toward the conclusion with such haste that we overlook the gospel’s centerpiece, the pivot around which the revelation of the central character turns.
The lectionary has been running consecutively through Mark 9 and 10 the past four weeks, but it skips 10:32-34 just before today’s lesson.
Location, Location, Location
This passage plays a key role in the Gospel according to Mark's understanding of why Jesus dies and what his death means.
Dos de los discípulos de Jesús, Jacobo y Juan, se acercan al Maestro con una petición importante. Ellos piden tener un lugar predominante e importante en la presencia de Jesús.
Seguir a Jesús requiere renunciamiento a muchas cosas.
This account of the healing of Bartimaeus concludes a central section in the Gospel of Mark that began in 8:22 with the healing of another blind man and is followed in 11:1 by the entry into Jerusalem.
There is an old Saturday Night Live sketch from back in the day in which Chris Farley plays the tropical storm system called "El Niño" as if he were an all-star wrestler.
Bartimaeus is the paragon of faith in Mark's Gospel, which makes it more than mildly ironic that some churches will skip his story to read something else for Reformation Day.
Nos dice el texto que Jesús y sus discípulos y una gran multitud pasaron por Jericó, y que al salir encuentran al ciego Bartimeo.
Hay un refrán popular que dice: "no hay peor ciego que aquel que no quiere ver."
We have been on our way to the city of Jerusalem from the opening words of the Gospel of Mark: "The beginning of the good news/gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (1:1).
Familiarity breeds complacency: the challenge facing the preacher this Sunday.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is traditionally called “triumphal” and deservedly so.
Mark's theology is apocalyptic: Mark believes that history is divided into two ages: (1) the present evil age that God will destroy and replace with (2) a new world in which all things manifest God's purposes (the realm of God).
Nothing in Mark’s story prepared the reader for this conversation between Jesus and this Jerusalem scribe. Nothing!
Mark 12:28-34 provides a stark contrast to the stories that surround it.
The setting for the gospel text for Pentecost 22, November 1 (also All Saints Day), within the gospel of Mark is crucial to understanding of Mark 12:28-34.
The ancient notion that identity is communal is the background of Mark 12:28-34
En el capítulo 12 de Marcos, Jesús ha estado discutiendo con los principales sacerdotes, los escribas, los ancianos, los fariseos, los herodianos y los saduceos sobre temas diversos: el tributo a César, la posición de la mujer en el mundo venidero y la resurrección de los muertos.
Una de las características principales del fenómeno religioso es su dimensión ética.
The average Christian’s perspective on first century Jews, particularly their leaders -- high priests, scribes, the Sanhedrin -- is understandably derived from the New Testament.
Sometimes the headings in English Bibles hinder us from seeing necessary connections.
Money. Every pastor's favorite topic.
This reading from the Gospel of Mark is a two-act drama with some intriguing and troubling connections.
Few passages have been as radically re-interpreted in my life-time as the story of the widow who places her two small coins in the temple treasury.
La Hermenéutica de la ViudaEl pasaje para este domingo tiene dos partes. La primera parte (vv. 38-40) parece una continuación del discurso que Jesús viene pronunciando dentro del templo y que le ha causado varias controversias con los líderes de la religión. Jesús se dirige a las multitudes que han escuchado todo este discurso.
El texto que tenemos para hoy se desarrolla en el templo de Jerusalén.
It is easy to handle a parable speaking, disciple calling, village loving, synagogue attending Jesus, one committed to his family and who performed kind deeds for others.
What do you do when you see someone standing on the sidewalk preaching about the end of the world, future destruction, or false messiahs?
In the current culture, it's hard to gauge how people hear the predictions and imagery of apocalyptic literature.
I was recently fortunate enough to lead my second study abroad trip to Greece.
Fidelidad en Tiempos de Catástrofe
Marcos 13 es conocido como el apocalipsis evangélico.
Scholars widely agree that apocalyptic literature sought to encourage ancient communities to remain faithful in their difficult circumstances by using stock apocalyptic language and imagery adapted to particular contexts (1) to offer theological interpretation of the present threatening situations of the community and (2) to bolster the confidence that God would act in the near future to rectify the situation.
Advent is a season of waiting, a time to be marked by urgent anticipation, by a longing for the fulfillment of what has been promised.
Where Are We?
The Gospel text for the first Sunday in Advent is certainly not anticipated and most likely not welcome.
Mark 13:1-37 is set exactly in the middle of the passion narrative in the gospel of Mark.
Este texto bíblico tradicionalmente no se ubica en la época de Adviento.
El tiempo de Adviento ha de servirle a la Iglesia como anuncio de las posibilidades que existen en nombre del Dios que se manifiesta y camina entre su pueblo.
On the Sunday before Easter, the lectionary supplies readings for a liturgy of the palms, and readings for a liturgy of the passion.
Palm/Passion Sunday is less a day for preaching and more a day when preachers can allow extended gospel readings to set the tone for those who will be worshiping together throughout Holy Week and to rehearse the drama of Holy Week for those who will not gather with the worshiping community again until Easter Sunday.
Mark is the shortest of the canonical gospels. His story moves along briskly.
En el Evangelio de Marcos nos encontramos con una lectura bastante larga que trata sobre los últimos días de Jesús en Jerusalén, desde su entrada tan dramática hasta su muerte en la cruz.
Nuestro leccionario para "La Semana Santa" insiste en que el drama completo de la pasión de Jesús -- unción, arresto, juicio, crucifixión y entierro, entre otros aspectos claves, se lea y reflexione por nosotros sus lectores 2000 años después de los eventos que aquí se narran.
The evangelist Mark has provided a profound way into the passion narrative.
Jesus’ fidelity and the Twelve’s faltering: these cables bind the Last Supper and Gethsemane in Mark.
Unvarnished and raw: that’s how Mark recounts Jesus’ death. More than any other evangelist, Mark drives the church into the heart of its gospel in all its horror and wonder.
As we marked the watches of the night identified in Mark 13:35, we arrived at the fourth watch with the religious leaders handing over or betraying (Greek: paradidomi) Jesus to Pilate: "Immediately it was dawn" 15:1 (Greek text).
After a long season of Lenten preparation we are ready to get a good hold on our resurrected Jesus and settle down for a bit, but Mark does not make him available for us.
The Sabbath day has passed and it is the dawn of a new day.
“They said nothing to nobody -- they were afraid, you see.”
La conclusión original del evangelio según San Marcos se encuentra en los primeros ocho versículos de capítulo 16.
"Apóstol de los Apóstoles"
Is God faithful to God’s promises?
The church has often had a difficult time knowing how to regard Mary.
To Be Regarded...
The Annunciation to Mary is a remarkable text.
The first two chapters of Luke include some of the most beautiful poetry in scripture, expressing the presence of God in the lives of the faithful of Israel.
Este pasaje bíblico ha inspirado algunas de las más famosas pinturas en la historia del arte cristiano, conocidas bajo el título genérico de “Anunciación de María.”
No cabe duda de que María de Nazaret debe recibir nuestra admiración y devoción.
The announcement of new births is usually exciting in most settings in human history.
There are three themes I want to explore in Luke 1:26-55: God’s activity, kingship, and status.1, 2, 3
Mary’s beautiful song of praise is commonly called the Magnificat, from the Latin for “magnify.”
Having learned from the angel that she will give birth to the Son of God, Mary hurries to visit her pregnant relative Elizabeth in the hill country.
In Luke 1:39-45 (46-55) we meet two women (well, actually three) who, moved by the Spirit, raise their voices in praise of God.
Traditionally, preachers move in one of two trajectories when reading this gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Advent: emphasizing either Mary or the One she magnifies.
Una Espera con Espíritu de Alegría…
Y ya llega el momento esperado.
Even if you do not preach on Mary’s Psalm, sing it this weekend during Sabbath worship.
The author of Luke-Acts was a master storyteller.
What better text to preach on the Second Sunday of Advent than Luke 1:68-79 (or even better, vv. 67-79).
Like a melody in a musical overture, Zechariah's prophecy hints at things to come, while reflecting refrains from long before.
Luke's narrative moves to invite us to recognize that the breathtaking account of the birth of Christ cannot be contained in a twenty-minute children's pageant.1
The comments for Nativity of Jesus: Proper 1 (December 24, 2015) suggest that the preacher could draw on Luke 2:1-20 as the whole preaching text if the congregation has just one service -- either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
This scene opens with Roman trumpets blaring an imperial order coming from Caesar Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
Luke's narrative moves to invite us to recognize that the breathtaking account of the birth of Christ cannot be contained in a twenty-minute children's pageant.
"Blow out the candles," declared the old evangelist, "the sun is up!"
Afirmamos que el nacimiento de Jesús anuncia el comienzo del establecimiento de un reino de paz. Pero, ¿es esto en realidad lo que hemos vivido hasta el día de hoy?
La Señal del Niño en el Pesebre
En nuestro texto de hoy, el día de Navidad, recibimos una vez más la buenas nuevas – euangellion – del nacimiento de nuestro Salvador, que es Cristo el Señor. ¡Cristo ha nacido!
This text should carry a warning statement for those of us who dare to preach from it.1
From Luke’s theological-narrative point of view, Luke 2:1-20 is a single unit.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth is beautiful in its humane simplicity.
Ask any parent or grandparent about the birth of a new baby and they typically can describe the event in great detail.
For years I have wondered whether the Christmas Eve sermon is of any consequence.
The Challenge of Familiarity
Christmas familiarity -- fragrance, family, and feasts.
Have you ever noticed the pronounced hush that often attends the reading of Luke's nativity story on Christmas Eve?
This text should carry a warning statement for those of us who dare to preach from it.
Preaching on Christmas Eve is an exercise in strong, gentle truth.
Christmas is the season when Christians remember the birth of Jesus as God’s greatest gift to humankind.
As you read this, I’m going to take a wild guess that you’re feeling somewhat stressed and anxious.
The story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Luke is deceptive in its simplicity.
This beautifully written account has inspired countless hymns, liturgies, works of art, and nearly every celebration of Jesus’ advent.
Luke's infancy narrative sets the humble birth of Jesus against the backdrop of a mighty empire and powerful rulers.
La lectura para Nochebuena nos presenta dos escenarios: primero, una familia humilde está en camino a Belén con la muchedumbre para ser contada en un censo imperial; y segundo, unos pastores sin nombre reciben noticias celestiales de salvación en pleno campo.
Aquí estamos, terminando la temporada de Adviento y continuando con los momentos epifánicos de Jesús en medio nuestro: el día de Navidad, la visita de los Sabios de Oriente (Reyes Magos), el bautismo de Jesús, la boda en Canaán y la Transfiguración; todos parte de la temporada litúrgica de Epifanía.
En el capítulo 2 de San Lucas nos encontramos con la historia bien conocida y muy querida del nacimiento de Jesús “en un pesebre.”
Los evangelios de Lucas y Mateo son los únicos que nos presentan relatos sobre el nacimiento de Jesús.
One of the difficulties of preaching on Luke’s version of the nativity of Christ is that it is so darn well known.
Many parents hearing this scripture read on Christmas day have come to regard their own child as gifted -- a gifted reader, a math whiz, a soccer talent, a genius on the piano.
Many of my favorite songs are simple melodies that call out the name of Jesus.1
Many of my favorite songs are simple melodies that call out the name of Jesus.
Paz después de la tormenta
The start of a new year causes many to reflect on new beginnings, new possibilities, and newness of life.
The story of Jesus’ presentation in Jerusalem is one of the few stories in the canonical gospels that have to do with Jesus’ childhood.
Today, some find the Christmas season so overwhelming, church attendance and worship are an intrusion in the scheduled events.
The birth of a child is an occasion that evokes family, religious, and social traditions.
Este pasaje nos muestra el poder de la “tradición."
Christians sometimes refer to Jesus’ growing-up years as a model for human growth and development.
To learn about Jesus' childhood, we can turn to this text in Luke 2 or we can choose from the multiple apocryphal gospels replete with accounts of Jesus' forming birds from clay and sending them flying into the sky or resuscitating childhood playmates.
En Lc 2:40 se nos dice de Jesús: “El niño crecía y se fortalecía, se llenaba de sabiduría y la gracia de Dios era sobre él.”
Today’s Gospel begins not with the Baptist’s ringing call to repentance, but with a long and detailed list of rulers.
Note to the preacher: since the lectionary splits Luke's account of John the Baptist's ministry between the Second and Third Sundays of Advent, you may want to read the whole of Luke 3:1-18 now.
Los Contextos que Marcan el Caminar de los Pueblos
1En el año decimoquinto del imperio de Tiberio César, siendo Poncio Pilatos gobernador de Judea, Herodes tetrarca de Galilea, su hermano Felipe tetrarca de Iturea y de la provincia de Traconite, y Lisanias tetrarca de Abilinia, 2y siendo Sumos sacerdotes Anás y Caifás, vino palabra de Dios a Juan hijo de Zacarías, en el desierto.
Preparation for a major event is key!
In last Sunday’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist issued a ringing call to prepare the way for the Lord.
The reading from Luke for this week follows on the heels of the summary of John's preaching of a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins," and the claim that his proclamation, which sets the table for the arrival of Jesus, was what Isaiah promised centuries prior.
It would appear, according to Luke, that John is an "old school" preacher, delivering in these verses a sermon composed of "three points and a poem."
No se Puede Servir a Dios y al Dinero…
Con el bautismo comienza al mismo tiempo nuestra liberación y la nueva responsabilidad que tenemos los cristianos hacia la historia del Reino que llegará, pero que ya está aquí, según una de las fórmulas más paradójicas del cristianismo neotestamentario.
On the Baptism of Jesus, a lot of preachers and worship planners encourage congregations to remember their baptisms.
Great expectations have always been part of the human story.
Fiesta de los Sentidos
During Lent the church often focuses on repentance, resisting temptation, and the passion of Jesus.
Accounts of the Temptation in the Wilderness appear in all three Synoptic Gospels.
Vivir es difícil.
Luke 4:14-21 is the opening scene in the ministry of Jesus. It is Jesus’ manifesto for the work ahead.
This passage follows upon the heels of the temptation narrative in which Jesus emerges the victor over Satan, at least for the time being.
El Espíritu de Dios, Garantía de Justicia
It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth for Luke’s overarching narrative.
The whole passage (Luke 4:14-30) is structured around a pattern of proclamations by Jesus and responses from the hometown synagogue audience.
This is the second part of a passage that began in verse 14.
Este domingo, el cuarto domingo después de Epifanía, es el final del periodo litúrgico que celebra la llegada de la Palabra de Dios al lugar donde vivimos.
Prior to the reading of the Gospel for the Day -- the call of the first disciples in Luke 5:1-11 -- the congregation will have heard two other texts which relate quite directly to it.
This short passage is complex in that it mixes several genres, or, better, progresses through several genres.
Preaching on ancient Sabbath controversies in the Gospels is no easy task, and in this lection we have two!
In this year 2016, we are experiencing, perhaps enduring is the better word, one of the surliest presidential races in years.
Blessed are the poor. Right.
Saints are "holy ones" (Greek: hagioi), the "blessed of God" (Greek: makarioi: Luke 6:20-22). But who are they really?
Este domingo en que celebramos el día de todos los santos es un día maravilloso para los ritos litúrgicos que nos conectan con quienes nos precedieron en el paso por este mundo.
La congregación y el predicador se confrontan este domingo con el corazón del evangelio, con ese anuncio radical que desata una transformación en nuestras vidas en relación con Dios y nuestro prójimo.
"El Reino del Revés" es el nombre de una conocida canción infantil de la cantautora argentina María Elena Walsh, pero también puede aplicarse al sermón del llano en el que Jesús proclama como dichosos a los pobres, a los que tienen hambre, a los que lloran y a los que son objeto de odio, expulsión, insultos y desprecio.
There is a question that runs throughout the “orderly account” so carefully and thoughtfully prepared for “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3).
Centurions show up rather frequently in the Gospels and in Acts (e.g. Luke 7:2; 23:47; Acts 10:1; cf. Luke 3:14).
Después de predicar el “sermón del llano” (Lc. 6:20-49), donde enfatiza la misericordia y el amor del mensaje del Reino de Dios (vv. 20-26), ordenando incluso el amor a los “enemigos” (vv. 27-36), Jesús comienza a demostrar su mensaje con actos de misericordia y sanidad (7:1-17), primero sanando al esclavo enfermo de un centurión gentil y después resucitando al hijo de una viuda.
Esta perícopa, como las otras que forman el ministerio de Jesús en Galilea (Lucas 4:14-9:50), brota de la proclamación del Año de Jubileo (cf. Levítico 25:8-55), el “año agradable” anunciado por el Señor al comienzo de su obra pública después de la tentación en el desierto.
By this point in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ healing powers are well-established.
The author of Luke-Acts presents to Theophilus, the lover of God (could that be us?), an orderly account designed to explore and answer the question, “Who then is this?” (Luke 8:25).
Hundreds of years before Jesus is born and embarks on a ministry of healing and preaching, Isaiah announces good news of God’s coming return to his people, Israel. At the time of God’s return and restoration of Israel the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame will walk (Isaiah 35:4-6).
Luke's gospel is like a treasure chest of passages: one great episode after another, each intrinsically interesting and each a carefully placed part of Luke's greater narrative.
Este pasaje nos muestra la compasión de Jesús ante las circunstancias desoladoras que las personas pueden atravesar y su autoridad y poder.
Esta historia, que solamente cuenta el evangelista Lucas, sigue la cuerda del ministerio galileo como la realización y la promesa del Reino de Dios —anunciado, presente, y por venir.
Esta semana vemos con claridad la compasión de Dios.
This week’s story begins with a reminder of Jesus’ miraculous acts up until this point: “John [the Baptist]’s disciples informed him about all these things” (Luke 7:18).
Imagine if you had invited guests to your home for dinner and suddenly someone entered your dining room uninvited and unexpected.
It is often noted that Luke, more than the other Gospel writers, highlights portrayals of women.
This portion of Luke's gospel includes two quite distinct sections: the long parable-within-a-story (7:36-7:50); and a short transitional section in which some of Jesus' women companions are named (8:1-3).
As we saw two weeks ago with the reference to compassion as a counter-cultural “suffering-with,” Jesus consistently chooses the “path of downward mobility.”
Este pasaje de las Escrituras nos hace considerar que ante todo lo que Dios ha hecho en nuestras vidas debemos tener agradecimiento y entrega total, y debemos corresponder al amor de Dios.
Esta perícopa sigue el enfoque particular de Lucas sobre el rol de mujeres en la vida de Cristo.
Las semanas después de Pentecostés nos dan la oportunidad ver donde está activo el Espíritu Santo.
Groucho Marx once famously observed that he would never want to be a part of a club that would accept him as a member.
Gospel stories of demon possession are difficult to preach, because we don’t experience demons as described in the Bible.
Recalling a relatively recent movie, we could call this study "Four miracles and a sending."
Este pasaje bíblico demuestra la autoridad de Jesús sobre fuerzas hostiles y nos concientiza acerca de su poder para traer cambios dramáticos a nuestras vidas.
Esta historia, que también se halla en Marcos 5:1-20 y Mateo 8:28-34, es para Lucas el desarrollo y el cumplimiento de la misión de Jesús que él mismo planteó en 4:18-19 —“a pregonar libertad a los cautivos” y “poner en libertad a los oprimidos” (repitiendo palabras de Is 61:1-2, 58:6).
La historia del endemoniado gadareno es extraña.
Today we have two lectionary texts that apparently don’t go together.
In preparation for the Transfiguration of Our Lord in Year C, one has to make an obvious decision.
En el monte de la Transfiguración se inicia la mirada hacia el “lugar llamado de la Calavera” (Lc 23:33), el sitio de la crucifixión.
El relato de la transfiguración de Jesús crea un escenario enigmático, desafiante, que nos invita a discernir cuál es el mensaje para las comunidades de hoy.
In last week’s story, Jesus’ identity was questioned.
The Lukan travel narrative (chapters 9-19) begins with a notice of Jesus’ resolve to go to Jerusalem and his inhospitable reception by a Samaritan village.
In this passage Jesus sets out on his final journey to Jerusalem.
The gospel reading sounds more fitting for the liturgical season of Lent than post-Easter.
At this point in Luke’s Gospel we’re only just over a third of the way through the story, but already Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem.
Este pasaje nos enseña sobre el discipulado conforme al plan y a la manera de Dios y sobre la actitud correcta ante el rechazo.
En el camino
La lectura del evangelio parece más apropiada para la temporada litúrgica de Cuaresma en vez de pos-Pascua.
Luke 10:1-24 records the mission of the Seventy(-two) and its aftermath.
When we think of Jesus’ followers we think of the twelve apostles, but there were more.
A Challenging Journey
Lucas es el único de los evangelistas que presenta la misión de los setenta y dos.
Los muchos lobos
El capítulo 9 cierra con la declaración que es costoso seguir a Jesús en la jornada discipular.
In the Lukan context, the parable of the Good Samaritan is prompted by a dialogue between Jesus and a lawyer.
How do we preach on texts that everybody knows and where the meaning is very clear?
The lawyer asks good questions and gives good answers.
Un experto en la ley le pregunta a Jesús: “Maestro, ¿haciendo qué cosa heredaré la vida eterna?” (v. 25).
¿Qué está escrito en la ley y cómo lees?
La lección de este domingo de tiempo ordinario continúa la narrativa de la jornada a Jerusalén con una de las parábolas mas conocidas de la Biblia.
The lawyer who tests Jesus already knows the answer to his first question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The design and structure of Luke's story about Jesus' visit in the home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is straightforward, and it is told in a linear fashion.
Hospitality is exceedingly important in the biblical world in general and in Luke’s Gospel in particular.
Several years ago a church in our area was named Saints Martha and Mary, because, as the developer said, it was going to take both Marys and Marthas for the new church to grow.
Este domingo tenemos la visita de Jesús en la casa de Marta y María.
Sólo una cosa es necesaria
En la visita a María y Marta, Lucas preserva un episodio, único a su evangelio, indicativo de la vida contemplativa del discípulo.1
In Luke 11:1-13, Jesus answers a fundamental question of the life of faith -- how to pray -- with five petitions1 and accompanying instruction on what attitude to assume and how God will respond (see also Luke 18:1-14).
Luke, more than any other evangelist, demonstrates the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life and ministry (3:21, 5:16, 6:12, 9:18, 9:28, 10:21-22, 11:1, 22:41-4, 23:46).
Prayer is not only at the heart of the Christian life, it is also at the heart of a lot of Christian frustration, misunderstanding, and even pain.
La oración del Señor también aparece en el evangelio de Mateo como parte del sermón de la montaña (Mt 6:9-13).
No nos dejes caer en la tentación
No solo está la oración en el centro de la vida cristiana, sino que también está el en centro de la frustración, el malentendido, y aun el sufrimiento de los cristianos.
[This is Week 4 of a 4-week preaching series on the Lord's Prayer]
[This is Week 3 of a 4-week preaching series on the Lord's Prayer]
[This is Week 2 of a 4-week preaching series on the Lord's Prayer]
The parable of the rich fool (or “barn guy,” as I always think of him) at the heart of this week’s text illustrates simply and memorably the futility of choices made in isolation from the love of God and neighbor.
Many who hear this parable, especially in a North American context, may wonder: Why is the rich farmer called a fool?
Stewardship season, already?
El Texto en su Mundo Bíblico
El ministerio pastoral está lleno de ocasiones en las cuales tenemos la necesidad de intervenir y mediar en disputas familiares.
¿Ya es la temporada de mayordomía?
While recently watching Grantchester, a murder mystery set in 1950s England with an Anglican priest as the main character, I was struck by the simplicity of life at that time: no internet, no cell phone, little television, and very few possessions.
We are well into the section of Luke known as the “travel narrative” where Jesus has set his sights on Jerusalem and spends about ten chapters getting there.
Every once in a while, I am tempted to add a verse or two at the beginning or end of the lectionary reading to fill out its literary context.
Hay consenso entre los estudiosos de Lucas en que este Evangelio muestra un interés especial por los pobres.
De vez en cuando, estoy tentado de añadir unos versos al principio o al fin del leccionario para rellenar su contexto literario.
With all of the divisiveness present in society these days, it seems like the last thing we need is a gospel text that seemingly encourages more division.
On April 15, 2013, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
History is written backwards; sermons are written forward.
Una de mis obras teatrales favoritas es el musical “El Violinista en el Tejado.”1
La historia se escribe hacia atrás; sermones se escriben hacia adelante.
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling? Not here. This time it's loudly and pointedly.1
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling? Not here. This time it's loudly and pointedly.
When Pharisees warn Jesus to “get away from here” because Herod has it in for him -- the same Herod who executed Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist (Luke 3:19-20; 9:9a), and who will play a role in Jesus’ trial (Luke 23:7-12) -- we might expect Jesus to take the hint and high-tail it out of there.1
El sufrimiento es una experiencia humana y cotidiana. Este texto bíblico nos invita a reflexionar sobre esto.
Le dan una noticia a Jesús, y Jesús responde.
Two things are important to remember for framing this particular episode in Luke 13:10-17.
In Luke’s narrative, two scenes of Jesus’ teaching sandwiches this account of healing and controversy with religious leaders.
She had gotten used to looking at people out of the corner of her eye, by looking up and sideways.
Nos encontramos en este 14° Domingo después de Pentecostés ante una narración bíblica exclusiva del evangelio de Lucas.
La lección de esta semana es un relato sin paralelos en los otros evangelios y cual parece estar fuera de lugar.
This text reminds us of Jesus’ daily ministry in the face of his approaching passion.
The passage consists of two pericopes, "The Warning against Herod" (Luke 13:31-3) and "The Lament over Jerusalem" (13:34-35).
Dentro de la estructura del evangelio de Lucas, este relato se encuentra en la sección denominada “camino a Jerusalén” (9:51-19:28), en la que Jesús está precisamente en camino.
Outwardly, the pericope for this Sunday seems to be offering just wise advice.
My family sits down together at dinnertime most evenings.
Giving great honor to those who are distinguished. Ignoring those who are ordinary or "defective." Seating charts that are set up to emphasize the high status of some and the lower status of others.
Para Comenzar a Pensar
En el tercer evangelio el banquete es una de las avenidas favoritas para presentar la interacción de Jesús con otros, particularmente oficiales del judaísmo y para transmitir dichos, hechos y enseñanzas de Jesús.
Last week’s pericope from Luke was set inside, namely, in the home of a Pharisee where Jesus had been having relatively intimate mealtime conversations and interactions.
Luke is interested in stories about Jesus and his family.
We live in a market driven society, so it is not surprising that we feel the urge to "sell" Christianity in the marketplace of competing ideas and ways of life.
Nuestro texto consta de dos perícopas bien definidas y distintas en su naturaleza.
It was early September of 2001.1
Hearing this parable can be like hearing from a longtime friend. Strong memories rush in, and we are eager to resume conversation with a familiar voice.
El texto que nos convoca presenta un salto de versículos, pero mantiene continuidad.
This particular pericope belongs to a complex of parables that is both unique to Luke and characteristic of Lukan theology.
The fifteenth chapter of Luke consists of three parables: the Lost Sheep (verses 3-7); the Lost Coin (verses 8-10); and the Prodigal Son (verses 11-32).
Luke 15:1-10 launches an extended reflection on one of the most provocative aspects of Jesus' ministry, his companionship with tax collectors and sinners.
Parábola – Palabra
Los textos para este domingo presentan dos parábolas, la oveja y la dracma (moneda) perdidas.
Number Two Son asks Dad for a handout, skips town, squanders his inheritance, and decides to come home only when he runs out of options.
"Gotta serve somebody," Bob Dylan sings.1
Any commentator will tell you that this is a difficult text.
Commentators routinely remark that the parable of the Dishonest (Corrupt) Manager stands among the most challenging texts in the New Testament, often regarding it as the most perplexing of Jesus' parables.
El pasaje de Lucas 16:1-13 es uno de los más complejos del Nuevo Testamento.
El pasaje para este domingo es uno de los más enigmáticos en todo el evangelio de Lucas.
Unique to Luke is the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
As much as we would like to spiritualize the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, it is very difficult to explain away its central message, especially given what Luke has to say about money and possessions elsewhere in his Gospel.
How far may we push a parable? Should we regard parables as helpful fictions that open our imaginations to new possibilities, or should we approach them as condensed pedagogical vehicles designed to carry specific teachings?
In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Jesus confronts his listeners with a message that is difficult to hear for those who have more than they need.
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man anchors a series of parables -- the lost coin (15:8-10), the prodigal son (15:11-32), and the dishonest manager (16:1-13) -- each of which deals with money, with wealth, with the economy of right-relationship with God and one’s fellow human beings.
Este pasaje, conocido como la parábola del rico y Lázaro, refleja cómo Lucas entiende la atención especial que Dios da a los pobres, a los sufrientes y marginados, y también expone una severa crítica hacia los ricos y poderosos.
Los ricos también lloran: Una parábola que no es del “más allá,” sino del “más acá.”
Hemos visto que el capítulo 15 del evangelio de Lucas presenta parábolas sobre el regocijo de Dios ante el retorno de lo perdido, es decir, de la actitud de Dios hacia el pecador, el marginal.
How much faith does a person need?
Luke 17:5-10 consists of two sets of sayings on being a follower of Jesus.
Sometimes discipleship amounts to simple expressions of faithfulness.
A pesar de que pareciera que este pasaje está compuesto de dos secciones inconexas, en el fondo es posible ver un tema común ligado al tema del perdón, mencionado en los primeros versículos de este mismo capítulo.
Una fe “extraordinaria” vivida en lo ordinario/cotidiano del servicio
El pasaje consta de dos partes: un dicho proverbial de Jesús sobre la fe (vv.5-6), seguido de un discurso semi-parabólico referido al carácter incondicional del servicio (vv. 7-10).
Ten men with leprosy are healed but only one returns and gives thanks.
The story of the grateful Samaritan offers us another image of who and what matters to Jesus and should, therefore, matter to us.
Amid the various ecclesial, ethical, and liturgical reforms of the sixteenth century, Martin Luther was once asked to describe the nature of true worship.
La historia de la sanación de los diez leprosos muestra cómo Lucas entiende las prioridades y la respuesta de Jesús ante situaciones de exclusión y marginación.
La lepra de algunos enfermos desaparece cuando van de camino
Los pasajes bíblicos que ilustran encuentros entre extranjeros tienen mucho potencial para inspirar la predicación.
In what way is God like an unjust judge?1
The parable of the widow’s persistence is introduced as a parable about prayer and not losing heart, then moves into a story about justice, and ends with a question about faith.
In what way is God like an unjust judge?
La parábola conocida como “la viuda y el juez injusto” debería leerse en el contexto del pasaje anterior de Lucas 17:20-37, que contiene un claro mensaje escatológico respecto a la futura manifestación del reino de Dios.
El Dios que hace justicia
Además de que en él Jesús ora con frecuencia y en puntos claves de su vida (Lc 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28--29; 11:1; 22:41, 44), el Evangelio de San Lucas contiene dos instrucciones importantes sobre la oración.
Paul Tillich, commenting on the Apostle Paul's assertion that the gospel is a stumbling block, once said that the danger is stumbling over the wrong thing.1
This week’s text follows immediately on last week’s and is another parable about prayer.
Paul Tillich, commenting on the Apostle Paul's assertion that the gospel is a stumbling block, once said that the danger is stumbling over the wrong thing.
La historia del fariseo y el publicano, un texto único de Lucas, se encuentra en el viaje de Jesús a Jerusalén (9:51-19:27).
En el evangelio de San Lucas se encuentran más parábolas que en cualquier otro evangelio.
En esta parábola, Jesús escoge a un fariseo y un publicano para comunicar la enseñanza de 18:14.
“See,” said Jesus, “we are going up to Jerusalem … ” (Luke 18:31).
The narrative lectionary reading for this week has three distinct sections, which we will explore one at a time, individually, before considering the selected text as a whole.
How you read and preach this familiar story about Jesus and Zacchaeus hinges almost entirely on how you answer one interpretative question:
Following on last week’s parable, we find another story of a tax collector and a sinner and of God’s intention to seek and to save the lost.
La narrativa de Zaqueo (19:1-10), que es exclusiva del evangelio de Lucas, es introducida cuando Jesús está en camino a Jerusalén y pasa por la ciudad de Jericó, una ciudad rica e importante.
Siempre sonrío al leer este relato del día en que Jesús conoció a Zaqueo.
Una interpretación común de este pasaje presume que Zaqueo es un pecador que se arrepiente y experimenta una transformación total como resultado de su encuentro con Jesús.
In today’s Gospel text, we find a man who must enjoy living on the edge.
El texto que tenemos delante tiene la forma literaria de un relato de la entrada procesional de un rey en ironía.
The journey that began ten chapters ago is almost over: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
“Teacher, order your disciples to stop” (Luke 19:39).
This passage, quite frankly, most likely will sound odd, archaic, and even irrelevant to most of our hearers.1
Jesus is having another argument.
This passage, quite frankly, most likely will sound odd, archaic, and even irrelevant to most of our hearers.
Esta historia, influenciada por Marcos 12:18-27 y con un paralelo en Hechos 23:6-9, sucede durante la última semana del ministerio de Jesús, según la narración de Lucas.
En el capítulo 20 de San Lucas encontramos a Jesús en el templo.
El evangelista dice que los saduceos negaban la resurrección de los muertos y en Hechos de los Apóstoles se añade que para ellos no había ángeles ni espíritus (23:8).
Whenever a disaster strikes, it doesn’t take long for some prominent Christians to blame it on the secularization or moral permissiveness of society.
This is a scene that ought not to have been cut so short.
Jesus never promised it would be easy to follow him.
Esta narrativa sobre la destrucción del templo y la venida de las guerras y persecuciones está influida por Marcos 13:1-13 y presagia la obra de los discípulos contada en el libro de los Hechos.
Las señales de los últimos días incluirán “guerras y rumores de guerras” (Mt 24:6; Mc 13:7) así como “grandes terremotos...hambres y pestilencias” (Lc 21:11).
Jesús nunca prometió que sería fácil seguirle
How is it possible, a seminarian wondered, to reconcile Luke’s image of Jesus’ eschatological return “with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27b) to the Christmassy reports of the infant Jesus, tender and mild, awaiting us at the end of the Advent season?
Charles Dickens is said to have said, "Train up a fig tree in the way it should go, and when you are old sit under the shade of it."
Advent is a season that messes with our sense of time.
Estar Atentos, Erguirse y Comenzar a Caminar hacia la Liberación…
25Entonces habrá señales en el sol, en la luna y en las estrellas, y en la tierra angustia de las gentes, confundidas a causa del bramido del mar y de las olas. 26Los hombres quedarán sin aliento por el temor y la expectación de las cosas que sobrevendrán en la tierra, porque las potencias de los cielos serán conmovidas. 27 Entonces verán al Hijo del Hombre que vendrá en una nube, con poder y gran gloria. 28Cuando estas cosas comiencen a suceder, erguíos y levantad vuestra cabeza, porque vuestra redención (griego: apolutrosis -- a veces utilizado para expresar "redimido de esclavitud") está cerca.
Looking back to the temptation story, we recall that after the last temptation, the devil departed from Jesus “until an opportune time” (4:13).
Jesus feeds his betrayer.
“Which is more amazing,” asks Karl Barth, “to find Jesus in such bad company, or to find the criminals in such good company?”1
The Gospels' passion narratives press us to consider multiple realities regarding Jesus' prosecution and death
La lectura de Lucas 22:14-23:56 es la versión de este evangelio de los eventos de la historia de la pasión.
Often, there is no sermon on Good Friday.
Luke goes to great lengths to characterize Jesus’ death as a continuation of his ministry.
On September 30, 2015, the state of Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner, who plotted the 1997 murder of her husband, Douglas.
This is a martyr story.
"Christ the King" Sunday concludes the year of Luke with a final luminous testimony to how Jesus is God's way of ruling in this world and in the world to come.
Quizás les resulte un poco extraño, tanto a la persona que va a predicar como a la congregación, que escuchemos un texto de Viernes Santo en el Domingo de Cristo Rey.
Este domingo marcamos el fin de una época y el comienzo de otra.
El domingo de "Cristo Rey" concluye el año de Lucas con un último testimonio luminoso de cómo Jesús es la manera en que Dios gobierna en este mundo y en el mundo que viene.
What we seem to have here is a discounting of eye witness testimony.
Preaching at Easter has its unique challenges and opportunities.
How can we believe the unbelievable?
El capítulo anterior de Lucas había terminado en oscuridad.
One could say that there are no surprises in Luke.
The walk to Emmaus must have been a dry walk indeed.
This is an odd scene.
This passage 'R Us.
Our reading is the story called "The Walk to Emmaus." It occurs right after the Easter narrative in the Gospel of Luke (24:1-12), and it takes place later in the day on Easter Sunday. The story is found only in Luke's Gospel. The location of Emmaus has never been identified with certainty, but it was near the city of first-century Jerusalem, which was smaller than the city is today.
Luke’s narratives take us on the road frequently.
The walk to Emmaus continues the empty tomb narrative.
Interpretar la Biblia en Medio del Miedo
Durante la temporada de Pascua leemos los relatos de las apariciones de Jesús resucitado que se han conservado en el Nuevo Testamento.
Este pasaje es para nosotros.
Have you ever read the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum?
"Witnesses of these things . . ."
When viewed within the confines of Luke 24, this text presents the third of three resurrection appearances.
La revelación recibida por las mujeres “no está aquí, sino que ha resucitado” (24:6) no fue suficiente para la comunidad que con temor miraba su futuro (24:9-11); hacía falta verlo.
El pasaje bíblico relata la aparición de Cristo resucitado a sus discípulos.
“The Nurturing Place” was a day care center in Jersey City.
Many believers think of Jesus’ ascension like an excuse for Jesus’ absence: because he ascended, Jesus is gone.
The disciples walking to Emmaus have hurried back to Jerusalem and reported their experience.
Entre Jerusalén y Betania
Mi esposo y yo tenemos una colección de cruces de varias tradiciones y culturas, unas siete u ocho cruces.
La ascensión une las dos obras lucanas: el evangelio y Hechos.
La hora del cumplimiento
While John 1:1-14 is the appointed Gospel lesson for Christmas Day (Proper III), I prefer to preach on the first 18 verses.1
When I served a two-point rural parish, we held the Christmas Eve service in one church and Christmas Day in the other.
Christmas candles and wintertime in North America compel John’s description of Jesus as Light shining in the darkness to jump off the page and into the preacher’s mouth.
From all appearances, it would seem that John knows next to nothing about angels or shepherds, stars or magi.
Whereas the Christmas Eve account was simple narrative, this text can only be viewed as poetic or imaginative.
Nuestra fe se aferra al poder de una Palabra, una palabra fundamental, una palabra que ni siquiera se puede decir pero que vive completamente en medio nuestro.
Este "prólogo" al evangelio de Juan presenta uno de los temas centrales de la fe cristiana: la encarnación de la Palabra.
John’s prologue is very juicy, theologically, and it begins by celebrating God’s incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God.
John 1:(1-9), 10-18 is the assigned Gospel lesson for Christmas 2, Years A, B, and C.
When I was a kid, I was sick a lot.
The Prologue introduces the major themes of the Gospel.
The Prologue of John's Gospel is one of the finest pieces of literature in all of the New Testament.
Although the lectionary picks up in the middle of the prologue to John's Gospel, it is an appropriate place to begin on the second Sunday of Christmas: "He was in the world" (1:10).
Each of the gospels begins with an account of Jesus’ origins. Mark introduces Jesus to us as an adult, telling us that Jesus was “a man from Nazareth” whose advent fulfills the arrival of God’s salvation as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.
El evangelio de San Juan es distinto.
Este primer domingo del año estamos invitados a celebrar el misterio de la encarnación de nuestro Señor Jesucristo a partir del texto de Juan 1: [1-9] 10-18.
En San Juan 1, nuestro texto para el segundo domingo de Navidad, nos alejamos de las historias tradicionales de la Navidad para leer un himno de alabanza que nos señala el significado de Jesús como Dios encarnado.
Los primeros nueve versículos del Evangelio según San Juan, en su primer capítulo, señalan diferentes adjetivos y características de Jesús.
Grunewald's Isenheim Altarpiece is one of the most famous religious artworks of all time.
An Identity Crisis?
If last week we met the camel hair wearing, locust and honey eating John the Baptist, this week we do a 180 degree turn and meet a whole different John.
The Gospel readings for the Third Sunday of Advent in Years A, B, and C focus on the person of John.
El Evangelio según Juan tiene dos inicios distintos pero entrelazados.
La Iglesia se prepara, pero también testifica de la presencia de Cristo en medio nuestro.
The image many of us have of John the Baptist comes from his memorable depiction in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt 3:1-12; Mark 2:2-8; Luke 3:1-20).
"It is not about me." That is the message whenever people in the Fourth Gospel ask John the Baptist who he is.1
So, Jesus is the Lamb of God. What does this mean?
The Gospel of John is a dramatic, gripping narrative.
"It is not about me." That is the message whenever people in the Fourth Gospel ask John the Baptist who he is.
Reconociendo al Cordero
El texto se ubica dentro la primera semana de actividad pública de Jesús y abarca dos días con temáticas muy entrelazadas.
El Evangelio de Juan es una narración dramática y apasionante.
Sometimes we see a movie that wows us and we rush to tell others about it.
This text tells how it works: The Christian faith is passed from person to person. That’s how it started with Jesus, and that’s how it’s been for 2,000-plus years.
In Lectionary Year B many of the texts are from the Gospel of Mark. However, on this Second Sunday after Epiphany, we are suddenly blind-sided with a text from the Gospel of John.
The gospel reading for the second Sunday after the Epiphany is always taken from John: 1:29-42 (Year A); 1:43-51 (Year B); 2:1-11 (Year C).
El texto de este domingo nos invita a conocer a dos de los discípulos de Jesús: Felipe y Natanael.
El tiempo y la distancia nos ayudan a ver más claramente.
Even though Jesus arrived at a wedding with a funereal face, he immediately caught the festive mood!
John begins his Gospel with the famous prologue, the appearance of the Baptist, and the calling of Jesus' first disciples.
The structure of John 2:1-11 is typical of a miracle story: the setting is established (verses 1-2), a need arises (verses 3-5), a miracle addresses that need (verses 6-8), and there is a response to that miracle (verses 9-11).
En el Comienzo hubo Fiesta
The first thing to notice when interpreting and preaching the temple incident in the Gospel of John is its different location compared to the Synoptic Gospels.
All four gospels include an account of Jesus' disruption at the temple.
As the synoptic gospels have it, Jesus symbolically cleanses the temple in Jerusalem as he nears the end of his ministry.
En preparación para la Semana Santa, hoy consideramos esta porción bíblica que en los demás evangelios se ubica en la última semana de la vida de Jesús.
Lo más interesante de este pasaje es que ocurre al principio del Evangelio Según San Juan en vez de hacia el final como en Los Evangelios Sinópticos (Mateo, Marcos y Lucas).
Any attempt to harmonize John’s version of Jesus’ demonstration in the temple in 2:13-22 with the Synoptic accounts (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-46) risks missing John’s theological “take” on this important moment in the life of Jesus.
The backdrop against which the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus should be understood is John 2:23-25.
From the Apostles’ Creed:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
I believe in the Holy Spirit.”
If Nicodemus comes under cover of darkness, it is darkness disturbed by peculiar light.
Most people know John 3:16, but a great many may not associate it with Nicodemus.
The obvious challenge in preaching this reading may seem to be how to say anything fresh, meaningful, and new about the world's most famous Bible verse.
Today's Gospel lection is a theological key that can unlock several aspects of this often puzzling Gospel of John.
The Second Sunday in Lent begins a four week digression from the Gospel for Year A, Matthew, with sequential readings from the Gospel of John.
Los textos para el segundo domingo de Cuaresma tienen en común la fe, pero este es un tema muy amplio y se manifiesta de modos muy diversos en nuestros textos y en nuestras vidas.
Nos encontramos de nuevo con una perícopa en la que el evangelio juega con dobles significados del lenguaje para transmitir su mensaje.
Dos Realidades Contrapuestas
1) Era de noche cuando Nicodemo fue a visitar al Jesús que en el evangelio según San Juan se presenta como "la luz del mundo" (8.12).
While the preacher is inevitably tempted to focus in this sermon on John 3:16, rightly called the world’s most famous Bible verse, it would be good to remember that the single verse of John 3:16 -- or any other verse, for that matter -- is not canonical in and of itself.
After the bell rang to end the busy school day, a group of elementary students met weekly for “Good News Club”: sugar cookies, fruit punch, songs with funny arm motions, and flannel-graph Bible stories drew us in on those Wednesday afternoons in 1980.
Ask someone on the street to quote a Bible verse, any Bible verse, and you may get a blank stare.
John 3:16 is one of the best known, most loved verses in the New Testament.
The central verse in this passage is perhaps the best known Bible verse in the world.
¿Vino Jesús a condenar a la humanidad o a sanar a la humanidad?
En el pasaje anterior, Jesús tiene un diálogo con un líder farisaico llamado Nicodemo donde este "maestro de Israel" (3:10) visita a Jesús "de noche" para hablar sobre lo bien que Jesús ha sido recibido, en particular por sus milagros.
Sometimes I think the way we interpret this passage says as much about us as it does the passage.
John 4 represents the founding narrative for the presence of a considerable number of Samaritans in the Johannine community.
The lection assigned for the Third Sunday in Lent provides something of a study in contrasts with John 3:1-17.
The much-loved story of the Samaritan woman at the well is the second of four encounters with Jesus in John this Lent.
The second and third Sundays in Lent juxtapose two characters unique to the Gospel of John.
Nuestro tercer domingo de Cuaresma nos trae los temas del agua, la vida más allá de las enemistades políticas y el verdadero culto a Dios.
Un Pueblo Mestizo
Jesus, particularly in the Fourth Gospel, would seem to have a somewhat ambivalent relationship to what we would call miracles but what John describes as “signs.”
The man healed in this story is perhaps the least willing and the least grateful of all the people Jesus heals in John’s Gospel.
Students who have studied John’s Gospel with me, and especially my teaching partner Barbara Rossing, will be shocked that I am cautioning preachers not to move too quickly to the Eucharist on these Sundays devoted to “the bread of life."
This text begins our month-long lectionary "bread-based" texts. And don't we get tired of all the bread sermons?
The feeding of the multitude is the only miracle story told in all four Gospels.
Las dos historias en nuestro texto bíblico para esta semana son precisamente las que se omitieron en el texto de Marcos 6 de la semana pasada.
El texto nos presenta dos milagros realizados por Jesús.
The hymn powerfully portrays the plight of so many of God’s children: “Across the world, across the street, the victims of injustice cry for shelter and for bread to eat, and never live before they die” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship #729).
The text for this week sets up in much the same way as last week's. The crowd is looking for Jesus.
Preachers may need to remind their congregations about last week's text and the feeding of the multitude because in today's text, John begins to unpack the meaning of that earlier event.
La narrativa de Juan describiendo el ministerio de Jesús en esta perícopa del capitulo 6 de su evangelio, es una parte de una pieza en que Juan cuidadosamente va conduciéndonos a un plan mayor en que Jesús se presenta como el Pan de Vida.
People complain that, in my preaching, I do not tell them what to do.
Something very important happens in verse 41, something that is easily overlooked.
This week the real challenge of preaching John 6 from the Revised Common Lectionary begins.
El texto de Juan 6:35, 41-51 es la continuación del encuentro de Jesús con aquellos que comieron el pan y los peces.
John 6:35-59 consists of teaching by Jesus centered on his proclamation, “I am the bread of life” (verses 35, 48).
The temptation on this Sunday, when the gospel reading is so obviously, if not originally and explicitly about the Eucharist, is to endeavor to explain Holy Communion.
The lectionary text for this Sunday again includes the final verse from last week's passage.
Once again we are faced with a Gospel text that deals with bread and eating.
En esta perícopa del capítulo 6 del evangelio según Juan tenemos un discurso de Jesús sobre la Santa Cena.
Although Jesus’ words “I am the bread of life” are familiar to many Christians, in this passage the disciples declare this to be a “hard saying.”
This climatic passage, with its rich metaphor and intense interaction, aims to move us finally to a confession, a claiming, a proclaiming.
For the fifth Sunday in a row we find ourselves in John 6, but as this long account comes to its end, there are some disturbing surprises.
El texto para este domingo nos permite reflexionar sobre la insospechada y escandalosa cercanía de Dios en la cotidianidad de la vida y las limitaciones humanas para reconocerlo.
This alternative gospel text, John 7:37-39, may seem a strange choice for Pentecost Sunday.
There is simply no getting around it: this is a very challenging passage on several fronts.
The Gospel of John contains many memorable phrases that are revered as classic Christian statements (for example John 3:16; 6:35; 8:12; 13:34; 14:6).
Chapters 7 and 8 in the Gospel of John situate Jesus in the midst of reform.
The concept of freedom is one of the most valued and debated ideas in Western democracies.
These days if we say "I'm in," then immediately someone asks us, "But are you ALL in?" This is the question Jesus asks in our passage from the start: Are you all in?
This pericope begins in an unusual way: "Then Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him..." (8:31).
You know the advice concerning festival preaching as well as I do: preach the texts, not the day.
These verses promise good news to those who desire to be Jesus' disciples: He and only he brings true freedom.
Cada cuatro años, con motivo de la elección presidencial, estamos expuestos a la influencia masiva de la propaganda política.
(8:31) Hay judíos y judíosDe entrada hemos de recordar que Jesús de Nazaret fue un semita orgullosamente judío.
La lectura del evangelio para este domingo es propia de Juan.
El texto de Juan nos servirá en esta oportunidad para conmemorar el día de la Reforma concentrándonos en tres temas que aparecen en boca de Jesús: verdad, libertad y esclavitud.
A modo de introducción quisiera notar dos hechos.
Hay por lo menos dos clases de libertad.
John 9 functions as a commentary on Jesus’s claim in 8:12 (“I am the light of the world”).
This text offers at least three or four related trajectories of interpretation:
This week's text is another in a series of encounters with Jesus in John with this one focused, along with the Old Testament text, on seeing rightly.
Preaching on John 9:1-41 reminds me of the children's book A Fish Out of Water,
The account of Jesus healing a blind man in John 9 is one of the “signs” (semeia) Jesus performs in John’s gospel.
Por tercera semana consecutiva tenemos un encuentro de Jesús con un individuo.
¿Quién Puede Juzgar?
We arrive once again at “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the fourth Sunday of Easter.
Liturgically sensitive preachers will immediately take note that the 4th Sunday of Easter in the Revised Common Lectionary is always “Good Shepherd Sunday” and perhaps will then let out an audible sigh of despair.
In one of those sermons that bring the biblical world "down to earth," the preacher talked about his life in Africa.
Lovers of the literal, maligners of metaphor, beware!: This passage is not for you.
El Liderazgo en Medio del Miedo
Yo soy la puerta de las ovejas
En un sermón que "hace bajar de las nubes" al mundo bíblico, el predicador habló de su vida en África.
The Gospel of John is the culmination of a couple of generations of recitation and reflection on the words and deeds of Jesus.
The good shepherd discourse, or at least the idea of Jesus as the good shepherd, is one of John’s especially memorable moments that tend to be remembered out of context.
"One flock, one shepherd . . ."
In a Gospel text that uses pastoral images of sheep and shepherd, the contemporary preacher is challenged to connect rural metaphor with listeners who remain at several removes from the animating metaphors of this work.
Para una mejor comprensión del texto del evangelio para este domingo es necesario considerar la curación del ciego en Juan 9 y las discusiones que genera con los líderes farisaicos.
1) En ciertos lugares del mundo sigue habiendo pastores que marchan a la cabeza de sus rebaños.
Throughout John’s Gospel, responses to Jesus vary widely.
This passage focuses on Jesus' identity and his relationship with the Father.1
La fiesta de la Dedicación, que se celebra en el mes de diciembre, es conocida ahora como Janucá.
A raíz del alboroto ocasionado por la sanidad operada en el ciego de nacimiento que se nos narra en Juan 9, Jesús enuncia las cualidades del buen pastor y establece la diferencia con aquellos que son simples asalariados o ladrones.
This story is rich in literary and theological themes interwoven with what has gone before in John’s gospel and with what is to come.
In this chapter, which lies at the rhetorical and theological center of the gospel of John, we have yet another conversation of Jesus with a couple of women, two sisters, Mary and Martha.
Stories of Jesus raising the dead appear in all the Gospels, but John alone includes the story of the raising of Lazarus.
This is the fourth in a series of encounters with Jesus in the book of John this Lent and offers us another long, beautifully developed text for preaching.
It is significant that the story of Lazarus, unique to the Gospel of John, is the Gospel reading for the last Sunday in Lent,
Nos encontramos con un pasaje sumamente rico en la descripción de los personajes que, a su vez, son numerosos: Jesús, Lázaro, los discípulos, María, Marta, los judíos, la multitud.
Muerte de Lázaro
Este es el cuarto en una serie de encuentros con Jesús en el libro de Juan esta Cuaresma, y ofrece otro texto largo y maravillosamente desarrollado para la predicación.
Death is real and harsh. No resuscitation of Lazarus from the dead should sentimentalize or simplify that truth.
John 11 opens with these words: "Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. . . . So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, 'Lord, he whom you love is ill.'"
On the one hand, even without the accompaniment of the other appointed lectionary readings or the liturgical themes of All Saints' Day (not to mention the other forty-three verses of John 11), this pericope has some great possibilities.
En Juan 11:21-27 Jesús y Marta mantienen una conversación de proporciones teológicas semejante a las que Jesús mantuviera con Nicodemo en el capítulo 3 y la mujer de Samaria en el 4.
Alguien dijo alguna vez: "Dios es aquel que parece que llega tarde, pero siempre llega a tiempo."
Mediterranean culture dictated that slaves or women were in charge of washing and anointing the feast guests.
Extravagance. Pleasure. Effusiveness. Exuberance. These aren't ideas that we usually associate with Lent and the overture to Jesus' passion.
Este texto de Juan comienza indicándonos cuándo y dónde ocurren los hechos, quizá no con un interés puramente histórico, sino desde una clave teológica.
The crowds have been trying to make Jesus their king for a long while now.
This lectionary pericope is the opening section of Jesus’ final discourse for the world.
Jesus has come to Jerusalem for Passover again, but for the last time (12:12).
Matters of life and death have a way of focusing one's attention.
Caminar con Jesús significa estar dispuestos y dispuestas a llegar hasta las últimas consecuencias, e incluso a morir.
En la lectura del Evangelio de la semana pasada (Juan 3:14-21), Jesús declara que será "levantado," dando entender que los discípulos pueden esperar su muerte en una cruz alzada para la salvación de la humanidad.
John’s story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples is regularly assigned for Maundy Thursday.
Here we are in the midst of Holy Week, the most dramatic time of the Christian faith.
His hour had come.... He loved them to the end.... You do not know now ... but later you will understand.1
The pattern for worship on Maundy Thursday is pivotal for understanding the preaching on this day.
Every year the Revised Common Lectionary offers the opportunity to read through significant portions of the Jerusalem narrative on Palm/Passion Sunday.
Some verses of Scripture echo throughout the centuries, drawing us again and again into the story and tradition they represent.
John's account of the last supper begins with Jesus washing the disciples' feet.
His hour had come... He loved them to the end... You do not know now... but later you will understand.
“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father.
Nos encontramos ante uno de los textos más conocidos del Nuevo Testamento y, sin duda, uno de los textos fundacionales de la ética cristiana.
A finales del primer siglo, la comunidad juanina fue expulsada de la comunidad judía, que entendía que la confesión de fe en Jesús no era aceptable para los judaísmos formativos.
Jesús Lava los Pies de sus Discípulos
El Triduo Pascual
Las Escrituras relatan un proceder continuo por parte de sus grandes líderes: la tradición de ofrecer un testamento verbal antes de morir.
As is the case with many lectionary texts, something is lost when this passage is not read in its literary context.
One of the stunning parts of this text is the location. This passage comes on the heels of Judas leaving the other disciples at the last supper to betray Jesus.
The Gospel of John could be summed up by a number of different key words.
Jesús está reunido con sus discípulos y el tiempo que tiene con ellos es precioso.
En lo que denominamos la última cena, Jesús ha compartido el pan con los discípulos y lavado sus pies; además ha identificado al que lo traicionará y ha reconocido que su tiempo ha llegado (v.2…lo que vas a hacer, hazlo pronto).
This text is frequently read at funerals, and for good reason.
This Sunday is the first of two Sundays from the 14th chapter of John.
Oh, the honesty of Thomas and Philip.
John 14:1-3 often serves pastors in funeral contexts.
El Paso de Dios entre Caminos, Verdades y Vida…
¿Cheque en blanco?
La temática que precede a este pasaje es la incertidumbre y ansiedad que provoca el anuncio de Jesús en el capítulo 13.
Joseph is in love with Maria.
Believe, believe, believe.
While most seminarians learn that John 13-17 is "the farewell discourse" in John, Gordon Fee refers to these chapters more simply as "table talks."1
Este domingo de Pentecostés nos dirigimos al evangelio según San Juan y su visión del Espíritu (y no necesariamente a la acostumbrada historia del “Día de Pentecostés” en Hechos 2:1-4).
El pasaje comienza con una intervención de Felipe, que más que una pregunta parece casi una demanda tanto individual como colectiva: “¡Lo que queremos es ver al Padre!”
La lección bíblica para este día forma parte del discurso de despedida (Juan 14:8-17).
For many years, tradition and biblical studies held that the Gospel of John was understood to be the “Spiritual” Gospel.
Jesus never stopped talking, in case you were wondering.
The Spirit plays an essential role in Christian faith and yet is something many find hard to deal with in preaching.
This passage picks up where last week's reading left off. Jesus continues to deliver his Farewell Discourse (chs. 14-17), preparing his disciples for his departure and their receipt of the Holy Spirit.
“No os dejaré huérfanos”
El tono de desazón e incertidumbre de los discípulos presente en el texto del domingo pasado recibe ahora una respuesta clara de Jesús.
This passage is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples on the night before his death, a discourse punctuated by the anxious questions of his disciples about his impending departure.
In the last evening he spends with the disciples before his death, Jesus tries to show them two elements of reality that are difficult to hold together: he is going away, yet he will not leave them orphaned.
“La paz os dejo, mi paz os doy; yo no os la doy como el mundo la da.
El contexto del pasaje es el llamado “discurso de despedida” de Jesús, que abarca de Juan 13:31 a 16:33.
Like the good shepherd of last week’s text, this week’s image of the vine is another extended metaphor, which also borrows from and adapts Old Testament imagery for Israel.
In the promise of an "abiding" presence God's Easter people find not some abstract speculation about a distant or imaginary Trinity, but an invitation to experience the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a saving and liberating presence in the midst of our day-to-day world.
John's Gospel for this Sunday moves into an agrarian mode by focusing on vines and the vine grower.
Este texto es parte de lo que se conoce como los “discursos del adiós” (13:31-17:26), en los que Jesús se despide de sus discípulos antes de la pasión.
Los próximos tres domingos son los últimos domingos del Tiempo Pascual o de la Resurrección.
Now we have a shift from the vine of last week’s text to love. The two texts are actually of a piece.
If last Sunday's lesson ended on the note of disciples glorifying God the Father through the bearing of "much fruit," then in this Sunday's continuation that fruit fairly bursts open as a veritable flood in the exercise of love.
One way the Easter season can be described is "trekking through John's Gospel!"
El amor es la marca distintiva de los cristianos y las cristianas.
La narrativa del leccionario común continúa con su tono urgente, buscando resaltar principios que son importantes al momento en que la iglesia sea invitada, una vez más, a salir de la experiencia discipular -- de recordación y aprendizaje -- a una vivencia apostólica -- de enviados a proclamar y a servir.
The temptation when preaching Pentecost is to make the sermon a witness to something that happened.
Perhaps nothing breathes more strongly than the promise and presence of the Spirit in John's so-called "farewell discourse" of Jesus (John chapters 14-17), portions of which have occupied our attention during the last several Sundays of Easter.
For the early Christian communities, Pentecost marked a liminal moment when people's gaze shifted from looking back at their memories of Jesus,
En la noche en que Jesús va a ser entregado se reúne con sus discípulos para la cena de despedida y, como es típico del evangelio joánico, Jesús elabora un discurso en el que presenta de nuevo a sus discípulos las dificultades a las que se van a enfrentar.
Cuando pensamos en la venida del Espíritu Santo a aquellos 120 fieles en Jerusalén (Hch 1:15), pensamos en el relato del evangelista Lucas en su libro de los Hechos (cap. 2).
John 16:12-15 begins with Jesus telling his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (v. 12).
I suspect that most in your congregation would not appreciate a sermon that began like this: “There are things that are essential to our faith, but I can’t speak about them because you would not be able to understand. They are far too complicated and way over your head.”
There is always a degree of finagling that goes on when any biblical text is called upon to support a doctrine or understanding of the church.
Este es el segundo discurso sobre el Paracleto en los discursos de despedida de Jesús a sus discípulos (el primero nos tocó la semana pasada para el Domingo de Pentecostés en Juan 14:15-17, 25-26).
Poco antes de su muerte, Jesús le expresaba a un grupo de sus seguidores y seguidoras que hubiera querido decirles muchas más cosas, pero que todavía no eran capaces de sobrellevarlas ni de aguantarlas (v. 12).
El Espíritu Santo Guía a la Iglesia (Juan 16:12-15)
The Gospel of John depicts a very “sinful, evil, world,” a system of human governance that moved contrary to the values of God and his Kingdom.
Most of you preachers out there already know this, but it never hurts to be reminded of a perhaps well-known fact because maybe this time around it will mean and preach something different.
The lectionary places Jesus' prayer concerning glory at the end of the Easter season, but in John's gospel the prayer occurs at the end of the last supper, so that it leads into the passion.
Chapters 14-17 are known as Jesus' Farewell Discourse.
Este texto bíblico es peculiar al evangelio según san Juan.
La oración de Jesús en Juan 17 ha sido llamada por algunos “la oración sacerdotal.”
En el cuarto evangelio Jesús concluye sus instrucciones a los discípulos con un discurso de despedida (Juan 14:1-17:26).
This week’s text is the middle of Jesus’ prayer for his friends, which brings to a close the extended farewell section of this Gospel (John 13-17).
The hour approaches and along with it the glory of both the Father and the Son as Jesus prays on behalf of those to whom the Father has authorized him to "give eternal life."
The genre of this passage will have a direct bearing on the preacher's choice of sermonic approaches:
Este pasaje es parte de la oración que cierra los “discursos del adiós.” Se la conoce como la “oración sacerdotal.”
Tanto la narrativa juanina, como la línea de pensamiento que han venido desarrollando las lecciones evangélicas en el leccionario común revisado, nos ubican este domingo en una transición en la experiencia discipular de la iglesia.
John 17 brings us to the end of Jesus’ farewell to his disciples.
This Sunday wears many hats. For some it will be the observance of the Ascension of the Lord.
On his last night with the disciples, Jesus shares a meal with them, washes their feet, gives them a new commandment, and answers question after question concerning the fact that he is about to leave them (John 13-16).
Juan 17 es la culminación de los “discursos de despedida” de Jesús a sus discípulos que comienzan en Juan 13 y anticipan la “glorificación” de Jesús, o sea, su muerte y resurrección (Juan 18-20).
En este texto, Jesús ora específicamente por las personas “que han de creer” en él (v. 20) por el testimonio de quienes lo conocen.
The narrative begins with the picture of a garden where Jesus will be betrayed and it concludes in a garden, where Jesus will be buried.
After a Good Friday worship service with her friends at their African American church on the Westside, She was going to drive her three friends home.
John's narrative of Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion takes readers into the heart of the gospel.1
Thorny questions rise up when we are confronted with the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Similar to the gospel lesson for Palm/Passion Sunday, the reading for Good Friday is an extended lesson comprising the whole of Jesus' passion.
The irony inherent in the name given to this day -- Good Friday -- is palpable throughout John's account of Jesus' Passion.
John's narrative of Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion takes readers into the heart of the gospel.
John's Passion account is its own sermon,
Tenemos aquí una narración que va desde el arresto de Jesús (18: 1-11) hasta el momento en que Jesús es sepultado (19:38-42).
En su relato de la crucifixión y resurrección, el evangelio de Juan nos presenta una versión de un relato muy antiguo de los cristianismos originarios sobre la humillación y vindicación de Jesús.
Muchas veces les fascina a mis estudiantes la pregunta de Poncio Pilato a Jesús en 18:38: “¿Qué es la verdad?”
“Maldito por Dios es el colgado” (Dt 21:23)
El Antiguo Testamento, o las Escrituras según el entendimiento judío al referirse al mismo, sirve para el Nuevo Testamento como base de su teología, análisis y descripción de quién es Jesús.
In the garden, Jesus allows the Roman soldiers and temple police to arrest him (verse 12).
Jesus is led, bound, from Caiaphas’ house to Pilate’s headquarters on the day of preparation for Passover (cf. John 18:24, 28.).
Who is truly powerful? Who reigns?
1. It's an election year in America.
2. Many of us are currently enthralled by the series A Game of Thrones.
Jesus' kingship begins with the opening verse of the gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (1:1).
Luego del arresto en el huerto, Jesús es llevado a la casa de Anás, el suegro del sumo sacerdote Caifás, y luego de un corto interrogatorio, es llevado a la casa de Caifás, en cuyo patio sucederá la negación de Pedro.
Tenemos en este texto varias palabras y conceptos que son tomados del ámbito político.
Jesus gets enthroned. Everyone else condemns himself or herself. Let us count the ways we do!
It was customary for Roman soldiers to keep the garments of persons they had just executed.
The references to the day of Preparation and the Sabbath connoted the holiness of these days on the Jewish calendar.
John’s “first installation” of the resurrection appearances includes the following journeys to and from the tomb:
Historias de encuentros necesarios: Un discípulo sin nombre, un hombre maduro confundido, una mujer que llora inconsolablemente y un crucificado…
Some congregations may read John 20 at the Easter Vigil -- a good choice because Mary came to the tomb “while it was still dark.”
The resurrection appearances in the Fourth Gospel include four distinct stories that focus on individual characters: Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Peter.
In the beginning . . . In the new beginning . . .
John's gospel is noteworthy for the confident and triumphal demeanor of its central character.
These verses conveyed to the original readers the significance of the empty tomb.
En el evangelio según Juan, María Magdalena es la primera de los discípulos y las discípulas en encontrar a Jesús resucitado, verlo, hablar con él, tocarlo, e ir a toda prisa a compartir esta gran noticia con los otros discípulos y discípulas.
La resurrección de Cristo nos abre las puertas a una vida nueva; a una vida llena de libertad, de poder, de sanidad y de transformación.
Two very different but influential figures in 20th century Christianity, Karl Barth and Billy Graham, both stated that the 20th century should be the century during which “the Holy Spirit is brought to prominence.”
Liturgical observances of Pentecost are informed almost entirely by the familiar story in Acts 2,
This abbreviated reading from the Gospel of John has already been heard as the Gospel lesson for the second Sunday of Easter (20:19-31).
El martirio sufrido por Jesús, en las manos de las autoridades políticas romanas y las jerarquías religiosas judías, conjugó las distintas expresiones de la violencia que los poderosos acostumbran ejercer sobre aquellos seres vulnerables que se niegan a someterse a su poder: escarnio público, torturas dolorosas, cruel ejecución pública.
Lo que se narra en este pasaje bíblico sucede el mismo día en que María Magdalena tiene su experiencia con el Cristo resucitado.
Para muchos entre nosotros que vivimos en Norte América o en Europa la visión de una Iglesia llena de vida y promesa parece meramente un sueño que jamás realizaremos.
John 20 tells us that Jesus appeared to some of his most important disciples “on the first day of the week.”
John’s second report of Jesus’ resurrection appearance serves as the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter in Year A, B, and C.
Easter is supposed to be a season, not a day, but it’s hard to deny the letdown that comes on the Sunday after the Big Event.
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week … ”
"So that you may come to believe . . . "
Here we are again.
The season of Easter is above all a season of life: resurrection life, eternal life, or, as the end of this passage says, just plan "life"--"that through believing you may have life in his name" (verse 31).
Year in and year out, the gospel lesson for the second Sunday of Easter is always the same.
This reading is one of four post-resurrection stories in the Gospel of John. The first is the Easter morning narrative, in which Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and finds the stone removed. She notifies Peter and the Beloved Disciple, who then come but leave for their homes (20:1-10). The second story in John's Gospel relates the appearance of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18).
The disciples were in seclusion because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities.
Buscando la Fe en Medio del Miedo
Este texto se puede leer como el complimiento de los temas que el autor del evangelio propuso en el capítulo 14, el discurso final de Jesús en el aposento alto antes de su arresto que toma el lugar de la Santa Cena que se halla en los otros evangelios.
La iglesia es empoderada por el Espíritu Santo para vivir y proclamar la resurrección. Este es el mensaje primordial del texto que nos ocupa este domingo.
Pascua es la temporada más alegre en el calendario de la iglesia.
Después de la aprehensión, crucifixión y posterior sepultura de Jesús, los discípulos permanecen ocultos por temor a sufrir la misma suerte que su maestro.
Cuando pensamos en el ministerio de Jesús o su misión terrenal, tendemos a enmarcar el mismo en tres eventos importantes: Jesús nació, Jesús murió y Jesús resucitó.
Estamos aquí de nuevo.
When I saw him, his jet-black hair coiffed, swooped up and slicked up, the dark glasses, white leather jacket with tassels and beads, largish belt buckle, turquoise, and all the rest, I just knew he had to be an Elvis impersonator.
In this third resurrection appearance (verse 14), Jesus comes to the disciples once again, or at least to the seven who are mentioned (verses 1-2).
Como epílogo, el capítulo 21 de Juan sirve para concluir los hilos concernientes a las dos personas más importantes para la comunidad de Juan, Pedro y el Discípulo Amado.
Los Evangelios narran al menos siete apariciones de Jesús después de su resurrección.
The book of Acts begins by reminding its reader, Theophilus, of an earlier book -- the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:1-4), placing the reader in the midst of an extended story with Jesus at the center.
On the liturgical calendar, this Sunday is known as Ascension Sunday.
Luke has connected Acts with his Gospel or his first book (proton), both of which are addressed to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1).
Historically, Acts has been read by the church in worship during the Season of Easter.
This is a funny sort of episode to kick off a book all about mission.
Falling forty days after Easter, Ascension Day has never held that important a place in the Church Calendar.
Unfortunately, Jesus' ascension has become easy to overlook. Therefore it's easily considered irrelevant.
Though Luke 24:51 intimates it, Acts 1:9 is the only place in the New Testament that graphically depicts the Lord's ascension.
For well over two centuries (or more correctly, for two or three millennia) scholars, pastors, lay leaders, skeptics, devout believers, and dedicated unbelievers have debated the truth and accuracy of scripture
Our lection today is the first recorded faith crisis of the Early Church: What to do with the betrayer, Judas.
We begin our examination of this Sunday's text by looking at its context in Luke-Acts.
In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (The English words wind, breath, and spirit can all translate pneuma in Greek.)
Given all the gifts Paul named as active, the Corinthian church certainly raised a ruckus.
It’s helpful to remember that Pentecost as a festival day did not originate with the story in Acts.
The Pentecost lectionary takes place in Jerusalem on the feast day of Shavuot, fifty days after Passover in the Jewish calendar.
If a roomful of people given the ability to speak foreign languages sounds electrifying, try imagining a churchful of prophets.1
One challenge of preaching on major festival days such as Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost lies in their familiarity.
Despite the theological attractiveness of seeing Pentecost as the reversal of Babel, there is little from the ancient historical and religious context to suggest that Luke or his audience would have made such a connection.
The less closely one reads this pericope, the easier it is to preach!
We encounter God as God walks among us.
If a roomful of people given the ability to speak foreign languages sounds electrifying, try imagining a churchful of prophets.
One could preach many sermons on this marvelous text making a whole variety of points.
It is fine to preach on this text as the story of the birthday of the church. We want to remember, however, that for Luke the church is not the end of the story.
Divided tongues like fire!? Violent, howling wind!? It is one thing to receive a promise, quite another to be thrust into the midst of its fulfillment.
Luke has kept us waiting so long for the fulfillment of this plot point that we may have forgotten we were waiting for it at all.
This Sunday presents us with a portion of Peter’s first public sermon, preached on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem.
This week’s passage includes the brief introduction to Peter’s Pentecost sermon (2:14a), the concluding statement of the sermon (2:36), and the subsequent response of his audience (2:37-41).
Today’s passage is part of Peter’s sermon following the original, powerful experience of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
According to the prologue to Luke's Gospel,
The book of Acts is the narrated story of God's mighty acts among early communities of believers (in Judea and in the diaspora).
Moments of recognition in film and literature almost always stir an audience.
Peter tells an audience in Jerusalem that the resurrected Jesus reigns at God's right hand, and that Jesus' ministry continues through his followers, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts, as the New Testament’s only book of ancient historiography, records Luke’s retelling of the earliest days of the church.
Acts 2:42-47 summarizes the daily life of the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem.
In the book of Acts three major summaries connect narratives to miracle stories and miracle stories to narratives (2:42-47; 4:32-35; 5:12-16).
Christians make their most magnificent claims during Easter.
This passage in which Peter and John heal a lame man is the first scene in the Book of Acts after the story of Pentecost in chapter 2.
The summary statement at the end of Acts 2 says that in Jerusalem, "awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles" (2:43), and that Jesus' followers "spent much time together in the temple" (2:46).
One of the primary themes of Acts, I am convinced, is the expansion of boundaries that separate individuals and group.1
In Acts, the apostles perform miracles by the power of the God of the living, the one who created the world.
When the risen Jesus was exalted to God's right hand, he poured out the Holy Spirit upon the early believers at Pentecost.
When it comes to modern preachers, “boldness” may not inherently be a virtue.
The establishing, negotiating, and naming of power and acts of power is inherently political and very often religious.
How quickly things can change, and how differently people can interpret the same event!
The portrayals of Christ-following community in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 raise red flags for many Euro-American readers.
The Resurrection calls and enables us to perform powerful tangible acts that coincide with human need.
For the early church depicted in Acts, the resurrection of Christ is less a creedal article of individual faith and hope than a creative force of community formation and fellowship.
Some people already realized that joining the apostles was risky business (Acts 5:13).
Luke-Acts in the Season of Easter
When I was growing up in church, the Acts of the Apostles was read in a very particular way.
The reading from Acts features two distinct episodes linked by Stephen, an otherwise unknown apostle.
Acts 6-7 functions as a pivot point in Acts.
Stephen is recognized in the church as the first or “proto-martyr.”
Sermons on this passage require preachers to inject some storytelling into their messages.
As truncated by the Revised Common Lectionary, this text is as unpromising as it is repulsive.
Acts 8:14-17 is situated in a section of Acts that is both extraordinary and ominous (8:4-9:31).
Have you ever found yourself at a strange point in life and wondered how you got there?
The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch provides a transition in Acts from phase one to phase two of the mission set forth in Acts 1:8:
The narrative assigned for the fifth Sunday after Easter represents a critical moment in the emerging church as it moves beyond Judaism and Judea.
God who raised Jesus orchestrates unlikely relationships that the status quo does not otherwise permit for the transformation of marginalized individuals.
The post-Easter texts assigned for this year contain several readings from the Book of Acts.
One of Luke’s primary protagonists enters the literary stage in a most suspect way.1
Saul: A Change of Plans
God orchestrated a meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch on the Gaza road west of Jerusalem (8:26), and Jesus met Saul outside of Jerusalem as he approached Damascus (9:3).
This passage begins with the words, “in Joppa there was a certain female disciple (mathetria) by the name of Tabitha, which being translated (into Greek) also means Dorcas.
The Success of the Apostolic Mission
This text is part of a much longer story about Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. Both the historical and the literary contexts are important to understand its significance.
At first glance, it may seem that the connection between this text and this day is tenuous at best.
Nothing about Easter is routine or predictable.1
The first Easter drastically changed how Christians understand God’s activity in the world.
The lectionary passage Acts 10:34-43 features the sermon that Simon Peter gave in the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, in the city of Caesarea Maritima.
This particular text has been chosen for Baptism of our Lord Sunday because it refers both to John’s baptismal mission and to God’s anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit as part of a kerygmatic speech by Peter.
Acts 10 narrates a significant change in Peter's own life but also a massive shift in the trajectory of the church's mission in its earliest days.
Julia Foote (1823-1900) a nineteenth-century black female preacher wrote in her autobiography:
Our text begins with Peter addressing a most unlikely audience.
"This one (touton) God raised from the dead on the third day" (Acts 10:40).
Nothing about Easter is routine or predictable.
This text for the Baptism of Jesus is a short sermon that summarizes the entire story of Jesus. The baptism proclaimed by John the Baptist is mentioned as the starting point for Jesus' public ministry (Acts 10:37).
The brief portion of this story assigned for this Sixth Sunday after Easter is the climax of a rather lengthy episode that, again, highlights the expansion of insider/outsider boundaries within the early decades of the church.1
This is the best kind of transition: it's tight, provocative, and suggestive of the theme of the entire story.
How can we ever forget the celebration in Chicago's Grant Park the evening that Barack Obama was elected our forty-fourth president?
The Jewish leaders in Judea, the circumcised, criticized Peter for sharing a meal with the uncircumcised, the Gentiles (cf. Galatians 2:11-14).
Peter and Cornelius and Trouble in Jerusalem
Tertullian's observation that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church" certainly rings true to the narrative of Acts.
On this first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas have proclaimed the gospel in Cyprus (13:4-12), Pisidian Antioch (13:13-50), and Iconium (14:1-7).
Our look at this passage will focus on three questions:
In Bird by Bird: Some Thoughts on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott recalls that, “E. L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’”1
According to Acts, first the Holy Spirit and then “the Spirit of Jesus” prevented Paul and Silas from speaking in Asia and from entering Bithynia, respectively, resulting in their arrival in Troas (Acts 16:6-8; cf. 15:40).
Like much of Luke-Acts, this week's text finds Christians on the road.
In Acts, trouble follows Paul.1
In Acts, trouble follows Paul.
Paul and Silas crossed the border into Europe to get to Macedonia, a Roman colony (16:2) because of the invitation they received from a man (aner, biological male), who, in a night vision, pleaded for their help (16:9-10).
Much has happened in the narrative world of Acts in between last week’s reading in the Narrative Lectionary and this week’s reading.
On his second missionary journey, Paul sets out again from Antioch to travel through Syria and Cilicia.
Arriving in Athens, Paul becomes distressed over the many idols adorning the city.
Today’s text occurs in Athens.
Paul was the chosen instrument to carry Christ’s name to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).
The gospel sounds different everyplace it is told.
Preacher and congregation should consider this text within the framework from which the lectionary has extracted it.
Acts 18 follows Paul as he continues on his missionary journey.
The Curious Power of God
Together, the readings from Acts and 1 Corinthians offer a sense of Paul's mission through various phases.
How can you tell if someone is a Jesus-follower?
This passages stands as one of the classic battlegrounds for debates over baptism: whether people should be re-baptized, whether water baptism is enough or if the baptism of the Holy Spirit is required as well, or whether prophecy and/or speaking in tongues are necessary elements of what it takes to be a true believer.
This episode in the Book of Acts stands as a sequel to the account of John the Baptist's ministry, including the baptism of Jesus, that is narrated in the Gospel for the Day (Mark 1:4-11).
We commonly think of calling in terms of vocation.
The opening of the letter to the Romans contains, in seven tightly packed verses, a summary of the themes that will be discussed in the rest of the letter.
This is a surprising choice for the Fourth Sunday in Advent.
In this last Sunday of Advent, we circle back to the beginning of Romans, revisiting the themes that resound throughout the letter and culminate in Romans 15:4-13 (Advent 2).
What does the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplish? What does it mean?
Krister Stendahl, a teacher and mentor, worked to “undo” the introspective Lutheran-Augustinian reading of Paul and to read the letters of Paul in their historical context of the first century -- Stendahl put Paul back “Among Jews and Gentiles.”
This passage -- and much of Romans for that matter -- reveals an ethnic conflict within the Christian community in Rome (cf. Romans 14:1-15:6).
This is one of the more theologically loaded passages in the New Testament.
Paul has just spent two chapters making sure that all the Gentiles among his hearers and all the Jews alike will recognize themselves to be pretty much out of wiggle room.
Celebrating The Reformation
Many churches will celebrate the Reformation this week.
Romans 3 and Reformation Sunday belong together. Both Paul's witness and the day in the church's calendar deserve to be taken joyfully, but not in the triumphal ways of the past.
Anyone commenting or preaching on these well-known verses better hesitate.
I've been having trouble breathing, and today my ear-nose-and-throat specialist told me I need surgery to correct a deviated septum.
When we step into Romans 4 we have to remember that we are coming to the final stages of an argument that has been unfolding since at least the middle of Romans 1.
Liturgical scripture readings and preaching have been sacred practices for Christians from the ancient Church to the present.
The epistle that Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome was a letter he intended to be sent, not to one, but to a number of church communities scattered throughout the city.
Why would a preacher work with these pieces of a complex Pauline argument in her sermon?
The text begins abruptly, about half way through chapter 4 of Romans.
There is a story told among Zen Buddhists about a nun who one day approached a great patriarch to ask if he had any insight into the Nirvana sutra she had been reading.
The overarching focus of Paul's letter to Christian communities in Rome is the multifaceted nature of faith.1
Paul never took a homiletics class. He did not know, therefore, that you are supposed to save the powerful theological affirmations for the last.
Romans 5:1-5 marks a major transition in Paul’s letter to the Romans from faith to hope.
In the space of five verses, the second reading for Trinity Sunday mentions God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
Trinity Sunday presents preachers with significant challenges.
"Access" has become a key phrase in our technological age.
I wonder if we are drawn, in part, to Paul's letters because of their immediacy and transparency.1
In the previous four chapters, Paul has spent intense time trying to explain what he means by righteousness.
I wonder if we are drawn, in part, to Paul's letters because of their immediacy and transparency.
Paul had a preacher's style that comes through in his writing.
Last week’s study of Romans 1:1-17 highlighted how our response of faith joins us to a story that has come before -- the story of God’s long fidelity to the people of Israel.
In Adam’s story Paul hears how sin gained dominion over humanity.
This text has been the source of some of Christianity’s most controversial, challenging, and distinctive doctrines.
For the next few weeks we will be reading portions of Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome.
The Lenten readings of Paul's letter to the Romans begin with a summary.
The letter to Romans is a Pauline manual for Christians who wrestle with the human condition being vulnerable to the pressures of this world.
Sometimes the editorial decisions of the Lectionary committees astound me. Why in the world does our text begin with Romans 6:1b instead of Romans 6:1 in its entirety?
For many of us, Romans 6 is scripture we have turned to as we have developed a theology of baptism, debated the merits of immersion versus sprinkling based on the imagery of burial and resurrection, and to whom it should be applied.
Krister Stendahl, New Testament professor at Harvard Divinity School, former dean, and one time Bishop of Stockholm, taught “Ten Commandments for Biblical Preaching.”1
Krister Stendahl, New Testament professor at Harvard Divinity School, former dean, and one time Bishop of Stockholm, taught “Ten Commandments for Biblical Preaching.”
It's common to say we're dead to sin in terms of our spiritual self, or that “when God looks at me, he sees Christ and not my sinful human self."
This reading is a continuation of Romans 6:1-11, where we discussed theological themes of sin and death in relation to Paul’s teachings on the sacrament of baptism and eschatology.
Coming on the heels of Paul's discussion of baptism in Romans 6:1-11, our passage for the Second Sunday after Pentecost serves as a corrective to a potential misunderstanding.
Diving into this lesson at v. 12 of Romans 6 puts one midstream into a powerful current of Paul's theological reflection.
Like last week’s reading from Romans 6:12-23, this week’s lesson from Romans 7: 15-25a features Paul’s teaching on the tension and struggle between life in the Spirit and life in the flesh.
Our toddler granddaughter is learning how to talk and has a wonderful way of lengthening the word "no."
Romans is regularly recognized to be Paul's most seriously sustained theological reflection in the corpus of his letters. In turn, Romans 5-8 are recognized as four chapters devoted to Christian life as the experience of God's grace, four chapters in which Paul examines the character and meaning of Christian life in the world.
Until this point in Romans, Paul has taken his hearers through the “shadowlands” of the faith.
Romans 8:1-11 is an absolutely wonderful statement of the Good News--and also the source of much misunderstanding.
The transition between chapters 7 and 8 presents interpreters with a challenge, namely, to know exactly where one of Paul's thoughts leaves off and another of his thoughts begins.
School children are often asked to name their heroes.
Paul is convinced that because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection a new reality is available for humankind.
Romans 8 is the pinnacle chapter in Paul's most formidable epistle.
The second lesson for Lent 5 may be attractive from a simple numerical standpoint:
At first thought, the readings for the Festival of Pentecost and the Festival of the Holy Trinity in Year B seem to have been inadvertently reversed.
The Apostle Paul does not explain the Trinity -- how God is three-in-one and one-in-three -- and no systematic explanation is to be found in the other biblical writers, either.
In the ancient Roman world, unwanted children were routinely abandoned or sold into slavery.
When he received the Spirit as his baptism, Jesus was proclaimed to be God’s son. Driven by the Spirit, Jesus was tempted; empowered by the Spirit, Jesus exorcised demons.
In Greek, even more than in English, the word for "flesh" (sarx) points to something different from that to which the word for "body" (soma) points.
Chapters 5-8 of Paul's epistle to the Romans are practically a self-contained meditation on the operation of grace. Though many other notes are sounded in these four chapters of the letter, the overriding tone is that of grace.
These four verses come midway in the ecstatic account of post baptismal Christian life that runs from Romans 8:1 through Romans 8:39.
Anyone who reads this commentary has heard it hundreds of times: "I'm spiritual but not religious."
The reason that this passage appears in the lectionary at this point is obvious.
What if, for a moment, we were to set aside the fact that our text comes out of Paul's theological magnum opus, and instead, hear it as our people will hear it on Sunday morning?
In exploring our lectionary text, it is helpful to review briefly the argument Paul has made leading up to it.
The surprise of last week’s reading included the idea that our share in the glorious inheritance that lies ahead is to be had only along the way of the cross.
This reading includes some of the most familiar and comforting words we have from the apostle Paul.
Paul brings the first eight chapters of Romans to a resounding conclusion in these verses before going on in 9:1-11:36 to that which weighs so heavily on his heart, rejection of Christ by his own people, the Jews.
The first few verses of Romans 9 are surprisingly self-referential.
People these days ask God to damn lots of things.
We now enter into a three-chapter exposition on the providence of God (9:1-11:36). In these chapters Paul draws upon scripture after scripture to unravel the rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ by the heirs of God's covenantal promise.
This week’s passage is the third in a series of three arguments Paul makes, beginning in 9:30, in an effort to distinguish between the “works of the law” that Israel pursued (and thereby failed to receive the gift of righteousness in Christ) and the “faith” by which the Gentiles are embraced as part of the family of God.
A preacher might get at this very challenging text from one of two directions.
Following the introduction to these three chapters in Romans (9:1-5), Paul draws upon several Old Testament quotations to show that the rejection by the Israelites has not prevented God's election of Israel.
Words. Whether we ponder them in our hearts or speak them for others to hear, publish them online or in texts to friends, scribble them onto shopping lists or adorn them with artistic flair, most of us operate with the currency of words.
Entering any text in Romans, in order to explore its preaching possibilities, is similar to entering a vast and highly-developed city.
A cursory reading of Romans might lead one to think that chapters 9-11 are a tangent or insertion unrelated to the rest of the letter.
Getting down to brass tacks, Paul poses the question bluntly in Romans 11:1: "Has God rejected his people?"
Paul continues to draw upon the whole of scripture, the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms to show that his kindred by race have heard the gospel but remain unbelieving: "But I ask, have they never heard?
At first glance, Paul’s appeal to his audience to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” for “your spiritual worship” might sound like he is demanding an esoteric or mystical kind of devotion.
We Belong Together
While the argument of the letter to the Romans opened with a preoccupation regarding God's anger (1:18-32), this section of the letter opens with an embrace of God's mercies.
We are tempted to skip a passage like this in preaching. Verse 9 has no logical connection to what precedes.
We love because....
Perhaps the first thing to keep in mind when preparing to preach on Romans 12:9-21 is a word from 1 John: "We love because he first loved us" (4:19).
Just as Paul cannot help breaking out in poetic tribute to love in his famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, after beginning the subject of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, so also he does the same in Romans 12.
It is perhaps a conventional American aspiration to be debt-free in every way, because it marks autonomy and self-sufficiency.
In the first part of Romans 13, Paul addresses what those in the Christian community owe the civil authorities.
In this paragraph the theme of love as a force in interpersonal relationships emerges after Paul's tangent in the first paragraph of chapter 13 on why one could obey an institution that repays evil for evil.
This week is the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the new year in the church calendar.
In this passage, Paul puts into place a series of contrasts that are easily remembered and well-known in biblical literature: night versus day, darkness versus light, honor and virtue versus debauchery and licentiousness.
The readings for the first and second Sundays in Advent are taken from the later chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans.
In this brief but extremely rich passage, Paul tells us that as Christians we are all "morning people." The time is just before dawn, the sky is brightening, the alarm is ringing, day is at hand. It is time to rouse our minds from slumber, to be alert to what God is doing in the world, and to live in accordance with God's coming salvation.
It is tough to praise God if you are busy passing judgment on other people.
Paul begins Romans 14 by speaking of the "weak in faith" and in 15:1 he urges "we who are strong" to "put up with the failings of the weak."
This section of Romans makes it clear that divisions in the church go back to the earliest churches.
As was the case with Romans 13 last week, so also this week’s text from Romans 15 draws us into the double- or even triple-exposure of time that happens as the old year hands off to the new in the church calendar.
We are used to, especially in the Advent season, hearing about the coming Messiah and how his birth in a manger in Bethlehem signifies salvation for us, Christians.
The vision of the coming Kingdom is broad, wide, deep, and generous.
Several years ago my pastoral duties included leading a short mid-week worship service at a local nursing home. One week almost all the patients present had some form of dementia. As I stumbled through the liturgy,
These three verses contain a doxology, and they bring the Letter to the Romans to a close. Or do they?
The letter to the Romans begins and ends in unusual ways for Paul.
Paul's great letter to the Romans ends with a doxology -- a moment of praise.
As he opens his letters, Paul commonly names others alongside himself.1
As he opens his letters, Paul commonly names others alongside himself.
Letters typically begin with statements identifying the author of the epistle and the person or community being addressed.
When we read 1 Corinthians, we are quite literally reading someone else's mail--in this case, a letter sent in 55 A.D. by Paul to "the church of God that is in Corinth" from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8), a few years after he had founded the church (see Acts 18:1-17).
“Dear Family and Friends, Christmas is upon us once more. We hope that you are well. Let us tell you ALL of the things that our family has done this year.”
It is perhaps not surprising that Paul, as he addresses the church in Corinth, speaks of the gift given, God's grace shared, as "speech and knowledge of every kind" and wealth (i.e., being enriched in Christ Jesus).
As in most of his letters, Paul begins 1 Corinthians with an expression of thanksgiving.
The church to which Paul writes more likely numbered in the dozens than in the hundreds.1
The church to which Paul writes more likely numbered in the dozens than in the hundreds.
We discover in 1 Corinthians that the cross creates its own economy.
Most of us who have been around churches for any amount of time know that Christians can get on one another's nerves.
The reading begins with a reference to “the message of the cross” (NRSV) or the “word of the cross” (RSV).1
This is one of those New Testament passages many of us know.
Among the students I teach in my introduction to the New Testament course, no city in the Roman world holds a greater fascination than Corinth.
In this text Paul is not seeking to answer age old questions regarding how we humans come to know God.
The reading begins with a reference to “the message of the cross” (NRSV) or the “word of the cross” (RSV).
In last week's reading, Paul took the Corinthians to task because the very fact of their division is a denial of the gospel.
The second chapter of 1 Corinthians contains two of Paul’s “greatest hits” verses.1
The second chapter of 1 Corinthians contains two of Paul’s “greatest hits” verses.
In this week's reading, Paul continues to explore the paradox of the gospel message.
Throughout the season of Epiphany, we’ve heard and affirmed that the Word-made-flesh is God’s own wisdom and power graciously revealed for us.1
Throughout the season of Epiphany, we’ve heard and affirmed that the Word-made-flesh is God’s own wisdom and power graciously revealed for us.
After a heady exposition of how true, Godly wisdom is given by the Spirit of God, Paul returns to directly address the Corinthians' divisions--and the assessments of themselves and their leaders upon which those divisions are based.
Whom should you follow and why?
At the beginning of this text, Paul moves from the image of the church as a field (verses 6-9a) to explore more fully the image of the church as a building (verse 9b).
I recently asked a friend for some advice about painting my house.
There is much confusion in our congregations about "judgment."
What irritates our sensibilities more? The claim that we are accountable to God, and therefore God will judge us? Or, the insistence that people not judge one another because judgment is God's prerogative?
In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, we meet the Paul one either loves or hates.
First Corinthians stands as a masterful example of a leader addressing a divided congregation and honestly critiquing the views of each side.
This Sunday marks some major transitions.
This section of 1 Corinthians is found in the middle of a series of injunctions concerned with marriage in particular.
This brief passage revolves around two related ideas: "the appointed time has grown short" (verse 29) and "the present form of this world is passing away" (verse 31).
The Second Lesson prescribed for any given Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary does not usually cohere with the core message of the Gospel for the Day.
This is one of my favorite passages in Paul’s letters.
At first glance, this might seem like a good text to pass over as the basis of a sermon.
The text assigned is an entire, but fairly brief, chapter in 1 Corinthians, located at the beginning of a longer unit extending over three chapters (1 Corinthians 8:1 through10:33).
In 1 Corinthians, Paul undertakes to address a series of church conflicts, theological debates, and disputes over community practices.
What motivates us to proclaim the good news? What shapes our proclamation?
Preach, or be damned - what would you choose?
In a sports-obsessed culture, the meaning of these verses might seem self-evident.
If you're anything like me, you are growing tired of seeing biblical stories, characters, and images used as metaphors in the popular culture.
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful … ” (1 Corinthians 10:13a)
This passage is taken from a letter addressed to a faith community rocked by the arrogance and choices of spiritual smart alecks!
The Corinthians failed to practice the Lord’s Supper correctly.
Many preachers will immediately recognize this text in terms of its liturgical use.
Today's epistle lection is probably read in Christian worship more often than any other biblical text.1
This text is probably among the most familiar passages from the Pauline letters
The Corinthians failed to practice the Lord’s Supper correctly.1
Note: Part I explores the biblical text and Part II discusses homiletical strategies for the text.
As with other major liturgical services, the gospel text is often used for proclamation.
Perhaps one of the very few texts more familiar than this past Sunday's Christ-hymn from Philippians is this one, rehearsed in Christian congregations whenever Holy Communion is celebrated.
Today's epistle lection is probably read in Christian worship more often than any other biblical text.
A friend of mine in seminary told me about one Sunday in his church when they read from the second chapter of Ruth.
This text is about spirituality.
Today's lection begins a four-part reading through chapters 12, 13, and 15 of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians for the Sundays of Epiphany.
What is God Up To?
Paul begins chapter 12 by saying, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed" (1 Corinthians 12:1).
Paul begins chapter 12 by saying, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed" (1 Corinthians 12:1).1
What does it look like to be people of Pentecost, to be those claimed by the Spirit?
The more I read the letters to the Corinthians, the more I appreciate the courage and boldness of this community as they wrestled with what it meant to be people of faith.
I would have fit in well in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians' struggles, which Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 1--4, resemble my own: jealousy, striving, arrogance, and a propensity to measure one's worth through comparisons with other people.
We often confuse unity with uniformity, because it is much easier to gather with people who are like ourselves than it is to reach across the divisions which mark our culture.
The lectionary text for this second Sunday of Epiphany finishes out this chapter in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.
This is perhaps the most widely recognized and quoted passage anywhere in the Pauline letters, which poses both a challenge and an opportunity for preachers.
Setting the Context
Ah, the "Wedding Text."
I am fascinated by how this chapter is used in Christian circles as a declaration of love and unity.
Today's Gospel lection again competes for the preacher's attention with another of the New Testament's choice epistolary texts.1
The entirety of this chapter is the eloquent center of Paul's primary argument for the Resurrection.
In recent years, a lot of noise has been made about the Gnostic versions of the gospel; from the Gospel according to Mary, to those of Peter, Philip, Thomas, and most recently even the gospel according to Judas.
Today's Gospel lection again competes for the preacher's attention with another of the New Testament's choice epistolary texts.
First Corinthians 15 is a great way to open discussions about the historical shape of early Christian confession and faith.
1 Corinthians 15 is Paul’s most extensive presentation of Christ’s Parousia and our bodily resurrection as a result of Christ’s future coming.
"Christ is risen!"
"He is risen indeed!"
Why read 2 Corinthians?
[This is Week 2 of a 6-week preaching series on 2 Corinthians.]
What is Paul up to in 2 Corinthians 3, one of the most challenging portions of all his letters?
The epistle reading for today reminds us that the revelation of Jesus’ glory is so spectacular that it initiates the transfiguration of all who are in Christ. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul claims that even the Corinthian church is being transformed to reflect God’s glory.
Every second reading for Transfiguration from 2 Corinthians comes after the next.
[This is Week 4 of a 6-week preaching series on 2 Corinthians.]
[This is Week 3 of a 6-week preaching series on 2 Corinthians.]
The transfiguration of Christ entails seeing Jesus as nothing short of God’s glory.
Once again, Paul pulls the curtain back.
Third in a series of lectionary texts which at first blush appear to consist of insider-trading for homileticians, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 wrestles, in what is just small part, with what is a huge issue for the church:
These verses in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians bring into perspective significant characteristics of a life lived from faith.
To read 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 solely as a summary of Paul's views on the body, as is often the case, would be a distortion of its powerful passage.
What gives us the courage to do the right thing -- to act on what our conscience calls us to do -- when we know that we often will not be rewarded for it in this life?
God's act of new creation completely changes the way Paul sees the world around him -- including his perception of death.
In much of 2 Corinthians, Paul is occupied with defending his ministry against critics who question his integrity, motives, and fitness for ministry.
[This is Week 5 of a 6-week preaching series on 2 Corinthians.]
In 2 Corinthians 5:13 Paul admits to madness: exestemen.
As I read through this passage, I am struck by how many of the verses have been pulled out of context for use as catchy 'one liners':
The relationship between Paul and the congregation at Corinth has been strained, to say the least.
Paul had a problem.
This week’s epistle reading stands near the end of Paul’s extended defense of his ministry that occupies the first half of an impassioned letter to the Corinthians.
Having this particular biblical passage as part of the Ash Wednesday lectionary texts is a bit strange for a few reasons.
Salvation is reconciliation with God. It is that simple really.
"It's time to go," Paul calls, "now is the acceptable time."
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10 is no "Ask not what your country can do for you," kind of moment.
This reading from Paul's second (third? fourth?) letter to the church in Corinth is always the epistle lection for Ash Wednesday in the Revised Common Lectionary.
This passage comes right after Paul’s majestic statements about the ministry and message of God’s reconciliation of the entire world through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
Paul longs for the Corinthians' faith not to be meaningless: "We entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain" (6:1b).
Paul's theme of reconciliation, begun in 5:11-21, continues in 6:1-13, as Paul appeals to the estranged Corinthian congregation to be reconciled to God and to himself.
[This is Week 6 of a 6-week preaching series on 2 Corinthians.]
How is the proclamation of the gospel related to the needs of the poor among us?
Our Pauline reading for this week is often relegated to sermons during stewardship campaigns.
As soon as they say, "It's not about the money!" you know the money matters.
What is the true spiritual power?
Today's second reading comes from the part of 2 Corinthians that some interpreters call Paul's "foolish" letter (2 Corinthians 10:1-13:13).
He was a spellbinding preacher addressing the ecumenical Thanksgiving gathering in the little gymnasium of my hometown.
Relating this biblical text to the liturgical context is no easy thing. Because the setting is Trinity Sunday, many preachers will feel pressure to call on these verses to prove or explain the doctrine of the Trinity. The results, almost certainly, will not be pretty.1
The final remarks in 2 Corinthians encapsulate Paul’s advice in this letter and highlight the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit that make “new creation” possible (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In what might initially appear to be "just" the conclusion to 2 Corinthians, Paul lays out in chapter 13:11-13 both a charge to unity within the church and a benediction that two millennia later begins the communion liturgy and leads to Trinitarian theology.
Relating this biblical text to the liturgical context is no easy thing. Because the setting is Trinity Sunday, many preachers will feel pressure to call on these verses to prove or explain the doctrine of the Trinity. The results, almost certainly, will not be pretty.
I feel certain that the Galatians, when they made their move toward keeping the law of Moses, were not expecting to be remembered by Christians through the centuries as "foolish" and "bewitched."
The apostle Paul is astonished (Galatians 1:6) and perplexed (4:20) at what has happened among the Galatian Christians since he was working and preaching among them.
If you have ever returned a rental car, you have driven over those spikes that are made to ensure that the rental cars are not stolen out of the lot.
“God called me through his grace.”
In the last session of a Pauline Letters class at Luther Seminary this spring, I asked my students to write short stories about Paul -- very short stories. The assignment was to produce a six-word story about Paul, his theology, or his letters.
Paul's Authority Issues
One of the things that makes preaching on Paul’s letters difficult is that for centuries they have been pressed into service as raw material for doctrinal debate.
This week’s text stands for many as a pivotal part of the gospel.
The great theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is Christian freedom.
Galatians 2:15 is a hard place to start for a preacher who might want to preach on this letter on a Sunday in June.
The Argument Leading Up to 2:15
The Galatians did not actually see Jesus being crucified.
So many resources focus on the question of “faith vs. works” or “the Law as tutor or disciplinarian” in this passage that, for a change of pace, we’ll explore other homiletical avenues.
In our text for this week, Paul seeks among other things to situate the Jewish law in God’s plan, God’s timeline, vis-à-vis God’s promise to Abraham and God’s giving the gift of justifying faith in Jesus Christ.
We continue with our sequential reading of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
In Galatians 3, Paul makes an intricate exegetical argument about the priority of God's promise to Abraham and its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and about the provisional function of the law in relation to God's promise.
The choice of this text as a reading for during the on-going celebration of Christmas is appropriate.
While Paul's letters do not relate any narrative traditions about Jesus' birth, he does speak profoundly about the meaning of the incarnation.
Besides being the second reading for the first Sunday of Christmas, this passage is assigned for "The Feast of Mary, Mother of Our Lord" on August 15th.
The first verse of our text for this week includes a reiteration of the great theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).
After his awkward, self-identified allegory of Hagar and Sarah (Galatians 4:22-31) in which freedom was connected with the idea of being an heir (4:30-31) and both freedom and heir connected with being the child promised to Abraham and Sarah, Paul seems to draw breath only to issue his ringing call in a resounding repetition of words in 5:1. In the word order of the Greek text you would hear this: “For freedom us Christ has freed.”
Resisting the Yoke of Slavery
The specific verses from our pericope for this week upon which we will focus is one of a cluster of three texts found scattered throughout Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which may profitably be considered, and preached, together.
The lectionary chooses both to make optional the first six verses in the chapter and to eliminate the final two verses, perhaps hoping to make the passage slightly less difficult to interpret.
Freedom in Community (6:1-10)
This 4-week Narrative Lectionary preaching series on Ephesians does not actually include what are probably the letter’s best-known verses, though one imagines it might not be difficult to find at least one occasion during a month of sermons to cite them!
The narrative lectionary sermon series on Ephesians does not actually include what are probably the letter’s best-known verses, though one imagines it might not be difficult to find at least one occasion during a month of sermons to cite them!
Ephesians begins with both a blessing (verses 3-14, as in 2 Corinthians) and a thanksgiving (verses 15-23, as in most of the undisputed letters of Paul).
The fact of human difference may no longer surprise us.
Ephesians begins by baptizing its hearers in a flood of poetry.
Ephesians carries a message of “identity formation,” reminding Gentiles that they are “no longer aliens and strangers” (2:1–22), guiding them in understanding their new identity and socialization (4:17–6:9)...
This is a text of almost unfathomable depth.
The opening words of this reading from Ephesians signal to whom the praise should be given on this Sunday and every Sunday -- God.
At least three observations are in order before we set out to explore the "content" of the epistolary reading for this Sunday.
The Second Lesson for this Sunday is the first in a series of readings from the Letter to the Ephesians extending over seven Sundays.
There are all kinds of reasons to object to the opening salvo of the New Testament letter to the Ephesians.
A quick overview of the letter to the Ephesians reveals an overarching focus on the church: the saints who are the body of Christ.
The final phrases of a Jewish-styled opening berakah prayer of blessing join in this text to a Christocentric thanksgiving in "prayer report" form.
The earlier preaching studies for this passage gathered here in Working Preacher surely offer us part of the "wisdom and revelation" given by the Spirit (Ephesians 1:17) to help the "eyes of our hearts" be opened more fully to both the immanent and heavenly presence of God in Christ throughout the cosmos.
Ephesians proclaims the exalted position of the resurrected Jesus as evidence of God’s power, the same power that is at work in the church.
Ephesians 1:15-23 is one of the longer prayer sections in Paul’s letters.
If the assigned reading is to provide any clues, then an important aspect of the marking of the festival of the Ascension of our Lord is thanksgiving and awe.
It is a sad commentary on our times that, if many Christians think at all of eschatology, they do so equipped only with the anxious, warped boilerplate of Left Behind.
Perhaps many of us remember a typical childhood conversation.
You’ve been saved for the purpose of good works.
What a difference a generation makes.
This text presents the immeasurable nature of God's grace which has totally changed both our reality and conduct forever.
Circumcision, uncircumcision, and blood. These words all seem very abstract and not part of our cultural fabric.
Today's reading lies at the heart of the theology of Ephesians, and it is not tame.
On this Sunday, the text from Ephesians expresses some major affirmations concerning the church.
[This is Week 2 of a 4-week preaching series on Ephesians.]
This passage is, to a large degree, a reflection on Paul’s unique role in the church.
The writing style of the author of Ephesians seems at first glance more sing-able than preach-able.
Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season for the church calendar.
This text comes at a hinge point in Ephesians.
The first seven words of this text -- "I bow my knees before the Father" -- make it clear that we are overhearing prayer.
This section of the letter offers a bit of relief from the heavy theological portions that have been read up to this point.
This section of Ephesians begins a series of ethical instructions firmly based on the preceding three chapters.
Our passage begins the so-called "moral" section of Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
This passage forms the hinge between the theological statement of Ephesians 1-3 and the exhortatory material that follows (4:17-6:20).
[This is Week 3 of a 4-week preaching series on Ephesians.]
A traditional part of the baptismal liturgy is the renouncing of all the forces of evil, the devil, and all his empty promises.
Our passage contains a lot of moral advice that can be found in many places in the ancient world.
The opening word of the passage (in Greek, dio, "for this reason") is a reminder to situate these instructions in their context in Ephesians.
Like many authors in the first-century world, Paul often trades in opposites: Sin and Righteousness, Death and Life, Light and Darkness.
To understand the thrust of this text it helps to understand the broad structure of the letter to the Ephesians written by an unknown author using Paul’s name a decade or two after Paul’s death.
Ephesians focuses heavily on discipleship: how we should live in light of the grace that has been given to us in Christ Jesus.
In the midst of a group of complex lessons (not in sequence) from Romans, this pericope from Ephesians suddenly appears.
This unit of exhortation begins with its roots planted in the wisdom tradition.
Most of Ephesians is found in the Revised Common Lectionary
"Be careful then how you live..."
As the letter to assemblies of believers in Ephesus and throughout the great cities of Asia Minor draws to a close, the author offers a final extended metaphor for how a person of faith in Jesus as God's own anointed one, Lord over all, might shape the life of believers.
Extending last Sunday's focus on Christ the bread of life, here again is exhortation to serve the one true God of liberation, to have life by eating and drinking Christ's body and blood.
These verses form a powerful and eloquent conclusion to the letter.
[This is Week 4 of a 4-week preaching series on Ephesians.]
We often speak of Philippians in terms of being a friendship or joyful letter from the apostle to one of his congregations.
The opening comments and introduction in Paul’s letters often give us an insight into something of the key aspects of what will follow in the letter as a whole, but also an insight into the life of the church to whom the letter is written and their relationship with Paul.
Once a rule-follower, always a rule follower.
"Friendship is essential to the soul."
The lectionary passage Philippians 1:21–30 starts with an impressive statement about life and death.
The first part of today's lesson from Philippians tells us Paul's own thinking about his possible impending death at the hands of the Roman authorities.
Modern interpreters agree: Philippians is the friendliest of Paul's letters.
The lectionary passage Philippians 2:1–13 continues Paul’s preceding recommendations on how followers of Jesus Christ should live (1:27–30).
God with Us
It would be difficult to find a more influential passage in all of Scripture than today's epistle reading from Philippians.
Philippians 2:6 might be translated: "He did not regard snatching as worthy of a god."
What is an interesting, even if somewhat troubling, aspect of this text is the emphasis the apostle places on like-mindedness.
A preacher’s first instinct may be to pass over the second New Testament reading for Palm/Passion Sunday.
What's in a name? From a biblical perspective -- everything!1
To our present American culture obsessed with taking selfies and getting the most likes, views, and follows on social media, Paul’s message to the Philippian church about having the mind and attitude of Christ is a slap in the face.
Every year, the Sunday that begins Holy Week gives us this reading from Paul: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus … ”
Over the past half century, this has been one of the most studied passages in the New Testament, and probably the most examined passage within the Pauline corpus.
What's in a name? From a biblical perspective -- everything!
As a frequent worship planner in my congregation, I am often involved in the preparations for what is awkwardly called "Palm/Passion Sunday."
Paul was first and foremost a pastoral theologian.
Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the New Testament's truly majestic texts.
Matthew gives us the story of Jesus' passion. Paul gives us the meaning.
Paul pictures himself as a man in the middle, a man who has literally changed his pursuits almost in midstride, and is jubilant.
During a recent tour of the Holy Land, Pope Francis was accompanied by Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud.
Crossing the Threshold
In an intense little book called Beginning to Pray, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom tells about a time during the Nazi occupation of Paris when he very nearly was caught by the Gestapo:
The season of Lent, with its inexorable movement towards the cross, offers us an opportunity to reflect on our journey through life, from the cradle to grave.
There was a popular scene on ancient Greek vases: a young man or god chasing a younger female (In rare instances, it was a goddess chasing a young male.)
In this short passage from Paul's letter to the Philippians, these verses begin and end with something between an exhortation and a plea.
The Epistle reading comes near the conclusion of Paul's letter to the Philippians and his tone is sharp, emotional, pleading and full of love for those he addresses.
Today’s lectionary passage belongs to the last chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
A Quiet Mind and a Hopeful Heart
In the lesson for last Sunday, Paul uses the image of a race to picture the Christian life as one of constant movement into God's future.
Were Euodia and Syntyche squabbling? Or, has Paul's exhortation in Philippians 4:2 activated the sexist bias within the guild of New Testament scholars?
One of the blessings of preaching regularly to the same group of people is the joy of seeing folk journeying in discipleship.
Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite desserts.
It's an exclamation we've heard time and time again, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
Was Paul just undisciplined or did his writing get away from him?
This text seemingly consists of the rather mundane opening of Paul’s letter to Christians living in the town of Colossae.
As one of my teachers in seminary once said to me, There's no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people who ask questions.
This pericope easily breaks into two sections.
This selection begins rather oddly in the middle of a sentence, and so for context we will have to go back and collect verses 9 and 10.
This lection reframes Christian experience within a wide-angle, cosmic divine perspective.
Paul begins this epistle with a typical salutation, identifying first the author and then the community to whom the letter is addressed: “To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae” (Colossians 1:2).
One of the goals this pseudonymous author has in writing this letter is to reassure its recipients that they already dwell securely in the reality that is Jesus Christ.
As Dean Wormer said, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life."1
With a wonderful mixed metaphor, our passage captures the dynamics of Christian discipleship.
This can be a very challenging passage to interpret. It contains a number of rather unique images and metaphors, uses words and concepts that are rare or unique in the New Testament, and unfolds in very dense sentences populated with numerous subordinate clauses.
Re-thinking, re-imagining, and even re-casting our ideas about who God is, apparently, nothing new.
When I read passages such as these, I always wonder how they will be heard by the people sitting in the church.
It’s Easter Sunday and you get to choose from: a) John 20, in which Mary Magdalene is called by name by the risen Lord, b) Acts 10, in which Peter summarizes in a mere ten verses the whole story of the Jesus up to and including his resurrection, and c) four curt, allusive, poetic, and wrenched-out-of-context verses from Colossians. Tough choice!
In Colossians, Paul addresses a way of thinking and existing that runs counter to the thought and life rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ.
Why do we tell the Easter story?
Colossians is in many ways "the epistle in the middle."
The “heavenly-mindedness” of this text presents an immediate problem to the preacher.
Throughout the New Testament, human reality and conduct are interrelated.
Your best life now...is hidden.
The celebration of the Incarnation can support the life of the church all year long.
The Letter to the Colossians combines large segments of theological/doctrinal and practical/ethical materials.
If anything, this letter is about relationship and imitation. Paul makes this clear from the beginning.
This is the first of four weeks dedicated to 1 Thessalonians.
The opening of any letter sets the tone for the remainder of the letter.
Paul highlights two events in the experience of the Thessalonians that advanced the gospel: the apostles’ trust in the work of the gospel despite his poor treatment in Philippi and his tender care for the Thessalonians despite his “right” to support as an apostle.
In chapter 2 of 1 Thessalonians, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy remind the community of the time they spent in their midst.
“Paul … found a Jew named Aquila … with his wife Priscilla … Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together -- by trade they were tentmakers (Acts 18:1–3).”
These verses are a continuation of the 'diary' begun in 2:1, and further develop the story of how Paul, Silvanus and Timothy conducted themselves among the Thessalonians.
At first reading three things leap out of this passage: thankfulness, love and relationship.
Paul's words of thanksgiving, admonition, and encouragement to the fledgling churches at Thessalonica reverberate with pastoral passion; nearly every sentence could end with an exclamation point!
Love epitomizes all social obligations.
Writing to a congregation of Gentile converts not long after he introduced them to the faith, Paul clarifies his teachings on a few points where the Thessalonians still remained cloudy.
We all long to hear a good word: a word that brings good news, a word that can sustain us, a word that can give us the vision and courage to make it through another day, a word that tells us God is with us.
Today's text from 1 Thessalonians is the fourth lection in a series of five consecutive Sunday reading through the New Testament's earliest extant writing.
When Paul speaks about eschatology -- how everything will happen at the end of time -- he does so in order to bring comfort to his congregations.
Mr. Harold Camping, president of California's Family Radio, predicted that three million people would be saved, the rest perish, on May 21, 2011.
The twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost marks the last Sunday in five weeks of consecutive reading through Paul's letter to the Thessalonians.
Once again, on this Third Sunday of Advent, we have an appeal, now from Paul, to a community of faith about the way it is to live in the world.
This passage connects being made completely holy (oloklēron) with the coming parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
In 2 Thessalonians, after the greeting, the author writes, “we must always give thanks.”
When I was young, a cousin and I were pen pals for about four years.
A Matter of Timing
Paul’s Second letter to the Thessalonians has an interesting history.
A worried, upset congregation leaves no one at ease
Last Sunday's reading opened on a note of "thanksgiving" (1:2).
We will explore two key ideas expressed in this passage:
“The one who is unwilling to work, shall not eat” (2 Ths 3:10; NIV2011).
The epistle for this last proper of the church year is concerned with the life of local Christian communities, and in a thoroughly down-to-earth way: we live by faith, but we live the life of faith with our feet firmly planted on planet earth.
These verses tell a story of conversion and of transformation, of a life renewed by the inexhaustible love and grace of God.
First Timothy provides guidance for church life; hence, this letter is counted among the Pastoral Epistles.
Probably the first thing to be said about preaching from one of the letters whose Pauline authorship is disputed is, "Hardly ever should the question of disputed authorship come up in the sermon."
The “Pauline” biography continues this week.
The passage in 1 Timothy 2:1-7 consists of two units.
This week's passage picks up and sustains the theological grounding of the offer of free grace for all (regardless of whether all receive that grace), and situates it in a practical context.
The lesson today skips over the extensive discussion of roles in the church and takes up (after a denunciation of those who teach false doctrine, revisiting a topic from the beginning of chapter 4) the question of discipleship and wealth.1
The passage 1 Timothy 6:6-19 deals with true riches.
The lesson today skips over the extensive discussion of roles in the church and takes up (after a denunciation of those who teach false doctrine, revisiting a topic from the beginning of chapter 4) the question of discipleship and wealth.
After a standard opening sequence of greetings and thanksgiving, Paul jumps into a section of generalized statements about the Gospel and ministry.
Sometimes we’re especially interested in people’s final words.
2 Timothy belongs to the biblical genre of the "testament," the last words of a hero of the faith who is facing death.
Paul begins and ends this passage with Jesus Christ.
If Timothy hasn’t yet figured out that success in his ministry isn’t predicated on his creativity and insight, this part of the letter might fix that.
"Remember Jesus Christ!"
In this passage, Paul reminds Timothy of the sacred writings with which he was familiar since his youth and which are able to make him wise for salvation “through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
If you’re just joining us now for this, the third of four Sundays devoted to Second Timothy, here’s what you’ve missed so far:
Tradition is, of course, very important in many church communities -- perhaps in all, even if "tradition" can have various meanings.
In 2 Timothy 4:6, Paul employs the sacrificial metaphor of a drink offering to refer to his lifetime of faithful, gospel ministry.
Payback -- it’s one of the dominant themes in art and narrative.
What we have here recorded is Paul's own farewell discourse.
This passage stands out as a theological gem in the midst of the moral exhortations of Titus.1
The opening of this portion of Paul’s brief letter to his assistant Titus might be described as the Christmas message in one sentence, or perhaps the Christmas Tweet, “the Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (Titus 2:11).
During his long tenure at Harvard Divinity School, Krister Stendahl (d. 2008) would occasionally hand out his “Ten Commandments for Biblical Preaching.”
I once heard a colleague joke about a possible slogan for his denomination: "God is nice. We should be nice too."
This passage stands out as a theological gem in the midst of the moral exhortations of Titus.
Get close. Look into the manger. What do you see there?
Although the organizers of the lectionary have selected this passage from The Letter of Paul to Titus (the formal title for this writing) for use on Christmas Eve, in order to appreciate the text effectively, we must take account of the verses in their literary context before we can appreciate how they are being used in the lectionary in relation to Christmas Eve.
"Sing a new world into being. Sound a bold and hopeful theme. Find a tune for silent yearnings. Lend your voice and dare to dream," begins a hymn by Mary Louise Bringle.
Most preachers who encounter this text will do so on Christmas morning itself.
The second lesson for today, from Titus 3:4-7, is closely related to the second lesson appointed for Christmas Eve (Titus 2:11-14).
Titus 3:4-7 is the second theological gem of this letter, along with 2:11-14.
The Letter to Titus gives us none of Christmas's usual fare.
Today's passage is an example of testimony.
Preachers could be excused for neglecting Philemon when it emerges in the lectionary cycle.
The lectionary passage Philemon 1:1-21 that is assigned for this Sunday contains, except for concluding remarks, greetings, and benediction, the entire text of this writing.
Philemon can be a challenge from the perspective of preaching.
Many religious and ethnic communities have intricate celebrations for the declaration of a new family member's name.1
One might wonder at the selection of this text set in conversation with that of Job and the Markan text on divorce and “the little children.”
Christmas is the Festival of the Incarnation.
Many religious and ethnic communities have intricate celebrations for the declaration of a new family member's name.
Hebrews 1:1-4 introduces a contrast that is the central theme throughout Hebrews: the climactic revelation of God in Christ, surpassing every way that God spoke and worked prior to Christ's coming.
Hebrews is a rich writing that presents a plethora of puzzles to the interpreter of the text.
In the city of Macon, Georgia, the Harriet Tubman African-American Museum honors the memory of the "Black Moses," the best-known conductor on the Underground Railroad.
Initial impressions of Hebrews might suggest that the writer is detached from any context.
Once the hoopla of Christmas fades, and the wonder of the new baby in the manger starts to become a memory, Christians rightly turn to the harder questions that arise from the Incarnation, such as “why did God have to come to us in this way?” and “was it necessary for Christ to suffer during his life and especially in his death?”
This reading from Hebrews for the first Sunday after Christmas continues to celebrate the festival of the Incarnation, the adventus/katabasis of God in the human Jesus.
The second reading for the First Sunday of Christmas in this year of Matthew is clearly chosen to give further testimony to the pain and suffering so palpable in the story of the Massacre of the Innocents that only the Gospel of Matthew tells.
The days between Christmas and New Year's Day see a shift from the images of angels and the manger to the annual retrospectives on the year that has passed.
[This is Week 2 of a 5-week preaching series on Hebrews.]
The Epistle to the Hebrews is often a study in contrasts, and Hebrews 4:12-16 is no exception.
Hebrews 4:12-16 falls into two parts. Verses 12-13 in their context form a postscript to the argument of 3:7 - 4:11, providing extra motivation for the exhortation of 4:11.
In "Glory Days," Bruce Springsteen sings of that high school baseball player who "could throw that speedball by you.
[This is Week 3 of a 5-week preaching series on Hebrews.]
Hebrews 5:1 seems like one of those places where the chapter division might not be quite right.
Hebrews 5:1-10 establishes the basic identity of Jesus as the heavenly high priest, an important and unique contribution Hebrews makes to our understanding of Christ.
"Is she qualified? Can he do the job?"
This text from Hebrews is part of an exposition on the high priestly character of Jesus that begins at 4:14.
The Book of Hebrews is actually considered by many scholars to be a sermon!
While Hebrews will be read three times during Holy Week, and then for several weeks beginning with the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost,
The author of Hebrews has a tendency to circle back around to content he has discussed before, but I find his manner neither repetitive nor laborious.
Hebrews 7:23-28 occurs in the middle of a larger argument about Jesus being a heavenly high priest.
How can this text from Hebrews, an obscure writing in thought and language, compete with the gospel for this Sunday on Jesus' healing of blind Bartimaeus, the one who follows Jesus "on the way" of the cross (10:46-52)?
[This is Week 4 of a 5-week preaching series on Hebrews.]
If today we can talk about any sort of exegetical and theological consensus when it comes to reading and interpreting Hebrews, it would be the superiority of Jesus Christ’s work, his blood, and his role and function within God’s economy of salvation.
Jesus' death enables a living faith
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God -- not the result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8).
First of all, read Hebrews 9:1-10 for yourself and include these verses as part of your exposition of the Hebrews 9:11-14 text for this week.
In this commentary, we pursue the heavenly and divine office of Jesus.
The cycle of sin and atonement ends in Christ
Repetition can be a good thing.
The letter to the Hebrews paints a series of contrasts between Jesus, our great high priest, and the sacrificial system of atonement that pre-figured his redeeming work.
During the Advent and Christmas season we have a wonderful opportunity to think through and speak about the meaning and purpose of the life of the Lord Jesus.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the eminent eighteenth century Genevan philosopher and writer, argued in several of his most influential works that some aspects of "natural" life need to be supplemented by human intervention.
Christ was obedient not only in his death, but from the moment of his coming into the world.
One of the besetting sins of 21st century Christianity is “performance,” by which I refer to an unreflective and anti-formational, anti-theological, and anti-spiritual formation of both the officiating clergy and Christians who are either participating in baptism or Holy Communion.
The culmination of the author's central argument grounds ecclesiology in eschatology.
Last week's lesson from Hebrews 9:24-28 told us that the church is not a system of atonement;
For modern-day Christians, the cross has become purely a religious symbol.1
Hebrews has the most intricate Christology in the New Testament.
The book of Hebrews is often seen, not without reason, as one of the New Testament's most difficult texts.1
Good Friday is the day the church pauses to meditate on the death of Jesus.
Note: Part I explores the biblical text and Part II discusses homiletical strategies for the text.
The mood of this text is one of profound encouragement based on the meanings of Jesus' death on the cross.
The book of Hebrews is often seen, not without reason, as one of the New Testament's most difficult texts.
For modern-day Christians, the cross has become purely a religious symbol.
Good Friday is a dark day in the church year--the liturgical color for the day used to be black.
I have sometimes referred to Hebrews as a good slogan book.
Today’s second lesson begins the first of four weeks that are devoted to a sequential reading of the last three chapters of the Epistle to Hebrews.
"People get ready, There's a train a comin'. You don't need no baggage, you just get on board. All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'. Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord."
[This is Week 5 of a 5-week preaching series on Hebrews.]
From the miraculous to the macabre, the faithful of Israel’s past provide the encouragement this congregation needs to keep running their own race of faith.
This week’s second lesson continues the reading of Chapter 11 of Hebrews begun last week.
Do you have a photo album? Do you ever look through the pages, remembering the people and events that shaped your life?
In a letter that has reverberated with rhetorical force throughout, the end of the twelfth chapter of Hebrews presents the author’s oratorical and theological tour de force.
Today’s second reading is the third of four consecutive readings from Hebrews.
"This is your final warning!"
Hebrews 13 can read like a list of rules -- do this and don’t do that -- but it also includes some vital and enduring theological truths.
This is the last of four consecutive weeks that Hebrews has provided the second reading.
How do we go about living as Christians in a society where we find ourselves increasingly on the margins?
These verses from the Epistle of James include the point that the epistle is best known for: “[B]e doers of the word, and not merely hearers," just as next week we will read James reminding us that "faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."
The book of James is something of an enigma in NT literature.
This Sunday is the beginning of a series of readings from the book of James.
The exposition in last week’s passage, James 1:17-27, can strike readers as abstruse and random; this morning’s lesson, however, is clear and pointed as broken glass.
The second chapter of James opens with an illustration that is as relevant in the contemporary church as it must have been to James's first readers.
The second chapter of James offers a far-reaching treatment of the life of faith.
“Not many of you should become teachers.” So the “teaching preacher” or “preaching teacher” launches this section of our sequential reading in James over several Sundays.
The preacher encountering this text might be forgiven for the sudden urge to suggest, in lieu of the sermon, that the congregation engage in a time of silent prayer.
This Sunday's passage involves one of the more peculiar passages in the New Testament.
The big and essential question that engages the preacher and the hearer in this reading is announced in its opening verse: Who is the wise person? And what’s to know?
After several chapters of warnings and vivid illustrations of the consequences of living contrary to the plan of God, James moves in this passage to describe the good life and give some positive guidance for pursuing it.
This week's epistle reading explicitly connects James' interest in mindful speech with his concern for community harmony.
Many scriptural texts can be read in isolation of their context and still provide some meaning.1
The language in this passage might, at first, sound a bit foreign to contemporary Christians, especially those living in urban settings in North America or Europe.
Many scriptural texts can be read in isolation of their context and still provide some meaning.
In the third Sunday of Advent, the epistle reading shifts from Paul's letter to the Romans, to the Epistle of James. Paul and James have often been contrasted with each other,
“In fulfillment of God’s purposes … ” That’s how the opening verses of James have described the purposive nature of God’s “generous acts of giving” and God’s “every perfect gift.”
Though I am now Roman Catholic, I grew up in a fairly conservative evangelical home.
The preceding chapters in the Epistle of James have described the ideal of a congregation that lives cooperatively, harmoniously, in concord with heaven's peaceable grace -- and that repudiates wrangling, privilege, and domination.
The blessing at the beginning of 1 Peter overflows with joy and hope.
“First Peter reflects the rapid expansion of the early church in Asia Minor.
The First Letter of Peter is addressed to several Gentile Christian communities living in northern Asia Minor, a geographical region usually associated with the Apostle Paul.
The First Letter of Peter is addressed to the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. One commentator suggests that geographically speaking this would be 300,000 square miles!
1 Peter has an important word to speak; both for those who feel alienated from society and for those who find themselves comfortable within it.
In his explanation to the second article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther writes,
Old habits die hard, especially when they have had a lifetime to reach their roots deep into the human psyche.
On the Second Sunday after Easter the given text was I Peter 1.3-9 This week's assigned text covers part of the remainder of I Peter 1, i.e. vv. 17-23. In our treatment we will consider all the remaining verses of I Peter 1, which includes vv. 10-16 and vv. 24, 25.
As a Christian young person, I remember hearing that the New Testament letters begin with theology and move to practice (e.g., Romans 1-11, then 12-16).
Our reading from 1 Peter for this week is organized around a pastiche of Old Testament texts.
Of all the ecclesial images employed in Peter's letter to the exiled converts of Asia Minor,
These verses involve several intriguing exegetical nuances--points that probably will not make explicit appearances in most homilies for the day, but which merit careful consideration as you prepare your sermon.
The lectionary text for this week provides a compelling commendation to Christians to do what is right even if it brings suffering.
“It is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering.”
In his recent book Finding Our Way Again, Brian McLaren recalls an interview he once facilitated before an assembly of about 500 pastors with author Peter Senge.
We ought to first note that the lectionary this week has skipped over I Peter 2.1-18. The very important passage in I Peter 2.4-10 will be next week's text.
Suffering is a central issue in the letter of 1 Peter, and it is a central focus of this week’s lectionary text.
The trumpets, the fanfare, and the antiphonal shouts of “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” have receded into the background.
Suffering and harm are not the most popular topics when it comes to discussing the Christian life.
The harrowing of hell (3:19) has attracted the attention of poetic and illustrative imaginations throughout history--understandably so, since it seems to answer two provocative questions with an underdeveloped premise.
I met a man today who is being threatened with deportation even though he has a Green Card.
About ten years ago I became interested in the spiritual discipline of writing icons, a practice that has less to do with the applied skills of painting than with an ability to reflect prayerfully on the theological work of one's hands.
If you've ever been to a church youth gathering you may well have seen a skit like this:
When suffering happens to religious people, it is not uncommon to hear the refrain, “Why is God punishing me?”
The “living hope” that belongs to the good news of Christ’s resurrection even in the midst of persecution and suffering that marked the theme of last Sunday’s reading from the opening verses of 1 Peter still undergirds and shapes the reading for today which stands at the conclusion of this letter.
Talking about the "fiery ordeal" they were suffering (1 Peter 4:12), this passage opens with strong words which are not easily reconciled with the experience of the Church in the 21st century, especially in Europe and in North America.
These verses repeat and recast the pattern that 1 Peter has been emphasizing through the past weeks' lessons. Believers should expect to share the defamation that the world directed at Christ.
In the United States, the American Dream is often proclaimed as if it were gospel: anyone who works hard and makes good choices can be happy and successful.
The Revised Common Lectionary provides only two chances to preach from 2 Peter.
Though the words belong to an ancient letter, they seem so contemporary and modern.
Transfiguration can be an uncomfortable feast day for contemporary preachers.
The final Sunday in Epiphany is when the church remembers the Transfiguration of our Lord. Truth to tell, it's a strange story, told in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; and Luke 9:28-36).
“Are we there yet?” People will soon begin their holiday travels. In trains, planes, and automobiles countless children will ask this question as “over the river and through the woods” they go to visit family and friends.
In this letter, the author (let's call him Peter though we know it is not Peter of the Twelve) encourages the community into faithful living.
The believers to whom Peter writes have, in his view, two interrelated problems: they doubt the coming of Christ and they are drawn to immoral living.
Sometimes we think of the first century as a kind of “honeymoon” period for early Christianity where the church, led by the Spirit, was the ideal of holiness and unity.
Good News, Bad News
This text plays nicely with this week's reading about Thomas and his desire to press his hands into the bloody wounds of Jesus.
Ask a non--Christian--even ask some Christians--what the point of Christian faith is.