March 30th, 2017

2 April 2017
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Lent 5A (RCL)
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

The raising of Lazarus is the last of the seven signs in John’s Gospel. And if understanding Jesus on the basis of the signs is a misunderstanding, then it is very easy to misunderstand this sign. Everyone in the story misses the point — even Mary and Martha. Part of our problem in understanding the story is a history of mistranslation. Read the rest of this entry »

Now I see

March 23rd, 2017

26 March 2017
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Lent 4A (RCL)
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

This is the central chapter of John’s Gospel and pulls together many of the themes of the Gospel. And central to the chapter is the encounter between the Jews and the parents of the man born blind. The parents refuse to answer “for fear of the Jews,” because the Jews have already agreed that anyone who confesses the Christ will be thrown out of the synagogue. The chapter takes up the question of the nature of sin. The chapter opens with the disciples asking, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” and closes with Jesus telling the Pharisees that since they claim to see, their sin remains. The action in this chapter points to the disciples after the resurrection, locked in the room, “for fear of the Jews,” when Jesus appears, breathes on them, and says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. The sins of whoever you forgive are forgiven them. The sins of whoever you retain are retained.” Read the rest of this entry »

Athirst for God

March 16th, 2017

19 March 2017
Third Sunday in Lent
Lent 3A (RCL)
Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

Most of the patriarchs met their wives at a well. Abraham’s servant met Rebekah at the well at Nahor, in the evening, “the time when women go out to draw water” (Genesis 24:11). Jacob met Rachel at the well at Haran, in broad daylight (Genesis 29:7). Moses met Zipporah at a well in Midian (Exodus 2:15). The stories of the Patriarchs and the story of Moses were initially the founding stories of Israel, the Northern Kingdom of the United Monarch under David. John is certainly aware of these stories and aware of their connection to the Northern Kingdom, whose capital was at Samaria. Read the rest of this entry »

Born again?

March 9th, 2017

12 March 2017
Second Sunday in Lent
Lent 2A (RCL)
Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

The Gospel reading for this Sunday contains one of the most oft cited verses in the Bible. Who has not seen someone holding a poster with the words “John 3:16″ at some sporting event? This verse contains the promise of eternal life for all who believe, and is taken as a kind of summary of the Christian Gospel. But the whole passage that comes before this verse serves precisely to problematize our understanding of eternal life. For John, it means something different from an everlasting life in the Kingdom of God. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowing good and evil

March 2nd, 2017

5 March 2017
First Sunday in Lent
Lent 1A (RCL)
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

In the reading from the Old Testament, we leave out several verses. Those are the verses where the Lord God decides it is not good for the human being to be alone, and creates all the animals, and finally the woman. I have always believed that the story of the temptation in the garden can be read as a coming-of-age story. When we are young, we do not know good from evil, and life is wonderful. When we reach maturity, and sexuality has something to do with that, we can begin to make moral distinctions, and life gets harder. That the man blames the woman, and that they recognize their nakedness reinforces, to my mind, that this can be read as a coming-of-age story. Read the rest of this entry »

From glory to glory

February 23rd, 2017

26 February 2017
Last Sunday after Epiphany
Last Epiphany A (RCL)
Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 99
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration (as related in the Synoptic Gospels) is a particularly fraught episode. It carries a great deal of interpretive weight. In Mark’s Gospel, it has a bit of a supersessionist feel to it — the fact that after the cloud departs, Moses and Elijah are no longer present, given the rest of Mark’s Gospel, seems to imply that the law and prophets have been replaced by Jesus. Add to that Peter’s misunderstanding of the event, and Mark seems to be saying that his community (and not the original disciples) has correctly understood the meaning of the Jesus event. Read the rest of this entry »

Holiness = perfection?

February 16th, 2017

19 February 2017
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 7A (RCL)
Leviticus 19:1-2,9-18
Psalm 119:33-40
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

We continue reading in course in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew is re-schooling us in righteousness, showing us what a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees looks like. This passage opens with a statement of what was said of old: an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth. We often hear this as vindictive. In its time, it was in fact a moderating statement (Leviticus 24:20). If a slave injured someone, greater injury could be done to the slave: this statement required that vengeance not be in excess of the injury done, regardless of the status of the parties. But Jesus won’t even allow this moderated retaliation. This requires a shift in thinking about the nature of a righteous community. Read the rest of this entry »

Fulfilling righteousness

February 2nd, 2017

5 February 2017
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Epiphany 5A (RCL)
Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 112
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Matthew 5:13-20

Jesus began his ministry in Matthew’s Gospel by proclaiming, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived.” I contend that the word we translate ‘repent’ means something more like ‘go back to school, retrain your mind.’ Matthew’s own Gospel is the textbook he intends us to use to retrain our mind. The opening paragraph of the Sermon on the Mount (the beatitudes) invited us to reconsider how a community is constituted — by constraints on behavior (the ten commandments) or by holding up exemplars for honor, which overturn the usual system of honor. This paragraph now invites us to relearn what righteousness is. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is honored?

January 26th, 2017

29 January 2017
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany IVA (RCL)
Micah 6:1-8
Psalm 15
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12

One does look with a certain ennui on the prospect of preaching on the Beatitudes yet again. We are so familiar with this particular passage, it seems hard to find something new to say about it. Gratefully, we have the passage from 1 Corinthians to provide a bit of relief. Read the rest of this entry »

Mending nets

January 19th, 2017

22 January 2017
Third Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 3A (RCL)

Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Don’t you wonder what would have compelled Simon and Andrew, James and John to drop everything and follow this random wandering preacher, announcing the coming of the Kingdom? Matthew provides us with precious little detail about the nature of the interaction between Jesus and these first followers. They simply follow. We are left to wonder what attracted them. Read the rest of this entry »