Oct 31

Zacchaeus: Identity Crisis

Luke sets us up, right at the beginning of this familiar Bible study, the story of Zacchaeus—the wee little man. In chapter 19, verse 2, Luke tells us in no uncertain terms that Zacchaeus is a sinner. There was a man in Jericho named Zacchaeus, and he was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. Tax collector, rich: in Luke’s gospel, these are both ways of saying, “Sinner! Outsider! Outcast!” The only question, it seems, is what kind of sinner Zacchaeus will turn out to be. Which side—the tax collector or the rich man—will win out? Continue reading

Oct 24

The Difference Humility Makes

There once was a man who sat in church and heard the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector at prayer in the temple. And after the service was over, the man went over to the Sunday School class he attends each week. In Sunday School, they started off—as every good Sunday School class should do—by talking about the morning worship service and the sermon and the gospel reading. And the man said, “You know, I am so glad that we follow Jesus Christ, and I am so happy that we know that we are not saved by works. I thank God that we are not like those Pharisees who kept pestering Jesus all the time.” Continue reading

Jul 25

A Plea for Mercy

Mercy. The high point of true prayer is not when we pray for our own needs—not in this life. The deepest prayer is not for ourselves, not for our desires, not for what we want, not for the increase of this or that. The deepest, truest, most Christian prayer we can offer, in this life, is the prayer for mercy. Mercy. Continue reading

Jul 18

The Better Part

The Bible is about God. There are a lot of things the Bible is not about, and we could spend some time discussing them and maybe even arguing about them. Last week, though, when we dedicated the new pew Bibles, I told the children that the Bible was where we, as Christians, together, turn when we want to learn how to love God and our neighbor. The Bible—and I think no one will argue with me about this—is not a dictionary of the English language, and it’s not the autobiography of Mark Twain. The Bible is about God. Continue reading

Jul 11

The Good Neighbor

We all want to be the person who can be counted on, the hero who comes through in time of need, the one who shows up the hypocrites and the elite. We want to be the person who’s ready to help, who’s in a position to help in the first place. The desire to be the helpful person is so much a part of who we are that we have laws in this country that protect people who try to help others in a crisis. We all want to be a good neighbor. Continue reading