Sep 03

Pushing For a Better Hope

He just couldn’t stop there, could he? Why couldn’t he be satisfied with what had been said already? Wasn’t that enough? Wasn’t that what the Father had revealed to Simon Peter? He’s the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Why does Jesus have to keep pushing?

Just before this passage, in the story we read last week from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus asks his disciples two questions: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” and “Who do you say that I am?” To the first question, the disciples answer that people think Jesus is a prophet. To the second question, Simon Peter responds with a confession of faith, a gift from the Father: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus praises Peter, promises to build his church on Peter the rock, and gives to Peter and the church the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It is a glorious moment—but Jesus just won’t stop there. He keeps going. His work is not done. His teaching is not complete. Matthew tells us that “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Jesus does not rest content, not even after praising Peter. Continue reading

Dec 05

Something Worth Longing For

“A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of its roots.” This vision, of a faithful remnant of Israel, of an age when the Lord shall reign in peace, when “they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain,” is not just given to Isaiah the prophet. This vision is a gift, entrusted to the community that is willing to live in faith according to the vision until the word of the Lord is fulfilled. The Lord gives his people something worth longing for, a vision of something to desire and seek, but the vision comes with the expectation that the people of God will cherish it, will honor the vision, will glorify to the One who has given the vision, by responding in faith not only in word but in deeds. The Lord gives the people of God this vision of something worth longing for, so that the people of God can live according to God’s word of promise. Continue reading

Nov 28

Still Longing

“In the days to come…” This is how Isaiah gets the attention of his audience. A word has come to him, a word concerning Judah and Jerusalem, a word for today that looks ahead to tomorrow: “In the days to come..” Something is going to happen, something worth waiting for, something worth longing for, so look up, look ahead, and wait for the days to come. “In the days to come…” the Lord will act, decisively, so pay attention. Judgment among the nations, peoples gathered in Zion to hear the Lord’s instruction and teaching, swords beat into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, peace that will endure: the days are coming! And in the days to come… Continue reading

Nov 13

A Living Hope

Over the years, there have been some misguided souls who have taken Jesus’s words from Luke 21 as a picture of something to look forward to, something even to hope for. False prophets? Insurrections? Wars and rumors of wars and insurrections? Some people have been told to hope for these things, because when they start, supposedly, they will be signs that Jesus is coming again soon. Even worse, a few people have decided, from time to time, that we should make the signs ourselves, or at least lay the groundwork for them, to speed up Jesus’s arrival. In the 1800s, in the U.S., for the first time in the history of the church people started making charts and graphs to pinpoint the exact date of the end time, of the second coming of Christ. This started a way of thinking that still exists among some people today: a bizarre, strange hope for things to start going really badly, for destruction and chaos to take over, so that Christ will come again. This is a perverted hope, and one version I’ve heard of it in recent years has been among people who oppose caring for God’s good creation on the grounds that it’s all just going to be blown away anyhow. Continue reading

Oct 31

Funeral Sermon for Joan Armstrong

One of the most beautiful gifts we receive from God is also one of the most easily overlooked gifts we receive from God. That gift, that beautiful gift, is the gift of our bodies. But we don’t often think of our bodies as gifts from God, as part of God’s grace for us, and so we tend to overlook our bodies. On the one hand, it’s nearly impossible for us to imagine life without our bodies—and that’s a good thing, actually, because in God’s plan for creation, bodies and life go together. On the other hand, many of us spend a lot of our lives thinking of our bodies more as problems to be solved or fixed or escaped than as gifts to receive. Continue reading