Oct 12

The Rich Man

The scary thing about this morning’s gospel reading is that Jesus isn’t mad at the rich man. Jesus isn’t frustrated by him; he isn’t exasperated by the man. Jesus was not angry, and that’s what’s so scary about this passage. Because when Jesus tells the rich man to sell his possessions and give away his wealth to the poor, Jesus isn’t mad at the man or trying to drive him away. Jesus loves this man enough to tell him to get rid of all his stuff. Jesus loves the man too much to let his wealth get in the way of becoming a disciple. Continue reading

Oct 05

Divorce Church

Divorce is a difficult topic in our modern era. All of us know someone who is divorced. Most of us probably know someone whose divorce ended a painful or even abusive marriage. And it is telling that so much energy is spent fighting over gay marriage, on which Jesus never said a word—on which Jesus couldn’t have possibly said a word—and so little attention given to divorce, on which Jesus speaks very clearly. It might be helpful to remember, though, that speaking against divorce in Jesus’ day was no easier than it is in our own; John the Baptist, after all, was executed for criticizing the divorces and remarriages of King Herod’s family. Continue reading

Sep 29

Wisdom and Prudence

Books about wisdom form a substantial part of our Bible. In the Old Testament, the wisdom literature includes Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. In the New Testament, we have James. Throw in the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch, all found in the apocrypha, which we don’t read as Scripture but which has influenced many Christians, including the Apostle Paul, and you’re talking about a good chunk of what Christians have turned to over the years. Continue reading

Sep 07

Strange Territory

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus spends most of his ministry in the western region of Galilee. If you picture the Sea of Galilee as my left hand, then the area where Jesus usually ministers is where my right hand would be (the reverse is true if you held up your own hands). But in today’s reading from Mark 7, Jesus wanders into strange territory, into the foreign land of Tyre, far north of his home region, close to the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre is Gentile area, and in more ways than one Jesus is as far from the Jewish capital of Jerusalem as he’ll ever be. While in Tyre he heals the daughter of a Syro-Phoenician woman, the Gentile daughter of a Gentile woman, and on the way back home he heals a man unable to hear or speak, a man who might also have been a Gentile. Continue reading

Aug 16

Eucharist: Spiritual Food

The Eucharist, the meal of holy communion at the heart of our worship here at Centre, the meal really at the heart of all Christian worship, has infinite dimensions. From the elements of bread and wine to the people who gather around the table, from the prayers we offer as we prepare for communion to the eternal Triune Lord who meets us here each time, the mystery of Eucharist unfolds unendingly for us, a foretaste of the eternal feast at Christ’s heavenly banquet.

This month I’ve felt called to preach on just five dimensions of Eucharist, and in each sermon I’m using a simple three-sided pattern: on one side, the words of Jesus from John 6; on the next side, the Old Testament lesson; and on the third side, some words or actions from our own weekly service of holy communion. So two weeks ago, we grappled with the importance of confession before thanksgiving as we heard Jesus say, “I am the bread of life,” as we listened to Nathan confront King David, and as we reflected on our saying a prayer of confession each Sunday. And last week we paused to remember that the grace we receive is costly grace. The Father draws all who come to Christ, Jesus tells us, but we are drawn by a wounded love the does not pretend there are no consequences to our sin. David’s own son Absalom died as a consequence of David’s sin. And in our prayer of Great Thanksgiving we are reminded that Eucharist is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of our lives, our praise, and our thanksgiving, in union with Christ’s offering for us in his self-sacrifice upon the cross. Continue reading