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

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

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

Feb 15

Mission and Discipleship 3: Mission Fundamentals



As Christians, all of us have been baptized into God’s mission. Baptism, which is for all of us, is the foundation of our calling to serve Christ in God’s mission, not some specialized calling into something called “the ministry.” As your pastor, I live out my baptismal calling in particular ways. The ways you live out your baptismal call to participate in God’s mission will be different from my own. What is important is what unites us: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one mission. If I were not your pastor, if I weren’t a pastor at all, God’s claim on my life would be no different and no less than it is today. And in this series on mission and discipleship, I am challenging all of us to rethink God’s mission and to consider how—not whether—God is calling us in this new year. You may be someone who considers yourself very active in mission and ministry work, or you may be someone who has never really given that kind of thing a second thought. I am convinced that, in 2016, God is calling you to commit yourself new to the mission of God. Continue reading

Dec 27

Fully and Truly Human



For most people right now, we have entered the post-Christmas season, a kind of recovery period from the stress of holiday preparations and the overindulgence of holiday festivities. But in the church we are just at the beginning of the true Christmas season, which lasts 12 days. Today is the third day of Christmas: three French hens, as the song goes, sometimes interpreted as the great theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love, other times thought of as the three Persons of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Continue reading