Oct 01

Reformation at 500: Scripture Alone

What happens when we read Scripture? What do we expect to happen when we read Scripture? In Nehemiah, our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Ezra reads from the scroll of the law of Moses. We don’t know what, exactly, he read, either what part or how much. Maybe he read from Exodus, or maybe he read all of Deuteronomy. What is clear is that this kind of reading hadn’t happened in a while, maybe in a generation or more. Imagine, decades without hearing Scripture read, interpreted, or proclaimed. Not just for one or two individuals, but for the whole people of Israel. Continue reading

Sep 19

Parable Reading

The parable Jesus tells us this morning is one of the tougher passages we have in the New Testament. Some things Jesus says are hard because we don’t want to do them; we resist the meaning Jesus clearly intends. So when Jesus tells us to sell our possessions or seek first the kingdom of God, we throw up roadblocks because we’re struggling with saying yes to Jesus’s radical way of life. But I don’t think that’s what makes the parable of the shrewd manager, or the explanation Jesus gives after the parable, so hard. In this case, the story itself is hard to understand: what is it, exactly, that Jesus is getting at here? 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 14

A Vision for Christian Education

It occurs to me that reading James 3:1 may not be the most palatable way to begin a day of celebrating the gifts of our Christian education leaders. We’re about to kick off a new year of Sunday School classes, small groups, and youth group. In a few minutes we will commission our small group leaders and Sunday School teachers. And throughout this, the first Scripture reading we heard this morning begins: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” This is not the verse churches put in bulletins and newsletters when the time comes to look for new Sunday School workers. 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