Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost Matthew 20:1-16 Sept 20, 2020

From the time that you and I begin to say our very first words, it doesn’t take long to learn one specific complete sentence. That’s not fair! And for many of us, that seemingly inborn sense of fairness leads – in our own ways – our efforts to pursue justice and help bring about the Kingdom. But it also leads to a tendency to be, let’s say, hyper-vigilant about what’s fair for others.

In the classic television special A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie’s younger sister, Sally, is dictating a letter to Santa Claus, which her brother is dutifully writing. Sally thoughtfully says that if the toys she wants are too much trouble, she would gladly accept cash. “Preferably tens and twenties,” she says.

When Charlie Brown objects, Sally counters with: “All I want is my fair share! All I want is what’s coming to me!”Continue Reading

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost Matthew 18:21-35 9/13/2020

As it happens, in the last few weeks, we have explored both forgiveness and hospitality, which makes the readings for today something of a challenge. But part of the limitless and eternal mystery of Scripture is that it has never finished communicating what it has to say.[1]

Today’s lessons all seem to center on forgiveness, even under extraordinary circumstances. And especially with the passages from Genesis and from Romans, the focus on forgiveness comes to you and me through the lens of hospitality and welcome. What happens when we put the ideal of forgiveness on the table with the ideal of hospitality in the name of Jesus? What happens when welcome meets the laying down of burdens?Continue Reading

THE FORGOTTEN EPISTLES Jude 1:3-4a, 10, 16-21 8/30/2020

Raise your hand if you have ever slandered someone by gossiping about them; raise your hand if you’ve ever been a grumbler and/or a malcontent. Yeah, me too. I’d like to think that I’ve improved along my spiritual journey – but let’s just say that it’s a work in progress. One of the most challenging issues for me is my tendency to let off steam, to vent, by gossiping and by grumbling and being, well, malcontented.Continue Reading

The Forgotten Epistles 3 John 1:2-11 8/23/2020

What’s Radical About Hospitality?

Some years ago – it might have been within the last five or six years, but I can’t swear to that – Greensboro Urban Ministries tried a social experiment. On December twenty-third, a young couple went into and among various neighborhoods in the city. They were a man in his twenties, a man who worked construction and carpentry; and a young woman who was many months along in expecting a baby. They spoke English, and they spoke it with the accent of their native country.Continue Reading

The Forgotten Epistles Titus 3:3-8 8/2/2020

I am the Church; You are the Church

This morning we begin our summer sermon series with a reading from the letter to Titus – and with an important distinction. Saint Paul did not write any of the letters we will be exploring. Instead, these are classified as “letters of Paul” in the same way that many of the later psalms are classified as being “psalms of David.” That is, they were almost certainly composed by people who came after Paul and in the manner, style, and tone of Paul, as a tribute to Paul and his work.Continue Reading

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Twice in the last three weeks, Jesus has concluded his parables with the admonition, “Let anyone who has ears, listen!” Maybe it’s less an admonition than pleading. What you seek, what you ask for, what you say you want is all around you, on every side. Can you see it?        Continue Reading

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Last week’s text, the parable of the sower, focused on where that seed landed and how God would provide the increase. The parable of the weeds (sometimes called ‘tares’) focuses on the judgment that will befall “all causes of sin and all evildoers” (Matthew 13:41). It appears to describe a “them-and-us” situation, tempting you and me to decide who are the evildoers and who the children of the kingdom – a trap that is unfortunately easy to fall into.Continue Reading

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Nothing like the Parable of the Sower to stir up a little good old-fashioned Lutheran Guilt. We are a denomination rooted in immigrants from Germany and from Scandinavia, immigrants who found in the new world a land and a soil that reminded them of the homes they had left, and who responded by planting and farming, by sowing and reaping. And so for a lot of us, when we hear about seed landing on good soil, on rocky soil, among thorns, and on paths, our collective first thought tends to be: Uffda! I should have been more careful about wasting those seeds then.Continue Reading