Fifth Sunday in Lent John 11:1-45

Stepping Out

The story of the raising of Lazarus is found only in the gospel according to John, and it is a disturbing narrative. The death is untimely and Jesus’ behavior seems out of character; though he loves the family, he does not rush to help them. When Jesus does arrive, we are told that Lazarus has been dead for four days. According to Jewish tradition of the time, the soul lingers for only three days after death, so that Lazarus is shown to be indisputably past hope.Continue Reading

Fourth Sunday in Lent John 9:1-41

Missing the Celebration

It is surprising that no one in this parable seems to be happy for the man born blind. By virtue of his handicap, he would have been isolated from the rest of the community and from ordinary relationships. He would have been limited to sitting at the edge of the village and begging. In one brief encounter, Jesus removes the man’s blindness. You would think that this miracle of healing would be cause for celebration.

But no one seems to be celebrating.Continue Reading

Second Sunday in Lent John 3:1-17

You Gotta

Today’s Gospel lesson contains the single best known Bible passage anywhere in the world.

I didn’t research that sweeping statement, but I strongly suspect that I’m right. The verse is John 3:16. Say it with me – without looking: For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in him shall never perish but shall have everlasting life.Continue Reading

First Sunday in Lent Matthew 4:1-11

Two Questions

Few scenes in Scripture give us as vivid a picture of sin. The trouble with sin is not that it is ugly, although we say “ugly as sin.” Rather, the trouble is that it is so often so attractive and appealing. We’re so busy looking out for the figure in the red suit with the forked tail and the pitchfork, trailing clouds of sulfur, that we fall into the easy rut of sin without even realizing it. What Jesus knows, what the Tempter has forgotten, is that “sin comes about because of its middle letter,” as Jan Karon says. “It’s the seeking of our will instead of God’s.” When we put I first, we fall to the sin of Eve and Adam, we decide that we know best, and we desire to become like God.Continue Reading

Ash Wednesday Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

In the Pockets

Who is it for, this ancient ritual, the practice of marking the forehead with ashes? It might make more sense if we held our Ash Wednesday service at 8 o’clock in the morning or at midday, so that we were likely to encounter other people afterward. Then we would function as a reminder of the holy day. But we have this service in the evening, and then, chances are, most of us will go right home and immediately wash the ashes off our foreheads. So what’s the point? Why do we bother?Continue Reading

Transfiguration of Our Lord

Lord, it is good for us to be here. Poor Peter: well-meaning, over-eager Peter, who always manages to say the wrong thing. This is so terrific, can we stay here forever? I’m not at all sure I want to stay perched on a mountaintop surrounded by whirling clouds and visions of prophets past and light so dazzling that it blinds me. I might be the one running for the exits if I saw what Peter and James and John have just seen.Continue Reading

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 5:21-37

If you grew up with sisters and brothers, then no doubt you know the joys of being crammed into the back seat of the family car. And of Dad threatening to pull the car over to get you and your siblings to stop bugging each other until finally he issues an edict: “Nobody touches anybody else.”Continue Reading

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 5:13-20

It is entirely possible to get caught up in the metaphors and lose sight of the point of this passage. We can distract ourselves thinking up ways to describe how we are meant to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. But in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says something truly extraordinary.Continue Reading

Presentation of Our Lord Luke 2:22-40

The story is about three brothers who, travelling together, reach a treacherous river. Being wizards, they make a magical bridge over the river. Halfway across the bridge, they meet Death who is angry for losing three potential victims of the river. He pretends to be impressed by them and grants each a wish as a reward. The eldest brother asks for an unbeatable wand which will always grant him victory, so Death carves the Elder Wand from a nearby tree.Continue Reading