One of my favorite parts of this time of year is watching the classic 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart as the faithful George Bailey. At one point in the film, an employee loses a large sum of money and George is at risk of going to prison and losing everything – his job, his family, and his reputation. Having been told he is worth more dead than alive, George jumps from a bridge into a roaring river, in theory aiming to end his own life. The irony, of course, is that even in this last desperate act, he is thinking of others: He jumps into the river to save Clarence, his guardian angel. Even at the last, he is willing to sacrifice his own life for someone else. That is truly bearing fruit worthy of repentance.Continue Reading
The one who is coming into the world, in this, the first coming, has more immediacy than those of us who are already in the world. We are nearer to the brink, even if we don’t know it. In Advent, we await what will bind together the helpless and the powerful, what will find their meaning. We await the second coming, whenever that might be; we await the coherence of the new kingdom. And how do we live in the waiting?Continue Reading
The leaders scoffed at him. The soldiers mocked him. One of the criminals hanging next to him derided him. This is no ordinary way to treat a king. But Jesus is no ordinary king. To begin with, he never claims his kingship. He never calls himself a king and evades the question when others try to pin that title on him. He never demands obedience, only inviting others to follow him. He never promises favors and an easy life to those around him, only challenges and even danger. What kind of king is this?Continue Reading
The days are coming when not one stone will be left on another; all will be thrown down. Prophets have been promising the end of the world for thousands of years. But in most cases, they are fear-mongers trying to gain followers by making them believe that disaster is imminent and that the only way to escape is to give the fear-mongering leader all their money.Continue Reading
Saints are people who know something profound about love, that suffering is connected with it. The saints who have shown us the way have learned that the path of sainthood is not one of accolades but accusations. Those who have gone before us were charged with demanding change because they wanted people to know more about God than others could stand to have revealed.Continue Reading
All his life, Jacob was a cheat. A con artist. He came out of the womb trying to obtain something for nothing. Ironically, it’s only when he makes himself vulnerable that he finds himself transformed.
Jacob was one of a set of twins, so desperate to be the first-born of the two, and thus enjoy all the benefits of the older son, that he is said to have been born grasping the ankle of his older brother, Esau. In fact, the name Jacob means “ankle-grabber.” He cheated his brother out of his birthright blessing. He cheated his uncle Laban by genetic manipulation to build up his own flocks and increase his own wealth. And every con artist needs a victim.Continue Reading
How Much is Enough?
It’s late in the metaphorical day for Jesus here in the seventeenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. He is journeying toward Jerusalem. He carries in his heart the weight of the great act of love yet to come. He’s tired. And like you and me, or at least like me, when Jesus is tired and stressed, he gets a little testy.
Hence the nonsense with the mulberry tree. Continue Reading
In the summer of 1983, when the threat of nuclear war seemed very close at hand, the movie WarGames was released, starring a young Matthew Broderick as a high-school computer hacker who accidentally sets off just such an event. He thinks he’s playing a war game against a computer, but in reality he is instructing a very powerful military computer program to launch actual nuclear missiles aimed at the Soviet Union.Continue Reading
This is one of the most challenging passages in the Bible to dwell on. It appears that not only is everyone involved in this parable underhanded and a cheat, more interested in the ends than in the means, but also that Jesus is praising such sneaky behavior: “You children of light could learn a few tips from the children of this age.” A few years ago at a ministerial conference, a group of twenty or so pastors gathered to study this text, which was coming up in the lectionary. After more than an hour of discussion, none of us felt really enlightened by a narrative in which dishonesty appears to be the order of the day.Continue Reading
Tell me a story. When our daughter was very young, her bedtime ritual always included stories. And for a while, she had a pretty good scheme in place: “I’m 3 years old,” she would say, “so read me three stories.” Fair enough. But she hung on to that formula. Four stories. Five stories. I think we finally pulled the plug around age eight.Continue Reading