Once we have seen…

adventHappy Thanksgiving! I hope that many of you have just enjoyed the gathering and comfort of family and Thanksgiving. And just as we are in that soft afterglow of family and friends, with Christmas scenery and music serenading our senses, we hope this good spirit can be sustained for the next 30 days. If only we could jump straight to Christmas. I mean, why not? All the stores have made the jump, the malls are decorated, and everything about our secular world tells us to race ahead to the finish line, get it all done, get ready for Christmas, buy your gifts – the finish line is there for the crossing. Continue reading

Perusing Joy: ten lepers

tenlepersI like words, their origin (or etymology if you prefer) and the ways in words affect people – and people affect words. Such as the word “peruse” which people understand to mean “glance over, skim,” etc. Yet originally the word means (and I would argue still does) to read completely and in exacting detail. Recently Merriam-Webster’s (M-W) “Word of the Day” revealed another interesting word whose meaning has done an about face: egregious. Today it means to be conspicuous or flagrant – and almost always in a negative sense. Yet the origin of the word from the Latin ex-“out of” and greg- “flock” to give us egregius “illustrious” or in a more modern sense, “outstanding.” Somewhere in the late 16th century the word was increasingly used in an ironic sense, until that usage became it every day meaning. Continue reading

Watchfulness – reflection

First-AdventFrom Pheme Perkins [The Gospel of Mark in The New Interpreter’s Bible, 695]

“On the one hand, Mark underscores the certainty of Jesus’ word. Readers know that the death of Jesus on the cross does not end the story of salvation. On the other hand, Christians need not concern themselves with apocalyptic speculation. Disciples should remember that ‘doing the will of God’ (3:35) has no relationship to the timing of divine judgment. Neither should Christians concern themselves with the fate of those who persecute them or who reject the gospel. When Christians rush to judge others, they should remember this exhortation. The only question the master will ask is whether the servants have been faithful to their call as disciples. Continue reading

Watchfulness – commentary

First-AdventJesus concluded his discourse by stressing the responsibility of maintaining vigilance. The duty to watch draws its force from the fact that “no one knows” the critical moment of God’s decisive intervention. “That day” evokes a formula hallowed by use in the prophetic Scriptures; it appears with a clearly eschatological resonance in passages which announce the day of Yahweh’s appearing (Amos 8:3, 9, 13; 9:11; Mic. 4:6; 5:9; 7:11; Zeph. 1:9f.; 3:11, 16; Obad. 8; Joel 3:18; Zech. 9:16; 12–14). Continue reading

Watchfulness: context

First-Advent13:32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Continue reading

The Same Question

judgmentHere on the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, as we celebrate Christ the King, the first image we are presented is that of the shepherd and his sheep. The Prophet Ezekiel proclaims: “Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep…I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered.” (Ez 34:11-12) It’s good that God is looking out for us, for the lost sheep, for the strays, and the ones who have lost their way. Isn’t good that God is looking for them! What about us? We’re here in church. Aren’t we one of the faithful, a spiritual seekers, the ones paying attention to our life in God? Yes? Well that is how we see ourselves, yet Ezekiel insists that it is God who seeks out all of us. OK…that’s good, but can’t we prize the spiritual maturity we possess? Can’t we get a little credit here? Continue reading

Last Things – a final thought

judgmentA Final Thought: Not Keeping Score. Richard Jensen (Preaching Matthew’s Gospel, 220-22) has comments from his book about this parable which I thought I would share:

The righteous are surprised. They don’t know their deeds. They haven’t kept score. Their left hand doesn’t seem to know what their right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3)….

The righteous were righteous because of their deeds and they didn’t know it. They didn’t know their own righteousness…. The righteousness of the sheep was precisely an alien righteousness. They didn’t even know they possessed it!… Continue reading

The Power of Christ the King

Holy-Face-of-Jesus-23Imagine four persons in a room. The first is a powerful dictator who rules a country. He commands armies, directs the lives of millions, and his wishes become law and are enforced. He possesses a brutal power. Next to him sits a gifted athlete at the pinnacle of his physical prowess. This is one whose speed, strength, and endurance have few equals. His is a graceful power for which he is much admired and envied. The third person is a rock star whose music and charisma electrify sold out arenas. Her words can become the anthem for a generation. Her power is a soulfulness of the muse. The fourth person in the room is a newborn, a baby, lying in its crib, unable to clearly ask for what it needs. Continue reading

Last Things – the eternal

judgmentWhat We Fail To Do. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ The exchange between the king and the accursed mirrors the exchange with the righteous, though suitably abbreviated to avoid tedious repetition – even absenting “brothers and sisters” with reference to the “least ones” in v. 45. The list is the same, the perplexed “when did we see you” response, and the King’s reply. One contrast might lie in something small. In v.44, summarizing the actions of the accursed, they ask when they did “not minister to your needs?” Continue reading

Last Things – the accursed

judgmentSolidarity. 40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ The words “Amen, I say to you,” here and in v. 45 emphasize the principle of solidarity. Whether they knew it or not, the people they helped were associated with Jesus, to such an extent that they could be said to be Jesus. The more general principle of Proverb 19:17 that “Whoever cares for the poor lends to the Lord” is thus here more specifically applied to Jesus and his people. Continue reading