Temperature, change and grace

I have two words for you this morning: “thermometer” and “thermostat.” Regular, routine, and household words we rarely give a second thought to: “thermometer” and “thermostat.”

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Those are Jesus’ words from the gospel. They well could have been the prophet Jeremiah’s from the first reading. Jeremiah began his public ministry in the streets of Jerusalem when the good King Josiah was instituting religious reforms to bring the tribes of Judah and Israel back into covenant with God. It was the best of times. The people were being taught the Word of God and right worship – and Jeremiah was on the vanguard of the reforms. And so, it was for about 10 years. King Josiah died in battle and everything changed. Continue reading

A Good Life

The story of Abraham and Sarah is a story that should begin, “Against all odds….”  It is a pretty amazing story of perseverance, endurance, and life lived for a mission greater than one’s self. Abraham and Sarah persevered and endured the long journey from modern-day Iraq to Israel on to Egypt and back to Israel. Even as the reached their older years, they continued to hope for a child of their own. They believed in the Lord’s promises even when his timeline was a whole longer than their timelines. They bore the hopes and expectations of all the people they led. Certainly, they lived out St. Paul’s message from 1 Cor 13:7 “[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.Continue reading

When we fall asleep…

I have to admit that I still had last week’s gospel on my mind as I prepared for this week’s homily. Last week, I mused about the apostles’ request for Jesus to teach them to pray, his response of the Lord’s Prayer, and then the parable about knocking, asking, requesting. Last week, I wondered about our attitude as we pray. Of course, there are many moods and attitudes that accompany us to moments of prayer, but the one that concerned me was the disposition in which we expected God to be our valet, our concierge, and prayer was simply the currency of exchange. Continue reading

Unlearning and prayer

There are some who are encouraged by the words of today’s Gospels. All we have to do is ask and it will be given; knock and doors open. Be persistent, keep knocking. And some folks are able to testify to miraculous cures, a marriage now strengthened, a financial situation turned around, a job offer, and more. In some corners of American Christianity this is the core Gospel, a gospel of prosperity. The good things in life are a reward for their faith, their persistence, their prayers to their personal Lord and Savior. Pray that a child is accepted into a premier university and so it happens. Pray for a parking spot and one will be provided. Sometimes their testimonies about the power of prayer makes me wonder if God is expected to act in the role of valet or concierge in which prayers are the currency by which this divine transaction operates. Continue reading

Choosing well

In one episode of the “Brady Bunch,” middle sister Jan gets fed up with center-of-attention oldest sister Marsha. “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” Jan cries in irritation. I can’t remember the problem or how it was resolved, but I do remember Jan’s tone: total exasperation. And thanks to the similarity in the sound of the names (Marsha and Martha), for years this same exasperation echoed through my mind every time I read the story of Mary and Martha in the gospel. It is as though Martha comes out of the kitchen and with the same exasperation says (in so many words): Mary, Mary, Mary. And then finds herself on the carpet, so-to-speak, in front of Jesus and whole room. Continue reading

How do we see them?

good_samaritanI am away from the parish celebrating the baptism of a college classmate’s first grandchild. I thought it good to leave you with some words from another time reflecting on our Sunday readings.


“Go and do likewise.” This seems like a pretty clear command from Jesus. You just heard the parable of the Good Samaritan, so what is it that you are to go and do likewise? Clearly the context for the parable is Jesus’ effort to tease out the scholar of the law what it means to love God and to love one’s neighbor – that’s the theory of it, but what are practical elements of the divine command? The scholar of the law never gets to that “because he wished to justify himself.” He asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” And that is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. Even if the scholar figures out who his neighbor is, there are the practical matters of “doing.” Jesus words punctuate the ending: “Go and do likewise.” Continue reading

Crossing Bridges

I have been teaching bible studies for 33 years now. I have learned some things, forgotten some things, but I have come to appreciate the life-long project that slowly builds up a deeper appreciation of what God desires for us, God’s love for us, and the symphony of God’s efforts to lead us to salvation for the great homecoming of homecomings. Continue reading

Greatness

These days, there are four words that are a sure way to get a reaction: “make America great again.” What kind of reaction? The “whys” “whats” and “wherefores” of the reaction, well, that is for another time and place. Like many slogans it is meant to point to some narrative beyond itself, to a larger story, to provide meaning, purpose, and destiny to this life.

It seems to me that at the heart of it all is the word “great.” We use it a lot. “Have a great day.” “That’s great news!” “She a great person.” There are lots of other uses, but what makes a person great? Many times, we borrow the personal attribute and assign it to an individual because of their actions and achievements. Some call Tom Brady of the New England Patriots football team the GOAT – greatest of all time. While his on-field performance would certainly qualify him for the moniker, GOAT, in the realm and history of football quarterbacks, do those accomplishments make him great? Michael Phelps is a candidate for the GOAT of swimming. But again, the same question lingers. Continue reading

What’s the difference?

We have all kinds of solemnities, feast days, and other special days in the church year. We commemorate happenings in the life of Christ: Mary’s visit from Gabriel, the birth of Jesus, the arrival of the maji, the Baptism of our Lord, the Transfiguration when the glory of Christ is revealed, Palm Sunday, the empty tomb and Resurrection of Easter, the glorious Ascension, the explosive coming of God’s spirit to the church at Pentecost … and then we have Holy Trinity Sunday.  And suddenly it is like we have moved from these great events in the life of Christ, and now…. tadah!!  We are celebrating… well… what are you celebrating this Sunday? Take a moment and make a list of the possibilities… (for my own part I am waiting… are you making the list or did you keep reading?) Continue reading

What does this mean?

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim… At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language… They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.Continue reading