December 9, 2018
Here’s the back story: Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age, after the angel Gabriel tells her husband, Zechariah, that this will happen. Zechariah questions the angel’s grasp of reality – they are both long past child-bearing age, just like Abraham and Sarah, or Hannah and Elkanah in the Old Testament. Because he doubts the angel’s word, Zechariah is unable to speak for the next nine months.
Here’s another little detail about Zechariah and Elizabeth you might find interesting: they both come from priestly families. In fact, Elizabeth is a direct descendant of Aaron. But Gabriel tells Zechariah that the child they will have is to be a prophet, not a priest. Continue reading
November 25, 2018
Christ the King B
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:4b-8)
The Alpha and the Omega … the “A to Z” … the beginning and the end: God is the one who is and who was and who is to come – in other words, God is beyond time. This is a pretty big idea for us to get our heads around. We often think in linear terms, so A to Z means a finite string of letters to us, not an all-encompassing understanding of everything that ever was or is or ever will be. Continue reading
November 18, 2018
Last week, I mentioned that Jesus and his disciples have been walking near the Temple, and that Jesus has predicted its destruction. The thirteenth chapter of Mark’s gospel begins like this: “As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1-2)
This is the final chapter in the year of Mark – all that’s left is the passion story, which we heard at Lent. This is the final ‘regular’ Sunday in the church year – next week is Christ the King, and then Advent begins. It’s no coincidence that we are getting ready to look forward to Jesus’ birth, just as Jesus is telling us to get ready for his coming again. Advent is always a two-fold expectation of Christ’s arrival.
But right now, the disciples have joined Jesus across the valley from the Temple. Continue reading
November 11, 2018
Have you ever given your opinion about something, and then said, “That’s just my two cents worth”? It’s a way of letting the person you’re talking to know that this is just your own opinion, and the listener is free to disagree. When we add our “two cents worth” to a discussion, we let people know that, “yeah, this is what I think, but I could be wrong. I’m no expert. Take it for what it’s worth – not much, maybe.”
Do you remember “sound bites”? We don’t hear about them much anymore, maybe because sound bites have been replaced with tweets. Continue reading
All Saints Sunday 11/4/2018
Jesus has completed his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. The triumphal entry into the city is already fading from memory. We’ve jumped from Mark’s gospel to John’s for this celebration of All Saints Sunday, so the timeline might seem a little crooked. But the trajectory of the story is the same: Jesus is getting closer to the Cross.
Since arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus has managed to make just about everyone angry. The shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” have given way to accusations of blasphemy, and threats of stoning. Jesus has gone back across the Jordan River to the place where John the Baptist was baptizing at the beginning of the story. While he is there, Mary and Martha send word to him that their brother Lazarus is sick. They ask him to come immediately, but he stays a couple more days. We can feel the tension building, even if Jesus seems not to be bothered. Continue reading
October 28, 2018
The story of Blind Bartimaeus acts as a bookend in Mark’s gospel. It closes out a long section that began back in chapter eight, when Jesus healed another blind man – only that time, Jesus had to spit twice before the man could see. This whole section has come to its climax here in chapter ten, where we’ve been walking with Jesus this month. The itinerary Jesus and his disciples have been following, as they travel from Galilee to Jerusalem, has been pretty … eventful. Continue reading
October 21, 2018
I knew a guy once who worked really hard at appearing humble. In public, he was always putting himself down, always declining praise when he’d done something good. But in private, it was a different story. One time he told me of a particularly generous thing he’d done for someone we both knew. And then he said, “But of course, I don’t want anyone to know it was me. Jesus says to give alms in secret.” And I thought, “but you just told me.” Continue reading