Witness to God’s Story

Due to recent tragic events, offering reflections on the lectionary texts for this week is a daunting task, perhaps only eclipsed by the pastoral task of ascending into the pulpit last Sunday to name the powers and declare the fullness of the gospel. In times like these, we can often struggle to find the words to say. It seems to me that this is the beauty of the lectionary, though. When our words struggle to take shape and emerge, the lectionary calls us back to the story of God’s work in the world, a story that we must continually recount and rehearse because we will not find it anywhere else. These texts call us to remember and embrace that story. Read more

Dreams and Nightmares

Chapters 12-50 of Genesis contain the stories of four generations of ancestors: Abraham/Sarah (chapters 12-24); Isaac/Rebekah (25-26); Jacob/Rachel and Leah (27-36); and Joseph (37-50). Walter Brueggemann raises a startling, but obvious question: given the four sets of ancestral stories in Genesis, why is God revealed, for example, in Exodus 3 as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? Why does the shorter version, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” remain throughout the Scriptures as Israel’s theological summary? Where is Joseph in this list? Read more

Face to Face

God is serving up some experiential learning this week. I have wrestled with how to put this reflection together, re-writing the start of it ad nauseam. I even woke up in the middle of a few nights thinking on it. #iseeyougod

If you’ll limp along with me and Jacob, I’d like to offer some disjointed observations and reflections. I’ll follow the lead of the Psalmist and Matthew’s crowd of 5000+, trusting that God will confront us with blessing in this exercise, even if – like Paul – I struggle to understand exactly how that’s going to work. Read more

Scandalous Promises

I’ll be honest – I didn’t have a clue how to go about understanding this week’s readings. There are multiple parables about everything from mustard seeds to rotten fish and burning lakes – and that’s just in the Gospel. The Genesis text is about a tricky man who gets tricked into marrying the wrong sister, the Romans text gets into predestination, and the Psalm is all “Praise God! She’s got a good memory!”

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Signs of the Times: Charlie Gard and the Goods of Medicine

The case of Charlie Gard, an eleven-month-old infant in the UK suffering from a rare inherited disease, has garnered worldwide attention in recent months. When Charlie’s parents tried to bring him to the US for an experimental treatment, hospital officials intervened to stop them, and the courts became involved, setting off an extended legal battle for Charlie’s family and their supporters.

Predictably, Charlie’s situation led to much debate on matters such as family rights, the value of life, and government overreach. Figures as varied as Pope Francis and Donald Trump weighed in, as did numerous authorities in the field of Medical Ethics. On Monday, July 24th, Charlie’s parents decided to retract their request in the courts, bringing an end to the legal saga, but not to the questions that Charlie’s case raised. In a recent article written for Religion and Ethics, Jeffrey Bishop discussed the way that the Charlie Gard case prompted reflection on the question of the ethical goods of medicine, and the ways that Western liberalism can sometimes confuse or obscure these goods. Because such questions are bound up with the mission of Ekklesia Project, we share this article here.
(Photo Credit: BBC.Com)

The Weeds in Our Hearts

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 20:10-19
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-43

“You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum.
You can strike up the march
There is no drum.
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”

– from “Anthem,” by Leonard Cohen

I have laid waste my life in pursuit of a better past, grieving twenty-year old mistakes while ignoring my all too present sins. I am also – and by no means coincidentally – overly attentive to the sins of others, at least those sins I know from the inside, through personal experience. As the Twelve-steppers say about calling out failings in others, “If you name it, you claim it.”

The plain sense of Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the wheat and the weeds suggests a world in which the children of the kingdom and the children of the evil one are distinct and readily identified, if not easily separated in this life. I trust that is sometimes – perhaps more frequently than I care to admit – the case. I hope those who can reliably tell wheat from chaff or sheep from goats benefit from this parable, reassured that God will identify and deal with each justly and in due time. We may all be grateful in knowing that’s not our job.

For now, however, we must accept that the weeds aren’t going anywhere soon. We can all pray to receive the necessary grace to love our enemies, despite the current climate of partisan rancor and public denunciation. We can all pray to resist the weight and pull of worldly ways.

Yet my own experience of good and evil reminds me of an insight from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Read more

Getting Some Real Rest

Matthew 11:16-30

This week’s gospel passage features that well-known statement of Jesus’: “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Rest. That’s a difficult word for today’s society, because it’s not clear that what we mean by “rest” and what Jesus means are the same thing. Read more

The Walking Dead

Genesis 22:1-14
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

While they have long been a part of traditions and folkways in various cultures, in recent decades the concept of zombies has become enormously popular in comic books, films, and TV shows. From the late-night B-movies that thrilled audiences in the middle part of the twentieth century to more recent treatments like 28 Days Later, World War Z, and of course, the television series The Walking Dead, these productions, however predictable and familiar they might be, still intrigue viewers with their depictions of the slow-moving, dim-witted, yet always terrifying “undead”. Read more

Do Not Be Afraid

Third Sunday After Pentecost
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

As the Ekklesia Project Gathering draws near, with its focus on the church as Mission, and following on Timothy’s reflection for last Sunday, we come this Sunday to the last part of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples before they are sent out as apostles in the gospel of Matthew.

The sending of the apostles in Matthew differs from the story in Mark and Luke, in that we are not told of their return to Jesus, their telling of the experience, or of a restful retreat afterwards (or at least an attempt to retreat). Because of this, in Matthew’s telling there is the sense that the sending continues, up to and including the present day church. Read more