Our gospel reading for today begins with an invitation. Jesus says to the disciples: “Let us go across to the other side.” Jesus had been casting out demons and healing and preaching to the multitudes on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He’d just finished preaching several parables, including the parable of the sower and the parable of the mustard seed. By the time he finished, it was evening, and the disciples were probably pooped and ready for bed. But instead of calling it a day, Jesus decides: no, we need to get in the boat right now and sail across the Sea of Galilee. And that’s what he and the disciples do. There is an urgency to this story that we’ve kind of come to expect from the gospel of Mark.
This past week, we welcomed our second group of refugees: 12 families from Central America who made the long journey to seek asylum in the US. Some of them traveled for up to a month or more, some with very young children, just to get here. We have been getting a little better and more organized about welcoming them each time we’ve done it. And the volunteers we’ve had helping out have just been awesome. If you’ve helped out with this group or the previous group or have donated anything, please raise your hands. Thank you all for what you’ve been doing. Even the littlest things can make a huge difference. Continue reading
Our gospel text for today comes right on the heels of the story of the road to Emmaus, which is one of my favorite stories in all of scripture. You probably remember the story: two disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection and Jesus joins them, but they don’t recognize him until way later that evening, when they are breaking bread together. I’ve always thought it was kind of a funny story. And I see that same kind of humor in the story we read today. The disciples had literally just been talking about this encounter on the road to Emmaus, and also about an encounter that Peter had with the risen Christ, when Jesus himself appears among them and throws them into a panic. They were already beginning to believe that Jesus really had been raised from the dead, but when he actually showed up in their midst, they totally freaked out – and not in a good way. Continue reading
We’ve read and heard this story so many times that I wonder whether it still sounds as shocking to us as it should. “Crucifixion” is a word that belongs to ancient history and church rituals; it doesn’t evoke for us the same kind of visceral reaction as “electric chair” or “firing squad” or “hanging.” And yet it is also a method of execution by the state, one that is a hundred times more bloody, torturous, and painful. Even before we get to the cross, there is an unbelievable amount of violence in this story. Jesus Christ is struck across the face multiple times. He has sharp thorns jammed down onto his head; this was after he was flogged, a practice in which one’s bare back is whipped with a whip that has small pieces of metal or bone at the end, to inflict the most damage. This story is a horrifying testament to the creativity of human cruelty. Continue reading
Keep awake! Enough! The hour has come! At once! Immediately! Now! Now! Now!
There is no time to waste in Mark’s telling of the passion story. Even the language he uses is full of movement and urgency. After Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem, greeted with palm branches and shouts of “hosanna!” things go downhill in a hurry. He teaches in the temple about the kingdom and the true worship of God, but it makes the leaders of the people so angry that, at the beginning of our reading for today, they are already looking for a way to arrest him and kill him. Jesus had only been in Jerusalem for a few days! Continue reading
To eat meat, or not to eat meat – that is the question! Our passage for today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians probably sounds kind of strange and antiquated to our 21st century ears. We don’t really talk much about religious dietary restrictions nowadays, or worry that the food we eat will somehow impact our relationship with God. But for the Christian inhabitants of first century Corinth, Paul was addressing a very serious concern, one that went well beyond the question about food. Continue reading
We have three wonderfully rich readings to dive into this morning: the call of Samuel and his faithful response, Paul’s somewhat difficult word to the Corinthians about fornication and the body, and the call of Nathanael to follow Jesus. So, naturally, with so many great texts to choose from, I actually want to start out by talking about the one text we didn’t read this morning. Continue reading
We made it! We made it through another year, to Christmas Day. It’s kind of funny – even though this is technically the beginning of the liturgical season of Christmas, for most of us, today actually tends to mark the end of our Christmas celebration. Churches that were packed with people last night on Christmas Eve often look a little sparser on Christmas morning. I imagine folks are sleeping in, digesting their Christmas feasts. Family members are preparing to fly or drive back to the places that they came from.
And tomorrow, everything goes back to normal. The bright, colorful wrapping paper that once held mystery and surprise will get chucked into the trash. Cherished Nativity scenes will be carefully wrapped up and packed away to wait another year. The twinkling lights will be taken down. Before too long, dried out Christmas trees will be dragged to the curb, and even the clearance shelves at all the stores will soon be emptied to make way for the next big commercial holiday. Continue reading
María y José eran personas ordinarias, gente como nosotros. Vivían sus vidas entre su pueblo. José trabajaba como carpintero y los dos cuidaban a sus familias. Pero sus vidas fueron cambiadas drasticamente por dos eventos. Uno fue que el emperador romano, César Augusto, mandó que toda la gente fueran a los pueblos de sus ancestros para inscribirse en el censo. Esto lo hizo para poder sacar más impuestos. El otro evento, claro, fue que un ángel apareció a María y le dijo que daría a luz al Hijo de Dios. Y de repente, esta pequeña familia se encontró en medio de las acciónes de dos grandes poderes: el imperio romano y el reino de Dios.
Mary and Joseph were ordinary people, regular folks just like us. They lived their lives among their people. Joseph worked as a carpenter and both of them worked to care for their families. And then two events happened that drastically changed their lives. One event was that the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, ordered that all people should return to their ancestral homes in order to be registered in a census. He ordered the census so that he could wring more taxes out of the people. And, of course, the other event was that an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Son of God. These events left this tiny family in turmoil, caught up in the middle of the actions of two great powers: the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God. Continue reading
I don’t know about you all, but our texts for today leave me feeling a whole mess of different feelings. On the one hand, we have these lovely images of God as the compassionate shepherd looking after the flock, and caring for the “least of these.” But then we run into all this harsh language about judgment and destruction. It’s like being handed a bouquet of roses, only to have our fingers pricked by the thorns. Our gospel text today is particularly strong. This passage from Matthew is the only detailed account of the last judgment to be found anywhere in the New Testament – but even so, it’s definitely left an impression on the popular Christian imagination. Continue reading