Archives: Ordinary Time

I’d Rather Be Esau

Sibling rivalry.

What a familiar story that is.

With four sisters to choose from, I had plenty of sisters with whom to compete as a child.

We all had our distinct roles in the family.

My older sister Maggie was the rebel.

I was the goody two-shoes.

My little sister Merideth was the consummate middle child, and the twins, Ginny and Kitty, lived in a secret twin society of their own.

Over the years there were many alliances and counter-alliances, trade negotiations for toys, peace talks over games, and so on.

Jacob and Esau had clearly defined roles as well.

The scripture says that “Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.”

Genesis makes no bones of the fact that there were distinct favorites as well: “Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

In a patriarchal society, a father’s approval was everything, and like any young boy Jacob would have longed for his father’s attention and favor.

But it was not to be. Continue reading

Idiot Faith

Right.  This has got to be one of the most messed up stories in the Old Testament.

Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, I mean.

And it’s not like we have a scarcity of truly disturbing stories in the OT.

There’s David deliberately sending Uriah to be killed so he can hook up with Bathsheba.

There’s Cain killing his own brother Abel over an agricultural misunderstanding.

And that favorite for family fun, Jael inviting Sisera into her tent, tucking him in for a nap, and then driving a tent peg through his skull.  Charming!

I mean, it’s just terrifying and there’s no other way around it.

Put Abraham and Isaac into a modern context.

Picture a man holding a gun to his ten-year-old son’s head, ready to pull the trigger.

There would be SWAT teams aiming laser-guided assault rifles at him from behind parked police cars, police and news helicopters buzzing overhead broadcasting the standoff live around the world, and a hostage negotiator over a bullhorn, begging the father to stand down and asking him why he would want to kill his son.

The answer?

“Because God told me to do it.” Continue reading

Six Weddings and a Funeral for My Arrogant Discipleship

“One midnight hospital vigil, one funeral, one new job, one dead mouse under the kitchen sink smelling up the whole church, one brave parishioner kind enough to deal with said mouse, one interview with the paper, one never-ending church directory project concluded, two sermons written…and six weddings. A week in the insane and fabulous life of being a priest.”

That’s what I posted on Facebook last night thinking over the adventure of the last seven days.

Last Monday when I looked over my calendar and across the expanse of the week ahead, I could never have imagined everything that would transpire.

I thought it would be relatively quiet, organizing everything I need to arrange before I go on vacation, making sure the wheels of the parish will continue to turn while I’m gone.

Little did I know that in one short week I would have some of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my ministry thus far, and learn that I was completely wrong about my own role in them. Continue reading

The Slave and The Virgin

Jesus in the gospels is like that friend who 50% of the time is awesome to be around and 50% of the time is saying the most awful, awkward things that no one wants to hear.

We get a little bit of both in our gospel story today.

We have the beautiful teaching of the value of the sparrows and the hairs of our head being numbered, and then the somewhat less beautiful teaching of Jesus coming to bring a sword instead of peace and the guarantee that dysfunctional family life will continue well into the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

It is passages like this that make me admire Mary, Jesus’ mother, even more than I already do.

She has seen Jesus act out this very teaching. From his seeming lack of politeness at the wedding at Cana to asking people who are his mother and brothers and sisters, appearing to reject her entirely, she has seen it all and still sticks by him all the way to the Cross.

But we know of course that Jesus loved his mother, even valued her highly in the leadership of the disciples, in which she took an even greater role after his ascension.

The gospels don’t tell us of the more tender moments between them, we have to imagine those. Continue reading