Archives: Proper 28

True Confessions of a Convicted American Consumer

I finally did it.

I finally got rid of the stationary bike in my apartment that had long served as an impromptu clothes rack.

Even the shame of admitting I never used it could not overcome the freedom I felt when it was gone.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about consumption. The verdict: I am a big-time consumer.

A series of blog articles and books has led me to evaluate the amount of “stuff” I have in my life, and I don’t like what I see.

I have long felt convicted by Jesus’ economic teachings. Over and over in the gospels he says things like, “Sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and then come, follow me.”

And I feel exactly like the rich young man in that story, who goes away discouraged and downhearted “for he had many possessions.”

That young man gave up the chance to travel and learn and live with Jesus because he loved his stuff so much.

His stuff kept him imprisoned.

I’ve finally realized that I’m running much the same risk. Continue reading

Election: I Will Not Be Moving On, and Here’s Why

I was listening to a book by Jim Finley, the great Roman Catholic contemplative teacher, and he said something extraordinary.

He said, and I paraphrase here, “Great pain is always pointing to great unacknowledged truth.”

I can’t think of a more apt description of how our nation has been feeling this week.

This is not a pulpit sermon. I will not be preaching this to my congregation during Sunday morning worship.

It is instead a very personal reflection on what I have been experiencing in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump as our president, and how I see the scriptures relating to that.

Jesus is right with us in the beginning of our gospel lesson today.

“When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’”

This week many things were thrown down in our lives, first and foremost our image of what we thought America was, how far we thought America had come.

I think many of us really believed that with our first black president and the advent of marriage equality, our nation had really turned a corner.

We were living in a fool’s paradise. Continue reading

When It All Comes Crashing Down

It’s all going to come crashing down.

That’s the Good News of Jesus Christ given to us today in our gospel lesson, straight from the mouth of Jesus himself.

How is that Good News?

That’s going to take some unpacking, so let’s get to it.

In our gospel from Mark today, Jesus is predicting the destruction of the temple.

In the year 70 C.E., the Jerusalem Temple, in which Jesus and the disciples were walking in this gospel passage, was literally destroyed by the Romans.

It was a catastrophe of the highest order, one the disciples could hardly imagine that day that they walked through it with Jesus, admiring the strength and beauty of the pillars and porticos.

The Temple was a sign and a symbol of so many things to the disciples. It meant strength, security, the loving presence of Almighty God in the Holy of Holies, and identity as a Jewish people.

Of course they love and admire it!

“’Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’”

This is not news the disciples want to hear, but they have learned enough to take Jesus seriously when he talks to them, so they follow up and ask him later when will this happen.

Jesus, in his delightful way of continually refusing to do as we ask of him to satisfy our agendas, doesn’t answer him. Continue reading

The Kingdom of God is Not a Talent Show

Mark, a friend of mine who is a priest in Denver, wrote on Facebook this week, “When writing a sermon, it’s not that helpful or productive to keep saying to yourself, “This really isn’t my favorite gospel passage…”.”

And then Bill, a priest in Alabama, wrote back, “I often say exactly that in a sermon. Chances are it’s not the congregation’s favorite either.”

So I don’t know how you feel about the Parable of the Talents, but it pretty much left me cold this week aside from the usual interpretations about how fear limits our potential for ministry.

The traditional interpretation is to see God or Jesus in the role of the Master.

The idea is that the slaves with the two and five talents are good and faithful and did fruitful ministry because they were brave and took risks.

And the last slave who buries his talent is weak and foolish, and has wasted his ministry opportunity because he was afraid.

But we need to call this into question by taking a closer look at the Master on whom we have projected the person of God.

The Master is actually not a very good person. Continue reading

Gospel Tornado Siren

In our Gospel today, Jesus is speaking of very real threats to his followers.

They are walking in the temple and admiring how beautiful it is, adorned with rich stones and ornamentations, and he has to bring them abruptly back to Earth with a wake-up call.  While you are thinking about how beautiful these material things are, Jesus says, dangers are creeping up on you all around.

Jesus warns his followers of three types of danger.

The first is being led away by false teachers and false Messiahs.

The second is great external calamities like wars, earthquakes and famines.

And the third is losing faith because of betrayal by friends.

His original disciples were in danger of all these things happening to them literally.

How blessed we are that we as twenty-first century Americans are not in danger of famine or being put on trial and condemned to death for our faith.

Many of our brothers and sisters around the world are not so lucky. Continue reading