The end is near! I imagine most of us, either in person or on TV or in the print media, have seen someone like the person who probably drives this van. He or she is usually around at events or occasions that draw a big crowd. They don’t even have to be religious events, although I’ve seen people like this warning us “apostate” Presbyterians at our General Assemblies in the past. But I’ve also seen and imagine you have, too, these poster waving, self-identified prophets declaring “The end is near!” at football games and festivals. It may even be just what they call “Tuesday” in popular tourist spots like Times Square or the Washington DC Mall of monuments in the busy summer season. These prophets (I use the term loosely, very loosely) may turn up anywhere there are a lot of people around because they are trying to announce what they think is a very urgent message – “The end is near!!!” Judgement is coming! You better get your stuff in order, because this is your last chance. Continue reading
Yep. I did just read the story of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Nope. I didn’t mix up the calendar. Yes I did just read the story about Palm Sunday. No, next week is not Easter.
Bear with me here for a little.
In our worship for a few years we have followed the Narrative Lectionary, a schedule of readings that brings us through the Bible chronologically even if that doesn’t always line up with the traditional celebrations of the church year. Continue reading
Anyone who presents material to others regularly — I’m thinking of course of preachers, since that’s what I do most often, but also teachers, workshop leaders, researchers, journalists — probably runs into this problem fairly often – the problem of having more material to present than can fit into the allotted presentation time. Continue reading
Jesus left that place, Mark tells us, and came to his hometown. (Mark 6:1-29) “That place” was the region around the Sea of Galilee, most recently where he healed a woman who had been suffering for many years and also raised from the dead the daughter of Jairus, a leader in the synagogue. Before that he cast out a demon from a tortured man. Before that he calmed a storm that was battering the boat taking him and his disciples from one side to the other. Before that he was teaching about seeds – sowing seeds, growing seeds, seeds as small as a grain of sand. Before that he healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. Before that, before that, before that…. Continue reading
A couple of months ago I was at Willow River Elementary School where I was volunteering in my son’s classroom to teach an art appreciation lesson. I stopped in the supply room near the office to pick up the things I needed before heading up to the room. In addition to carrying 3 large mounted art posters, I had a couple of zip lock baggies of teaching props, two shopping bags holding 24 canvas boards for a painting project, a large tub filled with tubes of paint in every color from raging red to perfect purple, and a couple of tin cans of paint brushes in every size and shape. Needless to say my hands were full. As I came out of the supply room and began the trek across the school to the opposite corner and up a couple of flights of stairs to the 3rd grade classroom a young student spotted me, took one look, and graciously asked, “Do you need some help?”
Even though I don’t have my own yet, I have spent enough time with teenagers to know that the concept of fairness is pretty important to them. Who am I kidding? It isn’t because I spend time with teenagers that I know this; it’s because I was one. And it’s because even just thinking about my years as a middle schooler brings my desire for fairness flooding back to mind. I can remember the day of the huge algebra test that the fire alarm went off in third period. The kids who had algebra third period got to delay their test after they already started it and had seen all the questions. Only I had orchestra in third period not algebra. Those of us who had algebra at any other time in the day still had to take the test just like it was a normal day. It wasn’t far at all!!! Oh yeah, I remember that desire for fairness!
I also remember the typically adult answer the teacher gave. The same answer my mom used to give when my sister and I would bicker over who had more chores to do, the same answer I give now when something stirs up that desire for fairness in my own children – – “Life’s not fair.” Ugh. Even though we know it’s true, both when we hear that answer and when we give it, it is just a hard statement to swallow
Life’s not fair.
Romans is Paul’s longest letter. He has a LOT to tell the church in Rome. Either they have a lot of questions or he has heard a lot of, shall we say, interesting versions of theology coming from the community. Whatever it is he has a lot to say to them.
Some of the things he says are the basics, spelled out simply, but also beautifully. We heard last week, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (5:8) Other things, like the things we will hear today are teachings that take it to the next level.
I imagine this week’s reading as a sort of answer to an unspoken question – – only I imagine it spoken. I have heard it spoken – in conversations with confirmation students year after year, in Bible studies with women around that library table back there, in coffee shops and airplane seats when someone with some bones to pick with the church finds out what it is I do. The question is this, see if you’ve ever asked it, “So if Jesus goes to such great lengths to save us, if God loves us so much that God’s going to forgive any sin we have anyway, why not just keep on living the fun life? Why bother to be good anyway? We’ll get forgiveness for our sins anyway, won’t we?” Continue reading