Abraham Lincoln famously said (or is famously said to have said) that if he could find a church whose credo was the golden rule, he’d join it. He never found one.
Religious leaders confronted Jesus with a question of essence rather like that. You’d think it would be the first thing Christians learn, and that for which they’re mostly known.
“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “”Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38This is the most important, the first on any list. 39But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Read the rest of this entry »
The oddness of the Bible—its miles-away foreign-ness—is, perhaps, too little allowed. Take this week’s batch of it:
Isaiah gives us a thrilling hymn of the end of tyranny and want. Perfect! But he begins it in a destroyed city.
Jesus invents a story of a king who can’t get invited guests to show up at his son’s wedding—finally replacing them with homeless and helpless folk—quite a wonderful tale! And then he tosses a guy who isn’t dressed right. But wait – how could any of his lately-discovered guests be dressed right? And isn’t it a little caddish to get so put out about it?
Why? Save it, preacher: Don’t give me that this means this and this means this. These stories are nearly impenetrable, and we fail the task of adequately communicating them if we make them simple: Jesus did not.
Impenetrable—but not completely so. The process of spilling all their odd parts onto the table before me and wondering, “What on earth?” is among the richest pleasures of life. And it is there amidst that strange mess that God defies expectations and reveals himself, refusing to yield mere information, but speaking in a way more wonderful.
What will we find here? Not much, if we simplify. Moralisms.
But if we let it stand with all its oddnesses, and let the oddnesses themselves become the clues?
Well, in that case, who can say?
Proper 23 A: October 11, 2008
Exodus 32:1-14 or Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 or Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
Isaiah 25: God’s Hand Rests on This Mountain
1-5 God, you are my God. I celebrate you. I praise you.
You’ve done your share of miracle-wonders, Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve started shaving again. Regrets.
Found out I had sleep apnea a few weeks ago, and have began using a CPAP at night. It’s like sleeping with a cool breeze (up your nostrils, anyway). And my, sleep is delicious! I’m awake!
I had to shave because the mask sits atop the whiskers under my nose, and that made that whisker-skin sore by morning. Which woke me up, defeating the purpose. So I shave. And they grow back. And I shave.
Friends of mine have had laser hair removal. Something about the laser so zaps the whisker that, in many cases, it never comes back. Something happens down in the follicle, inside your skin. And there you are, smooth as a baby’s bottom. No more stinky after-shave.
Shaving works outside-in. It’s never over. Laser hair removal, I suppose you could say, works inside-out. When it works, that one hair is gone for good.
The religious conservatives of Jesus’ day thought that God worked outside in. You conform to the rules, God likes you better, good things happen. But Jesus – and later, Paul – said “Uh, no!” about that. Grace works – as an old fellow I knew used to say – “slow but fine:” inside out. Watch how Paul says it in this Sunday’s Bible readings, just below.
Proper 16 (21) August 24, 2008
Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
Place Your Life Before God
1So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Read the rest of this entry »