“Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
So what? What does our footwear have to do with holy ground? Do our shoes corrupt? Are they somehow unholy? Why didn’t Moses immediately interject, “Why? There are sharp rocks all around here—do you want me to get cut?” How many of us would have done the same if we found ourselves in similar circumstances? But then, how many of us have ever heard the voice of God speaking to us from a bush that was burning without being consumed? Continue reading →
Narrative Lectionary Reading: Genesis 32:22-30 (Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel)
There’s a phrase, popular particularly in Roman Catholicism, that describes what I would call a “crisis of faith”; that phrase is, “the long, dark night of the soul”. The phrase is partly rooted in ideas about God that associate God with light, and that being in touch with the Divine brings light, clarity, and purpose to our lives. You can see something of this notion on display whenever you leave Columbus on Highways 30 or 81 and you see the “Jesus I trust in you!” signs that depict a resplendent Jesus opening his heart to us, and that heart is shining—almost as if he is E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, whose heart-light glows in part when he is spreading love and healing (but then, E.T. totally works as a Jesus story, so that’s no surprise). Continue reading →
Narrative Lectionary Reading: Genesis 18:1-5; 21:1-7 (A son is promised to Sarah and Abraham)
There’s really not much to debate: Sarah usually comes off looking like a foolish character in this story. In the face of a Divine promise, the word of God promising her a child in her old age, she laughs. It probably doesn’t help when she tries to deny that she laughed—thinking, no doubt, that she has offended her guests—and it gives them a chance to contradict her and say, “Oh yes, you did laugh.” Perhaps also folks don’t cut her any slack because of her earlier insistence that Abraham banish her maidservant Hagar, who had given birth to Abraham’s child Ishmael, a conception that was conceived by Sarah, according to the story we have before us. Perhaps all of that is why we tend to think less of her for laughing at God’s promise—but was it actually so bad to do so? I’m going to go out on a limb (even if it may be a pretty thick limb) and say, “No.” Continue reading →
Narrative Lectionary Reading: Genesis 2:4b-25 (the Garden of Eden)
Creation stories tend to be pretty influential upon the belief systems of those who read them. We Christians are no different. For instance, some Christians find that the “seven day creation story” strongly influences our idea of Sabbath, encouraging us to affirm our own need for rest by the example of a Creator who rested on the seventh day. Other Christians believe that the seven-day creation is a matter of literal truth, and they allow it to negatively impact their perception of things like astronomy, geology, and evolution, believing instead that the world really was created in seven days and that the planet Earth is only around 6,000 years old. Continue reading →
This is definitely a bizarre little story nestled into the book of Acts. We join Paul during a week-long stay in the city of Troas, which lay on the upper western coast of what is today the nation of Turkey. It’s apparently the last night of Paul’s stay there, and it sounds a lot like he’s trying to pack everything into his teaching that he hasn’t yet managed to say over the prior six days. That leads him to preach for a very.long.time—until midnight and later, according to the text. A brief reference to the many lamps that lit the room seems innocuous, but may at least be a contributing factor to what is shortly to occur. This is where we meet the young man Eutychus, someone who we presume is there to listen to Paul share his testimony about Jesus the Christ. Continue reading →
While this is not a perfect analogy, the story we have before us today of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch reminds me a little bit of the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I remember watching that show avidly as a youth and absorbing all of its pop-culture catchphrases: “Heigh-ho, Silver!” “Who was that masked man?” and of course, “Kemosabe”, Tonto’s term of affection for the Lone Ranger. I even had a friend who called me that from time to time, though it made not an ounce of sense. But then, neither did The Lone Ranger, because he was never alone. He might have been the only one of the two who was a Texas Ranger, or whatever his official capacity was, but he was never alone, because Tonto was always there. The Lone Ranger was no lone wolf, to put it another way. He always had his faithful sidekick and backup, who for whatever reason I thought was a lot more compelling.
Growing up, I remember learning about our American Presidents and the things they did that have endured. Washington as the first. Jefferson purchasing Nebraska (among other lands). Adams and Adams, two Presidents from the same family. Wilson and the League of Nations. Lincoln and slavery. And then there was Teddy Roosevelt, the brash, outspoken conservationist and Rough Rider who inspired a beloved stuffed animal. He was the ultimate example of masculine, nationalistic swagger, and they stuck his face on Mt. Rushmore for it. But alongside all those things Teddy, one that always stood out for me was Teddy Roosevelt the Trustbuster, the President who went after the illegal monopolies that threatened to strangle the American consumer. Teddy was the people’s champion long before a guy named The Rock. He was the bane of the business community, or at least those corporations that were so big they forgot to care for individual consumers. Continue reading →
“More Unsung Heroes”. I couldn’t leave it alone! The Bible’s a really big book, and there are lots of characters in there who don’t often get their own sermons. So today, we embark on another stroll through Scripture to find stories of more “unsung heroes”, as we continue our loose exploration of what it means to be a hero and what these characters can teach us about courage.