Jesus is out of his mind. That's what his family thinks. That's what the crowd thinks. Healing swarms of people and calling tax collectors and fishermen to follow him, Jesus upsets the expectations of those who know him and love him best. But more than being out of his mind, the scribes, who are part of the Jewish religious institution, believe that Jesus is Satan. They think Jesus is evil. Preaching, praying, cleansing lepers, healing people, teaching about fasting and the sabbath, and calling disciples, Jesus not only upsets familial and communal expectations; he upsets the heart of the religious institution of the day. He doesn't fit in the box in which the scribes place God, so they assign Jesus to an entirely different box. The scribes can't see what the readers of the gospel of Mark see—that God is at work in the life and ministry of Jesus, doing something new and unexpected.
On the fortieth day of Easter, meaning 39 days after Easter and thus forever celebrated on a Thursday (we’re cheating a bit this morning), according to the account in Acts, Jesus ascends into heaven. The writer of Acts, Jesus, the disciples, and indeed everyone at this time in history believed the earth was flat, with heaven above, the place of the dead below. Watching Jesus ascend into heaven, the disciples likely imagined him rising higher and higher through the clouds, at some point reaching a discreet dividing line between earth and heaven, there to live and reign at God’s right hand until some undisclosed time in the future.
Jesus speaks with the disciples on the night before his death about love, about friendship. Eschewing the term slave or servant, Jesus names the disciples his friends, and he says: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Though I have long celebrated the way God chooses us in Holy Baptism, how God chooses us as God’s own children, I had not caught before the sweet grace of Jesus choosing us as friends
I’ve been meditating regularly. Back in Advent, and even just a few weeks ago, I thought I was doing well. I like doing things well. Each evening, I would sit on the pillows in my meditation room and spend 10 minutes following the directions of a guided meditation from the app Insight Timer. More recently, I was sitting in a chair each morning for 10 minutes engaged in a morning meditation from the same app. Then, one day a couple weeks ago, a friend asked: what’s your goal in meditation? I realized I didn’t know the answer to the question.
Following Jesus is the part of Christianity I find most compelling. Weekly worship, Bible study, even believing certain things, these for me are not as compelling as Jesus’ call to follow. I imagine where Jesus’ disciples, his original followers, went when they followed Jesus. I imagine the people they met and with whom they spent their time. I imagine their lifestyle. I imagine their surprise and hesitancy to follow at times because of the outrageous things Jesus did. And imaging all this makes me laugh because it in no way resembles the lives of most Christians here and now.
My dad’s also a Lutheran pastor.Three weeks ago, he retired after 39 years of ordained ministry from Spirit of Hope Lutheran Church in east Mesa. Of all the Christmas Eve sermons I have heard him preach, the one that sticks with me is the sermon where he told the story of a young woman giving birth in her car, a hatchback, behind a particular Circle K in east Mesa, cold, alone, scared.
John was clear about who he was and who he was not. John knew where his authority began and ended. He was meant to prepare the way of the Lord, to point to Jesus. If John had lived in the 21st century, he might have picked up one of those large foam fingers sold at professional football games and pointed that foam finger in the direction of Jesus, turning everyone’s attention to the star player.
O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!
An apt prayer from the prophet Isaiah for this first Sunday of Advent. For Advent is a season of emptiness. Emptiness because the One for whom we wait—Jesus—is not yet here. Emptiness because the presence of God may not be readily apparent in our world. Emptiness in our Advent practice of meditation, silence instead of incessant Christmas music. For me, the emptiness of Advent is a relief
Each November, Christians who follow the Revised Common Lectionary, that is, the series of biblical readings shared in worship each Sunday, find themselves in a bit of a mini-season.
November is a mini-season of the end times, the season when we consider Jesus’ return, eschatology in the vocabulary of theologians. Usually on the last Sunday in November or sometimes the second to last, we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, the very last day of the church year, when we look forward to the kingdom of God come in its fullness. Today, we begin our mini-season with the tale of five wise and five foolish bridesmaids with their lamps who wait for the bridegroom that they might accompany him to the wedding banquet.
Far from a book of doom and gloom, fire and brimstone, fear and terror, the book of Revelation offers hope.
Because Revelation is apocalyptic literature, it employs fantastic images and bizarre metaphors similar to the science fiction of today. Biblical scholars now recognize that, as apocalyptic literature, Revelation is not meant to be read literally but to be understood through its metaphors to say something profound about its historical context: that of the Christian community during the Roman Empire.
On October 31, 1517, Roman Catholic monk Martin Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church in their practice of selling indulgences to the peasants of Germany. These indulgences were meant to confirm the release of their dead relatives and sometimes their living loved ones from purgatory, a space between this world and the afterlife, at least in the Roman Catholic tradition. We may be well familiar with Luther’s theological concerns: the very existence of purgatory, the ability of a piece of paper to release someone from it, the idea that anything we do can ensure our salvation.