Monday, October 20, 2014

Loving God By Loving Our Neighbor -- No, I Mean By really Loving Our Neighbor. A Homily from Matthew 22:34-40
A Homily for 
October 29 2014, 
Year A, from
(first posted 

Today's Lectionary Gospel reading continues the Hebrew religious leader's response to the series of Jesus' parables that we are calling the parables of provocation

This ongoing argument between Jesus and the pressure groups (N.T. Wright) of his day has now turned deadly serious, as Jesus knew it would, with the heat being steadily turned up on him by these leaders in their attempt to degrade the people's view of him, even as they plot his final destruction. 

As noted in last week’s text, these leaders had had enough. One could push these men of power only so far, and Jesus had pushed them over the line. 

First it was the Herodians and the Pharisees who sought to trap Jesus like one traps a bird or wild beast (A.T. Robertson) with their question tax paying to Rome. Then came the Sadducees with their question about marriage and the afterlife. And now, finally, it is the Pharisees turn again, this time with a question regarding TORAH

Monday, October 13, 2014

The State, GOD's Providence and the Power of Evil, A Homily for Matthew 22:15-21
Homily for 10.19.14
Revised from a Homily
first posted on 10.16.11

Today's Lectionary Gospel reading offers us the religious leader's response to the series of Jesus' parables of provocation: 
"The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech."
The ongoing argument now turns deadly serious, and in the next few weeks we shall see the heat steadily turned up with attempt after attempt to degrade the people's view of Jesus and finally to destroy it. 

These leaders had had enough, you see. One could push these men of power only so far, and Jesus had pushed them over the line. Now they plotted how they might trap him like one traps a "bird or wild beast." (A.T. Robertson) 

Interestingly, Jesus brought dissimilar groups together in opposition to his way of being Messiah. In today's text the Pharisees -- who resented Rome and who kept strict Torah observance as a way to chafe the LORD into acting again in behalf of the Hebrew nation so as to vindicate them and to bring them out from under gentile occupation, and the Herodians -- who were adherents of Herod and Roman supporters, both came together to trap Jesus. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Discovering The JesusWay Kingdom Through Suffering Service. A Homily from Matthew 22:1-10
Homily for October 12, 2014 28th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A. 
from Matthew 22:1-10.  (a revised from a homily first posted on October 9 2011. 

(NOTE: I am much indebted to N.T. Wright for the thrust of this homily)

Today's Lectionary Gospel reading from St. Matthew offers us one more parable in this ongoing conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. 

Jesus, still pounding away at them, now blatantly confronts them with their unwillingness to approach and follow his Kingdom project, saying, therefore: 
"tax collectors and prostitutes will go ahead of them to the Kingdom (21:31)"
"the Kingdom of GOD will be taken from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom."(21:43)
But Jesus is still not through with them. Again he tells them a parable. This time it is a comparison of the Kingdom with the story of a King who gave a wedding feast for his son. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Opening Ourselves to the Cost of the Kingdom. A Homily for Matthew 21:33-43

A Homily for October 5, 2014
The 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Year A. Matthew 21:33-43
(revised from a homily 
first posted on 10.2.11)

This morning’s homily continues the theme sounded last week. It is a message that is part of what has been a consistent motif throughout this liturgical year, especially as we have been working through St. Matthew's Gospel: 
Jesus is seeking those who would follow him toward the Kingdom — the present and coming Kingdom of GOD —  and this following is shown in the fruit of how they live. 
I thought it might be helpful, therefore, before entering into the heart of the today's homily, for us to think-through the historical context of today's reading. 

First, notice the order: 
In a highly symbolic act, Jesus presents himself to the people as Messiah in his entry into Jerusalem, but notice not the type of Messiah the people expected, or even wanted. (Mt.21:1-11)

Again, in a highly provocative and symbolic act, Jesus cleanses the Temple. That is, he shuts down the work occurring there to show the purpose for which the temple existed had been usurped by the leaders and the people into something else, and to show that the purpose of Temple itself was being moved to the person of Messiah. (Mt.21:12-17)

The religious leaders confront Jesus, asking him by whose authority he was doing what he was doing, saying, “Who authorized you to do these things? (Mt.21:23)

Jesus said to them in reply, 
“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Mt.21:24-27)
Which set up last week's parable about the Father who asked his two sons to go work for him in the vineyard concerning the obedient and the disobedient sons. (Mt. 21:28b-32)

All of which leads to today's Gospel reading, and it is as combative a parable as Jesus tells, ever. 

Again, I thought it might be helpful to outline up front just who the parable's characters represent, then to tell the parable, and finally to take what Jesus is pointedly saying to the religious and to see if there is an application to us in our day as well. 

In the parable, the cast of characters are these: 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Knowing and Doing God's Will. A Homily for MATTHEW 21:28-32
A Homily for the 
26th Sunday
of Ordinary Time, 
Year A, from 
Matthew 21:28-32
(this is a
revised homily 
from here)

The Lectionary Gospel reading for this morning gives us another account of Jesus’ ongoing challenge of the religious leaders of his day. 

This confrontation was necessary because something new was happening in the nation, and these leaders continued to push against this new, fresh wind coming to them. Jesus was making claims, offering new ways to see ancient truths, but these leaders continued to see with old eyes and sedentary minds. 

What they could not see was that this was the moment for which the nation had been waiting. What they could not see is that they were rejecting the culmination of all that GOD had been doing in the world, and that he was doing it through this man Jesus. They, who knew all the facts, were unable to put them in a new order because the picture toward which these facts were pushing them did not fit their world view. 

Or, as Jesus said it elsewhere, they did not have eyes to see, ears to hear or hearts to understand. 

But, we should be very careful indeed not to disparage these leaders too much, for often we are in the same mindset.

In this present text, in response to their unwillingness to declare whether John's baptism was from GOD or not (Mt. 21:23-27), Jesus tells a parable. It's a simple tale, really: 
A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, 'but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?"
And then Jesus asks this pointed question: 
Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first."
Of course, the point Jesus is driving home is that doing GOD's will is a matter of obedience. 

Like the second son, these religious leaders can say, "yes, we are doing GOD's will," but then not actually go and do it. Specifically, and in context, this means rejecting John's baptism of repentance and John's way of righteousness, of which Jesus was the key. 

Or, they could respond like the first son, and be like the tax collectors and prostitutes, who were not doing GOD's will at all, but who heard the message of John and changed their minds and actions. 

Much could be said here. This text is powerful in its challenge to the status quo and in its unwillingness to allow the arrived to stay that way. 

For our homily today I want us to think through four ideas: 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Early-Morning Men & the Five O'Clock Men. A Homily from Matthew 20:1-16A.
Homily for September 21, 2014
Year A. Matthew 20:1-16A 

(for a video devotion on this text, go here)

The Lectionary Gospel reading for today brings to our attention a powerful parable, one that leaves a most lasting impression. Before our hearing in today's reading Jesus opens the story of the workers who either become the "early-morning men" or the “five-o'clock men.” But, there is present a deeper reading to this parable, one that presents an account of the mystery at the very heart of the Almighty, who is present and who is so very gracious to those who do not deserve grace, which in the end of course is all of us. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

BEHOLD YOUR KING. A Homily for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Sunday from John 3:13-17.
 A Homily 
for the Exaltation 
of the Holy Cross Sunday 
from John 3:13-17.

(I am following N.T.Wright's teaching for this homily)

The Lectionary Gospel reading for today brings to our minds the most familiar of scriptures. I have commented elsewhere on parts of this text (go here), and most specifically there I discussed verse seventeen, which still stands as my favorite of scripture texts. 

However, for today's homily I want us to re-focus our attention elsewhere. I want us to meditate upon the meaning of the King on the cross, the King lifted up before us. Specifically, I want us to center our thoughts on what it means for Jesus to be King of the world, and how his Kingship is most powerfully and clearly displayed from the cross.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Fractured Body of Christ. Homily for September 7, from Matthew 18:15-20

Revised Homily for September 7, 2014
Year A. Matthew 18:15-20. 
(first posted September 4, 2011)

Today's Lectionary Gospel reading calls for honesty, humility and confession. It reads as a deeply troubling text which breaks open a festering wound within the body of Christ, a wound not easily addressed or healed. 

Here we are confronted by the words of Jesus, who is deeply concerned with how we treat each other and how conflict is to be resolved within his newly transformed community. Therefore, this text also confronts us with the truth that following Jesus, as we have said over and over again, is supremely something to be done, not just something to be thought or studied. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Cost of the Jesus-Way. A Homily for August 31 from Matthew 16:21-27

Homily for August 31, 2014 
from Matthew 16:21-27Year A
first posted August  28, 2011

The Gospel reading for today continues the transition began in last week's lectionary reading. We are now in the movement of Jesus, both in emphasis and location, from his time of ministry -- the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom through his words and his works, to the time of his passion -- the accomplishment of the Good News of the Kingdom through his death and resurrection. 

Before us today is a seminal text. Because it is the first of his passion announcements (Matthew records three), and because it is the hinge moment (from Matthew Hare) of Jesus' ministry, we can say that as far as his disciples are concerned, this is the turning point in their relationship with Jesus. It is at this point when the intentions of his ministry come to the surface most clearly, which confronts them (and us) with a decision. 

Here, they face Isaiah's suffering servant motif, which Jesus has chosen to guide his world-view as Messiah. Here they are invited to join him in his good news view that involves the very real experience of suffering and death prior to resurrection and victory. And, here, they must decide to let loose of their own Messiah understanding in favor of his, or not. 

In fact, a good way into the text is to notice the two invitations Jesus puts before his disciples, and by extension, to us: 

1. An Invitation to UNDERSTAND what GOD is really doing in the Christ -- this involves a new way of thinking 
2. An Invitation to FOLLOW the Christ’s actions which involve loss and gain -- this involves a new way of living 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Confessing & Walking the Jesus-Way. A Homily from Matthew 16:13-20

Homily for 8.24.2014, Year A  MATTHEW 16:13-20
Revised & Edited from a Homily originally posted on 8.21.2011

The Gospel Lectionary reading for today brings to a fine point what it means to follow Jesus. This text is the hinge moment in the ministry of Jesus, at least according to St. Matthew’s rendering. After this Jesus heads toward Jerusalem and the inevitable conclusion in his clash with the rulers and powers of the age. 

But, what of his disciples? What of his work just birthed in them, and still so weak? Jesus now begins to solidify in the minds (if not yet in the practice) of his followers who he is and what they will do after his Jerusalem journey ends his life. 

Here we see three statements coming out of the text that will help us understand what is happening here, and how this text might also apply to our own discipleship within the real world, within the struggles of the human condition: 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Woman In Need Confronts The LORD. A Homily for August 17 from Matthew 15:21-28

A Homily edited & revised for 
August 17, 2013, Year A
(first posted August 14, 2011)

The Gospel Lectionary reading for today brings to us the plight of the Canaanite woman, a misfit to Jesus and his crowd if there ever was one. And yet, somehow, strangely, she and the Master find a connection. 

St. Matthew's account leaves us a little breathless doesn't it? Why wouldn't Jesus help someone of a different gender and race? But, of course, as N.T. Wright reminds us: 
"We are here, once again, at a point where Jesus' fundamental mission is being defined. He wasn't simply a traveling doctor whose task it was to heal every sick person he met. He had a very specific calling...God's people needed to know that God was at last fulfilling his promises. The kingdom for which they had longed was beginning to appear...he was himself God's appointed king."
But, there is so much more here than the mere context of the passage and why it was included within the Gospel. Initially, we will ask of the text what we learn from the woman, and then will ask of the text what we learn from Jesus' response. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Jesus Is Present With His People. A Homily for August 10, 2014 from Matthew 14:22-33

Homily for the 19th Sunday of  Ordinary Time

Today's Lectionary Gospel reading finds Jesus sending the disciples off to the next location after his feeding of the 5,000 so that he can find time to be alone and to pray. One wonders if the disciples had concerns over how the Lord would make it across the sea by himself. Anyway, the boat, as the text reads, was
"a few miles offshore...being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it."
The disciples, several of whom were professional seamen, could not make headway across the water. And so, the text tells us:
"During the fourth watch of the night, he [Jesus] came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified."
Terrified that is, until Peter does the unthinkable and seeks to join the water-walking Rabbi! This has to be one of the most curious events in the Gospels, which may explain why this story has become the stuff of parody by the cynic so that the Gospels and Jesus himself may be trivialized as the victim of outdated, magical thinking. However, whatever the critics and comics say about this story, both St. Matthew and St. Mark would have us believe its foundation in reality.

Not surprisingly, the Evangelists offer different details to the story and a somewhat different ending. In Matthew's account Jesus walks toward them on the sea, and they respond to Jesus' feat over nature by doing him homage and saying:
“Truly, you are the Son of God.” 
But, in Mark's account Jesus intends to pass by the struggling boat, but they see him and cry out. Mark ends the pericope by telling us:
"He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were [completely] astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened." (Mk.6:51-51)

We need not fret about the different details and separate endings, nor do we need to concern ourselves with the historicity of the story. Clearly, if the resurrection is accepted as true, then the plausibility of the other Gospel accounts of Jesus' life rises significantly. And further, if this is all we see here, some sort of proof-text that Jesus is somehow divine, then we will miss the deeper truths that may be teased out of the story.

Said differently, we must come to see the Gospel story of Jesus as filled with paradox (Kierkegaard), the God-man quotient being only one of them. This means we have the choice of faith or unbelief (I say unbelief and not doubt because the flip-side of faith is doubt, but the opposite of faith is unbelief) Here the question is, will we be offended (Kierkegaard) by the miracle accounts we have of Jesus or not? Or, as the Lord says himself:
"...blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” Mt. 11:6
So, let us briefly look more deeply at this Gospel account where I wish to offer in this homily three ideas that come to us via St. Matthew's version of Jesus walking on the water:
1. Jesus has not forgotten us, even when the wind is against us 
2. Jesus may come to us in ways and in people we do not expect, so that we may only recognize him by looking backward 
3. God allows us the freedom to get out of the safety of the boat, if we wish