Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Wonderment of Mary’s Choice. Homily from Luke 1:26-45. Advent Week 4
A Homily for 12.21.14
4th Sunday of ADVENT
from a Homily first posted

In this, the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Lectionary Gospel reading from St. Luke takes our minds and memory to the first Advent, toward the birth narratives of Jesus through the angelic promises announced to his Mother, Mary.

We come to the text hearing Jesus' birth announcement, which begins with the angel promising the birth of the Baptizer to his mother Elizabeth and which ends with Mary's grand Magnificat.

In today's reading we see St. Luke’s Mary account of these of this angelic visitation, and then we see Mary quickly taking a trip to Elizabeth's house to see the sign that the heavenly messenger promised her: 

These events are so strange that, were in not for our familiarity with them, they would be incredible. And, in fact, they are incredible today, in the literal sense of the word, to many a commentator and church member alike. How could there be an angelic messenger? How could their be a virgin birth? 

But, here is an even more troubling idea. If the post-modern mind struggles with what St. Luke offer as the clues to the identity of Jesus, what do you think the struggles of Mary must have been like? Because she did struggle.

Monday, December 8, 2014

3rd Sunday of Advent
A Homily for
revised from a Homily
first published
December 11, 2011

On this Third Sunday of Advent, the Gospel Lectionary reading offers us a description of, "the voice of one crying out in the desert,” whose homily is, “make straight the way of the Lord." This is the prophet/preacher, John the Baptizer. 

As we intimated last Sunday, can there be any more of an odd figure to our post-Christian sensibilities than that of this wild-eyed prophet who breaks upon the scene of the Gospel's pages, preaching, of all things, repentance and baptism? 

Of course, in that highly charged climate of the first century's political world, any would-be revolutionary would be assessed by the establishment (both Roman and Hebrew), calculating the danger and the threat of its subversive potential. 

But John’s was no revolutionary movement, at least not in the way these leaders feared. But to say this may offer you the wrong idea. Actually, John's proclamation offered the ultimate revolution claim, the decisive revolution, really, for the Baptizer is announcing the ultimate alternative to empire: 

John answered them,
"I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."
Of course, the one coming after John was Jesus, and he would be proclaimed as the true alternative to empire. He would be claimed as the rightful King of the world. 

But, before we get too far afield, we must turn our attention back to John and ask what today’s presentation of the Baptizer has for us, here at the beginning of the 21st Century? 

Well, first, I want you to notice what may be the most important words of the text:
"A man named John was sent from God..."

and why was this man sent from GOD?
"He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him."
So, here today we are confronted with 


Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Advent Implications of the Gospel. A Homily from St. Mark 1:1-8, for Advent Week 2
2nd Sunday of Advent
A Homily for
December 7, 2014, 
Year B. from
from a homily 
first posted 12-4-11

On this, Second Sunday of Advent, the Gospel Lectionary reading offers us the beginning of St. Mark's Gospel, his good news concerning the flesh and blood Jesus of Nazareth who is also the Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel. 

St. Mark introduces us to one of the more colorful characters in Scripture -- John the Baptizer, who breaks on the scene as a craggy, fire-breathing prophet -- in the style of Elijah -- whose message is blatantly clear -- 
get your heart right; prepare yourselves by repenting of your sin because GOD is finally coming to his people!
As I studied for this homily I began to wonder if our familiarity with the text, finally and forever, blunts its power to us, and hides its spectacular brazenness. For here we are confronted with what the philosophers call the scandal of particularity -- by which they mean to describe the thought-complications that arise in applying the label savior for all people to the specific person and single individual, Jesus, who was born in a particular and very distant time, and in what is now a very cognitively distant place. 

How can we post-moderns regard this man Jesus as both the 1st Century Jew that he clearly was and also the fulfillment not only of Israel's longing, but also, as the creator of a new humanity, one who uniquely represents us to GOD and GOD to us? 

But, I am getting ahead of the story, we have all year to work through this question, since we will be spending our year in Mark. For now, we might well ask just what is the nature of the story unfolding before our eyes in this brief, opening pericope, and what are the implications for us, and for the world? I want us focus on three: 




Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Homily for the 1st Sunday Of Advent - 11.30.14 - from Mark 13:33-37
1st Sunday of Advent
from MARK 13:33-37
A Homily for 11.30.14
Year B.
revised from a homily
first posted on
November 27, 2011,

Today we begin a new church year; today we begin our ascent up the mountain of the LORD afresh and anew. Today is the 1st Sunday of Advent. 

As I am sure you know, the word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming," and it offers the Christian believer a season of anticipation and hope as we remember the birth of Jesus and as we anticipate his return to fully reclaim and finally redeem the earth and its people. 

This means the traditional Scriptures for the Advent season accent both the first and the second coming of Jesus, and therefore this season calls us to think and to act in a clear and an active allegiance and faithfulness to the Christ because of his Advent, both in the past and in the future. 

In the First Sunday in the season of Advent the Gospel text reminds us that the time of Jesus’ second Advent is shrouded in mystery, and that no one knows the the dates and times, not even Jesus himself. This means, Jesus warns us, we must always be watchful and prepared, for we… 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christ the King Sunday. A Homily from Matthew 25:31-46
Christ the King Sunday
A Homily for
November 23, 2014
Year A. 
Revised from a Homily
first posted
November 20, 2011, 

This morning we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, and the Gospel Lectionary Reading for today reflects this important emphasis. 

We have little trouble getting our heads around the idea that Jesus is the LORD of the church (Colossians 1:18), after all he is her founder (Hebrews 12:2) and her foundation (1Corinthians 3:11), but we struggle with the idea that the risen Christ is the King of the world (Matthew 28:18 & Acts 1:9). 

Or, said differently, as a traditional believer in the Christ we can quite easily espouse the affirmation that Jesus is King of our hearts, but it is more difficult for us to affirm with conviction that Jesus is LORD and King of the universe. This is true, first, because we understand that people hold differing views of the world and therefore such a statement is steeply politically incorrect, and second, we see a world dominated by monstrous evil and we are reluctant to see Christ’s Kingship involving such gruesome brutality. 

Still, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion than this: the primary confession of the New Testament is the simple statement that Jesus is LORD, LORD not just of the church and of our hearts, but LORD of the world (Philippians 2:5-11) — listen to Jesus’ own words: 
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him."
I submit that it is difficult to come to any other conclusion than this is the King at work in the world. 

But, one might well ask how the Son of Man becomes the King of the world. Is this Kingship won through violence and the brutality of empire, and all the usual worldly accoutrements of power? To which we answer a resounding,"NO!" 

Instead, this King establishes this present and future Kingdom through sacrifice, through reconciliation, through the overthrow of the powers of darkness that always menace behind the imperium of empire. 

But, of course, the Kingship of the Christ, although in some ways both affirmed and experienced by the church, has not as yet been fully felt in the world. There is a now-not-yet quality to this Kingship that continues to trouble and challenges us. 

Flowing from the now-not-yet Kingship of Christ, then, I want us to think-through three affirmations that will help us unpack Christ's Kingship in the present: 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hearing The Words "Well Done." A Homily from MATTHEW 25:14-30 for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
A Homily from 
MATTHEW 25:14-30 
for the 33rd Sunday of 
Ordinary Time.
(from a Homily
first posted on

Today’s Lectionary Gospel reading gives to us St. Matthew’s Jesus, preaching what may be called a third judgment parable in succession. 

This time it is the story of a man who leaves on a long journey, but before his departure he entrusts his property and possessions to his servants, giving one five talents of money, one two talents of money and to a third, one talent of money. 

Well, you know the story. The first two servants put the talents to good use, multiplying their value, but the third simply buried the one talent for which he was given charge. 

Then, after a long time, the Master returns home to settle his affairs. When he discovers the progress of the first two servants he says:
"'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.'"
However, when he comes to the third servant and discovers that he has been lazy -- that is, because he feared the Master he simply buried his talent -- the Master said to him:
"You wicked, lazy servant!So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
Now, what are we to make of this story, and how are we to hear the words, "well done," from the Master? 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Parable of Warning From Jesus - Be Prepared! A Lectionary Homily from Matthew 25:1-13
Homily for 
32nd Sunday 
Ordinary Time, A
November 9, 2014
Matthew 25:1-13

The Lectionary Gospel reading for today brings before us what we may term as a parable of warning from Jesus, and is included in the series of talks Jesus gave that comprise what some commentators call the Olivet Discourse or the Eschatological Discourse, found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.

All of the five talks that comprise the Olivet Discourse carry forward toward the hearer both a solemn and ominous tone, as Jesus strives to open before his followers the heaviness of the hour, especially as his state execution quickly approaches, which will ultimately prove to be but a precursor to their own taste of Roman brutality. How could he acquaint them with the impending doom they faced as a nation because of their continual turn away from his shalom to the inhumanity found in the false-self, which would only lead them, could only lead to more violence and more torture and more war?

Well, in today's text he told them a story. It was a story taken from everyday life. It was a story with which they could readily relate. But, as I said, it was a story of warning. 

As a window into the text let us align our thoughts today around three headings:
The Great Event
The Oil of Readiness
Knowing and Being Known

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jesus on the Essence of Leadership and Power. A Homily from Matthew 23:1-23.
Homily for 
31st Sunday 
Ordinary Time, A
November 2, 2014
from an original post
October 30 2011, 

The conflict between Jesus and the religious/political leaders is now reaching its climax. In today's Lectionary Gospel reading Jesus opens his fifth large segment of teaching with a warning toward those would-be religious leaders who:
"do not follow their example...""they preach but they do not practice...""All their works are performed to be seen...""They love places of honor..."
In fact, St. Luke offers some of this same teaching from Jesus, only he changes the warning into a woe:
"Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces." (Lk. 11:43)
First, it must be said that by and large the Pharisees have gotten a bad reputation from Christians. Most were not evil. Most were zealous for the law, zealous toward piety. Still, they were, as N.T. Wright reminds us that the Pharisees were an:
"...unofficial but powerful Jewish pressure group... Largely lay-led...[and] their aim was to purify Israel through intensified observance of the Jewish law (Torah), developing their own traditions about the precise meaning and application of scripture, their own patterns of prayer and other devotion, and their own calculations of national hope.”

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.