Three Little Words

Romans 3:19-28

It is said that a good marriage depends on the number of times you say three little words… “You’re right, dear.”

OK, that’s not what you were thinking, but doesn’t it feel good to be right? So often our assessments are wrong, our memory fails, or our reasoning is faulty. So isn’t it a delicious pleasure on rare occasions you can think to yourself, (inside your head), “I told you so.” Love may make the world go round, but when push comes to shove, we love to BE RIGHT.

But it isn’t always easy to get things right. Remember when they used to ask you in the grocery stores if you wanted paper or plastic bags? It seemed like a simple question, but doing the calculation proved otherwise. Plastic is made with Read more…

Give to God What Is God’s

Matthew 22:15-22

Fridays are my day off, so this week, I went about my usual day off business: yoga class, visiting my mother, and stopping by the grocery and the library. I also looked over two bids I have on some house projects. I talked to my brother about whether we will pay for some extra services for our mom. A typical day off.

When I sat down to write my sermon, I remembered my activities. And I realized that for each thing I did, there was a price tag: the membership at the gym, the taxes paid to the city to provide for services like the library, the cost of ongoing things like groceries and caregiving, and planned investments like home renovation, not to mention the unseen costs of housing, insurance, and utilities we pay for that we utilize each day. I had thought that when I sat down to write my sermon on “Give to God the things that are Read more…

God’s Vision of Life

Matthew 22

When I was six, I was thrown out of my own birthday party. We had been playing pin the tail on the donkey, and I lost. I don’t really remember why I had such a temper tantrum. All I remember is my mom whisking me out of the kitchen and to the bedroom where I was given a good talking to and a spanking.

Perhaps it’s the weeping and gnashing of teeth that I did that day, but something reminds me of the guy who shows up to the wedding feast without a wedding robe in Jesus’ parable. The wedding robes were the expected garment at these celebrations; whether borrowed or owned, you had to wear one. His flagrant disrespect for the occasion deeply offends the king. He banishes him to the outer darkness. Jesus ends the parable with the ominous words, Read more…

A Meditation on Judgment

Matthew 21:33-46

I have to confess: I have never liked the Gospel of Matthew’s emphasis on God’s judgment. It is a theme that appears throughout the Gospel where Jesus tells that at the end of time, God will determine the truth, whether people were faithful to God or not. Those who are faithful are welcomed to God’s kingdom, but the unfaithful are “thrown into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Perhaps it’s because I was a chatty kid in school and got put on the “bad citizen’s list;” maybe it was that time when the teacher made me throw out my paper of apples because I had colored the whole page red before cutting them out instead of staying inside the lines. I wanted so much to be good but couldn’t quite accomplish it. And when I was reprimanded, I felt that outer darkness. So when I Read more…

Embrace Your Inner Matthew

Matthew 21:23-32

Guess what?  It’s only 182 days until…?  Can you guess? Easter, of course! Most people count the days till Christmas, but as a church professional Holy Week is the big deal, so I am counting the days to Easter.

I am thinking about Holy Week because our Gospel lessons for the remainder of the church year come chronologically from Holy Week, Jesus’ last week of life. Today’s conflict between the chief priests and elders of the temple follows on the heels of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and cleansing the temple—stories we usually hear about in Holy Week.

They were pivotal events: Jesus was proclaimed Messiah by the common people, the one anointed by God to lead Jews to a glorious future like King David had. Jesus then went to the seat of religious power, the temple itself, threw out the money changers, and instead set Read more…

Scandalous Generosity

Matthew 20:1-16              

When in my early days of ministry, a young mother came to speak with me about having her three-year-old son baptized. Her name was Julia. As is my practice, I asked Julia why she wanted her son baptized. Julia told me she had not grown up in the church and wasn’t baptized, that she always felt she had missed out. Her friends who went to church seemed to possess a foundation she wished for. But that summer something happened that compelled Julia to do something about it.

Julia had been inside the house moving the laundry while her 12-year-old daughter and her son Ray were outside playing. Suddenly, Julia had the overwhelming sense that something was wrong. She ran outside to find Ray on the ground, turning blue. Her daughter was bending over Ray, calling his name. “Call 911!”  Julia Read more…

God Intended It for Good

Genesis 50

I have a confession to make: I have always been a little skeptical when people talk about the Bible and “family values.” From my read of scripture, family life in the Bible was pretty far from Leave It to Beaver families with father and mother and 2.3 happy children. Jealousy between brothers Cain and Abel that ended in murder; Abraham’s wives Sarah and Hagar, competing for the honor of bearing his son; Jacob cheating his brother Esau out of his inheritance, and leaving Esau in a violent rage—just to name a few of the stories! Extended and blended, admirable and conniving, it’s hardly the idealized model that “family values” seems to refer to. It’s more like the families we know and live in, in all their love and messiness.

The story of Joseph and his brothers which brings the book Read more…

Jesus, Conflict, & Choirs

Matthew 18

A new family joined the church. The music director was excited, because the husband was a great tenor—and the choir needed tenors. But there was one problem—turns out one of the basses had worked with the new tenor in a job in years past and there was some bad blood. So the new guy wouldn’t join the choir.

You’d think that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen in the church. We are Christians, and you would think that the people Jesus gave his life for would be the happiest, most forgiving people in the world. The church is a faith community, and so you would think that people would be accepted as they are, that no one would be lonely, and that people would live in harmony. But sometimes that’s not the way it is.

That’s because the church is not a club where you choose your members. The church is for all comers, it welcomes all people— Read more…

Jesus in the Driver’s Seat

Matthew 16:21-28

Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Great book, right? Kids love it because they know what it’s like to want to be in the driver’s seat, and they know what it’s like to be told NO. Turning the tables and saying NO to the pigeon is pretty fun.

But let’s face it: we adults love it for the same reason. We all want to be in the driver’s seat, right? We want to be in charge of our lives. The thing we hate most is to have someone else tell us what to do. It’s disempowering. Makes you feel like a child.

That’s what was going on with the disciples in our Gospel story today. Jesus had just revealed to them that he was the Messiah, and now Jesus goes on to tell the disciples what that means.

Now, you can imagine they must have been expecting something Read more…

Color Outside the Lines

Romans 12:1-8

When I was in kindergarten one day, I had a bright idea. We were coloring in apples, four to a sheet. We were going to cut them out and mount them on a paper tree on the wall. So I thought to myself, why fuss with coloring inside the lines? I can do this a lot faster if I just color the whole paper red. The other kids at my table saw what I was doing, thought it was a good idea, and did it, too.

But then Mrs. H, the teacher, came over and looked at my paper. She did not see an ingenious solution to a problem; she saw a mess. “Take that to the trash can, and start again!” she said. “And this time, stay inside the lines!”

Stay inside the lines. It is a message we have all received at one time or another. Follow the Read more…