But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.

How is Jesus like a refiner's fire or the fuller's wash-tub? In my own life Jesus appears as the refiner's fire when my problems and misdeeds have become too great for me to ignore. It is like what they say at AA, "I've come to believe that it will take a power greater than myself to restore me to sanity." That's when Malachi's Jesus becomes good news.

For: 
December 9, 2018
Malachi 3:1-4
Advent 2

Instead of being afraid by what we see happening in this world, we are supposed to be watchful. We are supposed to be ready. When we act like Jesus would act, we don't have time to be afraid.

For: 
December 2, 2018
Luke 21:25-36
Advent 1
Jesus says about his kingdom, "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth."

Jesus' Kingdom of God is real. 1) God has chosen a process that involves our participation. For now, we have to choose Jesus to be the king of our lives. Where Jesus is loved, he is king. 2) Transparency and truthfulness are core values in the Christian gospel. 3) The justice of God's kingdom involves embracing even those who believe differently, are of a different ethnicity or national origin, or choose their life-partners differently than we do.

For: 
November 25, 2018
John 18:33-37
Christ the King
Pentecost 29
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." (Psalm 16:1)

Each change of the seasons brings tasks that can ground our humility. We root ourselves in simple thankfulness. It wearisome to rake and rake, and to hear the wind wail at night, knowing it is replenishing the yard with leaves from the neighbor's trees. But, my soul is grateful to be living in this time and place. I say to the creator God, who designed my neighbor's maple trees to be so prodigious, "you are my God." 

For: 
November 18, 2018
Psalm 16
Pentecost 26
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

We all think it is important to do important things. Most of us can remember some big thing in our lives that took all of our attention and made us anxious for night after night. I have the first half of Psalm 127 memorized (Unless the Lord builds the house...). It dogs me in those periods of my life when I have such great plans that I bulldozer things to the edge of hubris.  

For: 
November 6, 2018
Psalm 127
Pentecost 25

The people were gathered for a child's naming ceremony at the Tree of Life. The Torah lessons for the season spoke of Abraham and Sarah's immigration into a new land, and on the responsibility thrust upon them by the children born to them in their old age. In this segment of our shared tradition, Christians, Moslems, and Jews are reminded of our collective responsibility to teach, listen, and learn. For the sake of the child, and our own salvation, we vow together to engage in lifelong learning, religious reflection, and the development of our emotional intelligence. Good religious leaders encourage dialogue and the cultivation of emotional intelligence. Saints are people with empathy.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Pittsburghers are prone to think that Jesus borrowed the words, "Love your neighbor as yourself," from Mr. Rogers. Actually, "Love your neighbor" can be found in every one of the world's great religions.

For: 
November 4, 2018
Mark 12:28-34
Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Pentecost 24
All Saints Sunday
Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside

Important people often suffer from a disease. The important ends that they are engaged in, steals the meaningfulness of the moments along the way. They write a check to a charity. They don't stop to meet the people they are helping.

For: 
October 28, 2018
Mark 10:46-52
Pentecost 23

I am offering at cost, two Lenten plays for use in your church. One is a full-length Passion Play "I Believe" and the other is a short chancel drama suitable for worship or Holy Thursday, titled: "Judas Returns to the Upper Room."

Play takes place in and near Jerusalem during Holy Week
[James and John] said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."

We expect Jesus’ business to be organized the same as our businesses here on earth. Our organizations are structured to be pyramids, you have one person at the top (call them king, or president, or Jesus), then you have the two below them (call them princes, Ivanka and Jared, or James and John). The pyramid then spreads out and so how high an ambitious person goes depends upon how willing they are to shove the rest of us down a few levels. So, when the other disciples complain about James and John, we know just how they feel.

For: 
October 21, 2018
Mark 10:43-44
Pentecost 22
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

Psalm 90 is both good and bad news. The good news is that God is in this human redemption business for the long haul. All of human existence is but a moment to him. Like Martin Luther King, God knows where the arc of moral history is going. It is not a long arc to him. God knows that it bends toward justice. But it will take forever in human terms. And yes, the bad news is that God knows that your life, and mine, on this planet will be over in a blink. We won't live to see what we hope for become a reality.

For: 
October 14, 2018
Psalm 90
Pentecost 21
Fall Season

"On the Pulse of Morning" was written for the first inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993. It cautioned the new leader to think first about the long view of history.

[People asked Jesus] "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

Many people are troubled by the passage where Jesus speaks about marriage and divorce. It is important to note, however that Jesus’s words are directly followed by verses that demonstrate Jesus’s concern for the needs of children. I would argue that Jesus is not laying down a law prohibiting divorce, but rather expressing, as he does in all of his teachings, the demands that living a compassionate life places on each of us. As we go through life, we form relationships that involve promises. In marriage, we promise mutual aide, "in sickness and in health."

For: 
October 7, 2018
Mark 10:2-16
Pentecost 20
the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul, and making wise the simple

The only way that the law of the LORD can be perfect, reviving the soul, and making wise the simple, is if that law is dynamic and constantly developing. There is a heresy afoot in the church today that closes the door on God’s ongoing revelation, that is, denies that God is speaking through modern figures such as Martin Luther King, while dismissing the moaning of the God’s creation as it speaks about climate change. Some of the these heretics have diminished the diversity of God’s word down to some dusty fundamentals and a few ancient rules.

For: 
September 30, 2018
Psalm 19
Matthew 5:17-48
Pentecost 19
“A capable wife, who can find?”

The thing I find most difficult about Proverbs 31:10-31 is its emphasis upon what the woman in question does. We are not human doings. We are human beings. It’s not our accomplishments that need praised, it’s our growth as compassionate people. The whole of Proverbs, as well as, much of the Bible’s wisdom literature, makes this point clear. How do we come to fear the Lord? We each permit ourselves to go on a spiritual quest for wisdom.

For: 
September 23, 2018
Proverbs 31:10-32
Pentecost 18

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