Weekly Word Blog - Bill's comments on the coming weekend's scriptures posted each Tuesday

When some Midianite traders passed by, the brothers drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him for twenty pieces of silver.

Joseph and the Next Generation

I have come to believe that God is the God of change, history, and progressively expanding ethics. God nudges us forward. The moral code of one generation is meant to be superseded by the next.

Pentecost 10
Imagine if Wallmart had offered to buy your brother
Genesis 37
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Jacob learns about faith the tough way. He gets into one scrape after another. Some of them are his own fault. God sees him through. But I think God also wants Jacob to learn to how to live compassionately.

Pentecost 9
Being part of a group shouldn't cause us to lose our common sense
Genesis 32:22-31
When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me?

Do Morals Change?

When Jesus says that all the commandments hang upon loving God and our neighbor, I am reminded that both male and female were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that my closest neighbors are women. The story of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 29:15-28) demonstrates the inhumanity of blindly following the two ancient principles listed above while rejecting Jesus’ call to compassion.

Pentecost 8
You wouldn't live in a tent - why live with ancient morals?
Genesis 29:15-28
Surely the LORD is in this place--and I did not know it! - Jacob

Jacob Moments

No place is God-forsaken. When we feel far from any spiritual support for our new adventure, God is there. Angels descending around us, we just don’t see them.

Pentecost 7
The great depression put many Americans in a God-forsaken place
Genesis 28:10-19
Listen! A sower went out to sow... - Jesus

Funny Kind of Farming

We are now in the midst of summer and a pandemic. The very atmosphere seems to be saying, “take your time. Breathe slowly. Wear a mask. Stay at home. Read a book.” This should be good for our souls. But, it's not.

Pentecost 6
Flowers and insects are far more beautiful than they need to be
Matthew 13:1-9
We played the flute for you, and you did not dance... - Jesus

Work and Play

As we adapt to our personal misfortunes, we ought to gain wisdom to respond to the misfortunes of others. Our first response to a crisis may be to say, “why is this happening to me?” Religion offers another response: What can I learn?

Pentecost 5
How do we adapt? Will some changes become permanent?
Matthew 11:16-19

What I've Learned about Religion

I once had a church member tell me that it was the preacher’s job to make her feel guilty. Is that what motivates your sacrifice today? Guilt? Religion can either be about putting things of greater and greater value upon the altar, or it can be about living with compassion, curiosity, and a willingness to go where the spirit leads us. 

Pentecost 8
The binding of Isaac - Caravaggio
Genesis 22:1-14
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul - Jesus

Why was Jesus Hated

Much like the serenity prayer, Jesus encourages us to change the political systems that we can change, to remain nonviolent, reluctantly accepting the limitations of human sin and political failure, and to pray for the wisdom to know the difference. If we do this well, we will be persecuted.

Pentecost 3
Accepting what is wrong may short-change your soul
Matthew 10:24-39
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them

Jesus with the Crowds

When the law and order police state headed by Pontius Pilate put Jesus on the cross, his disciples knew that they would share his fate if they walked with those who protested. Because, in a system of systemic racism and inequity, those in high places have an investment in keeping the system just the way it is. If you tell them that the system is unjust, they will crucify you. 

Pentecost 2
Black Lives Matter
American Democracy depends upon the corrective of public Protest
Matthew 9:35-10:23
Matthew 5:3-12
"Go to the ends of the earth and make disciples" - Jesus

Trinity: Then and Now

On Trinity Sunday we consider the new normal of Christianity. Religion at the time of Jesus was mostly a local affair. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells his people to go out to the ends of the earth and make disciples in every place, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Trinity Sunday
Pentecost 2
At Trinity, 1945. The next day we have a new normal.
Matthew 28:16-20
"If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" - Jesus

Two Pentecost Stories

One lesson that we are learning with great difficulty during this time of self-quarantine is that we have the power within us to forgive each other. We can no longer avoid our spouse or children after we quarrel. We must intentionally restore community within our home…

Pentecost Sunday
The small group Pentecost comes first
John 20:19-23
Acts 2:1-21
[As they waited they] devoted themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus -Acts 1:14

Wait

What has our experience with the coronavirus been about? It’s been about waiting. In Acts 1:4, Jesus tells the disciples to wait. We will never be effective at anything in our lives unless we learn to wait.  

Easter 7
Mary pondered these things in her heart
Acts 1:1-14
For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. - 1 Peter 3:17

Suffering for Doing the Right Thing

Social distancing. Wearing masks. Having our workplaces and stores shut down. All of this involves suffering to do the right thing.

Easter 6
They protest the suffering that they should be doing for others.
1 Peter 3:13-22
"In my father’s house there are many mansions" - Jesus

Early Check-in

In this time of social distancing, we worry about whether we will be able to stay sane. Our world has become too limited for us. Yet in our spiritual house, there are many mansions.

Easter 5
Our soul always greets the world from within our private space
John 14:1-14
"Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple..." - Acts 2:46

A Golden Age

The second chapter of acts describes the golden era of Christianity. But the most important thing we learn from reading Acts is that such things don't last. A golden age can end in two ways; either God says you're ready and sends the church out to transform the world. Or a golden age can end in nostalgia, apathy, and the failure to adapt.

Easter 4
A candle in the window is there to shine out into the world
Acts 2:42-47
"Live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear…" I Peter 1:17

Invisible Realities

The coronavirus is teaching us to be mindful of the invisible.  Even as we worship online, we are members of the Church triumphant. Along with myriads of angels and saints only seen by our imagination, we commune in the family of God.

Easter 3
Jesus embraces the world (only we rarely see it)
1 Peter 1:17-23
"When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of..."

Thomas on Zoom

Thomas wasn’t there. Where was he? The Easter story in John chapter 20 tells about a man refuses to join with the other disciples in an online video-chat with Jesus. How do you like doing Zoom? There’s always someone who shows up muted or with their video turned off. Others simply opt out. This Easter on Zoom, my extroverted brother-in-law was in the shadows, occasionally disappeared, and never spoke. Like Thomas, he isn’t adjusting well to the new reality. We can see and hear, but not touch.

Easter 2
We long to be able to touch those we love again.
John 20:19-31
Near where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb...

Liminal Space

Liminal spaces form mental thresholds. They are neither here nor there. So too, the tomb where Jesus was buried. Grief ushers us into these liminal spaces. Its purpose is to enable to let go of what we must leave behind.

Easter
The weight of grief is obvious
John 19:38-20:18
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road...

Crowded Palm Sunday and a Silent Easter

We enter Holy Week, aware that this is global pandemic. Those who die in Italy, Iran, and Wuhan are no longer foreigners to us.  We remember the crowds and know that we are all in this together. No one is isolated from the compassion of Jesus.

Lent 6
Palm Sunday
Jesus seen in the crowd, but more often found in solitude
Matthew 21:1-11
"Now a certain man was ill..." - John 11:1

Travel Restrictions

I had made plans to fly out West to see my elderly mother and recently hospitalized brother this Sunday. Then the virus put us all in limbo. My concerns for their health and safety heightened with each news report. The bad fall my brother had taken at the end of February broke ribs and damaged his lungs. The verse, “And Jesus wept,” resonates with me. In this time of travel restrictions, I am thinking that Jesus had been weeping for many days.

Lent 5
In the wilderness of hard choices
John 11:1-35

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