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

Where the Real Sin Lies

Young people grow into an ever-widening circle of people for whom they must show love and compassion. First it is their siblings and parents, then their playmates, then the people at school, especially those who are being bullied or ostracized. As we enter into adulthood, our calling to compassion must extend to those who are poor, or subject to abuse.

Lent 4
Punishment often fails to relate to sin
Luke 15:11-32
Psalm 32

He shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling...

The Hiding Place

People like Saint Patrick practiced their faith in a hostile land. Prayer formed for him a hiding place with God. Psalm 27 does an odd thing, it has a number of high security phrases like, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life,” and “set me high upon a rock.” It appeals to the fortress mentality of our faith, as if to say that is the reason for religion. It being Lent, I was struck by the wilderness and the 'seeking God for God’s sake' quality of the Psalm. David is saying, I only want to seek the Lord’s face, nothing else matters.
Lent 2
The ecstasy of St. Francis by Caravaggio
Psalm 27

Lent as Process

Lent, is a process. A process is any series of sequential events that are guided by a master, in this case God, to take raw material, or people, from one way of being and transform them into a more useful end product. A process always involves some experiences that break down the raw material, or us.

Lent 1
Just as wood is processed into paper, so are sinners transformed to saints
Luke 4:1-13
Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

Doorways and Empty Space

A beautiful vase is made mostly of space. Without the emptiness inside it, a tennis ball won't bounce. We tend to think that religion is about what we do; the songs that we sing, the offerings that we bring, and the words that the preacher says. Religion is really about the meeting space, the doorway, the emptiness, the wilderness, and the mountaintop where people and God meet.

Transfiguration Sunday
Epiphany 8
Being abstract is helpful. Each transformation looks different.
Luke 9:28-36

The Randomness of Tragedy and the Richness of Grace

The human heart is not built for random tragedy. We crave for order in all of life. Thomas Friedman describes how the people of Beirut developed complicated folk cures for the daily violence. They said, “Don’t shop between 11 am and 1 pm,” or “Walk on the right hand side of the street when you go   west.” In Kalamazoo, the news interviewed a man who was planning to walk home from a party, but when he heard that someone was shooting people, decided to call for an Uber cab.
Lent 3
To this child, the reason for the shelling doesn't matter
Luke 13:1-9

Enemies are not problems to be solved

Jesus doesn’t distinguish between type one enemies and type three enemies. He doesn’t distinguish between moderate enemies and total jerks. He doesn’t have one response for those who are merely annoying and another for enemies who are dangerous. He says, “Love them all.”

Epiphany 7
MLK is one of the best modern examples of doing what Jesus teaches
Luke 6:27-38
Psalm 37

Putting Yourself in the Right Position

Because we aren’t there, in the same place as those crowds, we are reluctant to consider Jesus’ promises of blessing as something that is already happening. Those who were blessed in Jesus’ sermon were the same people who saw the blessings of his healing touch and his compassionate lifestyle. We tend to put these blessings up in heaven. Those who encountered Jesus looked for his blessing to be right now, on this earth.

Epiphany 6
Are we in a position to see God's blessings?
Luke 6:17-26
"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."

Why Fishermen?

Jesus didn’t start with a blank slate when he called disciples. He started with natural gifts that could be spiritually transformed. May it continue to be so in our lives. May we each become fishers of men.

Epiphany 5
Good fishing involves crossing the boundary between worlds
Luke 5:1-11
No prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.

Jesus Goes Over the Wall

In Luke 4, Jesus goes over the wall between us and those we consider foreign or different. He does this in two ways: First, by physically placing himself where he encounters the foreigner. Second, Jesus used the scriptures to show that all of the great people of the Old Testament went over the wall and lived with foreigners. Jesus' own stories, which have become our scriptures, always showed foreigners in a good light.

Epiphany 4
We can learn to love those who are different from us
Luke 4:21-30
...he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

Jesus and the Wall

Since the beginning of time, those with means have shown little restraint in screwing over those who are born poor, or on the wrong side of a border, or to the wrong family. What is different about the current government shut down, is that our rulers have decided to go one step further and screw over middle-class people. What would Jesus do?

Epiphany 3
A thin wall separates wealth and poverty
Luke 4:14-21

Bias to Belief

Not everyone sees the same thing. In each of the Gospel of John’s miracle stories, two people stand side by side, one believes and the other doesn’t. Like the wedding of Cana, the servants who pour the water that has become wine, believe and see. The master of the feast doesn’t.

Epiphany 2
If you were on the stand, would you witness for Jesus?
John 2:1-11
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you... Do not fear, for I have redeemed you...

Hand in High Water

Each of us have been created twice. On the one hand, we have been birthed into this world as unique individuals. God has a plan for each of us. Unfortunately, everyone else does too. We pray for our creator to help us discern what He has created in us. On the other hand, we believe that God has both created and owned our nation.

Epiphany 2
We find God in both the still water and the storm
Isaiah 43:1-7

About Herod

One key difference between Jesus and Herod the Great was that Jesus had a succession plan. Herod the Great seemed oblivious to the fact that he would die. Jesus came into the world in order to die for sinners. Herod considered anyone who challenged him to be disloyal and a threat. Jesus forgave his enemies and invited them into his kingdom.

Epiphany 1
I don't care who sits on the Iron Throne
Matthew 2:1-10
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Rules for a Good New Year

You can live 2019 with the peace of Christ in your heart. Always be compassionate.
Always try to understand as much as you can. Never let the ends justify the means, that is, don't forsake your principles or good behavior to get your own way.

Christmastide 1
God with us is God being compassionate
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:41-52
God has filled the hungry with good things

What Mary Sang

Jesus came at Christmastime to a world where religion no longer served the people. Mary sang her hope of a different order. What about today? We live in a time of social upheaval and political polarization of equal magnitude to that of the first century. 

Advent 4
In Bible times, widows had to glean to find grain to eat
Luke 1:46-55
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice

Rejoicing in Difficulty

This Christmas learn to rejoice, not because things are going well, but because Jesus is near. He promises to be near as we face difficulty. He is also near in terms of his coming kingdom. 

Advent 3
Remember those in Prison
Joyful words written from Jail
Philippians 4:4-7
Isaiah 9:2
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.

Guess Which Jesus is Coming

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.

Advent 2
Will we see the Refiner's fire this Advent?
Malachi 3:1-4

Watching for Jesus

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.

Advent 1
World fell apart in 70 AD, temple destroyed... Jesus seen in his people, though
Luke 21:25-36
Jesus says about his kingdom, "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth."

Who wears the crown?

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.

Christ the King
Pentecost 29
Pilate is skeptical and pragmatic, so are our neighbors
John 18:33-37
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." (Psalm 16:1)

A Psalm for Piles of Leaves

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." 

Pentecost 26
Are we thankful for the boundary limit to our property, responsibilities, and lifespan?
Psalm 16

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