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

" I am the good shepherd... I lay down my life..." - Jesus

Two Kinds of Leaders

This year, with the killing of George Floyd, the difference between a good police officer and a bad one has come to the forefront. 

Easter 4
David prepared for leadership by loving his sheep
John 10:11-18
Jesus said, "Peace [or shalom] be with you."

Spreading Shalom

What was Jesus’ first word to his friends when he came to them the evening of Easter? It was Shalom. This is a word that means more than just peace. Wholeness, healing, living a life that has integrity and consistency. Shalom speaks of God’s providence. 

Easter 2
I like how Thomas gets fully involved in examining Jesus
John 20:19-23
[Peter and John came to the tomb,] saw and believed. - John 20:8

Seeing and Believing

Faith is a gift of the grace of God. We sometimes find the greatest faith at those moments when we have the least reason to trust in Jesus.

Easter
Seeing the folded cloth, John believed
John 20:1-10
"Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!" - the crowd setting Jesus up to get arrested.

Polonius and Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday begins the Passion story. Like all well-told stories, the plotline is complicated. I’ve written and directed several Easter Dramas/Passion Plays. There are a lot of moving parts. Some years Pontius Pilate steals the show and people go home feeling that if this man had been different – had better motives or been more principled – then the play would have ended differently.

Lent 6
Palm Sunday
Pilate isn't the only complicated person in this story
Mark 11:1-11
"...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone." - Jesus

Not Alone

To be in a body is to be in a particular body. We have as much choice over these things as a seed does in where it falls to earth. Do you believe God has a plan for your life? It sure beats the alternative. Gods plan is that you die to your seedy, individualized self.

Lent 5
It takes prayer and courage to give your life for others
John 12:20-33
God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world... - John 3:17

Not a Test

This is a good time to speak about our need for healing and the compassionate love of Jesus. The current global pandemic could make us wonder if God is testing us. Did the coronavirus come into our world to test our faith?

Lent 4
Our infirmities should make us seek Jesus out
John 3:14-21
Numbers 21:4-9
Making a whip of cords, Jesus drove all of them out of the temple - John 2:15

Jesus with a Whip

Jesus doesn’t do church. He upsets the money changer’s tables. Kicks out the merchants with their sacrificial animals. He makes a mess of the 11 o’clock service. Why?

Lent 3
What would Jesus throw out of your sanctuary?
John 2:13-22
"Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus to his friend, Peter

Relating on the Level

Jesus speaks openly about his journey to the cross. He addresses his disciples as one adult telling other adults about what he sees ahead. Then Peter responds, “You can’t do that!” Peter is using his parental voice in reprimanding Jesus.

Lent 2
Moving into adult mode allows us to respect each other's calling in life
Mark 8:31-38
The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. - Mark 1:12

When Trials Come

When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Note that the verb drove does not mean that the gentle and mild spirit pulled up in an RV and waved Jesus into the air-conditioned cabin before heading off to an oasis with a pool and free Wi-Fi. No, the spirit drove him like a mighty wind away from everything familiar. Covid-19 has driven us into a similar wilderness. Life is, as Scott Peck reminds us, painful. We don’t become mature by avoiding pain. We become all that God calls us to be by allowing the spirit to drive us into the wilderness with Jesus.

Lent 1
Ash Wednesday
Our new wilderness. Is Jesus with us here?
Mark 1:9-15
Jesus was transfigured before them... - Mark 9:2

Seeing What Isn’t There

Jesus has been doing things with his disciples. We read about his miracles. We try to make sense of what he taught. But Jesus knows what lies ahead. He is really at the mid-point of his mission. And at mid-points, it is good to pause, take stock, and reconnect with what matters for the journey. 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 doorway, the emptiness, the wilderness, and the lonely mountaintop. 

Epiphany 8
Tranfiguration Sunday
Looking through the door that Jesus has opened
Mark 9:2-9
And Jesus cured many who were sick with various diseases... Mark 1:34

Jesus and Healthcare

Jesus charged nothing. We tend to say, “You get what you pay for.” That saying is nowhere in the Bible. It is a luxury to be able to pay more for something. Many people live on the edge of subsistence. We should be mindful of them as we line up for our vaccine or drive by the local food bank.

Epiphany 5
Most of Jesus' ministry was spent healing people
Mark 1:29-39
"They were amazed by Jesus, because he taught with authority"

The way to be an Authority

Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to those he left behind so that they might have his authority to go into this hurting world and be compassionate. Anyone who knows Jesus can be “an authority” by simply choosing to love the people around them without compromise.

Epiphany 4
What is written is not that hard: be compassionate
Mark 1:21-28
Matthew 5:21-32
"Follow me and I will make you fish for people" - Jesus

What Jesus Promised

“Follow me and I will teach you all the great truths of the universe.” Jesus didn’t say that. Why have we made the church so much about teaching doctrine and so little about love?

Epiphany 3
What Jesus promised, he delivered to the end
Mark 1:14-20
If only you, God, would slay the wicked! - Psalm 139:19

Naming My Enemy

Note that Psalm 139 speaks about the pseudo-religiosity of our enemies. They speak of God with evil intent. (verse 20) When the Devil goes out to recruit fools for his army, he always visits our churches. Conservative Christianity needs to renounce Trumpism.

Epiphany 2
Jesus embraced the enemies of my enemies
Psalm 139
[The people] were baptized by John in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. - Mark 1:5

Between a bath and a drowning

Jesus comes to be baptized by John in the Jordan. His baptism, like ours, is halfway between a bath and a drowning. 

Epiphany 1
Our fascination should be with the simplicity of John
Mark 1:4-11
In the beginning was the Word

An Incarnation Ladder

John challenges our faith: Do you believe that Jesus is God? Has he become the light of your life? Does he live with you in your everyday life?

Christmas 2
How did God turn the lights on?
John 1:1-14
"This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many"- Simeon

Old and Young

God has intruded into our cycle of birth - innocence - rebellion - maturity - midlife - old age - and death. He has given us something eternal. What we see is not a generational division, but a timeless unity.

Christmas 1
Sunday between Christmas & New Year's
Jesus is intergenerational
Luke 2:22-40
God has sent the rich away empty - Mary the mother of Jesus

What Mary Knew

Mary makes a spiritual leap that I think we all should make this Christmas season, especially in the midst of our fears and the growing social unrest of 2020. She says that the Messiah will be born on the wrong side of the tracks.

Advent 4
Today, this is Jesus' neighborhood
Luke 1:46-55
...the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Light Misunderstood

At Christmas and the holidays, paradoxes abound. Peace on Earth, is promised. Then Herod slays the innocents. Paradoxes prepare us for God’s built-in ambiguity.

Advent 3
Light falling on Joseph
John 1:5
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low... - the Prophet Isaiah

The Road Home

As we look through the Bible, most of Jesus’ words were comforting words. He went around healing people – not just their bodies, but also their hearts. When we have been broken by life, Jesus is not there to tells us what we did wrong. He comes to bring us comfort.

Advent 2
When have you needed God's comfort?
Isaiah 40:1-11

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