Luke 16:1-15 (15 Pentecost 2019, Proper 20C)

Let’s talk about Money. I know you don’t want to. Church is supposed to be for “spiritual stuff.” But in today’s Gospel, Jesus demands we talk about Money, and Money is very spiritual. It’s one of the most important things in our lives. It keeps us awake at night and busy during the day. The ever-quotable poet Oscar Wilde once said: “When I was young, I thought money was the most important thing in life; now that I’’m old, I know that it is.”

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Luke 15:1-10 (14 Pentecost 2019, Proper 19C)

Have you ever lost something of great value to you? A dog or cat that ran away. Perhaps you lost your cell phone or the keys to the car. Have you ever lost a child, as Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for three days in Jerusalem? How did you feel when you turned and your child wasn’t there? What ran through your mind? You were frantic. You searched and searched and wouldn’t rest until you found your lost child. You’ll stop at nothing until you find what was lost. That’s the seeking heart of the shepherd and the woman in today’s Gospel. It’s the heart of the Lord telling the parable. He is the seeking shepherd, the searching woman, the God who is totally focused on seeking and finding the lost. 

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The Grace of Slowness

I decided to improve my handwriting, which had deteriorated to the point where even my pharmacist couldn’t read it. Years of banging away at the keyboard had taken its toll on my penmanship. Even my printing had become illegible. I could not decipher notes I had scribbled to myself the day before yesterday. Writing a card was a chore, a hand-written letter unthinkable.

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The Grace of Silence

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. – Revelation 8:1

I talk too much. I know that, and those who know me know it all too well. It’s an occupational hazard for a preacher. I pontificate, I preach, I lecture, I dump the latest contents of my head on anyone who will listen, even if they aren’t listening. People come seeking a sip of wise words; I turn on a fire hydrant. Conversation with me is the verbal equivalent of being waterboarded.

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Luke 14:25-35 (13 Pentecost 2019, Proper 18C)

Large crowds were following Jesus as He journied to Jersualem and His appointed cross. Jesus was a celebrity, a religious superstar. People flocked to be near Him; they wouldn’t leave Him alone. He had to sneak away late at night for times of solitude and prayer. And even then, they found Him. 

Jesus has a way of thinning the crowds, winnowing the chaff from the wheat, the casually religious from the spiritually committed. The way of discipleship is no easy road. It is a costly road of hard and painful choices. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, if he does not hate his own life, he cannot be my disciples.” Jesus is going to a cross to die, and anyone who does not bear his own cross and come after Him cannot claim to be one of His disciples. Following Jesus is costly. It means dying – dying to self, dying to your loves, dying to everything that is your life, reouncing literally everything you have and everything you are or think you are.

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Tourists, Travelers, and Pilgrims

Too often, we travel as tourists, bringing the comforts of home along with us. Tourists are known for their excess baggage. You can easily spot a group of tourists. They travel in tightly closed groups, surrounded by their own language, tastes in food, and culture. They prefer to keep foreign lands and peoples at a safe distance, touring in a hermetically sealed bubble of the cruise ship or tour bus. Like bird watchers on an Audubon outing, they maintain a safe, sheltered distance and observe through their own presuppositional lenses, content to collect souvenirs and selfies.

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Spiritual and Religious

“I’m spiritual but not religious.” I’m sure you’ve heard people say that; I have. It’s become increasingly common among those who claim “None” as their spiritual identity on religious surveys. They are growing in numbers, especially among the rising generation who are not carrying on with the faith traditions of their parents and grandparents. They aren’t atheists or agnostics. They believe in some sort of spiritual Presence. They may even pray and practice spiritual disciplines such as meditation and fasting, but they have no use for religious institutions. They are, as they say, “spiritual but not religious.”

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Luke 12:40-53 (10 Pentecost 2019, Proper 15C)

Anyone who has done a home rennovation project knows that you have to do destruction before you can do construction.  Demo before renno. Sledgehammer before paint brush. Most projects begin with a lot of dust and destruction, leaving a big mess that often makes you wonder whether this was a good idea in the first place. So it is with the new creation in Christ. There must be death before resurrection.  We must decrease; Christ must increase, and that doesn’t suit old Adam one bit. He would prefer a superficial paint job, a coat of religious shellac over teardown and rebuild.

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O Rachel, Weep No More

The violence of the past weeks in Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton, and other places in the world, brought to mind the horrors of September 11, 2001. I recall that morning vividly. It was a Tuesday, and we were scheduled to host our circuit pastors’ meeting at our congregation. We were all in shock. We talked, we wept, we prayed. Many of us called our congregations together for services of prayer that evening or the next day.

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Luke 12:22-34 (9 Pentecost 2019, Proper 14C)

Anxiety. We all have it to one degree or another. Sleepless nights, panic attacks in the middle of the day. Racing heartbeat. Inability to focus on any one thing for more than a few seconds. Anxiety is symptomatic of our culture. The leading over-the-counter medications are for sleep and stomach disorders. Anti-anxiety meds are among the leading prescription drugs. We are an anxious society, an anxious people living in a constant state of anxiety, and it’s eating us up from the inside.

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