What the world deems cursed, Jesus calls blessed. In the Greek, it’s makarios. Happy doesn’t quite catch the sense. Fortunate. Lucky. Oh lucky you – poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting and persecuted. You have it all even as you have nothing at all. The kingdom of heaven is yours and all that goes along with it. How fortunate you are! And how blessed.Continue reading
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
Those words are radical words, game-changing, church-reformoing words. Though they sound like Martin Luther, and they were certainly near and dear to the Reformer’s heart, they are much older and more inspired. They’re the words of the apostle Paul, writing over 1400 years before Luther. They represent Paul’s decisive break with pharasaic Judaism, the religious system he grew up with and into which he was schooled as a rabbi. They are the end to all bargaining, all transaction, all attempts to deal with God on the basis of commandment-keeping and good behavior and our attempts at spiritual improvement. This little sentence rocked the religious world of Paul’s day, and it set Martin Luther before pope and emperor to lay down the Gospel gauntlet before the church and the world to say: “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.”Continue reading
I don’t know about you, but I’m rather enjoying the take no prisoners, no nonsense Jesus that Luke has been delivering to us for the last few weeks. Today is no exception: scandals to faith, radical forgiveness, tiny faith that moves mulberry trees, and unworthy servants simply doing their job. I like it because so much of our Christian talk today seems to lack edge and tooth, not to mention body and blood. It’s a kind of a spiritual mush. Jesus is anything but that. He deals in the hard-edged reality of life as sinners in a fallen world in which there are scandals to faith, countless occasions to forgive, and no point at which we can say, “There, it’s finished. We’ve done our job, we deserve our reward.”Continue reading
Todayis St. Michael and All Angels day. This has nothing to do with Los Angeles or the Angels of Anaheim. You probably won’t see anything about this on Facebook or Instagram. Hallmark doesn’t have cards for it, at least none that I could find. Angels are reserved for Christmas. Lowes and Home Depot are occupied with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all rolled into one commercial package – Hallowthanksmas. But not a trace of St. Michael let alone all the angels to be found in the home decorating aisle.Continue reading
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.”Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
Havel havelim, says Qoheleth. Vanities piled on top of vanities. Emptiness. Nothing. Vapor. All is vanity. Wealth, fame, celebrity, power…all of it. Vanity. Nothing. Chasing after the wind.
You build a business and a fool takes it over and drives it into the ditch of bankruptcy. You amass a fortune and are buried next to a poor man, and your children and grandchildren squander every one of your hard-earned pennies. Vanitiy of vanities.Continue reading