Entries by Kris Rocke

The Good Shepherd

This week is Good Shepherd Sunday. Thank goodness, because I am feeling like a sheep in need of a good shepherd, and so are the communities we serve.
In this week’s text, Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd who, “lays down his life for the sheep.” I confess that my idea of a good shepherd is one who wipes out the whole pack of harassing wolves. I want Rambo, not a shepherd who suffers and dies.

Good Friday

After dinner we walked to the vigil at the Plaza de la Constitucion in Guatemala City. When we arrived, the square was empty except for four women who stood around a lonely little fire at the center of the park. They were there to honor the memory of the 41 girls who were burned alive at a government orphanage on March 8, 2017 (March 8 is also International Women’s Day).

The Dark Prayer of Palm Sunday

I have a confession. Palm Sunday is confusing. It functions more like a parable than a celebration and it leaves me conflicted. The crowd that shouts “Hosanna, Hosanna” this week shouts “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” next week.

Alexamenos Worships a Donkey

It’s the second week of Lent and here we find Jesus teaching his disciples that, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31).

Exorcising Bad Religion

In this week’s passage Jesus casts out a demon in a synagogue. The religious authorities are “astounded” and “amazed” by Jesus’ authority, which is so different from their own. Later in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus casts out those who maintain the sacrificial system in the temple (Mark 11:15-18).

Anna The Prophet

At age 84 my aunt helped lead her aging church through a very challenging process around a divisive issue. She did so with remarkable skill and grace. She’s always looking toward the future, even if it does not include her.

Awake and Celebrate

Awake and celebrate! Is there a more elemental invitation of the Gospel of Jesus? In this week’s text Jesus tells the story of ten bridesmaids and a wedding party. Five of the bridesmaids remain awake and join the celebration.

Images is Everything

In this week’s text the religious leaders are trying to trap Jesus with a question about whether Jews should pay taxes to Caesar. But this isn’t really a question about taxes. It’s more sinister.

Harry

The camp speaker joined us in our cabin and Harry was on the edge, struggling with Jesus again. Harry had been to camp many times and each time he’d said “yes” to Jesus. Each time he meant it. And each time he returned to his neighborhood where the peaceful clarity of summer camp gave way to the reality of violence that eventually swallowed him up.

The Wheat And The Weeds

There is a harvest of love happening in cities everywhere, if we can only see it. It’s an unusual harvest to be sure — one that sees good where we often see evil and reveals evil where we often see good. This harvest is the unveiling of reality. It is the work of the Spirit and God’s delight. When this liberating pattern is at work in our lives we not only suffer the humiliating shock of seeing things as they really are, we also discover the unspeakable joy of having gotten it all wrong.

Whispers in the Dark

Jesus whispers in the dark. As this week’s text suggests, it’s his preferred mode of communication. These covert conversations deal with the elemental essence of things; in that sense they are life-giving, world-changing and, yes, quite dangerous. The whispers are dangerous because they uncover secrets that have been “hidden since the foundations of the world” (Matt. 13:35). These secrets are killing us, which is why Jesus says, “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known”(v.26).

The Crime Scene

Imagine the victim of a violent crime asks you to return to the scene of the crime-a crime that you were (in part) responsible for. Now imagine that this experience becomes the animating center of your life, which, despite your dread, fills you with great joy, and clothes you with a power that transforms you and the world. This is the miracle we celebrate in the final week of the Easter season as Jesus ascends into heaven.

Open Our Eyes to the Stranger

Here at Street Psalms, our most transformative experiences have happened while walking the streets with urban leaders (“on the road”) and fellowship around a meal (“breaking of the bread”). This week’s lectionary text highlights both the road and the table as gateways to Gospel sight.

From Back to Front

The Christian story begins at the end, at the resurrection. It is by the light of the resurrection that we begin to see what’s really happening. Until then, we are shrouded in what T.S. Eliot calls “hints and guesses.” It’s only when we see through the eyes of the risen Christ that we begin to make sense of Jesus’ life and our own.

Maundy Thursday

It’s Maundy Thursday. We are entering the passion of Jesus by way of the love Jesus shows us today: a love that frees us to fail, desert, betray and still be called friends.

The Judgment of Mercy

The story begins with the disciples speculating theologically on who is to blame for a certain man being born blind; they are convinced God is punishing him. Jesus refuses this interpretation and heals the blind man…an act that “divides” the unstable community; he robs them of their scapegoat. Blinded by their own dim judgment, and in an effort to preserve the status quo, the community “drives out” the healed man from their midst.

Jesus follows the exile to the margins where the two of them establish the possibility of a new community, one founded upon mercy, not the blind guide of sacrifice. This is the “judgment” for which Jesus came into the world-the judgment of mercy.

Don’t Speak Until You’re Spoken To*

  So why does Jesus tell his disciples to remain quiet until they meet him in the resurrection? Here’s my guess. Until we hear from the Crucified One we, like Moses, are only half-converted to the love of God. Puffed up with vision of grandeur, the disciples descend into the chaos below. Very soon, their […]

The Inauguration

  2“Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…’” Mathew 5:1-12   We are told that the three most important words in real estate are: Location! Location! Location! I don’t think God got that memo when, as Eugene Peterson puts it, […]

The Magi & the Baptism

  1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” Matthew 2:1-12   This […]

The Word in the Temple

  27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God… Luke 2:25-35   We’ve had a week to digest the Nativity Feast. The magic of Christmas finds […]

The Word Revealed

  Joy is the purest form of gratitude, and gratitude is the most genuine gift we can give to God. The secret of our salvation lies in Jesus who is the joy of our desiring. The revelation of a God who has always been with us in the Waiting Rooms of Christmas is the joy […]

The Word at Home

  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” John 1:14   We began this year’s Advent series by exploring The Waiting Rooms of Christmas. We waited in the Apocalypse and peace found us. We waited in the Wilderness and a garden of grace grew in our midst. We waited in Prison and we discovered […]

The Waiting Rooms of Christmas – Public Disgrace

  “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. The husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to […]

The Waiting Rooms of Christmas – Prison

  3“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Matthew 11:2-11   This year, during Advent, the Gospel of Matthew invites us to sit in what we are calling The Waiting Rooms of Christmas. In the first week of Advent we were waiting in the apocalypse. In the […]

The Four Waiting Rooms of Christmas – Wilderness

  1In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” […]

The Four Waiting Rooms of Christmas – Apocalypse

  40“Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left…41Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:36-44   It’s the first week of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year. It’s the season of longing, expectation and preparation […]

Stone by Stone

  “Do not be terrified…This will give you an opportunity to testify.” Luke: 21:5-19   This week’s text is difficult. It is the reminder that peacemaking is not for the faint of heart.   The text begins on a positive note. “Some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and […]

Faith from Below

  15” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? Luke 18:1-8   This is a familiar parable Jesus uses to teach us about the nature of […]

Becoming Human

  5“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “ Luke 17:5-10   This week’s text is a difficult one. The […]

Not Even Abraham

  27“I beg you to send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house” Luke 16:19-31   This week’s text is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man lives a life of plenty, while Lazarus lay at the threshold of his gate “covered in sores” suffering the indignities of wretched poverty. “He longed […]

The Gospel Hustle

  8“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Luke 16:1-13   In my neighborhood, this would be called a hustle. I see it every day.   This parable sounds […]

The Math of Mercy

2“The Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable…” Luke 15:1-10 Fifteen years ago this Sunday (9/11) something awful happened, and I do mean aw-full. Most of us were filled with awe. We let ourselves be awed by evil, and it […]

Sabbath Prayer: Week 6

“Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1)   As we mentioned four weeks ago, each summer we take a Sabbath break from the Word From Below reflections. Instead, we are inviting you to pray with us. (We will resume our normal Word From Below reflections in September).   Here are two prayers that have been […]

Sabbath Prayer: Week 5

  “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1) As we mentioned four weeks ago, each summer we take a Sabbath break from the Word From Below reflections. Instead, we are inviting you to pray with us. (We will resume our normal Word From Below reflections in September). Here are two prayers that have been helping […]

Sabbath Prayer: Week 2

  “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1)   As we mentioned last week, each summer we take a Sabbath break from the Word From Below reflections. Instead, we are inviting you to pray with us. (We will resume our normal Word From Below reflections in September).   Here are two prayers that have been […]

Sabbath Prayer:  Week 1

  “Lord, teach us to pray…”   Each summer we take a Sabbath break from the Word From Below reflections. Instead of writing on the Gospel lectionary text in the month of August, we will invite you to pray with the Street Psalms community. We will share two prayers in particular: Prayer of Vocation and Prayer […]

Asking the Beautiful Question

Joel Van Dyke and Kris Rocke, The Conversation for April 2010   The psalmist asks, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Ps. 137:4). It’s a beautiful question springing from the heart of a poet struggling creatively to live out in a strange land (Babylon) what he knows […]

Mission: Transformed

By Michelle Garcia September-October 2012   ON A FLIGHT from New York City to Guatemala some years back, I met a woman from Oklahoma on her way to visit her soon-to-be internationally adopted daughter. “I just found them, the Guatemalan children, on the internet and thought they were so beautiful,” she said. She beamed, her […]

Family Matters

  He set his face to go to Jerusalem…On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans.” Luke 9:51-62   In this week’s text Jesus turns toward Jerusalem where he will confront the brutal reality of sin head on. On his way to the city that he loves, he takes time to address some […]

Seized By Fear

29“So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:26-39 The man in the tombs we see in this passage is tormented by demons that will not go away. They have “seized” him. They have overpowered his life and isolated him from the community. They had taken up […]

A Gospel Turning

  Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?” Luke 7:36-8:3   The Gospel is alive and well, but there is an exodus from the Church in North America. My hunch is that it has something to do with the fact that, very often, the “world” is a more […]

Love in Motion

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. John 16:12-15 This week we celebrate the Trinity. Cynthia Bourgeault describes the Trinity as “love in motion.” Love in motion is the “inner big bang” of God that creates the “outer big bang” of creation. I like that. It’s not […]

Pentecost Unity

  17I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. Acts 2:1-21   This week we celebrate Pentecost, which some call the birthday of the church. The Spirit is “poured out” on all flesh, just as the prophet Joel had prophesied. This is the same word Jesus uses to describe the cup of salvation at […]

Unity Without Enemies?

I ask…that they may all be one…as we are one….that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me… John 17:20-26 My favorite scientific experiment is the one conducted by Mark Twain. He placed a cat and a dog in a cage, and to his amazement they became […]

Seeing the New Jerusalem

  I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven…and the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Rev. 21:1-6   The poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, said, “That only which we have within, can we see without.” If we see hope, love and […]

Member-ing

  You do not believe, because you do not belong John 10:22-30   As a pastor of an urban congregation, I have found myself in a conundrum about what it means to “join” or “become” a member of the Church. People are not interested in “joining” churches. Their reasons range from a lack of trust […]

Dis-appointment?

  9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught. John 21:1-19   Have you recently been disappointed by someone, or have you been the source of their disappointment? In a week’s […]

Resurrection Sunday

  5Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen Luke 24:1-12   Christ is risen!   This week we have tried to recover some of the shock of Holy Week and the truly odd narrative elements that are wildly liberating, but sometimes buried and lost.   […]

Holy Saturday

  There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:3-4   Today the world falls silent. The psalmist says there is no speech and there are no words. And yet in […]

Good Friday

  27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ John 18:1-19:42   In the Beginning, on the sixth day, on the very first Friday, God created humanity and called us “very good.” Today is another Friday. We call it Good Friday. Today, Jesus recreates humanity in God’s image once again. Creation and the […]

Maundy Thursday

  34Love one another. Just as I have loved you. John 13:34   The result of these next four days ultimately becomes the hope of the world. But today, just today, I want to try and recover one of the most shocking aspects of this hope.   Today is Maundy Thursday. Jesus issues a “new […]

The Gift of Shattered Expectations

  36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen Luke 19:28-40   Laying […]

Inventing Scapegoats

  8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me. John 12:1-8   We are approaching the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Things are heating up. This week Mary anoints Jesus with costly perfume. Judas (who will betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, the cost of a slave) rebukes […]

Towers and Trees

  4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them — do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did. Luke 13:1-9   “God hates me!” […]

A “Hens and Chicks” Spirituality

  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again […]

Symbolic Universe

  Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. Luke 4:1-13   Friend and mentor, Dave Hillis, president of Leadership Foundations, tells the story from his days as a camp counselor when he was […]

The Mystery of Incarnation

  Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing…They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. […]

Anointed for What?

  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. -Luke 4:14-21 Last […]

Deficiencies

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow…
some seeds fell on the path…
rocky ground… thorns… good soil.
(Matt. 13:1-9)

Union

“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Creation Through Forgiveness

When we think of creation as an event that happened a long time ago in a garden far, far away, we can easily forget that creation is the ongoing activity of God, here and now, made visible through the resurrection.