Before we got married, my wife had these words engraved on our wedding ring, “to our dream.” The first time I read them, I wasn’t sure how to respond. So, I just smiled and said something like, “how thoughtful.”

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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.

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Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Christians worldwide will enter into a heightened time (40 days) of prayer, reflection, and spiritual companionship with Jesus to the Resurrection by way of the cross. Here at Street Psalms, we are grateful for this annual pilgrimage that awakens our heart to its deepest desire. Given the…

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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.

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In our Lenten journey we are nearing the cross, the place where Jesus will make visible that to which we are blind and change the way we see forever. We will see the excluded one give birth to a new kind of community that is scapegoat free.

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In our Lenten journey we are nearing the cross, the place where Jesus will make visible that to which we are blind and change the way we see forever. We will see the excluded one give birth to a new kind of community that is scapegoat free.

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In our Lenten journey we are nearing the cross, the place where Jesus will make visible that to which we are blind and change the way we see forever. We will see the excluded one give birth to a new kind of community that is scapegoat free.

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In our Lenten journey we are nearing the cross, the place where Jesus will make visible that to which we are blind and change the way we see forever. We will see the excluded one give birth to a new kind of community that is scapegoat free.

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In our Lenten journey we are nearing the cross, the place where Jesus will make visible that to which we are blind and change the way we see forever. We will see the excluded one give birth to a new kind of community that is scapegoat free.

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In our Lenten journey we are nearing the cross, the place where Jesus will make visible that to which we are blind and change the way we see forever. We will see the excluded one give birth to a new kind of community that is scapegoat free.

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In our Lenten journey we are nearing the cross, the place where Jesus will make visible that to which we are blind and change the way we see forever. We will see the excluded one give birth to a new kind of community that is scapegoat free.

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In the inner room we can finally stop acting. In the inner room we are free of the crowds who so easily rule and run us like puppets. In the inner room, we stop feeding on the unstable and fickle desires of others and learn to borrow our desires from the One who desires us.

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It’s when we’ve done just about all we can do to screw things up and yet still discover ourselves loved, forgiven and trusted at our most untrustworthy worst, that the Spirit is fully unleashed.

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By the light of being forgiven, we come to see what we are doing. The more we undergo forgiveness, the more we can tell ourselves the truth about the endless stream of scapegoats we produce.

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We don’t know the specifics of her case, though I like to imagine her as the Rosa Parks of her community. What we know for sure is that she ultimately wears out the unjust judge with her demands. He grants her request, if only to get some rest. Unfortunately, this describes the experience of prayer for most of us. We feel like we have to work as hard the widow to get through to God.

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Harry stopped me. He went out to his car and came back with a .357 Magnum. He laid it on the table, carefully covered his hands with his sleeves, emptied the chamber and handed me the gun. “It’s a gift,” he said. “I want you to have it.” He added with a warm smile. “It looks like you could use a little help around here.”

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At the meeting Ben asked the leaders if they still believed in the “tactic” of nonviolence. Before Ben could finish the question, Minnijean Brown interrupted energetically. She said to Ben, “Did you say tactic? If you think we used non-violence as a tactic, then you don’t understand our movement.

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As if moved by this intuition, Thomas insists on a direct encounter with the risen Christ – one that will transform his own experience of pain. It’s not enough for Thomas to simply see the risen Christ. He must touch the wounds.

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It’s Good Friday. Jesus is on the cross. In the synoptic Gospels, the witnesses stand at a distance. But in today’s text, I can’t help but notice the women “standing near” the foot of the cross.

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Imagine that you are the innocent victim of violence. Now imagine a preacher telling you that you must repent, or you will perish. Just exactly what is the victim of violence and oppression supposed to repent of? And at whose hands will we perish? God’s?

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My usually precise colleague aimlessly fiddled with his food, pondering the proper tone with which to broach a delicate matter. He was looking for words to express his concerns related to me openly talking about my poverty during times when I preached and taught. He’d rather me use other language than “I’m poor.”

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Yes, the whole world is a burning bush ablaze with God’s glory, if we can only see it, calling us to join the wildly liberating work of God among the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed. If this isn’t cause for celebration, it’s probably because we don’t easily identify ourselves as poor, captive, blind or oppressed.

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Baptism is an initiation into our most sacred vocation—to become fully human and know ourselves loved by God. No moral system, no matter how good, can produce this vocation. We become human, not through morality, but by receiving and giving mercy.

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This week we celebrate Epiphany, and next week the baptism of Jesus. What do these events say to our souls? How is God’s love transforming us as we meditate on these events?

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On the eve of a battle in the year 312, Constantine had a vision. He saw a cross in the sky and he heard God say, “By this, conquer!”

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Beautiful questions yield beautiful answers. They open space for the Spirit to work, and involve us in our own transformation. Ultimately, they free us to see in new ways and act creatively. On the other hand, small questions yield small answers. The Japanese word “mu” can be understood to mean “un-ask the question.” Mu is the appropriate response when the question is too small fortruth to emerge. Throughout the Gospels Jesus is, in effect, saying “mu.” He is helping us find larger more beautiful questions, and he uses questions of his own to get us there.

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In the text we’re tackling this month, Jesus is accused of being “out of his mind”…and worse. The scribes accuse Jesus of being Beelzebul, a demon who casts out other demons. Jesus absorbs the deadly accusation and turns it into a teachable moment. That alone is worth a lifetime of reflection.

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The ancient Greeks had four ways of talking about love. The highest, most idealized form was “agape,” which is divine love. It is the gold standard of love. The other forms of love were assumed to be lower, human or natural loves: “Storge” is the love of a parent. “Eros” is sexual or erotic love. “Phileo” is the love of a friend.

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If learning to read the Word from below is challenging and liberating to our faith in God, learning how to read the world from below is challenging and liberating to our faith in humanity.

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To be one “as we are one.” Yes, this really is the heart of it! To become one. Union. Intimacy. The Gospel of Jesus opens us up to the possibility of becoming one in a way that seems utterly impossible – to enjoy unity without being in rivalry with anyone or anything. It is unity with and for everything – over and against nothing, not even death. This is the kind of unity that God enjoys and makes available to us. Impossible, but this is the promise of Jesus. This is Shalom.

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On the eve of a battle in the year 312, Constantine had a vision. He saw a cross in the sky and he heard God say, “By this, conquer!”

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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).

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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.

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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).

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Jesus does not shy away from conflict in Mark’s Gospel. He turns and faces what most of us flee. In particular, he faces the religious leaders, who maintain the system that sorts people into clean and unclean. This makes the religious authorities nervous.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After the brightly lit meeting on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, where Jesus is transfigured, he orders the disciples not to say a word about this until after he is raised from the dead. What an odd command. Why are they free to speak after the resurrection but not before? This week’s text calls…

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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 Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood,” (John 1:14). When God goes looking for a home, God does not pick the high rent district…

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We’ve had a week to digest the Nativity Feast. The magic of Christmas finds its way into even the most resistant of souls because it comes so unobtrusively and with such openness, vulnerability, and without the slightest demand. Our souls leap almost involuntarily in the presence of the Incarnation. In it, we see our true…

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  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…

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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 ourselves set free. Finally, we waited with Mary in the shameful spotlight…

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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 ourselves set free. Finally, we wait with Mary in the shameful spotlight…

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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 second week we joined John the Baptist in the wilderness. Here, in the third week, we find ourselves waiting…

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This year during Advent the Gospel of Matthew invites us to sit in, what we are calling, The Waiting Rooms of Christmas: Apocalypse, Wilderness, Prison and Public Disgrace. These strange and frightening waiting rooms mirror the all too familiar experience of vulnerable urban communities throughout our network, and are timely reminders of the challenges facing…

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  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…

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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 gifts dedicated to God” (v. 5). Jesus beholds the beautiful edifice that overlooked the city, but…

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This week’s text is a difficult one. The disciples want Jesus to increase their faith, which is the very thing Jesus is eager to do. At first glance, however, Jesus seems to berate the disciples for their lack of faith. Then he compares the disciples to “servants” who are only doing what they ought to…

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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 to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table” (v. 21). The…

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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 consumed us. Four planes were hijacked–the Twin Towers destroyed. 2,996 were killed, which includes the 19 men who carried out the absurdity and whose loss…

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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 form us in our call to develop incarnational…

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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 form us in our call to develop incarnational…

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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 helping form us in our call to develop incarnational leaders:…

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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 of Discernment. For several years now these…

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We can manage moral purity from the “other side” of the road, but mercy “comes near” and gets involved in the mess of life.

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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…

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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 unresolved family matters that had been festering for a long time. The rift dates back to 722 BC when the Assyrians…

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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 hospitable place than many churches, and that’s saying something given our culture of polarization and rivalry. People are…

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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 only a great way to describe the Trinity, but also a great way to describe mission. Mission…

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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 the Last Supper, which is “poured out” for all (Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24,…

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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 friends. Encouraged, he added a rabbit, a fox, a goose, a squirrel and even some doves and a monkey. They too became friends and lived in peace. In…

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The poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, said, “That only which we have within, can we see without.” If we see hope, love and beauty “out there” it’s because we have those same gifts at play “in here.” If we see the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven it’s because it’s rising up in our souls. If…

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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. On Maundy Thursday, Jesus forgives us in advance of our sin. On Good Friday, Jesus declares himself our mother on the cross. On…

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Today the world falls silent. The psalmist says there is no speech and there are no words. And yet in that silence a voice goes out; a Word goes forth and that Word will become flesh again in the resurrection. All of this is happening beneath, behind and even within us now! The Spirit is…

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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 cross — the two are inseparable . I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to…

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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 commandment.” “Love one another. Just as I have loved you”(John 13:34). He demonstrates this…

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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 Mary for her wasteful extravagance. Judas protests that the perfume could have been sold for a year’s worth of…

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Friend and mentor, Dave Hillis, president of Leadership Foundations, tells the story from his days as a camp counselor when he was asked to lead a seminar for urban youth. A young lady walked in just as it was about to start and asked Dave what the topic would be. When he told her it…

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Last week we heard Jesus’ first sermon. This week’s lectionary text keeps us in the same passage, but it focuses on the end of the sermon when things turn ugly. In the first half of the sermon Jesus lifts up the expansive nature of God’s grace, which is why “all spoke well of him and…

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Last week we witnessed Jesus’ first miracle (water becomes wine). It ends well. This week we hear Jesus’ first sermon. It ends horribly. His text is Isaiah 61:1-2a. His sermon is electric. It charges the crowd with a confusing current of wonderment and fierce anger. In the end, they drive him out of town to…

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The real threat that Jesus exposes in this text is the hidden envy brewing in the disciples’ hearts.

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Is Matthew 28:19-20 the “Great Commission? Is it the text that should guide how we understand God’s mission? Could it be that the near canonization of the term has actually caused damage to our understanding of the Christian mission?

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When it comes to life’s deepest mysteries, experience trumps explanation every time!

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Perhaps the greatest of all the miracles is not that God loves us, but that God actually likes us.

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She reminds us that transformation is not something that we can either will or work into existence – ever.

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Imagine that it’s 1633 and you are hearing for the first time that the sun does not revolve around the earth.

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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)

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