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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Entries by Kris Rocke
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.”
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.
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.
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?
Welcome to the first week of Advent. If you are new to the liturgical calendar, Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and it marks the beginning of the liturgical year.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 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 […]
“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 […]
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 […]
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.’” […]
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 […]
“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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
“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 […]
“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 […]
“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 […]
“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 […]
We can manage moral purity from the “other side” of the road, but mercy “comes near” and gets involved in the mess of life.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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!” […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
Kingdom not from here.
Whose sacrificial system is it?
Three dimensions in a two-dimensional world.
The real threat that Jesus exposes in this text is the hidden envy brewing in the disciples’ hearts.
We too are blind.
Eucharistic abundance in the Meal from Below.
Risking vulnerability through boundaries.
That pesky mustard seed.
The other Great Commission.
When it comes to life’s deepest mysteries, experience trumps explanation every time!
He creates a new temple in its place – an abode of mercy that is himself. This is the heart of the Gospel!
Too soon to blow the cover?
The sacred is hidden inside the profane, wanting to be discovered!
Perhaps the greatest of all the miracles is not that God loves us, but that God actually likes us.
She reminds us that transformation is not something that we can either will or work into existence – ever.
Dangerous divine leveling.
The master releases the servant.
Imagine that it’s 1633 and you are hearing for the first time that the sun does not revolve around the earth.
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.
We embrace generosity, hospitality, simplicity, and vulnerability.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
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.
Jesus calls us friend today, knowing we will betray him tomorrow. If there is an order to salvation, this is it.
God’s blessing is the sacrament of the present moment that redeems both past and future.
“May the real I meet the real Thou.”
The crucified ones of this world are helping us re-narrate the Law and the words of the Prophets to reclaim a Gospel of grace, mercy, and peace in a violent world.
It’s about God wanting us to be fully human, and God knows that our enemies hold the key to our humanity.
Rabbi Jesus, teach us to see through your eyes.
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