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Liberating Rest

How are you?

Good. Busy. How about you?

Oh, you know, busy, busy! But good!

This may be the most frequent exchange I hear before and after worship each week. We know we’re too busy to breathe. We know this way of life is killing us and the earth. But we don’t know how to stop.

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Christmas

Perhaps you came across a recent article titled “Jesus in the Rubble.” It features the picture above, illustrating Christmas in Bethlehem. Rev. Munther Isaac, pastor of a Lutheran church in Bethlehem, placed Jesus in the rubble in recognition of the war in Gaza, just sixty miles away.

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Holy Bewilderment

“I was trying to absorb what the oncologist was telling me. Yesterday’s tests clearly show, he said, that I have a very rare condition. Turns out—this is the unbelievable part—it only mimics aggressive cancer.”
“I’m simply overwhelmed with this news.”

Gary* and I share a very long silence. Finally he says, “I… I don’t know, honestly, all what it means.

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Gritty Grace

Years ago, I was serving in a small church in my neighborhood. One week, I was preparing for a baptism and discovered this church did not have a baptismal font.

In a conversation with another pastor and friend whose church was down the street, he said, “Not a problem, I will bring you ours.”

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The Beginning of the Gospel

The first eight words of the book of Mark reminds us that everything has a beginning, our walks of faith included.

Street Psalms arrived in Nicaragua almost 20 years ago as a pilot project training series for youth leaders. The name given to this initial foray into transformational ministry was “Incarnational Youth Ministry: Reaching the Last, the Least, and the Lost.”

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Something New

It’s December and suddenly Christmas music is everywhere. Lights have gone up. Letters to Santa are being written. All is merry and bright.

Mark did not get the memo. Advent with Mark is not jolly.

Quite the opposite. It starts with suffering. Jesus has been listing all the suffering his followers are going to experience.

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Good News in Hard Places

This week’s lectionary text is a familiar but difficult one.

For many of us, Matthew 25 recalls memories of sermons of the past — echoes of the sheep vs. the goats, cautionary tales about entertaining angels, or Jesus in disguise. There is an abundance of judgment for those seeking it, and we all find ourselves crossing our fingers, hoping to land on the King’s right side and avoid his left.

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The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The parable of the talents has haunted me for a long time. It has frightened me since I was a teenager. I remember hearing the youth pastor preaching about this passage several times. Every time he brought this parable up, I felt uncomfortable.

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Vigilance and Understanding

This parable draws parallels with the future kingdom of heaven, where the ten bridesmaids prepare to meet the groom. Ultimately, only half of them partake in the banquet, while the rest are denied access. This caution resonates with the preceding chapter, urging disciples to remain watchful and alert at all times (24:48, 42).

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A Malicious Question, A Healing Answer

I’ve heard it said that the Bible is “God’s Answer Book.” Some people must find that to be true, but it’s hard to see how. Among the Bibles I own, a few have sections in the back that serve as FAQs (frequently asked questions) plus answers. That’s handy, but they’re modern add-ons.

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Who’s on the Guest List?

As Jesus approached the cross in Jerusalem, not everyone grasped the significance. There were those religious leaders who were threatened by his increasing popularity among the masses and wanted to shut that down. AND there some who were awaiting a Jesus that would green-light a violent overthrow of Roman oppression and were hoping this was their time.

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A Way of Hearing

Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing. I wonder, however, if it’s also a way of hearing. Listening holds profound significance in our lives. The ear is the first organ to function within our mother’s womb and the last to stop working at our death.

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“Says Who?”

Our passage leaves out exactly what unauthorized things Jesus has been doing. If we back up, we see that this inquisition takes place the morning after Jesus has entered Jerusalem cheered on by a crowd.

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The Lavish Landowner

When was the last time you read Scripture to know God more deeply? I know that sounds like an odd question, but for many, including myself, picking up the Bible is often more about uncovering practical life lessons or moral guidance, rather than seeking to connect with the Creator. For example, in this week’s parable of the landowner, it’s tempting to dissect it for lessons on jealousy, or fairness, or the enigmatic ways of God.

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Forgiving Uncertainty

I really like to have the right answers. That’s why, when I started my theological studies many years ago, I struggled with my own inclinations toward legalism. Legalism was comfortable for me. It spared me from the complexities of life because it often provided straightforward responses grounded in phrases like, “because the Bible says so.” It took time for me to realize that a legalistic, literal interpretation of scripture wasn’t the sole way to read the Bible, and, in fact, it could stifle life’s beautiful complexity.

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Structured and Tight, but Open

Both my parents worked away from home all throughout my childhood years. As the eldest child, I was entrusted with the responsibility of looking after my siblings, which included ensuring they were fed.

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The Scandal of Misplaced Desire

In today’s world of instant news, we experience one story of scandal after another. Our news feed constantly tempts us with the tantalizing details of the latest political or Hollywood scandal. The details of this Gospel story seem so comparatively mild. Peter has become a “scandal” to Jesus for insisting that Jesus should live and not die: “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

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Shhhhh

I’m not sure why Jesus said, “Don’t tell.” All I know is, Love seems not in a rush. She takes her revealings slow.

I’m learning, very slowly over a lifetime, not to be in a rush either. Present to the absence; present to the presence.

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A Reluctant Jesus and a Woman with Great Faith

She knows who he is and she is calling forth what she knows to be true… at the end of the day, he is a God of mercy. From my vantage point, it feels like the unnamed Canaanite woman actually knew more about Jesus and his mission than he did. She either knew, or didn’t care, that her status should not preclude her request for mercy. She is holding Jesus accountable to who he is.

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Room for the Impossible

This week’s lectionary text contains some thoughts that make me feel a bit nervous. I think of the fact that in doing something relatively easy in the name of Jesus we can come face-to-face with nightmares of opposition. Powerful gusts of wind can batter our most sincere efforts. Thundering waves overwhelm our hearts, sweeping away our motivation. Dense darkness and blinding uncertainty about tomorrow — a feeling of being lost without knowing where you are or where you are going.

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Gracious Plenty

Jesus says, Give them to me. He takes, blesses, breaks, gives. And all ate and were filled. They even had leftovers.

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The Kingdom’s Cadence

May we scribes be grateful: we have been formed to welcome, to prepare, to read, to bear witness and after this, to wait for the kingdom of heaven. The wonder expressed at the found pearl or at the treasure in the fields follows only the stillness of the fermentation.

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Helicopter Gardening

In this week’s text, Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Someone sows weeds in a field of wheat, and the workers are concerned, wanting to uproot the offending vegetation immediately. The Master, however, is surprisingly relaxed about the whole thing. Just wait, you guys. If you try to weed now, you’re gonna tear up the wheat too. Be patient. I’ve got this.

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Good Soil

The good news of the Kingdom is what God has done for all of us. The more we’re able to see God’s goodness, the more we can produce the life-giving fruit that feeds a hungry world. The fruit is our loving openness to others in community — a reflection of the radically inclusive God who first loved us.

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A Restful Yoke

In our lectionary text today, Jesus extends a gracious invitation to all who are exhausted. He offers rest for those who take his yoke upon themselves and earn from him, for he is “gentle and lowly in heart,” and his yoke is “easy” and his burden is “light.”

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Embracing Hospitality

A part of the disciples’ call is to be recipients of hospitality from those to whom they are sent, even as they anticipate the hardships and risks of following Jesus into the unknown. However, they are assured that provision will be made for them on their journey — God will be with them.

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The Trouble With Uncovering

Jesus was not a violent disruptor. That much is abundantly clear in his life and teachings. Rather, he was a disrupter of violence—both interpersonal and structural. By no coincidence, he died by violence.

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Embracing the Paradox

Here, Jesus raises two animals before us, serpents and doves, as symbols of a way forward. It’s both thought provoking and confusing. This simile invites us to embrace a particular way of existing in the world, one that reflects the formation of disciples — God’s people who, filled with the Spirit, discern with wisdom and approach life with humility.

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Master of Allusion

Creator Sets Free (the name used for Jesus in the First Nations Translation of the Bible) is seeking to set the Pharisees, and all of us, free from the rules and rituals we use to define ourselves over and against other people.

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Discovering Freedom

The one who came into this world helpless as a babe, who lived poor and on the margins, who suffered and died just as we do and yet never strayed from the way of love, this one now claims all authority in heaven, and on earth, and even over our lives.

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peace

Peace Be With You

The point is that when faced with the worst of what humans can do to one another, Jesus’ response is “Peace be with you.” He even shows them His wounds, choosing to expose his vulnerability instead of acting violently or retributively out of His woundedness.

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Reconciling

Shame has a distinct ability to turn us inward, manifesting in unhealthy ways that often result in us turning outward in unhealthy ways. When we experience personal dis-integration, it often leads to communal dis-integration.

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The Promise of Presence

Here we are, nearly 6 weeks past Easter. The gospel lectionary passage will not let us forget the days before Jesus’ death…and the words…the last words he spoke to his disciples. Jesus is measured and intentional with what he wants them to know and remember…and here it is…

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Hope is the Way

John 14 reveals Jesus’ masterful ability to hold loss and hope together. As he comforts His disciples and calls them forward, he shares profound truths with them and speaks about what lies ahead.

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A Different Kind of Gate

As a part of the broader church, I see myself in the mirror of Jesus’ words today. We have a crucial decision to make. Will we be the kind of gate that uses all of our energy acting like bouncers, deciding who is in and who is out? Or, will we embrace the role of a gate portrayed by Jesus, dedicated to creating a sanctuary where sheep are known and can flourish?

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The Courage to Disappear

This week’s gospel story depicts two people walking down a road with a stranger who joins them. So happens the stranger is famous, but they don’t recognize him. Like the airplane story, it’s a setup for comedy, but it’s no time for laughter. All three are in the aftermath of trauma, walking away from the scene of public and personal horrors. Primary trauma, suffered directly. Secondary trauma, witnessed and absorbed.

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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.

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Resurrection Sunday: Easter Eyes

Today is Resurrection Sunday. He is risen! Creation in Christ continues! If Good Friday is the 6th day of the Creation and Holy Saturday is the 7th day of the Creation, then Resurrection Sunday is the 8th Day of Creation. Or perhaps the 1st day of New Creation. The point is that Easter is not the end of God’s work. It’s just the beginning!

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Holy Saturday: Sabbath Rest

Today is Holy Saturday. It remains the least understood of all the days and for good reason. According to the Jewish calendar, Saturday is the 7th day of the week – the day God enters his own sabbath rest. Today God’s power is perfected in weakness.

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Good Friday: Mission Accomplished

Today is Good Friday. According to the Jewish calendar, Friday is the 6th day of the week. It was on the 6th day that God breathed into the dust of the ground and created humanity. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus is doing the work of his Father.

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Maundy Thursday: Preemptive Love

Today we remember a very strange meal. We call it the “Last Supper.” It is also the first communion. Jesus hosts the meal. He also takes the form of a servant. The host drops to his knees with a towel and basin, washing and blessing then feeding his beloved friends who will soon betray him. 

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The Way of The Donkey

Jesus’ life and death fell smack dab in the middle of the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome. This was a 200-year period where the empire largely enjoyed “peace” — but it came at great cost.

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Freedom from Fear

We trudge along this Lenten season towards the horror of the cross. Just two weeks away, Good Friday marks the day when the shadow of death will completely shroud us in darkness and despair. As the body of Lazarus lies entombed, wrapped in the grave clothes of death, we find ourselves also shrouded in darkness, wrapped in the grave clothes of sin: fear reigning in our hearts.

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Scratched Eye

At the beginning of the story, there is a group of people whose spiritual blindness triggers the conflict around the healing of the blind man. This group is the blind man’s immediate community. In a twist of irony, his neighbors fail to see the miracle before their eyes: one of their own experienced healing! Sadly, instead of welcoming him back into the community, they bring him to the Pharisees to be interrogated. 

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The Gift of Unbounded Identity

In today’s text John introduces us to a remarkable story of Jesus encountering a Samaritan woman by the well. Jesus crosses socio-cultural and religious boundaries and there, establishes a relationship with the Samaritan woman, a relationship that eventually leads to plentiful harvest.

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Salvation

As I read the text for this week, amid the cold and chaos, I can struggle to get past my childhood perspective of Jesus. It was shaped by a hyperfocus on the “eternal life” mentioned in John 3:16, often to the exclusion of other scripture that help complete our understanding of what life with God looks like.

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It is Written

“God hates,” men told her. Many men in fact, many times. Because they were religious, she believed them, because she wished to believe in God. The men held the sacred writings, copied from goat skins to gilded pages to church multimedia screens.

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Ash Wednesday – Storing Up Treasures

What struck me more than Chief Seattle’s monument were the rows of plain, worn cement markers that said only “Unknown.” As I walked slowly among them, I wondered about the people and stories buried here. How did they live? How did they die? How old were they? Did they have families? What did they laugh about? What were they proud of? Who loved them?

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What Happens on the Mountain

It’s safe to say that James, John and Peter had the strangest, scariest, holiest, most other-worldly experience when they accompanied Jesus on a hike up a high mountain. At some point during this trek, Jesus’ appearance changed — right before them. It was like he was shining from the inside out. One translation said, “Sunlight poured from his face.” Even his clothes became super bright.  

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It Only Takes a Spark

 In the 1980s there was a popular song among Christian youth in Nicaragua named “La Chispa,” or “The Spark” in English. The song starts by saying “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.”  

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Blessed? I don’t know about that.

A few years ago we ended up adopting an 18-year-old woman (we’ll call her Carla) into our family. She had been abused and rejected by her family — the stories were heartbreaking. We gave her a safe space to catch her breath and find stability. 

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Beyond Guilt

The Kingdom of Heaven coming near is the beginning of God’s new creation where God can come and dwell with His people forever.

In other words, the party has already started, and we are all invited whether we are attuned to that reality or not.

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What Do You Want?

I love introductions — whether they happen in between two people or in front of large groups. I love them because the things people share during an introduction reflect what they believe is important in the moment. Our introductions say a lot about how we understand ourselves and our audience.

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Relational Affirmation

I love introductions — whether they happen in between two people or in front of large groups. I love them because the things people share during an introduction reflect what they believe is important in the moment. Our introductions say a lot about how we understand ourselves and our audience.

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Hope in the Darkness

Each year the season of Christmas gets me excited. Even as the days get colder and darker the warm feelings of Christmas and all the wonder the holidays bring propels me into preparations for celebration. My two small children, just old enough to grasp the meaning of this season, have joined in on the traditions.

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Making Room

When Many years ago, I started collecting nativity scenes – both elaborate and simple, traditional and contemporary, from many different places. Some included the whole entourage of characters (shepherds, magi, angels, animals), and others just had Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

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Uncle Frank

In today’s text, we are given the perspective of Joseph. Matthew, the author, seems to be interested in telling the story in a way that clearly reflects the Old Testament: he either quotes or alludes to it almost 100 times!

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God of the Ordinary

In my part of the world, advent is sometimes seen as an ominous sign. Instead of the picturesque holiday cards we see in the hallmark aisle, Advent feels more like a warning. Yes, the Advent air has a different vibe, for it evokes the memories of the devastation of the yearly typhoons that visit the Philippines during this time. More recently, there’s been a chilling social effect because so many activists are being arrested or worse, killed.

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A Loud Invitation

I love the lead up to Christmas. It’s this cozy, warm season. But just as I get settled in, John the Baptist shows up yelling.

Change! You better change! Change it all!!

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Advent Week One

I associate Advent with Christmas anticipation, cozy gatherings, and carving out time (amidst all the errands of “Christmas anticipation”) for some reflection and contemplation on Mary’s radical “yes” to the coming of Emmanuel — to God not only being with her, but within her.

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The OG (Original Gangsta)

I know both the criminal and the “honorable.” I’m not saying I respect the criminals more than the “honorable,” at least not out loud. I’m rarely sure where to draw the lines between criminality and honorability. Armed with lethal force and a botched warrant for a criminal who was not at the scene, the “honorable” men

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In Grace and Truth

eginning in August of this year, CTM Kenya shifted its base to another community called Kawangware. There, we have a cohort of 75 leaders who are learning, in community, what it means to bear witness to good news in hard places. There, they are practicing incarnational leadership by serving in some of the most challenging spaces in our city. They are also working on their own formation.

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Singing Zacchaeus

In the summer of 2005 my wife said to me, “If our church is going to keep talking about reaching out to Dimond Estates, someone ought to live there. I think we should sell our house and move into the trailer park.” My response was, “Why would I sell a perfectly good house and move into a trailer? Don’t ever talk to me about this again!” In the end, after a lot more discussion, we moved into a doublewide in Dimond Estates in 2006.

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Prayers you can’t F#CK Up

Our lectionary text this week picks up on a common theme in Luke’s Gospel. The writer of this gospel often places those that have little political power or religious clout, social outsiders, at the center of the story. This usually happens to the dismay of those that might consider themselves righteous and worthy of being at the center. Luke often decenters and recenters through table fellowship; Jesus has dinner with undesirable characters and the meals foreshadow a heavenly feast filled with celebration and community.

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This Widow

As I’ve read today’s passage, I’ve been wracking my brain with this question: Have I ever had to persist in my prayers to God? Has there ever been anything I have desired so much that I have continually petitioned God like the widow in today’s text?

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The In-between Space

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by a seminary classmate to “speak” at a camp for the homeless just outside of Manila. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I would share with them. So, I decided to listen to their stories of hope and hurt. I found out that they are from different parts of the city, occupying the borderlands and in-between spaces of Manila. What unites them is their shared experience of exclusion.

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The Faith of a Mustard Seed

I have a mulberry tree that popped up in my yard a couple of years ago. I didn’t pull it up right away. Now it is completely entangled with my fence. In just two years it went from a skinny sprout to a thick-trunked tree (taller than I am) that’s ruining my fence. I would like to throw it into the sea.

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The Rich Man and Lazarus

This week in Luke 16, Jesus shares the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus at his gates — a strange story full of inversions for any listener.

This story isn’t an isolated tale. It comes as part of a series of parables, beginning in Luke 15, that are told in the presence of his disciples; the gathered crowd, including tax collectors and sinners; and the Pharisees. I picture the Pharisees on the edge

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Burn the Ledger

Harry always insisted on buying the pizza.

He was one of six kids from the neighborhood who would gather each week for a Bible study to see if Scripture had anything to say to their lives.

Even though I knew his money wasn’t exactly honest,

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Rejoice with Me

Recently, as I was returning home from a long day at the office, I came across a crowd of people not far from my home. It kept on growing and within a few minutes, the road was completely blocked. It was hard to tell what was going on. But a few meters away, in a ditch across the road, I was told, there were two young men who had been beaten.

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Criteria of Cost

When I was a teenager there were perhaps no words from Jesus that I found more troubling than those on the concept of biological family. The story in Mark 3 for instance, when Mary and Jesus’ brothers were lingering outside and he uttered famously, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”

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Guests of Honor

I have an 18 year-old young person in my life; they have not had an easy go of things. This person recently graduated from high school, which was a touch-and-go situation. They haven’t had a stable home environment for all the years I’ve known them. And they are rarely ever, what I would describe as, “happy” — it’s almost as if they don’t trust themselves to experience happiness.

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18 Long Years

I have an 18 year-old young person in my life; they have not had an easy go of things. This person recently graduated from high school, which was a touch-and-go situation. They haven’t had a stable home environment for all the years I’ve known them. And they are rarely ever, what I would describe as, “happy” — it’s almost as if they don’t trust themselves to experience happiness.

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Disrupter of Peace?

The lectionary text for this week feels bizarre to say the least. Jesus says that he didn’t come to bring peace, but division. At first glance, this runs counter to everything we believe is Jesus’ message. After all, isn’t the work of sowing division and discord Satan’s doing? What’s happening here?

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Over the Shoulder

A friend of mine recently told me that when her brother learned to walk, he always looked back over his shoulder, watching where he’d been, never looking where he was going. Of course, since he was looking over his shoulder, he’d run into all sorts of things — coffee tables, stairs, trees, pets.

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With Me or Against Me

A group of leaders in a Mayan urban community in Guatemala were very enthusiastic about the idea of running a program to combat teenage alcohol consumption — one of many issues negatively impacting young people in their community. They had great plans, but one question remained: where could they obtain the necessary resources to run a program like this?

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A Community Crying Out

A group of leaders in a Mayan urban community in Guatemala were very enthusiastic about the idea of running a program to combat teenage alcohol consumption — one of many issues negatively impacting young people in their community. They had great plans, but one question remained: where could they obtain the necessary resources to run a program like this?

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The Coolest Little Playhouse

South Camden has the coolest little playhouse with high-quality seating, sound, and lighting. It is well crafted for the works of famed playwrights like Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil, and David Mamet. It’s the perfect neighborhood theater, but the neighbors and I have never sat for a performance. South Camden is not exactly Tennessee Williams’ territory,

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Go and Do Likewise

This year 27 leaders from the Kariadudu area in Nairobi will graduate from our center. These are leaders who started small churches in their neighborhoods and have accompanied those churches for years. Out of love, many have chosen to serve and live in one of the most challenging parts of our city,

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Peace – It’s Getting Complicated

The call to peace, in all of its complex, costly, extensive, nuanced layers, is now feeling rather akin to a call of vulnerability. It is the vulnerability that strikes me in this week’s lectionary reading. Jesus sends out his disciples, two by two, to bring this costly, complex, extensive message of peace to foreign villages, unknown houses, strange countrymen.

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The Cost of Following

Today’s passage tells of Jesus’ encounter with a demon-possessed man. This isn’t the only story about possession in the Bible, but it’s one of the more dramatic: exorcised demons cast into a herd of pigs, a man healed and restored to society, and a community struggling to grasp what God was doing right before their eyes.

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Where are his people?

Today’s passage tells of Jesus’ encounter with a demon-possessed man. This isn’t the only story about possession in the Bible, but it’s one of the more dramatic: exorcised demons cast into a herd of pigs, a man healed and restored to society, and a community struggling to grasp what God was doing right before their eyes.

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Spirit of Truth

There is a story that has haunted my country for the past six years. It’s the story of those killed in the government’s war on drugs. Police say 6,000 have died. Human rights observers say the number is closer to 30,000. Regardless of whose statistics you use, far too many lives have been taken.

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Pentecost

s Pentecost, the great celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s quieter in John than in Acts. There’s no sound of a violent, rushing wind, no tongues of fire, no crowd and foreign languages and accusations of drunkenness. In place of all that, there’s a promise uttered to a grieving group. 

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Then the World Will Know

In all my time of writing for the Word From Below, in all the reflections I have submitted, I have never felt a text so relevant and impossible as the prayer of unity we find in our lectionary text this week. In my country, and in many places around the world, it seems that division is at the center of our cultures and our identities. It feels like our unity is defined by enemies — by what we stand against, more than what we stand for. Is that true unity? Is that where our identity should be found?

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My Peace I Give to You

It’s late in the Easter season. The Resurrected Christ has been walking with the disciples — including you and me — for some weeks; soon, he will ascend. Today, in the liturgical readings, he reassures us that when he leaves us, he will send the Spirit to guide, to advocate, to teach, and to remind us of his way, truth, and life.

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How Long?

I do not like winters. My first ever taste of winter was when I went mountain climbing. I did not anticipate how much I would suffer from fatigue, high altitude exhaustion and unbearable cold and wetness. I remember daydreaming about my bed and appreciating the warmth back home that I sometimes took for granted.

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Do you love me?

One of my theology professors, Olivier Bauer, enjoyed playing with this question. His students would automatically answer, “Jesus’ Last Supper was in the upper room on the evening of his arrest when he introduced Holy Communion”, or something to that effect.

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Resurrection Sunday

Early in the morning, on the first day, God said let there be light. And there was light. And it was good. Early in the morning, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. It didn’t seem good, though. There was no light. All was dark. Mary came to grieve. She came to a tomb, a place of death.

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Holy Saturday

Friday night and Saturday are perhaps the strangest time of this strange, holy week. It is the time that all falls silent. There is nothing to do but wait. And it is not a waiting for new life. No one guessed what was to come. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus see to the burial, tending to Jesus’ mangled body with mercy.

I am captivated by these two disciples.

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Good Friday

War rages. Imperial powers invade and occupy other countries. 10.35 million people are imprisoned around the world. 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water.

Jesus still thirsts. Jesus is still imprisoned. Jesus still resides in occupied territory. This is a story we need today as desperately as we needed it two thousand years ago.

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Maundy Thursday

It’s Thursday. We have followed Jesus this far. He has been anointed with beauty, spoken of death, and his betrayal has begun. Tonight, he kneels and washes his friends’ feet–all of them, yes, including Judas.

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Holy Week Wednesday

The week picks up speed and the mystery deepens. Jesus’ words about death and life are taking on flesh with startling speed. In this reflection, we’re taking Thursday night and breaking it into two pieces so that we can linger longer with the text. Today we are with Judas.

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Holy Week Tuesday

It’s Tuesday. Jesus has entered Jerusalem, and before everything else, he has been blessed by beauty for beauty’s sake. He has received humanizing kindness before the dehumanization and violence that is to come. But the week is rolling on, ready or not. 

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Holy Week Monday

It’s Monday. Jesus has entered Jerusalem. It’s gotten serious. We begin. We enter into this ancient story and rhythm with him.

But first, this happens. It’s almost embarrassing to begin this week this way. It is not dignified. It is not reasonable. It’s physical and intimate and profligate.

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The Donkey or the Horse?

This international tension would not have been foreign to Jesus and his contemporaries. In fact, the occasion that brought Jesus to Jerusalem — the Passover — was a highly charged annual event. It brought Jewish society together: the power brokers, the revolutionaries and the pious religious folk, to celebrate their liberation from imperial power.

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Leave Her Alone

This week’s scripture brings us to a well known story of Mary washing the feet of Jesus. As told in John 12, Mary uses a large amount of expensive oil to bathe Jesus’ feet and then dries them with her hair. This story is beautiful, but it’s also perplexing. The act of washing feet was already an act of service.

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The Invitation to Celebrate

The gospel text this week begins with a group of religious folk — “Pharisees and scribes,” but feel free to insert titles from your denomination — complaining about Jesus’ habit of welcoming and eating with “sinners.” In his very rabbinic way, Jesus doesn’t address the accusation head-on, but begins to tell a series of stories, culminating with the one that has come to be known as the “Prodigal Son.”

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The Constant Gardener

Everyone in the neighborhood called me Mr. Tim, but Jackie insisted on calling me Mr. Timmins. No matter what the others said, her weak but distinctive voice would boldly greet me, “Hi Mr. Timmins. I just need a dollar to get me something to eat.” This overly confident reassignment of my name

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Get Away from Here

This week, as we continue on the Lenten journey, we see Jesus determined to carry on with his mission to the end. The path ahead of him is dangerous, but he is prepared to pay the price. Some of his enemies know that Jesus does not easily change his mind. He is casting out demons and healing the sick. The good he does is threatening to bring down the entire system.

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