Serving Without Seeking the Crown

Jesus resists this temptation. He does not use the opportunity to advance himself. Jesus shows us what is at the heart of incarnational ministry: coming alongside those we serve and inviting them to participate in their own healing.

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Get Some Rest

So did He ignore rest or is there something I am missing? I’m beginning to think that my own concept of rest must be sorely lacking as clearly, Jesus is modeling something that does not come naturally to me.

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Otherness to Outsider

There is a unique pain associated with this brand of dismissal, akin to the sting of rejection but accompanied by shock and disbelief (“I thought of all people they would understand!”).

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Power

At first glance, the fifth chapter of Mark is full of stories that appear to be mostly about healing. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus casts out demons from a young man; and today, we see him heal a woman and raise a girl from the dead. Healing is clearly an important and wonderful part of the narrative.

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Can We Hear?

These stories, sometimes referred to as myths, don’t just shape how we see ourselves in the present moment, they also affect how we understand what is possible in the future.

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The Unreasonable Work of Liberation

He must be possessed, they say. Because God’s logic looks like insanity to those of us who’ve become accustomed to the world’s logic. All this disruption, this chaos, must be demonic, they say.

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Do Not Pass Me By

When I woke up that morning I promised myself “never again.” My heart cannot sustain it. My body cannot sustain it. My soul cannot sustain it. This non-stop movement, constant going, day by day, this making a way.

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Pentecost

All around our communities, in myself, and in our churches, we continue to be held captive to this imperial dream — unity, control and stability through enforced uniformity.

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More Than Charity

Identify with those who have nothing. Not in charity alone so as to be a helper of those without food, clothes, or who are imprisoned. Rather, identify with their humanity. I was hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, imprisoned, and sick. That is me! We often read Matthew 25:31 – 36 as a judgement of those…

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Real Talent?

For those of us who were raised in the United States, we have a tendency to read the Parable of the Talents through the lens of meritocracy—your reward is the result of your ability and efforts. If you recall, the story is about a master who goes away for a long time and entrusts large…

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Mad at the Maidens

This week’s text, The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, has often been used as a precautionary tale about who gets into heaven and who is left behind. It’s clear that Jesus tells the story in order to stir something up within his audience, his disciples. A couple thousand years later, I have to admit that…

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The Shoulders of the People

They do not practice what they teach.They are unwilling to lift a finger.They love the seat of honour. Jesus’ criticism of his community’s religious leaders is, as usual, raw, unrestrained and unfiltered. What stands out in this particular passage is his opening criticism: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on…

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The Impossible Purity Tests

Last week I walked along Tacoma Avenue, and found myself passing Simone’s yellow tent on the grass right next to the street. Now that the October rain is here, and leaves are being stripped from the maples, the grass is quickly turning into mud. I don’t see her around, but her shoes are drying on…

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The Emperor’s Coin

My sister does this funny thing before she asks you for a favor. She says, “I’m going to ask you something, but I want you to know that it’s a trap.” I appreciate that. It’s a good heads-up. The people in this week’s scripture didn’t give Jesus that courtesy. Instead, they buttered him up with…

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Should We Have a Dream?

I’m told there is no utility in my delusions yet I choose to imagine, envisioning a world of fellowship and joy. In this, my alternate global reality, wooden ships are ushered through placid seaways as steady breezes push against their ample sails, all adorned with the sacred symbol of the cross. Upon spotting lush islands and…

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Entering the Building

Recently, our church community gathered in the parking lot of the campus. Together, like many other congregations, we are reflecting deeply about what it means to enter the building again. There are some Christians in the U.S who argue that entering the church building is a countercultural message to the world’s persecution of their faith. …

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The Corner of Delridge and Roxbury

Whenever I read the parable of the landowner and the day laborers, my mind often drifts to the day labor center that used to be in my community at the corner of Delridge and Roxbury. I would drive by and see people, mostly men, waiting outside in the parking lot, rain or shine, for an…

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The Cancer of Unforgiveness

Cancer is something that scares us out of our minds, especially if our families have a history with it. In the last year I experienced a great deal of loss. My dad, brother and grandmother died from cancer. I walked with the three of them in different ways as their bodies corroded from the inside out.…

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Binding and Loosening

We start Advent not with shepherds and angels and babies meek and mild. Instead we start with apocalyptic warnings. I don’t like it. I prefer the kids in animal and shepherd costumes—the cute Christmas. But we don’t always get what we want. Instead we start Advent with a passage that is full of images of floods, and people disappearing, and thieves.

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Human Concerns

It is an odd image in this week’s text:, uprooting a tree (already challenging) and planting it into a body of water that is salty (impossible). But it is not surprising to talk of agriculture in terms of challenges, impossibilities, and indeed, as an act of faith. In downtown Montréal, Innovation Youth has been growing our expertise in urban agriculture for several years.

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The Human Catechism

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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Persistence

To be clear, this love isn’t just another law… It’s not another demand for perfection. Quite the opposite. It involves a healthy dose of failure and forgiveness from everyone involved. They are also key elements in our journey to becoming a force in creating true human community.

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The Transformation of God

Filipino Muslims are our closest siblings, yet we are divided by our differences and a lack of trust. We were not prepared to address this lurking and lingering issue. We walked, as it were, down the road Jesus describes in his parable, asking whether we would continue to affirm the ossified lines of our identities, or transcend that which divides us?

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What You Have

We start Advent not with shepherds and angels and babies meek and mild. Instead we start with apocalyptic warnings. I don’t like it. I prefer the kids in animal and shepherd costumes—the cute Christmas. But we don’t always get what we want. Instead we start Advent with a passage that is full of images of floods, and people disappearing, and thieves.

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Changing the Metaphor

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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An Invitation to Imperfection

We start Advent not with shepherds and angels and babies meek and mild. Instead we start with apocalyptic warnings. I don’t like it. I prefer the kids in animal and shepherd costumes—the cute Christmas. But we don’t always get what we want. Instead we start Advent with a passage that is full of images of floods, and people disappearing, and thieves.

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The Hospitable Iconoclast

To be clear, this love isn’t just another law… It’s not another demand for perfection. Quite the opposite. It involves a healthy dose of failure and forgiveness from everyone involved. They are also key elements in our journey to becoming a force in creating true human community.

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A Whisper

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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21st Century Pentecost

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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Forgive Them

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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Some Good News

Perhaps this is what we are to testify to … the third way Jesus himself incarnated. At the cross, God absorbed into God’s self, in the body of Christ, all violence. God absorbed it, and did not return it. God suffered violence for all time and for all situations.

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Chewy Words

Just as the Sadducees in today’s Gospel refused to accept the realities of the resurrection, systems of privilege can be averse to the realities of those experiencing poverty, even while offering lofty banter on their behalf.

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Hospitality Inverted

There is a parade of attention around the celebrity Jesus as he passes through Jericho. The eyes of the crowd are riveted in the desire to get a glimpse of the great miracle worker and social (not yet media) influencer.

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Who is More Right?

To not judge ourselves in comparison to others is extremely difficult. Sometimes, the only way we know we are “right” is when we judge and compare ourselves against others; our opinions, our strongly held views, our values. The binaries of “right-wrong”, “good-evil”, “us-them”, etc. define who we are.

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The Joy of All Desiring

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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The Salute of Grace

A children’s version of the story captures the triviality of the narrative – the last frame exclaims, “Don’t Forget to Thank Jesus.”In such simplified, moralistic versions of the story, the other nine lepers who don’t return to Jesus are vilified as ungrateful. However, we shouldn’t rush to cast judgment on them.

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Laboring in the Soil

It is an odd image in this week’s text:, uprooting a tree (already challenging) and planting it into a body of water that is salty (impossible). But it is not surprising to talk of agriculture in terms of challenges, impossibilities, and indeed, as an act of faith. In downtown Montréal, Innovation Youth has been growing our expertise in urban agriculture for several years.

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The Divide

I imagine the rich man at the beginning of his day. He is a man about town, with pressing matters on his mind and very important people to meet. I am easily persuaded that someone like him has no time to volunteer with a local charity or dedicate himself to the protection of the less fortunate. But then we find Lazarus right outside his gate.

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Burn the Ledger

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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Join the Party

I’ve been around a few “lost” people in my life over the course of my ministry. How many times have I heard (and said), “Man, dude is lost.” And in that statement, I feel sad and hopeless, like I have come to my limits in what I am able to do or offer. It requires too much sometimes, going after the lost.

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And a Kid Shall Lead Them

He was among several promising students whose families fled violence and economic crisis in their homelands, only to find a different brand of violence and economic crisis in Camden, New Jersey, USA. For these students, survival involves a series of practices, routines, and procedures only understood by those who have indeed counted the cost of the perilous cavalcade north.

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Guests of Honor

It’s the Sabbath again and Jesus is being carefully watched as he goes to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee. He senses the angst in the hearts of those in attendance who are trying to maneuver into position nearest to the host. Jesus decides to expose those present at the dinner to the idolatry and rivalistic posturing of their internal ranking system by telling a pair of parables

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A Tale of Two Daughters

Life had been slowly bleeding out of her for 12 years, so in one final act of desperation she reaches out to touch her last remaining vestige of hope: the edge of the robe of a great teacher in whom she would now put all the faith she had left. Note here that Mark emphasizes the woman’s faith rather than Jesus’s power.

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The Canaanite Woman in Charlottesville?

Like Peter, like Edwaan, and like so many of us, there is a longing for belief out on life’s “danger waters” — those places removed from the placid nature of peace and plenty. Persecution, pain, and tragedy inspire deep longings, often taking the shape of foolhardy propositions such as Peter’s, “Save me in these dangerous waters or watch me die.”

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Even the Muscle Dudes’ Knees were Shaking

Like Peter, like Edwaan, and like so many of us, there is a longing for belief out on life’s “danger waters” — those places removed from the placid nature of peace and plenty. Persecution, pain, and tragedy inspire deep longings, often taking the shape of foolhardy propositions such as Peter’s, “Save me in these dangerous waters or watch me die.”

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Giving up on Control

In this week’s text, the Rich Fool thinks he can control and manage his life into a state of blissful completion. His land has been productive, and he has more than he knows what to do with. All he needs is a strategy, and he’ll have it made. “I know! I’ll just build bigger barns! Then I can relax and I’ll be happy.”

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The Vulnerability of Asking

We live in a fast food, speedy lube, online banking society. Reading today’s passage, it’s hard for many of us to see prayer outside of this cultural lens. “Ask and it will be given” seems like a loaded statement, filled with pie in the sky, cake on your plate, North American theology.

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Will One Thing

Jesus and the disciples are on the move. They enter a village and receive life-giving hospitality from two sisters in the intimacy of their home. Martha prepares the meal while Mary sits listening at the feet of Jesus. It is a beautiful scene that lasts but for two verses before Martha barges into the living room from the kitchen, upset that her sister has left her to do all the work by herself.

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Hostility and Hospitality

Filipino Muslims are our closest siblings, yet we are divided by our differences and a lack of trust. We were not prepared to address this lurking and lingering issue. We walked, as it were, down the road Jesus describes in his parable, asking whether we would continue to affirm the ossified lines of our identities, or transcend that which divides us?

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Being Sent, Being Received

All of these refugees are our sisters and brothers, daughters and sons of our loving God just like we are. They, too, are a part of the Body of Christ. Most of them, if not all, have probably been baptized, and by virtue of their baptism, they are sent – sometimes by direction, other times by desperation.

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Let the Dead Bury their Dead

True confession, the relationship with my brother was broken. It was a love and hate relationship that hurt both of us deeply. We wounded each other in ways that we may never realize. His sickness and death, however, just brought all of the wounds to the surface.

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The Cost of Liberation

We see people in our cities struggling everyday with their own demons: mental health, substance abuse, homelessness and more. We know, however, that their healing and restoration will require some sort of sacrifice on the part of the community and of the individual.

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The Right Word at the Right time

Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now.” That’s odd to me. Up to this point, Jesus has already unloaded many things on to the disciples – a lot of important things. In fact, we know from 15:15, that Jesus had made everything known to them that the Father had made known to Him.

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Are You the King?

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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Not One Stone

The city where I serve is no different than any other city in this country. A litany of the same issues show up on the city council agenda every two weeks: violence, unemployment, immigration, disparity in the education system, community safety, homelessness, policing, economic development and housing issues, just to name a few.

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A Lesson From Uncle Tim

Joyful thoughts come to mind whenever I see my niece Shaianne; none of them begin with the prefix “dis.” She uses a wheelchair, but I never think of her as disabled or disadvantaged.

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Only Love

“Love God. Love People. Nothing Else Matters” became my mantra during my single, young-adult years; life seemed simple without the tether of expectation coming from academic degrees, job titles and the financial responsibilities of parenthood. Those words from the mantra of my youth are a paraphrase from Jesus in our Gospel text this week.

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Blind Bartimaeus

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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Under The Table

I currently spend my days assisting staff at a nearby elementary school. Our team gets the call when students have serious issues with behavior or cooperation. This week, I was summoned to a normally tranquil kindergarten class, where a five-year-old was out of his seat, hiding in plain sight behind a giant smart board.

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Can Evil Drive Out Evil?

“I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

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New Skin to Bear the World

“I am suffering, it really hurts. It has been unbelievably painful for me to be confronted with the enormous division that exists in Nicaragua between those of us who profess Christ. Supposedly we make up 41% of the population but we have not been able to find any unity of response in the face of the deep woundedness of our nation. Those who are reacting in an active manner in the middle of this crisis are judging negatively those who have chosen to remain in their churches praying and fasting and those who have chosen to pray are attacking those who are practicing active resistance. And then there are others who have simply decided not to express themselves nor respond in any way whatsoever.”

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The Question

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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As if They Were Gods

I can imagine a mingling of terror, fire, and joy within Rev. Henry Highland Garnet as he hobbled to the podium on a chilly February Sunday in 1865. There was certainly a sense of terror during the last months of the Civil War and its steadily climbing death toll of 620,000 souls. Garnet’s fire came from his drive to abolish the institution of slavery and its horrors. Joy must have overtaken him, considering he had been born into slavery not far from the podium from where he spoke. And now he stood as the first African American to deliver a speech within the United States Capitol.

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Paradise in the Dust

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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Christ’s Dark Humor

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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The Way of the Cross?

“Build that wall! Build that wall” “Go back to where you came from.” “Pack your bags! Pack your bags!” On the heels of a divisive and highly contested election season in the U.S., we are seeing mocking and taunting on a grand scale: on playgrounds, college campuses, airports, shopping malls, in social media and the…

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Stone by Stone

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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Children of the Resurrection

The Gospel not only empowers us to see, but to see from a particular vantage point-through the unconstrained eyes of a child. It is an invitation to see from within the reality of the resurrection. Jesus is now in Jerusalem. On the way, he stops to weep over Jerusalem before taking time to cleanse the…

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Zacchaeus: A Wee Little Man Was He (Not)

This week’s Gospel text is a narrative some people grew up singing in Sunday School: “Zacchaeus was a wee, little man, and a wee, little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see…” The lyrics focus on the smallness of his physical stature, a fact that…

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Superhero Spandex

Superhero movies are all the rage recently. I’m sure there are a variety of reasons why…such as an affinity for spandex. A more likely reason might be the attraction of a clear-cut good guy/bad guy dichotomy. In our world of gray, there’s nothing more satisfying than the clarity of Captain America. When he’s around, we…

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Faith from Below

This is a familiar parable Jesus uses to teach us about the nature of prayer. The widow shows us what it looks like to persist in prayer: to keep praying, believing and acting like God will answer our prayers because God is just and merciful. Even though it is familiar, this parable has always left…

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Becoming Human

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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Not Even Abraham

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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The Gospel Hustle

In my neighborhood, this would be called a hustle. I see it every day. This parable sounds like a contemporary situation — a person is about to get fired for mismanaging resources that were given to him to steward (this sounds familiar doesn’t to the prodigal son story just verses before?). Of course he should…

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The Math of Mercy

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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Invitation of Love

Throughout the course of life we often engage Scripture through the lens of present circumstance. In my case, the engagement with our text this week comes on the heels of the most painful, yet sacred experience of my life — the passing of my dear mother. In the last days of her life, I had…

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The Mystery of Mercy

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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Family Matters

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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Seized By Fear

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 residence in his mind, body and soul. When Jesus casts out the demons from this man, we…

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A Gospel Turning

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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Clash of Crowds

Tita felt led to lead weekly prayer walks

A collision at the city gate!! A crowd of death is leaving the city while a crowd of life is entering – they collide at the city gate. The first crowd, serenaded by the haunting melody of a death dirge, huddles under the cloud of despair surrounding a broken woman. The second, high stepping to…

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The Marvel of Saving Faith

There are only two places where the Bible tells us that Jesus is amazed. In our lectionary text this week, Jesus marvels at the faith of a Roman centurion. In the other occasion (Mark 6:6), Jesus is marveling at the unbelief that he experienced in Nazareth. Our text this week introduces us to a soldier…

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Love in Motion

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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Scandal

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

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