Easter 6 A: You have an Advocate!

John 14:15-21 Dear Partner in Preaching, You have an advocate! Someone who is looking out for you. Someone who is on your side. Someone who encourages you and supports you. Someone who speaks up for you and is willing to hang in there with you through thick and thin. So, before going forward, take a moment and think about what it feels like to hear that – that someone has your back, that someone is invested in your future, that someone will not give up on you…no matter what. It feels good. More than that, it feels like a relief, especially when you feel like your back is up against the wall. Even more than that, it feels empowering, like...

Easter 5 A: Jesus’ Real Presence

John 14:1-14 Dear Partner in Preaching, The first line of this familiar passage is so out of kilter with the rest of the passage that it’s almost comical. But if so, it is a poignant, ironic, almost sorrowful humor. Jesus, after all, is preparing his disciples, his friends, for his departure. He knows this will be incredibly challenging for them and so begins with words intended to bring comfort – “do not let your hearts be troubled” – but that seem to fall short of the mark. The disciples’ hearts are troubled, very troubled. And so they ask questions. Have you ever noticed that? That when we are struggling to make sense of...

Easter 4 A: Life Giving or Life Taking?

Dear Partner in Preaching, I’m late, really late, with this post and apologize. In light of this, I’ll keep my thoughts brief. There’s a lot in this passage that is suggestive, even provocative. But what struck me most forcibly this time around is the simple, start, and ridiculously important distinction between the thief who comes to kill and destroy and Jesus, the One who comes to give life. And here’s the thing: I think that as stark as that contrast seems, it gets really blurry really fast. Do you know what I mean? Take email as a rather small example: I still remember when email was hailed as a time-saver – “we won’t have...

Easter 3 A: Dashed Hopes and Surprising Grace

Luke 24:13-35 Dear Partner in Preaching, Notice that it’s a road. Not an upper room or garden or mountain top or any of the other places we expect revelation to take place. It’s a road. And it’s not a pronouncement or discourse, but a conversation. I think these details are important. Sometimes, it’s enough just to see Jesus, or to hear of his resurrection, or to be promised his presence. And sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes the move from doubt, fear, and grief to faith, hope, and love takes both the time it takes to walk from one town to another and the opportunity for an open and honest conversation. Can...

Easter 2 A: Thomas, John, and the Reason We Gather

John 20:19-31 Dear Partner in Preaching, Have you ever noticed how long it takes John to get around to telling us what he’s up to? John the Fourth Evangelist, that is. Twenty-some chapters and finally he comes clean. Sort of. So here’s what I mean. There are two elements of this week’s very familiar story – one of the few in Scripture that is read in each cycle of our lectionary – that grabbed my attention. The first is what I’d call the culmination and climax of the “plot dynamic” of John; that is, how John arranges the scenes of the story he tells together and to what end. In short, after introducing us to Jesus...