Pentecost 10 A: Something More

Matthew 14:22-33 Dear Partner in Preaching, I notice that I’ve fallen into something of a pattern over the last few weeks and months of wanting to emphasize God’s grace and activity lest we receive the Gospel primarily as good advice rather than as good news. I suspect that’s a core part of my own theology – the primacy of God’s grace – and perhaps it’s a result of just finishing up a “Making Sense” book on Martin Luther’s theology where God’s activity is so central (I’ll share a little more info. about that once I know when it will be available). But I suspect it’s partly also a reaction to Matthew’s Gospel...

Easter A: Proclaiming an On-Going Easter

Matthew 28:1-10 Dear Partner in Preaching, Here we are again: the climax and conclusion of Lent and Holy Week, the pinnacle of the Christian year, the very peak of the Christian story and, we confess, world history itself. And here’s the thing: while I believe that each of those statements is true, I also believe each is insufficient. Too often, I think, we see Easter as a conclusion, when I suspect that in the Gospels and, for that matter, in the early Christian community, the resurrection of Jesus was meant to be only the beginning. The very fact that we have Matthew’s scene of the resurrection supports that assertion. Assuming with...

Pentecost 6 C: God’s Alternative

Luke 9:51-62 Dear Partner in Preaching, As is true of all texts, there are any number of interpretive directions in which you can go this week. Having said that, however, one simply jumped off the page for me and demanded my attention: why is it that when the James and John meet resistance to Jesus’ mission, their first instinct is to call down fire from heaven that will consume those they see as opponents? Let’s set the scene for a moment before trying to answer this question. Chapter nine is a pivotal chapter in Luke’s story about Jesus. It is, in a variety of ways, the hinge of the story, as it provides the pivot point between...

Pentecost C: A Spirit of Courage

Dear Partner in Preaching, It’s been another hectic week – probably my new normal! – and another late post, so I’ll keep this relatively short. But goodness, I felt my spirits lift immensely when I read this line from Paul to the faith community in Rome: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” Not a spirit of fear, but one of adoption. And I understand a “spirit of adoption” to mean the confidence and courage that comes from knowing that you have been chosen, accepted, and loved for who you are. Not fear, but courage. I think part of why this struck me...

Advent 1 C: Stand Up and Raise Your Heads!

Luke 21: 25-36 Dear Partner in Preaching, The persistent temptation in preaching apocalyptic texts like the one before us this week is to try to address the question, “When?” As in the disciples’ question earlier this chapter in response to Jesus’ words about the Temple: “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” It’s an understandable question, given that the whole passage is both future-oriented and foreboding. When we read the passage this way, we often look back, naming the destruction of the Temple or some other historical event that prompted this passage. Or we may instead...