Lent 1 B: Lenten Courage

Mark 1:9-15 Dear Partner in Preaching, There is a whole lot going on in this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark. That may be easy to miss, because we’ve touched on various parts of Mark’s first chapters several times already in Advent and Epiphany. But where Matthew and Luke, by contrast, give distinct and rich descriptions of Jesus’ baptism, his temptation, and the beginning of his ministry, Mark compresses all these events into just a few short verses. And while we may simply assume this is Mark’s Dragnet-like style – “Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.” – I think there may be more at work. Perhaps, that is, baptism,...

Christmas 1 B: Christmas Courage

Luke 2:22-40 Dear Partner in Preaching, It’s amazing how quickly Christmas passes, isn’t it? After all the preparations – both in church and at home – after four weeks of Advent, after carols and service projects, special music and Christmas Eve services…. After all this, it’s suddenly done. The presents are opened, the wrapping paper put in the recycling bin, needles are falling from the tree, and it’s 364 more days until next year’s celebration. Of course, Christmas isn’t done. The church knew that there was no way you could really celebrate, let alone comprehend, the Incarnation in a day, so it recognized twelve days of...

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...