Lent 2 B: Take Up Your Cross

Mark 8:31-38 Dear Partner in Preaching, Some will see in this Sunday’s passage a call to be patient and long-suffering in the just cause, and in this sense to take up one’s cross, and I’m sympathetic to that counsel. Others will hear the promise that all things, even something as awful as the cross, work together, in the words of the Apostle, “for the good of the one who believes” (Rom. 8:28) and so invite us to take up our cross trusting that God is in control, and I’ve seen that counsel provide comfort during difficult times. Still others will ask what things we’ve used to try to save our lives rather than giving ourselves...

Easter 5 C: Questions About Love

Dear Partner in Preaching, I am posting this reflection on this week’s readings incredibly late and for that I’m very sorry. I hadn’t forgotten. It was just one of those weeks, and each day as I thought about writing you I then had a variety of things – some planned, some unplanned – crop up and make it difficult to write. And because this week hasn’t yet ended, I’m going to keep my comments on Jesus’ command to love in this week’s readings quite brief. In fact, I’m going to simply pose a series of related questions, and whether you want to ask them of your parishioners or simply ponder them yourself, I hope they’re...

Lent 4 C: The Prodigal God

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 Dear Partner in Preaching, I found our exchange in the comments last week kind of fascinating. You probably don’t read the comments, so I’ll recap briefly. The exchange centered on how we understand the cross and was prompted by a statement I made that “the cross is not about punishment for sin.” Several folks questioned that, referencing Anselm’s substitutionary theory of atonement and the attendant Scriptural passages associated with it. I’ll say up front that I appreciated the conversation and the spirit in which we engaged. And I want also to say that Anselm’s view – echoed later by Thomas Aquinas,...

Lent 3 C: Suffering, the Cross, and the Promise of...

Luke 13:1-9 Dear Working Preacher, This passage is rife with both promise and peril. The promise is to address one of the persistent questions many of our people have: why is there so much suffering in the world? Or, put more theologically, is suffering connected to our behavior? Does God cause suffering? Is suffering or calamity a form on punishment? These are questions usually asked in moments of extreme suffering and loss and they are as poignant as they are important. And this week we have a chance to address them more reflectively than we can when asked in the emergency room or hospice center – that’s the promise of this week’s...

John 19:30

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. After Jesus received the wine offered him on a hyssop branch, pulling together the two major strands of Israel’s story, he says words that, in my humble opinion ☺, are translated...