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...

Lent 3 A: Living Water, Living Faith

John 4:5-42 Dear Partner in Preaching, How does someone come to faith? Not simply “faith” in the sense of intellectual or cognitive assent to doctrinal formulations like “Jesus is the Son of God.” But “faith” more in its biblical sense of trust, a living and active trust that makes it possible to take significant risks. I ask this question because I think today’s lengthy reading from John offers a vivid portrait of one such person coming to this kind of vibrant, trusting, risking-taking faith. In order to highlight the possibility of not just lifting up but inviting such faith, I’ll make one brief observation about the use of...

Pentecost 20 C: Every Day Acts of Faith

Luke 17:5-10 Dear Partner in Preaching, I have to admit that I feel for the disciples. (Even more than usual!) In recent passages Jesus has been asking some fairly extraordinary things of them – to give away their possessions, to forgive those who wrong you…countless times, to take up his cross, and more. No wonder then, they ask for more faith. They feel inadequate to the tasks around them, insufficient to the challenges, unable to imagine accomplishing any of what he is asking. And after a week like the one we just had – with shootings, stabbings, injustice, hacking, and more – I suspect lots of us feel the same way. Like we need...

Pentecost 13 C: Pursuing a Faith That Matters

Luke 12:49-56 Dear Partner in Preaching, What does it cost us to go to Church? I’ve been wondering of late what our people would say if we asked them that. A free Sunday morning? A chance to sleep in? The ten or twenty bucks they put in the offering plate? Odds are, if we stop to think of it, it costs us very little to be a Christian today, as even in an increasingly “post-Christian” culture, going to church, if no longer quite the norm, at least occasions little comment. Not so, of course, in Jesus’ day. As Jesus indicates in this complicated and, if truth-be-told, somewhat off-putting passage, those who followed him were regularly...

Advent 3 C: Ordinary Saints

Dear Partner in Preaching, I was interested to see a brief segment on the Today Show about what values we want to teach our kids. Honesty topped the charts (43%), followed by kindness (29%), a strong work ethic (11%) and a variety of others. What struck me as interesting about this survey was that it lines up pretty closely with John the Baptist’s preaching in this Sunday’s passage from Luke. This is, as you’ll recall, the second Sunday in which we are spending time with John. Last week, Luke introduced us to the adult John the Baptist, taking pains to anchor John’s preaching in the historical context of the day. We noticed that Luke...