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...

Pentecost 17 B: Faith & Fear

A quick reminder, Dear Partner, about 4 upcoming events at LTSP that you won’t want to miss: 1) It’s not too late to register for this year’s free Ministry Resource Day this Thursday, Sept. 17. 2) On Tuesday Sept. 22nd we are celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Urban Theological Institute with a lecture by the renowned Dr. James Forbes at 11:15 and a celebratory worship service at Enon Tabernacle Church that evening at 7:00. Both events are free and open to all. 3) Professor of Reformation History Emeritus Timothy Wengert offers a convocation lecture on Tuesday, October 6 on the post-Reformation relationship...

Pentecost 15 B: What the Syrophoenician Woman Teac...

Dear Partner in Preaching, A lot rides on how you interpret Jesus’ surprising reaction to the request of the Syrophoenician woman. Okay, “surprising” is an understatement. How about down right rude? After all, she comes to him bowed down, in the posture of worship, begging that he cure her daughter of an unclean spirit, something we already know he can easily do. And yet he brushes her off, refusing her request and casting her aside, throwing in an ethnic slur just for good measure. And the haunting question is, why? Here’s the traditional answer to this question: He is not actually refusing her but rather testing her. That is,...