Easter 3 A: Dashed Hopes and Surprising Grace

Luke 24:13-35 Dear Partner in Preaching, Notice that it’s a road. Not an upper room or garden or mountain top or any of the other places we expect revelation to take place. It’s a road. And it’s not a pronouncement or discourse, but a conversation. I think these details are important. Sometimes, it’s enough just to see Jesus, or to hear of his resurrection, or to be promised his presence. And sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes the move from doubt, fear, and grief to faith, hope, and love takes both the time it takes to walk from one town to another and the opportunity for an open and honest conversation. Can...

Lent 4 A: The Man Who Now Sees

John 9:1-41 Dear Partner in Preaching, A single brief question late in the week: Why do we call the main character in this story “the man born blind” or “the man who had been blind”? Maybe you don’t call it that, but that’s the way I’ve normally heard it. And I’m curious as to why. The obvious reason, I suppose, is that this is the way the Gospel of John refers to him. At least some of the time. In the first verse of John’s ninth chapter, he is described as a “man blind from birth.” Okay, that pretty descriptively accurate. Once Jesus heals him, he is referred to directly several more times. In v. 8, he is “the man...

Epiphany 7 A: Telos

Matthew 5:38-48 Dear Partner, Ahh, the temptations we preachers are going to feel as we read this difficult passage! I’ve preached it enough, and you probably have to, to be familiar with at least two of them. The first will be to not take it seriously. I call this the “Lutheran temptation” simply because when Lutherans get to really difficult says from Jesus, we tend to assume that Jesus didn’t really expect us to do these things, only to remind us of our inability to satisfy God’s commands so that we might flee to Jesus for forgiveness and grace. While I’m not sure this actually reflects Luther’s thought, some of his...

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,...

Epiphany 2 B: What Grace Looks Like!

Dear Partner in Preaching So this is what grace looks like! Grace, of course, is one of those words that, while central to our theological identity and vocabulary, is often hard for us to define, let alone describe in a concrete and meaningful way. Consider, for instance, how some of the more recent and sometimes paraphrased translations have worked with “grace” as it appears in a verse like Romans 3:24 – “They are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (NRSV). J. B. Phillips describes it as God’s “generous dealing” with us, while Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” talks about...