Pentecost 16 C: Life-giving Sacrifice

Luke 14:25-33 Dear Partner in Preaching, There are sacrifices and then there are sacrifices. At least that’s what struck me when I read Jesus’ familiar words about taking up the cross. We tend to associate Jesus’ talk of the cross with sacrifice. And understandably so, considering that he is on the way to Jerusalem to make the ultimate sacrifice of his life on the cross to demonstrate God’s love for us (to demonstrate God’s love, not to make God loving!). And we assume – accurately, I’d argue – that his talk of “taking up the cross” implies sacrifices on the part of those who identify as his disciples, whether of selling...

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...

Palm/Passion Sunday C: Say Just One Thing

Luke 22:14-23:46 Dear Partner in Preaching, The biblical passage assigned for this week can be overwhelming, I know, as it covers so much narrative and emotional terrain. Indeed, this whole week of services and readings and prayers and more can be overwhelming. Known as “Holy Week,” the days leading to Easter might also be called, particularly by preachers, “hectic week”! In the midst of the both the holy atmosphere and hectic pace, I have one piece of advice: say just one thing. Part of that counsel relates directly to the reading before us. Rather than try to preach the broad sweep of Luke’s passion narrative, choose one element...

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...