Lent 2 A: Just One More Verse!

John 3:1-17 Dear Partner in Preaching, There’s a lot going on in today’s reading from John’s Gospel. And I mean A LOT! This passage, filled with images both familiar and odd, can be a lot to take in. St. Augustine chose an eagle to represent St. John because he felt the theology of the Fourth Evangelist soared so high above the other gospels, but sometimes it reaches heights that can be hard for many of us – both in the pulpit and in the pew – to follow. My guess is that amid the imagery of water and Spirit and the serpent lifted up in the wilderness and all the rest, our hearers’ attention will be drawn to two places in...

Epiphany 6A: On Love and the Law

Matthew 5:21-37 Dear Partner, What do you think of when you think of God? What picture comes to mind when you imagine what God is like? It’s a tricky question, I realize, as Scripture regularly describes the impossibility of seeing, let alone fully understanding, God. When Moses wants to see God, for instance, the most God offers is facing Moses toward the cleft of a rock so he can see the “trail of God’s glory” as God passes by for, as God says, “no one can see me and live” (Ex. 33:20-23). Similarly, St. John, in the prologue to his Gospel, says that “no one has seen God” (Jn. 1:18a). Despite these biblical affirmations,...

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...