Pentecost 23 C: The Power of Being Justified

Luke 18:9-14 Dear Partner in Preaching, What sets the two men described in today’s reading apart? There are a variety of ways of answering this question. On the surface, we might observe that one of them is part of the religious establishment while the other is an outsider. Or we might notice that one is law-abiding while the other is not. (And here it’s important to acknowledge that the Pharisee isn’t boasting so much as he is simply describing accurately that he has done those things the law prescribes as proper.) Going a little deeper, we might similarly recognize that one prays from a sense of confidence while the other from...

Pentecost 22 C: The Beginning of Justice

Luke 18:1-8 Dear Partner in Preaching, So what is this parable about? I realize this isn’t the first time we’ve asked this question this fall, but I find this to be yet another rather vexing little story. In part, that’s because the “parable proper” seems to end one way, promising that God will indeed grant justice quickly to those who call out for it, while Luke introduces the story with another interpretive slant altogether, encouraging Jesus’ followers to pray always and not lose heart. Then again, perhaps the interpretive key falls right in the middle, as we are encouraged to beseech God day and night for justice and, indeed,...

Pentecost 18 C: Wealth and Relationships

Luke 16:1-13 Dear Partner in Preaching, So what do you think: is it ever okay to tell the congregation that you really have no idea what a passage means? I know, I know, that may be hard to do, as we are, after all, supposed to be the experts in this kind of thing. Moreover, it might be a tad scandalous for some, as they have a pretty high confidence in your ability to help them understand the Scriptures. At the same time, though, it might also be comforting, as when they scratch their heads in perplexity at a passage like this one, they now know they’re not alone. It’s not that they’re not smart enough or lack training, it’s that...

Christ the King A: The Unexpected God

Dear Partner in Preaching, Do you like surprises? I’ll be honest, I’m a little conflicted about them. Actually not all that conflicted, as I really like surprising others – with an unexpected visit or gift, for instance – but I really don’t like being surprised myself. A bit hypocritical, perhaps, but there you go. I think it’s that I like being prepared, feeling more or less ready for what’s coming, and surprises undermine that kind of confidence. I ask this question because I think this passage turns on the matter of surprises. Notice that both those identified as sheep and those named goats are surprised by what Jesus says....

Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell...