Reformation Sunday: The Truth About the Truth

John 8:31-36 Dear Partner in Preaching, I suspect that the Gospel doesn’t mean very much to the self-made man or woman. Do you know what I mean? We define “Gospel” in a variety of ways – salvation, grace, forgiveness, life, and so on. Today Jesus adds another way to speak of the Gospel – freedom. Good words, all. But the common denominator among them is that they assume need. The one who values salvation knows that he or she needs saving. The one to whom grace is important is aware of the need for grace. Forgiveness implies sin. And so on. No wonder Jesus’ interlocutors are offended. Jesus says, apparently to persons who already...

Pen 24 C / Reformation – The Unexpected God

Luke 19:1-10 Dear Partner in Preaching, Many of you may be preaching this Sunday as Reformation Sunday. Others will preach it as the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. Whichever “day” you may be observing, I’d like to suggest there is a common theme worth holding up, and that is that the God we encounter in Jesus is not the God we expect – and that’s a good thing! I’ll start with the Zacchaeus story appointed for Pentecost 24. I have long felt that we misinterpret this story as a repentance story. That is, we read the events as follows: Jesus seeks out Zacchaeus, a notorious chief tax collector; Zacchaeus, overwhelmed by the...

Reformation Sunday/Pentecost 22 B: Freedom!

I’ve just one thing to say to you this week, Dear Partner. Just one thing. And that’s…that it’s about freedom. The story about Bartimaeus, I mean. He won’t shut up. Even though people tell him to. And that’s hard. We are so quick to fall into silence in general, worried about offending or hurting feelings or being rejected or whatever. And so when folks tell us to shut up, we’re all too quick to oblige. But Bartimaeus won’t. He is free. Free to defy his neighbors. Free to call for help. Free to make his needs known to Jesus. Free. Perhaps he’s suffered enough, or feels like there’s nothing left to lose, or just doesn’t...

Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee Oct26

Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee

Tomorrow is Reformation Sunday and many who read this blog may find themselves singing one or more of the hymns composed by Martin Luther. If you do, that will most likely be “A Mighty Fortress,” sometimes called the “anthem of the Reformation” or the Protestant “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I don’t know if you’ll sing the hymn I put below as this week’s poem, but it is one of my favorites for the way it vividly portrays God as the one eager to come to our help. The picture of God in this hymn is not that of an angry king who needs a blood sacrifice to appease his wrath – one of the more common portraits of God...