Easter 2 A: Thomas, John, and the Reason We Gather

John 20:19-31 Dear Partner in Preaching, Have you ever noticed how long it takes John to get around to telling us what he’s up to? John the Fourth Evangelist, that is. Twenty-some chapters and finally he comes clean. Sort of. So here’s what I mean. There are two elements of this week’s very familiar story – one of the few in Scripture that is read in each cycle of our lectionary – that grabbed my attention. The first is what I’d call the culmination and climax of the “plot dynamic” of John; that is, how John arranges the scenes of the story he tells together and to what end. In short, after introducing us to Jesus...

Easter A: Proclaiming an On-Going Easter

Matthew 28:1-10 Dear Partner in Preaching, Here we are again: the climax and conclusion of Lent and Holy Week, the pinnacle of the Christian year, the very peak of the Christian story and, we confess, world history itself. And here’s the thing: while I believe that each of those statements is true, I also believe each is insufficient. Too often, I think, we see Easter as a conclusion, when I suspect that in the Gospels and, for that matter, in the early Christian community, the resurrection of Jesus was meant to be only the beginning. The very fact that we have Matthew’s scene of the resurrection supports that assertion. Assuming with...

Palm/Passion Sunday A

Matthew 21:1-11 Matthew 27:11-54 (shorter reading of the Passion) Dear Partner in Preaching, As you well know, Palm/Passion Sunday is one of the more cluttered and confusing liturgical days of the church year. When most of us were growing up, it was simply Palm Sunday, and the invitation to march around the sanctuary with palms in hand made it probably my favorite Sunday of the year as a kid. Sometime in the 80s or 90s – earlier, no doubt, in Roman Catholic circles where most of the important liturgical renewal began, but it took longer to seep into the liturgically middle-of-the-road Lutheran congregations in which I grew up – it was...

Lent 5A: Heartache, Miracle, Invitation

John 11:1-45 Dear Partner in Preaching, Once again we’re offered – or faced with, depending on your mood 🙂 – a really, really long story from the Gospel According to John. As with the earlier stories, it can be both helpful and effective to focus on a particular detail to help hearers enter the story as a whole and experience its evangelical force. This week, however, I was struck by the dramatic movement of the story and how following that movement can offer us an opportunity to take stock of, and participate in, God’s ongoing and dynamic action in the life of our congregations. There are, I think, three major movements to this...

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...

Lent 3 A: Living Water, Living Faith

John 4:5-42 Dear Partner in Preaching, How does someone come to faith? Not simply “faith” in the sense of intellectual or cognitive assent to doctrinal formulations like “Jesus is the Son of God.” But “faith” more in its biblical sense of trust, a living and active trust that makes it possible to take significant risks. I ask this question because I think today’s lengthy reading from John offers a vivid portrait of one such person coming to this kind of vibrant, trusting, risking-taking faith. In order to highlight the possibility of not just lifting up but inviting such faith, I’ll make one brief observation about the use of...