Sermon for Proper 11C

Readings for the day

This morning we meet Martha and Mary – two sisters who turn up in various Gospel stories along with their brother Lazarus. Or do they… Luke tells us only about Mary and Martha, the brother is unknown to Luke. And Luke doesn’t mention the name of the town… Some scholars think it could be Bethany, home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in John’s Gospel, but others are certain that it cannot possibly be Bethany. So, we cannot be sure if these are the same Martha and Mary we meet in John’s Gospel.

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture Readings

This morning, we are invited to consider again what must surely be one of Jesus’ most familiar parables, one which allows us to imagine ourselves in the role of any of the characters. It is a very rich story, with many subtle aspects, and Jesus tells it in response to a question from a teacher of the Jewish law. It seems that the test the lawyer sets before Jesus is an opportunity for Jesus to prove himself, rather than being some sort of trap intended to undermine his authority. The interaction feels mutually respectful.

In reply to Jesus’ probing response to his initial question, the lawyer seems to say something quite innovative. He combines the two great laws of love into one law, saying effectively that you cannot love God without loving your neighbour, and vice versa. Jesus approves of this, but points out that the challenge is to actually do both, and that doing so is the way to fullness of life.

This just leaves the question of who qualifies as neighbour. Those listening to Jesus might have been taught to define their neighbour quite narrowly as one of those within the community of their kinship group, that is, those who were like them. Jesus challenges any such assumption with his parable involving an anonymous man, that is, any person.

Feast of saints Peter and Paul

(Readings for the feast)

Yesterday the Church observed the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. These are two interesting figures in Church history because they are so flawed… Peter, faithful disciple, denies he knows Jesus… not once, but three times. And Paul, also known as Saul, was one of the most enthusiastic persecutors of the Church – throwing folks in jail and worse, for being followers of Jesus.

These two are among the most flawed and destructive folks in the early Church. So, it makes sense that they share a feast day… but why are they honored at all, let alone with a major feast?

Feast of the Ascension

(readings for the feast)

I want to begin by acknowledging that this week is the sixtieth anniversary of the consecration of the “new” Coventry Cathedral. The “old” cathedral was destroyed by Nazi bombs in the Second World War. Nails reclaimed from the ashes have been formed into crosses – one of which hangs on the wall of this very church. It is a profound story of death and resurrection and of the power of the Holy Spirit to help us rise from the ashes. And so, it is extraordinarily relevant to this Ascencion Day – which completes the story of Jesus’ Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit to us. Hold that in mind as we consider this feast…  

A Slovenian Road Sign is about as non-symbolic as you get… (wiki commons)

Fifth Sunday after Easter

( Readings for Easter 5C)

For much of Eastertide we hear stories of things that happened in the time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension – which really makes sense as we are between those two events… But the Gospel for today relates more to Holy Week, rather than in the events after Easter. It is the scripture that gives us the name Maundy Thursday... So why are we hearing it now? 

Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Easter

(Readings for this Sunday)

What to make of this reading from John’s Gospel… Jesus is wandering about the Temple in Jerusalem and seems to be causing a bit of a stir. “Tell us plainly if you are Messiah” the Jews want to know. And Jesus gives a not terribly helpful answer: “I have told you.”  

There are a number of details that almost escape notice – but let’s take a few moments to notice them.  

Thursday at Volmoed – Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

I am intrigued by the resonances I find between two of the readings our Sunday lectionary invites us to consider this morning. Both the passage from Acts and that from the Gospel of John tell us stories of significant encounters with Jesus by men who would later have an important role in establishing the early Church.

In Acts, Saul who would become the apostle Paul is initially set on persecuting followers of Jesus, and goes to considerable lengths in his determination to do so. In John’s Gospel, the apostle Peter is floundering about, seemingly at a loss as to what to do after his denial of Jesus before the crucifixion. Both Saul and Peter are with others when Jesus meets them, but Jesus seems to be confronting each of them individually, as if those with them fade into the background for the moment.

Both encounters have extraordinary aspects, a light from heaven in one, a strange catch of fish in the other. I’m not sure what to make of these aspects, but I suspect they might somehow find echoes in our own lives of extraordinary experiences we perhaps have had of God, experiences that are difficult for us to put into words without seeming to diminish their significance for ourselves, a significance that is no less real for being usually less dramatic.

Second Sunday after Easter

Readings for today

I’m not sure Thomas gets a particularly fair deal in history. For two millennia he has been, more or less, the poster child for doubt: Doubting Thomas – an archetype that has entered the mainstream psyche. All generations will call Mary blessed… and apparently all generations will call Thomas doubting… I’m thinking Thomas needs a better public relations plan…