Micah as Tweet and Truth

Micah 6:1-18; Matthew 5:1-12 – The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – for Sunday, January 29, 2017

“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Once, still a young enough pastor, I memorized Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount for my Easter preaching.

Ego influenced me.

Oh, yes, there were other reasons, including using Lent’s forty days of discipline for the endeavor and a desire to share the unvarnished, unfettered good news of Jesus.

Every word. Every verse. Every paragraph.

I proclaimed the opening beatitudes to Jesus’ final warnings to those who built their “house on sand.”

I worked with a local professional actor to perfect my delivery. I prayed. I sweated. I doubted.

I did it.

The three chapters took around twenty minutes to preach. I was pleased as punch (okay, proud) that none of the words during that singular Easter Sunday were mine. I didn’t pick and choose the “good” stuff. I didn’t avoid the difficult sections. On that long-ago day of resurrection, I gave a small congregation an unfiltered dose of Jesus according to Matthew’s Gospel.

One person, a first-time visitor who reluctantly grasped my hand after worship, told me that he’d never come back to this church. How dare I use Easter to make divorced people feel guilty!

. . . and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery . . .

It wasn’t me! It was Jesus! I was only quoting verses 31 and 32 in good old chapter five of Matthew!

Please, blame Jesus! Continue reading →

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Paul Was Irked

I Corinthians 1:10-18 – The Third Sunday after the Epiphany – for Sunday, January 22, 2017

“Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name?” (I Corinthians 1:13)

For years I’ve thought the opening of I Corinthians was a bad first draft.

Paul wrote it too hastily and sent it off too quickly.

He should’ve re-read what he’d written.

Why didn’t the cranky old apostle revise his obviously poor observations and poorer memory? Surely, with a little extra thought, or with a perusal of his written records (doesn’t Paul seem like a guy who’d keep a spreadsheet of his activities?), Paul could’ve easily listed the Corinthians he had personally baptized.

In the opening of his note to Corinth, Paul was irked. Apparently one of his snitches—oops, I mean a fellow believer by the name of Chloe—has warned Paul that some noisy members of the community are claiming the superiority of their baptism because of who baptized them! How dare they! It didn’t matter if Cephas or Apollos or even grumpy Paul did the wet deed. All were baptized in Christ’s name! Right? Right!

And then brash Paul claimed . . .

Thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius . . .

Yep, only those two fine fellows.

Oops. Forgot some. Continue reading →

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Jesus’ First Question

John 1:29-42 – The Second Sunday after the Epiphany – for Sunday, January 15, 2017

“When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, ‘What are you looking for?’” (John 1:38)

What is black and white and red all over?

It’s a newspaper!

Ha! Ha! Ha! (Of course, newspapers are dying in these digital days. So the homonym fun of “red” vs. “read” barely receives a smile.)

But we can try again . . .

What about an embarrassed nun? How about a sunburned penguin?

Har-har-har!

Don’t you love kids’ jokes?

What about my red-letter Bible with Jesus’ words highlighted in a ruby font? With the scripture, and in particular this week’s passage from Gospel of John, the black and white and red all over isn’t a joke. It’s read as sacred word. It’s the good news and the good book. It’s the history and mystery of faith. The black ink and white spaces between verses, and most especially the cardinal-hued print, reveals the glory and story of Jesus and what he proclaimed.

According to the randomly reliable Wikipedia, the first red-letter edition of the New Testament appeared in 1899. Louis Klopsch, editor of the Christian Herald magazine, was inspired to emphasize every Gospel word spoken by Jesus. Red was chosen because it represented the sacrificial blood of Jesus.

One of my Bibles is a red-letter edition. I thumbed pages to the fourth Gospel, wondering when red would make an appearance in the “black and white all over.” As you may suspect, since today’s lectionary verses are John 1:29-42, Jesus’ initial words occurred in that opening chapter. Continue reading →

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