Death Cackles

Luke 23:33-43 – Reign of Christ / Christ the King Sunday – for Sunday, November 20, 2016

“He replied, ‘I assure you that today you will be with me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:43)

crucifixionIt is November.

Here in Fresno the summer heat has booked a flight to Australia. Our famous Tule fog has made its gray, murky entrance. It’s a time of transition, when the oranges are still green and the green leaves on the deciduous trees are turning orange. Autumn shrugs its shoulders and leaves drop like dandruff. Pumpkins anchor doorsteps, once the hollow stars of Halloween, now anticipating Thanksgiving. It’s a restless threshold time, a season betwixt the seasons.

Reading the lectionary in November is unsettling. Just when you’re creating a grocery list for Thanksgiving or dreading that it’s your turn to host the family Christmas gathering at your house, a Biblical guest arrives. It’s Jesus, and he’s nailed to that humiliating cross. The lectionary readings have dragged us toward the place called the Skull, with battered Jesus hanging between two criminals.

We could ignore it. Folks who aren’t part of churches already do. The transitions are easy for them: let the Halloween pumpkins linger for Thanksgiving or buy some new ones and use the gourd’s innards for fresh pie to serve for dessert. Easy as 1-2-3, right? (Well, easy except for those darn goopy seeds.) In the supermarket, exchange the freestanding, life-sized cardboard cutouts of the Pilgrims and turkey with Santa and the reindeer.

It’s ye olde seasonal switcheroo! Again, easy.

The cross bound Jesus? Not so easy. Continue reading →

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Dome Tent Dreams

Isaiah 65:17-25 – The 26th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, November 13, 2016

“They won’t labor in vain, nor bear children to a world of horrors, because they will be people blessed by the Lord, they along with their descendants.” (Isaiah 65:23)

tentThe Bible, and the Old Testament prophets in particular, can spin stark images and warn of impending danger. God has a long, anguished memory when the Children of Israel stray. God is often judgmental. God frequently seeks revenge.

But not always, for Isaiah dreams joyous dreams. In the 65th chapter, there is a longing of a “new heaven and new earth.”

Just around the lectionary corner, the world according to the Bible will quake and groan, shake and tremble, as various apocalyptic passages “prepare” believers for the mayhem before the manger. Grim those passages are. Terror reigns; hope shrivels.

But not in this passage! If the mariners of by gone days were right, and it’s a red sky at night and sailors take delight, and red sky in the morning and sailors take warning, let a red light in the final gloaming shine from Isaiah’s words.

I have glimpsed glory like old Isaiah described. I have witnessed God’s dream of a human community no longer in tears. No longer suffering. No longer having children bearing a “world of horrors.”

Once, on a backpack in the Sierra Nevada, I poked my head into a rain-streaked, mud-stained, four-person dome tent and found the missing youth. For brief shimmering moments, I also found Isaiah’s divine dreams revealed in sweaty, smelly teen hikers. Continue reading →

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God of the Living

Luke 20:27-38 – The 25th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, November 6, 2016

“Some Sadducees, who deny that there’s a resurrection, came to Jesus and asked . . .” (Luke 20:27)

debateSome Sadducees, who deny that there’s a resurrection, came to Jesus and asked . . .

For a moment, forget those ancient religious leaders and their long-ago queries. I’m still upset from watching the presidential debates.

Neither candidate answered much of anything, and ignored most questions to instead spout prepared bullet points about their wonderful policies or to sling well-practiced jabs at their opponent’s nation-ruining agenda.

 

catBoth candidates rehearsed quips, rejoinders, put-downs, one-liners, trash-talk, and gotcha comments long before a moderator posed a first question. Like a cartoon cat at the proverbial mouse hole in the wall, the candidates were eager to pounce.

In a national debate for the highest office in the land, both candidates dread a public meltdown while hoping their opponent does or says something stupid, crass, or embarrassing that will become a viral video and the worst kind of social media bon mot.

Substance is abandoned.

Information obscured.

Facts are negotiable.

My head hurts. Continue reading →

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