I Am Always Right

Matthew 18:15-20 – The 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 7, 2014

“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together…” (Matthew 18:15)

Before knowing my father had dementia, I blamed his vexing behaviors on other things.

Dad was elderly and tired. His hearing was awful (and had been for years). He’d become human cement, set in his ways. He resented, as his body weakened, his loss of independence.

So when he lashed out at me during a visit to Mom and Dad’s home, with his eyes ablaze and jaw clenched and his voice sounding more animal growl than human grumble, I knew where to point my finger: at those “other things.”

“Get out of this house,” he roared. “Don’t come back.”

Dad’s fury, launched at me with the unnerving abruptness of a lightning strike when the storm is miles away, happened several times before my family recognized he had dementia.

Whether or not you recognize what a Pharisee is (hey, not everyone that reads my stuff reads the Bible!), feel free to substitute someone or some group that you "know" is wrong...
Whether or not you recognize what a Pharisee is (hey, not everyone who reads my stuff reads the Bible!), feel free to substitute someone or some group that you “know” is wrong…

I recall how I felt when my father, the lion in winter, verbally assaulted me. What a cranky old fool! Such a stubborn jerk!

And this too: how dare he sin against me? His son! His guest!

I did not retreat from his fury. Remember, I didn’t know of his dementia. I had those other excuses. I tried to engage him in conversation, to comprehend his leave-my-house demand. I did not return his anger with my anger, or his hurt with my hurt. Like the Gospel of Matthew encouraged, “if your brother or sister [or father] sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together.”

Of course, in the New Testament’s Greek, there wasn’t a reference to “sister” in the scripture. But we moderns, desiring to be modern, readily and rightly add “sister” in the interpretation. Women are equal opportunity sinners too, right?

And so are fathers. So was Dad. Continue reading →

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Wondering About Hagar

Genesis 21:8-21 – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for June 22, 2014

“‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’” (Genesis 21:10)

Hagar:IshmaelI mused this week, here and there, on and off, about Hagar. Though pulpit-less, I diligently read the Sunday lectionary “lessons” and so she entered my consciousness after a Tuesday pre-dawn encounter with her in the 21st chapter of Genesis.

Hagar was a slave. Which meant she was worthless, but a price could be put on her body.

Hagar was not Jewish. While I could’ve written the more positive “Hagar was Egyptian,” I suspect Sarah—Hagar’s primary owner—viewed her handmaiden (nicer than slave) in negative terms. Sarah could likely list many Hagar-was-nots.

Hagar was not pretty.
(Or was she too pretty?)
Hagar was not necessary.
(Or was Sarah dependent on her?)
Hagar was not a nice person.
(Or did everyone like her?)
Hagar was not a very good mother.
(Or she seemed the best Mom?)
Hagar was not a believer in the one true God.
(But what had God done for Sarah recently?)
Hagar was not a good influence on Abraham.
(In other words, Abraham did whatever the little b**** asked.)

In truth, I have no idea about Hagar’s physical attributes or whether she would’ve vied for a mother-of-the-year award. But the Bible seemed blunt about one thing: Sarah and Hagar would never be BFFs. Continue reading →

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A Spirit That Is Not Safe

Acts 2:1-21 – Pentecost Sunday – for Sunday, June 8, 2014

“And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind . . .” (Acts 2:2)

“Mark A Hewitt, Pastel & pen. 26 May 2012”
“Mark A Hewitt, Pastel & pen. 26 May 2012”

On Pentecost, God’s spirit unsettled Jesus’ disciples.

A wind. The fire. Those flames. Many voices. Simple folk that likely couldn’t read or write more than their own name and snippets from the Torah began to speak—with clarity and authority—“foreign” languages.

Whoosh!

Wow!

Wonder!

Since Pentecost—oft called the birth of the Christian community—we of the Christian tribe have institutionalized unsettledness.

On Pentecost Sunday, the preacher strides toward the pulpit. It is, right now, the scariest place in her visible and invisible world.

Before delivering the “good news,” she will read the scripture. The congregation already knows what she’s chosen because it’s listed in the worship bulletin, the web page, the twice-monthly newsletter and currently displayed on the projection screen.

Did she choose the “usual” Pentecost reading, with the “sound of a violent wind” from Acts where all the disciples were “filled with the Holy Spirit?” Continue reading →

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