The Aunt Asked a Question

Acts 8:26-40 – The 5th Sunday of Easter – for May 3, 2015

“Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him . . .” (Acts 8:35)

Aelbert Cuyp: The Baptism of the Eunuch Holland (c. 1653)
Aelbert Cuyp: The Baptism of the Eunuch
Holland (c. 1653)

I am a United Methodist pastor.

I’ve done babies, lots of babies.

But I haven’t done any eunuchs.

Or should I more truthfully admit I’ve never knowingly baptized a eunuch? In a ministry spanning chunks of five decades, where I’ve served in a hodgepodge of rural and urban churches, along with campus ministry and hospice settings, maybe a eunuch has stood beside me while I intoned the ceremonial words of Holy Baptism and blessed his head with dribbles of water.

In the name of Creator, and Christ, and the Spirit, I baptize you . . . Continue reading →

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Adverbial Jesus

John 1:43-51 – Second Sunday after Epiphany – for January 18, 2014

Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” (John 1:46)

Unleash the adverbs!
Unleash the adverbs!

Like the majority of Jesus’ disciples, Nathanael barely received a nod in the gospels. Unlike most of them, Nathanael delivered one of the most memorable questions about Jesus.

But first, another disciple named Philip—who could’ve been Nathanael’s co-worker or neighbor or third cousin or boyhood best friend or maybe even his sister’s husband’s brother’s boss—told Nathanael about a swell fellow named Jesus. Part of Philip’s explanation included Jesus’ hometown: Nazareth.

Nazareth? Nazareth!

According to the fourth Gospel, Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”

Hmmm?

No one knows how Philip knew Nathanael. Their relationship either didn’t matter or was a blank slate to the writer of John. Indeed, the ignorance about the disciples’ various relationships prior to following Jesus appears inconsequential to any of the gospels’ authors. It’s what comes after, right?

As with Nathanael and Philip’s relationship, John’s Gospel remained ambiguous about the tone of Nathanael’s query. In the sparse retelling of Jesus’ ministry chronicled in the four traditional gospels, the ancient and modern believers weren’t overloaded with clues about the emotional reactions of the disciples.

What did Nathanael really mean by his question? How tempting to add a singular word to verse 46. Continue reading →

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Advent 3 – The Usual Suspect

John 1:6-8, 19-28The Third Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 14, 2014

“This is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, ‘Who are you?’” (John 1:19)

90_20_15---Three-Advent-Candles_webThis is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?”
John confessed (he didn’t deny but confessed), “I’m not the Christ.”

 

When the “Who are you?” Gospel question is proclaimed from pulpits on Advent’s third Sunday, a few pew dwellers might quietly complain, “How come grouchy John is still hanging around when we’re this close to Christmas?”

Isn’t Advent preparing us for the birth of Mary’s child? And yet here’s a bit from John the Baptist, thirty odd years after Jesus was born, prattling on about who he was not.

Are you the Christ? Nope.
Are you Elijah? Nope.
Are you the prophet? Nope.

 So negative!

Who was John? Well (to extend the negativity), he also wasn’t much of a conversationalist.

However, in today’s preparation for Christmas, the writer of John’s Gospel—no relation to John the Baptizer, aka John the Nope-ster—did offer a powerful Advent question . . . Continue reading →

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