John 6:35, 41-51 – The 11th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, August 9, 2015

“The Jewish opposition grumbled about him because he said, “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven.” (John 6:41)

“Some People Following Jesus” – Gary Bunt (oil on canvas)
“Some People Following Jesus” – Gary Bunt (oil on canvas)

Call me a grumbler.

It’s as if the Jesus in John’s Gospel referred to me when criticizing the Jews and their questions.

They grumbled about him claiming to “come from heaven.”

They grumbled because he was the “bread of life.” (Indeed, in the verses following today’s Gospel reading, the “Jewish opposition”—as John labeled them—grumbled about eating Jesus’ flesh. Fools! Didn’t those no-nothings know anything about metaphors?)

The opposition grumbled about him being anything other than Joseph and Mary’s son, a country bumpkin from a backwater town in a backwater region of the Roman Empire who became a rabble-rouser, a hero to a few and an irritant to most.

While the Jewish opposition’s grumbles aren’t really my grumbles, I do grumble: about the elusive and enigmatic Jesus; about how some—including, frankly, me—act as if they possess secret knowledge on God’s thoughts. Continue reading →

The Promised Nearness

Mark 1:14-20 – The 3rd Sunday after Epiphany – for January 25, 2015

“Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom. Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:15)

I did not answer the nurse’s question.

She shared more about God’s judgment.

I listened.

She shared more about God’s judgment.

I then responded to the most neutral of the hospice nurse’s comments—the vintage trope that God’s ways were mysterious—with an equally banal affirmation that each person was different. She nodded like we were fellow conspirators.

She returned to her work; I returned to mine.

Such a coward I was. Wasn’t I?

Though busy with making notes from a hospice meeting, and facing a list of names to call for my work in the ministry of bereavement, earlier that morning I’d read the Gospel of Mark’s declaration by Jesus: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom. Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

What did the Jesus of Mark’s gospel mean by the nearness of “God’s Kingdom?”

Is now the time of change? And what change will come to your—or my—hearts and lives? Continue reading →

Belief or Disbelief?

Exodus 17:1-7 – The 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 28, 2014

“The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” (Exodus 17:2)

The Children of Israel complained about the lack of available beverages. As usual, they were as petulant as they were parched.

The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

This was the time of the exodus. This was the reality between the memory of slavery in Egypt and the promised freedom in the land of milk and honey.

Forget milk. Forget honey.

Water. Now.

How precious water is . . .
How precious water is . . .

Without water, they’d wither. Moses rightly feared, as the people grumbled, that the last act his fellow desert sojourners had would have strength for would be used to cast stones at him.

Water is more crucial than food. If a body’s fluid isn’t replenished, the kidneys will be compromised; there will be days, at most a week or two, until death. The weak and sick will likely die first. Then the children and elderly will perish. The strong won’t stay strong for long.

As someone who has spent time backpacking, I know the importance of access to water. I’ve tramped extra miles to camp by a creek or pond. H2O weighs about eight pounds per gallon—one of the heaviest items in my pack—but the water filter and bottle would be one of the last things I’d discard in an emergency. Forget the tent. Forget the change of underwear. Forget the dehydrated food (just add water!). I’d abandon much to keep the final drops of life. Continue reading →