The Seventh Time

2 Kings 5:1-14 – The 7th Sunday after Pentecost – for July 3, 2016

Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.” (2 King 5:10)

The River Jordan
The River Jordan . . .

Elisha, inheritor of Elijah’s prophetic mantel, God’s miracle-worker and sage, lived in an odd era compared to our modern days.

It was a time of kings and the conquered.

Of wars and warriors.

Of famine and futility.

Of hatred and hubris.

Of borders and battles.

Of slaves taken and servants mistreated.

Of gods and God.

The powerful ruled the powerless; the rich became richer; generals forged decisions with the spilled blood of the young; orphans and widows increased in number; the poor became poorer; the 99% scraped by and the 1% schemed for more wealth.

Not like our time at all.

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In the time of Kings, in the tales of Elisha, there came a warrior named Naaman. He was a general for Aram, from the land to the east.

Diseased Naaman was.

Shamed Naaman was.

He would give away gold and slaves and probably some of his wives (and even his children) if only he could rid his body of the illness. Continue reading →

I Am A Crooked Disciple

Luke 9:28-43 – Transfiguration Sunday – for Sunday, February 7, 2016

(“The next day, when Jesus, Peter, John, and James had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus.”)

Transfiguration of Jesus - Raphael
Transfiguration of Jesus – Raphael

Whenever preaching, teaching, or simply pondering the stretch of Luke’s Gospel that highlighted Jesus’ transfiguration, I’ve focused most of my efforts “up on a mountain.”

But today, I’m more fascinated with what happened after “Jesus, Peter, John, and James had come down from the mountain.”

My fascination is also fed by the leftover learning from the singular course in ancient Greek that I survived during seminary.

In the ninth chapter of Luke (along with Mark 9:2-8 and Matthew 17:1-8), the Gospel reader “views” Jesus’ sublime transfiguration on a mountain. This was witnessed by the inner circle of disciples, was likely a parallel (literally, metaphorically, or both) to Moses’ mountaintop moment with the Holy in Exodus 34:29-35, and included God’s blessing on Jesus’ ministry.

But enough about that life-altering and transcendent event!

Afterwards, Jesus hiked down the mountain, back into the mess and stress of humanity. While Peter, James, and John’s souls were still awhirl from the transfiguration (and their soles probably ached from pounding along a rocky trail), a stranger buttonholed Jesus. Continue reading →

A Third Kind of Jesus

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 – The 8th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, July 19, 2015

“Everyone who touched him was healed.” (Mark 6:56)

Rembrandt-leperWhen reading Mark 6:56’s closing sentence—Everyone who touched him was healed—my belief in Jesus is strengthened.

And so is my disbelief.

The Gospels’ healing passages are arguably the most difficult (for me) to preach, teach, or, well . . . believe.

I’ve read enough about the history of Jesus’ first century world to know he was not the only one identified as a miracle worker or healer of illnesses. There were others, from reputable to repugnant. I’m also confident that Jesus’ era had people who—like today—suffered with cancers, heart diseases and other serious ailments. But we can’t tell from any of the Biblical accounts what kinds of illnesses were healed when a crowd gathered around Jesus. No high-tech tests could be implemented to separate the “fake” illnesses from the “real” ones, or a potentially fatal head trauma from a trivial head cold.

Frankly, whether in the Bible or not, I’m suspicious when “everyone” is used to describe the results.

Everyone was healed? Hmmm? Continue reading →