25Feb/24

Get Behind Me

Several years ago, the editor in chief of Christianity Today recounted several conversations that he had had with pastors in his denomination. The pastors told him that when they preached from the Sermon on the Mount – you know, things like “Blessed are the meek,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” or especially, “Turn the other cheek.” When they preached from the Sermon on the Mount, people would come up to them afterwards and say, “Where did you get those liberal talking points?” But when the pastors would say, “I was literally just quoting the words of Jesus,” the people would not say, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize that.” Instead, they would say something to the effect of, “Okay, but that won’t work anymore. That’s weak.”

This is essentially what Peter did with Jesus in today’s Gospel. Peter, and most other people of his time hated the Roman oppressors in their land, and they were expecting a messiah that would come in with a mighty fist and power unseen before, and wipe out the enemies of Israel.

14Feb/24

What’s my motivation?

And as long as they don’t get caught, then, as the Gospel says, “they have received their reward.” If it is the accolades and praise of people they want, then as long as they are able to keep up the front, they will have received what they were looking for. If what they are trying to do is to “look good,” and if they have managed it, then by all means, let them rejoice in “looking good.”

11Feb/24

Points of View

This is the epiphany, the nature and mission of Christ is revealed to those three disciples in this transfiguration on the mountaintop. And it is revealed to those of us hearing the story after the fact. Jesus is the messiah, the chosen one of Israel, the salvation of all humanity. 

But what does the identity of Jesus of Nazareth as the messiah reveal to us about ourselves? We most definitely are not the messiah, so we are unlikely to be joined by Moses and Elijah and be transfigured on the top of a mountain.  

As with many of the stories we encounter in the Gospels, Peter’s responses tend to be the example that so many of us can relate to.

21Jan/24

Tickled Pink

Over the centuries, several people have done the exact same thing as what Paul was suggesting, selling their possessions and camping out on a mountain top, waiting for the second coming of Jesus. These people made a decision that was guided by some form of hope, even within a life that is filled with daily responsibilities and duties. Partly because they saw it as a salvation from their present struggles. For them, future hope bested their present reality. And because of that, their hope came with a sense of urgency.

23Oct/23

Live a Little

And so, Paul is admonishing believers in Corinth for living with the same mindset: “This life is all we have, so let’s live a little! We aren’t going to be resurrected, so let’s make this life all that it should be!” And, because of this mindset, they were spending time with those of “bad company,” which was clearly corrupting their morals. The rend result was that the witness of their faith in Christ was indistinguishable from those with whom they were spending time.

20Oct/23

Seeing the Unseen

I am gifted with a great imagination, and an analytical mind, and getting out of the boat, like Peter, to walk on the water toward a promise God has given me, makes me realize just how big those waves of doubt and uncertainty can be. Like a heads up display, I see every possible scenario, both good and bad, with its probability firmly floating above the wave, either granting hope, or threatening impending doom. 

13Oct/23

I am a Rock? I am an Island?

As adults we often don’t realize just how many of our decisions are based on similar attempts at fitting in, at defining our identity, at finding our role within our social context. Did I come to this church because it provides the best theological teaching, or because it offers the best programs, or the best adult groups? Did I take this job because I love doing it, or because this type of job pays more money than one that I love to do – and by extrapolation, more money will allow me to get what I really crave?

06Oct/23

The Way Home

So, to me, for someone to say that they are “spiritual, but not religious,” means that they are saying something to the effect of “I’m a human being.” 

Of course, I’m being deliberately obtuse with my own question, because what people generally want to convey with that statement is that they simply do not subscribe to any form of organized religion, and prefer to find their own method of making sense of the world; that they do not find any meaning in the structures others have created, but prefer to create their own order within the chaos.

01Oct/23

Do Be Do

It is entirely possible to do the will of the Father without being moved by what we are doing. We can follow all the requirements of a good and just society, without caring about the interests of others. We can do all of these things, but care only about looking good, which is precisely the opposite of what Paul was asking of the believers in Philippi.