Today’s parable from Matthew 22:1-14 leaves little to the imagination. Jesus is making one of his most powerful statements about rejecting the Jews and Israel. Jesus’ metaphor of a king sending slaves to invite people to a wedding banquet is code for Jehovah’s historic connection to the Jewish people, and the wedding banquet for the king’s son is a reference to Jesus’ status as God’s son. The invitation has been made—the Jews claim to be God’s singularly chosen people—but God has rejected them. Well, almost. The danger here is in anti-Semitism, either ancient or modern, since even Paul warned his gentile audience that the JewsRead More →

Today’s Philippians excerpt focuses on Paul, who shares autobiographical highlights. In summary, Paul was taught as a rigorous, conservative Jew. He had it all: education, ethnic pride, great deeds, and an admirable personal morality. As for a wife, we don’t know why he didn’t mention that major aspect of his life. It would be nigh impossible that a person of his background would be single (at least before he converted to Christianity). Nowhere can we discern when or if Paul was married. This disturbing situation remains one of Paul’s enduring mysteries. It’s also notable that Paul didn’t fill himself with pride about his privileged heritage.Read More →

Today’s message from Matthew showcases an encounter between Jesus and religious bureaucratics (Jewish priests and elders). The critics asked where Jesus obtained his authority. Jesus responded by posing a counter- question about the authority of John the Baptist. It’s funny, that responding to a question with a question is frowned upon by some people. I was taught not to question with a question because it was impudent and impolite. However, the needs of a situation sometime require that we violate the norms. Jesus’ question raised the controversial issue of John’s baptism, where it came from (heaven or earth). Both Jesus and the critics knew thatRead More →

Today’s message from Matthew (20: 1-16) showcases a parable about the kingdom of heaven. Although Jesus was a Jew, his movement differed significantly from what we think we know about first-century Judaism. In any case, it seems that Jesus (and others) had a hard time trying to reform ancient Judaism. So complete was the reform effort that a new religion emerged instead—Christianity. Jesus’ parable in Matthew introduces a strange character, a manager with some odd behaviors. The manager in Jesus’ story hires workers, some early in the day and others later. He then makes a separate contract with each group of workers. The controversy centersRead More →

The idea prevalent among Christians and Jews is that humans are infected with original sin, the result of Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. How sin is addressed varies between Jews and Christians, the former dealing with sin through animal sacrifice (the ancient historical practice) and the latter through accepting Jesus’ atonement after the crucifixion and resurrection. Let’s turn to Paul, who offers a key thought: “So then, each of us will be accountable to God” (Romans 14:12).  Earlier in Romans, Paul wrote about not passing judgment on one another based on how we interpret the Christian life (e.g., what foods toRead More →

  I admit that much of our Christian faith can wash over us as if we’ve become bored with the same old dish over and over. The challenge is often to refresh ourselves rather than rehearsing the same old ingredients in the same old ways of preparation. [If this reads like a plug for the Renew ministry we’ll discuss after church then you’re right.] You’re not alone if you often feel wearied by all the theological “chefs” who overcook the same bland dishes. A key to overcoming numb taste buds involves making things tasty and textured. There’s nothing wrong with a piquant salad dressing toRead More →

The first part of today’s message (Romans 12:9-21) offers rapid-fire advice. The significant bit here is that the earliest Christians couldn’t always get along with one another. I suppose it is strangely comforting to know that even the nearest and dearest ancient Jesus followers struggled with the same garbage that mires us today. I don’t want to dwell on negativity, but the early church was as divided and nasty as anything we’ve seen since. Any purported “golden age” of Christianity is only a cruel myth. Then as now, people do bad things and it is as difficult as ever to live Christian virtues. Now getRead More →

The book of Romans continues to be fruitful for Sunday messages. As such, we will focus on Paul’s message about living sacrifices, transformation, and spiritual gifts (Romans 12:1-8). Romans is a reflection of the author’s personal faith, a rich expression of a Christian worldview. To begin, we have the analogy of people likened to living sacrifices. For Paul to exhort his readers as living sacrifices implies that Christians are offerings to God, though we are not so much literally slaughtered as, say, a pig would be for a tasty Roman banquet. The controversy lay in Paul’s language, that believers should be interpreted as sacrifices. PaulRead More →