Today’s narrative combines two key passages from the lectionary readings. These Bible selections cover reconciliation with God (Luke 15:1-3,11b-32) and the newness of life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). The story of the prodigal in Luke reveals reassuring truth about four transforming, related “Rs”: repentance, redemption, restoration, and reconciliation. Jesus framed all this within a parable, which is a story designed to illustrate principles. The four Rs are so closely related that any one of which can carry the meaning of reclaiming a healthy spiritual status. As for the prodigal story, the setting is in a family, wherein the father had two sons, one olderRead More →

Stuff happens. Terrible things occur all the time and the crucial question is what lay behind all this tragedy. In searching for answers, people have developed an insatiable appetite for the how and why. There’s no single, satisfying answer to suffering. The human condition is fraught with peril and punishment, calamity and consequences. Disease, frustration, persecution and all sorts of chronic pains haunt humanity. Thankfully, our quest need not end so negatively. Jesus addressed the topic of bad things happening when he discussed two incidents, both covered in today’s lectionary text of Luke 13:1-5 : 1) Pilate’s persecution of Jews and 2), the unexpected collapseRead More →

What does it mean to have spiritual citizenship? This question underscores today’s lectionary-based message from Philippians 3:17 – 4:1. In the Old Testament, the Bible repeatedly suggests that God chose the Jews/Hebrews only, with whom he made an almighty covenant yielding preferential treatment. It all began with Abraham, when his great faith ushered the agreement whereby God gave him and his descendants unique access. The Jews savored their exclusivity as God provided them salvation (albeit through the harsh Law and sacrifices), liberated them from Egypt, and helped them occupy Palestine and expand their mini-empire. Through their exclusive adoption by God, anyone born Jewish auto-magically inheritedRead More →

Welcome to Lent, a period of forty days historically celebrated as a time of examination and preparation leading up to Easter. Lent is sent, but how is it spent? Lent repeats every year, and some folks say that they look forward to this journey because it helps them focus on spiritual themes. Other folks report that nothing seems to change, and that Lent becomes just another routine leading nowhere. Which outcome do you expect? As always, the power of our choice determines where we’ll go. Lent isn’t magic. Whether your view of Lent is more positive or negative, whether you’re skeptical or believing, Lent isRead More →

Welcome to Transfiguration Sunday, a time to consider Jesus’ true nature and learn about how we can also be transformed. We’re invited to embrace God’s marvelous Spirit so that none of us remain stuck in life’s low places. The lectionary focuses on Luke 9:28-36, where we find Jesus trekking with three of his closest friends (Peter, James and John). These four were in for a hike up a mountain whose location and name are unknown today. Jesus had taken trips on, around and on top of all sorts of terrain, and yet he and his companions would soon be caught-up in something unique. Once onRead More →

Brace yourself for a rapid-fire immersion. We’re headed into the preeminent topic of the universe: love. The chief New Testament writer Paul suggested as much when he wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). In other words, life without love is nothing more than a noisy illusion denying our potential. Questions about love typically arise over how we can best receive and share God’s love. There are a myriad of ways to respond, but it’s helpful to reflect on the grandeur and majestyRead More →

As with the previous two Sunday messages, I’m combining a couple week’s worth of lectionary readings into a single narrative. Why? Because the relevant scriptures deserve a combined treatment. This means that I’ll be covering Luke 4:14-30 today. It’s wonderful how ancient Bible verses can pass into modern, common parlance. One example is when Jesus talks about not being accepted by those who know you best: “ ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown’ “ (Luke 4:24). Perhaps it is a universal truth that familiarity breeds contempt. When people think that they know you well it somehow undermines what weRead More →

What are we to do about strengthening the church? We need to be concerned with what’s happening in our culture as alarming numbers of people check the box marked “other” or “none” when it comes to religious affiliation. There are many ways to respond to this crisis but we must first start with ourselves, peering within our souls and asking God for help. One foundational issue is the health of the church, specifically the spiritual status of those of us currently in the church. We who are members and regular attenders comprise the body of Christ, otherwise known as the local Christian church. One ofRead More →