Today we’re in the spirit of Halloween as we meet a remarkable cast of characters found in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel 28:3-25. In the ghoulish theme of the season, we are taking a field trip along with ancient King Saul and a couple of his assistants. We’re off to see an unusual lady—unnamed—who has some fantastic powers. Okay, so this isn’t just some ordinary consultation that King Saul sought. The lady we’ll meet is politely referred to as a medium, otherwise known as a diviner or witch. Yikes! Hold on to your seats and don’t dim the lights during this bone chillingRead More →

Today’s lectionary from Matthew 22:15-22 addresses one of the greatest traps ever attempted for snaring Jesus. The lesson covers what people owe heaven and earth, with Jesus making a critical distinction between earthly taxes & government versus peoples’ obligation to serve God. So, who are the bad guys in today’s tale? They are the usual suspects, the Pharisees who were Jesus’ main critics. Yet there’s also some less mentioned villains, the Herodians, who were an elitist group supporting King Herod, the non-Jewish leader of Israel (duly approved by the occupying Romans). This dastardly duo of Herodian and Pharisaic conspirators unfolded their plot by first tryingRead More →

Jesus’ parable from Matthew 22:1-14 illustrates how people of faith should be prepared to accept God’s invitation with unstoppable dedication. Jesus’ metaphor of a king sending slaves to invite people to a wedding banquet is code for God’s historic connection to the Jews, and the celebration for the king’s son is a reference to Jesus’ status as God’s son. The wedding invitation has been made first to the Jews, God’s originally chosen people, but the parable suggests that they have rejected God. Over the centuries, many Christian writers and commentators have accusingly pointed to the ways in which Jews have been persecuted, as if theirRead More →

Today’s lectionary excerpt from Philippians 3:4b-14 focuses on Paul, who shares autobiographical highlights. 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 highly unlikely that a person with his background would be single. Yet, nowhere can it be confirmed if or when Paul was married. We know that Paul didn’t think highly women, a sad fact revealed when he taught that women should have their heads covered and silent during worship (1Read More →

Today’s message from Matthew 21:23-32 examines an encounter between Jesus and religious bureaucrats. The critics asked where Jesus obtained his authority. Jesus responded by posing a counter- question, inquiring about the authority of John the Baptist. It’s funny, that responding to a question with a question is often frowned upon. We’re often taught not to do this because questioning a questioner can be impudent and impolite. However, certain situations such as with a hostile audience often require calculated violation of rhetorical norms. What Jesus asked his critics raised the controversial issue of John’s baptism, where it came from (heaven or earth). Both Jesus and theRead More →