Feasting with the Saints

Feast of All Saints

Isaiah 25:6-9 or Wis Sol. 3:1-9
Ps 24
Rev 21:1-6
Jn 11:32-44

I love All Saints Day. It is one of my favorite feast days of the church year. It is a time for joyfully remembering those who preceded us in the faith, both those well-known and those known only to God.

It is one of the traditional days for baptism, too. When this happens it provides a community with a chance to look both backward to remember departed members of the body and forward with those beginning their new lives in Christ. I am also partial to the hymns for this day. This Sunday is one of those occasions when All Saints Day lands on a Sunday.

One way to focus our remembrance of the saints is to reflect on the rest and security those believers now enjoy in God. Even though they have died, “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, no torment will ever touch them” (Wis Sol 3:1). They are now removed from the world in which their steadfast fidelity often led to pain and suffering. This can be a comfort to us who remain behind in this world. Most importantly, their lives should serve to encourage our own greater fidelity. Read more

The Authority of Prisoners

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Psalm 51
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

In Ephesians 4 Paul begins a sustained account of the shape, nature and practices of life in Christ. He calls on the Ephesians to embody a vibrant unity based on their common faith and baptism. He uses the metaphor of “walking” to describe how believers are to embody a common life in Christ.

One of the most striking things about the epistle reading for today is that it begins with a personal plea from one who is a “prisoner in the Lord.” In the NRSV Paul is said to “beg” the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. In this light, it appears that Paul the prisoner is begging the Ephesians.

This certainly is an appropriate posture for one who is a prisoner, but it is not a very good translation of the Greek. Other English versions use verbs like “urge” or “entreat.” They are less idiomatic, but convey appropriately the sense Paul’s entreaty conveys a presumption of authority. Paul is someone to be listened to. Read more

The Advocacy of the Spirit

Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2:1-21
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Although this piece is about Pentecost, I am writing it on the Feast of the Ascension. This fact along with the Pentecost reading from Acts 2 brings Elijah to mind. Like Jesus, Elijah ascends into heaven. Unlike Jesus, he does not conquer death prior to his ascension. Like the followers of Jesus, Elijah has powerful experience of the Lord’s presence.

In 1Kings 19 Elijah has just accomplished the most powerful act of his prophetic ministry. On behalf of the one true God, Elijah has challenged the prophets of Baal, who enjoyed the favor of the king and queen. God vindicates Elijah’s bold fidelity and Elijah purges the prophets of Baal. Ahaz and Jezebel vow revenge; Elijah flees. He is now a fugitive from royal justice. This is an incredible reversal of fortune. This is not at all what Elijah anticipated or what he thought God had in store for him. Read more

Death Defeated

Easter Sunday

Isaiah 25:6-9
Acts 10:34-43
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
John 20:1-18 OR Mark 16:1-8

This Easter will be the first since my mother died in July. She died so unexpectedly and quickly that I could not be with her when it happened. Still, mom was a believer and hers was a fast, peaceful death. As these things go, we would call it a good death. Nevertheless, as I found out at Christmas, and I expect I will find out at Easter, her death has upset me more than I first knew.

Without question, there are various reasons for this. It is a normal part of the grieving process. I probably have some unfinished business with my mother. I feel guilty I was not there when she died. As we approach Easter, however, I need to think about death – her death in particular – and resurrection theologically, or, at least, as a Christian. Read more

Contemplatives in Action

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Mark 1:29-39

Scholars often speak of Mark’s gospel as a passion narrative with a long introduction. The readings for this week as well as the past couple of weeks are part of that introduction.

Last week’s gospel reading and the first part of this week’s reading cover just one day in the ministry of Jesus. In Mark’s typically laconic style, we learn in short order that Jesus calls two sets of brothers to be his first followers (1:16-20). They enter Capernaum on a Sabbath and “immediately” go to the synagogue.

There, Jesus teaches “with authority.” Though we don’t learn what he says, we do learn that he casts out a demon. This activity certainly serves to buttress Jesus’ authority. Moreover, we learn that “immediately” the news about him spread throughout Galilee (1:21-28). This is all before lunch. Read more