A view of a tiffany stained glass window with repeating scale-like tiles in a rainbow pattern, seen from below.

God and us

A prophet’s true greatness is his ability to hold God and man in a single thought.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

Category: Sermons

  • Come away

    Come away

    The Hebrew scholar Naham M Sarna notes that there’s a crescendo that happens when God tells Abraham to “go.” God lists all that Abram would be leaving behind in increasing intimacy, increasing seriousness. “Leave your native land, leave your extended family, leave your father’s house. I am taking you somewhere new.” Quite a big ask, considering all Abraham has to go on is a promise from a God who had been silent since long before Abraham was born. If I’m totally honest, I can’t imagine that I would obey that kind of a command from God.

    Read more
  • Dominant powers versus ultimate powers

    Dominant powers versus ultimate powers

    It was starting to feeling like maybe, just maybe, the bad guys didn’t have to keep winning. Maybe giants could fall. Maybe, as the Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber says, dominant powers would not turn out to be ultimate powers. The next Halloween, for my work’s costume contest, I dressed up for Halloween as a cell phone with 10 missed calls from Ronan Farrow and a text message saying, “care to comment?” I told folks I was keeping track of who thought the costume was supposed to be a scary costume versus who thought of it more like a “super hero” costume. For the record, I was only halfway-joking with that one.

    Read more
  • The things we hold in common

    The things we hold in common

    Some translations use the word “generosity” instead of simplicity, and that’s because the word we’re looking at is somewhere between idiom and metaphor in the original Greek. The word is “aphelotes” and its literal translation is something like “the opposite of stubbing your toe.” It’s something you do on accident, without even realizing it until you feel its affects later. The historian is describing a simple-heartedness, a tenderness. It’s the kind of tenderness that makes you take off your coat and gently drape it over your partner’s shoulders when you see they’re cold, without even having a moment’s thought about how cold you’ll now be. They gave to one another in the way you “give” to your spouse; the way you “give” to someone who’s so intimately tied to you that it doesn’t even feel like giving so much as transferring from one account to another.

    Read more
  • By faith,

    By faith,

    For example, there’s this one woman, Priscilla. In the Book of Acts, in the Epistle to the Romans, in the 1st letter to the Corinthians, and in Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy, she’s described as a colleague to the Apostle Paul, a collaborator, an equal. She even went on to have churches named after her. As Christian communities got big enough to move out of houses and have their own buildings, one of the first ones in Rome was called the Church of St. Priscilla. But throughout the next few hundred years of Christian history, there’s evidence that Christian leaders, as their religion got attached to the power of the Roman Empire and grew from a minor almost cult-like religion into a proper institution, started to suppress the history of women’s involvement in the church.

    Read more
  • What you get when you sell all you have

    What you get when you sell all you have

    One of the most respected dictionaries of ecclesiastical Greek tells us this is often used as a foil to the “fragmentary and frail” life of this world, that it’s something you seek to acquire now as much as in the future. It’s sort of an exchange you make, where you give up attachment to the “time is money” economy and are given power over the forces of death and sin, in this life and the “life to come.”

    Read more
  • Assistant Regional Managers of the planet

    Assistant Regional Managers of the planet

    God made sky and water and earth and heaven and birds and fish and beasts and creeping things and plants and called all of it good. Then, to top it all off, God made humans. God said “let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the the creeping things that creep on the earth.” God says “just like I rule the earth, I want these humans to rule it.” God names humans like, Assistant Regional Managers of the planet.

    Read more
  • I’d like to speak to God, please

    I’d like to speak to God, please

    The book of Job has something of a reputation for being a book about suffering, but I think that’s not the whole picture.

    I can see why people think of Job and think of suffering. Suffering is both the inciting incident and the setting of the book. I just don’t think it’s about suffering. I think it’s about prayer.

    Read more
  • You should probably have imposter syndrome

    You should probably have imposter syndrome

    The passage Joe just read is the opening to the book of Ruth, a short story found in the portion of the Hebrew Scriptures that Christians have adopted as canon. In Jewish canon, it’s grouped with the five megillot, or scrolls—a collection of books that, liturgically, accompany Jewish festivals. The book of Ruth accompanies the festival of Shavuot, a fall harvest festival that celebrates the giving of the Torah and the blessings of harvest.  It’s also sometimes shared as the story of the first “convert” to Judaism–Ruth.

    Read more
  • Why I won’t give up the “s” word

    Why I won’t give up the “s” word

    Each of the gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–have their own way of telling the story of Jesus. The author of Luke gave us a literary epic. We get the whole story of Jesus, from birth to resurrection, with a big chunk in the middle that is focused on Jesus’ public teachings. Luke spends 60% of his gospel on just 6 months of Jesus’ 33-ish year life, but that 60% is just jam-packed with didactic dialogue, parables, and sermons. Our first reading today, from Luke 11, shows up towards the start of that 60%.

    Read more
  • Feed my sheep

    Feed my sheep

    This chapter of the book of John is known to biblical scholars as the Appendix. While every copy of John’s gospel that exists includes this chapter—so it’s unlikely that it was added on by a different author, or completely after the fact—it’s clear for literary reasons that the original writer of the gospel of John intended to end his gospel at the end of chapter 20. Jesus rose from the grave, revealed himself to Mary Magdalene, appeared to the disciples, and gave Thomas a chance to test his doubts, then, story’s over. But after all that, just before closing his moleskin journal or rolling up his scroll or whatever they would have done in the first century, John picks back up his pen and begins writing again.

    Read more