April 17, 2019

For a long time I have wondered what to think about Pope Francis’s suggestion about changing the translation of the Lord’s Prayer. The familiarity of the words almost, but not quite, buries the oddness of the petition “Lead us not into temptation.” That same familiarity has had me looking for a reason not to change. Luke’s Gospel account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, which we heard on Palm Sunday, helps.  Pope Francis on asking God not to lead us into temptation… Read more

April 15, 2019

It’s Tuesday after the first “Palm Sunday,” that is, after the day Jesus paraded into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus wants to teach something about faith, but what exactly? Yesterday Jesus performed in the temple what we would call an act of civil disobedience. He created a ruckus. (Disagreeing with the first three gospels, the Gospel of John says it happened earlier in Jesus’ ministry. Scholars are not sure whom to believe about the time, but they’re pretty sure, at least, that the demonstration in the… Read more

April 12, 2019

Thoughts about Two Readings from the Fifth Sunday of Lent I was pretty sure I had identified the idiom in last Sundays first reading from Isaiah, and then I was fine with what it said. I wasn’t so happy with the second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians until it occurred to me: He’s using the same idiom. Remember not the events of the past. (Isaiah 43:18) What an awful thing for God to say to a Jew, or… Read more

April 10, 2019

Mark relates several stories where Jesus is apparently successful, but the success is only apparent. He performs miracles—casts out a demon, cures Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever, cures several other people, casts out several other demons. He ends up with crowds of people following him. It sounds like the opposite of the story in Luke where Jesus is rejected by his hometown. (See previous post.) But here too Jesus has a problem. You might call it the Messiah problem. According to Mark nobody understood Jesus… Read more

April 8, 2019

As one who “came to do God’s will,” Jesus succeeded wonderfully. But people knew Jesus as a prophet, and as a prophet he largely failed. His message about the coming of God’s Kingdom and life in God’s Kingdom fell on a lot of deaf ears.   Jesus addressed his message to Jews almost exclusively. He even instructed his emissaries not to go to Samaria or the Greek cities. That has to be an accurate memory, it seems to me. Why otherwise would… Read more

April 4, 2019

It was in the middle of a plain, or was it on a mountain? It started with what we call the Beatitudes, and it was a great speech. Or was it an editor’s gathering of things Jesus said on many separate occasions? The story appears in Matthew and Luke, both of whom relied on an earlier source now lost. Matthew is the one who gives us the “Sermon on the Mountain.” The mountain makes us think of Jesus as the… Read more

April 1, 2019

Looking at Jesus from a distance, an observer would notice one thing especially: he didn’t stay long in one place. If actions speak louder than words, one would want to understand what message Jesus’ wandering ways convey. This post traces a sort of journey in my thinking with help from John Dominic Crossan and his idea of the unbrokered kingdom.  I tend to think about Jesus’ poverty and imagine that says something important about God. Crossan, in The Historical Jesus: The… Read more

March 29, 2019

The idea that we are not our bodies, but the most important part of us is our souls, more or less loose from material things has a long history. Today it’s catching on again. That we are basically spiritual seems entirely too religious an idea for an age that’s gradually abandoning religion. On the other hand, it’s really a Gnostic, not a Christian idea. At least it’s not biblical. Still, Christians talk much about souls, and manage to confuse the… Read more

March 27, 2019

When scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman “caught in the very act of adultery,” Jesus wrote on the ground. What was he writing? People have used their imaginations to fill in this missing part of the story. I will do that too, but my imagination goes in a different direction from the usual, i.e., a list of the woman’s accusers’ sins. I would have Jesus witnessing for the woman instead of against her accusers. This is the 15th… Read more

March 25, 2019

Eating seems to have been a rather large part of Jesus’ ministry, and many criticized him for it. They compared him to John the Baptist, who seemed more authentically pious. Not that they were entirely consistent. John the Baptist was a bit too strange. They thought he had a devil. Like a bunch of children, they wouldn’t dance to a merry tune or mourn to a dirge, replied Jesus to the charge of being a glutton and drunkard.  We’re in the series “Stories of Jesus and… Read more

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