July 25, 2016

 (Lectionary for August 14, 2016) In 1630, John Winthrop, leader of the English group that would eventually form the germ of what became the USA, gave a sermon aboard the ship Arbella, sailing slowly toward the New World. In that memorable oration, Winthrop used a phrase that has echoed down the years of American politics. He described the future colony as a “city on the hill” (what became in fact Boston), urging his small, hopeful and terrified followers that they… Read more

July 23, 2016

(Lectionary August 7, 2016) In their 1977 book, The American Monomyth, Robert Jewett, a noted scholar of the New Testament, and John Shelton Lawrence, a long-time professor of philosophy, argued that America had birthed a new version of the mythology that Joseph Campbell had offered in his classic 1949 volume, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. In the earlier book, Campbell claimed to have discovered in ancient literatures a near universal story that he called the monomyth. In that story… Read more

July 21, 2016

(Lectionary for July 31, 2016) The race for president of the USA is fully underway, and the choice could hardly be more stark. On the one side, the Republican nominee, Donald J Trump, is a brash, deeply opinionated businessman, who has never run for any public office. On the other, the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, has spent nearly her whole life in public service, from her time as a governor’s wife in Arkansas, to her 8 years as first lady… Read more

July 18, 2016

(For the lectionary, July 24, 2016) It is very risky to read and discuss, let alone preach, the book of Hosea. Its central theme is both infamous and unforgettable. YHWH appears to the 8th century BCE prophet, Hosea (a Hebrew name rooted in the word for “salvation,” a similar rootedness found in the name Jesus), and commands him to marry a whore. That is problematic enough, but the prophet is further commanded to have children with the woman, children that… Read more

June 20, 2016

As a family, we used to love the game “fruit basket upset.” Do you know it? Quite simple, really. All are seated, save one, who shouts the magic phrase and a mad scramble begins as all search for a different seat. Of course, one person misses out, and in turn shouts the phrase while diving for a nearby unoccupied locale. It can be hilarious, if not a little bruising of egos as well as a shin or two. If you… Read more

June 14, 2016

I have in my long career as Bible scholar and theologian rarely been reluctant to enter the weeds of controversy that forever spring up in the flower gardens of religious life in the USA. From same-sex relations to military service to the use and abuse of the planet, I have had my moments of quiet reflection and public statement that have not always been received with equanimity by some of my listeners. So be it. If one speaks in such… Read more

June 10, 2016

Lectionary Reflections for Sunday, July 3, 2016 In the summer of 2004 my wife and I were invited to the islands of Fiji to offer a workshop on preaching. The Pacific Theological College on Suva, the country’s largest island, each year offered a continuing education event that brought together pastors and church workers from many surrounding island nations. We were invited to Fiji by a remarkable graduate of Perkins School of Theology, my seminary, Dr. David Upp who has spent his… Read more

June 7, 2016

We all have had mentors in our lives, acknowledged and unacknowledged, and thus we have all been mentees, pupils, students of those mentors. My wife of nearly 47 years, Diana, has been my best and most trusted mentor, leading and guiding me to emotional parts of myself that I hardly knew I had, to depths of love and loving I would never have experienced without her insistent and tender directions. She was, is, and remains the true light of my… Read more

June 2, 2016

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, June 19, is I Kings 19, that wonderful story of Elijah’s confrontation with YHWH on the sacred mountain of Horeb. I have already wrestled with that text in my reflections on I Kings 17 two Sundays ago. So, rather than pour through that tale again, looking for further insights, that I know are there, I thought I would turn to the Psalms for the day, 42 and 43. As I reread those psalms,… Read more

May 30, 2016

I do not drink wine; I have never drunk wine, neither from boxes nor bottles, neither cheap nor expensive. I know this makes me at best a peasant and at worst a philistine. My wife loves good wine; my children adore wine (they are adults!). I have one of those ominous “0” birthdays coming up (and I don’t mean 60), and our celebration plans include a trip to one of the wine areas of California, where I will commemorate my birthday… Read more

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