January 7, 2020

I am currently reading an interesting book, entitled Doubt: A History, by Jennifer Michael Hecht, 2003. In a brief comment I found from the author, she said she was writing a history of atheism, but her publisher decided that such a title would limit the book to religious doubts only, and they had something broader in mind. Nevertheless, what Hecht has produced in fact is a history of atheism, beginning with ancient Greece, moving to the Bible, to various eastern… Read more

January 3, 2020

A significant challenge of the Narrative Lectionary is to decide just what portions of the rather long pericopes to discuss as one approaches the tasks of preaching and teaching. The goal of this list of texts is to provide a clear sense of the narrative movements represented in the chosen material. The Gospel of Mark is a parade example of a text that demonstrates obvious plotted movement, and lends itself beautifully to a narrative approach. Yet, it must be admitted… Read more

December 26, 2019

I have always been deeply perplexed by the Common Lectionary’s choice of Ecclesiastes 3 for the Sunday nearest the first of the New Year. My perplexity is the direct result of the deep perplexity of the text itself. What on earth—or elsewhere—is the author attempting to suggest in this now quite famous poem? I am strongly convinced that what attracts the lectionary collectors to it has more to do with how the poem has been used in popular culture than… Read more

December 23, 2019

I mentioned some weeks ago that I was in the process of cataract surgery on my eyes. This, of course, is one of the gifts of old age, the gift that keeps on giving. I can now happily report that the surgical portion of the process is over, and was quite successful. I, after over 60 years of being the very definition of near-sightedness, (i.e. able to read anything without glasses, but unable to see anything clearly past five inches… Read more

December 16, 2019

The story of Jesus according to Mark accelerates its pace, as Jesus and his first four followers head first to Capernaum and its synagogue where Jesus proceeds to teach. Presumably, his teaching consists of the summary Mark offered at 1:15 that it is no longer necessary to wait for the coming of God’s rule in the world, since it has now drawn near, and as a result, all must now turn in a completely different direction and believe in the… Read more

December 10, 2019

Preachers and teachers need poetry. I do not mean by poetry the insides of greeting cards or the doggerel of the most popular hit tune—though certain hip-hop hits can be instructive and useful as cultural artifacts. What I do mean is poetry that enlivens, challenges, puzzles, and generally offers language that surprises, shocks, and thrills the ear. The preacher’s basic tools are words, and poets major in words, their power and their wonder. Back in my formal teaching days, I… Read more

December 9, 2019

As I have revealed in earlier essays, I am a great lover of William Shakespeare, that greatest of authors in the English language. Earlier in my scholarly life, I had hoped to teach the bard in some place or another, but my vocation as scholar took me in quite different directions. Still, I never fail to thrill to these grand works, and never fail to be in absolute awe of their mastery, their wit and insight. There is so much… Read more

December 9, 2019

Now that the “Hallelujah Chorus” has echoed away, the blare of the festive trumpets has stilled, and the Advent wreath is back in its closet until next year, it is time to turn to the hard work of actually living the gospel of Jesus. Of course, that work is made a tad more difficult by the fact that the large Christmas crowds have disappeared and have been replaced by the hardier, steadier folk of the flock. But that is all… Read more

December 6, 2019

Christmas and the birth of Jesus are very close now. We have but one more addition to the story that the Bible weaves from its very opening pages. This long tale of Zechariah unites many of the threads that have been offered to us from the Hebrew Bible, thus binding together the narrative of the birth with the vast promises of God that have preceded it. Luke is nothing less than a master in working his loom to create an… Read more

December 3, 2019

It has been said that the current programming available on television is the very richest and most interesting it has ever been in the history of the medium. Of course, tastes vary enormously; for every “Game of Thrones” junky (not me) there are more than a few “Jack Ryan” aficionados. The former claims a kind of seriousness (that claim escapes me), while the latter is mere fluff (I binged on that fluff). Still, TV offers a vast array of programs… Read more

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