This week’s Scripture passage doesn’t call us to travel in time, but it does summon us to look into the past and toward the future as we live in the present. It calls us to look back to when Christ was revealed, to look forward to when Christ will be revealed, and to live fully in the present as Christ is revealed.
For me, this passage contains some of the most moving and powerful moments in John’s entire Gospel. There are four specific things I love about it.
When the ordinary meets the extraordinary, chances are pretty good that the ordinary will try to cut the extraordinary down to size. It’s understandable. After all, we’re limited by our experience, and our experience is mighty limited.
Some commentators say that these verses from Philippians describe Jesus and his mission in the form of a hymn. If so, it is a magnificent and beautiful hymn that encapsulates everything Jesus is and all he came to do. We are supposed to strive for a mind like Christ’s (v. 5).
We usually think of light as a positive thing. When darkness falls at my house, I take comfort in the glow of soothing lamps. Both of my girls have small lights in their rooms that stay on overnight. If I’m driving on a dark rural road, I always feel better when I approach city lights once again.
There was a time when I wanted everything to make sense. It didn’t want to, so I tried to force it. It didn’t go well. Somewhere along the way, I gave up on that project. Life’s been better since I did. But folks do try to explain things, don’t they? One of the things we hear well-intentioned Christians say is, “Life’s tough; then you die.”
Paul spent a lot of mental energy writing about faith versus works. Having studied some of the history of his time, I understand why this was so important. The new Christian movement broke into a centuries-old religion that relied on sacrifices, rituals, and strict adherence to the laws of the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament.
Back when the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was all the rage, Saturday Night Live presented a parody of it (of course they did). Darrell Hammond portrayed host Regis Philbin, and Will Farrell played a contestant named Rich Preylant.
Sometimes I need to read about Jesus’ transfiguration. Instead of walking by his side down the dusty roads, listening to his stories about how to live in God’s present kingdom, eating the food from one of his miraculous multiplying meals, watching him heal the sick and bless the kids and care for the poor.
It was 1950, and some scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico were walking to lunch. Along the way, they talked about some recent reports of UFOs and a New Yorker cartoon that attributed the recent disappearances of New York City trash canisters to alien activity.
I am both awed and horrified by these passages where Jesus expands the reach of well-known laws almost beyond human capabilities. What awes me? We can easily list basic rules of humanity, and we tend to think that we are covered. We are obviously better than others who break such foundational rules.
In my imagination, when Jesus tells his disciples, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20), I see them looking at each other with expressions that say, “He’s got to be kidding!” After all, you couldn’t get any more righteous than a scribe or a Pharisee.
I have also viewed these Beatitudes as something to strive for. Do you want the kingdom of heaven, comfort, the earth, and so on? Then be poor in spirit, mourning, meek, etc. But as I read these again this week, I realized something. Every quality Jesus lists here is either innate or enforced.
Light travels at 186 thousand miles per second. That means it travels about six trillion miles in a year, so that’s the distance in a light year. The sun is “only” about 0.000016 of a light year (93 million miles) from Earth; its light reaches us in about eight minutes twenty seconds.
My older daughter Samantha is twelve. She adores fashion, hairstyles, and accessories. For Christmas, someone gave her a gift card to Claire’s, a small boutique that carries earrings, hair accessories, and other novelties.
This time last year, the Uniform series became Connections. We said at the time that the Scripture selections for Connections would be drawn from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) beginning in January 2017.
I was watching a made-for-television film about Jesus. In its depiction of Jesus’ baptism, he joined John in the Jordan River. As they stood in the river, which came up to their waists, John poured water over Jesus’ head.
It isn’t every year, of course, that Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays. But I think Sunday suits both holidays. When I was young, our family had a piece of brown stone about the size of both of my hands. It was flat, polished on the front, and rough on the edges. I always thought its shape resembled my home state of Georgia.
The whole thing seems ridiculous to me. God Almighty cares enough about this world and the people in it to come down and spend a few years in it and with them. And when God Almighty comes, it’s as a helpless baby who has to be protected, fed, and burped.
Two weeks ago, I encouraged us to put ourselves in Mary’s shoes—to truly feel empathy for her when she heard the news that was both devastating and life changing. Can we do some imagining about Zechariah, too?
I came—and that I come—to Mary’s song as a person of privilege. My late parents would have scoffed at that statement. They worked in textile mills. They bought very used cars. We lived in a small, two-bedroom, one-bath house. But still—we never missed a meal, we always had decent clothes, and the house was warm and dry.
This account about Mary unsettles me because it seems to leave out a few things. I remember, very early in my marriage, worrying about getting pregnant too soon. John and I were still adjusting to living in the same apartment.
If you want to know a language, it’s pretty helpful to learn the alphabet. It really helps things go more smoothly. I don’t remember learning the English alphabet. It’s unlikely that I was born knowing it, although I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t and didn’t read.
When I read about John’s vision of the new and perfect city, or about Ezekiel’s similar vision in chapter 47, I picture the settings from books like C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, or J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.
On the day before Mother’s Day in 2004, my Good Wife and I purchased a slate sign about the size of an automobile license plate from a vendor at the Charleston (SC) City Market. We had two lines of text inscribed on it.
Our first daughter, Samantha, turned twelve yesterday. Twelve years ago yesterday, at 8:37am, my husband John and I were overcome with awe at the sight of the eight-pound child who had spent thirty-eight weeks inside my body.
At some point in my young life, I began participating in my parents’ nightly prayer time. Using the denominational devotional guide, one of them would read the suggested Scripture passage and the printed meditation, and then say a short prayer.
The church I attend is brand new. We became official in spring 2015. Our name is new, our sign is new, and our hymnals are new. Our bylaws are new. We’re so new that our mission is still evolving. But we have a history that stretches backward much longer than eighteen months.
I think I’d believe in God even if Jesus hadn’t come. I seem to assume that God exists. That assumption appears to be a vital part of who I am, but I can’t tell if it’s the product of nature or nurture.
As followers of God, we are sometimes given the delicate responsibility of speaking for God. But we must also listen to God to be sure we are proclaiming truth instead of opinion or speculation. Isaiah was certainly a prophet who listened to the Lord.
Speaking in generalities is one thing. Getting down to specifics is another. Generally speaking, believing that God runs the universe is easy, but trusting God to take care of you is hard.
If you’re a regular reader of Coracle—or a regular participant in a Bible study class that uses it—you may or may not read the Scripture references before you read the articles. Today, I encourage you to look up Isaiah 25:6-10a and read it thoughtfully before you go any further.
Two books I read during my high school years (and yes, I read more than two!) that influenced me significantly were Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell’s 1984.
My daughters are eleven and nine. From the time they were old enough to understand, my husband and I have established rules for them. These parameters help them learn everything from necessary safety precautions to appropriate social behaviors.
Robert Benton’s 1984 film Places in the Heart takes place in 1935 Waxahachie, Texas. Royce and Edna Spalding own a cotton farm. Royce is also the local sheriff.
If I asked you what verse in today’s passage is most confusing, which one would you choose? Paul’s writing, like the writing of many great theologians, can be just as bewildering as it is inspiring.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor recessions, nor politics, nor presidential elections, nor terrorism, nor racism, nor sexism, nor homophobia, nor the internet, nor arrogance, nor ignorance…
One of my favorite contemporary Christian artists is Nichole Nordeman. Her songs range from poignant reflections on the seasons of life to grateful awe to bold declarations of uncertainty and doubt.
I remember an old Gospel song: “Justice Called and Mercy Answered.” Were I to write a song based on Romans 5:1-11, I’d call it “Hope Called and Love Answered.”
Andrew, my five-year-old nephew, is a great source of joy in our family. Born at 29 weeks, weighing about 2.5 pounds, he lived in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital for 65 days before my brother Dusty and his wife Christy were able to bring him home.
We hear a lot of talk these days about privilege. Since I’m one of the privileged, I try to take such talk to heart. I try to be aware of my privileged status and of the pitfalls and advantages that accompany it.
“A World Gone Wrong.” What a timely unit for these difficult days in our world. If you’re like me, you check the daily news with a guarded heart. In the past several weeks, I’ve read about a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, politicians smearing each other’s campaigns, and social media users cursing each other out for personal stances.
At one point in his 1971 song “Ain’t No Sunshine,” singer/songwriter Bill Withers says the phrase “I know” twenty-six times in a row. He says he intended to write other lyrics, but the veteran musicians playing on his debut album talked him into leaving it as it was.
Think about any relationship that you value: close friendships, spouses or partners, children, relatives. I bet you could tell me a story about the cycle of love, betrayal, judgment, restoration, and second (third, fourth, fifth…) chances within these relationships.
Judgment is real and necessary, but it’s nothing to be happy about.
God’s not happy about it. We shouldn’t be happy about it.