Connections 05.16.2021: Learning from Experience

The writer of 1 John talks a lot about what we know. For example, he says, “By this we know that we abide in [God] and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (4:13).

Connections 05.09.2021: All We Need

One of my generation’s anthems proclaimed, “All you need is love!” In case we didn’t get it the first time, it repeated the message in a slightly different order: “Love is all you need!”

Pearls Before Swine

Forgive us, O Lord, for our sometimes judgmental attitude that causes us to be overly critical of others and for our sometimes hypocrisy that causes us to hold others to a higher standard than that to which we hold ourselves.

Connections 04.25.2021: When A Plan Comes Together

There was a time in my life when I was a regular viewer of the television program The A-Team. On one hand, I am not proud of that fact. On the other hand, everybody needs a little mindless distraction every now and then.

Connections 04.18.21: Realistic Idealism (or Idealistic Realism)

First John was written to a Christian community that was dealing with dissension and schism. The division in the community was prompted by people who claimed that Jesus only appeared to be human.

Connections 04.04.2021: Here, There, and Wherever

Look at Mary. She is right here. She is standing outside the tomb, weeping. She has already discovered the empty tomb.

Connections 03.28.2021: The Humble King

Jesus’ words imply an invitation to his disciples: “So come along with me!” Jesus’ words also imply an invitation to those of us who are also his disciples: “Come along with me!”

Angry

The chances that we will murder somebody are thankfully slim. The chances that we will get angry enough at someone to want them dead…

Connections 03.14.2021: Amazement

I am constantly amazed at the things human beings are capable of accomplishing.

Connections 03.07.2021: Foolish Wisdom

I admit to being a little troubled by what Paul says in this passage. Or it might be more accurate to say that I’m a little troubled by ways people might use—misuse, really—what Paul says.

Mortal Love

Valentine’s Day fell on February 14 again this year. It’s regular like that. Ash Wednesday, on the other hand, moves around.

Connections 02.21.2021: Looking at Rainbows

Ever since I took my first Old Testament course in college—and that was a long time ago—I’ve heard that the rainbow in the Noah story represents God’s unstrung war bow.

Connections 02.14.2021: Stubborn Faithfulness

The prophet Elijah was on the final journey of his life. You’d think he’d be grateful to have his fellow prophet and disciple Elisha accompany him. But Elijah kept trying to stop Elisha from going with him.

Connections 01.31.2021: Not Taking Evil for Granted

Jesus’ miracles had a purpose: they announced that God’s reign in the world had arrived in Jesus. So when Jesus cast evil spirits out of people, it was an announcement that God’s power to defeat evil was with Jesus.

Connections 01.24.2021: To Us

Jesus came to reveal God to us. This doesn’t mean that God hadn’t revealed God’s self to people before Jesus came.

Connections 01.10.2021: The Most Wonderful Times of the Year

Mark tells us right up front what his story is about: “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (v. 1). And just in case we missed Mark’s statement of who Jesus is, God reminds us of Jesus’ identity when Jesus emerges from the Jordan.

Connections 01.03.21: Light in the Darkness

This week’s lesson falls on the second Sunday of Christmas. That is also the Sunday before the Epiphany, which occurs on January 6. Both Christmas and Epiphany are about God’s revealing God’s self to the world in Jesus Christ.

Connections 12.20.2020: Faithful to Send Jesus

I thought about opening with these words: “Put yourself in Mary’s place.” But then I realized that we can’t do that.

Connections 12.13.2020: God Will Do This

By my count, Paul offers a list of fourteen instructions to the Christians in Thessalonica in verses 12-21 of this week’s lesson text.

Connections 11.29.2020: Christian Holism

I recall a day when I was in fifth grade and it occurred to me that I had to go to school for seven more years before I could graduate from high school.

Connections 11.22.2020: What You Don’t (and Do) Know

We have a saying: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” As with many sayings, that one expresses only a partial truth. On one hand, it’s true that not knowing someone’s negative opinion of me can’t hurt me.

Connections 11.08.2020: Joyful Readiness

Our current unit of lessons is entitled “The Disciple’s Life” and is subtitled “Motives and Actions.” The title and subtitle assume that we should undertake certain actions as disciples of Jesus.

Connections 11.01.2020: Seating Arrangements

I have had a recurring—well, I don’t know what you’d call it. I’m pretty sure it’s not a vision (I know I don’t go into a trance). Maybe it’s just a fantasy.

9 Tips for Interpreting Scripture

Many of us grew up hearing preachers proclaim, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” By now, I hope we realize that the task of biblical interpretation is a tad more complicated.

Connections 10.18.2020: Electoral Humility

Almost sixty years had passed since Nebuchadrezzar’s Babylonian forces sent the first group of exiles from Judah to Babylon. Almost fifty years had passed since his armies had destroyed Jerusalem…

Connections 10.11.2020: The Song of the Ruthless

The prophet has in mind a mighty city that God has brought down because of its oppressive practices. The ruthless oppressors had been making a lot of noise and doing a lot of damage, but God silenced and stopped them.

Connections 09.27.2020: What’s In a Name?

An etiology is a story that explains the origin of a name or a custom. The writers of the Pentateuch skillfully wove etiologies into their narratives.

Connections 09.20.2020: What Is It?

God had brought the people out of Egypt and across the sea. They had begun their journey toward Mount Sinai. Now they needed food.

Connections 09.06.2020: This Day. This Night.

This week’s lesson text contains the Passover instructions that God gave Moses and Aaron to share with the Hebrews who were enslaved in Egypt.

Connections 08.30.2020: Hindsight Assurance, Foresight Faith

We can imagine how awe-inspiring God’s revelation at the burning bush must have been for Moses. We might also be fascinated at the way Moses falls into a conversation with God during this awe-inspiring experience.

Connections 08.16.2020: Powerful People

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So said Lord Acton in an 1887 letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton.

Connections 08.09.2020: Caution: Pit Ahead

An interesting convergence of events lands Joseph in a pit. First, Joseph has dreams of grandeur. As you will see if you read the entire Joseph story, dreams play a large role in it.

Connections 07.26.2020: Yes, But…

The short parables in this week’s lesson are fascinating, and they give us much to think and talk about. They also give us much to do something about.

What Makes You Cry

It was summertime, sometime in the late 1960s. I was, as many children did (and I hope still do), participating in the public library’s summer reading program. I was reading Fred Gipson’s 1942 novel Old Yeller.

Connections 07.19.2020: The Waiting

The waiting is the hardest part. In the parable found in this week’s lesson text, Jesus tells the story of a farmer who sowed good seed in a field, only to have an enemy sow weeds in the same field.

Connections 07.05.2020: Yokes

Merriam-Webster offers several definitions of “yoke.” First, a yoke is “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (such as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.”

Connections 06.28.2020: Have To and Want To

Paul uses the word “slaves” a lot in this week’s lesson text. This should make us uncomfortable. I hope it does. If it hasn’t before, I hope it will from now on.

Connections 06.14.2020: Hope for Tomorrow, Love for Today

The entire New Testament is about living in the in-between. It’s about more than that, but it’s definitely about that.

Connections 06.07.2020: Self-Examination

This week’s lesson text places quite a challenge before us: “Examine yourself to see whether you are living in the faith” (v. 5a). We have many options as to how we will deal with it.

Connections 05.24.2020: Let Us Pray

Jesus’ followers had watched him ascend to heaven. Before he ascended, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. As they gathered to wait, they “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer…” (v. 14a).

Connections 05.17.2020: Proclamation

This Sunday is the sixth Sunday of Easter. Observing Eastertide, the fifty-day period that begins on Easter Sunday and ends on Pentecost Sunday, is a good way to remind ourselves of the ongoing reality, power, and effect of Jesus’ resurrection.

Connections 05.03.2020: Community from a Distance

We’ve been doing something counter-intuitive during these days of the COVID-19 pandemic: building community by staying apart. In our current situation, we love our neighbors by staying away from them.

Connections 04.26.2020: What Things?

Cleopas and his companion know what has happened. They know the facts. They are talking about those facts as they trudge the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

Connections 04.05.2020: The Cross and COVID-19

When the devil tested Jesus in the wilderness, he introduced two of his three challenges with, “If you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3, 6). In refusing the devil’s challenges, Jesus declined to prove his identity on the devil’s terms.

Connections 03.15.2020: Rebellious Creatures

Machines with artificial intelligence turning against the people who made them is a recurring theme in works of science fiction. One example is the 2004-08 Battlestar Galactica television series.

Connections 03.01.2020: Replacing the Plug

It’s an image most of us are familiar with: the dropping of a stone into water produces ripples, which represent the ongoing effects of an action.

Connections 02.23.2020: Holy Imagination

Our high school English teacher Mrs. Powers was teaching us about similes and metaphors. “’The baby is like a rose,’” she said, “is a simile.”

Connections 02.09.2020: Light in the Darkness

Most contemporary biblical scholars believe that Isaiah 56–66 contain the words of a prophet who preached in the tradition of the eighth-century prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem to the Jewish people after their return from exile in Babylon.