Tables of Thanksgiving

What are you thankful for? I am thankful for such great church leaders! Think of this as a sort of extension of last Sunday’s sermon. I told you all about the experience of visiting Ruth Lobato last Saturday night as she went into hospice care. It was so deeply meaningful as I went to minister to her, and found myself ministered to. Turns that whole “least of these” thing on its head and reminds us that we all have moments of being “the least of these.” Early this morning, Tanya, Lola, and myself went to do communion with Ruth. Thankfully, Ruth has improved just a bit and was able to receive communion. As I arrived at the hospital, I started wondering—What scripture should we read? I’m not preaching this Sunday, which is what I would ordinarily pick. However, I remembered that in two weeks I am preaching on Isaiah 61, and Tanya and I read it together as we rode

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Bigger Goats to Fry

So here it is, the last Sunday of the church calendar. What better way to spend it than to talk about the Final Judgment (I feel like there should be some terrifying organ riff played every time I write that). Matthew 25—The Sheep and the Goats, is the only place in The New Testament where there is a description of the so called, “Final Judgment.” And it creates all kinds of theological problems—where is the Grace of God if we are all sorted into eternal pens of punishment and life depending on how we treated “the least of these?” Theologians have tried to sneak around this passage in all sorts of ways. Notably a Greek phrase is played with to try to work grace back into the picture—panta ta eqnh which can be translated in several ways. Part of the problem, is that all of those translations are fairly faithful to scripture and tradition. First, we could take that phrase

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No Matter What…

The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) is an interesting one. We have always liked to read it with the understanding that God is the wealthy landowner and wants us to use our talents to God’s service. However, if we read this parable that way God doesn’t come out looking so hot. The “Wicked” servant says that the landowner takes what doesn’t belong to him and is a harsh man who treats others badly. Rather than deny this, the landowner confirms it. So if this is the description of the landowner, why is it we read God into that place? Doesn’t that run against our tradition and the entirety of scripture? Let me suggest another way to read this parable. If you go back to Matthew 23, you will note that Jesus is heavily critiquing the Pharisees for their hypocritical ways—Jesus is absolutely brutal in his angry rant against them. The reason Jesus is so angry is that the Pharisees

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Leaving Scripture and Faith Behind

You have heard me rant before about “Rapture” theology and the other nastiness that goes with it. You have also heard me target popular culture references like Left Behind. I figured if I were to be truly fair about this, I had to actually go see the movie instead of just take shots at it. So that is what I did yesterday. I went in with a totally negative attitude, and though there was certainly enough within the movie to justify that negative attitude, I was also determined to come away with something positive to say. And there were two redeeming elements. First of all, I loved the spunk of the teen girl “Chloe Steele.” Her take on religion seemed to start in a sensible place. One of her main issues was that she could not believe in a God that used hurricanes and earthquakes to show God’s love for humanity by destroying the bad people. Now of course, the

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