Now is the Time

Lectionary 33 (25th Sunday after Pentecost), Year C
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19
Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Growing up with the last name of Duckworth,
    and having all sort of nicknames based on the root “Duck” –
    Ducky, Duckman, Duckhead, Duckface, Ducker, Duckaramma, Ducker Doodles –
    I take special interest in all things Duck.
And so at the end of certain political cycles my Duck feathers get ruffled, so to speak,
    as we hear about the fate of “lame duck” politicians.   
There is nothing “lame” about ducks, that you very much.

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Certain Promise, Certain Hope for Uncertain Times

Lectionary 29 (21st Sunday after Pentecost), Year C
2 Timothy 3:14:-4:5
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

In our second reading today we read excerpts of a letter from Paul
    to the younger Timothy,
    a co-worker with Paul in proclaiming the Gospel and building the church
    in the decades following the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
It was a scary time for the early church.
We can easily romanticize the early church,
    view it as some sort of frontier religion with Paul establishing Christian outposts
    in a pagan world, outposts that would later thrive as centers of a vital, new religion.
But the reality was much more grim.

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Walking the Pathway of Faith, Looking for What God Will Do

Lectionary 27 (19th Sunday after Pentecost), Year C
Psalm 37:1-9; Luke 17:5-10

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

“Increase our faith!” the apostles begged Jesus.
Increase our faith.
How many times have we, in our lives, wanted stronger faith?
Faith to believe in God’s promises.
Faith in God to lead us into the right choices.
Faith in God to rescue us when we don’t make the right choices.
Faith in God to step off the pages of this Bible,
    and to leap out from the poetic words and lyrical tunes of 18th century hymns,
    faith in God to turn a ritual gesture of greeting –
    the peace of the Lord be with you –
    into a real, flesh and blood, bear hug of an embrace.
How many times have we wanted stronger faith, more faith … any faith at all?

I know I have.

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Being Shrewd Like the World for the Sake of the Gospel

Lectionary 25 (17th Sunday after Pentecost)
Luke 16:1-13
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

This past Wednesday evening Derek Jeter,
    the New York Yankees shortstop who is respected even by fans like me,
        who otherwise harbor an unnatural and irrational dislike for the Yankees,
    stood at home plate in Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field, bat in hand,
        waiting for the opposing pitcher to hurl the ball.
The pitch came inside, and Jeter jumped to get out of the way.
But apparently he didn’t get out of the way fast enough.
As the ball bounced gently toward the pitcher’s mound,
    Jeter jumped up and down at home plate,
    grabbing his arm and wincing in pain.
The team trainer came out to inspect his arm,
    and the umpires huddled.
Within a few moments, Jeter was awarded first base,
    the umpires ruling that he was hit by the pitch.
But the only problem is this: he wasn’t actually hit by the pitch.

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Sensitivity and Exaggeration in “Ground Zero Mosque” and Luke 13:10-17

Lectionary 21 (13th Sunday after Pentecost)
Isaiah 58:9b-14; Luke 13:10-17
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

I hate to start off so negative.
But I fear for what some might be saying today about this Gospel text,
    in adult forums and pulpits around this country.
Today’s Gospel reading is a story of Jesus healing a woman in a synagogue on the Sabbath.
    As you just heard, after healing the woman,
    Jesus is confronted by the synagogue leader,
        who protests that Jesus performed a work of healing on the day of rest.
And so, I fear for what will be said today about that synagogue leader,
    that he will unfairly be pilloried as an enemy of Christ,
    a denier of grace more interested in divine law than divine love.
But let’s not walk that plank.

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God with us, in darkness and death

Lectionary 18 (10th Sunday after Pentecost)
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23; Psalm 49:1-12; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21
Sunday, August 1, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Let me tell you …. Pastor Scott [the Senior Pastor at my church] sure knows how to pick his Sundays off!
    These readings today … wow.
In our first reading we hear from Ecclesiastes,
    the only time in the church’s three-year calendar of readings
    that we read from this book.
And perhaps this is why –
    the author of Ecclesiastes considers pretty much everything
    to be an absurd, futile vanity, a “chasing after the wind.”
    And in an adjacent verse omitted from today’s reading,
        the writer admits that he “hated life” (vs. 17).
As if to confirm this pessimism, we read in vs. 13 that
    “It is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with.”
The Gospel for today is equally pessimistic.
Jesus tells a parable about a rich man whose land produced an abundant crop.
Not sure what to do with all his bounty,
    the man decides to tear down his small barn and build a larger barn,
    so that he can store his crops and ease into retirement,
        a plan not unlike the 401(K) plans many of us hold …
But God calls such a man “a fool.”
Ouch.

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The Kingdom of God is like Two Target Gift Cards

Lectionary 17 (9th Sunday after Pentecost)
Genesis 18:20-32; Luke 11:1-13
Sunday, July 25, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

I was out shopping with my girls the other night. 
They each received for their birthdays a great gift, one they couldn’t quite quantify –
    $50 gift cards to Target from their grandparents.
So I took them to Target, gift cards in hand, and set them loose in the toy section.
Go ahead, girls, pick out what you want. 
And remember, thanks to this special gift,
    you can spend more money, and get more toys,
    than you ever do with Mommy and Daddy.
So they wandered up and down the aisles – looking at the Barbies and the dress up clothes,
    the stuffed animals and the games.
Finally, after about ten minutes of deliberation, they came back to me, each holding one toy.

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