Bible: We have a confession to make

Jan 15, 2018 by

The language of confession is both under- and overused at present, in different ways. On the one hand, in church settings most of us practice confession in a corporate manner, speaking in unison our...

[read more]

Bible: From fire to favor

Jan 1, 2018 by

Dan. 1:8-21 centers on dietary practices as markers of identity. The opening chapter of the book introduces Daniel and his companions in exile and sets up the challenges they will face, trying to live...

[read more]

Bible: Body of Christ, bodies of women

Dec 18, 2017 by

“You’re either with our bodies or against our bodies,” Amber Tamblyn wrote recently in The New York Times, responding to the flood of revelations of sexual misconduct, from Louis C.K. to Charlie Rose to...

[read more]

Bible: The baby who threatened a king

Dec 4, 2017 by

Acts 14 showcases the people’s impulse to make gods of human leaders. Listening to Paul and Barnabas speak, seeing them manifest God’s power, the people mistake these men for something they’re not,...

[read more]

Bible: Eyes open to wonders

Nov 20, 2017 by

Acts 3:11-21 picks up after a miraculous occurrence: Peter and John pass a beggar, lame from birth, as they go to the temple to pray. He asks them for money, and “Peter looked intently at him, as did John”...

[read more]

Bible: Yes, worship does something

Nov 6, 2017 by

Afriend once waxed poetic about the peace he experienced when receiving the communion wafer in the Cath­olic mass. Since I had been reared on a diet of just-a-symbol cracker breads and grape juice cuplets, I...

[read more]

Bible: Channeling the zeal of Phinehas

Oct 23, 2017 by

There may be nothing more unsettling to the (post)­mod­ern mind than zeal. Faith’s OK, many suppose, so long as it’s small and well-behaved, trotted out on a short leash at the odd moments — like birth...

[read more]

Bible: No faith without struggle

Oct 9, 2017 by

When we visit family in Lima, Peru, that cement city hustling under a concrete sky, we’re always a little taken aback by the traffic. Though our surprise could be chalked up to country-mouse sensibilities,...

[read more]

Bible: Abraham’s stardust children

Sep 25, 2017 by

It would have been a strange thing to do, cutting all those animals in half, if God hadn’t told Abram to do it. But that’s how it goes. Covenants aren’t made in Hebrew, they’re cut (Gen. 15:18; Jer....

[read more]

Bible: High-stakes Sabbath

Sep 11, 2017 by

At my ordination interview, I didn’t give the best answer when the committee asked me about my practices of self-care. “One day each week I take a sabbath rest,” I said brightly. And then for good...

[read more]

Bible: A covenant of moral fruitfulness

Aug 28, 2017 by

Once I interviewed a Pentecostal pastor for a seminary project. He was famous locally for his prison ministry and outreach — as well as for his six-shooter-wearing swagger. In the course of the interview, he...

[read more]

Bible: Breaking a thousand-year tradition

Aug 14, 2017 by

I’m thinking of a fable where a wolf is accepted into lamb society. As Aesop tells it, the wolf in sheep’s clothing is a fraud. But Saul’s transformation is real. The sheep hunter becomes a sheep. Think...

[read more]

Bible: The food committee leads the way

Jul 31, 2017 by

What great lessons this month for antiracism and breaking down racial-ethnic barriers! When the Greek-speaking Jews complained their widows were being slighted in the distribution of food, the apostles...

[read more]

Bible: Tasty scroll with bitter words

Jul 17, 2017 by

During children’s time in the church basement when I was a child, often we saw an “object lesson.” The teacher had some ordinary object from home — an egg, a needle and thread, a jar full of beans —...

[read more]

Bible: Reluctant prophets of doom

Jul 3, 2017 by

These lessons are about reluctant prophets. Isaiah wasn’t worthy, and Jeremiah was too young. Or so they thought. Isaiah’s call came in a vision “in the year King Uzziah died.” Uzziah had been king of...

[read more]

Bible: Life begins at 80?

Jun 19, 2017 by

A friend said he always wished he could have a burning bush experience. Instead, most of us spend years wondering what God might be calling us to do. We might sense God’s call to this or that profession or...

[read more]

Bible: Were these men heroes?

Jun 5, 2017 by

How do we square the God revealed in Jesus with the stories of Samson and Jephthah, which barely reflect any understanding of a God of love and grace for all people? Jephthah is known more for an impulsive vow...

[read more]

Bible: The weak made mighty

May 22, 2017 by

My wife, Gloria, tells about the time her mother used the story of Jael, Sisera and the fatal tent peg for the children’s story in church. Parents were aghast, but she just said, “It’s in the...

[read more]

Bible: Enough love to go around

May 8, 2017 by

Perhaps we should start with enemies. Who is our fiercest enemy? A neighbor? Relative? Boss? Past or current president? Another nation? We really can’t understand the story of Jonah unless we reckon with the...

[read more]

Bible: Mercy wider than we imagine

Apr 24, 2017 by

It’s worth reading the Book of Jonah in one sitting. It won’t take more than five minutes. Getting the details freshly in mind as well as the entire scope of the story can make an old, familiar tale come...

[read more]

Bible: How can we keep from singing?

Apr 10, 2017 by

“Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus,” the speaker said. “Nothing at all. Not anything we do — or anything we don’t do.” I pushed the rewind button and played the recording...

[read more]

Bible: Songs of miraculous love

Mar 27, 2017 by

Of all the musical settings of Psalm 23 that I enjoy, the tune and text that resonate most deeply for me is “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” (No. 589 in Hymnal: A Worship Book). The text, set to an early...

[read more]

Bible: Coming home, where God dwells

Mar 13, 2017 by

Few things are as satisfying as returning home after a long trip. Though I enjoy the exhilaration of travel, I’m usually glad when it’s time to unpack my suitcase and inhabit my own space again. I savor...

[read more]

Bible: Love that can’t be stopped

Feb 27, 2017 by

If our texts from 1 John and Ephesians were the only scriptures available to us, we would have everything we need for a vital spiritual life. John’s letter affirms the deepest conviction of our faith: that...

[read more]

Bible: Freedom that demands more than law

Feb 13, 2017 by

In our previous lessons, Lawyer Paul presented his case in a courtroom against the position that male Gentiles must be circumcised in order to join male Jews as full members of the New Community in Christ....

[read more]