It’s hard for us to imagine the working-class tenements in the Roman cities where Paul planted his churches. People literally lived on top of each other in small one-room apartments and worked together in the shops below. They had migrated there from all over the empire—pushed out of their former villages because of the Roman practice of consolidating rural land into large estates. Paul’s message and the creation of caring and sharing churches that gathered weekly around a common meal was indeed good news to these people.

Called by God

August 19, 2018
Paul was about ten years younger than Jesus, but they came from quite different social contexts. Jesus was from the village of Nazareth and spent most of his life in Galilee. Paul was born in the city of Tarsus and was most at home in the cities of the Roman Empire. Both were passionately Jewish. The young Paul was a zealot who persecuted followers of Jesus because he believed they were a threat to Judaism. This was turned on its head when Paul met the risen Christ on the Damascus road and he received the call to be an apostle to the gentiles.

Who is the Real Paul?

August 12, 2018
This the first of a series of sermons on Paul who has been a controversial figure throughout church history. This is partially because of the radical way that he used the transformative way of Jesus to plant churches among the gentiles and his insistence that there can be no distinction between Jews and gentiles in his churches. Other things such as the teaching that women are to remain silent and that slaves are to obey their masters, were by later authors writing in Paul’s name. A central question therefore is, “Who is the real Paul?”

One and Many

July 15, 2018
What does being one body with many diverse members look like in our church? I recently participated in a meeting between clergy and Fairfax County school administrators on collaborating in their One Fairfax endeavor to promote equity for all residents. We will certainly want to support and even learn from that effort. Our schools have more experience in this than most churches. Loving and caring for each other is the mark of Christian faith.

Call to Travel Light

July 8, 2018
How do we respond to Jesus’ instructions to travel light with “a walking stick, no bread, no backpack, no cash, no change of clothes”? When I lived in India, I often met Hindu sadhus who traveled like that. Their only possessions were a walking stick, a water jar, an alms bowl, prayer beads, and perhaps an extra cloth to wrap around their body. I admit that I’m a bumbling disciple who has a hard time unloading stuff but am nevertheless drawn to the call to travel light—to simplify my life and to completely trust God.

Outsiders are In

July 1, 2018
How do we, as followers of Jesus, respond to our government’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy?  The lesson from Jesus’ parable of the great feast is that there are no reserved tables for honored insiders at the messianic banquet. Insiders who send their regrets are out and outsiders are in. Before relating that to the immigration policies of nation-states, we will want to take a hard look at the welcome mat of our churches. Do we actually welcome everyone? While our government cannot imagine the kind of radical welcome that Jesus proposes, we can at least insist that we follow the rule of law and show compassion by not separating children from parents when families that cross our borders seeking asylum.

Atonement Theology 101

June 17, 2018
Summary: Like me, many get a little queasy with some of the bloody atonement language in our Christian hymns and liturgies. It fails to communicate but, even worse, it can…

Sabbath Justice

June 10, 2018
Summary: The issue underlying Jesus’ dispute with the Pharisees regarding Sabbath laws is similar to the controversy over American immigration laws today. Laws that are supposed to protect and provide…
Summary: Nicodemus is an enigma. Is he a spiritual seeker or a spy sent by the religious leaders to see what he could find out? We don’t know. It’s telling…

Interpreting the Bible

May 13, 2018
Summary: How do we reconcile violence in the Bible with our commitment to the Bible as our authority for life and faith? Part of the answer is the recognition that,…