Of David, twigs, and seeds — a lesson about the Kingdom of God

(A Lection Reflection on 1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13, Ezekiel 17:22-24, and Mark 4:26-34)

I love the Onion. So, when they put out a faux compilation of their work across the 20th century entitled “Our Dumb Century,” I had to have a copy.

On the last page, there is a news story entitled “All Corporations Merge Into Omnicorp.” It makes you laugh (ruefully) because you know that becoming bigger and more powerful through merger is a common tactic in business. Why do companies do this? Because size=might and might=right. It’s self-evident in our world: if you’re big, it’s because you’re the best, and therefore you should be in charge.

I can hear some readers now, saying “I don’t think that way.” No? Who gets asked to speak at your meetings? Who does workshops on successful church work? Who gets written up in magazines? The pastors and staff of the mega-churches, right?

Note that I’m not saying that big=bad, or that growth and success cannot be trusted. Instead, I’m just pointing out the central truth of our lections this week: Continue reading

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Are Christians Crazy? (Mark 3)

(a Lection Reflection on Mark 3 and 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1)

Yes, that’s a provocative title — as in, for most people it provokes an immediate response. Based on recent incidents reported in the media, the response “hell yes” certainly might be appropriate. Nary a week goes by that I don’t hear or read something said or done by someone calling themselves “Christian” that doesn’t elicit a silent SMH from me.

If you look beyond the easily-found inanities of some of our fellow humans, though, I think there is a deeper point here, and it is this:

If “being crazy” means seeing things that aren’t there, then people of faith are called to be “crazy.” Continue reading

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Morning Pages Work for Bloggers Too

When I decided to get more serious about my writing, I went looking for books on writing to get me started. I checked various sites and lists to see what books came recommended as a “basic library for writers.” And one that seemed to be on everyone’s list was The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. (Book info here)

If you’ve read her work, you know that one thing Julia swears by is “morning pages” — three pages of hand-written work, first thing in the morning, on any topic you choose. It can be personal reflections, it can be some sort of character sketch, it can be poetry or ranting or line after line of “la la la I can’t think of anything to write la la la.”

Julia’s point is that by forcing yourself to do morning pages, first thing in your day, you prime the pump, so to speak, and get the creative juices flowing. The quality isn’t important — it’s the act of writing that breaks the log-jam of creativity and frees you up for your “real” writing later in the day.

I started doing morning pages, and lo and behold, she was right! When I was disciplined about doing my morning pages, I not only had more to say in my other writing, I also had more desire, more urge to write. It was a feedback loop that worked, and worked well.

Some of you reading this may be bloggers like me, and you may be thinking “I’m not a ‘serious’ writer like that, so I don’t need to do morning pages. That’s for the Camerons and Pressfields and Kings of the world.”

Guess what — you’re wrong. Continue reading

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The Process of Being Born-ed (John 3)

(a Lection Reflection on John 3)

My wife and I have two grown sons. We have experienced many special, wondrous moments with each of them. I have to say, though, that one of the most amazing moments I have ever experienced was the moment when each of them was born. Words like life-filled, miracle, connection, extra-alive, and heart-burst all come to mind — but none are adequate to fully capture the moment.

And yet … Continue reading

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Dry Bones, Dry Drunks, Dry Churches, and Hope — a Pentecost Reflection

(A Lection Reflection on Ezekiel 37: 1-14)

This week’s Old Testament lection is one of my favorites. The symbolism is powerful, the message of resurrection even more so. But, in the midst of the word of hope, there is also a warning — a warning that can apply to individuals and to churches. Let’s take a look. Continue reading

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Cynics, Scoffers, Despair, and Me (Psalm 1)

I am, by nature, a Pollyanna. I tend to look on the bright side, to see the good in everyone, to be Up most of the time. On the Enneagram, I am a Seven, which means life to me is just one big PB&J, to be enjoyed even as you get grape jelly on your face and on your new shirt.

There are times, though, where it all gets to be too much. Where too many bad things happen to too many good people. Where Teh Stupid and Teh Mean seem to be taking over the world, and not only is Christ’s Great Kingdom not coming on earth, it is not even showing up to play. And that’s when it is easy for me to move from puppy dogs and rainbows right to a full plate of Despair, with a bowl of Cynicism for dessert. Continue reading

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We’re Only Loved If We Obey? (John 15)

(A Lection Reflection on John 15:9-13)

At first glance, this week’s lection looks less like the reassuring Jesus of the Farewell Discourse, and more like the “right strawy epistle” of James. Lots of “ifs” here: IF you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; IF you do what I command you, you are my friends. Hmm.

I think, though, that we are both less on the hook, and more on the hook, than it appears at first glance.

Continue reading

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I John 3:18 — Act or Career?

(a Lection Reflection on I John 3:18)

If you’ve read some of my Lection Reflections, you know I like word studies. Digging around in the Greek can sometimes give a nuance that we would otherwise miss. This week’s Reflection is going to be short, because the point is short. Let’s see if it’s meaningful as well.

Continue reading

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The Right and The Wrong Way to Deny Yourself

(A Lection Reflection on Mark 8:34)

Since forever, humankind has been trying to propitiate an angry god. From sacrificing virgins, to self-flagellation, to whatever gift of obligation we can think up, we keep approaching the spiritual world as something to be paid off with a bribe. Then, once we think we’ve paid this week’s protection money, we ignore the divine and move on to something else more pleasant … until the next time the Godfather demands a pound of flesh.

Both of these approaches — the payoff and the ignoring — are wrong. And yet, when many people read this week’s Gospel reading, all they can see is another angry god, telling me that the only way to approach this god is to practice asceticism — oh, and do it for the rest of your life.

Here’s the deal: I think many Christians have the “deny yourself” thing all wrong. AND, I think they are missing the rest of the formula, because we never talk about it.

So let’s talk about it.

Continue reading

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Stop Repenting and Start Changing!

(a Lection Reflection on Mark 1:15)

It’s just too easy, really. All I have to do is ask you to tell me the first picture that comes to your mind when I give you a word, and I bet many of you will come up with the same picture. Here’s the word: Continue reading

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