Exalting and Exulting in the Cross

1 Cor 1:18-25; Gal 6:11-18, Col 1:19-20; Numbers 21:4-9, Exodus 15:22-26; Proverbs 3:11-18 And so we come to one of the oldest feasts in our church year, all but forgotten by most Protestants today.  No doubt this is because it focusses upon a holy object, the elevated Holy Cross, and the Reformation cast doubt on the use of such things in worship, focusing upon God’s connection with the spiritual, rather than the…

Traditions of First Importance: Twelfth Sunday of Matthew/after Pentecost

1 Cor 15:1-11; Daniel 12; Genesis 49; Exodus 1; Ezekiel 47-48. This week I had a spirited interchange with a former student and dear friend who reposted a meme that declared, “Religious tradition produces bondage; the Holy Spirit produces liberty.”  At one of my not-so-tactful moments, I responded that this was “Balderdash!”  Good thing that he and I have a long history, and love each other! Orthodox, of course, would be startled…

An Unseemly Spectacle?: Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Corinthians 4:6-19; Job; Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Phil. 2:5-11. Sixteen-year-old Bram Bowman stands in formation along with other inmates in the courtyard of a dystopian labor camp. Dirty, damaged, and near despair, he, with the others, is being inspected by the pampered governor and his wife. The governor comments unempathetically, “Well, this is depressing!” But we viewers applaud the young man in his ugly environment. We know that Bram is brave and principled,…

Speaking the Same Thing! The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Cor 1:10-18; 2 Chronicles 30, Colossians 1 We are surrounded on all sides by a culture that values diversity, novelty, and variety.  Even the dog owners on my FB page talk about the importance of not “boring” your pup with the same food every day!  I remember when we first moved to Pittsburgh 18 years ago, being struck by a beer add with about 8 different beers in identical steins, so…

“You First!”: The Sunday of the Ecumenical Council(s)

Titus 3:8-15; Romans 12:6-14; Numbers 12:3; Isaiah 66:2; Proverbs 25:27 “You first!” “No, you first!” “No, I insist, you first” “No, indeed, you!”  A crash ensues, as each obeys the other. We’ve seen this scenario in jokes, books, and comedies. And, like most humor, it has a foundation in reality.  Both can’t go first.  Similarly, those of us who are of a critical mindset might be distracted by our pre-communion prayer, recited…

On Slaves, Fruit and Freedom: The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Romans 6:18-23, Galatians 5:22-26; 6:1-2; Genesis 22; Leviticus 26:12-18. We come to a place in the Church year in which Orthodox jurisdictions following the same calendar diverge in their epistle readings, though not the gospel readings.  In the gospel for this Sunday, the fourth after Pentecost, we are heartened by Jesus’ encounter with a Gentile centurion who, though not a formal member of God’s family, exhibited faith: Jesus marvels at his spiritual…

A Promise is a Promise?: The Sunday of All Saints

Heb 11:33-12:2; Job 1 and 42; Ex 20:12; Deut 6:3; Ps 119:50; Lk 1: 7 and 24:49 The end of the passage in Hebrews concerning the cloud of witnesses is so important that we read it liturgically several times a year—we hear it both as we begin Lent, and as we cap Pascha and Pentecost on All Saints.  Let us listen yet again to Hebrews 11:33-12:2: [Let us remember those] who through…