Wild Lectionary: Jesus seeds, sprout!

4472671089_c4d4169f44_b.jpgEaster Sunday
By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Night and day, woman and man, soil and sky, humanity and God: all these primal pairs are present in this week’s proclamation of the Uprising of Jesus. Each pair echoes an element of the first chapters of Genesis, the foundational narrative of the “religion of creation” upon which John’s gospel is grounded. These connections help us to hear that the hope of Easter is not in an invisible part of one’s self (“the soul”) leaving earth for somewhere else, but in the power of the Creator God to continue to bring forth life from the earth, despite the murderous ways of empire. Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Love Flows Like a River

The Third Sunday in Lent
John 4

By Sue Ferguson Johnson and Wes Howard-Brook

John 4 is like a kaleidoscope. From one angle, it is a story about Jesus’ gender-inclusive invitation to dis-cipleship. Turn it slightly and you can see Jesus seeking to heal a hostile history between Samaritans and Judeans. From yet another angle, it speaks to the question of authentic worship. Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: The Very Edges of Your Field

wheat.jpgSeventh Sunday After the Epiphany

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am YHWH, your God.” (Lev 19.9-10)

By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

More than any other biblical text, the book of Leviticus claims to express the direct voice of YHWH. Of the 160 uses of the phrase, “I am YHWH” in the Hebrew Bible, 49 uses are in Leviticus. And yet, the book may be among the least respected or understood scriptural texts. It is to this very chapter in Leviticus that Jesus turns when asked about the greatest commandments. Just a few verses down from the quote above we find: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Lev 19.18; cf. Mk 12.31). Indeed, not only Jesus, but also Paul and James—made into opponents of each other in the post-Reformation culture wars—cite Lev 19.9 as central to discipleship (Rom 13.9; Gal 5.14; James 2.8). Continue reading

Confronting Empire with the Word

swordBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7.13-14)

The final Sunday of the church year celebrates the feast of Christ the King. It is at once a redundant and a confounding claim: Greek christos translates Hebrew meshiyah, meaning “anointed,” marking a person as a king (or priest, in some Jewish traditions). That is, the very label “Christ” for Jesus suggests royal authority. Yet many today reject the image and language of “kingdom” in relation to the nonviolent Jesus, preferring the wordplay, “kindom.” While we certainly embrace the image of the discipleship community as one, big family of faith, we believe that something crucial to who Jesus is—and who we are as radical disciples—is lost when we abandon the notion of God’s “kingdom.” Continue reading

Resurrection: The Hope That Vindicates God’s Justice

romeroBy Wes Howard-Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson

There is nothing more radical than resurrection.

From the time Daniel 12 apocalyptically announced that God raises the dead, the intellectual elite in Judea rejected it. Sophisticated skeptics have always scoffed at the notion that life extends beyond the bounds of death, because such a belief threatens to undermine the status quo from which they benefit. Consider, for example, this from Ecclesiastes, a text likely written before Daniel:

The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun. (Eccles 9.5-6)

Continue reading

Praying Ourselves Down From Our Privileged Perch

prayerBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Prayer is central to Luke’s Gospel. The opening scene has the assembly of the people in Jerusalem praying while Zechariah is doing his priestly duty (1.10). The adult Jesus’s first appearance in the gospel is while he is praying (3.21). Luke regularly shows us Jesus at prayer as he discerns the Way (5.16; 6.12; 9.18; 9.28-29). Continue reading

Have Mercy on Us!

lepersBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

The final leg of the journey to Jerusalem begins with this week’s gospel (Lk 17.11-19). Alert readers, though, will note that Jesus and the disciples have not gotten very far. At the very beginning, Luke tells us that “they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him” (9.52). Now, eight chapters later, Luke says, “On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the midst (Gk, dia meson, misleadingly translated by NRSV as “between”) of Samaria and Galilee.” Like the Israelites in the wilderness, they seem to be going in circles in the land north of Judea. Perhaps this is a sly reference to the disciples, like their Israelite ancestors, lacking the faith that the journey they are on will lead to the place of God’s abundant provision. Indeed, as we heard last week, the disciples had just demanded of Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (17.5). Continue reading