Wild Lectionary: We Despised the Pleasant Land

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Fort McMurray Alberta Tar Sands, Kris Krüg CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Proper 23(28)
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 106

By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

When you tell the story of your, your family’s, or your community’s journey, what role does the land and its nonhuman creatures play?

Central to God’s promise to ancient Israel was a land to call their own, both as a people and as local families. In this week’s reading, Psalm 106 presents one of several biblical summaries of Israel’s relationship with YHWH, the land and its peoples. It is framed by “praise YHWH,” although the core of the psalm laments the people’s constant disobedience and forgetfulness. Throughout the psalm, the land is close at hand, beginning with deliverance from Egypt via the Red Sea, and continuing into the wilderness struggles. Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Joseph—God’s Agent or Agent of Empire?

Field Egypt Farmer PeopleEleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 15(20)

“God has made me lord of all Egypt…” Joseph, son of Jacob (Gen 45.9)

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” Paul of Tarsus (Rom 8.19)

By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

A decade or so ago, we spent two years of our monthly Saturday teaching/retreat series with the book of Genesis. Folks eagerly engaged Genesis’ anti-city perspective and its all-too-human characters. But when we got to the Joseph story, several rebelled angrily against our starting characterization of Joseph, son of Jacob, as a self-absorbed, manipulative power seeker, who “succeeded” by teaching Pharaoh how to manage famine for personal profit. What is it about Joseph that leads so many to want to see him as a heroic expression of faith? Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Beware the Cataclysm!

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Photo by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson, Abide in Me

For readers of Wild Lectionary, there is hardly a Scripture passage more fitting than Genesis’ account of the Flood. The powerful, terrifying narrative is often reduced to a kids’ story, replete as it is with “cute” animals in the Ark. But, of course, beneath the surface is a story of divine near-omnicide, revealing a deep rift between the Creator’s vision and humanity’s response to God’s gift of the earth. In combination with the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7.21-28), this week’s texts offer a sobering reminder of the cost of human violence to the earth and its creatures, including sapiens. Continue reading

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