Wild Lectionary: The Desert Shall Rejoice and Blossom

crocuses

Springtime by Alex Kladnik, Creative Commons

Seeking the True Joy of Advent

Advent 3

Isaiah 35:1-10
Matthew 11: 2-11

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?”                                                                       Matt 11:7

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus, it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.
Isa 35:1-2

by Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Amid the shadowed darkness of impending winter, our Advent lection from Isaiah envisions springtime joy. We might at first wonder, “What does Isaiah’s imagery have to do with the celebration of the birth of Jesus?” This questions leads to another query: What exactly are we hoping for with the coming of the one we call “messiah” and “lord”? Or as John the Baptist puts it in this week’s gospel, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matt 11:3) Continue reading

Have Mercy on Us!

lepersBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

*NOTE: this piece was originally posted to Radical Discipleship in October 2016.

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

Wild Lectionary: For What Do We Give Thanks?

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Make a joyful noise Laurel Dykstra

Proper 23(28) C

Luke 17:8-11
Psalm 66:1-12

He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. (Luke 16.16)

The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18.11)

By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Gratitude is a hot topic these days. Along with “mindfulness,” “self-care,” and other practices frequently promoted in books, apps and videos, gratitude has been “discovered” by people longing for relief from the anxieties and confusions of corporate capitalist culture and its desecration of life. But this week’s Gospel calls us to consider: for what, exactly, are we grateful?

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The Way Costs Exactly Everything

BabelBy Wes Howard-Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson (on Luke 14:25-33)

*Note: this piece was originally posted to Radical Discipleship during the summer of 2016.

It is no mystery who Luke’s audience is in this week’s Gospel (14.25-33): “For which of you, intending to build a tower (Gk, purgon)…” (14.28). Clearly, this is not a building plan envisioned by landless peasants, lepers and other poor and marginalized people. Luke is speaking here to the young elite of the Roman Empire, seeking to instill in them the cost of rejecting their imperial formation and choosing Jesus’ Way of discipleship. Continue reading

Jesus of Nazareth, Arsonist

FireBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson, on this Sunday’s Gospel text (Luke 12:49-56)

*Note: this piece was originally posted on RadicalDiscipleship.net during the summer of 2016.

Jesus, erstwhile proclaimer of peace and love, hopes for fire and anticipates division within households. Was the Lord having a bad day on the Way to Jerusalem in this Sunday’s Gospel? How can we reconcile his word in this week’s lectionary text (Luke 12.49-56) with what we hear in the rest of Luke’s Gospel? Continue reading

Stay Awake

St LukeBy Wes Howard-Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson, on this week’s lectionary Gospel passage (Luke 12:32-40)

*Originally posted in August 2016.

In the soporific summertime, it is easy enough to lie back, close one’s eyes, and fall into a tranquil sleep. Indeed, many of us could use more sleep, driven as we often are by the exigencies of empire into never-ending task mode. Perhaps ironically, getting more sleep could help prepare us for Jesus’ word to us this Sunday: stay awake (12.32-40)!

The church cycle offers us Lent and Advent as seasonal opportunities to practice anti-imperial wakefulness. With school out, though, the church year seems to take a break from the call to faithful vigilance. But the lectionary surprises us this week, just as Jesus’ message within the text from Luke gives us images of surprising arrivals. Perhaps equally surprisingly, a close listen to our Gospel text invites us to hear precisely what we are called to stay awake against: the lure of the exploitative, anxiety-ridden, imperial economy. At the same time, we are called to stay awake for the opportunity to be servants to one another and all creation. Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: “I do not delight in the blood of bulls!”- God’s Invitation to Participate in Prophetic, Poetic Proclamation

flock of geeseBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Proper 14 (9) C

Solomon offered as sacrifices of well-being to the LORD twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD.
—1 Kings 8.63

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me.
—Isaiah 1.11-13

I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds.
For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?”
—Psalm 50.9-13

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