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 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

Continue reading

Hospitality and the People of God

Emma LazarusBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson, for this weekend’s lectionary Gospel story (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)

*Originally posted on RadicalDiscipleship.Net on June 30, 2016.

For Jesus followers in the US, this week’s Gospel offers a powerful counter-narrative to the flag-waving patriotism of the 4th of July. Nearly every detail challenges those of us who live and thrive at the heart of empire to reconsider which “sacred story” binds us together as a people. Continue reading

All In

Jesus JerusalemBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson, on this week’s Gospel passage (Luke 9:51-62)

*Originally posted June 2016 on

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

This week’s Gospel offers some of the most challenging, urgently needed by us today messages found in Luke’s Gospel. It is a companion with next week’s Gospel, which directly follows this week’s passage. We will address them as a two-part unit in this and our next commentary. Continue reading

A Scandalous Shock to the System

CenturionBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson, on this Sunday’s Gospel text (Luke 7:1-10)

*Originally posted on May 27, 2016.

All the dynamics of this week’s passage from Luke’s Gospel are “wrong.” For instance, how are we to imagine Jewish elders in Capernaum speaking on behalf of a Roman centurion? Further, they paint him as the primary patron of their synagogue. And not only this, but the centurion sends the elders to Jesus, at this point in Luke’s narrative, an itinerant preacher and healer with no official authority at all. Finally, Jesus praises the centurion for having a faith that Jesus has not found among the people of Israel. What could be going on here? Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Pentecost

20190221_073837Pentecost, Year C
Acts 2

By Wes Howard Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young people shall see visions, and your old people shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2.17)

Late this past winter, we had to remove a big, old spruce tree from the south side of our little house here in the Issaquah Creek watershed. The City had replaced a sewer line adjacent to our house a few years earlier, and it had severed a major root of the tree. We knew it was only a matter of time for that old spruce. It finally gave up and down it came to protect our house from the risk of it falling on the roof. Continue reading