Today is an exciting day in the one hundred and seventy five year history of Grace Church. It is also a day tinged with just a little bit of sadness and regret. We are celebrating the success of our Giving Light Giving Hope capital campaign that has raised nearly a million dollars and laid the foundation for renovations to our spaces that will equip us to engage in mission and ministry in the coming decades of our rapidly changing world. Continue reading
September 16, 2012
Last week I mentioned the importance of geography in Mark’s gospel. We saw Jesus travel to Tyre, west of his customary stomping grounds in the Galilee. After his visit to Tyre, he traveled in a roundabout fashion, via Sidon, to the Decapolis (the ten cities) which lay east of the sea of Galilee. Again, it was Gentile territory. In today’s gospel, he is on the road again. Now he has moved north of Galilee to the region of Caesarea Philippi. It too was gentile territory, but more importantly perhaps, its name proclaims its significance. Continue reading
July 1, 2012
Last Sunday, we saw Jesus and his disciples crossing the lake from Jewish territory to Gentile territory. This week, he is back on the Jewish side of the lake and the two healings that take place are significant precisely because they involve Jews. Continue reading
June 24, 2012
I love a good thunderstorm. We haven’t had many this summer, but I enjoy watching and listening as a storm comes through, with thunder and lightning and a good hard rain. I’m not crazy. I’m not talking about the severe ones with threats of hail and tornadoes. Continue reading
This week’s readings.
Two familiar stories this week: David and Goliath and Jesus calming the storm. In spite of their familiarity, strange things lurk in them. In the story from Samuel, it is Goliath himself who is strange (Samuel Giere, on workingpreacher.org, links Goliath to those other strange beings, the Nephilim, mentioned in Genesis 6 and elsewhere in the Biblical tradition). His height and power frighten the Israelites but David saves the day.
The gospel story picks up where last week’s reading ended. After Jesus spends the day teaching the crowd (the series of parables recorded in Mark 3), Jesus tells his disciples that they will cross the lake. As they do so, a sudden storm comes up, threatening the boat, while Jesus sleeps peacefully. The disciples waken Jesus, he calms the storm, and they continue to the other side.
Mark’s telling of this story draws parallels to other stories in the gospel. He writes that Jesus “rebuked” the storm, suggestive language that calls to mind Jesus’ exorcisms. At several points in Mark, the disciples are said to be full of fear, and there remains a sense of fear, or at least awe, at the very end, when they ask, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
We may occasionally fear the sorts of things mentioned in these stories–an encounter with a much more powerful adversary, or an experience with a hurricane, tornado, or blizzard that makes us fear for our lives. But we also live with other fears, and sometimes they are much more profound, and more debilitating than the fear we experience from a storm. In the latter case, adrenaline rushes help to see us through.
But what about those other great fears–the fear of economic insecurity, unemployment, loneliness? David announced that his victory over Goliath would prove God’s power, and so it did. But who will announce to the world, or to us, that our faith in God can conquer our fears? Jesus said, “Peace, be still” as he calmed the storm. Those ought to be words of comfort to us as well, when our minds and hearts race as we fear for our lives, livelihoods, and futures.
June 17, 2012
Perception is reality. What you see is what you get. We’re used to it by now. There was a news story this week that another reality TV show is staged. We expect it from politicians and celebrities, from Hollywood. In the reading from II Corinthians Paul writes, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” But we see, I’ve got to see it to believe it. There’s even something of the contradiction in today’s reading from I Samuel. Conrad Bauman pointed it out to me this morning. When Jesse’s first son is presented to Samuel, Yahweh tells Samuel, “humans look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then when David comes before Samuel, we are told, “He was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.” Continue reading
April 7, 2012
A few days ago, I was walking on Capitol Square. It was a beautiful day, warm, sunny, the crabapples almost in bloom. I looked up and across the square and saw in front of me two familiar buildings—the State Capitol and next to it, the steeple of Grace Church. As I looked, I was reminded of the history of those two buildings, of their long presence next to each other, of the visions of their builders to create and shape a vision of a certain kind of society and polity. I thought, too, of their intertwined history, the men who in the nineteenth century wielded power in both places—Fairchilds, Vilases, et al. From a distance, both church and capitol look solid, secure, built for the ages. Continue reading