by Remy Remmers
Content Warning: talk of abuse/domestic violence
Inclusion is a divisive issue. We have seen the impacts of this in church life recently. Who should be included to what level should some people be included? Are they righteous enough? Did they deserve it. Did they work hard enough for it? Jesus not only included sinners, but shared meals with them. Lived in community with them. Naturally this caused some grumbles. Some “well-meaning” comments to make sure Jesus knew exactly who he was associating with (and who he should be associating with). Jesus, instead of handling their criticism head on in a calm matter to bring them to the “proper” conclusion, tells a passive aggressive parable in response.
Now I’m going to read this parable in a different way than you’re used to. Prepare yourselves. It’s going to get queer:
by Elle Dowd
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
The prophet Isaiah asks this in verse 2 of our lectionary reading for Lent 3. Isaiah could just as well have written these words today. In our current context of Late Stage Capitalism in the United States, we have been sold a false narrative time and time again. This narrative tells us that our worth is in what we produce. That we must grind, hustle, work ourselves to death. That any moment we rest or take time for ourselves or our relationships is a waste of productivity, and we should feel guilty about it. And when we begin to feel that guilt or we begin to feel unease at our lack of fulfilment, Capitalism is there to cure what ails us by writing a prescription that says, “CONSUME.” If we just work longer hours on less sleep, we can earn that bigger bank account or smaller body and FINALLY be happy. Capitalism creates a structure of overwork that makes us miserable, and then swindles us by telling us the way to cure our misery is to buy our way out of it.
by Rev. Carolina Glauster
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus,]“Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
Does it surprise you to hear that God has feelings? Not just feelings, but many feelings, and all at once. Feelings including some we sometimes think of as “negative” emotions. How does it make you feel to hear in this week's gospel the words of a Jesus who feels anger and sadness and longing, who is stubborn and discouraged and tender and determined?
by Rev. Elizabeth Rawlings
Deut 26 1-11: Gratitude. Recognition of where you got things
Luke 4: facing the parts of yourself that call you away from who you really are
After my now ex-husband left me, I fell into pieces (as one does when their life falls apart swiftly without warning). However, I was a few days away from my approval interview (the final step in the candidacy process in the ELCA) and a month away from finishing my internship. I would soon be searching for a call and was anticipating becoming an ordained minister, the culmination of around 15 years of work, wandering, struggling and waiting. Years ago, while in my second year of seminary, my father died and that falling apart led me to leave the candidacy process and seminary altogether. I could not, I would not, let that happen again.
by Pastor Allison Johnson
Genesis 45:3-11, 15
I am troubled by this text and the Gospel this week. There are a lot of power dynamics at play.
From early on Joseph was hated by his brothers (Genesis 37:4) because he was his father’s
favorite. He was even given a fancy, special coat simply for being the favorite. Then Joseph has
two dreams, where in one Joseph’s bundles of wheat stood higher than his brother’s. In the
second dream the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. Eleven matters because of
Joseph’s eleven brothers. The significance was not lost on the brothers or on Joseph’s father.
by Rev. Elizabeth Rawlings
'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’
I live in the greater Seattle area, at the top of a hill. Every night, on the way home, traffic before the exit to my neighborhood traffic slows to 10-25 miles per hour below the speed limit. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why. It’s because of the hill. It slows everything down. No matter how many times everyone has been on that stretch of highway, no one seems to remember that you need to push down a little more on the gas pedal in order to keep the same speed. The hill just makes the going a little more difficult. When it snows, forget about it. My neighborhood is impassable. The hills turn from obstacles that slow things down to monoliths that bring the world to a halt. I’ve been stuck in snow before where four inches of snow made the roads so bad I had to park my car and go home (for some video of what it is like to drive in Seattle in a couple inches of show, check this out. It’s no joke).
I grew up in suburban Cleveland. There’s this curve on the East Side that, when initially built, wasn’t graded. It seemed like every morning growing up, the voice on the classical music station (shout out to WCLV!) told us there was either a severe backup or a bad accident on the aptly-named Dead Man’s Curve.
Every place I have ever lived from Cleveland to the mountains of western North Carolina to Chicago to Seattle has had potholes. The joys of having to navigate my way around roads that appear to be the victims of asphalt devouring groundhogs never seems to end.
Curves, hills, valleys, rough roads… these are all obstacles to us getting to our destinations. John, through the words of the prophet Isaiah, calls out that the way to prepare for the Lord is to flatten, straighten, and smooth and *then* the flesh shall see the salvation of God.
For some, this reads as a call to get yourself together. To make yourself perfect inside and out, smooth your rough edges (for some this call to straighten may get way to literal). This is how we are saved, this is how we prepare for the Lord. Get right with God that God might save all flesh.
But our rough spots aren’t obstacles between us and God (for the most part), and my personal rough spots certainly aren’t obstacles between all flesh and God. I’m not that powerful. Neither are you. My theological knowledge tells me this is wrong, and my pastoral experience tells me this is harmful. To continue to spread the message that one must be perfect to be acceptable in God’s eyes leaves them in the shadows. To add on to that the idea that one person’s lack of perfection could keep all flesh from salvation is too much weight to bear. I have watched people struggle to get out from the large shadows cast by this theology and into the illumination of God’s love. It ain’t easy. And many give up on God before they ever work their way into the brightness of the knowledge of God’s grace and love.
by Dr. Mika Ahuvia
Everyone remakes the apostle Paul in their own image and I, as a scholar of classical Judaism, am no different. Paul describes himself as a “Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). By his own account, Paul was devoted to the life of the Torah, with the interpretation of his forefathers, the Pharisees, making sense of biblical complexities.
by Elle Dowd
Note: This post was updated to correct the link to the Jeremy Bearimy video. Our apologies for that mistake.
Christ the King Sunday, sometimes known as Reign of Christ Sunday, is a relatively recent holy day in the church calendar, established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the increasing threat of the rise of fascism. Authoritarian leaders of fascist regimes were being lifted up as all powerful demigods, and the Roman Catholic Church created this holy day in an attempt to reclaim power for the church as opposed to the secular nation-state. Unfortunately, a Christian message of anti-fascism and anti-nationalism continues to be more and more relevant as fascist leaders gain power in many countries around the world. There are government officials within our own country with documented ties to White Nationalist Groups, the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes continue to rise, and President Trump proudly says, “I am a nationalist.”
by Pr. Elizabeth Rawlings
Ruth and Boaz:
A few years ago, I had a student ask me about the story of Ruth and Boaz relating to the story of Cinderella. Was this the perfect match, they asked? Is this how we should do it?
I was taken aback. It had been a while since I had read Ruth and I wasn’t sure if I was remembering incorrectly. After re-reading Ruth, I asked her where that question came from. It turns out that in more evangelical circles, Ruth and Boaz are frequently lifted up as the ultimate relationship. Women are instructed to wait for their Boaz as Ruth did. This is supposed to imply both that women should wait patiently for a suitor and that they should find a man who will protect them and treat them well. Which, well, is not how I read Ruth at all.
by Pr. Jason Chesnut
1. This commentary was written before news broke of the tragedy at Tree Of Life Synagogue and was updated to address that tragedy.
2. This post has been updated as the last five paragraphs were missing when originally published.