Category: The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: The story of Ananias and Sapphire, about two people who attempt to defraud the church in Jerusalem, raises a number of questions. It’s an extremely disturbing and problematic story, because their punishment (death) exceeds the severity of their misdeed. Why does Acts treat their fib as such a big deal? One reason is because their deceit reveals more than greed or financial duplicity; it shows a willful disdain for the community’s generosity and mutuality, a disdain able to wreck the fragile, new church. In the end, this isn’t a story about money and lies as much as a story about God’s intimate relationship with the church.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

(Portions of this article are adapted from a chapter in my book Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel: Encountering the Divine in the Book of Acts.)

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: It’s easy to expose and mock the lies behind the so-called prosperity gospel. The New Testament does not teach Christians to grow their faith by donating money with confidence that it will be repaid in greater wealth or improved health. But what, then, does the New Testament say about being generous with money and possessions? Why should we? One of the most interesting perspectives we find in the New Testament concerning wealth is in Acts 4:32-37, in which members of the early church sell their possessions and land and use the proceeds to support their whole community. It’s important to notice that this passage’s primary focus is on depicting the church as a community of unity and belonging. People give money to support and express that identity. Community and care for the neighbor come first.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

(Portions of this article are adapted from a chapter in my book Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel: Encountering the Divine in the Book of Acts.)

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: When the Gospel according to Luke describes Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs,” what does he mean? To answer this question, we need to know how people in Jesus’ culture regarded children. When we see that Jesus is celebrating and empowering children as some of the most invisible, inconsequential, and vulnerable people of his society, then we should go on to ask: How should we treat and assist vulnerable children in our society? Caring for children — especially endangered and exploited children — is indeed an important part of any church’s work, in any setting.

This article is part of a Bible study exploring the church’s response to youth homelessness and was produced by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. The entire five-part Bible study was written by five different professors from Luther Seminary and is available here.

 

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: Maundy Thursday falls during Holy Week and is the day prior to the Christian observance of Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ execution. When the biblical Gospels recount the night before Jesus’ death, they describe Jesus’ final meal with his followers (the Last Supper appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and a scene in which he washes their feet (in John). What are Christians remembering when they observe Maundy Thursday? In the biblical texts that talk about Jesus’ last night before his crucifixion, he gives himself away to his followers.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: Pentecost, which falls on the fiftieth and final day of the Easter season, is the day when Christians celebrate the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. The story of Pentecost, as related in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, tells of the Holy Spirit coming to fill and inspire Jesus’ followers. This Spirit makes the community of Jesus’ followers a community of prophets, people who dare to describe what God makes possible for the world.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: During Holy Week, when Christians commemorate the final events of Jesus’ life, they usually read and hear the biblical accounts of Jesus’ appearance before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate held the power to decide Jesus’ fate. As the Gospels tell the story, Pilate does not express sympathy or apathy toward Jesus. How he deals with his helpless prisoner reflects a commitment to mocking Jesus’ identity as a purported king, to disgracing Jesus, and to reasserting Roman authority over the Jewish people.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

Bible commentary: general audience The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: Why does the New Testament have so much to say about Jesus returning again? How does the New Testament speak about this promise? Should Christians still expect Jesus to show up one day? This post offers my thoughts on these provocative questions.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

 

Bible commentary: general audience Christianity and culture The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: Advent stumbles into sentimentalism when it leads us to romanticize winter and pretty little white lights. Rather, in waiting for Jesus, we proclaim that God will drive away the night and the falsehoods enveloping our world—once and for all. The posture of Advent is a posture of protest.

Read the full article on Working Preacher.

Christianity and culture The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: I wrote this piece soon after the launch of the website Working Preacher. It introduces the website and offers advice for how a time-strapped preacher might stay abreast of resources that assist us in interpreting the Bible.

Read the full article on Working Preacher.

The Bible and Christian practices

Summary: I wrote this piece soon after the launch of the website Working Preacher; it aims to help preachers think about how they craft sermons. The Revised Common Lectionary assigns four different texts to be read in church each Sunday. That’s nice, but I worry about sermons that try to cover too much ground and lead their congregations into more than one text on any given Sunday. I encourage preachers to dwell deeply in a single biblical passage. This makes for better preaching, and it helps churchgoers gain a better understanding of the Bible and its contents.

Read the full article on Working Preacher.

The Bible and Christian practices