This isn’t a list of every article I’ve published, Rather, the “articles” described below are the pieces I’ve written for various websites that are freely accessible. This list includes a summary of each article and a link to where you can find it on the Web. Further below, at the bottom of the page, you can find tags and categories to help you browse and sort.
Summary: The Parable of the Sower (or Parable of the Soils) is simple enough, as a story about planting, growth, and yield goes. But the way the Gospels present it to us quickly reveals itself to be disturbing. Those who interpret the parable without consulting Matthew 13:10-17, the verses in which Jesus implies that his parables keep the truth hidden from many, miss the point. This is a parable that underscores the difficulty of the good news taking root in the world. It is a parable that asks us to consider the rest of the Gospel story if we are going to be able to consider difficult and unnerving questions about the goodness of God and the problem of resistant hearts. Fortunately, most preachers are well equipped and situated to venture into difficult places.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: When Jesus, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, assures his followers that he will be with them always, he does not promise that he will be always offering them comfort or always present “for” them or endorsing their agendas. We might read it, instead, as another of his statements about his solidarity with people, especially the oppressed and ignored. Trinitarian theology stems from a related conviction: in various ways, God shows up and becomes manifest in our experiences and our encounters with others. We encounter the Trinitarian God not through transcendental escapism but in, among, and always for the sake of human bodies. That is a vital truth for churches that need to remember and then repent of their role in overt and covert systemic racism. Together we can discover Jesus dwelling among our neighbors and affirming life–their lives.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 28:16-20 for Trinity Sunday. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: The story that Luke tells about the risen Christ becoming known to Cleopas and his partner at a dinner table in Emmaus makes a statement about the power of community and shared spaces. That statement is painful to hear, however, during an Easter when the Covid-19 pandemic has taken so much community and interpersonal interaction away from us. But Easter does not mean that we cannot lament the things we have lost and the things for which we long. The good news in this story isn’t simply that Jesus becomes recognized when he shares hospitality with friends; it’s also residing in the fact that he journeys alongside them, without being recognized, while they pour out their disappointment.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Luke 24:13-35. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: When people ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” his answer rejects the premises of the question. He would rather talk about what it means to see “the works of God” become manifest among us. Jesus’ move in John 9 provides an insight for preachers who are facing enormous challenges as they figure out how to do ministry in the midst of a pandemic and all the public-health controls that have been put into place: focus less on the “why?” and “how?” questions and instead think creatively about how to point people toward the works of God in our midst. Christian faith refuses to be bound by prevailing assumptions about how things “must” be done but instead sees signs of God’s presence and transformations in seemingly desolate conditions. Christian faith knows how to find creative ways to love and serve others in the midst of adversity. Indeed, Christian faith came into being in precisely that kind of a context.
Summary: Jesus’ declarations to the ragtag collection of people who gather for the Sermon on the Mount are direct and simple: “You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” Salt and light always make their presence known. They always have effects. This is reassuring news to preachers who are regularly told that they are doing everything wrong or failing to tickle the ears of a public that craves simplicity, security, and entertainment. Salt preserves and flavors. Light makes things visible and warm. That always happens.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 5:13-20. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: The story Matthew tells about Herod the Great, the king who slaughters children in an attempt to rid the world of the newborn Messiah, offers preachers a valuable opportunity to explore evil. The arrival of Jesus Christ should lead us to more than joy and adoration; it should also make us reflect on the ways in which we resist God’s presence and intentions. Like Herod, we are often more comfortable with the way things are. The arrival of Jesus is inconvenient. It will throw things into disarray. We may be asked to surrender our illusions of security and privilege. The values that Herod instills in us are the opposite of the values that we discover in the reign of God.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 2:13-23. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: For those who preach, the ministry of John the Baptist, which the Gospels describe so minimally, raises important questions. Was John a lone voice, or did he have others he trusted who could help him work through his own issues and questions? How did John’s journey on the road of repentance figure in the sermons he preached? Preachers understand that preaching is never a one-way enterprise, from a confident speaker to a needy audience. We are often the audiences of our own sermons, and sometimes our best preaching is the preaching that we ourselves need to hear. Don’t view John as a totally self-assured individual; perhaps he was as vulnerable as we are. Repentance, after all, is not about feeling sorry or resolving to do better. It is a lifelong experience of trying to view the world and God’s place in it through from a different perspective. No one can do that entirely alone.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 3:1-12. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: Jesus begins his Sermon on the Plain by declaring some people to be “blessed” and speaking “woe” to others. He declares that he will bring satisfaction to those who are poor, hungry, grieving, and suffering ostracism. On the other side, he warns those who are wealthy, well fed, joyful, and respected by their communities that something is wrong. Their perceived advantages and security are illusory, because he is at work elsewhere. Jesus then goes on to urge people to practice love and nonretaliation. On the whole, he is speaking about a new society or a new state of affairs that his ministry inaugurates. He promises to create a new community that operates with a different set of values. In this community, Jesus lifts up those who suffer deprivation and calls others to practice solidarity with them.
I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage, particularly to celebrate All Saints Day. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.
Summary: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector should make religious people wary of our tendency to misunderstand and to limit the mercy of God. The parable lets us listen in on two different prayers. We may be quick to dismiss the Pharisee’s prayer, just like the Pharisee is quick to dismiss the tax collector. It’s a good thing we are not responsible for assessing the prayers of others. That’s God’s work. Our work is to tell others that God is merciful and that no one stands outside of the reach of that divine mercy.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Luke 18:9-14. It was originally a guest contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: Jesus tells a parable about two men who go to the temple to pray: a Pharisee and a tax collector. They pray two very different prayers, and the parable concludes with Jesus declaring that the tax collector, who assumes a posture of contrition and prays a simple prayer asking for mercy, leaves the temple justified, or restored to a right relationship with God. The Pharisee, in his prayer, betrays his contempt for the tax collector. Because Luke’s Gospel treats Pharisees and tax collectors nearly as caricatures, interpreters often get sidetracked in efforts to determine what Jesus is up to in this parable. The parable’s main emphasis, however, falls on the depths of God’s mercy, which results in “justification” even for a tax collector, someone who betrays his own people for personal gain and to support the Roman occupiers. The parable warns that our contempt for others whom we may see as villains does not square with the extravagant grace that God pours out on all who ask for mercy.
I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.