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 Apostle Paul is in the middle of an extended discussion about spiritual gifts when he breaks stride to explain the importance of love. It isn’t just that love is an amazing force for good; love is permanent. Love does not energize spiritual gifts; love is the point of all the spiritual gifts. That’s a critical thing for preachers to remember, since preachers as much as anyone else have a responsibility to exercise and build their gifts. They also need to devote themselves to love and urge others to love. Nothing else matters. This is a vital message, too, for people doing ministry during a pandemic in a divided and frustrated society, when loving others is much more difficult than it sounds. Fortunately love never falters.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. 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Summary: The conclusion of the church year, Reign of Christ (or Christ the King) Sunday presents preachers with an opportunity to reflect on the future, especially to examine what assumptions about the future influence their own theologies and sermons. The scene in John’s Gospel when Pontius Pilate interrogates Jesus manifests the failure of Pilate’s imagination. He cannot understand Jesus’ identity as a king in a manner other than what he is used to; it must be about power and domination. Pilate’s categories are inflexible. This resembles too much Christian preaching and teaching about the future and about the nature of the gospel. A kingdom or reign that is “not from this world” is one that is unfamiliar to this world and our norms. One piece of a preacher’s job description is to break open our closed minds so that we might imagine and live into a future that is indeed different.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on John 18:33-37. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: It’s a difficult passage to read and to preach, this story of a rich man’s’ encounter with Jesus. Consistent with much of Mark’s portrait of discipleship, it speaks about extraordinary self-giving. At the same time, it is an unusual text, with Jesus making discipleship look close to impossible. To preach a passage like this, a preacher does well to consider their role and the sermon’s goals. As for the role, a preacher should approach this text as a co-traveler alongside the congregation. As for the sermon’s goals, it’s best to find creative ways to translate the passage’s discussion of radical solidarity with the poor into contemporary terms. That is not to diminish the passage’s demands; it is to help us think about how much we need each other to walk the road of discipleship together.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 10:17-31. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: When a conversation between Jesus and a group of scribes and Pharisees moves from hand washing to the dangers of moral impurity, preachers have an opportunity to explore the capacity each of us has for doing harm to others. During our current journey with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are already well acquainted with the ways in which the actions or inactions of individuals can have widespread negative consequences. But preachers can find ways to put this Gospel text into conversation with our circumstances to help a congregation see the ways in which our existence and wellbeing are corporate, collective things. Facing the realities of our interdependence and the obligations we have to one another is an important step toward fostering a community that takes healing seriously.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: As it begins a story about Jesus feeding a crowd isolated in the wilderness, the Gospel according to Mark comments that Jesus felt compassion for the people because he saw them as “sheep without a shepherd.” They were people denied leadership. People who were considered expendable. People who could be manipulated for the gain and pride of their so-called leaders. Bad leadership has a way of dehumanizing people, because bad leaders choose domination and intimidation as their tools. The wider context of this part of Mark’s narrative, with its focus on numbers of people attracted to Jesus, reminds us that Jesus was not the kind of leader who imposed his will on others or who sought out followers. His qualifications were not about displaying his gifts, flashing his charisma, or manifesting courage; rather, he restored people. He demonstrated a commitment to their well-being and wholeness. Preachers might be inspired by this story to consider their own vocations as leaders. Sermons are opportunities to put leadership into action, not with the preacher insisting on their own authority or cleverness, but with the preacher offering the refreshment of the good news and reiterating the opportunity for all to share in God’s healing, restorative intentions for this work and its people.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 6:30-34, 53-56. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: Once Jesus’ ministry is rolling in the Gospel according to Mark, conflict emerges and dividing lines are drawn. Mark has a way with surprises; Jesus’ own family and religious authorities misunderstand who he is and what he is up to. But crowds of unnamed people remain with him, often doing little more than showing up and following. Jesus appears to welcome their presence, as seen in this scene when he describes a crowd as his true kin and commends them for doing “the will of God.” It appears Jesus is not calling for heroism or perfection. Rather, he seeks recognition. Down the road in Mark he will remind us that discipleship calls for our whole selves. But at this point in the story, being present and sticking around is what he’s looking for. This is good news for all of us, reminding us that faith is not so much about subscribing to doctrine and more about attaching oneself to Jesus and his efforts to bring the reign of God to fruition.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 3:20-35. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.
Summary: Questions about the past have a way of propelling me forward. At least that’s what I experienced once on a visit to Caesarea Maritima as I stared toward the sun sinking down toward the vast Mediterranean Sea. Knowing how we got somewhere is one thing; where we will go next is not so different a question. The vocations we chase after never end; nor do our attempts to make sense of them and their effects on our lives. I think this is one way that faith works and continues to disrupt and comfort our lives, by giving us the nudge to keep journeying and to keep our sights set on a future that exists–out there, yet to be discovered.
I wrote this meditative article for the publication Thin Places, which offers resources for spiritual growth and is published by Westminster Presbyterian Church of Minneapolis. The article appears in the June/July/August 2021 issue (Issue Number 107). Read the full article at Thin Places.
Summary: The story of Philip’s encounter with an unnamed court official, an Ethiopian Eunuch, raises numerous questions about ancient culture, Greco-Roman attitudes toward people from far away, sex and gender, and the differences in people’s social locations. It’s important that preachers and other interpreters tend to those questions, so they can both appreciate and be critical of the ways in which the book of Acts imagines the consequences that the good news has for all people. This story and the ambiguity surrounding the characterization of the court official can serve as a reminder of the ways that Christian communities struggle to identify and include people who are strangers or “outsiders.” It’s notable to remember, then, that at the close of the story the Ethiopian is not merely a convert, he is also a theologian who demonstrates his understanding that the good news is for him, as he is.
I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preagcher.
Summary: When Acts describes the arrest of Peter and John, under the authority of the Sadducean Jerusalem aristocracy, it’s important for interpreters to be clear about who the opponents are. It’s also important for preachers to be aware of how Acts has fueled anti-Jewish attitudes and theologies over the centuries. The passage itself is mainly concerned with elevating the name of Jesus, which refers to the power of Jesus. That power was on display in the previous chapter, when Peter called on the name of Jesus to bring about a miraculous healing. Peter again directs attention to that power when he addresses the authorities, implicitly criticizing them for being poor leaders who rejected Jesus, the manifestation of God’s salvation. This is one of many episodes in Acts that celebrates the ways that God minimizes and embarrasses those who purport to hold sway over human societies.
I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.
Summary: Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd, not because he is kind or gentle, but because he is powerful, vigilant, and self-giving. That comforting metaphor works because Jesus has ascended or, as John’s Gospel puts it, he has returned to the loving and intimate communion he shares with the God he calls his Father. His watchful care is a feature of his power. The care he provides does not mean we are kept safe from all harm in this dangerous world. Rather, it means that we can be confident that he holds our identity, our connection to him, and our participation in Divine love securely. The watchfulness and concern he provides comes as a sharp contrast to the ways our leaders, structures, and societies frequently let us down and treat people as expendable.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on John 10:11-18. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.