Recently I was asked to give my testimony in a Presbyterian church. As the guest speaker at a weekend conference on the gospels, I had already given two talks before this assembly. But this was different.
Exploring the Word
Where did the feast originally known as Corpus Christi come from? Many believers will be hard pressed to explain the difference between Maundy Thursday and the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, and for good reason.
In parishes across the Christian world, preachers commenting on the teaching of the Trinity will be sorely tempted to say something about Saint Patrick’s shamrock. Variations on this theme, in my experience, have included tricycles (three wheels, bearing the faithful along in one direction) and the U.S. government (three branches—executive, legislative, judicial—one purpose, to serve the people!).
Talk about a season for gift giving and most folks naturally assume you mean Christmas. That’s the time when God came to earth, took on human flesh, pitched a mortal tent, and dwelled among us, right?
It’s always fascinating to ask children what heaven is like. Their answers are quite detailed; many are happy to augment their descriptions with a full-color illustration on paper. The radiance of God in one way or another is depicted, as are various angelic beings, clouds, and the occasional smiling grandmother.
"Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said in the familiar translation of today’s gospel. This is not the easiest of his teachings to follow, not by a long stretch. Our hearts are routinely troubled for lots of very good reasons.
For most of the church year, it is fair to say the gospel upstages the other readings used at Mass. Preachers may reach into the passage from Hebrew scripture to highlight the “promise” that the gospel “fulfills,” but the first reading serves largely as a backdrop for the main message.
The old trick question about the lifeboat puts most of us in a lose-lose situation. In various formulations, the question goes like this: If two people you dearly love, value, or have allegiances to were on a sinking ship, and there was only room in the lifeboat for you and one other person, who would you save? Who gets left behind?
The way of the Kingdom bears little resemblance to the way of the law. Its means, its motives, and its goals often move like a crosscurrent against the accepted moral code. The Pharisees and Jesus once had a telling exchange that underscored the difference between these ways. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people cried hosannas to the king, which alarmed the religious leaders who feared a riot and ensuing crackdown.
The story of Peter’s shadow captivates our attention like a childhood fairy tale. Imagine a healing power so magnificent and penetrating that it can be communicated in a holy person’s passing shadow! There is scarcely any intentionality involved in such a miracle—it happens automatically because of the mere presence of the holy one, if only for a moment.