God beyond our imagination, the way to eternal life is not smooth or easy. In fact, so many things seem beyond us: conquering addictions, living with grief, opening our hearts and hands in generosity. We attempt less than we ought, or even give up hope, when the burden we carry is camel-sized, and the way through seems impossibly small. Yet you invite us to walk with you, that we may see for ourselves your healing power and the miraculous possibilities in your kingdom. Give us hope, and strengthen us in faith, in the name of Jesus, our companion. Amen.
Martin Luther King, Jr. often referred to the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). While King’s interpretation of the parable evolved over time, he maintained a consistent focus on the way the parable allows us to examine the obligations owed to one another, provided an enduring way to read this text.
King had a sermon on the topic which he used frequently. "Who Is My Neighbor?" highlights the question asked of Jesus. Jesus’ questioner, a lawyer, is testing Jesus and testing the limits of what Jesus’ God requires. They are agreed that loving God and neighbor is essential. But how far does this go?
In 1964, in a sermon preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, he discerned a philosophy or motivating principle expressed in the actions of three sets of the parable’s characters. "Everyone within the sound of my voice today lives by one of these three philosophies."
1. The Robbers
Often taken for granted, the waylaying of the traveler is what makes the parab…
Ashes have traditionally been a sign of repentance and mourning. Ashes inherently represent the passing of something vital – a tree which once grew tall, a house destroyed by fire, all that is left of a corpse after the flesh has been burned away. Ashes from the burned palms of last year’s Palm Sunday carry the reminder that the grandiose hopes of triumphal parades can so easily turn to betrayal, persecution, and burial.
On Ash Wednesday, as people turn from their daily lives to observe the start of Lent, that season of penitence and preparation, the minister takes ashes, and draws the sign of the cross one forehead at a time, saying the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (evoking the story of humans' creation, Genesis 2:7).
It is always a bit amazing how many people are eager to receive ashes. You wouldn’t think that we need or are eager to hear reminders of mortality. After all, we get those all the time. Loved ones die. Our own bodies show signs of …
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.... My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.John 15:1-2,8
Much of the comment and preaching on this passage focuses on its role as one of the great "I am" passages that John relates. "I am the vine," says Jesus, "and you are the branches." And we rightly think about Jesus as the connective tissue between his disciples, and as the source of nourishment, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the branches.
Vines are amazing plants. They are prolific, productive. They do not stay put, but grow in every direction if given the opportunity, and something to support them (the ground, a tree, a fence or building). Some of our favorite food plants are vines (tomatoes, grapes, squash, cucumbers, kiwi fruit, melons, beans, and peas).