When the Teacher Sleeps in Class

Who was the finest teacher of your childhood or youth? What was her name? Why was she such a fine a teacher? Did he lecture with passion and eloquence like Dean Fowler when I was an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary? Did she have the magic words to explain iambic pentameter to a fifth-grade mind as did Mrs. Waggle? What made your finest teacher so fine? I ask those questions because in Mark’s Gospel his favorite term to describe Jesus is “Teacher.” He refers to Jesus as “Teacher” no less than twelve times in sixteen chapters. So, you might think that with Jesus as “Teacher,” this Gospel would be filled with Jesus teaching ethics lessons like the Sermon on the Mount, but no, he

Look Again

Not unlike today, in Samuel’s day, people mistook the “real world “as the one ruled by those wielding the most power. Mark’s day was not much different, with the Romans firmly in command of the “real world.” When I listen to rhetoric about what people call the “real world” today, I hear that little has changed. Military prowess, awesome affluence, and superior weaponry are still key to the definition. In the “real world” of people’s imagining, some simply end up on the short end of life, while others are born on top. The “real world” is tough, and especially so if you are poor, illiterate, hungry, or a refugee. Both Samuel and Mark invite us to look again at what we consider the “real world.

The First Question

The first question asked in Scripture is not about God and it is not one of the customary list of common human questions: Does God exist? If God is good, why is there evil in the world? Does prayer make a difference to God? The first question asked in Scripture asks none of these very human questions. The first question is not asked by the first man or the first woman, not by Cain or Abel, not by Noah, not by Abraham or Sarah. The first question asked in Scripture is asked by God. For ages now, theologians have wrestled with the enigma, if God is all-knowing, then why does God need to ask a question to begin with? Genesis has no interest in positing an answer to that fascinating theological


On occasion this summer, I will preach from one of the 150 psalms. The first psalm that I have chosen is that oh, so loveable, Psalm 146. It opens with someone in an unmistakably good mood, clicking her heels, feeling great about life. It almost sings as it opens: “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long!” Listen well and you can hear the toe-tapping, attitude-adjusting, down-right-joyful upbeat of this musical psalm. Whether the English, “Praise the Lord” or the Hebrew, “Hallelujah,” Psalm 146 could not offer a more positive, serene, even whimsical start to spending some of the summer with the psalm

Listening, or Not

Lectionary Scriptures, Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17 We all have someone or a few in our backfields, our past, who were significant in bringing us to this place in life. Who inspired you? Who filled you up with purpose? I’ve been fortunate to be married to a hospital chaplain. It might be a dark way to start a sermon. She’s helped many people end their lives well, and she’s shared with me how people struggle at their life’s end, with whether or not they did the things that mattered. I’m talking about those things. What are the things you think really matter in life, and who inspired you to them? It seems an appropriate exercise on Memorial Day. And to ask the question in a post

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