O My Son, Absalom

Text: II Samuel 18 Young Absalom lay dead beneath a makeshift grave of stones. “Deal gently” were the last orders from King David mouth, but General Joab heard only the pathetic uttering of a desperate father. Joab would do many things to a rebellious soldier, but “deal gently” with him was not on his list. Joab does just the opposite of David’s plea. He deals brutally with Absalom, the traitor and insurrectionist. Then, Joab tries to manage how King David will hear the news. But news of the death of a child, no matter how rebellious, simply cannot be “managed.” Messengers arrive with glad tidings of military victory to announce to the King. They shout that the battle is won and the insurrec

A Community of Good Stewards

I Peter 4:10-11 “Imagine the beaches of Hawaii.” That was the lead-in pitch to a group of graduating seminarians in 1980 by the late Jim Tubbs, then executive of Wilmington Presbytery. Jim could sell a space heater to someone living in the Florida Keys. He had come to Union Seminary looking for prospects to serve churches in that coastal presbytery. On that same trip, I met Johannes Bron, the musical, young member of the Pastor Nominating Committee of the Bethany Presbyterian Church, just outside Wilmington, N.C. Jim made Wilmington sound like tropical Hawaii and Johannes made Bethany sound like Nirvana, so two weeks after our first-born child arrived, we headed off to coastal North Carolina

The Empire of God

Text: Matthew 13:1-3a, 31-32 Walk into Matthew 13 and you will stumble over a parable. Give Jesus an audience and he will tell them a parable, a cross between an analogy and a word puzzle. Jesus loves a good parable but I am not sure why exactly, for more often than not after he tells a parable, the response is: “Hey, Jesus, I don’t get it.” Jesus tells parables to give verbal clues about the mysterious, profound, life-giving, life-transforming reign of God. Jesus tells parables to a world then and to a world today that has little understanding of selfless love, little patience with complexity, and almost no use for mystery. If you do not want to have your mind stretched and your heart expan

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