Texts: Leviticus 25:1-7; John 12:12-33


There’s no way around the violence of Jesus’ death.  The piece of street theater we refer to as the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday is the beginning of a week of intense confrontation between Jesus and the religious and political authorities.  It’s a tension that had been building throughout Jesus’ public life.

There were times Jesus had proven to be more strict than the most stringent interpreters of Scripture.  Like arguing that not only should the people obey the commandment “Do not murder,” but that whoever holds resentment in their heart toward another person is in the same category as a murderer.  At other times Jesus made proclamations as radical and liberating as any freedom fighter before or after him.  Like when he stood up in the synagogue of his hometown in Nazareth and declared that, like Isaiah, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to grant release for captives, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  The year of the Lord’s favor, the Jubilee: when debts were forgiven, slaves set free, and wealth that had accumulated into the hands of the few was...

Texts: Deuteronomy 15:1-18; John 12:1-8

This is week five of Lent, and so the fifth angle we’re taking on Sabbath.  So far we’ve focused mostly on Sabbath as a personal practice.  To review: Sabbath is a sanctuary in time, a certain sort of space-time sacred architecture.  Sabbath is a way of practicing freedom by ceasing from all that tries to enslave us: to-do lists, consumerism, self-importance.  The invitation into Sabbath is not so much like an exasperated Voluntary Service worker ripping up the creations of a persistently active child with the words “this is what happens when we don’t follow the rules,” as it is a way of enjoying that which has been created.  And Sabbath is a way of remembering, remembering original blessing.  That we are blessed and beloved not because of what we do and what we produce, but because of who we inherently are, children of the Creative Spirit whose image we all bear.

If you’re just now joining us, that’s the last month in summary.

Sabbath is personal, but it’s not merely private.  Sabbath practices have broad implications on our collective life.  Sabbath shapes the economy of relationships between people, plants and animals, oxygen and carbon,...

Texts: Genesis 1:1-13; 1:26-2:3; John 3:14-21

Long, long ago, before you and me – before people – before animals, plants and bacteria, before the earth, and stars, before anything.  When the universe was just an unrehearsed verse in the mind of God, all was dark and unformed.  Only a breath from the Creator swept across the void.

The breath gathered into a shape, a word.  That word was “light,” and when it was spoken, there it was – light.  And the Creator saw that the light was good.  The light was separated from the darkness, and thus began the dance of night and day, evening and morning.

The generation of light was assigned to the stars, and with it the power of creating the full range of elements.   Stars were born and stars died, and in their death they seeded the expanding order with these elemental gifts out of which the rest of creation would be formed.

The Creator spoke again.  Rocks clustered and crashed and formed a planet, a dome with waters above and below, sky and seas, and dry land.  And the Creator saw that this was good.  To the land and sea was given the...

Texts: John 2:13-22; Exodus 20:1-17

I want to start off this morning by telling you a story.  It’s a story that happened about six years ago, and before I can tell it, I feel like I need to give a disclaimer: when you hear the story, some of you are going to laugh, some of you are going to cringe, and some of you are going to do both but feel bad about it. 

Before I moved to Columbus, I spent three years as part of Mennonite Voluntary Service where I volunteered full time for the Boys and Girls Club in Hutchinson, Kansas.  During my third year I was promoted (as much as a volunteer can be promoted), and I was put in charge of an entire afterschool site where I oversaw a staff of 11 adults and around 100 Kindergarten through sixth grade students every afternoon. 

It was a very sink-or-swim kind of situation and I still have regular nightmares about standing in front of a gym full of unruly elementary school kids trying to get their attention.  I tell you this to build sympathy about how stressful the job could be.  Remember that.  And if it helps, remember I...

Texts: Deuteronomy 5:1-7; 12-15; Mark 8:31-38


Before Sabbath was a holy day, a noun, it was a verb, with nothing particularly holy about it.  To sabbath means to cease, to desist, to rest.  Verbs are action words, and sabbath is an action word meaning, basically, to refrain from action.  Sabbath is the un-verb.

The first four times the word appears in the Bible it is in verb form.  It’s mentioned twice in Genesis 2, where the Creator Elohim famously and somewhat mysteriously ceases, rests, sabbaths from all creative activity.  This happens on the seventh day, which is not yet called the Sabbath.  The seventh day is declared holy because on it Elohim sabbathed.

It’s mentioned nowhere else in the book of Genesis, and so we’re on to Exodus, chapter five, where Pharaoh is scolding Moses and Aaron for daring to ask for a three day holiday for the Hebrew slaves.  Holidays and paid vacation leave were not a part of the slave memorandum of understanding.  Rather than give them a break, Pharaoh makes their work more difficult, demanding the same quotas for brick production, while making them provide not just labor, but some of the materials.  From...