God's Neighborhood

This week's Bible reflection (Clear?) clearly moved into current events in yesterday's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"God's Neighborhood" podcast



God’s neighborhood is like:

  • A mustard seed
  • Yeast
  • A merchant in search of fine pearls
  • A net thrown into the sea
  • The master of a household

 You get it, right?



This week’s Bible reading from Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52 gives offers opportunities to get confused and then start thinking. Here’s are a few thoughts for pondering:

  • The mustard seed: It seems so little – but has huge potential
  • Yeast: Favors rising over falling
  • The merchant: Might miss other valuable things in the search
  • The net: It includes everyone.
  • The master: A cultural misstep that forgets about the worth of all.
And the possibilities of thought are endless.




Jacob was still a scheming, dishonest, sneaky person.  In this week's reading from Genesis 28:10-19,  he cheated his brother out of the family blessing.  His brother was out to kill him and Jacob was on the run.

The story continues to bother me.  But this reading isn't about Jacob’s mistakes.  It is about God's presence in the best of times and in the worst of times.  It communicates this.

  • If you’re running, God is present
  • If you’re standing still, God is present.
  • If you’re celebrating, God is present.
  • If you’ve failed, God is present.
  • If you’re doing wrong, God is present.
It’s really hard for me to wrap my mind around all of that.

What good is a presence that communicates, through silence and inaction, an approval of violence, retaliation, and retribution?



This week's Bible reflection (Siblings) introduced a 'Thank you Steve Case!' dramatic sermon about Jacob and Esau.  It was also recorded with my backup recording system - which was near an air conditioning source -- lotsa noise. 
"Sneaky" wind-noise enhanced podcast



Esau and Jacob didn’t like each other. Before they were born, they fought. When they were being born, they fought. Jacob came out grabbing at Esau’s heel. Their parents didn’t treat them equally and they lived their lives in a state of conflict.

Jacob schemed to get the better of Esau. One day he did. Esau traded his birthright for a meal.

I feel a connection with Esau. He worked hard. I think he was honest and likely very kind.

I have a completely opposite feeling about Jacob. He schemed. He was dishonest. He was sneaky.

I don’t like the conflict. I don’t like the sneakiness. I don’t like the beginning of this story of Jacob and Esau.

And thought I feel a connection with Esau, I know that I have and likely will again act like Jacob.

I’m glad it’s not the end of the story.



This week's Bible reflection (Identical Cousins?) formed one part of a sermon filled with several little bits that blended together into a whole!  It was from this morning at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"Rest" podcast


Identical Cousins?

Do you remember The Patty Duke Show? The theme song runs through my head occasionally. Here are some of the lyrics to remind you:

Meet Cathy, who's lived most everywhere,
From Zanzibar to Barclay Square.
But Patty's only seen the sights
A girl can see from Brooklyn Heights --
What a crazy pair!

But they're cousins,
Identical cousins all the way.
One pair of matching bookends,
Different as night and day.

Why mention them this week? Because Mary and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mother) were relatives – making Jesus and John the Baptist relatives who may have even been second cousins.

I don’t think they looked identical to each other – but this week’s Bible reading from Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 shows that though they were related and integral parts of our faith story, they were different as night and day.

John stayed away from, well, just about anything that might be considered fun. Jesus on the other hand, spent time eating and drinking and having fun.

There’s a whole lot more to talk about in this week’s Bible reading, but I like this little part that reinforces the idea that there is room in God’s neighborhood for very different kinds of people with very different ways of doing things.



This week's Bible reflection (Pay Attention) started off a kind of rousing sermon today at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"Welcome" podcast


Pay Attention

This week’s Bible reading from Matthew 10:40-42, just two verses long, includes one word written six times.


I think the repetition says, “Pay attention to this.”

The reading comes at the end of how to treat missionaries and prophets when they visit and preach.  I think the long instructions about visiting preachers has to do with the poor treatment many had received in the past. I also think that the overabundance of the word “welcome”  expresses the message beyond how folks treat visiting preachers.

Welcome is essential in Jesus’ teachings. Welcome the stranger. Welcome the poor. Welcome the outcast. Welcome the immigrant. Welcome the powerless. Welcome the tired. Welcome the lost. Welcome the children.

Welcome everyone.

Not So Good

Last week's Bible reflection (Unhealthy) led to more and more questions as part of yesterday's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"Not So Good" podcast