Give Until It Feels Good

Sermon for Sunday, November 8, 2015
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
I Kings 17:8-16

the_widow_of_zaraphathI find this morning’s Old Testament story gripping.  Imagine what it must have been like to be the Widow of Zarephath!  Imagine living during a sever drought.  Imagine her worry and anxiety about not having enough.   Imagine how she must have daily watched the level of meal in the jar and oil in the jug, wondering when her last day would be.  And she had a son!  Just imagine her anxiety and worry!

And imagine that last day when she went out to gather sticks to make one last fire to bake one last loaf from the last of the meal in the jar and the last of the oil in the jug. Elijah appeared, looking rough and wild… and hungry.  “He’s going to ask me for food,” I bet she thought.  Which he did.  She was ready with her polite but pointed response:

As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die. Continue reading

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Give Generously, Practice Discreetly

Sermon for Wednesday, June 17, 2015
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Today’s scripture readings tell of two pitfalls in the spiritual life.  The first, in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, is a lack of generosity.   Paul writes:  “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.”  Today’s passage is part of a letter in which Paul encourages the Corinthians to contribute to a donation for the poor in Jerusalem.  If the Corinthians give grudgingly (or reluctantly, or with a tight fist) Paul says that they will receive the same in return.  “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.”  A lack of generosity pinches on and constricts our spiritual life. Continue reading

Spreading (Good) Contagion

Sermon for Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Luke 11:37-41
Bethany Convent, Order of Saint Anne, Arlington, MA

“The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not wash before dinner.”

Washing and making sure that things are clean has been very much in the news lately, given the Ebola outbreak.  We’ve probably all seen the photos of medical personnel in body suits and read about how disinfecting procedures have to be done just so, lest the virus spread further.

For the Pharisees in first-century Palestine, failing to wash properly before dinner (as Jesus did) would probably not lead to contracting a life-threatening disease, but the Pharisees nonetheless saw Jesus’ failure to wash before dinner as a critical breach.   Uncleanliness was a serious matter in their circles, and Jesus could potentially “contaminate” all of them by his failure to “disinfect.” Continue reading