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Heaven and Earth: Jesus and John the Baptist (John 3:22-36)

 This particular situation might be confusing: two unique people, who seem to have truth from God are both preaching and baptizing. John the Baptist notices that people seem to be more drawn to Jesus. John's disciples notice, too. John the Baptist reminds them and us that he is not the Messiah, but that he was given the task of proclaiming His coming. He uses the analogy of a wedding. In our terms, John the Baptist is saying that he is the best man. The best man's job is to celebrate his friend, the groom, and to do whatever he can to help the guests celebrate and enjoy the wedding. Our culture isn't much different than theirs in this. The best man is usually the closest friend that the man getting married has in the world. Any solid best man will be thrilled for his buddy, and once it's over, his job is done. That's exactly what John the Baptist is saying. There is a fair amount of discussion about whether verses 31 through 36 is still John the Baptist talking, or
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These Are The People In Your Neighborhood

 Admittedly, I have been spending too much time at the neighborhood McDonald's. It is perhaps a betrayal of a commitment to slow food, healthy eating, and localism, but it's right there, and I don't have to cross any major streets to get there. Anyway, I often see the same man at the neighborhood McDonald's. I'll call him Gabe. He's one of those guys that could be anywhere from 50 to 80, and I can't tell. When I first met him, he seemed solicitous for my well-being. He asked me if I wanted a refill on my drink, and I did not, because even I don't think 32 ounces of Coke should be upgraded to 64. We started talking about kindness--ironically enough--and we both decided that we thought there wasn't enough of it in the world. I decided that Gabe must've been a leader of men at some point, like a coach or in the military. Still sharp, and perfectly able to tell people what to do, if the need should arise. I thanked him for his kindness, and we went o

I'm New Here, But A Few Thoughts On Opinions, Obedience, And Faith

 I will not bore you with arcane discussions of infallibility, or somehow insist that no pastoral decision can ever be questioned. But I must be honest with you: I'm uncomfortable with a great many people who believe that they can dance right up to the line of open rebellion, and as long as they don't cross it, they think they can say whatever they want. I wish I had the grace to "weep with those who weep" over recent decisions, but I don't. People's defensiveness just proves that somebody had a point. I would rather be accused of being a fervent yes-man, than be shown to be the opposite. If what we believe about the Church is true, we cannot openly defy the sacred shepherds, while at the same time insist to the world that we are their only hope of salvation. Something has to give. My favorite Psalm is the 73rd, and one line from it is often translated, "If I would have spoken thus, I would have betrayed the generation of your children." In short, in

St. Peter Asks Jesus About St. John (John 21:20-25)

 In all honesty, St. Peter probably wasn't too thrilled about dying a gruesome death. Rather than think about that, he wanted to change the subject. St. John was standing there when he turned around. Maybe St. John was looking joyful; maybe he was making notes for the Gospel we are reading right now. Who knows? St. John says again that he could write more than he has written, and as we think about it, that makes sense. There is nothing about the "signs" of Jesus that seems normal or ordinary. Even as we know that these are ordinary people caught up in the story of Jesus, Jesus and his story are anything but ordinary. Jesus answers him by saying basically, "Don't you worry about him! You have your own job to do! If I want him to be alive when I come back, what is that to you?" We can see why people might have thought that Jesus meant that St. John wouldn't die. On the one hand, St. John is the only one of the faithful apostles who did not die for his fait

Peter Is Reconciled To Jesus (John 21:15-19)

 Now, the final piece of the puzzle falls into place. St. Peter might have thought that this part of his life was over, since he failed so spectacularly in following Jesus. You can't do much worse than denying Jesus three times. Much has been said in preaching about the wording here, and that Jesus is calling Peter to a deeper love than he is at first willing to give. That is all true. Still, I want to focus on the fact that Jesus asked the question three times, the same number of Peter's denials. Jesus could have said simply, "I forgive you, and I love you." Yet there is something real about each denial that needs to be reconciled. Three denials, three affirmations of love, and three commands from Jesus, which are really one command: to take care of the Church, and all of its members. Peter cannot wallow in self-pity, because Jesus has sent him to do a job. We all need the grace of Christ, and the mercy of Christ, but none of it is simply for us to keep and enjoy. We

"The Train Job," and the Virtue Ethics of Malcolm Reynolds

 As most of you know, I am a board-certified geek. I do believe that science fiction can serve as a kind of parable, a way to talk about contentious things, without raising defenses, before thinking takes place. There was once a little television show called "Firefly," about a ragtag group of misfits on the run from an autocratic government in the far future. They sought mercenary work in space, far from the oppressive government. The protagonist, Malcolm Reynolds, fought in the war against that government, called The Alliance. Malcolm--his closest friends call him, "Mal"--lost that war, and lost his Christian faith, when he prayed to God, and God did not deliver "the Browncoats" out of the hands of the Alliance. In one thought-provoking and moving story within the 13-episode arc which was Firefly, Mal and the gang get a job to steal some sort of crate from a train passing from one town to another on a particular planet. They don't know what's in t

A Large Catch Of Fish, and Jesus Comes To Breakfast (John 21:1-14)

 It's possible the apostles didn't believe what they had already seen, so Jesus comes again to reveal himself. It might've been a kind of hangover for the apostles, because they had such joy when they saw Jesus again, and then they had to go back to regular life. Or so they thought. Several of them went fishing, including St. Peter. They didn't catch anything. It reminds me of when Jesus said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." They thought they saw a man on the beach, and they didn't know it was Jesus. Whether Jesus prevented them from knowing it was him, or whether they couldn't see them because they were a long way off, Jesus wanted to wait until the right moment to let them know it was him. As it turned out, Jesus decided to let the miracle do the talking. They cast their nets on the right side of the boat. St. Peter probably thought he was just being nice to a guy trying to give him advice on fishing. He is a fisherman; I would hope Peter knows

I'm Not A Reluctant Christian

 I don't know how to do anything halfway, unless--let's be honest--I start something, get distracted, and start something else. All of my people with ADHD, where you at? Anyway, there comes a point in the Christian life where we don't have to obey with gritted teeth. Our obedience doesn't come with apologies to the watching world; it just comes quickly, and without struggle. This is joy, and this is the possession of virtue. I'm not saying this to tell you what a great man I am, but to say that, at least as an intellectual matter, I don't ask why things are the way they are. We all slip up sometimes, and it doesn't mean that we never believed in God, or wanted to do His will. And we do need to give grace to one another, for the times when we fail. That's easy for some of us, and harder for others, or harder in particular situations. Human sexuality is a topic that is coming up a lot, not only among Christians, but obviously with everyone. Many people say

St. John, Why Did You Write This? (John 20:30-32)

 St. John tells us that he could tell us a lot more stories about the things Jesus said and did, but these are written so that we might believe in Jesus, and that by believing, we may have (eternal) life in his name. St. John's purpose to convince us about Jesus explains why the book does not tell the stories in exact chronological order. St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke tell us different details, but the theme is the same: Jesus is Lord and God. I suppose St. John could have ended it right here, but God is a God who reconciles, and there is a very important person who needs to be reconciled. If we need to be reconciled, we share it with him.