“Topsy-Turvy” A Devotion on Ecclesiastes 9:11

“I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.” —Ecclesiastes 9:11

The received truth in our society is that the strong must prevail over the weak, and the rich must prevail over the poor. Only a fool would deny it. There is an old joke about our text: “the race may not go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” but that is definitely the way to bet!

And yet, and yet! When you read the strange story of the Bible there seems to be another kind of truth. “The first shall be last and the last first.” “The lion shall dwell with the lamb.” The shepherd boy, David, slays the giant, Goliath.

And in her canticle Mary says (or perhaps sings):

God has shown the strength of his arm,
God has scattered the proud in their conceit,
God has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the humble.
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

Can we imagine such a world?  A world without income inequality? Without racial bias? A world where might doesn’t make right? Where the meek really inherit the earth? Where the richest can’t buy elections? Where the powerful don’t call all the shots?

It astonishes me that the Bible is so often employed to defend the status quo. Because if you pay attention to its topsy-turvy story, it is more often than not a challenge to prevailing norms and received assumptions about the way things are and must be.

It is worth reminding ourselves from time to time that the one we follow and worship, whose realm and reign we pray for, came in humility and died on a cross in a state execution.

Prayer: Don’t let us fall for it, God. The world we see doesn’t have to be like this.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for June 24, 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: Upside down trees at Mass MOCA.)

“Small Beginnings” A Baptismal Sermon on Mark 4:30-34

Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” —Mark 4:30-34 Continue reading

“Down to Earth” A Sermon on John 13:1-17

I started my ministry 43 years ago in two small congregations in two adjacent tiny towns in Maine about 9 miles apart. When I lived in Maine just about the nicest compliment you could give someone was to say they were “down to earth.” It meant that they weren’t puffed up about their own importance. They were reliable, sensible, responsible, unpretentious and humble. Continue reading

“Did God Say?” A Devotion on Genesis 3:1

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” —Genesis 3:1 Continue reading

“Scorched by Holy Fire!” A Devotion on Jeremiah 20:8b-9

“For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
—Jeremiah 20: 8b-9 Continue reading

“First the Bad News . . .” A Sermon for Proper 28, Year A

You all know those jokes that begin ‘I’ve got good news and bad news . . .” Well, in this sermon I’m going to flip it around and talk about the bad news first, because there is lots of bad news in the appointed lessons for today. There is talk of a dreadful “Day of the Lord.” There are dire warnings of impending disaster. Continue reading

“The Weightier Matters”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.” —Matthew 23:23

Jesus was quick to spot religious hypocrisy. The Pharisees have got a bad name because of Jesus’ criticisms of them, but in truth they were the ones Jesus had the most affinity for. They were serious, pious and scrupulous keepers of Torah. Continue reading