Confession: questions

This pericope is located in a section of Matthean narrative that portrays the formation of the church (13:53-17:27) in the midst of the continuing conflict with all levels of Jewish society that is leading towards a growing rejection of Jesus as Messiah. This story forms the hinge of the section because after this Jesus will heighten his attention to the preparation of the disciples for their mission as a community once Jesus has died and resurrected from the dead. It will be a community who perceives and professes his true identity. Continue reading

Confession: a context

Matthew 16:13-2013 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. Continue reading


“You will be my people and I will be your God” Those are the words of a covenant, an oath, forever binding God and the descendants of Abraham, binding all who would believe. It is a covenant renewed some 400 years later under the leadership of Moses. It is the covenant that prophet Isaiah speaks about in the first reading – only it’s now another 700 years passed. For more than 1,000 years the people of Israel had understood that they, and they alone, were qahal Yahweh, the people of God. Understood that they, and they alone, were the inheritors of salvation and God’s justice. They were the people of the divine manifest destiny, privileged, and the chosen people. Continue reading

How to Read the Bible

It was a simple email. The writer said that she was committed to reading and studying the Bible. For her first time through, she wanted to accomplish it in a two-year period. She had already researched the internet for Bible study plans and discovered there are tons of plans, lots of perspectives, and advice a plenty. So much so, it was hard to sort through it all. And such was the genesis of the email asking for advice on “the plan.” Continue reading

The Canaanite Woman: the reply

CannaniteHeadlinesHow are we to Understand Jesus’ Response? The disciples’ request, Send her away for she keeps calling out after us need not be understood as disapproval of her request, but simply a desire for peace and quiet (cf. 19:13?). In fact, if Jesus would just grant the petition, they all can rest. Many scholars hold this content makes Jesus’ emphatic objection (v.24) more cogent. But rather than take the path of least resistance, there is a principle to be highlighted. The principle is the same as that of 10:5–6, of a mission  restricted to Israel (during Jesus’ earthly ministry): “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The statement here is Jesus’ explanation to the disciples of his unexpectedly unwelcoming response to a woman in need; she herself need not have heard it, as it is only in v.25 that she approaches Jesus closely. Continue reading

How Long?

Today someone asked me, referring to the recent events of Charlottesville and the WH response, “How long will this last?” It is a question that continues.

On March 25, 1965, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a crowd of 25,000 marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of voting rights for African-Americans. At the conclusion of the march, King delivered this speech, familiarly referred to as “How Long, Not Long.” The speech was defiant at times, referencing the violence that beset the movement at the time. In fact, a previous march on March 7 was met with a violent response from state troopers who beat and gassed marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. King’s speech makes it clear that the movement cannot be dissuaded after coming so far, encouraging the people to keep up the struggle. Continue reading

The Others: crossing over

Rahib_CanaaniteWomanA Framework to Understand Jesus’ Response. It is believed that the etymology of “Hebrew” comes from the Semitic root ‘apiru, which refers to those who cross over. It is an apt description when one considers the journeys of Abraham and Sarah, the travels of Jacob/Israel and his 12 sons, and the Exodus of the Jews to Israel – a narrative history of people who were “other” and yet willing to “cross over” because of the call of God. And paradoxically, the disciples are not willing to “cross over” to console this woman who is “other.” Continue reading

Choosing Hope

As we start another week, there is a lot going on that will bring us face-to-face with the choice between hope and despair. This past weekend’s events in Charlottesville only highlights an encounter with another choice. Despair by far is the easiest choice. A little over 150 years ago, a civil war ended in our nation, and the hope was that we would be a nation dedicated to the self-evident proposition and truth “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” A little over 70 year ago, men and women of the “greatest generation” arose from the ashes of a world-wide depression, went to work and war, to defeat the Nazi regime that was dedicated to their proposition that not all are created equal, not all are entitles to life, liberty or happiness. Continue reading

The Assumption of Mary

Much of our religious consciousness is affected by art; we have inherited specific images that are more artistic than biblical.  For example, we always imagine St. Paul being knocked from a horse on the Damascus Road.  There is no mention of the horse in scripture.  Is that a bid deal? Perhaps not.  But when Caravaggio placed Paul on the horse, a sign of privilege or royalty, he removed Paul from the midst of Corinth, the hard-scrabbled sea port town, from among the drunks, slackards, ner-do-wells, and people who sorely needed salvation. Continue reading

The Others: why would they?

canaanitewoman.iconCommentary. At its core this narrative remains a miracle-story – And her daughter was healed from that hour. But as the encounter is placed immediately after a discussion of purity in both Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ encounter with this Gentile woman also brings out the implications that the Gentiles will no longer be separated from Israel (cf. Acts 10:15, 28; 11:9–18). Continue reading