Archives for January 2016

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 4:14-30:

Luke BTCBJesus responds to the skepticism he knows is rising in their hearts with a “proverb” (Greek parabolē; the Hebrew equivalent, māšāl, can mean any figurative saying as well as “parable”). Jesus knows what they really want is for him to do in their own midst some of the miracles he has done up north in Capernaum (4:23). They want to see signs and wonders here and now, in their own village; they have little interest in the larger context. His response immediately points up two things that his audience in Nazareth, as elsewhere, does not like to hear: first, that Israel more often than not has rejected the prophets (4:24) and, second, that, as a result, wonders of the Lord were sometimes then performed by the prophets among the Gentiles instead, as witnessed by Elijah’s blessing of the widow of Zarephath (4:25; cf. 1 Kgs. 17:9–24).

Jesus is here reminding his hearers pointedly of the same thing John did in the previous chapter (Luke 3:8–9): if Israel thinks its special covenant relationship with God is all that matters, their disobedience notwithstanding, they have not been paying sufficient attention to either the Law or the Prophets. Cyril of Alexandria grasps the point firmly: by these two stories of Elijah and Elisha, he says, Jesus is referring to the “heathen who were about to accept him and be healed of their leprosy, by reason of Israel’s remaining impenitent” (1983: Homily 12). It seems more than probable that Luke, a Gentile himself, must have noticed these long-standing biblical patterns and pondered over their recurrent frequency in the teaching of Jesus and the ministry of the apostles.

We have to conclude from the suddenly impassioned and violent response of the crowd in the synagogue that, here as elsewhere, any suggestion that God would bypass the Jews and confer his blessing on the hated Gentiles has produced a hair-trigger animosity; Lightfoot’s general observations about this reflex suggest that the pattern of response to this message everywhere in the New Testament was well grounded in long-standing Jewish prejudice (1979: 3.59). The enraged crowd drags Jesus out and tries to shove him off a cliff, presumably so as then to stone him. But somehow, mysteriously, he escapes (4:29–30), for, as Bede says, reflecting Luke’s words, “the hour of his passion had not yet come” (quoted in Aquinas, Catena Aurea 3.1.163).

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.



The Latest on America’s Original Sin

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  • Jim Wallis and Eddie Glaude Jr. joined Morning Joe to discuss the water crisis in Flint and how racial geography impacts the country.


Op Eds:

“Many of us in the faith community are affirming the theological truth that black lives do matter, because while all human beings are made in the image of God, it is black lives, specifically, that have been devalued in our country – and our social systems must be held accountable.”



Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

This excerpt comes from Psalms 1-50 (BTCB) by Ellen Charry, commenting on Psalm 19:

Psalm 19 hopes to attract us to the glory of God in stages. Beginning with the Creator (perhaps because contemplating God as Creator is relatively easy), the psalmist lures us to consider the wisdom of God the legislator as he carries us into deeper water. His final step is meant to stir up longing to become the beautifully pure self that God deserves from those on whom he lavishes such care and effort.

God’s teaching (torah) is perfect (19:7), and the speaker knows that genuine reverence for God is pure (19:9). Lured as he is, the speaker wants to be blameless, and cleansed of small hidden faults (19:12) as well as great transgressions (19:13). Psalm 19 aims for a person’s best self in the hope that she will enlist as one of God’s radiant servants.

As stirring as the poetry and imagery of this psalm are, perhaps its greatest appeal comes from its unfeigned candor. Moral arousal, however necessary, will not suffice. More than volunteering is needed. God must make one more push for his people—this time not in a public way, as with the heavenly bodies and the commandments, but on a deeply personal level. God must protect the would-be servant from going astray and accept the meditation of her heart that she might find acceptance.

The point is not, however, that one should think of oneself as a dirty mop that needs to be cleansed in a bucket of water and wrung dry of its dirt. Thinking of oneself as a mop besotted with dirty water from cleaning the floor betrays both the beauty of the commandments (the water that washes us) and the beautiful self whose heart rejoices in God’s ways. Psalm 19 has something else in mind. While it concludes on a suitably humble note, it calls us to envision ourselves as partakers of the glory of God—proclaimed by the sun as much as by torah—so that we might triumph as God’s faithful servants.

©2015 by Ellen T. Charry. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Eating with Intention – an excerpt from To the Table

The following is an excerpt from To the Table by Lisa Graham McMinn.


Most of us conform a fair bit to the norms of our culture; we can’t help it—norm conformity helps us fit into a community. As a result, most of us twenty-first-century Westerners struggle to balance norms that demand a high level of commitment to work and activities we value for ourselves and our children with a desire for communion and opportunities to forge bonds over food with our family and friends.

Cover ArtHowever, any and all of us can accept the invitation to eat at a common table by being more intentional about what we are eating, more attentive to those who share our table, and more grateful for God, others, and God’s creation that sustains us.

We move toward intention when we do some sleuthing and then make informed and life-giving choices about food we purchase (more on this to come). We move toward attention when we slow down, value, and engage those in whose presence we are eating. We move toward gratitude through the simple discipline of saying grace before a meal and saying thank you afterward.

Being intentional is being neighborly—an outward expression of our faith. It can mean committing to eating only fair-trade chocolate or going without it; it can mean buying eggs produced by pasture-based hens or going without them. Being intentional means learning the true cost of food and then choosing compassion and justice over convenience or thrift.

Being intentional is also about thinking beyond what we eat as individuals to the eating needs of others. I’m not as good at this practice, but I want to stretch toward reflecting what the church has embraced since the beginning: feeding the hungry, eating with the lonely, and taking food to families with new babies or who may be dealing with illness, death, or grief.

©2016 by Lisa Graham McMinn. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

This excerpt comes from Psalms 1-50 (BTCB) by Ellen Charry, commenting on Psalm 36:5-10:

Psalm 36:5–9 also prompts reflection on the unfathomability of divine providence and raises the question of theodicy, where moral intuition expects mercy for the righteous but harsh judgment seems to prevail as they suffer. Commenting on 36:6, which says that divine judgment is like great mountains and deep oceans, Ibn Ezra sounds a note of pious agnosticism:

“People cannot bear Your righteousness, for [it] is like the mighty mountains. However, in reality its meaning is that God’s righteousness is beyond comprehension. It is like the mighty and powerful mountains that no man can reach. The knowledge of God’s judgments is similarly like the great obscure deep, which man cannot see.”

However, the poet assures the righteous that they will feast delightedly at God’s table, “for the core of life is with you and in your light we see light” (36:8–9). That last (famous) phrase is tantalizingly ambiguous and invites speculation. Theodore interprets the light literally, insisting against other commentators that the light is not Christ but rather the physical gift of light, which is, indeed, the fountain of life. “[David’s] meaning was to present the utter generosity and abundance of God’s gift—hence his mention of these two things in particular: the light . . . and enjoyment of the light.” God is therefore shown to be both “creator” and “provider”; he gives “some [of those things] for our continuance and sustenance, some for us to have a pleasurable and beneficial enjoyment of life.”

Feasting in God’s house (36:8), which refers to salvation for those who take refuge in God, speaks to Christians of heavenly reward after this life although that idea is not in the text. While Theodore denies that these verses allude to Christ, Augustine is sure that they do. Eschatologically, Christ is the fountain of life.

“The reality is that a fountain is light also; you may call it what you will, because it is not what you call it. You cannot find a suitable name, because it is not captured by any one name. If you were to say that it is light, and only light, someone might object, ‘What then was the point of telling me that I am to hunger and thirst? Can anyone eat light? That other hint that was given me was obviously more apt: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8). I had better prepare my eyes, then.’ Yes, but prepare your throat too, because the reality that is light is also a fountain: a fountain because it drenches the thirsty, light because it illumines the blind. . . . Here below the two may be separated; but there you will never flag, because there will be the fountain for you, and you will never walk in darkness, for there is light.”

©2015 by Ellen T. Charry. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In: To the Table

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With the growing farm-to-table movement and increasing popularity of local farmers’ markets, we are becoming more conscious of where our food originates. In this spirituality of eating and food, Lisa Graham McMinn encourages readers to reflect on the realities of food today and understand how eating forms their souls inwardly, upwardly, and outwardly.

McMinn celebrates the goodness of food in God’s creation, offering practical guidance on what it means to eat alone or in community with more intention, compassion, humility, and gratitude. She also tells the story of food that occurs every year as it transitions from seed to table.

To the Table features sidebars containing gardening and food tips, recipes, and food preservation guides. End-of-chapter questions for individual and group use are included.


Lisa Graham McMinn

Lisa Graham McMinn (PhD, Portland State University) is co-owner of Fern Creek, a thirty-family CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm outside of Newberg, Oregon. She is writer in residence at George Fox University, where she previously taught sociology, and is the author of several books, including Growing Strong Daughters and Walking Gently on the Earth.


Praise for To the Table:

“A warm and wise invitation to practice eating as a spiritual discipline—not as an act of self-improvement but as a way of living out and delighting in the generous, abundant, just, sweet, and savory love of God.”—Rachel Marie Stone, author of Eat with Joy

“With inspiring and illuminating stories and astute cultural analysis, McMinn shows us how the whole of eating can be a sacramental act that brings healing to our hungry and hurting world. This beautifully written book is ideal for group study, and its recipes and cooking advice will encourage people to gather in kitchens and around tables to share in the grace of God.”—Norman Wirzba, author of Food and Faith

To the Table is about dining devotionally, which feeds both body and soul. A deeply nourishing read.”—Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm

“If this book were a table, it would bow under the weight of its abundance. Filled with research, recipes, how-to tips, and personal narrative, To the Table will encourage faithful readers to head straight for their own gardens, farmers markets, pantries, and tables as they learn to eat more intentionally, more prayerfully, and with stronger community ties.”—Jenell Paris, Messiah College

“McMinn artfully weaves stories, Scripture, science, and recipes together in this holistic and practical exploration of what it can look like to eat well today….A warm and compelling invitation to a more compassionate, nourishing, and faithful way of living.”—Ben Lowe, Evangelical Environmental Network

“McMinn brings together a delightful collection of stories, recipes, and philosophy about gardening, cooking, and everything in between. This whimsical little book provides a feast in many forms. It is a must-read for every gardener, cook, and person concerned about where our food comes from and how we gather to eat it.”—Christine Sine, Mustard Seed Associates

“From its researched critique of the modern food industry to the way it describes our everyday practices and relationship with food as a spiritual experience, To the Table helps us regain the knowledge and intimacy necessary to eat well, to eat right, and to eat in communion with creation and each other.”—Randy Woodley author of Shalom and the Community of Creation

“A delightfully earthy book that combines keen theological reflection about food and community with personal stories and recipes. To The Table emphasizes the central role food plays in our lives, and challenges us to be more attentive to how we eat.” – Relevant Magazine

 Also, check out this recent Publishers Weekly interview with Lisa Graham McMinn!

The Weekly Hit List: January 8, 2016

Cover ArtWesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship was featured in The 2015 Christ and Pop Culture 25.

“Raises the possibility of deeper friendships being not just as a bulwark against corrosive individualism or a solution to the “problem” of gay Christians, but also a rich font of spiritual blessing for everyone. This short book is desperately needed in our cultural context, raising questions we shouldn’t keep to ourselves.”

Publishers Weekly reviewed The Justice Calling, coming soon from Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson.

“Powerful insights, based in scripture and Christian teaching, to help Christians to live out Jesus’ teachings in a globalized, interconnected, but impersonal world.”

Quick Hits:

Rejoicing in Lament, by J. Todd Billings, was a book of the year at Pilgrim in Progress and The Fidelity Essays, and was recommended at Scrawlings & Ramblings.

Ellen Charry’s Psalms 1- 50 was reviewed at SirReadaLot.

James K. A. Smith, author of the forthcoming You Are What You Love, was interviewed Thursday on The Ride Home with John & Kathy. You can find the podcast here, starting at the 1:12:00 mark.