August 29, 2021
When I was growing up, living in North Carolina, we made it a big family tradition that the whole extended family would gather at my grandparent’s house to celebrate Labor Day with a cookout. They’d borrow the long church tables and set them up in the carport and along the driveway, and we’d set out all the food and it would be a great time. It was a potluck, so there was always a variety to choose from. But for whatever reason—and to this day I still don’t know quite why—the meat was not potluck. Everyone had to bring their own burger, or hot dog, or whatever else. I remember being very confused by that as a child, but no one ever explained to me exactly why it was that, while we shared everything else, we didn’t share the protein part. It was tradition.
Traditions are weird like that. They’re things that we do, day after day or year after year, and they’re important to us. But also, more often than not, we rarely take the time to ask why we have the traditions we have. Church hymnals are always red or green. We always plant potatoes on Good Friday. There is always a get-together at the cabin over Labor Day. Grandma always leads the prayer when we’re visiting.
August 15, 2021
We have a family story of a distant cousin of mine who changed her name, but only changed one letter. See, my mom’s side of the family are the Icenhours, and it’s kind of a weird quirk of fate that the branch that spelled their names with an “s” were often the richer branch of the family tree. So this cousin of mine got her name legally changed, changing only the one letter in her last name, hoping some of the magic of that letter would rub off on her life.
Spoiler: it didn’t work.
But there are stories from all over about how people will go to great lengths and do remarkable things if it means they can get the things they value the most. Fairy tales and children’s movies revolve around the way the hero of the story grows to understand what they really need—the love of family, the acceptance of their uniqueness, how they’re worthy because of their goodness and not their wealth or their power. The villain is always consumed by a desire for power or money or something else that makes them callous toward the suffering of others, and also brings about their ruin.
August 8, 2021
Our first reading today is probably going to need a bit of backstory to really get what is happening. It’s part of the ongoing story of King David and the way his story changed from being a young shepherd and boy wonder, to a seasoned king grappling with the challenges of palace intrigue. Two weeks ago kicked off the turning point in David’s career with the way he used his position of power to use Bathsheba, and then had her husband killed on the front to cover up his crimes. Things went sideways from there, and in a lot of ways, it was the moment where even the Bible admits a loss of innocence for its favorite king.
But more than just a shameful story of how David fell into the trap of sin, the saga of David and what he did to Bathsheba and Uriah is a story of how he was seduced by the power that came with being king. It impacted his family, because without David guiding them to be good and righteous people, they let loose on indulging in palace intrigue. There was wheeling and dealing and backbiting to shame even the halls of congress. Giving into the temptation of power led directly to the story we read about this morning, the rebellion of his son Absalom.
August 1, 2021
Last week, we remembered the ways that God uses what we have to make miracles happen. Jesus had spent some time with the people, teaching and healing, and finally giving them all the bread they wanted so that there were twelve baskets left over. This was a spectacular miracle. By Philip’s estimate, enough bread was handed out to cost at least a whole year’s wages! And the people, they reacted just the way you’d expect: they wanted this miracle-worker to be their leader. He would be their king and feed them with this miraculous bread and all the world would be right!
Well, somewhere in the midst of them coming to this conclusion, the disciples went across the Sea of Galilee and Jesus followed. The people, waking up from their carb coma, looked around to find Jesus or his disciples so they could make Jesus their king and get access to that bread. But Jesus and his disciples had disappeared! Somehow, probably that kid that had the bread and fish that were multiplied, they figured out their miracle-working would-be-king was in Capernaum, so they hurried over there.