May 3, 2015 is Easter 5B

May 6, 2012

Acts 8:26-40 – Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza reading the suffering servant from Isaiah. 

Psalm 22:25-31 – All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD. (Ps. 22:26)

1 John 4:7-21 – Beloved let us love one another for love is of God… whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

John 15:1-8  I am the vine; you the branches, that you might bear fruit. By this my Father is glorified: that you bear fruit.

Acts 8: The Ethiopian Eunuch

The texts this week are enticing.

I John 4 is one of my favorite passages. It embodies the theology of John from the gospel to the letters and Revelation: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” John moves human religion from God-is-law to God-is-love.

In John 15, Jesus is the vine, God is the vine-grower, and we are the branches. The branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine. The branch cannot bear fruit apart from the vine. God is glorified when we bear fruit. The text begs the question, what fruit are we bearing in our lives, in our communities, and in our churches?

Both of these texts, above, are pregnant for preaching. Acts 8 is even more provocative.

I love this story in Acts 8. Easter 5B is the only time it comes up in the lectionary. We won’t hear it again for three years. If you are hearing this story for the first time, it may raise your eyebrows, but if you’ve heard it before, I want to encourage you to hear it with new ears, see it with new eyes. Watch how the Spirit is working in their place and their time, and then ask yourself, how is the Spirit working here in this place and in this time.

Acts is written by the same person who wrote the gospel of Luke. Let’s call him Luke! Luke is a careful writer. He has the best Greek in the Bible. He knows his is not the first gospel. In fact, he says in Luke 1:1 that many have already set out to write down all the things that have taken place. He tells us he is writing an orderly account for a guy named Theophilus, which means “lover of God.” This was a word that was often used, along with God-fearer, for people who believed in God and were seekers, but had not yet converted. Could it be that Luke was writing for a postmodern, spiritually hungry generation?

Acts begins with the words, “In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught…” The first book was about Jesus. This second book is about the Apostles. It is the Acts of the Apostles. Apostle means one who is sent. You see the word “post” in apostle. Jesus sent out his disciples, and they became apostles. The early church read from the Old Testament, the memoirs of the apostles, and from the good news of Jesus.

Acts paints a picture of the Spirit working in the post-resurrection church. The outline of Acts, the theme verse if you will is 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jerusalem is where Pentecost takes place. Judea is the surrounding area. Samaria is the place of those heretic Samaritans. The ends of the earth is the whole Roman Empire.

In Acts 2 we have the Jerusalem Pentecost. In Acts 8 we have the Samaritan Pentecost. Philip goes to Samaria and preaches. I don’t think this is the same Philip who was a disciple of Jesus. I think he is the Philip that is elected a deacon in Acts 6. Philip preaches and even Simon the Magician believes and is baptized. So the apostles Peter and John come down, lay hands on them, and they receive the Holy Spirit. Even Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit!

I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…

Remember? You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and… all the ends of the earth. We start with Ethiopia, but later we will have a Roman Centurion.

An angel of the Lord comes to Philip and tells him to go down to Gaza. You know the Gaza strip, right? When have you been open to the prompting of the Spirit in your life, to go some place new, do something different? Are you open to that possibility now, right this very minute?

Along the way, Philip bumps into an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official. He will take this opportunity to bear witness to what God is doing to another outsider. Who has God placed in your path, to whom you might bear witness to what God is doing?

Ethiopia is a country located in the horn of Africa, south of Egypt. Incidentally, the Ethiopian Lutheran Church is the second largest church in the world.

  1.  Church of Sweden – 6.7M
  2.  Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus – 5.3M
  3.  Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania – 5.3M
  4.  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – 4.6M

Ethiopia is the most-populated country in Africa with over 90 million people. Ethiopia was a dynasty for most of its history, dating back to the 2nd century B.C. The oldest traces of humanity have been found here. It is an ancient land. There are twice as many Christians as Muslims in Ethiopia, and there are more Lutherans in Ethiopia than there are in the ELCA. Think about it; this man may have been the very first African baptized. He is certainly the first convert outside of Jerusalem, recorded in Acts.

Candace: We are told the Ethiopian eunuch is a very important man. He is a court official for Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians. He is in charge of the treasury. Shades of Joseph? Ethiopia is mentioned many times in the Bible (sometimes as Cush), but this is the only place Candace is mentioned. Candace is a family name, referring to a dynasty of Ethiopian warrior queens.

Eunuch: We are told the man is a eunuch, which means he was castrated. Why castrated? Because sometimes court officials fall in love with royalty, and if something happens, you don’t want potential heirs to the throne running around. So royalty in many cultures tended to use eunuchs.

A eunuch for the royal court would have been chosen at an early age. The child would be chosen, and castration would be carried out without his consent. It is a hard and horrific thing to imagine, being taken like this as a child and castrated. This is a classic example of human rights abuse, but when dealing with the powerful, what choice do the powerless have? Did his parents give consent? Were they paid? Did he know what was happening? Did he cry out?

Jewish: Finally, we know that this man is probably Jewish. We are told in verse 27 that the Ethiopian eunuch had come to Jerusalem to worship at Passover, and he is sitting in his chariot reading the Prophet Isaiah. Why would you go to Jerusalem to worship, unless you were a Jew? He was probably there for the feast of Pentecost with all the other people from the ends of the earth: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia…

But get this, according to Deuteronomy 23:1, he is not a full man. He is of questionable sexuality. He is unable to enter the assembly of the Lord. It is noteworthy that many of the people Jesus hung out with were also unwelcome in the Temple: women, lepers, tax collectors, the blind, the lame…

Philip is led by the Spirit to go over to the guy’s chariot. When he gets there, he discovers the eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah. Now here’s the Spirit at work. This eunuch is reading Isaiah 53, the Song of the Suffering Servant.

Imagine that you were castrated against your will at a very early age and then listen to this text from Isaiah:

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”

Can you imagine how the eunuch hears this passage, in his own brokenness? How old was he when he was robbed of his descendants? Did he know what was about to happen to him? Did he understand what it meant? Did he open his mouth and cry out or was he silent, like a sheep led to the slaughter?

The Ethiopian man asks Philip, “Who is the prophet talking about? Himself or someone else?” And then Philip told him about Jesus, the Suffering Servant. Jesus is the paradigm for all the innocent who suffer unjustly at the hands of the powerful. This is the good news that God is on the side of those who are suffering. There is healing in the cross of Christ, in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.

The love of God is poured out for Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, Roman Centurions, and, yes, even eunuchs. What a barrier crossing. Isn’t it interesting that the first convert to Christianity outside of Jerusalem is a black, Jewish, sexual minority? Think about that for a moment. In Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Gal. 3:28)

Jesus is the hero for all who suffer, in body, mind or spirit.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me!
Because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
release to the oppressed!

Who out there needs to hear that word of grace and hope today?

To whom is the Spirit leading you, as it led Philip?

To whom are you going to proclaim a word of God’s radically inclusive love this week?

Are you open to the Spirit?

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Bluebell Ice Cream

I’m at Bluebell today with friends and colleagues Toby Burk and Charles Parnell. Behind us the Bluebell factory is completely shut down as they undergo a thorough cleaning. These good people are taking a big hit in order to ensure maximum safety for what I consider to be the best retail ice cream I’ve ever had.

Bluebell Ice Cream began in the early 1900s in the small Texas town of Brenham, and has grown to be the third-largest ice cream in the U. S. This German settlement of Brenham has about a dozen Lutheran churches in the same general area, including Christ Lutheran, where I was earlier today, just a mile from Bluebell HQ. In its 108-year history, there have never been any contaminations or recalls, so this current situation comes as a shock to everyone.  

Listeria is tricky. This bacteria is killed by cooking and pasteurization, but contamination can hapeont through packaging. It is uncommon in ice cream. In fact, wisteria cannot grow in freezing temperatures. It can, however, be brought in by other products such as nuts. 

There have been many recalls this year. Sabra Dipping Company recalled 30,000 containers of hummus. Amy’s Kitchen recalled 74,000 cases of pizza and other things. Kraft recalled 242,000 boxes of macaroni and cheese. Trader Joe’s recalled walnuts due to salmonella detections. Whole Foods recalled garlic powder. 

All licensed manufacturers of frozen desserts in Texas are inspected every two months. Ice cream plants are inspected for general sanitation, various bacteria and particularly for coloform, another bacteria. Ice cream is considered low risk for listeria. Blue Bell’s plants in Brenham are regularly inspected. They have had a good inspection record. There were no penalties or warnings from the state. Blue Bell has followed industry standards in testing for bacteria. A CDC (Center for Disease Control) report shows Bluebell  no awareness of the outbreak. Neither did the health departments. 


To be completely safe, Bluebell voluntarily recalled all products. The plant is shut down and is being cleaned, then inspected. Going forward, Bluebell will test every batch for Listeria, something I believe no other ice cream company does. 

They’ll be back!


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Execution of Ethiopian Christians in Libya

A video released today shows the death of 30 Ethiopian Christians at the hands of ISIS operatives. I grieve with my brothers and sisters in Christ of the Ethiopian church that I visited last year. Combined with the attacks on Ethiopians in South Africa, this has been an unbearable week for our friends.

Jimmy Tesfakiros, who took us through the southern part of the Omo valley in Ethiopia, with whom I emailed just this week, my heart goes out to you. Johannes Wassie, who guides our people with Water to Thrive and Acts of Mercy, my love and prayers for you. To my brave and vocal friend Sabah, pictured below, who spoke her mind, my prayers. To my friends in the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, the largest Lutheran Church body in Africa, your 23 synods, 2,061 pastors, 2,728 evangelists, millions of faithful followers of Christ, Bishop Luchiesee of the Central Gibe Synod in Ambo, with whom I broke bread, and to all Ethiopians, we grieve with you. This week we are all Ethiopians.

Like the execution of the Coptic Christians earlier this year, we must condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless violence. We must also call upon Muslims everywhere to denounce terrorists who use Islam as their cover. We must unite to end the bloodshed. We grieve also with Muslims in the Middle East who have been the greatest victims. Only 12% of Al Qaida victims are Westerners. The vast majority are Muslims. The Jordanian pilot burned alive was Muslim. Last year ISIS executed over 4,000 Muslims. We condemn terrorists everywhere. We must call upon our government to focus efforts on this evil.

But today, we pray for the families of the 30 Ethiopian Christians, for all who are grieving, and for all victims of hatred and violence. This week we are Ethiopians.

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
—1 Corinthians 12:26



Yohannes, 2nd from the left.

Dick Moeller (Water to Thrive) and Bishop Luchiesee (right)



The community together, removing rocks from a field to build a fence around the new well. Young and old join in. 




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April 26, 2015 is Easter 4B – Good Shepherd Sunday

Acts 4:5-12 – Peter questioned for healing. There is no other name by which we must be saved.

Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want

1 John 3:16-24 – All know John 3:16. 1 John 3:16 is important too: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us. So we ought to lay down our lives for one another… Little children let us not love in word or speech, but in truth and action.

John 10:11-18 – The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand runs away. I know my sheep. I have other sheep not of this fold.

Psalm 23

In our first reading from Acts, Peter is questioned for healing. Our second reading is from John’s first letter. Many people know John 3:16, but not as many know 1 John 3:16:

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John 3:16-18)

John 10 is the classic Good Shepherd text, and one of the “I am” texts from John. The “I am” (ego eimi, in Greek), reflects God’s response to Moses (Exodus 3:14), when Moses asks, “Which god shall I say sent me?” Jesus uses this phrase 45 times in John’s gospel. (4:26; 6:20; 6:35; 6:41; 6:48; 6:51; 7:28; 7:29; 7:33; 7:34; 7:36; 8:12; 8:16; 8:18; 8:23 (twice); 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 9:5; 10:7; 10:9; 10:11; 10:14; 10:36; 11:25; 12:26; 13:13; 13:19; 13:33; 14:3; 14:6; 14:9; 15:1; 15:5; 16:32; 17:11; 17:14; 17:16; 17:24; 18:5; 18:6; 18:8; 18:37; 19:21, according to Felix Just, S.J., PhD of

Sometimes Jesus just responds, “I am,” ominously. Other times there is an object.

  • I am the door.
  • I am bread of life.
  • I am the light of the world.
  • I am the vine; you are the branches.
  • I am the resurrection and the life.
  • And of course, I am the good shepherd

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand sees the wolf coming and runs. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” Here is a sermon from Martin Luther, from his 1523 sermon postil.

I am going to focus on the psalm – Psalm 23.

I believe this may be the first Bible verse my parents taught me as a child. I have taught it to my children. We printed it and taped it up above the bed, so we could read it each night. Throughout my life, its words have rung in my ears, in the highs and the lows.

I would consider reading this slowly with the congregation, having them parrot back the verses one by one. Maybe print out a bookmark with the psalm on it, encouraging the congregation to memorize it. Revisit it the following week. Sing “Shepherd Me, O God” and/or “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.”

1. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

This is a beloved passage. That first verse, is it a command or a promise? Is the psalmist saying, “The Lord is my shepherd, there for I should never want anything”? Or is the psalmist saying God provides all I need?

I read it as a promise. Because God is like a shepherd who takes care of the sheep; I am not going to be in want. The psalm invites us to recognize that God has provided abundantly: earth and sea, the beautiful wild flowers, trees, the singing birds, plants and animals, food and clothing, and all I need from day to day. When we see with spiritual eyes, we see the world as a tremendous, beautiful gift. We see ourselves as being blessed by a generous God. When we see with heaven’s eyes, we recognize that we have enough. We can stop clamoring for more, more, and more. We already have enough. Freedom from want can be exhilarating.

Some will quickly point out, not everyone has enough. This is true. Too true. But God has provided enough. There is enough food in the world for everyone to eat, more than enough. God has provided. It is human sin, greed, and war that keep people from eating. In his feeding of the five thousand, Jesus shows us that our God is a God of generosity; therefore, we are to be a people of generosity. Giving is a sign that the Spirit is at work in us. Jesus teaches his followers to give: “When I was hungry you gave me food.”

The psalmist invites us to live life, trusting God as provider. Jesus does the same (in Matthew 6):

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith?

Luther reflects this in his explanation of the first article of the Creed, in the Small Catechism. Perhaps, like me, you memorized this as a child:

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

2. The Lord, who is my shepherd, this generous and abundant giver, also leads us to green pastures, beside still waters, to restore our souls and along right pathways for his name’s sake.

Our God not only provides for us abundantly, this God also promises a peace that passes all understanding, leading us beside still waters and green pastures. Communion with this God leads not to anger, enmity, strife, but to joy, peace, and compassion. When you feel lost or broken, this shepherd will come and seek you out. Communing with the Great Shepherd will restore your soul and set your life on the right pathway.

God cares about you. God cares about lost sheep. Jesus said, “I have sheep that are not of this fold.” Jesus cares about those who are outside the church; therefore, the community of God, the church, cares about lost sheep. We are the community that seeks lost sheep. Because we ourselves were once lost but now are found. So everything in the church, everything should be obsessively focused on seeking lost sheep. We are a hospital for sinners, not a club for saints. By this shall all people know you are my disciples: your love, your love, your love for one another.

3. This God promises to be with us, even when, especially when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

This God promises to show up in our darkest hour. Even when we feel abandoned, when we do not feel God’s presence, the Great Shepherd is there.

Because God is with us when we walk through dark times, we the church walk with others through their dark times. In fact, we look for those who are grieving, lonely, or in need of any kind. We seek them out, and apply love and care because that’s what it means to be the people of God.

4. This God, this Lord, this Shepherd, provides for us even when evil encircles us.

This Good Shepherd sets a lavish table, a feast for us, in the presence of our enemies, and anoints our heads with oil. When those who hate you, surround you, turn to the Great Shepherd. Trust the Shepherd of your Soul, and you will find a feast of goodness and mercy.

Therefore we, the church, do the same for others. We stand with those who are oppressed, broken, and outcast. We are called to love the unlovable and touch the untouchable. Just as Jesus touched lepers and ate with outcasts, we the church are called to do the same. We are the community of Jesus. Our ministry is to look like the ministry of Jesus, not the ministry of the Pharisees.

And when evil rears its ugly head, we stand up for those who are oppressed, even if it means giving our own lives. Because the Good Shepherd gave his life for us. Greater love has no one than this that you lay down your life for your friends. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). The hired hand runs away. The hired hand has no investment in the sheep. Why risk your life? Are you an owner or are you a hired hand? Do you care for God’s sheep, enough to risk your own skin.

It strikes me as profound that when Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer visited the U.S., he knew he was being hunted by the Nazis. His Lutheran friends in the U.S. implored him to stay here, but he said he could not abandon his people at their hour of greatest need. He returned, and was executed 67 years ago this month. The hired hand runs away, but the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

5. Finally, we get to the best part: This Good Shepherd promises that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

When you are at death’s door, this Shepherd will be there. “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.” “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also.” Even when you think that death has the last word, this Shepherd will have one last surprise for you.

Therefore, we the church, we the people of God, are not a community of death, but of life. Not of despair, but of hope. We are the people of the resurrection. We proclaim a message of grace and hope to a world that seems to think that death is the final word.

This is what it means to say “the Lord is my shepherd:” It is to trust in God for everything in life, to give freely and joyfully, it is to live in the peace of Christ, it is to trust God, even when enemies surround us, and to stand with others in the same situation. It is to trust God in life and death, and to be with those in the valley. It is to proclaim a word of hope.

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Joyful Life in The Woodlands / Magnolia 10th Anniversary



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April 19, 2015 is Easter 3B

Acts 3:12-19 – Peter addresses the people: Faith in Christ made this man well.

Psalm 4 – The LORD does wonders for the faithful. (Ps. 4:3)

1 John 3:1-7 – See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.

Luke 24:36b-48  Resurrection appearance. Jesus eats food. Peace be with you. You are my witnesses.

Our gospel texts for the 50 days of Easter come from Luke and John, even though we’re in a Markan year. So this coming Sunday (Easter 3B, April 19), we have a resurrection appearance from Luke 24. I’d like to use this post to overview what is coming.


April 26, Easter 4B – We have Good Shepherd Sunday, John 10 (the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep)


May 3, Easter 5B – We have John 15, “I am the vine, you are the branches….”

May 10 Easter 6B – We’re still in John 15, “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. I have said these things that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. You did not choose me; I chose you, and appointed you to bear fruit.” It is also Mother’s Day weekend.

May 17 is Ascension – We read again from Luke 24: “stay in the city until you clothed with power from on high.”

May 24 (Memorial Day weekend) is Pentecost – We get John 15 again, “When the Advocate comes, he will bear witness to me… lead you into all truth.

Trinity – May 31, 2015John 3:1-17 – Nicodemus. Being born of the Spirit, which blows where it wills.

JUNE: 2 Corinthians

In June I will be writing on and encouraging our congregations to delve into the epistle texts from 2 Corinthians. We will be providing a resource for this shortly.

Pentecost 2B – June 7, 2015. 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.

(Gospel: Mark 3:20-35 A house divided cannot stand. All sins forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.)

Pentecost 3B – June 14, 2015. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 – We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord.

(Gospel: Mark 4:26-34 – The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.)

Pentecost 4B – June 21, 2015. 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, imprisonment…

(Gospel: Mark 4:35-41 – Jesus calms the sea: Peace. Be still.)

Pentecost 5B – June 28, 2015. 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – During a severe ordeal of affliction, the Macedonians joy and poverty overflow in a wealth of generosity.

(Gospel: Mark 5:21-43 – They come to the house of Jairus, where they heal his daughter and then the woman with the hemorrhage.)


Pentecost 6B – July 5, 2015. 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul’s out of body experience, and his thorn in the flesh. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

(Gospel: Mark 6:1-13 – A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house. Jesus sends the twelve two-by-two.)

2 Corinthians Study ends

Pentecost 7B – July 12, 2015. Mark 6:14-29 – Herod, Herodias and John the Baptist’s head on a platter.

ELCA Youth Gathering: July 15-19, 2015
MYLE and DAYLE: July 12-15, 2015

Pentecost 8B – July 19, 2015. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 – Jesus to his disciples: “Come away to a deserted place and rest for a while.”

5 Weeks of Bread Texts 

Pentecost 9B – July 26, 2015. John 6:1-21 – Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus walks on water. (First lesson: David and Bathsheba.)


Pentecost 10B – August 2, 2015. John 6:24-35 – I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

Pentecost 11B – August 9, 2015. John 6:35, 41-51 – I am the bread of life, the living bread which comes down from heaven. No one comes unless the Father draws, and I will raise you up on the last day.

Pentecost 12B – August 16, 2015. John 6:51-58 – Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. The one who eats this bread will live forever.

Pentecost 13B – August 23, 2015. John 6:56-69  – Eat my flesh for eternal life. This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it? Does this bother you? Do you also wish to go away? Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,

Bread texts from John 6 end.

Pentecost 14B – August 30, 2015. Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – Jesus: It is not what goes in, but what comes out that defiles. Jesus eats with unwashed hands.


We’re in Mark chapters 7-9. The Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, Peter’s confession, what it means to be great, those not against us are for us.


October is Mark 10, until we hit Reformation Sunday the 28th. Jesus teaches about divorce, accepting the kingdom as a child, use of wealth and riches (10/14), and power (sitting at my right and left in the kingdom).


November is All Saints, then Mark 12 (the widow’s coins) and Mark 13 (the end is coming, not one stone will be left on another), followed by Christ the King (11/25).


There are some great stewardship texts in our gospel readings for 10/11 and 11/8 in terse Markan form. Stewardship means management. The Bible word we often translate “stewardship” is “oiko-nomia,” from which we get our word, “economy.” It literally means “the law of the house.” The steward cares for the master’s house, wealth and resources.

If we use “stewardship” only to mean “fund raising,” we misunderstand the concept. We are called to do more than raise funds for an institution. We are called to invite people to recognize all life as a gift, and everything we have as God-given resources for us to steward for God’s purposes.

We cannot develop good stewards without raising faith. Manipulating people to give apart from faith is fund-raising at best. Our role is to nurture open hearts, compassion for the world, and a lavish generosity that comes from a steadfast faith. How do we nurture that faith in people, members, and non-members alike?

Consider the things that nurture faith: Bible study, prayer, caring conversation, worship, and so on. This fall invite people into a five-week series on Five Practices of Faith.

This is an opportunity to get as many people in your congregation as possible in prayer and study, and even some who are not part of your congregation. Stay tuned for more on this.

Bread Texts

So, as you can see, the John 6 bread texts run five weeks July 26-August 26, beginning with The Feeding of the 5,000.

But don’t miss this: even before the bread texts we have eating scenes, meal scenes going on. July 12, just before the ELCA Youth Gathering, and the first Sunday after we finish up with 2 Corinthians, we have Herod’s “Power Lunch,” in which women are called in to do the men’s bidding, and John the Baptist’s head is brought in on a platter. This is in strict contrast with the meal that Jesus offers in July 26’s gospel, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, where all are welcome and compassion reigns. After the bread texts, in September, Jesus continues by talking about the significance of what goes in ones mouth and what comes out of it. Jesus’ disciples eat with their hands unwashed. It is what comes from within that defiles. Jesus is concerned about matters of the heart.

In his book The Gospels on Sunday, Gordon Lathrop challenges us to see all these eating texts and all the “house” texts as cryptic messages for the house-churches for whom they are written. As Mark’s gospel is being read at the table in these house-churches, every house image in those gospel texts evokes the house-church in which they’re sitting and listening.

Mark’s “House” Texts

On June 7 the gospel text (Mark 3:20-35) begins “and the crowd…” but the sentence actually began at the end of verse 19 with, “And they went home.” The text, και ερχεται εις οικον, says literally, “they went to house.” Then such a crowd gathered that they couldn’t eat. Was this the experience of the early church? Did the crowds create a problem for the meal?

“House” appears an astonishing number of times in Mark’s narrative. Look below, almost every single chapter. It’s in more than any other gospel. There is a reason for this. Lathrop says these house texts are communicating core values to the house churches for which Mark is writing his gospel.

A search for “house” in Mark, in an English Bible only got 18 hits in Mark’s gospel. But a search for “οικ” in the Greek text comes up with 34 hits in Mark. That’s more than an average of two per chapter in Mark’s 16 short chapters. There are more Greek references than English because sometimes oikos gets translated “at home” or in other ways to make it fit our English language. Below are the references. Compare these 34 references in Mark’s 16 chapters to only nine references in Mark’s 21 chapters. Lathrop has this right. John is writing with the house-churches in mind.

From the references below, I want to offer some conjecture about the nature of house churches or at least Mark’s vision for what the house churches should be like.

  • Some people are invited to participate in Jesus’ itinerant ministry while others are told to return home, literally, “to the house.” There are apostles, there are pastors and there are members of the body of Christ. Some are to “go home” and tell their friends. The good news of Jesus is to be told in the house.
  • All are welcome in the house-church.
  • The house is a place where people eat together – share table fellowship – with people of all walks of life, including tax collectors and sinners (2:15).
  • The house is to be a place of prayer for all people/nations/ethnicities.
  • The house is a place to come for healing. This will sometimes create chaos.
  • It is not to become a den of robbers as Jesus felt the temple had become.
  • Jesus is the “Master of the house” or “Lord of the house” (ο κυριος της οικιας) who may return at any moment (Mark 13:35).
  • Jesus is the cornerstone of the house-church.
  • A house divided will not stand (conflict will kill a church).
  • The house is the place where disciples discuss what happens out in the world.
  • Since the temple will be destroyed (not one stone left on another) the house will become the new place for God’s presence. (This happened even in Jewish communities, with the destruction of the temple and the development of home Passover celebrations or Seders.)
  • Those who are alienated from their “home” or “house” by family members will find a new “home” or “house” with a new family.

Add these together with all the references to meals, including the feeding of the 5,000, and you have a pretty interesting picture that Mark has painted of the church. A chief mark of Jesus’ ministry is commensality: eating together with people of different walks of life, outcasts, sinners, lepers, tax-collectors.

I hope this year in Mark will inspire us to preach the implications of this ancient gospel for the church.

Detailed House Texts in Mark’s Gospel

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 1:29 και ευθεως εκ της συναγωγης εξελθοντες ηλθον εις την οικιαν σιμωνος και ανδρεου μετα ιακωβου και ιωαννου (As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 2:1 και παλιν εισηλθεν εις καπερναουμ δι ημερων και ηκουσθη οτι εις οικον εστιν (When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 2:11 σοι λεγω εγειραι και αρον τον κραββατον σου και υπαγε εις τον οικον σου (‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 2:15 και εγενετο εν τω κατακεισθαι αυτον εν τη οικια αυτου και πολλοι τελωναι και αμαρτωλοι συνανεκειντο τω ιησου και τοις μαθηταις αυτου ησαν γαρ πολλοι και ηκολουθησαν αυτω (And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples-for there were many who followed him.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 2:26 πως εισηλθεν εις τον οικον του θεου επι αβιαθαρ του αρχιερεως και τους αρτους της προθεσεως εφαγεν ους ουκ εξεστιν φαγειν ει μη τοις ιερευσιν και εδωκεν και τοις συν αυτω ουσιν (He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 3:19 και ιουδαν ισκαριωτην ος και παρεδωκεν αυτον και ερχονται εις οικον (Then he went home)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 3:25 και εαν οικια εφ εαυτην μερισθη ου δυναται σταθηναι η οικια εκεινη (And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 3:27 ου δυναται ουδεις τα σκευη του ισχυρου εισελθων εις την οικιαν αυτου διαρπασαι εαν μη πρωτον τον ισχυρον δηση και τοτε την οικιαν αυτου διαρπασει (But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 5:19 ο δε ιησους ουκ αφηκεν αυτον αλλα λεγει αυτω υπαγε εις τον οικον σου προς τους σους και αναγγειλον αυτοις οσα σοι ο κυριος εποιησεν και ηλεησεν σε (But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 5:38 και ερχεται εις τον οικον του αρχισυναγωγου και θεωρει θορυβον κλαιοντας και αλαλαζοντας πολλα (When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 6:4 ελεγεν δε αυτοις ο ιησους οτι ουκ εστιν προφητης ατιμος ει μη εν τη πατριδι αυτου και εν τοις συγγενεσιν και εν τη οικια αυτου (Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 6:10 και ελεγεν αυτοις οπου εαν εισελθητε εις οικιαν εκει μενετε εως αν εξελθητε εκειθεν (He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 7:17 και οτε εισηλθεν εις οικον απο του οχλου επηρωτων αυτον οι μαθηται αυτου περι της παραβολης (When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 7:24 και εκειθεν αναστας απηλθεν εις τα μεθορια τυρου και σιδωνος και εισελθων εις την οικιαν ουδενα ηθελεν γνωναι και ουκ ηδυνηθη λαθειν (From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 7:30 και απελθουσα εις τον οικον αυτης ευρεν το δαιμονιον εξεληλυθος και την θυγατερα βεβλημενην επι της κλινης (So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 8:3 και εαν απολυσω αυτους νηστεις εις οικον αυτων εκλυθησονται εν τη οδω τινες γαρ αυτων μακροθεν ηκασιν (If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way-and some of them have come from a great distance.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 8:26 και απεστειλεν αυτον εις τον οικον αυτου λεγων μηδε εις την κωμην εισελθης μηδε ειπης τινι εν τη κωμη (Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 9:28 και εισελθοντα αυτον εις οικον οι μαθηται αυτου επηρωτων αυτον κατ ιδιαν οτι ημεις ουκ ηδυνηθημεν εκβαλειν αυτο (When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 9:33 και ηλθεν εις καπερναουμ και εν τη οικια γενομενος επηρωτα αυτους τι εν τη οδω προς εαυτους διελογιζεσθε ( Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 10:10 και εν τη οικια παλιν οι μαθηται αυτου περι του αυτου επηρωτησαν αυτον (Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 10:29 αποκριθεις δε ο ιησους ειπεν αμην λεγω υμιν ουδεις εστιν ος αφηκεν οικιαν η αδελφους η αδελφας η πατερα η μητερα η γυναικα η τεκνα η αγρους ενεκεν εμου και του ευαγγελιου (Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 10:30 εαν μη λαβη εκατονταπλασιονα νυν εν τω καιρω τουτω οικιας και αδελφους και αδελφας και μητερας και τεκνα και αγρους μετα διωγμων και εν τω αιωνι τω ερχομενω ζωην αιωνιον (who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age-houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions-and in the age to come eternal life.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 11:17 και εδιδασκεν λεγων αυτοις ου γεγραπται οτι ο οικος μου οικος προσευχης κληθησεται πασιν τοις εθνεσιν υμεις δε εποιησατε αυτον σπηλαιον ληστων (He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 12:10 ουδε την γραφην ταυτην ανεγνωτε λιθον ον απεδοκιμασαν οι οικοδομουντες ουτος εγενηθη εις κεφαλην γωνιας (Have you not read this scripture: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;) [οικοδομουντες is the word for “builders,” or “house-makers.”]

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 12:40
 οι κατεσθιοντες τας οικιας των χηρων και προφασει μακρα προσευχομενοι ουτοι ληψονται περισσοτερον κριμα (They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 13:1 και εκπορευομενου αυτου εκ του ιερου λεγει αυτω εις των μαθητων αυτου διδασκαλε ιδε ποταποι λιθοι και ποταπαι οικοδομαι (As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’) [οικοδομαι are “buildings.”)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 13:2 και ιησους αποκριθεις ειπεν αυτω βλεπεις ταυτας τας μεγαλας οικοδομας ου μη αφεθη λιθος επι λιθω ος ου μη καταλυθη (Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 13:15 ο δε επι του δωματος μη καταβατω εις την οικιαν μηδε εισελθετω αραι τι εκ της οικιας αυτου (someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 13:34 ως ανθρωπος αποδημος αφεις την οικιαν αυτου και δους τοις δουλοις αυτου την εξουσιαν και εκαστω το εργον αυτου και τω θυρωρω ενετειλατο ινα γρηγορη (It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 13:35 γρηγορειτε ουν ουκ οιδατε γαρ ποτε ο κυριος της οικιας ερχεται οψε η μεσονυκτιου η αλεκτοροφωνιας η πρωι (Therefore, keep awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 14:3 και οντος αυτου εν βηθανια εν τη οικια σιμωνος του λεπρου κατακειμενου αυτου ηλθεν γυνη εχουσα αλαβαστρον μυρου ναρδου πιστικης πολυτελους και συντριψασα το αλαβαστρον κατεχεεν αυτου κατα της κεφαλης ( While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 14:14 και οπου εαν εισελθη ειπατε τω οικοδεσποτη οτι ο διδασκαλος λεγει που εστιν το καταλυμα οπου το πασχα μετα των μαθητων μου φαγω (and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 14:58 οτι ημεις ηκουσαμεν αυτου λεγοντος οτι εγω καταλυσω τον ναον τουτον τον χειροποιητον και δια τριων ημερων αλλον αχειροποιητον οικοδομησω (‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”‘)

ΚΑΤΑ      ΜΑΡΚΟΝ 15:29 και οι παραπορευομενοι εβλασφημουν αυτον κινουντες τας κεφαλας αυτων και λεγοντες ουα ο καταλυων τον ναον και εν τρισιν ημεραις οικοδομων (Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days.)

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Easter 2015 Around the Synod

A few photos I grabbed from with the help of my iPhone and Facebook…

Easter Vigil Saturday Night at Faith Bellaire



Vigil at Spirit of Joy The Woodlands





Easter in Baboua, Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic, our companion synod. 


Bethlehem Round Top



Easter Sunday morning at Living Word Katy




Artwork by Living Word Katy member Vonda Drees


Tree of Life Conroe





Grace, Conroe


St. John’s Rutersville (Fayette County)


Peace, Pasadena, Texas



Luz Divina of Marquéz, in Lima, our companion synod, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peru



Community Sunrise Service with Light of Christ in LaPorte, Texas and other congregations. 


Iglesia Luterana Principe de Paz, Houston





St. John, Bellville





Christ, Brenham


Salem, Brenham


Christus Victor, League City




St. John Waller



St. Paul of Phillipsburg, Brenham 



Salem, Houston



St. Paul of Rehburg in Burton, TX



And just for fun…

Pastor Pedro Lopez at St. John’s Angleton  


Trinity Frelsburg Easter hat contest. (One of these things is not like the others.)



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