Bishop Michael Rinehart



Bishop of the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Easter 5B – April 29, 2018

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.

ethiopian eunuch

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. These words echo: “Whoever does not love, does not know God.”

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? Our lives? Our communities? Our churches? What fruit would you like to bear? Jesus says, “You shall know them by their fruit.” What does the “fruit” of your life, or your congregation, say about who you are?

Both of these texts, above, are pregnant for preaching. Acts 8, however, calls to me.

I love this story of the Ethiopian Eunuch 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. Luke is a careful writer. He has the best Greek in the New Testament. 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 to Judaism. It is possible that Luke is writing to a person named Theophilus. It is also possible that Luke is writing for all seekers, all lovers of God. Could it be that Luke is uniquely relevant 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 ones sent out. The early church read from the Old Testament, from the memoirs of the apostles, and from the good news of Jesus. Salvation was not something to be hoarded. It compelled and impelled. We are saved to be sent.

Acts paints a picture of the Spirit working in the post-resurrection, sent 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. 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. To this day, the Ethiopians know they were the first outside the Holy Land to receive the gospel.

An angel of the Lord comes to Philip and tells him to go down to Gaza. You know of the much-embattled, and sadly forgotten Gaza strip from the news. 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?

We know three, and probably four, things about him immediately. He is Ethiopian. He is a court official. He is a eunuch. He is likely Jewish, though perhaps a seeker, a lover of God.

Ethiopia is a country located in the horn of Africa, south of Egypt. Incidentally, the Ethiopian Lutheran Church is the second largest Lutheran 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, ancient land. And beautiful. Some of the most fertile soil in the world. 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.

Court official: 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 in his childhood, 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, at the pain, at the injustice, at the abandonment of his parents?

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…

The thing is, he can go all the way to Jerusalem to worship. He can approach the Temple, but he cannot go in. His castration disqualified him. 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. “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall 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 Ethiopian’s chariot. When he arrives, he discovers the eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah. Ironically, the 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 you stumble across this text from Isaiah. Hear it through his ears:

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? He must identify with the suffering Servant who will also be without descendants, whose life is taken from the earth. 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 lamb led to the slaughter?

Here Luke gives us a glimpse of the power of the gospel in an empire where most people were slaves. They identify with the Suffering Servant, and he with them.

The Ethiopian man asks Philip, “Who is the prophet talking about? Himself or someone else?” So 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 even, yes even eunuchs. What things in your life have sometimes led you to believe God was not on your side? What mistakes, yours or others have separated you from God? How might Jesus be reaching to you across that barrier?

The first convert to Christianity outside of Jerusalem is a black, Jewish, sexual minority.

Think about that for a moment. In a world that divides, the gospel unites all people, of all walks of life. 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?

Tricentennial Interfaith Service

At 300 (1718-2018), the City of New Orleans celebrates its diverse, unique culture, giving thanks to God for surviving Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav, recession, the BP oil spill and more.

Archbishop Aymond was the consummate host. Mayor Mitch Landrieu had poignant words in his last 20 days as mayor. Buddy Noel did a super job organizing.

Food or bombs

The world now has a big decision to make. Where will we invest more of our resources in the next generation, food or bombs? Each represents a different road, each leads to a different world, with a completely different set of outcomes. National budgets are moral documents. They reflect the soul of a nation.

Easter 4B (Good Shepherd Sunday) – April 22, 2018

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 Jn. 3:16. 1 Jn 3:16 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.

Hymns: Shepherd Me O God, The King of Love My Shepherd Is…

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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)

I AM. 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 on John 10 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.”

The thing is, most people these days don’t have sheep. The analogy may have worked in a pastoral community. Today, we will have to work to make this understood.

  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, therefore 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, 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. What we have is a distribution problem. 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.

  1. 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, 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.

  1. 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.

What have been the darkest valleys of your life? Perhaps you are in it right now. Perhaps memories of it still haunt you.

God promises to be with us when we walk through dark times. Therefore, 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.

  1. 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, 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 73 years ago this month. The hired hand runs away, but the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

  1. 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. When you, on that final journey go, the Good Shepherd will be with you once again. “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 a community of life. We are not a community of despair, but hope. Let the sermon reflect this. 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.

Easter 3B – April 15, 2018

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 22) we have a resurrection appearance from Luke 24. I’d like to use this post to overview what is coming.

April 22, 2018 is Easter 4B we have Good Shepherd Sunday, John 10 (the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep)

April 29, 2018 is Easter 5B we have John 15, “I am the vine, you are the branches….”

May 6, 2018 is 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.”

May 13, 2018 is Ascension. We read again from Luke 24: “stay in the city until you clothed with power from on high.”

May 20, 2018 is Pentecost. We get John 15 again, “When the Advocate comes, he will bear witness to me… lead you into all truth.

May 27, 2018 is Trinity Sunday. John 3:1-17 – Nicodemus. Being born of the Spirit, which blows where it wills.

JUNE: Consider a study of 2 Corinthians in sermon and small groups

A great resource is A Heart for Reconciliation: A Walk Through 2 Corinthians

A Heart for ReconciliationPentecost 2B – June 3, 2018. 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 10, 2018. 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 17, 2018. 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 24, 2018. 2 Corinthians 8:7-15– During a severe ordeal of affliction, the Macedonian’s 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.)

ELCA Youth Gathering: June 27-July 1, 2018 in Houston

MYLE and the tAble: July 24-26, 2018


Pentecost 6B – July 1, 2018. 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 8, 2018. Mark 6:14-29– Herod, Herodias and John the Baptist’s head on a platter.

Pentecost 8B – July 15, 2018. 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 22, 2018. John 6:1-21 – Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus walks on water. (First lesson: David and Bathsheba.)

Pentecost 10B – July 29, 2018. John 6:24-35 – I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

Pentecost 11B – August 5, 2018. 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 12, 2018. 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 19, 2018. 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…


Pentecost 14B – August 26, 2018. 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.

September 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, October 28, 2018. Jesus teaches about divorce, accepting the kingdom as a child, use of wealth and riches, 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 on November 25, 2018.


There are some great stewardship texts coming up. As I mentioned, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and the Macedonians (June 24) make an incredible stewardship/generosity message. The Rich Young Ruler in October and The Widow’s Penny in November do as well.

Stewardship means management. The Bible word we often translate “stewardship” is “oikonomia,” 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 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. In 2015, many of our congregations used a five-week series called Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. If you didn’t use this before, it might be a great boost this fall:


So, as you can see, the John 6 bread texts run five weeks July 22-August 19, 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 8, 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 stark contrast with the meal that Jesus offers in July 22 gospel, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, where all are welcome and compassion reigns. These two very different meals should be compared and contrasted.

Then, 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 The four gospels on sundayabout matters of the heart.

In his book The Four 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.


On June 6 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 gospel. Look below, almost every single chapter. More than any other gospel. There is a reason for this. Lathrop says these house texts are communicated core values to the house churches for whom 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 John’s 21 chapters. Lathrop has this right. Mark 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,)


The 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

—MLK (10 December 1964, Oslo, Norway

“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”


“If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and death salute night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless rain of meaningless chaos.”


“The moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr. In his last speech

Martin Luther King, Junior was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He excelled in school skipping both ninth and 12th grades. At the age of 15 Martin entered Morehouse College. At the age of 19 he was ordained and graduated with a BA in Sociology. In 1955 at the age of 26 he received his PhD in Systematic Theology. In 1963 at the age of 34 he was named “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 4, 1968 at the age of 39, as Dr. King stood on the balcony the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, he was shot and killed by James Earl Ray.

“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”


“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

— Martin Luther King

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

— Martin Luther King

“There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.

“Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are…

“But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust…”

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

— Martin Luther King

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

— Martin Luther King

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