Preached at the Wheatland Mission on July 15, 2017. Text from Genesis 25:19-34.

“Jacob I have loved (but why) and Esau I have hated (really?).

 I am not a boatman. But, I do know, that when you are canoeing or paddling on a river, you want to avoid snags. Submerged tree limbs and sand bars. Am I right?

Reading the Bible is like taking a boat out on a river. As we make our way through the text we often get snagged, not by debris or limbs, but by a theme (such as slavery or violence) or a specific story (think of Jephthah’s daughter or the Levite and his concubine) that is so disturbing, strange, and seemingly un-Christian, that we don’t know how to proceed.

We are thus, snagged. We are stuck in our reading and perhaps in our faith and we don’t know how to proceed. When this happens, we get out of our canoes, wade to the shore, and give up on the river altogether. Getting snagged, for some, means quitting the faith or, at least, moving their faith to the backseat.

One of my snags has been a little verse in Malachi 1:2-3 and later quoted in Romans 9:13: “Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated.” It just seems so unfair. Esau was tricked, mistreated, and ganged up on by his younger brother and his mother! The “snag-story” of Esau begins with this week’s Old Testament reading: Continue reading “Snagged”


big story/big idea: Gen 1-3

This week I am teaching on Gen 1-3 and using this poem as a jumping off point. What do you think of this old classic? It comes from Johnson’s poetry collection called God’s Trombones.

“The Creation”

by: James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

    • ND God stepped out on space,
      And He looked around and said,
      “I’m lonely —
      I’ll make me a world.”
      And far as the eye of God could see
      Darkness covered everything,
      Blacker than a hundred midnights
      Down in a cypress swamp.
      Continue reading “big story/big idea: Gen 1-3”

a teaching thought…

Will Willimon is a great preacher and cultural critic. His words here sink deep and remind me of one of the great challenges of teaching and preaching within the church.

HT: to Cal in Portland who posted this blog on his. You can see the links at the bottom.

“Sometimes in leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear that we may have fallen in! When, in our sermons, we sought to use our sermons to build a bridge from the old world of the Bible to the new modern world, the traffic was only moving in one direction on that interpretive bridge. It was always the modern world rummaging about in Scripture, saying things like “This relates to me,” or, “I’m sorry, this is really impractical,” or, “I really can’t make sense out of that.” It was always the modern world telling the Bible what’s what.

“I don’t believe that the Bible wants to “speak to the modern world.” Rather, I think the Bible wants to change, convert the modern world.

“The modern world is not only the realm of the telephone, the telegraph, and allegedly “critical thinking,” this world is also the habitat of Auschwitz, two of the bloodiest wars of history, and assorted totalitarian schemes which have consumed the lives of millions. Why would our preaching want to be comprehensible to that world?

“Too often Christians have treated the modern world as if it is an unalterable fact, a reality to which we were obligated to adjust and adapt, rather than a point of view with which we might argue.”

Will Willimon’s blog: