Author Archives: Rich Neal

The wisdom of the woodsorrel

When the teacher makes the same point again and again, you can be sure it will be on the test. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16), Jesus said, “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” At the end of the previous chapter he said, “many who […]

On forgiveness

Abundant life, life in all its fullness, a life rich and satisfying, more and better life than you ever dreamed of – these are some of the ways to describe the aim of the way of life Jesus invites us to follow (John 10:10 NRSV, GNT, NLT, MSG). And he starts by assuring us that […]

If we’re to be whole

Sometimes what Jesus does not say is more important than what he does say. For example, take his instructions for how to respond to someone who sins against you (Matt. 18:15-17). At first, it seems a simple process, and it can be very effective at restoring a strained or broken relationship. But it turns out […]

Take off the mask

If the first words I heard from Jesus were these, I’d probably follow someone else. “If any want to become my followers,” he said, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). Another time, I heard him say he came so we might have abundant life, more and better […]

A firm foundation

It may be the most important, revealing, personal question in the gospels. After asking his disciples who people were saying he is, Jesus put them on the spot: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:13-20). At some point as we grow in faith, every one of us must answer the same question. […]

A Jesus I might follow

An amazing thing happened when Jesus met that Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28). It’s not that Jesus healed the woman’s daughter and might have done so remotely. It’s not that he had close contact with someone his social and religious training insisted he avoid. What’s amazing is that when this foreign woman challenged him, he learned […]

The word in your heart

“The word is near you,” Paul writes, “on your lips and in your heart” (Rom. 10:8). It’s a stunning, breath-taking idea – the word is in your heart – and the more I sit with it, the more powerful it becomes for me. Paul is writing about the word of faith he proclaims, and he’s […]

Satisfying hungry hearts

We’re hungry. I am, and I think you are, too. It’s not a hunger that can be satisfied by a piece of the strawberry-rhubarb pie Sheryl made last week. We’re hungry because we’re dissatisfied with life and want something more. Polling by the Gallup organization consistently shows that in the United States we’re less satisfied […]

The nose on your face

“It’s as plain as the nose on your face,” my grandmother would say when she was trying to get me to see something she could see plainly but I seemed to miss entirely. She was usually trying to help me see not an object but a meaning, an implication, what was (to her) the obvious […]

Weeds and wheat together

If you want to see a living parable of the kingdom of God, you need only visit the lawn around my house. It’s a lawn our neighbors probably consider embarrassing. Unlike lawns treated liberally with chemicals, the kind of lawns pictured in Home & Garden, the kind advertisers have taught us to think of as […]