bLOGOS

WHAT IS bLOGOS?

The Ekklesia Project “bLogos” seeks to bring together relevant theological commentary from our contributing editors and from the wider electronic world.  It regularly reflects on the news of the day from an EP perspective, asking what the news we are offered might look like from an angle that is God-centered, church-centered, peace-centered and political.  In so doing, we hope that our commentary helps members of the church to think more critically and theologically, and to see daily events and ideas in new ways.

And we invite you who read to join the conversation by leaving a comment on our posts.

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Christ’s Mind in Us

In the Episcopal Church, the collect for the third Sunday after Epiphany focuses our attention on the task of preaching the Gospel. “Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

As Christians, we are called to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. And in so doing, we pray that we and the world will see God’s glory. This is a hopeful prayer, and we all need hope.

The readings appointed for this Sunday are full of hope in God’s work through us. Isaiah (9:1–4) prophecies that Galilee will be the site in which God’s glory becomes apparent to the nations. Isaiah describes that glory as a great light that will emerge from the darkness, as a cause for rejoicing amongst those who are in anguish, and as a relief from oppression and hardship. What Isaiah is describing is salvation, but the emphasis is on the Savior, the one who shines the light, the one before whom the people rejoice, the one who breaks the yoke of oppression. Isaiah’s eyes are on God, and he wants the people to be similarly disposed.

Likewise, the Psalmist (27:1, 5–13) not only sings a song of praise to the Lord, but also seeks the Lord. He refers to the fair beauty of the Lord as something to be witnessed. He calls the Lord his light and salvation. He encourages all to listen to the voice of the Lord. Like Isaiah, the Psalmist rejoices in the Lord’s salvation; and like Isaiah, he emphasizes that the Lord is the source of that salvation. The Psalmist even goes so far to describe the Lord himself as that light and salvation.

So when we get to our New Testament readings, we should be ready to hear Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to not lose sight that the gospel of salvation is not a matter of political parties within the Church. Rather, it is about the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our salvation. The Corinthians had become superficially divided into camps of devotion to Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, and had even turned the banner of Christ into a sign of one of those factions. Paul rejects such partisan and divided behavior. Christians should be united in the same mind, he says. Channeling the similar spirit and focus as the passages from Isaiah and the Psalms, Paul says that that mind is in fact Christ’s mind. We aren’t simply to adopt the attitude of what-would-Jesus-do. Rather, we are to somehow have Christ’s mind in us. The way we do this, he says, is to proclaim Christ, not ourselves.

Matthew introduces a new metaphor for such a way of life: becoming a fisher of people. Jesus has just preached his message of repentance, metanoia, a change of mind, a rejection of attitudes, actions, and dispositions that are violent, uncharitable, and self-serving, those things that cause us to reject God and others. Instead, Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God. He challenges the people to embrace the Kingdom as a different way of life.

Fishing for people is the first of many actions that Jesus commends as the way you become a person of the Kingdom of God. The use of a metaphor from commerce and manual labor is interesting. It entails that there is work to be done: fishing is difficult and laborious, exposing the fisherman to the elements, often for long periods of time; and it’s risky work—sometimes the fish don’t bite and you return home not only empty handed and hungry, but with no fish to sell at market. From this perspective, fishing for people sounds worse. Yet, the disciples give up their businesses and families to follow Jesus.

In today’s culture, we can perhaps appreciate why Paul calls such a manner of life that is oriented toward Christ’s cross “foolishness.” It looks like bad business. It looks like bad politics. It looks like death. And in fact, it is. It’s death to self. Death to self doesn’t sell. It doesn’t win elections. It doesn’t make you powerful. But it will unite us and make us like Christ.

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I Pledge Allegiance

Second Sunday after Epiphany
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 49:1-7
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

These days our problems in the US seem endemic and intractable: the scars of war, trillions of dollars in deficits, violence in our cities, struggling schools, families falling apart, looming environmental catastrophe. But, like clockwork, every four years, The Great One comes to us like a gift from heaven. Next week we inaugurate a new president.

We had such high hopes for our last president. He was good looking, cool, smart. He had a beautiful family. He read books. He shot threes. He spoke in complete sentences. He was black and white and African and Indonesian and American. He was Kansas and Chicago. He was Yale and Harvard and the University of Chicago. He was Christian. He was Muslim—well, it turns out he wasn’t Muslim after all.

We pinned high hopes on him. We hoped he might save the economy, restore our moral standing in the world, end wars, rebuild the ozone layer, move us past partisan politics. He was change we could believe in.

And this week another Great One steps forward. Read more

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A Larger Story

The Baptism of the Lord

Isaiah 42:1-9
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

One of the blessings of pastoral ministry is the chance to be a part of some of the most memorable moments in people’s lives. To stand with a couple on their wedding day or to gather with a family as they say goodbye to a loved one, to speak words of scripture and offer up prayers during these times—these can be powerful and significant opportunities to share in the lives of those we serve.

As many pastors would likely attest, these moments are special not just because of the ceremonies themselves, but because of the way they connect to something bigger. They allow us to look beyond the moment and see how that moment fits into a larger view of God’s work.

Of all these powerful and holy moments that we as ministers and as members of a Christian community get to share, perhaps none is as significant or as important as a baptism. To stand at a font or in a baptistery with a person who is just beginning his or her first steps in the life of faith, to speak words of encouragement and exhortation, to pray as a community for the continued growth and sustained faithfulness of the candidate for baptism – this is such a heavy and joyful and emotionally charged event that words can hardly do it justice.

We come to such moments, and we walk away from them, convinced that God has been at work in some mysterious way to bring new life, and that we have been blessed to participate in the fulfillment of God’s promises, with the knowledge that what has just happened connects us to something bigger than ourselves, a story of salvation that God has been telling for generations. Read more

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There’s a New Kid / King In Town

First Sunday after Christmas
Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

Sweet little Jesus Boy —
They made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child —
Didn’t know who you was.
Didn’t know you’d come to save us, Lord;
To take our sins away.
Our eyes was blind, we couldn’t see,
We didn’t know who you was.

-Robert MacGimsey, Sweet Little Jesus Boy (1934)

One of my favorite Christmas Eve memories from childhood is sitting in the dim light of the sanctuary at my grandparent’s Methodist church in Richmond, VA. Every year the same heavy set man with the deep baritone voice would sit on a stool in the middle of the chancel area with his guitar and sing an acoustic solo of Robert MacGimsey’s 1934 Christmas tune, Sweet Little Jesus Boy.

Reading the gospel lesson for this first Sunday after Christmas this year, I’m not sure that I agree anymore. Herod, it seems, knew exactly who Jesus was…and he was afraid. Jesus, born King of the Jews, threatens this puppet king installed by Rome to maintain order in Judea. Read more

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Marvelous Things

Christmas Day

Isaiah 52: 7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1: 1-12
John 1: 1-14

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.

~ John 1:14

Are you ready? That’s the question I often hear around this time of year when out and about. Of course, I understand what is meant by it, but can’t help thinking to myself, how could you ever be?

Last year, gravitational waves were detected from an event that happened over a billion years ago, long before humans even existed on the Earth. Two black holes, each much heavier than our sun, collided, causing the waves. Before they dramatically merged, these two black holes were orbiting each other 100 times per second.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I can barely wrap my head around that. How could I ever be ready for the birth of the Creator of the Universe as a helpless, wee human infant? I can’t entirely wrap my head around it. I have often wondered what Gabriel thought when told by God to go to Mary with the annunciation message. OMG comes to mind. Read more

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Our Pious Disbelief in “God-With-Us”

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 7:10-17
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

King Ahaz – the king in today’s prophecy from Isaiah – is a man standing in great fear. To understand why, we have to go back a few verses to get the context of this passage. Two of Ahaz’s nearest enemies have united against him: the Northern Kingdom of Israel (a Jewish nation that had, in previous days, been part of a united kingdom with Judah), and Aram, a non-Jewish nation. Ahaz fears the bloodshed and destruction that war inevitably brings.

We, today, can understand Ahaz’s fear. Surely we have all been in some kind of position like that where we have stood among enemies, where no help or hope seems to be found. Read more

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You Want It Darker

The Third Sunday of Advent

 

 

Isaiah 35:1-10 (vv. 1-6a, 10 in Lectionary for Mass)
Psalm 146:5-10 (vv. 6-10 in LM)
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

“They’re lining up the prisoners and the guards are taking aim.”

Leonard Cohen

A confession: I do not know how to write about these Advent texts as if the events of the last month (and the many months prior) were politics as usual in the United States of America. You know—a couple of slick, scripted candidates square off, make promises they won’t keep; one emerges the victor, half the nation sighs and shrugs, and then we all get back to the business of our busy lives. Good God, no.

In fact, I think the events of the last month and what they portend for the future put into sharp relief the piercing critique that the texts of Advent bring to bear on the politics of fear and intimidation, on authoritarian rule and its contempt for truth, on stunningly ill-prepared leaders and their fragile egos. Read more

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Disowning the Right Things

Second Week in Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

In the days since the US presidential election (which now seems but one phase in an accelerating process of rancorous division), I’ve returned often to a familiar prayer from Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude: Read more

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Ordinary Things, Extraordinary Vision

First Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

A lot of the scholarly scripture commentary on today’s reading from Isaiah focuses on a question Christians have been debating for a long while: is the life to which God calls us realistic? Or is it an idealistic picture that is meant to give us small comfort, but clearly not meant for us in any real kind of way today? Read more

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King/Fool

This Sunday we recognize Christ as king. It is the end of the church year, bringing our story from Advent through Easter and all that ordinary time to a close. But there is nothing about the image of Christ as king that settles my stomach or makes sense of my expectations. Nothing about this coronation service feels like closure or victory.

John Jay Alvaro’s post from 2013 is our post for the last week of this lectionary cycle.