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.

sheaves

Like Those Who Dream

Third Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 16, Luke 1:46b-55
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

The recent events of injustice surrounding race in our country – nay, so many events in our recent news which embody a quality of brokenness capable of tearing any attentive heart – have perhaps eased the challenge of entering into Advent as a season of waiting and crying out for the presence of God in our midst.

The first Sunday of this season came just days after the most recent occasion for protests in Ferguson, MO and with those waiting for justice, we could stand in solidarity and cry like the first line from the Isaiah text for that week, “O that you would rend the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence!”

Perhaps anguish and an impetus to long expectantly have come more easily this year than others… Read more

DEATH BANQUET

Take Comfort

Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15a

A week ago Saturday, I heard myself mumble “so much for Thanksgiving.” We gathered with new friends, a family in many respects the mirror image of our own, and we had eaten like princes, albeit a feast we (or, certain among us) had a significant role in preparing. The people Jaimee and I once mentioned we should incorporate into our celebration for fear they had nowhere else to go conveniently dropped out of mind in the later stages of planning. Our habit of pondering how good it would be to reach out to the lonely has not yet become a skill for making it happen. Or, perhaps, such skills are subject to perpetual atrophy.

It may be that my Thanksgiving dinner, however sumptuous, unsettled me because of what I was bringing to the table. Instead of the labor of lovingly preparing food together with others, during the days leading up to the holiday, I was sequestered with my computer grading papers, worrying about what my students and colleagues were thinking of my performance during the first months on the job. The pear cobbler that likely evoked shared experiences for those who worked together in its preparation, for me was just a delicious thing to be consumed. Forgetfulness of the lonely, lack of preparation and crude (unsocial) desires for comfort food: “three strikes,” I hear the umpire say, “you’re out!”

Comfort… Read more

Squint

Learning to Squint

First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 64:1-9
Mark 13:24-37

When I was a boy I knew an old rancher whose face was permanently sunburned and lined from decades of living outside. People said he had a “perpetual squint.” Daylight or dark, indoors or out, he always looked like he was squinting, looking across some pasture for a stray cow in the face of glaring sun and blowing wind. Squinting, looking into the distance for so many years had shaped his face; it had shaped the way he looked at everything.

Walker Percy, tells in his novel Love in the Ruins and its sequel novel The Thanatos Syndrome about a small, remnant church out in the woods of Louisiana. They are fragile and exiled from the mainstream, conventional and successful American church. They have a small AIDS clinic where they care for the sick and dying and care for each other.

Their priest, Father Rinaldo Smith, is eccentric and helps pay the bills by hiring out as a fire-watcher. It is his job to climb the fire-tower by night and watch for forest fires below while he also looks “for signs and portents in the skies.” Throughout the two novels he’s always watching, squinting into the distance, looking for portents, looking for something.

Our readings are for the First Sunday of Advent. Advent, which means “coming,” is about the coming of Christ. It is about Christ coming in Bethlehem 2000 years ago but more, Advent is about Christ coming again sometime in the future. At the same time, it is about Christ coming again in renewal in our lives now, and coming into this present status-quo world.

We are called to hold these three tenses of Christ’s coming in mind all the time. The testimony of the church for thousands of years has been, “Christ has come, Christ is come, Christ will come again.” Therefore, we’re to be getting ready, preparing, watching and waiting for the coming. Get the house ready, the master is coming. Get the house ready Christ is coming. Get your life together, Christ is coming. Watch. Squint. Read more

800px-Mural_-_Jesus'_Baptism

Previous Year B links

We’ve been doing bLOGOS for a while now. When we start Advent this Sunday, we will be on our third cycle of lectionary reflections for Year B. This list is the complete collection of previous posts for Year B. Due to calendar changes and times when authors were unable to submit, there may not be two posts for each week, but we hope this set of links will be helpful. The authors for the two years, mostly by order of appearance were:  Jesse Larkins, Jake Wilson, Erin Martin, Doug Lee, Ragan Sutterfield, Kyle Childress, Debra Dean Murphy, Joel Shuman, Brian Volck, C. Christopher Smith, Janice Love, Halden Doerge, Mark Ryan, John Jay Alvaro, Danny Yencich, Jenny Williams and Heather Carlson.

Advent-  1: 2008, 2011  2: 2008, 2011 3: 2008, 2011 4: 2008, 2011

Christmas2011

1st Sunday after Christmas – 2008

Holy Name of Jesus2011

Epiphany-  +1: 2012 +2: 2009, 2012 +3: 2009, 2012 +4: 2009, 2012 +5: 2009, 2012 +6: 2009, 2012

Transfiguration: 2009, 2012

Lent- Ash Wednesday: 2009, 2012 1:  2012 2: 2009, 2012 3: 2009, 2012 4: 2009, 2012 5: 2009, 2012

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday: 2009, 2012

Easter- 2009, 2012 2:  2012 3: 2009, 2012 4: 2009, 2012 5: 2009, 2012 6: 2009, 2012  Ascension: 2009

Pentecost: 2009, 2012 Trinity: 2009, 2012

Ordinary Time 10: 2012 11: 20092012 12: 2009, 2012 13: 2009, 2012 14: 2009, 2012 15: 2012 16: 2009, 2012 17: 2009, 2012 18: 2009, 2012 19: 2009, 2012 20: 2009, 2012 21: 2009, 2012 22: 2009, 2012 23: 2009, 2012  24: 2009, 2012 25: 2009, 2012  26: 2009, 2012 27: 2009, 2012 28: 2009, 2012 29: 2009, 2012 30: 2009, 2012 31: 2012 32: 2012 33: 2009,  2012

All Saints: 2009

Reign of Christ: 2009 2012

 

image from flickr user Sabamirum https://www.flickr.com/photos/seabamirum/

Sanctification and Time

“The ethos of the sabbath goes much deeper than an individual commitment to prioritize worship. It includes all of those sacred practices, both affirmations and prohibitions, that have been kept alive in Judaism and are being fitfully recovered by Christians.” Benjamin J. Dueholm

Ekklesia Project endorsers and friends may be interested in the Christian Century article quoted above which addresses the decline of rest in our society: The War Against Rest.

EP has explored this topic in a variety of ways.

Phil Kenneson discussed the church and rest in a talk (among other practices) at the EP Slow Church gathering and in his pamphlet, both titled “Practicing Ecclesial Patience” which you can listen to here or read here.

In addition, Norman Wirzba examined the topic as part of EP’s Christian Practices of Everyday Life Series, in his book Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight.

And of course, Sabbath rest plays a part in the discussions that continue from our EP gathering on Slow Church in 2012 and in the Slow Church blog and book.

(image used under Creative Commons license from flickr user Seabamirum)

Sheep

Learning to Live Like Sheep

The Reign of Christ
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Ezekiel 34:11-17, 20-24
1 Corinthians 15:20-28 OR Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Not everyone loves the desert. I do.

Circumstances led me to another home, but the desert remains the landscape of my heart. Like a former lover turned dear friend and counselor, it refreshes my spirit whenever I return. It was in the high desert of the Navajo Nation that I awakened to the practical significance of images so resonant for the desert-dwellers who wrote the Bible.

To see a line of cottonwoods, their green leaves trembling in the faintest desert breeze, proclaim how deep roots find life-giving water, is to know the faithful confidence of “a tree planted by a river.” (Psalm 1:3, Jeremiah 17:8)

To watch a Navajo boy guide a scattering flock of Churro sheep across a busy desert road, is to feel in one’s belly the patient loving-kindness of a shepherd. (Psalm 23, John 10:1-18, and today’s readings)

But to watch sheep in action is also to grasp that being called “the sheep of His flock” is no endorsement of human intelligence. For all their wooly cuteness (more apparent at a distance than up close) sheep are distressingly stupid. With the attention span of a Mayfly that’s misplaced its ADHD meds, sheep show inexhaustible creativity in wandering from safety to needless peril.

Which suggests, based on my embarrassing familiarity with human folly, that we’re not only called to be sheep. Indeed, in ways few care to admit, most of us already are sheep. Read more

Talents

Enter Into the Lord’s Joy

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

Our Gospel reading for today comes from Matt 25. Paired as it is with the passages from Zephaniah and 1Thessalonians, it seems to paint a rather stark and uncomfortable picture of judgment. This is the sort of thing that is easily caricatured by those throughout the ages who have thought of Christianity as little more than a religion whose adherents’ faith is based on the fearful desire to avoid some future judgment by God.

Although Christians have from time to time evangelized the world by calling people to believe in order to be saved from God’s coming judgment, these passages cannot easily be enlisted in such a project. Strikingly, the readings from Zephaniah and Matthew speak about God’s judgment of believers, not unbelievers.

In fact, the gospel reading for this Sunday is part of a series of parables that Jesus tells in quick succession. Each one builds upon the theme of God’s coming judgment of believers at the end of the ages. These three stories themselves build on Jesus’ response to a question from his followers about when God’s coming judgment will happen. Jesus’ answer takes up all of Matthew 24 and is filled with a wide variety of confusing images and symbols. These do little to answer the disciples’ question. In fact, they seem designed to short circuit this question of when all these things will happen. Instead they focus on being ready at all times. Read more

Veronese

Party Prep

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 25:1-13

I am a female older sibling; I was an only child for exactly 2 years and 10 months of my life. It may come as no surprise to you, then, that I am Type A through and through. I am always early, always (over) prepared and embarrassed if I’m not. I flush easily. I plan ahead to very minute detail, and I appreciate external approval. I now would like for you to acknowledge, dear reader, my self-awareness about my neurotic tendencies (…and my self-awareness about asking for approval about my self-awareness. This is getting very meta.).

Imagine reading the Gospel text this week about the Kingdom of Heaven from my perspective.

Long story short, it 100 percent stresses. me. out. Read more

saints

Do As They Say, Not As They Do

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Micah 3:5-12
Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23: 1-12

Apart from a somewhat odd convergence of occurrences over the past few days, I would have been clueless as to how to write about this week’s lectionary readings. To be honest, my first couple passes at them left me mostly flat and uninspired. And then, as sometimes happens, things became just a bit clearer.

I was first awakened to the possibilities offered by the texts when I read Kyle Childress’s bLogos post from last week, which focused on that week’s epistle (1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, the verses immediately preceding today’s epistle lesson). Serendipitously for Kyle, and by extension, for me, this passage from Paul’s earliest extant letter was the text which our mutual friend Stanley Hauerwas had preached several years ago at a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Kyle’s pastorate at Austin Heights Baptist Church down in east Texas.

Kyle channels Stanley in noting the outrageousness of Paul’s words for those of us who, having been thoroughly formed, first by certain strands of Protestantism and then by modernity and its emphasis on the autonomy of the individual, to think of our relationship to God as pretty much our own private business, mediated neither by community nor priest nor pastor. Read more

choir

Priests at Every Elbow

I Thessalonians 2:1-8

Indeed, the appeal we make never springs from error or base motive; there is no attempt to deceive; but God has approved us as fit to be entrusted with the Gospel, and on those terms we speak… With such yearning love we chose to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves, so dear had you become to us. (I Thessalonians 2: 3-4, 8).

Unbelievable! Paul it seems identifies himself, his very person, with the Gospel.‘God has approved us as fit to be entrusted with the Gospel,’ so that we have imparted ‘to you not only the gospel of God but our very selves.’ These are not exactly expressions of humility. What would you think if Kyle said that of himself? ‘God has entrusted me with the Gospel so that my very self makes present God to you. Indeed, if I fail in the ministry then all our salvation is in doubt.’ I suspect you would think if Kyle expressed such views, he would have gone around the bend. But I am telling you not only is that exactly what Kyle should think about his ministry but also it’s what you should hold him to. For if the Kyles do not exist and churches like Austin Heights Baptist do not exist to make Kyle’s ministry possible, then we are indeed lost.

So said Stanley Hauerwas, preaching on the I Thessalonians lectionary text, in the worship service that was part of my tenth anniversary celebration as pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church.

These were strong words in Stanley’s provocative sermon. These were words that made all of us in the congregation sit up and pay attention to what the Apostle Paul was saying about ministry to the small, struggling congregation in Thessalonica. For me, they were uncomfortable words.

In listening to Stanley’s high view of pastoral ministry, I squirmed. I was not so sure I agreed with such an elevated perspective of ministry. I mean, I know pastors! I also knew then and know now that when anyone is put up on a pedestal they will eventually fall off or get knocked off. It is much safer to never be on the pedestal in the first place. Read more