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.

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.

Strangers and Aliens

In the wake of the Paris attacks last week, a majority of US governors have stated they will not permit the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their respective states. Several 2016 presidential hopefuls propose barring all Syrian immigrants or selectively admitting only Christian refugees.

It may seem odd that descendants of immigrants and refugees should so forcefully oppose welcoming immigrants and refugees, but here, too, there is nothing new under the sun. Read more

Christ the King

Reign of Christ

For the last Sunday in ordinary time, we have two posts from the archive.

In 2012, the last time through the cycle, Janice Love wrote

It is possible to not be afraid because we as confessing Christians have been made aware of one of God’s great gifts: a telos – an end, God’s intended end.

You can read her post here.

Doug Lee, in his 2009 entry, wrote

Instead of assuming that we can do what is ultimate, what if we gave ourselves to embracing the basic, the flawed, and the provisional as the way forward?

You can read his post here.


All Will Be Thrown Down

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8

By any measure, the Temple Jesus and his disciples visited on their Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem was an impressive structure. Commissioned around 20 BCE by Herod the Great, the Roman client King of Judea, “Herod’s Temple” was on one hand a conciliatory gesture toward the priestly class and leaders of the Temple who were deeply suspicious of the king (Herod had slaughtered a number of priests when he took power not that many years earlier), and on the other hand a narcissistic monument to Herod’s ambition to be regarded among the day’s great rulers, all of whom taxed their citizens mercilessly to fund extensive, self-aggrandizing building programs.

Herod’s reconstruction of the Second Temple employed more than one thousand priests, who worked as masons and carpenters, and although the Temple proper was rebuilt in less than two years, the surrounding buildings, courtyards, and walls were not completed until nearly eighty years later. It was a massive project, occupying the entire plateau atop the Temple Mount and reflecting in its design Herod’s affinity for Hellenism.

It must have come as something of a shock, then, when Jesus told the disciples who pointed out the monstrous stones from which the buildings were constructed, “See these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Read more


Pope Francis in America

In September, the news industry lavished attention on Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. Now, autumn has settled in and news outlets have returned to the usual suspects: politics, sports, and turning a profit for the holidays. EP endorser Barry Harvey reflects:

A few weeks ago I received an email asking if I would like to contribute a brief reflection on the Ekklesia Project website on the significance of Pope Francis’s recent visit to North America. I was particularly intrigued by one of the questions in the email that served as a prompt: “In what ways did he fall short or fail?” I would say not only did he indeed fall short, but that the way he failed was a good thing too. Well, maybe not a good thing, but not surprising either.

There is little doubt that people of all faiths and of none intuitively sensed that in this one man there was an intrusion of the extraordinary into the workaday routine that enthralls most of us most of the time, an incursion of something enigmatic and electrifying that in some way or another has a bearing on their daily lives. I heard one young person say that for many seeing Francis was like seeing Jesus. This is an astute observation, perhaps more than she intended, in part because the Pope does have that character about him, but also because it invites us to turn to the gospels, to the encounters that women and men had with Jesus, to help us interpret reactions to the papal visit, and especially to answer the question of whether and to what extent he fell short or failed during his visit. Read more

Widow's Mite - Ancient Roman Bronze Coins

A Widow’s Shame and Ours


Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17 (RCL); I Kings 17:10-16 (LM)
Psalm 127 or 42 (RCL); Psalm 146:7-10 (LM)
Hebrews 9:24-38
Mark 12:38-44

For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.

Mark 12:44

By the time we get to the familiar text in this week’s Gospel reading—sometimes referred to as the story of the widow’s mite—Jesus has made his so-called triumphal entry into Jerusalem. More street theatre and political satire than victory parade, the festivities end with Jesus casing the temple late of an evening. He returns the next day and turns over a few tables, infuriating the religious authorities and confounding everyone else. He enters the temple a third time on the third day (a detail not extraneous to Mark’s purposes, we might suppose), and offers an accusatory parable. Pharisees and Herodians are dispatched to trap him; they find themselves amazed instead. He bluntly tells some Sadducees: “you are wrong . . . you are quite wrong.” Third up are the scribes, for whom Jesus reserves his most caustic criticism:

Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes
and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues,
and places of honor at banquets.
They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext
recite lengthy prayers.
They will receive a very severe condemnation.

Jesus then takes a seat “facing” (kateanti) the treasury. This detail, too, seems deliberate on Mark’s part: a short while and a few verses later Jesus will “face”—the same word in Greek—the temple mount as he foretells its imminent destruction (13:3).

From his choice seat, Jesus carefully “scrutinizes” (etheōrei) the scene, observing “how the crowd put money in the treasury,” and noting that “many rich people put in large sums” (41).

Just the day before he had directly attacked the temple establishment so we might assume he’s still seething a bit. Not because a sacred place had been profaned by commerce—the temple was an economic institution as well as a religious one. Rather, Jesus is scandalized by the exploitation of the poor in their attempts to participate in Israel’s cultic life.

But his anger at what he sees in the temple treasury has a sharper focus. He has just depicted the scribes—the temple lawyers—as not only religious hypocrites but also as abusers of their fiduciary power: “they devour the houses of widows.” (40) Read more


Feasting with the Saints

Feast of All Saints

Isaiah 25:6-9 or Wis Sol. 3:1-9
Ps 24
Rev 21:1-6
Jn 11:32-44

I love All Saints Day. It is one of my favorite feast days of the church year. It is a time for joyfully remembering those who preceded us in the faith, both those well-known and those known only to God.

It is one of the traditional days for baptism, too. When this happens it provides a community with a chance to look both backward to remember departed members of the body and forward with those beginning their new lives in Christ. I am also partial to the hymns for this day. This Sunday is one of those occasions when All Saints Day lands on a Sunday.

One way to focus our remembrance of the saints is to reflect on the rest and security those believers now enjoy in God. Even though they have died, “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, no torment will ever touch them” (Wis Sol 3:1). They are now removed from the world in which their steadfast fidelity often led to pain and suffering. This can be a comfort to us who remain behind in this world. Most importantly, their lives should serve to encourage our own greater fidelity. Read more

Digital StillCamera

Keep Reading

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 OR Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22 OR Psalm 126
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

Maybe the most important counsel a commentator on this week’s lectionary texts can offer to whoever hopes to preach them is to keep reading (I’m sure there’s a proverb about this somewhere, but darned if I can come up with one). The lectionary I consulted began with the text from Job, followed by excerpts from the 34th Psalm, and the combination left me, quite honestly, flabbergasted.

I know it’s just a story, and one with parallels in ancient Near Eastern pagan myths at that. I also know that the ending (chapter 42) is not altogether in keeping with the richly nuanced theology of the rest of the text. But taken at face value, I find those last verses of Job just a bit troubling.

I want to say to God, “OK, lemme see if I got this right. After you give Job – who to say the least had seen more than his share of abject suffering – a thorough dressing down about your respective places in the cosmic scheme, he says, ‘O, wow! I had no idea. I shoulda just kept my mouth shut. Sorry, God.’

“And then, after he prays for the friends who had added so much insult to his injury, you give him ‘twice as much as he had before.’ That’s twice the livestock, twice the servants, twice the children, plus a bunch of money and jewelry. And he lives another one hundred and forty years to enjoy it, which ostensibly makes everything pretty much all right!

“Are you serious? What the heck am I supposed to do with that? Do you really expect me to preach it?” Read more


Helpless Before the Throne

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

Job 38: 1-7 (34-41)
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

“We will have so much winning. We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with the winning. Believe me, I agree, you’ll never get bored with winning. We never get bored. We are going to turn this country around. We are going to start winning big on trade. Militarily, we’re going to build up our military. We’re going to have such a strong military that nobody, nobody is going to mess with us. We’re not going to have to use it.” -Donald Trump, September 2015

“I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside by thee. Exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.” – Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

In last Sunday’s epistle lesson from Hebrews we were reminded that God’s word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joint from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” If the gospel lessons of the past few weeks have been any indication the power of God’s word to cut deeply into our lives, this week’s gospel conversation between Jesus, James, and John leaves no doubt that the Word made Flesh will not rest until everything that separates us from God has been sliced away with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel.

Last week this “Good Teacher” cut into our idolatry of possessions. This week it gets even more personal. Placing ourselves in this story we realize that our sinfulness, like that of James and John, is not just caused by external forces like wealth (or Mammon), but by forces dwelling deep within us, like envy, pride, ego, and the illusion of grandeur. Read more


Nightmares of the Rich

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 17-31

Stacey Elizabeth Simpson remembers the night she first read Mark’s account of Jesus and the rich man. She was seven, tucked comfortably into bed, quietly reading her Bible when she heard Jesus thunder: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” She slammed the bible shut and ran down the hallway to her sleeping mother’s bedside. “Mom!” she called, “Jesus says that rich people don’t go to heaven!”

“We’re not rich,” said her mother, “Go back to bed.”

“But I knew better,” said the grown-up Stacey. “I knew I had all I needed plus plenty more…the little girl inside me knew that these words of Jesus were clear, and hard, and scary.” Read more