Defiant Requiem

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Revelation 21:1-6

I have read Revelation 21:1-6 at numerous funerals, and have done so as tenderly as I could for the sake of those who were grieving. In that setting, I believe that was the right tone of comfort and hope. But this passage is far from a lullaby. Other tones ring out from these words, which is why it is important we read them on occasions other than funerals. Read more

A Long, Slow Read

I Kings 8
Psalm 84
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

I was greatly blessed that Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy was published during my years as a pastor (Gilead in 2004; Home in 2008; Lila in 2014). Her writing has been called “luminous,” and her descriptions, especially of the Revs. John Ames and Richard Boughton, certainly shone a radiant light on my ministerial calling. Like John Ames, I would sit from time to time in an empty sanctuary and, in the quiet intensity of a Psalm 84 moment of longing and praise, I would count my pastoral blessings. “The feeling of a baby’s brow against the palm of your hand,” Pastor Ames confides at one point. “How I have loved this life.” Read more

Polyphony of Glory

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of God’s glory.
Isaiah 6:3

The creeds can seem like rote, take-it-or-leave-it dogmatic moments in the liturgy, rather than expressions of hard-won, blood-stained wisdom wrung from centuries of wrestling with the meaning of God and human experience.
Tom Long

Talk about the Trinity sounds a far cry from “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Actually, the former can help illuminate the latter, and vice versa, but there are a couple of things one must keep in mind. The first is that Christian theology is a conversation that has been going on across two millenia and in countless historical situations. Taking it seriously involves the effort to become more fluent in this vast language.

The other thing to acknowledge is that each and every discipline has its unique vocabulary, from a CNA conversation in the hospital hallway to a quarterback calling plays in the offensive huddle. Theology is the kind of language that probes, clarifies, parses, distinguishes between ‘not this, not this, but this.’ One who properly uses this language admits with fear and trembling that even though words about God are “a raid on the inarticulate,” we must not settle for “the general mess of imprecision of feeling / Undisciplined squads of emotion (T.S. Eliot, ‘East Coker’). Read more

Draining the Swamp?

I Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

Our willingness to read Scripture and to be read by Scripture is a sign of humility that we take our place as small players in a huge story, the general shape of which can’t be determined or ruined by us.
—Sam Wells

It is difficult to hear this week’s Gospel reading without the current catchphrase “drain the swamp” ringing in our ears. For me, that phrase has a face. Bob Murray is the CEO of Murray Energy Corporation. In a recent televised interview, he spat out his contempt for EPA employees while celebrating the appointment of Scott Pruett as head of EPA and rejoicing over his own newfound influence to roll back environmental regulations. “This is a wonderful victory,” he beamed. Narrowing his eyes at the interviewer, he continued, “I have fought this fight every day. And now I’m going to bury the sons of bitches.” Read more