temple model

What is Power For?

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

Albeit in different ways, each of this week’s texts (save perhaps the Psalm) has to do with power and its potential or actual social effects. Read more

Godot in Sarajevo

Looking for the Redemption of Jerusalem

First Sunday after Christmas

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 148
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:22-40

Over against the spectacle that Christmas in America has long since become – the kitschy sentimentality of front lawns unselfconsciously strewn with inflatable reindeer and snowmen alongside crèches populated by conspicuously Caucasian renditions of the Holy Family; the collective credit card induced hangover that invariably follows our annual orgy of consumerism; and our habitual rush always to look ahead to whatever’s next (there’s New Year’s Eve revelry to be planned, after all) – this week’s texts invite us to linger for a moment, and maybe take seriously the character and magnitude of what God has done and (believe it or not) continues to do through the Word made flesh. 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

three monkeys

Minding Our Own Business

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 33:7-17
Psalm 119
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

The students whose work I evaluate would probably disagree, but it’s my disposition, both by nature and upbringing, to be averse to conflict. The very thought of confrontation puts me ill at ease, and I will go out of my way to avoid saying or doing anything that might hurt another’s feelings or create an unhappy tension between us. I am far too captive to and dependent upon the esteem of others. I want not just to be respected, but liked – by just about everyone.

My past is strewn with occasions where I allowed another’s offense against me or someone else to slide simply because I didn’t care to suffer the discomfort of confronting them. Imagine my consternation, then, when I read this week’s lectionary texts, two of which address in a disturbingly direct manner not just the importance, but the absolute necessity of confronting and speaking truthfully to wrongdoers. Both are absolutely clear about what is at stake: compassionate truth telling is often nothing less than a matter of life and death. Read more

Easter Icon

Risen Indeed

Easter Sunday

John 20:1-18

Death is the peak of all that is contrary to God in the world, the last enemy, thus not the natural lot of man, not an unalterable divine dispensation. … Peace cannot and must not be concluded just here in such a way as to establish a spiritual-religious–moral Kingdom of God on earth, while forgetting the enemy. There is peace only in prospect of the overcoming of the enemy.

-Karl Barth

I recently accepted an invitation to write an encyclopedia article on death and dying, and I wonder if I am up to the task. In particular, I wonder if I have it in me to tell the truth about death. The fact is death intrigues me even as it scares me. I think about it all the time. I read books and essays about it. I have my students read and talk about it.

And yet, I find that I rarely tell them or myself the truth about death. That truth, if Barth is to be believed (and I think he is), is that death is an enemy, one with which we are never to make peace. More importantly, death is a defeated enemy, defeated by God’s raising Jesus from death. Read more