Crisis of Faith

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 33:12-22
Luke 12:32-40

“Crisis of faith.” So often, these words are used to describe the process in which someone begins to ask questions, to make probing inquiries, about the doctrines and the traditions handed down to them.

To emerge from a crisis of faith, then, is to reach some level of comfortable affirmation that what we said we believed all along was, in fact, true. That the questions and even the doubts that vexed us during that brief period of spiritual struggle were not ultimately a threat to our certainty. That we can return to the way things were, before our convictions were unsettled by this unwelcome crisis. Read more

Freedom Sunday

Third Sunday After Pentecost
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62
The invitation came across my Twitter feed last week: a prominent evangelical pastor sharing the news about a “Freedom Sunday” gathering to be held at his church on June 30th. In the video that accompanied the tweet, a narrator described the event as “A patriotic service featuring worship, fireworks, and a message from our guest speaker, Lt. Col. Oliver North,” as an enthusiastic crowd waved flags, a large worship band played, and a choir sang, “Oh I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in!” The video ended with the proclamation that this powerful service will provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate “The freedom we have as Americans, and the freedom we have in Christ.” Read more

By the Sea, on the Road

Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 9:1-6(7-20)
John 21:1-19

A few years ago, my wife Lisa and three young kids joined me for the first time at the EP Gathering in Chicago, making a family vacation of it. During the time we spent in that metropolis, we took in some museums, visited Lake Michigan, and saw the fish at the aquarium. It was a busy few days. But of all the things we did, simply getting around might have been the most stressful. For kids used to walking down the sidewalks of Erwin, Tennessee (population 8,000), attempting to navigate the hustle and bustle of a city of millions was a new experience altogether, and as a parent, it was important to me to make sure they did it safely. It was up to me and Lisa to take their hands when we came to a busy intersection. It was up to me and Lisa to speak clearly and sometimes firmly as we gave instructions about how we were going to catch a bus or hop on a train before the doors closed.

Throughout those few days in Chicago, our chief responsibilities as parents were to keep everyone together and to keep everyone safe. The kids’ chief responsibilities were simply to trust us, to listen to us, and of course, to obey us. It’s hard to be an adult sometimes. But it’s hard to be a kid, too. Responsibility is hard. So is dependence. And for those of us called to follow Christ, living in that tension is sometimes the hardest thing of all. Read more

The Witness of the Vulnerable

Presentation of the Lord
Psalm 84
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40
In a 2016 interview, Peter Mommsen, the editor of Plough, posed a question to Stanley Hauerwas about the campaign for the acceptance of euthanasia and its connection to a desire for control. In response, Hauerwas said, “I say that in a hundred years, if Christians are identified as people who do not kill their children or the elderly, we will have done well. Because that’s clearly coming.” Hauerwas’ words, which have been oft-quoted in the two years since, have been on my mind in the past couple of weeks, as the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. and policy discussions in New York and Virginia have thrust the issue of abortion, always a prevalent topic, into the spotlight of social media and other contexts of debate. In the midst of a discussion that can be so inescapably polarizing, Hauerwas’ words remind us, as followers of Jesus, that so much of our witness and so much of our identity hinges on how we value—not just in word, but in deed—the most vulnerable among us. Read more

Surprised by Beauty

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 145:10-18
Ephesians 3:14-21

For those who attended the EP Summer Gathering earlier this month, the occasion provided the opportunity to spend a few days worshiping together, cultivating friendships, and reflecting on the importance of beauty for the church. Throughout the gathering, especially as I listened to Scott Cairns’ plenary talk on Sacramental Poetics, I found myself giving thanks for the people in my life who continually draw my attention to the beauty all around me. Among the many influences who have taught me about beauty and challenged me to grow in my understanding of what is beautiful and true, it should come as no surprise, are the people I share my life with on a daily basis—my wife and my children. In particular, my youngest son, who is five years old, reminds me regularly what it might look to live in a state of wonder at the beauty of the everyday. Read more