Old Jail

Family Ties

Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Matthew 28:16-20

One of our church members, Sally, is serving a sentence in a regional jail.  She joined our church on Pentecost last year, and though she had been baptized as a child, had never been brought up in church.  She’s had very little Christian formation, so she set out to use her incarceration to engage in an intense study of the Bible.  The growth that she is experiencing during this time is phenomenal.  As they say in my neck of the woods, “The Holy Spirit has really gotten hold of her.”

When I visited her this week, in a very excited voice she said to me right off the bat, “I finally understand what family is all about!”  Read more

Painting of disciples at Pentecost

A Quieter Pentecost

Acts 2:1-11(or 2-21); 1 Corinthians 12: 3-13; John 20:19-23

The Catholic Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is, ideally, a process lasting many months, during which unbaptized catechumens and baptized but unconfirmed candidates learn from and discern with sponsors and other members of the church community they hope to become part of. My home parish takes this seriously. While the rite is meant to lead to reception into the church at the Easter Vigil, there’s no rushing, no shortcuts, no simply going with the flow. The rigor and probing reflection often make me wish I hadn’t completed my own initiation so young. Read more

Jesus ascending

Gospel Sequel

Ascension Sunday

Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

While last month’s headline grabbing prediction of Jesus’ return, the rescue of believers from the earth to heaven, and the onset of tribulation for an unbelieving world (now revised to October) belongs to an extremist Camp(ing), the basic eschatological question underlies much of American Christianity.

The apostles’ question sounds contemporary two millennia later as believers gaze heavenward and count down until the end of the world, while others with a less definite timetable still await a rapture.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the divide, scoffing at such expectations is easy, especially after announced deadlines pass. Jesus’ own response resounds as an all-too-obvious rebuke to Rapture-enraptured Christians: “It is not for you to know the times that the Father has set by his own authority.” Read more

alphaandomegadove

The Close-at-Hand God

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

“On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” John 14:20

For several weeks now the doomsday prophecy of one Harold Camping has been on the minds of many. First, it was the shared anticipation as the projected date got closer—and the requisite jokes about being left behind. Then it was the (no-surprise) failure of the prediction which resulted in . . . more jokes about being left behind.

Attempts to counter Camping’s misguided views consisted mostly of pointing to passages in the New Testament which speak to the unknowability of the “day or hour” of the Lord’s return. But such proof-texting did little to challenge the core flaw of rapture theology—its fundamental misreading of biblical eschatology. Within the last few days, thankfully, thoughtful essays have appeared which have noted that “tribulation” is a past and present reality, not a future horror for the damned, and that matter—bodies, earth, the stuff of life—matters deeply to the God who restores and makes all things new. I also penned some thoughts (shameless plug alert) on the connections between eschatological time and the exquisite new French film Of Gods and Men. Read more

Painting of the Stoning of Stephen

Preparing for Departure

This week’s lectionary reading leads us into the farewell discourse (John 13.31-17.26) as Jesus prepares the disciples for his departure.  It can seem a little disorienting to follow up a month’s worth of post-resurrection appearances with Jesus preparing his disciples for his looming death on the cross. After all, for the last several weeks we have celebrate that Jesus is alive and on the loose, appearing in locked rooms, in gardens and on the road to Emmaus.  However, the day of Ascension is fast approaching and the lectionary readings of the next two weeks use the farewell discourse to prepare us for the Ascension of the resurrected Christ. Read more