ChristtheKing

Ultimate Imagination


Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-38a

Some years ago, a friend of ours who was a major player on the Nigerian political scene nearly met an untimely death but survived. After confronting his mortality—his end, Takai abandoned his ascendant career trajectory and told his children that they would receive no inheritance from him. Their inheritance would now come in the form of a ministry he would establish to care for needy widows and orphans. Today that ministry cares for and brings together hundreds of Christians and Muslims in fractured northern Nigeria. Takai’s confrontation with the end unleashed imaginative energy for discipleship and ministry.

Admirable as it is, Takai’s story makes little sense to us because we believe something entirely different: it’s a world without limits that allows for creativity and life at its fullest. Read more

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Religious But Not Spiritual


Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18), 19-25
Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together…” (Hebrews 10:24)

The SBNR website puts it like this: “Spiritual But Not Religious” describes a new worldview that is inclusive and open as opposed to separatist and closed. SBNR people desire a deep experience of life, including the mysteries of life, without the limitations and baggage of doctrine and religion.

On the SBNR home page you can sign up to have “daily affirmation seeds” delivered to your email inbox. There, one assumes, they will sprout and grow, “help[ing] you to believe in your amazing essence and bring[ing] many of your deepest intentions into reality.”

I don’t have to tell you how enormously popular such sites (and sentiments) are. I have recently (re)discovered how prevalent “Spiritual But Not Religious” devotees are on college campuses, even (especially?) church-related ones. Yet no matter the age group or demographic, this business of shedding the “baggage of doctrine and religion” is what it’s all about: snubbing dogma and its perceived strictures, rejecting all forms of religion, especially the organized kind. Read more

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A Christian Memorial Day


Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6; John 11:32-44

Where I live, remembering and honoring the dead is celebrated annually in May. Over Memorial Day weekend, families flock to cemeteries, flowers in hand, to decorate the graves of loved ones who have passed. In many cases out-of-town relatives come in for this ritual. It’s a pretty big deal.

The church remembers the dead at an entirely different time of year. In Protestant churches, on either November 1st or the first Sunday in November, we celebrate All Saints’ Day. In the churches I’ve served, we remember and name the members of the congregation who have died since All Saints’ Day the year before.

What prevents the Church’s practices on All Saints’ Day from turning into ancestor worship, and what makes those practices different from the practice of decorating graves? Read more

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Coming Home with Shouts of Joy


Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51). It’s a striking question Jesus asks Bartimaeus—a beggar sitting beside the road when Jesus passes by; a blind man whose pleas of “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” could not be suppressed. What kind of answer was Jesus expecting? Bartimaeus is a blind beggar; does Jesus expect an answer other than the one that Bartimaeus gives? He wants his sight back!

But Jesus doesn’t give him his sight back. He replies to Bartimaeus, “Go, your faith has made you well.” Jesus only reveals to Bartimaeus that it was Bartimaeus’s own faith that made him well.

To understand this passage better perhaps we should look back at the reading just preceding it from the Gospel last week. It was in this Gospel that the disciples argue about who should sit at the right and left hand of Jesus when he comes to power and are taught once again that it is the first who will be last and the last who will be first. The passage just following this story is the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Read more

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The Unknowable Shape of Things to Come


Is 53:4-12; Heb 4:14-16 (Catholic), 5:1-10 (Revised Common); Mark 10:35-45

Do we ever truly know what we’re getting into? If young couples truly knew what pledges of lifelong fidelity require, would anyone marry? If humans truly knew what children demand of parents, would the species continue? If any of us truly knew how often grief is the final evidence of earthly love, would anyone choose to love?

Zebedee’s boys have no idea what they’re asking. Not that they weren’t warned. The verses immediately preceding today’s gospel are another prediction of Jesus suffering and death in Jerusalem. James and John must not have been paying attention. Perhaps they were thinking of the view from either side of the throne of glory.

By the shape of our lives, most of us make plain we prefer arriving at Easter without first negotiating Good Friday. Many of us imagine that, if we lived in another time, we’d help fleeing slaves along the Underground Railroad or hide Jews and gypsies from Nazi thugs. Nearly all of us imagine our good intentions are discernible, if not to others, then at least to God. Read more