Human Things and Divine Things

Second Sunday of Lent

If you’re reading this blog in preparation to preach this Sunday, then maybe you’re asking the same question I found myself asking this week: How many more of these sermons will we write? There was the Orlando sermon. And the Las Vegas sermon. The Charleston sermon and the Texas sermon. The Newtown sermon. And if you’ve been at this preaching thing long enough, there were the Virginia Tech and Columbine sermons too. And here we are again, in a sickeningly familiar cycle, wondering what to say this time in the Parkland, Florida sermon. Read more

Developing the Negatives

Transfiguration Sunday
Mark 9:2-9

I am just old enough to remember photography before the digital age.

As a teen I used to save up my $8 of allowance, which came every two weeks, to buy rolls of off-brand 35mm film. These I would load into the back of my camera, which was a little too large to fit comfortably in my pocket, and then I would have exactly 24 chances to get the photo shot I was hoping for. After the film was used, I would take it out of the camera, snap it back into the film canister case it came in, and take it to the local department store photo center – in my case, Walmart. And then I’d wait. Read more

No Ground for Boasting

We’re currently in the midst of one of our most enduring cultural liturgies—awards season. With the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, the Grammys this past Sunday, and the Oscars on the horizon, along with a slew of other, less publicized events, this is the time of year when the titans of the entertainment industry gather to honor the achievements of their peers. They will gather for lavish meals. They will hand out trophies. They will make speeches. They will tell inside jokes and laugh loudly at one another’s scripted attempts at humor. They will raise their glasses to their fellow artists and smile insincerely when their colleagues win an honor that they themselves were passed over for.

While we may be somewhat used to this annual ritual, I think that if an spaceship were to land outside of such an awards ceremony, and a group of aliens were able to look in on what was transpiring, it would probably strike them as fairly odd. For all the glitz and glamour and emotion that seems to be bound up in these events, for all the ink spilled by critics and entertainment journalists about who should and shouldn’t win these awards, these shows are ultimately an opportunity for Hollywood to pat itself on the back. Each ceremony is little more than a roomful of beautiful and wealthy people telling one another what a great job they’re doing. And this year, with the spate of revelations about the predatory misuses of power and influence among the upper echelons of Hollywood, these opportunities for self-congratulation seem a bit awkward, if not completely hollow. Read more

Authority and the Madness of Love

It’s tempting to want to know just what exactly Jesus said at this synagogue in Capernaum. What does this “teaching with authority” sound like?

Often I hear people try to fill in that gap with some explanation about Jesus’s style or content. But the evangelist’s silence on this point is important. He did not just forget to mention what Jesus said or overlook our interest in his tone of voice, gestures, rhetorical tools. He didn’t include those details because they are not what we need to know. What we need to know about Jesus is that he is, as the unclean spirit says, the Holy One of God. Jesus teaches with authority because he is the authority, Emmanuel, God with us.

So the question we should ask when Mark writes that people heard Jesus’ teaching to be “with authority” is not “How did he do it?” but “Who is he?” Read more