A Different Sort of History

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 5:1-14 OR Isaiah 66:10-14
Galatians 6:7-18
Luke 10:1-12, 16-20

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in

reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!”

Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2

“Well, boy, if he’s an angel, he’s sure a murderin’ angel.”
The Killer Angels

It’s a week of significant anniversaries in North America. July 1 is the 146th year since the passage of the British North America Act, creating the Dominion of Canada, July 1-3 is the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, the so-called turning point in the American Civil War, and July 4th marks 237 years since the Declaration of Independence provided justification for a military rebellion already in progress. Canada Day is rather less blood-spattered than the American anniversaries, largely thanks to the outcomes of much earlier battles in Quebec in 1759and 1775, and along the Niagara frontier and Lower Canada in 1813-14. These commemorations, however, suggest how much human history celebrates noble gestures, great events, and admirable acts of courage, while glossing over base expediencies, savage violence, and cold exercises of power. Read more

Stay Close

Proper 8

Luke 9:51-62

Jesus walks, moves, doesn’t stick around. He doesn’t wait until you’ve figured out your plans, vested your 401(K), said your goodbyes and wrapped up loose ends. To be a disciple, to follow Jesus, is to go when the teacher goes, follow where the teacher leads. The student is not to say, “where next,” but repeat to herself, “stay close.” That’s what I read in this gospel passage where Jesus tells us “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

“Stay close” disrupts our stable world of fixed religion, it requires us to stick less to this or that place whether it is a physical place or a place of practice or ideas. “Stay close” could mean sticking to here, whether it is a corrupt institution or a difficult neighborhood or with people who just don’t get us. “Stay close” could mean getting out, changing everything. You never know where “stay close” could take you. It might take you from a comfortable life of a celebrity scholar to a renegade pastor as it did Dietrich Bonhoeffer when we left New York to return to a Germany in the throws of fascism. It could take you from a comfortable income with insurance and benefits to the unstable life of a new ministry. The key to staying close is not to concern yourself with anything other than sticking with Jesus, where and when he moves. Read more

Declare How Much God has Done for You

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Kings 19: 1-15a
Psalm 42 & 43
Galatians 3: 23-29
Luke 8: 26-39

It is, in the Northern Hemisphere, the season of summer – of fun on the water in many forms. We, ourselves, live by three lakes and spend much time in them, on them and by them at this time of year. Our impending visit to my sister’s on the Saskatchewan prairies holds the promise of a visit to their cabin with boating, tubing, skiing and skipping stones on the to do list – unlike our last visit when our son learned to sandbag for the first time as his uncle and cousins sought to keep the lake water from drowning the cabin.

This last image of flooding and water out of control, unfortunately a prominent one on the weather news of late from so many different places, is, as N.T. Wright points out in the first chapter of his Evil and the Justice of God, a biblical symbol of the chaos evil creates – so much so that in the new creation of Revelation there is no sea (Rev. 21:1). Just before our text from Luke for this Sunday, Jesus and his disciples find themselves caught up in the chaos of a storm on the lake of Galilee. Jesus, apparently a sound sleeper, is not aware of the storm until his disciples awaken him in their full-fledged panic. Easily rebuking the wind and waves, a calm ensues while Jesus rebukes the lack of faith in his disciples and they wonder just who this guy is. Read more

More Than a Prophet

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

I live in a small city that loves to fund raise with lavish galas. The nails get polished and the clothes are glamorous. The food is decadent and the entertainment stunning. For a few hours this jeans-only oil town puts on the Ritz. And people want to know who is going; facebook, twitter and local gossip heats up. Will the beloved mayor be there? How about the multimillionaire industry leaders? Are there national and international celebrities coming to town?

It makes me wonder what kind of buzz Simon’s dinner party was generating. Luke tells us Jesus was garnering attention across the countryside after he raised a widow’s son from death to life. Now Jesus the healer and prophet is in town and Simon has snagged him for dinner. Simon has the food prepared, the setting elegant, the invited influential and important guests arrive as uninvited townspeople crowd around to see the Pharisee and his guests.

In Simon’s eyes, all is going according to plan until one of the onlookers pushes through the crowd and clings to Jesus’ feet. As she kneels anointing his feet, her tears bathe his toes and she wipes their moisture away with her hair. Read more

The Hope of Widows

Third Sunday after Pentecost
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 17:8-24
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17

Together this week’s lectionary readings bespeak a current that flows throughout the biblical narrative. These are vibrant stories and exaltations, full to the brim with joy and gladness at the beauty of a life restored. The world of the bible, like our own, is a world fraught with difficulty and marred by suffering and sadness. But, like seedlings which break through concrete, the power of resurrection—of life itself—breaks forth and beats the odds. These are stories of hope amidst hardship, light in the deepest shadows; they bear witness to the power of God which, in the end, holds sway even over Death itself. Read more

Overcoming Epistemology

Trinity Sunday


Psalm 8

…one God, the one beginning of all things, the wisdom by which every soul is wise, and the gift by which all things blessed are blessed…the Trinity of one substance…the beginning to which we return, the form (or pattern) we follow after, the grace by which we are reconciled…the one God whose creation gives us life, through whose re-forming we live wisely, by the love and enjoyment of whom live blessedly.” – Augustine, Retractions

The doctrine of the Trinity can present itself as quite an intellectual puzzle, perhaps especially to the monotheistic believer, and it is therefore rightly called a “mystery.” However, attending to Trinitarian orthodoxy and its implication of us and God can bring spiritual renewal, when we first make ourselves aware of certain habits of thought we moderns possess that render the Trinity a moral and intellectual “problem.” Read more

Where in the World?

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17 (25-27)

One of my prized possessions is a cassette recording of Thomas Merton lecturing his fellow monks at their Kentucky monastery during Advent of 1964. He tells them that we must come to see that Christianity exists in history, and that we have to see Advent in terms of contemporary history. He details some then-current events: the shootings and killings in Mississippi, the war in Rhodesia. Then he says, “Pious meditations on how rough Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus had it are meaningless unless I have some response to the sufferings in the flesh today. Events are manifesting a reality which is present. We’re living in Advent. What’s happening around us is the Advent liturgy of 1964.”

Merton’s words shed light on every season of the church year. In this case, they raise the question of the difference between mere pious mediations on the early disciples gathered at the festival in Jerusalem and the events that indicate we are living in Pentecost. In seeking an answer, we do well to remember John Howard Yoder’s caution against reading “the surface of history,” that is, making simplistic connections between current news reports and the mysteries of what God is up to in the world. But with that due caution, what is the 2013 Pentecost liturgy? Each appointed Scripture text provides not only a lens through which to see the world but also a unique focus on the gift of the Spirit.

In Acts 2, the out-pouring of the Spirit is a dazzling convergence of Passover and Pentecost, signs and wonders that extend God’s message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations. The coming of the Spirit crosses countless barriers, and, in Augustine’s words, “gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages.” Where in the world is that happening? Read more

Ascension and Embrace

The Feast of the Ascension
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24: 44-53

Nor doth he by ascending show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.                 

                                                                            John Donne, Ascension

I was puzzling over what to write here when across my Facebook newsfeed came the story of a New Englander (a “Yale grad” the headline noted) who has offered a burial plot for the Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Three weeks after Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police, and with no cemetery willing to receive his remains, Douglas Keene of Vermont made the offer to Tsarnaev’s family on the condition that it be done

in memory of my mother who taught Sunday School at the Mt. Carmel Congregational Church for twenty years and taught me to ‘love thine enemy.’

It is surprising how surprising Keene’s simple, straightforward gesture seems. But it strikes me that part of its beauty is that it invites us to remember what crucifixion-resurrection-ascension make possible:  the overcoming of our violence and our need to scapegoat and exclude. In Jesus’ living and dying, in his rising from death and his ascension into heaven, a new social order is opened up to us–God’s new creation–in which enemies are loved and we are free to relinquish the cherished fiction of our innocence.

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In Memoriam – Brian Logan

We give thanks for the life and witness of our dear friend and brother in Christ, Brian Logan (1961 – 2013), and  we grieve his loss with his wife, Suzie,  their children, Kolbe and Lydia, and the Church of the Servant King. Hundreds of EP’ers know Brian’s gentle presence, humor, and grace from the many Gatherings he attended.

May Brian’s soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God’s mercy rest in peace.

Here follows Brian’s obituary:

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Our Place Redeemed

Sixth Sunday in Easter

John 14:23-29
Revelation 21:10, 22:1-5

In our contemporary world, it is difficult to belong. We are so busy and on the move, it seems to be better to keep commitments to a minimum. 20% to 30% of all Americans move each year and the average American moves fourteen times over a lifetime. Poet, essayist, and editor of Poetry magazine Christian Wiman remembers that when he was thirty-six years old, he had moved forty times in fifteen years. He said he owned nothing that would not fit easily into his car. When talking about this with some friends, all of whom were in their twenties and thirties, all smart, well-educated and upwardly mobile, they compared notes and realized that between them they had lived in every state and dozens of foreign countries. Not one person lived near where they were born and raised and none of them ever asked anyone else where they’re from, “skirting the question as if it were either too intimate or, more likely, too involved to broach.”

We are a society that believes in being mobile – people with no sense of belonging to a place or to anyone else but themselves and who can pick up and move whenever the corporation, the job, the career demands it. Read more