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When the Wars Are Done

Third Sunday of Easter

John 21:1-19

The start of baseball season brings the usual acknowledgement of Jackie Robinson’s 1947 breaking of the color line in Major League Baseball. The pleasant plaudits often mask the upheaval, furor, and continuing effects of that event in history.

In his acclaimed elegy to the 1950’s Brooklyn Dodgers, sports journalist Roger Kahn, writing from the perspective of 20 year-hindsight, says,

That time seems simpler than today, but mostly because the past always seems simpler when the wars are done. Jackie Robinson was a focus. At big, dark Number 42, forces converged: white hatred for his black pride, for his prophetic defiance and simply for his color, contested with black hope, the same black hope which Southern whites said did not exist (Boys of Summer, emphasis mine).

“The past always seems simpler when the wars are done.” Read more

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Belief, Bodies, and Freedom

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 5:12-32
Psalm 118
Revelation 1:4-19
John 20:19-31

The temptation, even post-Resurrection, not to believe in the risen body of Jesus Christ our Lord – well, it’s real. How many Christians – theologians, bishops, and pastors among them – have wrestled with the claims we make about Jesus over the centuries? Some have said, “Jesus is resurrected in our memory.” Others have suggested that there’s no need – not really – to believe in the risen Lord. What matters is that we follow his message, more or less to love each other.

I think our particular difficulties with the resurrection, as 21st century people, stem from the ways we understand our bodies. We think we can do things to our bodies – real, powerful things, and that we are primarily the agents of change. So we want to lose weight: starve our bodies, wake up early to get to the gym. We want more beautiful noses, cheekbones, breasts, or we want to lose the paunch: find a doctor of our choosing and cut and chisel them in the operating room. We want to defy aging and death: perfection can be had when we select and buy products and procedures that are all scientifically proven.

By contrast, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection do not demonstrate that kind of procedural control over the body. Quite the contrary: “Into your hands, I commend my spirit,” says the Lord of all life, as he dies on the cross. Read more

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Resurrection and the Way

Easter Sunday

Isaiah 65:17-25
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
John 20:1-18

Easter has long since become, at least in certain Protestant circles, a day aimed largely at “catching” a few from the crowds in the pews that otherwise make themselves scarce at ecclesial gatherings. This means, to the extent such efforts are made in given congregations, pastors and other church leaders must attempt a precarious balancing act, looking to incentivize attendance among non-churchgoers with perquisites and simplify the liturgy and sermon to make them more “relevant,” or at least friendlier to the uninitiated, while simultaneously offering the faithful just enough of the tradition via readings and hymns to make them feel like they’d been to church.

Such attempts, in my admittedly curmudgeonly experience, are at best marginally successful. The visiting masses are sufficiently well-inoculated against even friendly Christianity that they witness the spectacle politely, without being too much tempted to reorient their lives in the direction it points, while many church members leave a bit perplexed—again—about exactly what it is that makes Easter the highpoint of the Christian year. Having witnessed this approach several times in more than one strand of Christian tradition, I am increasingly convinced it is misbegotten. Read more

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The Death of Jesus

Palm/Passion Sunday

Luke 19:28-40
Luke 22:14-23:56

Beginning with his entry into Jerusalem and culminating with his crucifixion, this Sunday is devoted to the death of Jesus. He died as part of a public execution. Until relatively recently states, governments and empires always executed their perceived enemies publicly. It was an opportunity for the powers that be to make a statement. Read more

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I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3:4-14
John 12:1-8

Deep into Lent, it seems appropriate to have a gospel reading that focuses on preparing Jesus for his death. It is also refreshing to have a set of readings that focus on transformation and renewal. Read more

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Becoming Home

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

what is the word beyond. home.
after home.
where is it. this word.
why can i not remember how to say this
thing. this feeling that is my whole body.”

–Nayyirah Waheed

“I think that love comes so seldom, so brittle, that I’m always knocked over by the offer of a little. But asking for a lot would take a lot of bravery.”

A friend and I had spent the afternoon in the sun and the breeze talking about relationships, and after, I’d had this dawning vision that perhaps she was worthy of more love than she was allowing herself to hope for. So hours later, through a bit of trembling, I told her so. And her response was one so resonant with my own experience, so human, so all of us.

Sometimes to hope to be lavishly, abundantly loved is almost too much – to hope for the much over the little, the embrace over mere proximity, belonging over mere fitting, forever over merely tomorrow. Faced with anxieties about ourselves, history that leaves shame or deep wounds in its wake, or supposed proofs of our inferior humanity and supposed reasons our imaginations have run too wild in wanting, we settle – because scarcity is more than nothing, proximity more than distance, fitting more than alienation, tomorrow more than merely today. Read more

Warning

Danger: Holy Ground

Third Sunday in Lent, Year C

Exodus 3:1-15

Psalm 63:1-8

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Luke 13:1-9

I have two daughters; one is four, the other one. I am not a particularly anxious father, but it doesn’t take much to recognize the fragility of life, the many dangers that threaten it. There are cars, there are electrical sockets, there are long flights of stairs; there are hard things and sharp corners, there are choking hazards everywhere. The world is full of dangers and part of the process of growing up is learning the habits to avoid them.

“Don’t put that in your mouth.” “Don’t put your finger in that socket.” “Look both ways before you cross the street.” “Watch for cars in the parking lot.”

We know these things; to avoid them feels instinctive…until we have children, until we realize much of our ability to avoid danger has been learned through teaching that ingrains these lessons in our bodies.

There are other dangers that even adults forget, whole peoples even. These dangers are subtle or incremental, but dangers all the same. Dangers like climate change and soil erosion, dangers for which our culture has not yet written a protective response in our bodies. Then there are dangers unlike any other dangers, ultimate dangers like God. Read more

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Gospel Politics

The political dimensions of the Church and the Gospel it preaches are utterly lost on the US news industry until someone commits the faux pas of “mixing religion and politics.” Catholic theologian Matthew Shadle reflects on the latest breach of decorum, Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico, which was a back page story until Francis crossed the line.

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A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

For most of my life, I have been a sports fan. I will readily admit that I’ve spent far too much time watching games, reading articles and updates about my favorite players (although my means of doing so has changed dramatically—I used to watch the mailbox for the arrival of Sports Illustrated for Kids; now I simply check my Twitter feed), and listening to the so-called experts argue loudly about sports-related topics on ESPN and on various radio call-in shows.

Last week, as the professional basketball season reached its halfway point and conversation began heating up around various players’ contracts and potential trade deals, I heard a lot of discussion about a topic that I’ve probably encountered a million times but never really thought about: the “opt-out clause.” Read more

Northwest Regional Ekklesia Project Gathering 2016

Friends and endorsers of the Ekklesia Project are invited to Portland, Oregon for a regional gathering. See below for the details.  Read more