Watching and Waiting for Peace

In our household, our children participate in the rhythms of the liturgical calendar. To help them learn about Advent, we use a simple song (to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”) in our weekly litanies. It begins: “Advent is a time to wait….” My three-year-old daughter, whenever we bring up this theme, has developed the habit of responding, “But I don’t like to wait.” She is right (about herself and all of us). Waiting is hard, which is why our journey through Advent is so important. Read more

Recognizing the Signs

First Sunday in Advent
Luke 21:25-36
As a nine-year-old boy, I once lost sleep for a month because of one terrible thought:

“What if Heaven, as great and amazing as I’m sure it will be, eventually becomes boring?” Read more

Something is About to Happen

Thirty-third Week of Ordinary Time
1 Samuel 2.1-10
Mark 13.1-8

Something is about to happen. That’s the word this week. And it starts with Hannah. An ancient Israelite, Hannah was married, but according to the scriptures, was unable to have children. The text tells us that her husband loved her, and was especially devoted to her. And yet while her future was secure, her heart was broken. She could not bear a child, and she was tormented, belittled and broken. In the story, she calls out to God, pours out her heart and desire for a child. God hears her. She becomes pregnant. And Hannah sings:

My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. There is no Holy One like the LORD…there is no Rock like our God…the bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil…The LORD…raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

Hannah takes what God is doing in her and sees the deepest of truths: if God has rescued me from barrenness, then anything is possible. Might and power will no longer count for everything. The rich will be brought low. The hungry will eat their fill. Something is about to happen. Read more

Not So Ancient: Reflections on Institutions, Widows, and Discipleship

32nd Week of Ordinary Time
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Mark 12:38-44

This week’s lectionary gospel (Mark 12:38-44) gives us the familiar story of the “widow’s mite.” Most times I’ve heard this preached as a story of immense generosity on the part of the widow – and we who are followers of Jesus are asked to go and do likewise, to give all we have, even to the point of giving our whole lives over to God. Of course, giving our whole lives is what Jesus does – and so we can make a connection between the widow’s example and Jesus’ own life, death, and resurrection – she becomes an example for us to emulate. Read more

Fear and Hospitality

EP endorser Kelly Johnson recently published some reflections on “Overcoming the Fear of Beggars” over at Catholic Moral Theology. As we pray and grieve and wrestle with how we might respond to the events of the past week, her words are especially timely:
“Overcoming the Fear of Beggars”
Photo Credit: Us News & World Report

Covenants Have Legs

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Ruth 1:1-18 (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
Psalm 146 (Psalm 119:1-8)
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been thinking some about the notion covenant lately, or perhaps it’s because it’s simply obvious, but when I read the lectionary for this week, I couldn’t help but notice that both the primary and alternate texts presuppose or allude to God’s Covenant with Israel. Among the root senses of the Hebrew word for covenant, b’rith, is the act of binding oneself to another. God binds Godself to Israel, and asks Israel likewise to bind itself to God and become God’s partner in the ongoing work of lovingly restoring the original peace of our broken Creation. That God invites a people – Israel, and by extension, the Church – to be part of this work suggests that the Covenant “has legs.” Read more

To Heal the Sin-Sick Soul


Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 23:1-9, 16-17 or Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

“…most of us would find Christians truly cast in the New Testament mold fairly obnoxious: civically reprobate, ideologically unsound, economically destructive, politically irresponsible, socially discreditable, and really just a bit indecent.”
-David Bentley Hart

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

In a 2016 essay in Commonweal, Orthodox theologian, David Bentley Hart, described how translating the New Testament drove him to the distressing conclusion that Jesus and his early followers meant – and lived – what they said about the dangers of wealth. As one would expect, defenders of wealth as an intrinsic good, unhappy with Hart’s essay, wrote strongly-worded rebuttals Hart, well known for his erudition and verbal cantankerousness, leaves few readers neutral about his message or person. His work typically includes something to make everyone unhappy, but while other theologians may reject his arguments and interpretations, they rarely dismiss him as uninteresting. He’s not the sort whose work is readily neutered into comforting pablum.

His point in the essay is that’s precisely what Christianity has done to texts like this Sunday gospel reading, turning the demanding communal practice of material poverty into a spiritualized individual attitude, a change of thought rather than a way of life. Hart, like me, knows this sin from the inside. Indeed, most Christians in the global North who write against making this gospel demand safe for the modern consumer stand convicted by their own words. What I call voluntary simplicity looks unimaginably opulent to the roughly one billion fellow humans currently living on less than $2.00 per person per day. Read more

Humility Beyond Sin Management

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 10:2-16

Today’s Gospel reading is one of those most preachers would rather avoid because even with the best exegesis it is a difficult passage, especially with divorced members sure to be present in any congregation. The question of divorce was no less problematic in Jesus’s day, and it was for just this reason that the Pharisees wanted Jesus’s take: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Read more