Setting Your Mind on Divine Things

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19
Mark 8:27-38

Wisdom is saying some weird things, and quite publicly too.

In my tradition, we follow the semi-continuous readings from the Old Testament as outlined in the Revised Common Lectionary for the Season After Pentecost. Unlike the lectionary readings during such seasons as Easter and Christmas, the first reading and psalm are not chosen to jive with the readings from the New Testament. But there is a certain convergence in these readings for this coming Sunday, which is perhaps not so surprising given that they are all biblical texts. Read more

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 35:4-7a
Psalm 146
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

In the first clause of the Apostles’ Creed, God is described as being “almighty.” This term has plenty of synonyms, but often our imaginations gravitate to the sense that God’s almightiness means that God is powerful, unable to be bested in a test of strength, or capable of doing anything. We might even repeat logical conundrums to illustrate this, such as “Can God create a rock too heavy for God to lift?” Likewise, when I ask my students to tell me what comes to their minds when they consider that God is almighty, they highlight God’s power to do whatever God wants to do. As they sometimes say, God’s will is bigger and stronger than any other will. I found myself returning to the Creed and these observations as I read the appointed texts for this Sunday, because while they do speak of God’s “almightiness,” they also challenge our prevailing understanding of this notion. Read more

Regional Gatherings

Update on Regional Gatherings: this year we will have one regional gathering, at Johnson City, taking place on November 10. The deadline for registration was October 15.  Hopefully this event will lead to others in the future. Thank you for your interest. 

 

If there is sufficient interest, we have plans in place to continue the conversation on beauty (and to invite new friends into it) in three locations this fall: Indianapolis, Eugene, and Western NC/Eastern TN. These will be one-day events held on a Saturday.

If you are interested in attending one, please email the contact person listed below. The date for the Indianapolis Gathering is set for November 10; the other two are still pending. The contact person will have more information about the shape and content of these smaller, regional Gatherings that we hope might become more common in the Ekklesia Project.

Indianapolis: Chris Smith, Englewood Christian Church. englewoodreview@gmail.com

Eugene: Suzie Logan, Church of the Servant King. suzie@wipfandstock.com

NC/TN: Jim McCoy, Hopwood Christian Church/Milligan College. jimmccoy317@gmail.com

A Long, Slow Read

I Kings 8
Psalm 84
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

I was greatly blessed that Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy was published during my years as a pastor (Gilead in 2004; Home in 2008; Lila in 2014). Her writing has been called “luminous,” and her descriptions, especially of the Revs. John Ames and Richard Boughton, certainly shone a radiant light on my ministerial calling. Like John Ames, I would sit from time to time in an empty sanctuary and, in the quiet intensity of a Psalm 84 moment of longing and praise, I would count my pastoral blessings. “The feeling of a baby’s brow against the palm of your hand,” Pastor Ames confides at one point. “How I have loved this life.” Read more

Solomon: Unedited and Uncut

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
1 Kings 2.10-12, 3.3-14

And the Academy Award for Selective Biblical Editing goes to…the architects behind today’s assigned reading from 1 Kings! The lectionary for this Sunday instructs us to read three spare verses of chapter two, followed by twelve more carefully curated verses from chapter three. From these selections, we are introduced to young King Solomon as son of David, builder of the great Jerusalem Temple, and the very embodiment of wisdom, as evidenced by his prudent, faithful, and selfless prayer in chapter three: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” Pleased by Solomon’s request for wisdom, God responds with this promise to seal the deal: Because you have asked this… I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. (1 Kings 3.11-12) Read more

Surprised by Beauty

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 145:10-18
Ephesians 3:14-21

For those who attended the EP Summer Gathering earlier this month, the occasion provided the opportunity to spend a few days worshiping together, cultivating friendships, and reflecting on the importance of beauty for the church. Throughout the gathering, especially as I listened to Scott Cairns’ plenary talk on Sacramental Poetics, I found myself giving thanks for the people in my life who continually draw my attention to the beauty all around me. Among the many influences who have taught me about beauty and challenged me to grow in my understanding of what is beautiful and true, it should come as no surprise, are the people I share my life with on a daily basis—my wife and my children. In particular, my youngest son, who is five years old, reminds me regularly what it might look to live in a state of wonder at the beauty of the everyday. Read more

Blessing in a Time of Violence

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Which is to say
this blessing
is always.

Which is to say
there is no place
this blessing
does not long
to cry out
in lament,
to weep its words
in sorrow,
to scream its lines
in sacred rage.

Which is to say
there is no day
this blessing ceases
to whisper
into the ear
of the dying,
the despairing,
the terrified.

Which is to say
there is no moment
this blessing refuses
to sing itself
into the heart
of the hated
and the hateful,
the victim
and the victimizer,
with every last
ounce of hope
it has.

Which is to say
there is none that can stop it,
none that can
halt its course,
none that will
still its cadence,
none that will
delay its rising,
none that can keep it
from springing forth
from the mouths of us
who hope,
from the hands of us
who act,
from the hearts of us
who love,
from the feet of us
who will not cease
our stubborn, aching
marching, marching.

until this blessing
has spoken
its final word
until this blessing
has breathed its benediction
in every place
in every tongue:

Peace.
Peace.
Peace.

-from The Cure for Sorrow, by Jan Richardson

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