God Abstracted

Matthew 4:1-11

Lent begins with Jesus fresh from the waters of his baptism, being led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  At baptism, Jesus is reminded that he is called as God’s anointed, the Messiah.  But what kind of messiah is he going to be?  It is in the wilderness, where everything is stripped away, in prayer and fasting that Jesus seeks to clarify who he is and what he is going to do.

Satan, the Great Deceiver, shows up to steer Jesus away from God’s call upon him and uses three of the greatest temptations for those who want to change this world: economics/money – turning stones to bread; religion – spectacular religion which will make the crowds want to follow you anywhere; and politics – to get the power to make things turn out the way you want. Read more

And the Wind Began to Howl

Revised Common Lectionary Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56

“So let us not talk falsely now; the hour is getting late.”
— From “All Along the Watchtower,” by Bob Dylan

Christendom’s demise is a gift to the church. No longer responsible for underwriting the ruling entities of the world, nor longer required to “make nice” with the principalities, no longer dutifully excusing the violence of power politics, the church can at long last resume the serious business of being the church.

Playing church is, of course, far easier than being it. But, barring a powerfully rejuvenated alliance of accommodated Christianity and American nationalism, reasons to pretend should grow increasingly rare. The benefits of claiming default Christian identity have disappeared in many parts of the United States. Even the assumed American requirement that Presidents endorse “strong beliefs vaguely held or vague beliefs strongly held,” has nearly run its course.

The wall of the vineyard is broken; the hedge is devoured.  Read more

Zealous for the Lord

I admit to admiration for Elijah’s zeal for the LORD, though perhaps not always for his methods. His dedication to Yahweh is absolute. He is on the run for his life now because of it, feeling alone and exhausted; tired of the compromises with idols, evil and the powers that be which Israel continues to make. But Yahweh, thank God, has not given up on us yet…

In my life of service in and for the church thus far, I have come to a profound appreciation for Baptism. The renunciations and vows are deep and powerful and grace filled and not to be taken lightly. There is the much needed reminder that we are one in, and only in, Christ Jesus and not a collection of individuals. This is God on God’s terms, not my own. I have recently begun to make Baptism books for the persons baptized in our congregation. The books contain a page for those witnesses present to sign, a place for photos taken, the Apostle’s Creed, the vows undertaken (I will, with God’s help) and a quote from the Galatians text for this coming Sunday: Read more

Neither the Best Nor the Brightest

Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

I’ve been married long enough now to understand how, in great ways and small, Hauerwas’ Law and its necessary Corollary apply to most committed relationships. The Law, in its most elegant formation, is: You always marry the wrong person. The Corollary: The wrong person is the right person.

In mysteries and sacraments (and my particular tradition considers marriage to be both), informed consent isn’t part of the package. Talk about a Kierkegaardian leap! Prenuptial legal agreements are for finger-crossers and crass pragmatists. If bride and groom had any real grasp of what they were getting into, who would go through with it? Read more

The Trinity and THE SHACK

If you are a savvy and astute reader of Trinitarian theology who can elucidate the fine distinctions between, say, Augustine and Origen or Moltmann and Marshall or Zizioulas and LaCugna, you may or may not be up on the latest (actually, the only) treatise on the Trinity to capture the popular imagination: a little self-published tome called The Shack.

But you should be. Not because it’s a good book—it isn’t. But because, as indicated above, its sales are in the stratosphere. It is loved—fiercely loved—by an astounding number of Christians of all stripes.

The Shack has struck a chord, I think, because most people have not learned much about the Trinity from their participation in church life—or at least they think they haven’t. (“Trinity Sunday,” in an odd way, keeps the doctrine of God’s triunity remote, exotic, and “special”—something to be observed this one day of the year and expounded upon with clunky analogies). Read more