Crash Course

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, (53-56)

Richard Dawkins, the famed British scientist and atheist, believes in Progress (with a capital “P”). He concedes the Shoah was a “temporary setback” for humanity, but nothing to fret about in the long run. In his view of history, religious faith is in full rout (though still, to his mind, terribly dangerous), material welfare is on the rise, and goodness and peace are coming in every way. Supremely confident in the power of Science (with a capital “S”), Dawkins assures his readers that, “our brains…are big enough to see into the future and plot long-term consequences.”

Progress has been a dogma of modernity since at least the time of Francis Bacon, and it has real staying power. It’s just a lot harder to believe in it now that Science and Technology (with a capital “T”) have shown themselves to be two-edged swords. Read more

World Out of Balance

“’Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead.’ The Misfit continued, ‘and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance.’” (Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”)

I don’t understand Easter. I think I stand on firm theological ground saying this. Mysteries are necessarily beyond comprehension, a scandal and embarrassment in a scientific age. It’s far more satisfying to make of mystery a problem to be solved. In “mystery” novels, for instance, a criminal death is explained, ending (generally) with the restoration of justice and order, or at least the order we’ve come to expect in this world, from the things we rely on. Mercy and transformation, which might throw everything off balance, must wait for another day.

Attempts to smooth over the mystery of the Three Days have intellectual and emotional appeal. Liberal Protestantism and the Jesus Seminar restore balance by spiritualizing Easter. “Jesus rose in the disciples’ hearts,” we’re reassured, though his corpse, like any other, rots in the tomb. Orderly minds reject a God who breaks the rules. Read more

Light for the Journey

Transfiguration Sunday – Mark 9:2-9

The Gospel Lesson for Transfiguration Sunday suffers from something that lectionary texts often do: It begins in the middle of a longer narrative, the whole of which helps to situate and make sense of the lifted-out passage under consideration. The Mark reading begins with: “Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.” We then go on to get engrossed in the familiar story of how the appearance of Jesus changes; how Moses and Elijah suddenly show up; how Peter characteristically misreads the scene.

But what happened six days earlier? Could it have any bearing on the journey to the mountaintop and on what transpired there? Read more

The Violence of Love

mural of Oscar RomeroEaster Monday marked the anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered while celebrating the Eucharist at the chapel of Divine Providence Cancer Hospital in San Salvador on March 24, 1980.

We should not wonder that a church has a lot of cross to bear. Otherwise, it will not have a lot of resurrection. An accommodating church, a church that seeks prestige without the pain of the cross, is not the authentic church of Jesus Christ. (February 19, 1978) Read more