Ravenna Christ

The Holy One of God

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
I Corinthians 8:1-13 OR I Corinthians 7:32-35
Mark 1:21-28

Here we are, halfway through this Epiphany season. In perusing through some of the Revised Common lectionary texts I noticed for the first time that we, the church, spend nearly this entire seven week season of Epiphany in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. For a gospel that is very much about being on the move – forty times in sixteen chapters the Greek word for immediately/at once/then occurs – this seems counterintuitive.

It is not, though, if we consider that Epiphany is the season for the church to try and get its head and heart and life around just who Jesus is and what is the good news he heralds and (spoiler alert!) is. It’s all there in the first chapter of Mark, so it is here we sit and ponder for a while. Read more

Grounded Hope


Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; John 20:1-18

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15)

Let us not mock God with metaphor, / analogy, sidestepping transcendence; / making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the / faded credulity of earlier ages: / let us walk through the door. (Seven Stanzas at Easter by John Updike)

John the Evangelist sets the resurrection story in a garden, grounding Easter’s hope in, well, the ground. “The tree of life,” Vigen Guroian observes, “still stands in the midst of the garden.” No pie in the sky here; Easter is earth tended, mended and renewed, and a body alive again. Read more

Apokatastasis and the Birthday of the Church

Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27; John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15 (Pentecost Sunday)

One of the first things that I remember learning as a seminary student in my introductory class on Church history was the word, apokatastasis. The word, which is Greek, most simply means “the end will be like the beginning” and is most commonly used to refer to the idea of a universal restoration of creation. At the time, we first year students cataloged this word away along with a long litany of other doctrines and heresies that comprised the first 1400 years of church history, ready to proudly (if not arrogantly) pull it out alongside other useful information such as the meaning of communicato idiomatum, why Augustine really stole those pears, and the gruesome tale of Abelard’s castration at the next party to show just how enlightened we were. I hardly think that any of us at the time assumed these words and stories would have any relevance for the day-in, day-out life of parish work in any church we’d ever serve. Yet as I read these lectionary texts for Pentecost Sunday, it seems to me like the word apokatastasis speaks directly to what is happening in Jerusalem some 50 days following the Resurrection. It is a word that the 21st century Church might do well to recover. Read more

Ascension Politics

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53 (The Feast of the Ascension)

St. Augustine considered the Feast of the Ascension the crown of all Christian festivals. Today we may give it an obligatory nod as we make our way liturgically from Easter to Pentecost, but we’re often not quite sure what to do with it theologically, pastorally, exegetically. The clunky literalism routinely inspired by the Luke-Acts vision of the ascension—Jesus rocketing upward into outer space—is not a little embarrassing.

Whatever historical event lies behind the Luke-Acts narratives of Jesus’ ascension into heaven—and the fact that the two accounts differ in important ways might be a clue that a surface-literal reading is not what the author had in mind—a couple of things stand out: the centrality of worship and the reimagining of “all rule and authority and power and dominion.”

Tom Wright points out that Luke’s gospel ends, as it began, in the Temple at Jerusalem. “Worship of the living God,” Wright says, “is at the heart of Luke’s vision of the Christian life.” Jesus’ ascension into heaven, then, is not “beam me up, Scotty” science fiction, but rather that which makes possible the church’s existence. Read more

This Year in Jerusalem!

I’m back from the Holy Land; tired and exhausted yet inspired, challenged, and eager to share the stories with you. My experience of pilgrimage to the Holy Land was almost overwhelming. Every day, everywhere we went, there were biblical sites, holy sites, and historical sites, piled upon one another and impossible to see them all.

Galilee was beautiful. We were there during the rainy season and everything was green (green by Galilean standards). Standing on the top of the Cliffs of Arbela overlooking the western edge of the Sea of Galilee (which is no more than a modest-sized lake) one can see the very route from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee that Jesus walked. Furthermore, clustered along the lake’s coastline, all within view because they are no more than a few miles from one another are the remains of the villages of Magdala (the home place of Mary Magdalene) and Capernaum. Beyond that, up where the Jordan River runs into the Sea of Galilee, is Bethsaida. All of these villages are easily within walking distances of one another and most all of Jesus’ Galilean ministry happened within these few miles. Read more