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

No Ground for Boasting

We’re currently in the midst of one of our most enduring cultural liturgies—awards season. With the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, the Grammys this past Sunday, and the Oscars on the horizon, along with a slew of other, less publicized events, this is the time of year when the titans of the entertainment industry gather to honor the achievements of their peers. They will gather for lavish meals. They will hand out trophies. They will make speeches. They will tell inside jokes and laugh loudly at one another’s scripted attempts at humor. They will raise their glasses to their fellow artists and smile insincerely when their colleagues win an honor that they themselves were passed over for.

While we may be somewhat used to this annual ritual, I think that if an spaceship were to land outside of such an awards ceremony, and a group of aliens were able to look in on what was transpiring, it would probably strike them as fairly odd. For all the glitz and glamour and emotion that seems to be bound up in these events, for all the ink spilled by critics and entertainment journalists about who should and shouldn’t win these awards, these shows are ultimately an opportunity for Hollywood to pat itself on the back. Each ceremony is little more than a roomful of beautiful and wealthy people telling one another what a great job they’re doing. And this year, with the spate of revelations about the predatory misuses of power and influence among the upper echelons of Hollywood, these opportunities for self-congratulation seem a bit awkward, if not completely hollow. Read more

Who’s in Charge?

For anyone who spends any amount of time listening to our national conversation (if we can call it that), whether tuning into more traditional forms of media or wading into the facebook/twittersphere –where there is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed–it should be painfully obvious that we, as a people, have a hard time with authority. Not just with obeying authority, an issue that we have always wrestled with. We also have a very difficult time discerning authority, knowing how to recognize authority, and ascribing authority to all the wrong things and people. Thus, we allow our actions and words, the practices we embrace and the stories we tell, to be shaped by this confusion. Recent debates over flags and anthems, standing and kneeling, free speech and censorship, demonstrate that we don’t even have a common language for discussing these matters, let alone common convictions about what God’s people should do when confronted by competing, and sometimes mutually exclusive, claims to authority. We argue endlessly over who is in charge, when deep down inside we all want to be in charge. Read more

Turning the Soil

Second Sunday of Lent

Mark 8:31-38

‘Tis a gift to be simple,
‘tis is a gift to be free,
‘tis a gift to come down
where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves
In the place just right,
‘twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight
Till by turning, turning, we come ‘round right.

–Shaker Hymn

Knees bent, ashes smudged on foreheads, letting go and taking up – the work of Lent is no less messy yet necessary than the work of a farmer in early spring, muck boots stuck in the mire of a melted grey snow, calloused hands reaching low to pull aside the mulch that blanketed the garden beds, spades and shovels and yes, even hands, turning the soil, loosening it after a winter freeze, not unlike the turning of Lent, the turning, turning, re-turning to the God we had covered with pretense and pride; the God we had covered with self-sufficiency only to discover that God would not be covered, but rather, it is we who are covered and it is we who must be uncovered and laid bare. It is we who must be tilled again so that the seed of faith can take root and lift it’s head through the soil toward the Light. It is we who must repent, who must turn.

Perhaps humility is the virtue of Lent. Read more

A Nose Hair in the Body of Christ

Third Sunday after Epiphany
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Nehemiah 8:2-4A,5-6,8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Luke 4:14-21

Last year,while visiting our dear friends,Sandie and Owen,and enjoying an evening of good food and even better conversation, Jill, my wife, said, only half in jest, “When I look at what other people accomplish, I can’t help thinking about all those other things I should be doing: working to stop the death penalty, saving starving children, reading the best books, having informed opinions.”

Sandie paused a moment to ponder Jill’s concerns, and said, “All those things are important, but we’re all part of the body of Christ, and we have a role, however small. So what if you’re the nose hair? You’re there for a purpose. You may not have any idea what good you’re doing, but that’s still your job: to be a nose hair in the body of Christ.”

In this week’s second reading, Paul’s too concerned with the interdependence of eyes, ears, hands, and feet to address the problem of nose hairs. Too bad. Read more