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
Fifth Sunday of Easter
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Commandments. Rules. Can’t live with them; can’t live without them. We scoff at rules. We chafe under the control of those who make them. We bend them and break them and try to explain them away. Sometimes rules seem out of date, senseless.
Have you ever seen those lists of the nutty rules some states still have on the books? In Tennessee, it’s illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle. In Indiana, it’s against the law to shoot open a can of food. In Kentucky, it’s a crime to use a reptile during any part of a religious service.
Many Christians are big on rules. It’s common in my community to see Ten Commandment signs posted in driveways. Don’t you find it a little odd that the one religious message we stake out in our front yards is the Ten Commandments? Why don’t we see signs that proclaim, “Jesus is Lord! God is love! Christ is risen!?”
Second Sunday in Lent
For most of my life, I have been a sports fan. I will readily admit that I’ve spent far too much time watching games, reading articles and updates about my favorite players (although my means of doing so has changed dramatically—I used to watch the mailbox for the arrival of Sports Illustrated for Kids; now I simply check my Twitter feed), and listening to the so-called experts argue loudly about sports-related topics on ESPN and on various radio call-in shows.
Last week, as the professional basketball season reached its halfway point and conversation began heating up around various players’ contracts and potential trade deals, I heard a lot of discussion about a topic that I’ve probably encountered a million times but never really thought about: the “opt-out clause.” Read more
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
My mother – who, while alive, would have been mortified to be called a saint – often told us how God spoke to her in her prayers. She said so without irony or apparent metaphor, nor did she claim special standing, privilege, or insight. In fact, she gave no reason to believe her experience wasn’t available to every praying person. Furthermore, she never claimed to speak for God to others and, as far as I could tell, God’s speaking to her was more important than the words themselves, if indeed what she understood herself to hear were words. In truth, I’ve never understood quite what she meant. Her experience was not mine, though I’ve never doubted she had profound encounters with real presence. Read more
Fourth Sunday of Advent
I love the way Luke and Matthew begin their Gospels. Both tell us of these plain, ordinary people, Mary and Joseph, who obeyed God, and through whom God begins the extraordinary work of salvation for all people.
Traditionally, the church has called Mary the first disciple. She was the first to believe and obey. And even though Luke tells her story with a bit more drama than Matthew’s telling of Joseph’s, we still get the message that here was an ordinary young woman – really a teenage girl – who embodied extraordinary courage and faith in God to be able to say, “Let it be to me according to your will.” Or to put it more mundanely, Mary said yes. Read more