baptism

Dead in the Water

First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 9:8-17
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Lent is wasted on the orderly, the continent, the well-behaved. Forego some trivial luxury if it makes you feel better, but do it on your own time, please.

Lent is for those whose lives are a mess: an invitation, once again, to acknowledge the fragile illusions in which we place so much trust, to name the destructive power of our deep habits. The traditional practices of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – were never meant to make good people better, much less make them more appealing to God.

Lenten practices are nothing less than little deaths, killing off the unnecessary within what we like to call “ourselves,” chiseling away chunks of rough marble hiding the delicate human figure inside. Not that we are the killers or sculptors. We enter the practice the way one enters the waters of baptism: called but never in control, ready at last to drown in the ocean of God’s unearned forgiveness. Read more

The Terrible Speed of Mercy

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

Six months ago I was doing my part to rail against the folly of doomsday predictions and the dangers of rapture theology. At the time, Harold Camping and his May 21 prediction were the epicenter of media frenzy, not only in The Rapture Gazette and late-night paid programming, but also in above-the-fold NY Times articles and primetime NPR stories. This truly bewildering sensation spawned billboards, talking head reports, and “end of the world” parties.

I still shake my head and wonder if the madness in May was not only Harold Camping’s, but also biblical eschatology’s proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. Did the words we needed to speak six months ago have the unintended effect of making people sink more deeply than ever into living as in the days of Noah? Read more

Madmen, Destruction, and the Art of God’s Patience

Sometimes my worlds race toward collision in frightening, yet illuminating ways. Friday, I watched the entertaining story of a ‘madman’ thwarted on the brink of high-tech global genocide by Captain America. Later than night, 60 days of growing zucchini vines was destroyed in less than 60 minutes of torrential rain. Saturday morning, I heard the tragic news of a ‘madman’ who wreaked local carnage in Norway using a few guns and a truckload of fertilizer.

In the aftermath, our temptation is to mouth platitudes about justice which are usually little more than vengeful sentiments in disguise. Read more