Hope Without Pretending

Eighteenth Sunday After Pentacost

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks.
– Ian Hamilton Finlay

The novelist and essayist Jonathan Franzen seems to have a talent for roiling the opiners of contemporary culture. Whether it is his disdain for social media or his dismissal of shallow environmentalism, Franzen can write what seems like a subdued and reasoned essay and invite a flurry of blog posts in response, such as a recent piece on the webpage of Scientific American that was intelligently titled: “Shut up, Franzen.” It’s a prophet’s fate to invite such reaction and I think Franzen has the prophet’s gift of speaking uncomfortable words. His most recent essay to such effect was a piece in the New Yorker titled “What if We Stopped Pretending?” Read more

Answering Tyrants and Their Tweets

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

“You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness
against the godly all day long?…
You love all words that hurt,
O you deceitful tongue.”   -Psalm 52:1,4

“Be like an astute businessman: make stillness be your criterion for testing the value of everything and choose always what contributes to it.” -Evagrius

No preacher can read Psalm 52 this week, with its condemnation of a tyrant that loves “lying more than speaking truth” and “words that hurt,” without thinking of Donald Trump and the latest of his racist outrages.  Add to that Amos, who receives an oracle that condemns a people of religious pretenders more interested in economic exploitation and power than goodness, and we have a scriptural witness that seems tailored for our time.

But in reading the whole of our scriptures for Sunday, I cannot help but think that there is “a better part” that we must choose—a stance that begins with Amos’s call to “be silent,” continues in the example of the green olive tree in Psalm 52, and rests with Mary’s listening at the feet of the Lord.

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What Are We Doing Here?

Second Sunday after Pentecost

1 Kings 19:1-15 or Isaiah 65:1-9

Psalms 42 & 43 or Psalm 22:19-28

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 8:26-39

Whose image haunts the mirror? And why
are you still here? What exactly do you hope

to become? When will you begin?

Scott Cairns, from

“Bad Theology: A Quiz”

Looking for signs of God’s reign can get pretty frustrating these days, especially if your looking is restricted to what you see and hear in mass and social media. That’s not to say that there’s no god-talk in the news; there are plenty of people who are not simply talking about God, but who also presume to speak on God’s behalf, loudly and at length to anyone who’ll listen. It’s not clear, though, that the god these folks are talking about is the God who was present to the world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who came preaching “good news to the poor… release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,” which is to say, liberation to those suffering the yoke of every kind of oppression (Luke 4:18).

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Palms, Permaculture, and the Passion

Palm Sunday

Luke 19:28-40

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 22:14-23:56

Last Fall, I spent ten intensive days studying permaculture with Chris Grataski–a theologically astute, justice driven, ecological designer. Sitting with a group of students around folding tables in a cramped upstairs classroom in my church, we had our minds opened to a whole new way of thinking about life and human relationships with the whole of creation. Chris offered many definitions of permaculture, but the most robust, if my notes serve me, was this: “Permaculture is a principled design discipline concerned with the cultivation of high-biodiversity human habitats where the needs and desires of the human community are met through serving the needs and desires of the non-human community.”

Chris went on to reflect theologically about the nature of the permaculture design philosophy, arguing that it is essentially kenotic, and more that, there is an underlying kenotic nature to the whole of creation. If we seek to serve our own ends, we end up with a world that is depleted and diminished; if we seek to make room for the life of others, for their own flourishing, then we will join in wholeness that is also health–our own humanity will come into its fullness.

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Marriage for All

Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year C

Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

Eight years ago this week, a friend of sang a gospel rendition of Amazing Grace that echoed across the nave of our church, my young nephew vomited in the chancel/choir stall during the church service, and Emily and I shared Holy Eucharist with friends and family who spanned our individual and common lives.  It was our wedding and it was a joyous day to whose memories I still return to often.

Among the best of those memories are the many people who came together to make it happen. Emily and I have always had a greater abundance of community than we have of cash, and so when planning the wedding we made it a community event.  Our photographer was a friend with a serious hobby; our reception was a feast of soups and breads made by colleagues and companions on our journey together. Our cake, one of the best I’ve ever had, was made by an amateur baker and displayed on a beautiful stand made by her husband.  

All these things were gifts, given in celebration of the gift Emily and I had found in each other.  It was a day in which love was made visible, both in this sacrament between two people, but also among all those who celebrated it with us.

Given that my anniversary is this week it was hard not to think of that day as I read our lessons for this Sunday.   Read more