The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — today, we mark a century since the end of World War I.
It was called the “Great War” and the “war to end all wars,” but the aftermath suggests otherwise.
In the first industrialized war, we saw the terror of the modern age fully unleashed. A war that stated with horses ended with tanks and planes.Poisonous gasses, automatic weapons, aerial warfare — these “advancements” unleashed hell across the various fronts. Technology prolonged what would have been a months-long imperial skirmish into a years-long horror show in the trenches. Continue reading “To End All Wars”→
A Pastoral Epistle on Origins Stories, the Polis, and the Common Good
As we approach the end of the 2018 midterm elections, my mind turns towards our founding myths, stories which explain why the world is the way it is. Among theologians, we call these stories “etiologies.” Among superhero fans, we call them “origin stories.” Either way, they set out to explain key aspects of some thing or some one’s identity. They ask common questions:
Who are we?
Why are we here?
How did we get here?
Why does the world look the way it does?
What does it all mean?
Consider the creation narratives in Genesis — one a poetic ode to divine power and created order as God speaks the cosmos into being over seven days, the other showing God as a tender gardener who literally sculpts humanity — Adam from the soil, Eve from Adam’s flesh. Both myths shed light on who God is — the poet with power to speak the world into being or the loving craftsman. Continue reading “Etiology and the Polis”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who is the Resurrection and the Life. Amen.
It seems odd, doesn’t it, that Jesus should weep?
I have heard some preachers argue that Jesus wept for the doubt he saw displayed around him, that he was crying because those closest to him did not recognize his power to raise the dead, but that’s not what the text says. Martha and Mary express nothing but faith in Christ – faith that he could have healed their brother and faith that he can raise Lazarus even now.
It’s remarkable to sit back and think about this past summer and the historic wave of women elected to the episcopacy within the ELCA. In less than fifty years (forty-eight this month), the mainline Lutheran tradition went from not ordaining women to going six-for-six on new bishops.
Let that sink in: fifty years ago, women were not ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Now, they make up just over a quarter of our Conference of Bishops.
I have my identities, my preferences, my opinions. I welcome disagreement. But if I know one thing, it’s that when we put ourselves into silos, when we start shouting matches and lobbing anathemas at other Christians, we wound the Body of Christ.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sets us free. Amen.
About eight years ago, when my parents were stationed in Germany with the US Army, I had the chance to visit them for an entire summer. On my way to seminary as a United Methodist openly flirting with the Lutheran tradition, I jumped at the chance to visit the numerous historical sites affiliated with the Reformation. Over those months, I traveled to Worms (as in, “the Diet of…” and of “Here I stand, I can do no other” fame), Augsburg (as in “Confession of”), and Speyer (lesser known, but no less important – there, Lutheran leaders protested the imperial ban on Luther’s teachings and earned the name “Protestants” – a moniker that seems to have some staying power).
Touring these sites in 2010, I was shocked to see “500th Anniversary” signs everywhere. At first, I was worried that I had somehow missed something – that, despite studying religion and history and being something of a nerd, I had gotten the wrong date fixed in my head, that I had mixed up the year the Reformation began. It was, after all, by my count a full seven years before the big five-oh-oh.
Rest assured: 1517 is actually the correct date. But the German government, recognizing the epoch-defining nature of Luther’s 95 Theses, decided that one day or even a full year were insufficient. They declared 2008 the start of the Luther Decade and began in earnest preparing for the influx of history buffs, theologians, pastors, curious tourists, and faithful pilgrims who would descend upon these German towns to mark half a millennia of the Reformation. Continue reading “Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est”→
The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, is a centuries-old pilgrimage route which traces its way across western France and northern Spain before ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The path wanders through countryside and small towns, and the cathedral features a massive thurible used for blessing the large crowds that gather in the cathedral. The town of Santiago is connected through legend with Saint James the Greater (much in the same way that folk mythology connects Joseph of Arimathea to Britain). Emilio Estevez’s movie The Way follows a group of pilgrims as they make their trip to the cathedral, and it’s well worth a watch.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who allots us a portion with the great. Amen.
“Can you do me a favor?”
That question always gives me pause.
“What do they want? How much time will this require? What am I about to get myself in to?”
In my mind’s eye, I picture someone asking for the keys and title to my car or my ATM PIN or holding up a mask and asking me to help knock over the Atlanta Federal Reserve.
“Can you do me a favor?”
Knowing that I’m being ridiculous and just a bit paranoid, I wonder, “Can I really take that chance?” And so I respond, half-jokingly, “Maybe…”
Invariably the request in mundane. “Grab me a cup of coffee while you’re up?”
Enter the sons of Zebedee.
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
That’s where I would pause. Not a favor. No, they’re hinting at something far beyond that.
What does Jesus think? Does he see what’s coming? Does he see the hesitation in their eye, that James is fidgeting nervously and John, though he’s doing all the talking, is avoiding eye contact with the other disciples? Is that why he is so coy in his response? Is that why he asks what they want before agreeing to it? Or does he want to force them to say it aloud themselves? Continue reading “Sons of Thunder”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus, our Great Love. Amen.
There’s no avoiding this topic, so let’s address it head on, shall we? We all probably know Saint Teresa best for the very intimate description of her ecstatic visions. These charismatic experiences are often understood as having at least some erotic subtext as Teresa wrote about the penetrating love of God. In her own words, Teresa discussed the connection between soul and body, the physical sensation of religious experience, the moan-inducing rapture of divine visions. Her writing is put on stunning and beautiful display in Bernini’s famous statue, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, a sculpture that more closely resembles two lovers than an angel and a prophet. This perspective is so vital to the Church, to a body with such a long, painful, and complicated history with human sexuality and so often confused about the relationship between spirit and flesh. Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, her colleague who incorporated much of her imagery, offer profound sources for feminist and queer prophets to proclaim a Gospel that is at peace with human sexuality. But there are better and more capable voices than mine to expound on the value of both men and women claiming such intimacy with God. Continue reading “You Are Not God’s Only Hands”→
Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was long rumored to abuse priests and seminarians. When allegations emerged that he had also sexually assaulted minors, he was removed from the College of Cardinals.
His successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, was implicated both in cover-ups in Pennsylvania and suspicions about how much he knew vis-a-vis McCarrick. Wuerl has since resigned his cathedra in DC.
Former nuncio to the United States and noted “culture warrior” Archbishop Carlo Vigano published a letter accusing Pope Francis of knowingly covering for McCarrick and even rescinding sanctions against the disgraced cleric.
For all of his indignation, Vigano himself has been implicated in cover-ups and was repeatedly seen publicly alongside McCarrick. Which is to say, his credibility is lacking.
All of this is mired not only in the latest round of abuse and cover-up scandals but also an ecclesial cold war between “traditionalist” Catholics suspicious of Francis’ reform agenda and more progressive Catholics cheering on the pontiff‘s program.