What Kind of King?

A Homily for the Feast of Christ the King

Texts: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1:4b-8; St. John 18:33-37


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Christ the King, 17th century Greek mosaic

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, our coming King. Amen.

It’s a bold claim, isn’t it? To stand, bound and on trial, before the imperial governor, the embodied representative of the Roman Empire, and to claim kingship? The Romans had conquered the entire Mediterranean world, from Spain to Turkey, from Tripoli in North Africa up to the limes in Germany, from southern Egypt to as far away as Britain. The Romans had vanquished the fractured Greek rulers and kept the Parthian Empire at bay in Iran. Rome made and broke kings. They commanded entire legions to keep rebellious territories in line. The Romans knew how to shatter the spirit and will of defiant kings and mutinous militias: through the strength of arms and torture. Lay waste to the city, crucify the leaders. Roman authority was rooted in a mighty brutality. Continue reading “What Kind of King?”

Shared Belief: Scripture, Fact, Truth, and Authority

Part of Shared Belief, a series responding to Alisa Childers’ article on progressive Christianity and atheism.


#1: “They May Adopt a Belief That the Bible is Unreliable”

Here we come already to the first instance demanding nuance. What does Childers mean by “unreliable”?

She cites to authors like Rob Bell (former megachurch pastor) and Rachel Held Evans (Episcopalian lay person and author) and their writings addressing discrepancies between the historical record and Scripture. In these instances, “unreliable” means “not always 100% historically factual.” (I’ve addressed this topic before — see here.) Rob Bell, at least in his early days, compared biblical historicity to springs and bricks. He writes: Continue reading “Shared Belief: Scripture, Fact, Truth, and Authority”

Shared Belief: Fundamentalists, Progressives, and Atheists

Alisa Childers, a self-styled apologist and frequent contributor at The Gospel Coalition, has written an article on links between progressive Christian theology and atheism. In particular, she highlights three beliefs that “some” progressive Christians “may” hold in common with secular humanists. While Childers attempts to add shades of nuance with her modifiers of choice, the tone of her essay is clear: progressive Christianity leads to heresy and, in time, out-right atheism.

Childers sites to famous former Christians: Bart Campolo (son of the pastor/scholar Tony Campolo), Bart Ehrman (biblical scholar at the University of North Carolina), and Michael Gungor (former Christian rock star). These non-believers left Evangelical Christianity (patent pending) for more progressive parts of the Church before rejecting the faith entirely.

Citing the younger Campolo’s claims, Childers warns that progressive Christianity will see a mass exodus towards “full-blown” atheism in the coming years. She then lists the three shared beliefs that map the route from progressive theology to atheism: Continue reading “Shared Belief: Fundamentalists, Progressives, and Atheists”

Not a Stone Left on Stone

A Homily for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Daniel 12:1-3; St. Mark 13:1-8


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who will topple every stone from its place. Amen.

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Lincoln Memorial

Imagine, if you will, that we have taken a trip to Washington, DC. As we wander around the seat of our national government, we of course marvel at the beautiful neo-classical architecture. DC — ok, well, the heart of DC, not so much the sprawling suburbs — is a well-designed city which draws on the great monuments of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman culture to communicate our country’s loftiest ideals. The Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln memorials call to mind the Egyptian obelisks, the Roman Pantheon, and the Greek Parthenon. Instead of divine heroes, these monuments stand to elected human leaders, flaws and all. Continue reading “Not a Stone Left on Stone”

To End All Wars

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”

Etiology and the Polis

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”

For All the Saints

A Homily for the Feast of All Saints

Texts: Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 21:1-6a; St. John 11:32-44


all-saints

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.

Throughout the Gospels, we have seen him heal many and even, on rare occasion, raise the dead. When he arrived in Bethany, just a few verses before our reading today, he greeted Martha’s great faith with reassurance: Continue reading “For All the Saints”

Come So Far, So Far To Go

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The Risen Christ Appears to Saint Mary Magdalene

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.

As the Religion News Service reports, the percentage of women in ministry is on the rise across mainline Protestantism. Continue reading “Come So Far, So Far To Go”

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est

A Homily for Reformation Sunday

Texts: Romans 3:19-28; St. John 8:31-36


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sets us free. Amen.

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Luther Memorial, Worms

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”