“It Is Good for Us to Be Here”

A Homily for the Transfiguration of our Lord

Text: Exodus 34:29-35; St. Luke 9:28-36


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Transfigured Son, the Chosen One. Amen.

“It is good for us to be here.”

Have you ever seen so something so beautiful that it overpowered you and fascinated you to the point that you couldn’t pull yourself away? Maybe you were standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, watching the dawn break over the ocean, seeing the Rocky Mountains glow in the lays rays of the setting sun.

Or perhaps something very ordinary appeared more vibrant than ever before – a spring flower covered by a March snow, every last flake reflecting the sun’s brilliance. Maybe a flash of lightning illuminated your lawn in some new way. Or even more simply, it could have been the smile on your friends’ newborn child or looking up on a cloudless day to take sudden notice of just how blue the sky really is.

This is the sublime – a display so beautiful that it overpowers us, gives us a sense of just how big and intricate the cosmos really are, and holds us in place, demanding our attention. It’s so powerful want to fall on your knees, with our face on the ground, in sheer awe – and yet so transfixing you can’t take your eyes off the scene.

In these moments, you want to stay as long as you can, to let this moment overwhelm your senses, to take in every last ray of light, to remember every faint fragrance, to feel the gentle breeze, so that you can remember it all and escape back to that moment in the future. Continue reading ““It Is Good for Us to Be Here””

#Blessed Are the Poor

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Texts: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; St. Luke 6:17-26


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the fount of all blessing. Amen.

Blessed are the poor, Jesus says.

This passage is strangely familiar to us, like a verse from a half-forgotten song.

Today’s Gospel lesson has a parallel text. In Saint Matthew, we read the Beatitudes – a famously popular passage, one memorized by children in Sunday School and read at confirmations, ordinations, and funerals.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” reports that other evangelist. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

But not so for Saint Luke. In today’s Gospel reading, Christ’s teachings aren’t just about spirituality. No, they have real-world, lived consequences. This isn’t just about hearts and souls but bodies.

Christ’s ministry, Saint Luke tells us, is incarnational – it’s about human poverty, human stomachs, human lives, human flesh. Jesus became one of us not just to cure sin-sick souls but also to rescue human bodies from death.

Blessed are the poor, says our Lord. Blessed are the hungry. Blessed are the oppressed.

But do we believe him? Continue reading “#Blessed Are the Poor”

#SBCToo

Infuriating but not surprising. That’s my response to the latest news in the unfolding scandal in the #ChurchToo era.

The Houston Chronicle has broken the story that everyone knew was coming. At first, I felt numb, as though there was nothing else could shock me following the waves of accused clergy in the Roman Catholic Church — but then I read about just how close the abuse was to the top. Baptists may not have Bishops, but their conventions come damn close. And, just as on the other side of the Tiber, these false prophets have sacrificed children to demons, covering up criminal acts and sins.

Women impregnated by their abusers, forced to “confess” their trauma in a perverse display of church “discipline,” urged to get an abortion by leaders in a denomination that exiled moderates through a thin veneer of pro-life language.

And we know that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of abusers — and it is only the start. Continue reading “#SBCToo”

Gone Fishin’

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Text: St. Luke 5:1-11


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends us out to fish for people. Amen.

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Miraculous Catch of Fish, 17th cent. Italy

When I was younger, I loved fishing. Or at least, I thought so.

On summer days, my sister and I would hop in the truck with our grandpa and drive out to a local pond to try our hand. Even in the July Georgia heat, we would beg and beg and beg to go fishing. Mind you, neither my sister nor I were very good at it; my sister recalls that we went fishing more than we went catching. And like any small child at the pond, we were loud, quick to pester each other and unlikely to leave our lines in the water for even a second before re-casting. But my grandpa was never one to scold us for our impatience or being loud enough to scare away every fish within five miles. And growing up, our Gospel reading today connected  with those memories of summer days with grandpa, sitting under the tree. Fishing for people? Sounds great. Continue reading “Gone Fishin’”

Bearing Witness

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Text: St. Luke 4:21-30


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has come to proclaim freedom to the captives. Amen.

The lectionary has dropped us today in the middle of a chapter and in the middle of a story already in progress. Think back with me to a few weeks ago. We read St. Luke’s account of Christ’s baptism where the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in the form of a dove. And then – well, then Luke interrupted the story with a list of Jesus’ ancestors. But the next event, which starts our present chapter, follows closely on the heels of Christ’s baptism. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Jesus endures these demonic assaults, and Satan “departed from him until an opportune time.”

“Then,” as we read last week, Jesus, still “filled with the power of the Spirit” began teaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee. He entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, and read from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He gave the scroll back to the attendant, sat down, and gave one of the world’s shortest sermons: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

And this brings us up to date for today. How did the people react to such an odd sermon?

Continue reading “Bearing Witness”

Biblical Literacy in the Public School System

For the past few days, my Facebook feed has been lighting up with shared posts cheering on the idea of biblical literacy laws. My Twitter feed, by comparison, has filled with posts amounting to “be careful what you wish for.” Several armchair pundits have pointed out that the same Christians who have been fighting against sex education, modern scientific cosmology, and evolutionary biology should be equally as suspicious of a government-sanctioned biblical studies curriculum.

I myself have weighed in on Twitter, but it’s difficult to mount a full review in only 280 characters — thus, this longer piece.

Rabbi Jeffery Salkin offers a nuanced take, writing about the importance of biblical literacy but the immense practical challenges that make such a curriculum impossible to introduce. Providing more nuance than the 280-character crowd, noting that “because of the atmosphere in America today, such classes would undoubtedly become part of the culture wars.”

Religion journalist (and Candler alum!) Jonathan Merritt expounds on the Twitterverse question. He asks, “If many evangelicals don’t trust public schools to teach their children about sex or science, why would they want those schools teaching scripture?” before going on to explore the legal and religious implications of the proposed curriculum. Like Salkin, Merritt believes any religion curriculum would reignite the culture wars. Continue reading “Biblical Literacy in the Public School System”

One Lord, One Faith, One Body

A Homily for the Third Sunday after Epiphany

Texts: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; St. Luke 4:14-21


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who unites us into his Body. Amen.

The church in ancient Corinth, the recipient of today’s letter from Saint Paul, was situated in a context not so very different from the Church today in Macon. Corinth was a city divided. The population split along social and economic lines, along religious lines, along ethnic lines. These divisions seeped into the church, where those who had converted from the polytheistic religions of the day clashed with those who had been raised in the Jewish community. These early Christians argued about who was baptized by whom.  They debated whether one could eat meat butchered in pagan temples. They even argued about proper hair length. The rich valued themselves above the poor, so much so that the wealthy, who didn’t have to labor long hours and who would pay for the food and wine used in the Eucharist, would gather before the working class could depart their places of employment, feasting on the bread of life getting drunk on the blood of Christ while leaving only scraps for their poorer siblings. Continue reading “One Lord, One Faith, One Body”

Come to the Wedding Feast

A Homily for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Text: St. John 2:1-11


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the bridegroom of the Church. Amen.

As I leave my late twenties and enter my early thirties, I seem to be in that age where most of my peers are getting married. In the past three years, weddings have become the most regular feature of my social life. My sister and both my brothers-in-law have gotten married, as have some of my closest friends. As a pastor, I’ve only had the honor of officiating at one, but what a great wedding it was when nearly a year ago, we gathered here in this space to celebrate with Charlie and Judith as they joined together in holy matrimony.

And yes, weddings are great because they are a celebration of romance, a worship service in which the Church proclaims the value of romantic love and human families – even when that family is as simple as two people giving themselves to each other.

But of course, there’s more to them than that: part of what makes weddings so much fun is the after-party, the reception. There’s often music and dancing – I have no rhythm, but I will dance wildly, even until I have blisters on my heels. It’s a chance to dress up to the nines: suit and tie, or even a tuxedo, a nice dress or a full-length formal gown.

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Your humble author, new bride, friends, and family dancing the night away in July 2013

Continue reading “Come to the Wedding Feast”

Shared Belief: The Need for Nuance

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


As we’ve seen throughout this series, Alisa Childers’ presentation of progressive Christianity falls short in numerous ways.

In each of these claims, Childers cherry-picks her evidence, bases her position on one narrow understanding of Calvinism, and ignores the wider Christian tradition. But her arguments are flawed at a deeper level. In each of her three theses, Childers hedges her language to paint all progressives with a broad brush and to find them guilty by association.

Hedging (or as snarky Wikipedia editors call it, using “weasel words”) is a way to soften a statement while also using it to mislead. Continue reading “Shared Belief: The Need for Nuance”

Rev. King and the Politics of Proclamation

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Rev. King’s 1963 Birmingham mugshot on the occasion of his arrest

Today would have been the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday, and it marks an important holiday in the civic calendar of the United States (though, like other federal holidays, is observed on a Monday).

This time of year, many people post quotes from Rev. King: sometimes to simply mark the day, sometimes to call their fellow citizens to act for social justice. If you get on Facebook or Twitter over the next few days, expect to see quotes from the “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered during the March on Washington. Expect to see the famous line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” excerpted from the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Expect, on rare occasion, to see his final public address, in which he declared, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” Continue reading “Rev. King and the Politics of Proclamation”