Category Essay

Confessions of a Failed Evangelist – Let’s Talk

[I wrote this in 2011] At a church council meeting a couple of years ago, we found ourselves discussing friends and neighbors of our city church and their prospects for eventual membership. One neighbor in particular seemed like he should really be coming to church because, as someone observed, his brother is a Lutheran pastor. […]

“Religionless” Again for the First Time – Let’s Talk

[Note: the date of the issue is incorrect. I wrote this in 2011] I have made two visits to St. Augustine’s House in Oxford, Michigan. The first was in 2006, after my second year of divinity school and my summer clinical pastoral education unit with a hospice care provider, and before my endorsement interviews and […]

On the Way: After Jesus College – Let’s Talk

However gauche it may be in clergy circles to say it, I loved my seminary experience. From the summer intensive course on New Testament Greek before my first quarter at the University of Chicago all the way to a course on John Calvin that concluded my last, lagging Lutheran year at LSTC, I enjoyed myself […]

On the Way: Poverty-Stricken Power – Let’s Talk

Try as I might, I can’t find anything to say, or even really believe, about the Devil and the demons as such. Whether they can be said to exist in a way that we say anything else exists, and if so what they are, how they originate, and what their powers–I have no idea. In […]

What Are We Doing Here?

What if the alleged indifference of the age to questions of God’s righteousness is not the age’s wisdom, with which we must catch up, but rather the age’s folly, which we are duty-bound to try to break through? What if people are putting themselves and their world in serious danger by ignoring those questions? And what if, after all, the wisdom and the virtues and the forms of fellowship we wish to salvage from our little household end up being no more necessary or appealing than the rest of it? 

Proclaim and Witness

We celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord last Sunday, which we haven’t regularly done here before. As far as I remember, I’d never preached on the proper texts for it, though before my suburban captivity I was reliable in observing it at some church or other. It’s easy to get hung up on visualizing the […]

Flight

I didn’t stay there. If I were assured of a hundred more years to live I don’t know that I would ever read Niebuhr again. Part of the problem with the blazing sunset era of high Protestant theology was that its authors sought to provide us with a place to stand–where faith and reason, revelation and science all worked together–when all they could offer was a point of transit. From the perspective of one moving out of Christian faith, however defined, those points of transit seem feeble and dishonest. For one moving into it, they can seem necessary and providential. Christians have a tendency to ask for kinds of assurance, whether from theological faculties, great collections of bishops, or second-century papyrus, that none of these can give. Our needs and our doubts give shape to the theories of revelation or ecclesiology or whatever else that we may then point to in order to meet them.

Suburban Diarist: Valley of the Shadow

And yet now, having known the consolations of a loving marriage, pursued the full course of my formal education, tasted the vocations that define my life, and treasured the unspeakable joy of fathering a child, the prospect of a parting sometimes fills me with far greater bitterness than it did back when my life was still a blank canvass. I’ve had to explain to skeptics that when Paul says, rhetorically, “where grave is thy victory; where O death is thy sting?” he is referring to the final resurrection, not to our own mind here and now. Here and now the grave wins its victory and death inflicts a palpable sting, to those who leave too soon and to those who are left. Yet youth is perhaps innocent even of this.

Chicago Diarist: Life is Brief, Young Maidens; Fall in Love

I wish very much that I had gone to that festival screening of Ikiru (today’s lesson: go see people you admire when they speak publicly, especially about something you really care about). I wish that I’d ever seen Roger Ebert in the flesh, many years as we shared this city. But at the same time I know it doesn’t much matter in the scheme of things. The words and the movies matter, to the critic and his reader anyway, much more than the momentary flash of bodily presence. “My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris,” he wrote in that 2011 essay.

Risen

At Deep Springs and, I imagine, many other small, isolated communities, a certain convergence of personal styles takes place. We arrived distinct from each other but grew, externally at least, more and more alike: Long hair or a buzz with the #3 razor; generations of farm-suitable clothes intermingling and being exchanged; an inevitable preference for glasses over contacts. The passage of time only compounds the effect. People we knew by smell (not that difficult in that place) or by footfall at the time become blurrier, singly or together. Looking at this picture I at first mistook another guy for me. My mother mistook a different guy for me.