It was so drastic and all-encompassing, which is I guess what people say about cults they’ve left. All-encompassing but not closed off, not provincial or hysterical. It was, as we’d have said about a band or a labor project at Deep Springs, “hardcore,” but in a way that expanded rather than contracted my idea of humanity and human sympathy. I guess I wanted it to be true, to the point of not minding the risk that it would prove not to be.
On Sunday you paid very moving tribute to my work here. For the last six weeks, in fact, you’ve been telling me what I’ve meant to you, in cards and conversations and kind messages on Facebook. It’s been overwhelming. So it’s only fair that I acknowledge what you have meant to me. Not just that you were gracious and kind and receptive, to me and to my family, but that you were, in fact, the difference between continuing to answer my vocation to ordained ministry and quite possibly washing out of that ministry altogether.
Too bad we had to walk down, I said to one guy. Yeah, it would be better if we could float. The stars and moon and the water and the friends and the chemical enhancement made the proposition sound almost plausible–as if the world would make a special arrangement for us that one time to mark all we had done and been in that place and to acknowledge the love and gratitude we overflowed with so painfully.
And honestly, at first blush I was not sympathetic to Augustine’s self-reproach for watching the lizards and the flies. Let yourself watch the animals, my dude. But as my week away from home and church drew to a close, and I thought about that narrow gate through which I had allowed any diversion to come and how eagerly I wanted to go find those diversions anyway, however pointless or even annoying they might be, I started to understand him better.
God becomes a human being so that human beings can become like God.
And this happens to us anywhere and at any time. Whether you are surrounded with loved ones, or stranded away from home, or simply without close family or friends. Whether you have a stocking full of old family traditions or whether you didn’t even grow up with a tree. Whether you know the songs or not. Whether you’re at a festive gathering or whether you’re at an all-night diner, with only those other people who have nowhere else to go.
I wrote a lot this year, more than I had any good reason for writing, and more than anyone was likely to much benefit from. It’s hard to exaggerate how quickly it all flies away. Now and then something has a life of its own and wanders back to meet you, but for the most […]
In the current Christian Century I review Zora Neale Hurston’s “new” book, Barracoon. It’s the record of her interviews with the last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade, a man whose English name was Cudjo Lewis and whose African name was Kossola. He tells Hurston about his ancestors, his abduction by the King of Dahomey […]
There is an irony in the process of becoming a pastor. You start out with a heart full of simple faith, and you learn that most of what you think you know about the Bible or Christianity is different, or even just plain wrong. You start out wishing only to glorify God, and yet you learn gradually to take pride in your own gifts. Maybe you hardly thought about that sermon, but someone told you it was exactly what she needed to hear. Maybe it was a merely dutiful hospital visit to you, but you said something that made the old man weep tears of relief. You set out to be the least and the servant of all, and yet you end up comparing yourself with your colleagues, or demeaning the simple faith that brought you there.
I say all of this as someone who has been on every side of this very human struggle: offending, offended against, passive bystander, participant in a mob mentality. That’s human life. We are always being asked to hear, to judge, to act. And the way we do these things implicates us very deeply. It cuts to the heart of who we think we are. It is painful to cut off that part of us that cannot bear to be wrong.
I’m excited to be visiting two Chicago churches in October to talk about Sacred Signposts: Words, Water, and Other Acts of Resistance. First up will be Augustana Lutheran Church and Lutheran Campus Ministry in Hyde Park, a place that’s very important to me. The Wednesday night services in Lent brought me to worship for good, […]