It’s good to have projects. It’s important to expand oneself with tasks that go beyond the boundaries of daily needs. And it’s hard to live with only the exigency of the moment. Closer and closer it comes–the meal, the sermon, the meeting, the Wednesday night Lent worship talk, the coughing that pierces the night, the shopping for baseball gear–like the secret police, narrow escape after narrow escape until the knock comes before you’ve had the chance to slip out the back door.
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, […]
It’s an amazing thought to me, after so many Sundays and festivals of watching or making it happen:
God and humanity are joined in Jesus Christ;
Jesus Christ is joined to the bread and wine;
and then when we eat the bread and drink the wine, Jesus Christ is joined to us.
God comes down to earth, and we are lifted up to heaven.
God stoops to enter under our roof, and we are raised up to our full stature in the vast temple of God’s kingdom.
All so that we would not be left without comfort. So that we would not be left to worship an absent Christ.
I collect these comments for my own benefit as much as to persuade anyone else to buy and/or read my book (though you should–it’s good and I’m proud of it). Being a writer without any formal credentials, institutional affiliation, or prominent personal platform is a disorienting vocation. I’ve taken every opportunity that’s been given me by friends and colleagues, worked up a few of my own, and relied a great deal on friends for advice and counsel. But I’ve never been very intentional about any of it. Part of the reason I started this site was to pull together pieces that sprawl across the internet like sheep without a shepherd. For ten years (not counting the years of pointlessly prolific blogging before that) I’ve been sending them out and seeing what happens to them before moving on to the next story, review, exegetical essay, or argument.