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 […]
It is the strangest thing that we have in our holy book. It’s not a story of worldly success–much as preachers have tried to make it out to be just that. It’s not a story of patiently resigning ourselves to worldly evil. It’s a story, told in a hundred different ways, of giving the world up and then getting it back again. If we actually had to live it ourselves, how would we bear it–the walk to Moriah with Abraham and Isaac, the flight to Zarephath, the warning against the people who organize God’s worship, the chaos and terror of Golgotha?
When we’re in an audience, we want to be led on, tricked, deceived by sleight of hand. In the real world, face to face, we don’t want that at all. We don’t want to be led on, tricked, manipulated. Instead we want to give ourselves freely to one another, and we want to receive the free gift of another person in return.
This verse is like an explosion. How do we get right with God? How do we attain that righteousness with which God judges the world and condemns the wickedness of humanity? Do we have to humble ourselves before our husbands? Do we have to lord it over our wives? Do we have to follow “Biblical life principles”? Do we have to pray an hour every day? Will that get us to the righteousness of God?
Jesus says that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. And that means that we who are saved by faith in him, and raised to new life by his grace, must allow him to serve us, too. If you know the power of service, you probably know also the mania that can come with it. The passive-aggressiveness–”it’s ok, I’ll just do it myself.” The resentment–”I work and work and give and give and no one thanks me.” If Jesus only wanted us to find the humblest task and do it for someone else, he’d be setting us up for a great deal of misery.
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 […]
While Mary’s circumstances are unique, her restoration to respectability is part of a larger trend. The gold-hearted prostitute of legend fit in rather well with a long scholarly tradition that located the followers of Jesus and the first Christian communities in the underclass of the Roman world. Christianity thrived, historians once argued, among the oppressed: slaves, landless laborers, women and people with disabilities. Lately this image of a lumpenproletariat church has been dramatically gentrified.
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, […]