I read theology to understand myself and be reminded that I cannot ever hope to understand God. I get my deep meaning from reading dead Germans. Most everything else is entertainment. But it all affects my preaching.
My old office was above a soup kitchen, and its clients regularly came in to ask for money. Eventually I began interrupting each visitor's story by sliding a 20-dollar bill across my desk—a toll I paid so I could return to my work.
In one of its collections, the Art Institute of Chicago displays rows of medieval European weaponry—swords, rapiers, maces, daggers, helmets, shields and suits of armor—all encased in glass, every detail lit up by museum lights. The tools of war are both frightening and beautiful, with their intricate etchings and gilded filigrees distracting the viewer from their brutal purpose.
I grew up on a sterile communion ritual: Jesus’ flesh was never mentioned. There were neatly cubed pieces of white bread and silver thimblefuls of grape juice, but we did not talk about the blood. On Christmas and Easter the deacons wore tuxedos as if they were distributing hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party.