One of the paradoxes of Jesus as he is portrayed in the Gospels is his way of combining candor with reticence. As understandably concerned as we are with what Jesus said, it is striking to consider all that he did not say, along with the many times when he spoke by indirection. “He did not speak to them except in parables.” “He answered her not a word.”
Even before the invasion of Iraq had begun, the cry went forth through and from the churches: Pray! Pray for the soldiers, pray for the civilians, pray for peace. So I preached, and so I did. I wonder, though, if God didn’t answer our petitions with one of his own: Vote!
"Before I became enlightened, mountains were mountains and trees were trees.” So begins a well-known Zen Buddhist proverb that continues: “As I approached enlightenment, mountains appeared to be more than mountains and trees more than trees. Now I am enlightened; mountains are mountains and trees are trees.”
The only possible dialog is the kind between people who remain what they are and speak their minds. This is tantamount to saying that the world of today needs Christians who remain Christians. —Albert Camus
Some time between World War II and the Second Vatican Council a small-town church in northeastern Vermont was destroyed by fire. The congregation immediately launched a vigorous fund-raising campaign to erect a new building. One of the members carried his canvassing so far as to ask the local Roman Catholic priest for a donation.
I worked my first full-time summer job at a glue factory when I was 18 years old. Most of the other guys carpooled to work from the inner city. I came from a suburb up the hill and a good ways up the socioeconomic scale. I did not know when I first punched the clock that I was enrolling in a course more important than any I would soon take in college.
Though I eventually left the Reformed Church in which I was raised, I did so with a debt of gratitude, most notably for one rather conservative pastor who had met my youthful rebellions with untiring patience.
It was a sad day in the history of the church when Paul’s statement about being “all things to all men” first came to be seen not as a call to diversity but as a claim of versatility. St. Paul the Jewish apostle to the gentiles turned into Reverend Paul the Jack of all trades.
Then she was my high school sweetheart, now she is my wife of 25 years, but we still laugh about that evening when, sitting close on the couch in my living room, we were momentarily startled by a raucous noise directly overhead. Groaning and banging like a poltergeist, something seemed about to take the roof off the house, not to mention the glow off the evening.
Louie Armstrong is supposed to have said, “Never mind creativity, man, just give me a deadline.” It’s a beautiful credo, one with which any self-supporting writer or artist can readily identify. As Armstrong doubtless knew, there are times when a deadline doesn’t diminish the inspiration; it is the inspiration.
Sometime in the 14th century an English woman we know as Julian came to the Church of St. Julian and St. Edward in Conisford at Norwich, where, in a manner of speaking, she was voluntarily “buried alive.” As a priest performed the ceremonies of the burial office, Julian took up residence as an anchoress in a small apartment attached to the church.
I have been writing recently about the connection between our Christian faith and the workaday lives most of us lead, and I have sought to strengthen that connection. But now I want to weaken it some, because often in our zeal to make a point we wind up making an idol.
"Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.” So begins one of my favorite prayers, from the service for compline in the Episcopal prayer book. What a good thing it is, before going to bed, to remember those whose rest comes with the dawn.
Back when I made my living as a high school English teacher, I used to tell my ninth graders that the class unit with the most practical application to their lives was Greek tragedy. “Grammar’s important, too,” I would hasten to add. “Don’t get me wrong. But not all of you will require a working knowledge of English grammar to get by in life.
I imagine it like this. We put up signs all over the Northeast Kingdom, that region of Vermont in which my neighbors and I continue to enjoy the distinction of being outnumbered by Holstein cows. The signs invite anyone with a chainsaw, and especially those who make a living with one, to come to a Monday sunrise service to have their saws blessed.