If I could tell when the end times were on their way by the number of wars, famines, earthquakes and plagues that are afflicting our world, I’d say, “Wow! Here they come!” The Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America—you name it, atrocities are taking place. Even in the United States of America, the home of the free, the hope of the huddled masses, the place where no one really has to go hungry, human-caused disaster is everywhere.
I would just as soon skip the first part of this Gospel reading. The Sadducees are trying to trick Jesus by getting him to respond to an impossible question about the resurrection. According to the law, if one of two brothers dies before his wife has children, then his brother marries her. But what if there are seven brothers, and each marries the woman in turn? To whom will she belong at the resurrection?
I knew the tale of Zacchaeus as we’ve all heard it—a short bad man climbs a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus—until I heard Charlie Cook preach on it one Sunday in the mid-’70s. Charlie was a short good man, and one of the most extraordinary pastors I have ever known.
The first time I heard the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector was as a small child attending vacation Bible school at Pond Fork Baptist Church. I remember the end of the little curtained balcony where our class was held, sunlight coming into our room rejoicing through a dusty window, the buzzing of insects in the July fields outside, a flannel board with figures stuck on it, and best of all, the anticipation of a story, followed by Kool-Aid and cookies.
I find the return to school every fall very exciting. I like the start-up rituals. I still have to have new stuff—pens, notebooks, calendars, and of course new shoes. I am glad to see the faces of my friends and colleagues again and to hear what they have been doing since I saw them last. I love to see former students again and meet new students. I’m eager for classes to start.
I was away on a retreat recently when the mirror surprised me. Normally, I can hardly bear to see my own face in the mornings, so it was only by chance that I happened to glance into the mirror as I turned on the light switch. There was my face looking back at me. My wet hair was sticking up every which way, and water was trickling down the side of my nose. And I was smiling.
Perpetua, Macrina, Theodora, Sara, Syncletica, Melania the Younger and Melania the Elder, Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Ávila—I didn’t hear about any of these great women of faith when I was growing up. It’s not that teachers withheld knowledge of them from us. Rather, I think they themselves hadn’t heard of most these women.
Easter is upon us. The dogwoods, fruit trees and azaleas are dazzling our eyes. My students and I are reading texts by Theodore of Mopsuestia. All this has set me to ruminating on new birth and nurture in the Christian life.
Science fiction, mystery, comedy, serious drama, cartoons, art film—with the exception of musicals, slashers and cowboy pictures, I love movies. My husband, Richard, also enjoys them, though he is less fussy about the type of movie he watches. So when we read some favorable early reviews of Magnolia, we were eager to see it.
Ever since I was a child, my mother has observed the season of Christmas in the same way. Some time around Thanksgiving she begins shaking her head, looking disgusted and sighing, “Oh Lordy, Lordy; it’s almost Christmas and I haven’t done a thing!” Then come four intense weeks of shopping, baking and Christmas card writing.
I remember myself as an insomniac nine-year-old, lying sleepless in bed after my parents had turned out the lights. In those self-centered, introspective days of childhood, I hardly believed in the reality of the present. How could anything really happen? I wondered. Reality didn’t seem real until it was past, when I could turn it over in my memory and find the meaning of it.
I have been dreading this semester. Bill Mallard, my colleague in historical studies at Candler School of Theology, is retiring at the end of the year. Together he and I have team taught the first semester of the History of Christian Thought each fall for 21 years. It is hard for me to imagine what the autumns will be like now.
As a woman who tries to live out Benedictine values as a layperson connected with a particular monastery, I try to spend at least a week every year at St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota.
It was my last day at St. Benedict's Monastery in Minnesota, where I had been leading a retreat on Julian of Norwich. Since St. Benedict's is one of my favorite places in the world, I wasn't really ready to come home, and put off calling with my travel arrangements until evening.
"Blood is thicker than water." Though I didn't always know precisely what they meant by it, this is a saying I heard from relatives on my mother's side throughout my childhood. My great-grandmother Grammar tended to utter these words when she believed family members needed to close ranks against outsiders, or at least think and behave in a manner worthy of the family name.
When I came home from the hospital with a broken ankle, I was feeling fragile and sick from pain and the anesthetic I had been given. I sank quickly and gratefully into the sturdy green recliner in the exercise room.
It was a good spring day, at least until the late afternoon. The Sunday service at Emmaus, the little house church to which we belong, had been particularly helpful; afterwards I had been able to catch up on some necessary school work.
I began teaching the graduate class on the early church's views of Christ with ambivalent feelings. I had been given a rare and precious leave to work on a book, and I was anxious to use my writing time well. I shuddered to think of the time the class would take.
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