God promises the people of Israel that he will not “pass them by.” At
the same time, God sets a plumb line against Israel, using a divine
standard to measure the fidelity of God’s people. A visit from God,
then, is presented as judgment that shall lead to desolation and
As I read through one of the epistles, with Paul hammering an early
congregation for its members’ infidelities and numerous discipleship
shortcomings, I wish I had the guts to give my people the sermonic
tongue-lashing they so richly deserve. Then suddenly, in mid-diatribe,
Paul asserts, “Now you are the body of Christ.”
Bryan Stone’s Evangelism after Christendom is a remarkable book that was about 30 years in the making—three decades of thinking, research, experimentation and reflection on the church in post-Christendom.
It seems strange to be reading a tough text like Luke 9:51-62 during
the gentle days of early summer. Most of our congregations are in
relaxed, vacation mode. And into these mellow summer days is shoved a
gospel that speaks of the stark demands of discipleship. Jesus has set
his face toward Jerusalem, but he is no passive victim of
One of my favorite books is Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, a wild, imaginative, vicious satire about Stalinist Russia in particular and the modern world in general. Bulgakov imagines a visit by Satan to Soviet Moscow, where all dutiful members of the intelligentsia are atheist.
The reign of terror against rural Alabama churches appears to be over. Three college men—all honor students, and two of them students at a United Methodist school, Birmingham-Southern College—have confessed to setting nine churches on fire.
On my last Sunday in Duke Chapel, after I’d preached to a full church and received a standing ovation after my sermon, a sophomore came up to me and said, “Thanks for abandoning us. What am I supposed to do for spiritual guidance now?”
I told him that God was calling me to a new ministry in Alabama and that whoever replaced me would be great.
Tom Wolfe may deny that his novel is about Duke, but having spent 20 years there I know a few things about the school. Wolfe’s “Dupont University” has the same number of undergrads as Duke, the same fraternity-sorority dominance of the social scene, the same veneration of basketball, and a dozen other similarities.
Whatever you do, for God’s sake don’t ask a question in class, that really makes Holmer mad,” said the older, wiser graduate student. This was my only preparation for entering Paul Holmer’s legendary class on Søren Kierkegaard at Yale Divinity School.
In 1964 the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini created a new mode of presenting Jesus in film. His The Gospel according to St. Matthew is a word-for-word rendering of Matthew’s Gospel. It contains no additional dialogue and shows only the scenes described by Matthew.
Carl Parker died recently. The Reverend Carl Parker. That you have not heard of him is an indication that you have never praised God in a church that bears the name of Wampee, Little River or Indian Field. For over 50 years he preached the gospel at places like that.
All I know about Jesus is what I heard him say. That’s all I know about almost anybody. It’s not true that “deeds speak louder than words.” Only words speak. The old “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one” is only partly true. Most ministerial speech these days tends to be in the affirmative mood. We pastors are, in the acerbic words of Stanley Hauerwas, a “quivering mass of availability.”
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).