This year, I have decided to make space for more non-urgent reading. This is reading that isn’t about keeping up with work-related issues or the latest, best writers. It might mean that I will have to lay off a bit on my habit of reading the New York Times Book Review and imagining the necessity of reading everything that is in it.
A while back I spent a good chunk of a week at a denominational pastors' retreat in the Alberta foothills just north of Calgary. One of the things we did during our worship times each day was spend some time “dwelling in the Word.” The specific text we focused on each session was Luke 7:36-50, the story where Jesus is anointed by a “sinful woman” at the home of Simon the Pharisee. It’s a scandalous story—a woman of ill repute showing up a bunch of religious elites, crashing their party with her sensuous, inappropriate display of penitence, love, and devotion.
Here's some good news: despite our short collective attention span, despite the fiscal-cliff debacle dominating the headlines shortly after the Newtown shooting, the U.S. scourge of gun violence is still part of the national conversation.
A couple of articles are making the rounds among my friends right now. The first is this Century article by Craig Barnes (the new president of Princeton Seminary), who provides his reflections on why pastors cannot (or should not) be friends with parishioners. Of course there can be close and intimate relationships, and pastor and flock are friendly to one another. But Barnes argues that the clergy role is such that true mutual friendship is impossible, or at least inadvisable.
The second article is about a pastor of a large church in Charlotte who’s on a leave of absence at a treatment center after struggling with depression and alcohol abuse.
Until now I never appreciated the beautiful message of this week’s Old Testament passage. God’s promises to Israel—to not be drowned by water or burned by fire—make this text almost as comforting to its readers as the 23rd psalm.