Thirteen years ago I became the pastor of a downtown church that had once been a major force in the community. At one time, 2,000 people filled its huge sanctuary on Sunday mornings. Young people from across the metropolitan area flocked to its midweek services, and the pastor's sermons were frequently printed in the newspaper.
The ancient church fathers struggled with the physical implications of the incarnation—the mother’s womb, the birth and afterbirth. God gets a human body, orthodoxy has always proclaimed: a human body rife with bacteria, hormones and phlegm. Tertullian insists that God became fully human, though he recounts the details with some distaste.
Many preachers, facing the summer lectionary in Year B, ask why there are five weeks of John 6. The simplest answer is that the first draft of this three-year lectionary was designed by Roman Catholics, who treasure this chapter and enact it in their daily Eucharist. Subsequent revisions of the lectionary sought to keep at least the Gospel readings untouched.
On a recent visit to Washington, D.C., I saw the Hope diamond at the National Museum of Natural History. It’s odd to think that a large piece of carbon, refined by millions of years of compression and cut by human hands, could draw such crowds. Yet people are continually huddled around the display case, which is wired with numerous sensors for security.
Support the Christian Century
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.