These days churches are tempted to mimic corporations, and pastors try to become CEOs. But these texts call us to re-imagine our life together as the people of God, and the texts’ images are of sheep and shepherds. In Mark 6 Jesus is pictured as a shepherd-king with Godlike “compassion” as he looks upon the multitude wandering “like sheep without a shepherd.”
In this novel, perhaps his masterpiece, J. M. Coetzee emerges as the most old-fashioned kind of literary genius: a person whose strong imagination is guided by firm and deeply held beliefs. Coetzee's powerful style, admired so much for its own sake, seems to grow from these beliefs.
The Assemblies of God reaffirmed its doctrine of speaking in tongues during its biennial General Council meeting and declared—on a second try—that showing God’s compassion for the world is their “fourth reason for being.”
People have asked me to pray for them or for their loved ones all my adult life. I practice intercessory prayer very seriously, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering what I’m doing. Is intercession magical thinking? Does something actually change somewhere else when I pray? Doesn’t God know our needs before we ask? What’s the use of praying when I can’t actually go actively help?
It’s almost Thanksgiving, and soon my church in New York City will be serving turkey with all the trimmings to over 400 people. I play a major role in this volunteer effort and sometimes I feel quite virtuous. At last, I tell myself, I’m learning how to feel useful during a holiday that is emotionally fraught for many. But sometimes the annual meal looks less like a joyful act of holiday giving than a thinly disguised act of “slumming.” Those of us serving the meal will be almost uniformly white, after all, while those being served will be mostly black and Hispanic. After the meal is over, the “out-of-towners” will go home and eat healthier, more gourmet Thanksgiving meals.
One of the satisfactions of reading Living by the Word is sometimes having our own interpretations affirmed and amplified by colleagues. Thus we can empathize with the lawyer in Luke who wants to justify himself by asking a question about interpreting scripture.
A fledgling coalition of religious groups is trying to show Americans that for too many people worldwide, clean drinking water isn’t as close as the kitchen tap. With more than 1 billion people in developing countries lacking readily available safe drinking water and 2.6 billion without access to sanitation, the faith community is stepping up efforts to push for clean and accessible water.
I was looking through a high school yearbook recently, a dangerous thing to do when 40 years have passed. I got lost staring at the silly hairstyles, the photos of teachers who are long since gone, the friend in the senior play whose name is now etched on the Vietnam memorial. It was a time of turmoil and strife in the nation. Racial tensions, assassinations and war were tearing the country apart. But you would never know that from my yearbook’s carefree and hopeful class photos.
This portion of the narrative is a continuation and expansion of what has just preceded. The other ten disciples are jealous, are angry with James and John because they have pushed Jesus—successfully—to give them a preeminent share in his destiny. Jesus has not criticized or dismissed their insistent demand but has lovingly transformed it from a desire for glory into a willingness to suffer. Still, why should some of the disciples be granted privileges over the rest?