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.
The Christians in Jerusalem’s early church were in crisis. Should they admit gentiles into their fellowship? Could gentiles be believers? Resolution of these questions did not come easily, but finally the Jews swallowed their pride and begrudgingly allowed the gentile outsiders to come into the fold.
I’m delighted to be back among the 400-year-old whitebark pine trees of the Wind River Range in northwest Wyoming. At tree line, near 10,000 feet, the bent and grizzled pines almost seem to thrive on wind-driven snow and sleet, lightning strikes, drought and disease. They stand as grand masters of sustained indifference.
One of the buzz phrases in the United Methodist Church appointment process these days is “seasons of ministry.” As our bishops and cabinets try to encourage longer-term ministry appointments, this phrase helps us expand our imaginations. For too long in our tradition, clergy lived year to year, and so did congregations.
I have absolutely nothing new to say about the 23rd Psalm or the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, and most readers have little need to rehash what they’ve already learned. What I don’t know much about, and what many of us fear to fully and faithfully confront, is the reading from Acts.
Peter Lampe, professor of New Testament at Heidelberg, begins his magisterial book by giving us a definite date for the break of Christians from the Roman synagogues—49 AD, when the emperor Claudius expelled some Jews from Rome. From then on, Romans often persecuted Christians rather than Jews.
Over the past three decades Wayne A. Meeks has investigated the social world of the early followers of Jesus. “The emphasis on the social context of writing and meaning . . . has been perhaps the principal theme of my scholarship,” notes Meeks, professor emeritus at Yale.
Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, former president Jimmy Carter remarked that the “growing gap between the rich and poor” is the most elemental problem facing the world economy. But the gap between the rich and the poor is also a very old problem.