On a wall in Stockholm’s cathedral hangs a huge 17th-century painting of the Last Judgment that depicts the falling bodies of the damned. On a recent visit to that church I gave the painting little more than a glance. A longer look might have found something of beauty or interest, but my reaction just then was to wish that it were not there.
For many congregations, September 8 is Rally Sunday. Sunday school begins again. Worship times are restored. The people attending worship have a freshness and excitement about them. Toddlers have grown a size or two, seventh graders are eighth graders, parents are rested from vacations, and some adults have married or added a child their families. What is God’s will for this rejuvenated lot?
Larry was my spiritual director for seven years, but when I moved from Durham, North Carolina, to Pittsburgh, I could no longer make the monthly drive. On my last visit, instead of lighting a candle and inviting me to sit with him in a time of silence, he suggested we take a walk.
I once read an article by a medical doctor who tried to identify the condition that kept the woman in Luke 13 crippled for 18 years. I don’t remember his methodology, and in retrospect it seems to me a dubious endeavor, but I was deeply interested in his conclusion: the woman suffered from an arthritic condition called spondyloarthritis.
The most pernicious theological temptation is projection. As grand “masters of suspicion” such as Ludwig Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud have reminded us, we Christians often read the Bible within a specific cultural context and then impose the standards of that context onto the God of the Bible.