After 30 years of directing funerals, I’ve come to believe in open caskets. A service to which everybody but the deceased is invited, like a wedding without the bride or a baptism without the baby, denies the essential reality of the occasion, misses the focal point. It is why we comb wreckage, drag rivers and bring our war dead home.
In the Jubilee vision of Leviticus 25, the dispossessed and disenfranchised are allowed to return to their ancestral homes every 50 years. More than 50 years have passed since the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe of 1948, in which 700,000 Palestinians became refugees and hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed by Israeli troops.
With a new generation of theologians reevaluating the theology of Karl Barth, some are suggesting that this pivotal figure of the 20th century may enjoy his greatest influence in the 21st. Doubtless many readers will recoil at such a prospect, but that may be because their own assumptions about Barth do not correspond to the vitality of Barth’s own work.
In one of his classes, Stanley Hauerwas was asked,“What do you think of Willimon’s preaching?” Hauerwas said, “My main criticism is that Willimon is far too subtle, much too charming. It’s that southern soft-talk thing he does so well.