What is it about theological educators that allows them to get along with civility and respect in spite of wide theological diversity? I attended the recent biennial meeting of the Association of Theological Schools and was impressed with the spirit of friendship there.
In 1991 I attended the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Dallas with thousands of other high school kids from across the country and around the world for worship, service and Bible study. In addition to being fun and exciting, the trip expanded my view of and encounter with the church.
Reading through the gospel for this week is sort of a horrific treat. The beheading of John the Baptist is nothing if not a great story—drama, intrigue, tension, conflict, resolution. Even as a flashback (“John, whom I beheaded, has been raised!”) to explain Herod’s response to Jesus’ ministry, it’s the kind of story one doesn’t want to read and yet cannot stop reading. But compelling as it is, I don’t necessarily want to preach about a head on a platter.
Two Sundays ago, my congregation watched as pillars of smoke and flame spoiled the view of Pike’s Peak from our sanctuary windows. After that, our city—Colorado Springs—experienced mass evacuations that had people gathering a few possessions and heading into smoke-choked streets to hotels, shelters and other people’s homes.
In the chaotic days that followed, I sat down to prepare a sermon. I didn’t know where it would be delivered.
On the night of the shootings in Dallas that killed five police officers, Michael Waters and Omar Suleiman had known each other barely a year. Waters is pastor of the Joy Tabernacle AME Church; Suleiman is a nationally known Muslim scholar and one of two imams at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center. Both were at the rally in Dallas protesting the police shootings of black men when a gunman started shooting. Together with some parishioners, the two found refuge at Waters’s church, where they spent the night praying and wondering what they could do to stop violence rather than just react to it. They agreed on one thing: though of different religions and ethnicities, they are brothers (Washington Post, July 10).