We could accuse this week's texts of setting up dichotomies: Romans
wants us to live by the spirit, not the flesh. Nicodemus and Jesus trade
stories about being born from above rather than below. A bush burns and
life changes; unnatural things abound. Everyone knows that when bushes
burn, they are consumed. Everybody knows where babies come from, and
it's not from "up there."
Some of us are in Pentecost graduate school. We're seminary-educated and
steeped in the church. We understand the preacher's dilemma when Easter
comes early, before the earth has warmed up enough to take resurrection
seriously, and we've been there, done that when it comes to the mighty
rushing wind that appears seven weeks after Easter with great
Why aren’t we talking about guns? A week before Easter, three Pittsburgh police officers were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance. Apparently they were met by a 22-year-old man wearing a bullet-proof vest and armed with several guns, including an AK-47 assault rifle.
We are in the interim between Easter and Pentecost. Of course, we live
in an interim in other ways: we anticipate graduations, new jobs, the
resolution of dilemmas. In the U.S., it is as if we are suspended
between an old world--a disintegrating empire--and the emergence of
The reading from Acts offers a foretaste of Pentecost, only two weeks away. After Peter receives a vision
telling him that nothing is unclean, the same revelation is given to
the community—this is the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Construction of religious buildings is at its lowest level since record keeping began in 1967. Declining participation and financial funding and a shift away from megachurches are cited as reasons for the decline. Congregations are also deciding to put more money into ministry rather than structures. The building of religious structures peaked in 2002 and has been decreasing ever since, though there are signs that it may have bottomed out in 2013. Mormons and Muslims, both with growing populations, are exceptions to this trend (Wall Street Journal, December 4).