It always takes time to get my bearings when I jump into a week's
lectionary texts, because I'm wading into a story that's already
underway. A week and a half into Lent, we're in Mark 8 and Jesus is well
into his ministry. He has fed the multitudes, twice. He has called and
sent out his 12 disciples. He has preached and healed, and he's
beginning to turn toward Jerusalem.
John Updike, who died January 27 at age 76, was one of the literary giants of our time. As I mentioned in my column in the February 10 issue (written before Updike’s death), I have read as much as I could of his work—ever since I saw him interviewed on television and heard him respond to a question about why religion and clergy appear so frequently in his writing.
O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that thou
mayest enter in. It is ruinous, O repair it! It displeases thy sight; I
confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, or to whom shall I cry
but thee? Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare thy
servant from strange sins. --St.
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).