Many of the issues before us in this election year were present at the founding of the nation, as I learned from Joseph J. Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. I have never read such a clear explanation of the conflict between what Ellis calls the “spirit of ’76” and the “spirit of ’87.”
In many church traditions, this Sunday is Reformation Sunday—a time for
trumpets and triumphalism, for remembering where we Protestants got it
right and for justifying our salvation with a vigorous singing of
Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” We may even believe that it is
we who are the prophets like Moses, the ones whom God knows face to
Noting that Jesus’ interlocutors in today’s gospel reading were truly
amazed at his answer, Stanley Hauerwas comments that it’s too bad
Christians have not been equally amazed. Rather than being amazed that
Jesus has come to usher in God’s reign, we are preoccupied with the
politics and rulers of the world.
Reflecting on the “disestablishment” of the mainline Protestant churches, Walter Brueggemann once observed that those churches and their members are for the time being living in a kind of exile. He offered the further challenging and comforting observation that though exile entails humiliation and suffering, it is not necessarily a bad place to be.
What a great party Aaron managed to throw while Moses was on
sabbatical! (Perhaps Exodus 32 is a caution for associate pastors
against starting new initiatives while the senior pastor is on
vacation—even if the people beg.) Jesus too offers a parable of a
party. Such festivity will likely be the last thing on most people's
minds this week, however.
Following a speech by Nadia Bolz-Weber at the First Baptist Church in Madison, Wisconsin, a woman in tears spoke up to say that she was unable to forgive herself, because she had been told many times she was unforgivable. Bolz-Weber, widely known as a tattooed, salty tongued Lutheran pastor from Denver, responded: “Maybe for as many times as you’ve been told that, you need to hear that God is gracious, and merciful, and slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and loves you as you are. And as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by Christ’s authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all of your sins.” The congregation responded, “Amen” (Wisconsin State Journal, February 2).