Century Marks

Century Marks


Krista Tippett, host of On Being on public radio, gave birth to a daughter while in seminary. The birth made her more aware of Jesus’ teaching that adults should become like children. She came to realize that the kind of childlikeness Jesus recommends doesn’t entail debasing oneself—it means living with a sense of curiosity, wonder, and delight. Tippett learned to see this kind of delight in other parts of scripture. The word Eden, for example, means delight (Prism, Winter).

Virtue of empathy

The novelist Ian McEwan wrote, “Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.” This is the rationale for the Empathy Library, an online resource that recommends fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, plus films that can help people empathize with the lives of others. It includes top ten lists on different themes such as love, war, or religion. Readers are invited to add their own suggestions and comments (empathylibrary.com).

Tough funerals

Conducting funerals is one of the most important acts a pastor does. Inevitably, pastors have some tough funerals—after tragic accidents or premature deaths, or involving people with no faith or connection to the church. Michael Rogness, who has taught about funerals for over 20 years, makes these recommendations: carefully choose a fitting text for the sermon; try to articulate what the survivors are feeling, including their deep grief; don’t make judgments about what God was or wasn’t doing in the death of this person or about the deceased’s eternal state. Most important, “Proclaim the gospel to the survivors. The heart of our faith is that because Jesus was raised, death is not the last word” (Word & World, Winter).

Syrians under siege

Thirteen nuns who were kidnapped from their monastery north of Damascus last December were released in March in an apparent exchange for prisoners held by the Assad regime. Despite this good news, Christians in Syria continue to be under siege. A jihadist group in the city of Raqqa gave local Christians an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a protection tax, or be killed. Although accurate numbers are hard to come by, one estimate says that 450,000 of the 2 million Syrian refugees are Christians. Syrian Christians who have fled their war-torn country report kidnappings, murders, ransacking of their shops, and pressure to convert (Christian Science Monitor, March 10).

Watts’s wit

Isaac Watts (1674–1748), known as the father of English hymnody, was a child prodigy. He studied Latin at age four, Greek at nine, French at eleven, and Hebrew at 13. As a child he loved making rhymes. When he was caught with his eyes open during family devotions, he responded: “A little mouse for want of stairs / ran up a rope to say its prayers.” Punished for this by his father, the young Watts replied: “Oh, father, do some pity take, / And I will no more verses make.” Watts wrote about 750 hymns in his lifetime, including “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Joy to the World,” and “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” (28 Hymns to Sing Before You Die by John M. Mulder and F. Morgan Roberts, Cascade Books).