Century Marks

Century Marks

Target audience

Joseph S. Khalil says we miss the meaning of the book of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth or preacher) unless we understand its central intention, which is to challenge overconfident preachers who claim to know the ways and will of God. “God’s inscrutability is evident in the illogicality of life,” says Khalil. Qoheleth is particularly critical of those who think they know God’s will with respect to reward and punishment. “Who is like the wise man?” Qoheleth asked. The question is a challenge to all human wisdom and understanding; it points to human limitations about knowing the ways of God in the world (Word & World, Summer).

Prayers of two cities

Clergy in Tampa, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, sites of the Republican and Democratic conventions, issued a statement called “A Common Witness.” The statement notes the wide political divisions in the country, encourages those involved in the political process to argue respectfully and not use religion to garner votes, and invites prayers for peace (hydeparkumc.org)

True joy

According to a fable, St. Francis of Assisi told Brother Leo that true joy comes not from success but in rejection and suffering, which cause us to reflect on Jesus’ pain and rejection. St. Francis compared it to coming back to the friary on a cold winter night and being told by the person who came to the door that he was a simpleton, that he couldn’t come in and should go away. It’s not that suffering is good for us. The point is that pain is a reality of life and that God is present in all reality, including pain and suffering (Weavings, August/September/October).

In the fishbowl

Episcopal priest Barney Hawkins says that parishioners take an interest in the personal lives of priests and pastors and their families. He recalls that in one parish he didn’t want to call attention to the car he drove, so he didn’t trade in his cars until necessary—and then bought replacements that were much the same as the previous model. When he was roasted before leaving that parish, some members put on a skit—with photos for documentation—about the three gray boxy station wagons he had owned while serving there. Hawkins says that church members look at ordained leaders for their authenticity and their flaws (Episcopal Etiquette and Ethics, Morehouse).

SK and FDR

The late Howard A. Johnson, an Episcopal priest, theologian and Kierkegaard scholar, was invited to the White House near the end of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s life. Roosevelt picked his brain about Kierkegaard, since he had been told that Kierkegaard’s later writings helped to explain the rise of totalitarianism and Nazism. Frances Perkins, Roosevelt’s biographer, said that the hour-long conversation made an impression on Roosevelt, as he spoke of it often afterward. “I have never been able to make out why people who are obviously human beings could behave like that,” Roosevelt said, speaking of the Nazis. “They are human, yet they behave like demons. Kierkegaard gives you an understanding of what it is in man that makes possible for these Germans to be so evil” (Anglican Theological Review, Winter).