I live in a neighborhood where most of my neighbors have much darker skin than I do. I wish more of my city were like my street. Demographic maps based on census data show that my city’s neighborhoods, like most, tend not to be diverse. Even if it were not my friends and neighbors that we are talking about when unarmed black men are killed by police, I would not be able to stay silent. But I suspect a big issue is precisely that not only the “all lives matter” crowd, but even people like me saying “black lives matter,” are often making theoretical statements about other people, living in other neighborhoods. And so I felt the need to say something more personal, to my friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
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For the second time this week we have heard of another police shooting of an African American. Tuesday saw the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, and Wednesday night Philando Castile in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota. While all of these shootings have bothered me, the Falcon Heights shooting hit closer to home, and not just because it was only a few miles from me. What makes this one more real to me is that Mr. Castile could have been me.
I was warned. Me and a few hundred others who had gathered for a funeral. Me and a few hundred others who sat, silently, grimly, in a cavernous and spare sanctuary while a stern man in a black suit stood in an elevated pulpit and admonished us with grave fingers wagging. I was warned that death was coming for me and unless I renounced the ways of the devil and repented of my worldly pride and attachments, that my fate would be a fiery and tortuous one. I was told that there was nothing good in me and that I could never stand before the righteous judge of the earth. I was told that God has his elect and we must never question God’s ways. And for a moment—just a tiny moment—it was exhilarating.
Often when we talk about what makes us human, we talk about how we are different from other animals. We mention upright posture, language, culture, self-transcendence, and so on. Our concern seems to be articulating and establishing our distance from animals. Theologically speaking, what makes us human, what makes us distinct, is our responsibility for creation as bearers of God’s image and not whatever way we might be different than other animals. It is interesting that when God uses images and metaphors to describe God’s own self, God and the biblical writers don’t have any problem comparing God to various animals.
It withstood a few cold snaps and then a long dry spell. Neem oil protected it from the threat of wee invaders. Chicken wire and bungee cords protected it from the threat of larger invaders. It’s an early harvest of kale, grown by our gardening team and headed for the Watertown Food Pantry today. It’s just an armful of kale. But it’s a miracle, really.
This morning, when I read this Sunday's epistle lesson (Galatians 6:1–16), something jumped out at me: "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." It was that phrase "law of Christ" that caught my attention. Law of Christ? What's that? And why is Paul, the suspected antinomian, writing about any sort of law as if it belonged to the one who set us free from the law?
A voice of grace rings through the Naaman story—the voice of a child carried away as a spoil of war.
Costumed in a kelly green tracksuit with yellow stripes down each leg and arm, I left our tiny apartment for a run. I must’ve been a sight! I didn’t get into running consistently in college despite that green polyester jogging suit.
As the weather has warmed to summer heat here in the desert, I’ve begun taking a morning walk that starts somewhere around 5:15–5:30 am. It’s best to get outdoors before the sun clears the mountaintops, or at least soon thereafter. I see a number of people as I wind my way through the neighborhood and along the walking trails which surround it. I also see birds, rabbits, and a colorful array of flowering and fruiting plants.
Each week when I preach, I write out a whole text, but I don't bring it with me into the pulpit. I have found that, if I know well the biblical texts and the sermon that I have written, a few bullet points are enough to keep me on task. That way, I can connect with the congregation, react to them, listen for the Holy Spirit, and adapt the sermon as I go along. Sure, it's risky.
This is a 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. It is the Platonic form of the muscle car, a huge slab of overpowered absurdity, arguably the high water mark of the guzzoline age. It only has two doors, but seats four comfortably, being a huge hulking beast of a car.
Pope Francis got himself in trouble last week for suggesting that the “great majority” of Catholic marriages being celebrated today are “invalid” because couples do not fully appreciate that they are making a lifetime commitment. The fact that this statement would draw criticism is puzzling, on the face of it, because who would dispute this after even a cursory glance at the world we live in? Apparently conservative critics objected to his use of the word invalid.
There are very few idiomatic tropes that carry meaning across generations, let alone thousands of years. Mental Floss generates thousands of clicks by giving readers insights into how words and phrases have changed over the years. There are, however, a few images that carry weight over centuries, one of which we hear from the lips of Legion in the Gospel lesson for Sunday. Keenly aware of the power of Jesus, the demons “begged him not to order them to go back to the abyss,” Luke tells us. While this fear is from the demons in this story, there seems to be something universal about their fear.
Recently a grandmother told me how much her fourth grade granddaughter already loves a new three-year-old in our congregation. Their family just started visiting, and when the children, all ages, come together for to play and draw and wonder about the scripture readings, the little girl sings her own song about how much she loves Jesus. They are making a connection, beginning a relationship, not based on being in the same grade, but based on being in the same body of Christ.