Selected posts from around our network of affiliated bloggers
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?
Like a warm breeze on a perfect summer morning, a voice of grace and compassion rings across more than 3,000 years in this Sunday’s reading from the Hebrew Bible. The voice doesn’t belong to a grown man or to a woman full of years. It is the voice of a child—a girl who was kidnapped and carried away as a spoil of war. We don’t know if she is eight or 12 or in between; we don’t even know her name.
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.