Several years ago I taught a Sunday School class on the Saint John's Bible, a beautiful hand-calligraphed and illustrated version of the Bible that took several years and a whole team of artists to create. I showed the class a video about how the project came together, and the class was spellbound, as I knew they'd be. The illuminations make you want to lean into the scripture. The Saint John's Bible fosters awe and wonder toward the God who gives us not only the sacred story but also the artists who make it come alive. Near the end of the video, the narrator shares the cost of this tremendous project.
Monday lectionary email, archived here on Friday.
I often worry that churches are too full of people who are not disappointments. Bear with me here. I love the story of the Prodigal Son. I love the idea that no matter what we do in life, no matter how much we mess up, God will still welcome us when we decide to come home.
One of the few fairnesses of life is the fact that each of us is given an equal 168 hours per week. That is where equality in so many ways ends. From that point on our privileges or lack thereof, and the resources they bring, define what we can do with that time.
I'm a bit of a congregational song nerd, and the church music folks I know talk about things like "sound pools" and "heart songs." Sound pools are what Mennonite musician, teacher, and hymnologist Mary Oyer and her students (who became my teachers) describe as the body of music that a culture or community shares.
This Sunday's passage from Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome seems to be an example of Year C's theological focus on those who are living in a state of alienation from Jesus Christ and the church. Yet when I think about rebuilding the bridges of love, trust, and belonging in contemporary Christian community, Paul isn't the first person who comes to mind.
The lectionary readings for Ash Wednesday are the same each year. So it almost doesn’t feel like Ash Wednesday if I go through the day without hearing Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”
I am a fan of mysteries. I love watching detectives in movies and on television. I love mystery novels so much that I don’t just read them on the beach. But I’m one of those people who doesn’t try to solve the puzzle before the end of the story. I like to experience the mystery as it unfolds. I especially love unsolved mysteries, those brainteasers that simply cannot be wrapped up tightly leaving no lose ends. Stories like mountaintop visions of transfigured splendor.
In 1947, Langston Hughes published the poem "Luck." It could be read as an ode to love. It could be read at weddings along with 1 Corinthians 13, the biblical ode to love. But that would miss the point of both the poem and the scripture.
For several years, I directed the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. The center hosts five initiatives that together address and support the long arc of ministry through a variety of resources and research projects. Its name--the Center for Pastoral Excellence--has been somewhat controversial.
We've been hearing for a while now about the "spiritual but not religious." There are all kinds of reasons why people might rather be spiritual than religious. One is that the church has turned people off with its own mistakes.