Luke's Gospel gives us some wondrous glimpses into the life of John the Baptist. We have the compelling story of how his father, Zechariah, heard he'd soon be a daddy, disbelieved that revelation, and spent the entire pregnancy unable to speak. But when he is finally able to speak, he speaks!
Monday lectionary email, archived here on Friday.
To hear Andy Williams tell it, right now is the most wonderful time of year. It is also the most frantic and maddening time of year. We've commenced our shopping, decorating, and planning for the "best Christmas ever." Or maybe we're completely stressed and wringing our hands because we have no idea how we'll pull it off this year. Church leaders aren't exempt from the frenetic pace by any means, because we've had Advent on our brains for some time already.
The Gospel of John uses the word "truth" more than any other book in the Bible and way more than the other Gospels combined. Not only that, but many of the most-quoted verses in John, the ones that have shaped Christian discourse over the centuries, have been concerned with the question of truth.
Even before my first cup of coffee, I often turn the radio on to check the weather report for the day: will I need an umbrella? Should I take an extra jacket? Looking around for my coffee cup, I barely hear the voice in the background: "The sun will be darkened; and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken." Really? Maybe I should just go back to bed.
Here's to all the people who give their last coin. Brian, my husband and the co-director of Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center, got a text message late at night. I didn't get all the details. I just know that there was an addict who was overdosing at a crack house somewhere in Atlanta. The person needed a pastor.
I was a little girl, sitting near the front row of the church. My legs could not touch the floor, and I had to hold my hands laced in my lap so that I could remain still. I stared at the coffin before me.
After enduring Job's calamities, his howling laments, the speeches of his "friends," a hymn to wisdom as an entr'acte, Job's plea of innocence, an awkward interruption by Elihu, and then four chapters of the LORD speaking from the whirlwind, we finally arrive at the 42nd and last chapter of Job. We discover that no one much agrees what it means.
Alfred Lord Tennyson called Job "the greatest poem of ancient and modern times." Excerpts are regularly included in anthologies of world literature and religious poetry. It is an undeniable literary classic. Why is it rarely preached in Christian churches?
The decline of mainline Protestantism is clear. What's less clear is what the church should do about it.
Scripture doesn't just shape the life of the community of faith. It also has a powerful effect on the lives of those who maintain distance from traditional religion, even those who explicitly deny religious faith.