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.
Monday lectionary email, archived here on Friday.
As anthropologists have shown us, cohesive communities usually have narratives, traditions, and symbols that have shaped their collective psyches and have powerfully bound them together. These traditional practices make up their thought world, and when a person is displaced from that world, it makes less sense to carry on the practices. My father grew up in a clan society in pre-Korean War North Korea. His grandfather was head of the Shin clan.
I've always assumed that the revelation here is that Jews should let the gentiles into the community. But perhaps the revelation is at least as much the fact that the gentiles want to be included.
On a shelf in our church library you can find a “Reading Guide” made by a fourth grader. It lists the types of books appropriate for different age groups and advises: “Remember--Kids (8-12) when you start the Bible, go at your own pace. It's a long book!”
I don’t have the nerve to stand up on Christmas Eve and preach about the choreography of childbirth, but I wish I did. I wish I had the nerve to preach about Mary’s increased estrogen production, a few days before birth (estrogen that will soften her cervix, and help her blood coagulate after delivery). I wish I had the nerve to preach about Mary’s and Jesus’ pituitary glands producing oxytocin, which in turn allows Mary’s contractions to accelerate.
This story is full of echoes—most famously, Mary's song echoes Hannah's. But there is another echo: Elizabeth's praise of Mary, which gets taken up into the Hail Mary, is an echo of Deborah's song in Judges 5.
God loves everything that God made, and God loves you especially, and the only way you can avoid that love is by deliberately removing yourself from it. That is how I want to preach this Gospel on Advent 3. John the Baptist tells us that we can, in fact, separate ourselves from love, and describes some of the ways how. In response to John’s insistence that the ax is at the root of the tree, poised to cut down trees that don’t bear good fruit, three groups ask, “If that’s so, how then shall we live?”
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!
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.