Showing posts from April, 2019

Who Are You, Lord? - A Lectionary Reflection for Easter 3C

Acts 9:1-6 (7-20) New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
When it comes to resurrection appearances, not all are the same. In John 21, Jesus appears to the disciples at the lakeside where they’ve gone fishing (though until Jesus showed up the fish weren’t biting). In Luke 24, Jesus appears alongside the road to a couple of travelers, but they don’t re…

Trauma + Grace (Serene Jones) -- A Review

TRAUMA + GRACE: Theology in a Ruptured World. Second Edition. By Serene Jones. Foreword by Kelly Brown Douglas. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019. Xxvii + 199 pages.

It was just a year ago that I read the first edition of Serene Jones’s Trauma + Grace. I wasn't reading it for review, so I might have been a bit less focused than I was this second time around. The original book appeared in 2009, so much has happened in the world since that moment. Some of that change is reflected in this new edition, though the core of the book remains as it was before.
Why a book like this? The answer is that a growing number of theologians have begun to explore the connection between the reality of trauma and our theological reflections. Theodicy has been a major component of theological discussion for eons, but this is more personal, more intimate. Where is God in the midst of a person’s experience of trauma, whether the result of violence or severe illness (such as cancer). How might …

Receive the Spirit - A Sermon for Easter 2 C (John 20)

John 20:19-31

Last Sunday the sanctuary was filled with color and the music was stirring. We declared: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today. ” And who can forget the powerful strains of the “Hallelujah Chorus” on the organ as the service concluded. Most of the tulips are gone, but there are still signs of Easter’s glory in the sanctuary. That’s good news, because the season of Easter has just gotten started. There are still Easter hymns like “Thine Is the Glory” to sing, and encounters with the risen Christ yet to be explored.
In the Gospel of John, Easter morning begins with Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the Risen Christ. This makes her the first witness to the resurrection. After her encounter with Jesus, she went and shared the good news with the rest of the community. Despite Mary’s good news, fear still reigned among the disciples as evening rolled around. They locked themselves in a room somewhere in Jerusalem out of fear of the religious authorities. They’ve heard good news, but the…

Theological Empathy, Theological Conversation, and the Christian Community

Not all theology is the same. Not all theology is good. That is, there are theological positions that are destructive and must be opposed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood this. So did Karl Barth. These two theologians were among those who stood against the German Christian movement that sought to Germanize theology, a process that both denied Jesus’ Jewish origins and made church members open to the anti-Jewish policies of the German regime. All theologies that dehumanize people must be opposed strongly, for they are not of God. At the same time there are plenty of theological positions where there is disagreement, but they neither dehumanize nor destroy. The question is, can we find an arena where we can listen to each other and learn from each other, even if at the end of the day we end up disagreeing with each other? Richard Beck, a psychology professor, blogger, and intuitive theologian, suggests that the key is theological empathy.
Beck suggests that what worries us will pull our …

Love Abides – Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 13

My Bible study group picks up 1 Corinthians 13 today, after a Holy Week break. When last we gathered, we explored Paul’s response to the Corinthian questions regarding spiritual gifts/things/people (pneumatikon). He offered them charismata instead. As chapter 12 ends, Paul promises to show them a better way, and proceeds to offer a vision of love as that which not only abides (along with faith and hope), but also is the greatest.
The centrality of love to the Christian faith is often acknowledged, even if we don’t always embody it. Jesus draws from Deuteronomy and Leviticus to offer two love commands—Love God with your entire being and love your neighbor as yourself (Mk 12:29-31). In John 13Jesus gives the disciples a new command, that they are to love one another as he had loved them. Then in 1 John not only is God defined as love, but “those who abide in love, abide in God” (1 Jn. 4:16).
But what is love? Here in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul offers his definition of love, which in this cas…

Obedience to Whom? A Lectionary Reflection for Easter 2C (Acts 5)

Acts 5:27-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

27 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
I woke up Easter morning to news that churches and hotels in Sri Lanka had been bombed with hundreds reported dead or injured. It wasn’t the kind of news I wanted to hear as I prepared to help lead the congregation in worship on Easter …

Four Ministries, One Jesus (Richard Burridge) - A Review

FOUR MINISTRIES, ONE JESUS: Exploring Your Vocation with the Four Gospels. By Richard A. Burridge. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2019. Xviii + 227 pages.
What might the Gospels have to say about the nature and call to Christian ministry? What is it about Jesus, and the four pictures the Gospels offer of him, that might speak to our understanding of the Christian vocation? These are the kinds of questions that those who feel the call and those who have already answered a call might be asking. What does Scripture say, and more specifically the gospels?
Richard Burridge, the Dean of King's College at the University of London, seeks to answer just these kinds of questions. Burridge is a biblical scholar and author of a similarly titled book Four Gospels, One Jesus? A Symbolic Reading. While I haven't read the earlier book, I'm assuming that the two are linked in some way, though this book is focused on the ministry vocation. Burridge notes that this book eme…

A New Creation - A Sermon for Easter Sunday (Isaiah 65)

Isaiah 65:17-25

“Christ is risen! Shout hosanna! Celebrate this day of days.”  [Brian Wren, Chalice Hymnal 222].   Death had its say on Friday, but this morning we gather to celebrate the good news that life reigns victorious in the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, death has lost its sting.   
We’ve already heard the Word of the Lord from the Book of Isaiah. The prophet speaks to people who have returned from exile, to find that things at home aren’t going as well as they had hoped. It’s in the midst of grief, that the people receive word that God “is about to create new heavens and a new earth.”  Because God is getting busy with acts of creation, the people needn’t remember former things, like the exile. Instead, they can “be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating.” 
Like the returning exiles, the followers of Jesus had reason to grieve on that first Easter morning. They assumed that their teacher and leader lay dead in a tomb, having been executed by the governing authorities …