Book Note: Edward Snowden’s “Permanent Record”

Edward Snowden’s book is about many things. It is about the life of a spy. It is about the development of the internet. It is about the mass surveillance he attribute to the US government and the obliging Five Eyes. It is about the importance of securing digital communication. It is also, I would suggest, about something he doesn’t name directly: it is about his search for grace. Continue reading “Book Note: Edward Snowden’s “Permanent Record””

Homily for Sunday, May 24

Readings for Sunday, May 24 – Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23

I remember standing by the edge of the softball field surprised to see it in use in the middle of the day. An excited group of Amish folks were playing a game at the retreat centre where I worked. It was the first time I had seen a group there like that. I walked up to a few older women, they were more interested in watching than playing, and asked what the occasion was. They told me it was Ascension Day. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, May 24”

Viral Theology # 11 – We are Not Pixelated Figments

There is a strange thought floating about in the ether. It’s the idea that the current upsurge in online work and online connection means that physical proximity and embodied being are a thing of the past. In church circles a few lines from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians have gotten a lot of attention on this account. Paul writes “[W]e were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you . . . but Satan blocked our way” (I Thess. 1:17). The letter of I Thessalonians is the result of that inability to be together, so separation is a good thing, right? It prompts technological ‘innovation’ and, in the biblical case, even an addition to the Bible. Isn’t it great that every little faith community is now doing church online! Surely they are following Paul’s example. Continue reading “Viral Theology # 11 – We are Not Pixelated Figments”

Homily for Sunday, May 17

Sunday, May 17 – Reading: Acts 17:22-31

I really like the image of the Apostle Paul going through the city of Athens and looking the place over. Did he look like a tourist or like an anthropologist? We know that he was especially intrigued with the Athenian’s “objects of worship.” He would have studied the temples dedicated to the old Greek gods. He might have run his hands over monuments connected to the Roman imperial cult. People would have hurried past him as his mind mulled over all that he saw. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, May 17”

Viral Theology #10 – Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion at Home

Some time ago a friend explained to me that he had baptized his children at home. This was in the context of an Anglican church, so it wasn’t the baptism of children that was the surprising part. The surprising part was the ‘at-home’ part. I forget exactly why the family chose to do this—it had something to do with work schedules, children not behaving well in public, and a general frustration with the ‘institutional’ church. A parent baptizing a child at home was (and still is) welcomed by some churches in extreme situations, but in our own situation it’s helpful to think a bit about why carrying out practices like baptism or Communion at home is not generally a good idea. Continue reading “Viral Theology #10 – Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion at Home”

Homily for Sunday, May 3

Sunday, May 3 – Reading: Acts 2:42-47

The book of Acts tells us about the early church. Acts is intended to be read as an extension of the story told in the Gospel of Luke. If you would have asked an early Christian how to follow Jesus after the resurrection they would have said, “Come join us and see.” In the minds of those believers there was no such thing as lone-ranger Jesus following. The distinction we sometimes make between spirituality and religion would have made little sense to them. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, May 3”

Viral Theology #9 – An Asceticism for the Masses?

Many religious traditions have ascetic streams. The ascetic take on life is essentially that we need to deliberately give up things that appear to be satisfying in order to contribute to a flourishing world and find a deeper sense of satisfaction. Continue reading “Viral Theology #9 – An Asceticism for the Masses?”

Homily for Sunday, April 26

Sunday, April 26 – Reading: Luke 24:13-35

Let’s think for a few moments about the story of the travelers on the road to Emmaus. Do you remember their marvelous response after figuring out that they had been walking with Jesus all day? Did you catch it? Thinking back, the travelers said this: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, April 26”

Homily for Sunday, April 19

Sunday, April 19 – Readings: John 20:19-23 and I Peter 1:3-9

In the gospel of John we read that after the resurrection, Jesus’s disciples self-isolate in one house. They lock the doors. The beauty (and terror) of the story is that even then Jesus shows up and shows up with reinforcements. He brings the Holy Spirit. He shares that Spirit in a way that violates our public health guidelines. He breathes on people—deliberately. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, April 19”

From Nature to Creation – Further Explorations in Ecotheology

What is the basic description of our contemporary environmental crises? From climate change to the extinction of species to air pollution to the unsustainable exploitation of non-renewable resources—what stands behind these? Norman Wirzba thinks the central issue is theological. He thinks the root of all these distressing trends it is idolatry.

He makes this case in his 2015 book From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision of Understanding and Loving Our World. The arc of the book is pretty simple: as residents of modernity we have come to see Earth as a meaningless happenstance of resources instead of as a divine gift. Wirzba writes, “Since we cannot look to God as the source of the world’s meaning, the only place to turn is to ourselves as the ones who will assign to the world whatever intelligibility or purpose it has.” The diagnosis of idolatry is not an evaluation of the world itself. Idolatry is created by the assumptions we hold not by the object behold. There is nothing idolatrous about nature, the idolatry comes through our thinking that we can manipulate nature for our own ends. Wirzba quotes Jean-Luc Marion, “‘The gaze makes the idol, not the idol the gaze.’” The modern gaze turns nature into resources, into economic potential, into unexploited wealth, or, to use a phrase of Heidegger’s, into “standing reserve.” The modern gaze places expectations upon nature that it can’t possibly bear. This is the essence of idolatry.

But is Wirzba right? And if he is right, does it matter? Continue reading “From Nature to Creation – Further Explorations in Ecotheology”