The problem with conspiracy theories is that they often have some element of truth, if not an element of factual truth, then a story that bears some resemblance to the structure of things. The other problem with conspiracy theories is that what counts as a conspiracy theory depends on where one stands. Certain liberals see the world controlled by international corporations. Certain conservatives see the world controlled by shadow states. Certain religious folks see the devil’s behind everything. Some of each see the end of the world as we know it just around the corner. Each sees their understanding as the one based in the facts, based in reality. Each labels the other view a conspiracy theory, a mental creation spawned from wishful thinking and bad movies. Continue reading “Christianity and Conspiracy Theories”
Texts: Song of Solomon 2:8-17; Matt. 11:28-30
The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes, leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Whenever I hear lines from the Song of Solomon I remember how a woman at a church I once attended would read them. She would pretend to swoon and would fan her face. I always believed she meant it as a joke. Texts like these read in church can make us shifty. But I also thought her little bit of acting did a good job highlighting how this part of scripture cuts through our moldy piety.
Imagine someone about to go skydiving. This person has a choice between two parachutes, one is in good shape and has been well-maintained. The other has recently been found under a pile of junk outside the hanger. It’s been bleached by the sun and chewed by mice. Some of the seams are pulling apart. Imagine that the skydiver chooses the old tattered parachute, even though the other one is right there, unused. The choice is politically motivated. “Only ‘other’ people use well-maintained parachutes,” he thinks. “And I’ve got God on my side. I’ll pray this old things holds up. I’ll even pray in a renewed way.” Continue reading “When We Do Not Have a Right to Pray”
Texts for June 28: Genesis 22:1-14 (Ps. 13)
God tells Abraham to offer his son “as a burnt offering.” If you sit with that command for any length of time, if you allow your mind to move past the trite images that come with familiarity, it begins to feel like the plot of a horror movie. Continue reading “Homily for June 28 – The Fire and the Wood”
I’ve been thinking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer again these past weeks. There’s something about his life story that continually intrigues me. Maybe it’s the sharpness of his rejection of a vapid cultural Christianity or maybe it’s the incisiveness of his political critique—I’m not entirely sure. Whatever it is, it’s caused me to pick up a book that’s been on my shelf for a while, Ferdinand Schlingensiepen’s biography. I’ve read sections of this biography before, the ones most relevant to the book I coauthored on Bonhoeffer’s ethics. There are a few parts, however, that I haven’t read closely. I’ve been enjoying those. One of the things that’s stands out about Bonhoeffer’s faith is the decisive turn it took during his time in New York City. Continue reading “Enlivening Faith – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in New York”
Texts for June 21, Psalm 86: 1-13; Matthew 10:24-39
“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth.” Many have repeated that line, but far fewer have meant it.
In 1935 an American religious leader named Howard Thurman led a “friendship delegation” to India and British Ceylon, what is now Sri Lanka. Thurman would have been 36 at the time. One day, after giving a talk at a law college, he was invited by the principal to have coffee. The two men drank their coffee in silence until the principal asked a question. He asked what Thurman was doing there. The principal knew the intention of the friendship delegation, but what he didn’t know was why Howard Thurman, a black man, would come there as a Christian. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, June 21 – “I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword.””
What is a pastor? For a long time a pastor (or a priest) was someone who helped others navigate the unseen world. A pastor lived in the space between everyday life and the forces that pressed in upon it from beyond. The world was enchanted then, it was the site where heaven and hell collided. But it is no longer. Most of us don’t believe in such forces anymore. So what is a pastor to do? Continue reading “Book Note: Andrew Root’s “The Pastor in a Secular Age””
Here’s a version of a short piece I wrote some time ago for congregation I serve. It’s probably more relevant now than later . . . .
Not long ago a group of churches and church leaders across the province signed a letter asking the premier to allow churches to reopen at the beginning of the month of June. I did not sign the letter. Continue reading “Why I’m Not in a Hurry to Re-open Church Doors”
Texts for June 7, Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8
Here’s the image I want you to hold in your head for a few minutes. It’s the image of Earth as seen from space. Can you picture it? Maybe you watched the recent rocket launch and you’ve had a refresher. In the image of Earth I’m thinking of you see clouds swirled around what appears to be a blue and green marble. Depending on your perspective you might be able to pick out the continents. You might see places where the green fades to brown. You might even see city lights or plumes of smoke and dust. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, June 7”
The last few months have brought storms and strange currents to the people and organizations to which I’m tethered. My spirit has fallen, risen, and fallen again. My legs have ached, not from training for the marathon I was hoping to run, but from sitting too long in my makeshift office, an old table in a corner of the basement. There, a roaring water heater and furnace drown out virtual meetings.
The thud of my kids’ feet on the floor above is rolling thunder. The dog steals their erasers or hats. They give chase. In the din and swirl, I read notes from quarantined congregants, contemplate layoffs and lead prayers. The ship has stayed afloat. Its ballast has been rocks and trees, sun and cloud. Continue reading “Nature has Been My Ballast”