‘They Stood Still, Looking Sad’ (132)

There is a rhythm life often takes. The Franciscan priest and teacher Richard Rohr is one person who says this. The rhythm is simple, just this: order—disorder—reorder. Sometimes the same rhythm is described in these terms: orientation—disorientation—reorientation. (Rohr describes this in an interview with Krista Tippett here). Our reading from Luke 24, the one from Acts 2 as well, moves along to this same rhythm.

Let me sketch for you how that works in the Luke story. There are these walkers on the road. They have a relatively long walk ahead of them, something like 7 miles. They are discussing recent events in Jerusalem. They were followers of a rabbi, whom they thought had a special role to play in their people’s future. You see, they believed that their people had a special mandate from God to be a blessing to the world. And they thought this teacher, whom they had followed, was to play a key role in that. It was his life that had ordered theirs. Continue reading “‘They Stood Still, Looking Sad’ (132)”

For Traitors (130)

You may be familiar with this story: Dirk Willems, imprisoned on account of his Anabaptist faith, was on the run and being chased by a guard. He crossed an ice-covered pond. His pursuer tried to do the same but fell through the ice. Willems turned back, stretched himself across the ice and saved the guard. The grateful man wanted to let Willems go, but a town official reminded the guard of his duty. This was the sixteenth century. Dirk Willems was jailed again, tried and then burned (MM, 741). Dirk Willems is an Anabaptist hero. He lived Jesus’ call to love his enemies.

Continue reading “For Traitors (130)”

Housing the Spirit (125)

I’ve always liked the way some older translations of the Bible refer to the Holy Spirit as the ‘Holy Ghost’. Ghosts are unpredictable, at least that’s how they’re portrayed. They show up unannounced and unbidden and scare the bejeebers out of someone. sparksMaybe something like that has happened to you–a mysterious bang or bump in the dark of night and suddenly you found yourself believing in ghosts and feeling like you just lost control of the situation. I had a housemate once who had an experience just like that. The trouble for him was that he didn’t believe in ghosts in the daylight. He later put his world back together by diagnosing himself with a vitamin deficiency. I don’t really care if you believe in ghosts or not. It’s this Holy Ghost that the scriptures bring to our attention. Theologically we say that the love of the first two members of the Trinity for each other is so real, so solid, so vibrant, that we can speak of it too as an acting agent, a member of the Triune God—the animating power of the cosmos and the divine Spirit.  One of the essential elements to the Christian way of life is the belief that this Spirit dwells in us. That is, Christians believe the Spirit dwells in the community of Jesus’ disciples. Continue reading “Housing the Spirit (125)”

Gifts—Disappointing and Otherwise (124)

I require your imagination to get started. Imagine a little improv game with two people. It starts with one person pretends to give the other a gift. He picks up an imaginary box, determining its size and weight. grassroofHe hands it off to a second person. She pretends to open, saying “Oh my, thank you for this beautiful . . . (saying whatever comes to mind) . . . this wonderful teddy bear’s foot.” The first person thinks of a quick reply: “Yes, yes, I got you the teddy bear’s foot just to say . . . I’d give you my right leg if you wanted it. That’s how much I value your contribution to the office.”  It’s fun little game; give it a try sometime. I’ll say more about it in a moment. First, I want us to turn our attention to I Corinthians (our reading for Jan. 22 was I Cor. 1:10-18). Continue reading “Gifts—Disappointing and Otherwise (124)”

Living in Grace (123)

I used to teach an Ethics course to undergraduates. It was fun because conversations in the seminar would move from the highly theoretical to the intensely practical quick enough to give everyone whiplash. IMG_3665One of the topics that almost always got students riled-up was distributive justice. This is the classic question of who should get what. I can remember one particular seminar where a student was trying to make the case for a libertarian approach by saying that those who develop skills more valued by society should be financially rewarded more handsomely than those who don’t. He said that the free market is a fine instrument for working this out. As you might expect, another student brought up professional athletes. Continue reading “Living in Grace (123)”

Is this a Political Meeting?

Not all Christians vote. I do. For me it’s one of those privileges I’ve been given that I don’t want to take for granted. I’m  skeptical about what actual goods state politics can realize. I doubt, for instance, that our governing authorities can make us better people. They can’t do much to make us more patient, more loving, more honest or more courageous. I vote, though, because it’s a modicum of power that’s been given to me and I want to use it to help our communities be more just. Not everyone has that opportunity.

There are two passages that frame the possibilities of governments biblically. One in Romans 13, where Paul describes governing authorities as God’s servants. They keep chaos in check by preserving a basic civil order. For that reason they deserve our support. beastThen there is Revelation 13, where governing authorities are depicted as a diabolical beast. The beast is worshiped because of its immense power and its seeming invincibility. For that reason they deserve our skepticism.

I vote, but I don’t think that’s the most ‘political’ thing I do. This evening I meet with the committee that plans our congregation’s worship life. It will be a political meeting. We will talk about allegiance and sovereignty. We will talk about how to cultivate certain virtues and ways of being. We will talk about economics and global alliances. We will do all that without mentioning a national government. It will be political, but it will have virtually nothing to do with a state. My point is not that state politics don’t matter—of course they do. My point is simply that Christians always hold more than one form of citizenship.

Restoration (104)

Last winter my family and I decided it was time for a real dining table. Having moved from a small apartment, we didn’t really have a proper table. We certainly didn’t have one that would accommodate guests. We thought about buying something nice but inevitably what we liked was too expensive wood shaving(I’m sure we aren’t the only ones to whom that’s happened). There was another factor at play as well—the fact that I wanted to try building one. It had been years since I had the chance to do any woodworking beyond putting up paneling and tacking together garden boxes. I sketched a few options—variations on a traditional farmhouse table—and we agreed that I would give the project a try. “Trying” in this case wouldn’t be risk free. There was the possibility of humiliating failure: the thing collapsing under the weight of Easter lunch. There was the expense: hardwood lumber isn’t cheap. There was the required time: making stuff with your own hands takes time, especially if it’s something new. Continue reading “Restoration (104)”

But will there be Baseball? (SD #98)

Spring is a time for wondering about things: When will the tulips come up? What will summer camp be like? How many miles can I do on my bike before it snows again? Will the rhubarb come back this season?

Every spring I wonder if there will be baseball in heaven. If there will be baseball then there will be those we love and they will have bodies. If there will be baseball then there will be burgers and beer and soft pretzels drenched in butter. baseballThere will be ice-cream. If there will be baseball then there will be movement, speed and grace. There will be the luster of grass and sunshine. If there will be baseball then there will be agriculture and music. There will be the fabric and plastic arts. If there will be baseball then there will be nature and culture, story and statistic, spectacle and minutia. Baseball includes the world. It even includes cats, Detroit’s mascot is a tiger. Continue reading “But will there be Baseball? (SD #98)”

Christian Community, the Basic Movements (sermon detritus #78)

Let me begin by going right to the point, which is the simple claim that Acts 2:42 describes the basic movements of Christian community. The verse reads this way: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” There you have it, the basic movements required for Christian community: devotion to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, breaking bread and prayer. If we do these things we’ll be a ‘church’ in the full, deep sense of the word.

In the early part of the 20th century a young French marine named Georges Hébert was posted on the island of Martinique. While he was there a volcano erupted with disastrous results for the populace. hebertHébert was a part of the rescue effort. That experience convinced him of the importance of well-rounded physical fitness. He believed one should stay fit in order to be ready to serve. Hébert looked for models of this sort of thing—of people prepared for just about any sort of physical challenge. He found them in various indigenous communities. These people, he thought, had a natural fitness that prepared them for all manner of unexpected challenges. Hébert then developed a ‘system’ of training designed to produce the same results. His system became known as the “natural method.” Continue reading “Christian Community, the Basic Movements (sermon detritus #78)”