Peter crucified

Follow the Leader

11th Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 16:21-28

“We believe that the truth of the gospel cannot be separated from the kind of lives required for the recognition of that truth” -Stanley Hauerwas

“Our instinct to embrace Jesus’ exemplary goodness while avoiding the blood of the cross is a “stumbling block” to God’s mission in the world.” -Charles Hambrick-Stowe

At some point in my growing up years I remember seeing, on the bookshelf in our living room, the spine of a book whose title was Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. Even at a young age, I can clearly remember sensing the irony and nonsense of that phrase. Who makes war to get peace? Now I understand why its author would have suggested that the dominant ethos of our time is the notion of perpetual war for perpetual peace. Now I see why the world is so easy to believe that the means for achieving peace in the world need not match the ends. Why? We do it all the time. Read more

Apokatastasis and the Birthday of the Church

Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27; John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15 (Pentecost Sunday)

One of the first things that I remember learning as a seminary student in my introductory class on Church history was the word, apokatastasis. The word, which is Greek, most simply means “the end will be like the beginning” and is most commonly used to refer to the idea of a universal restoration of creation. At the time, we first year students cataloged this word away along with a long litany of other doctrines and heresies that comprised the first 1400 years of church history, ready to proudly (if not arrogantly) pull it out alongside other useful information such as the meaning of communicato idiomatum, why Augustine really stole those pears, and the gruesome tale of Abelard’s castration at the next party to show just how enlightened we were. I hardly think that any of us at the time assumed these words and stories would have any relevance for the day-in, day-out life of parish work in any church we’d ever serve. Yet as I read these lectionary texts for Pentecost Sunday, it seems to me like the word apokatastasis speaks directly to what is happening in Jerusalem some 50 days following the Resurrection. It is a word that the 21st century Church might do well to recover. Read more

Asleep at the Wheel

John 2:13-22; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; Exodus 20:1-17 (Lent 3B)

There is a joke that occasionally passes through pastors’ circles now and again with a bit of light-hearted commentary on the passion (or lack thereof) of worship in a particular pastor’s church. Says one pastor: “My congregation is so dead in worship that if someone were to have a heart attack, when the EMTs arrived they’d wonder to whom they should attend.” Those of us who worship regularly in congregations that bear any resemblance to that description chuckle uneasily at this joke. Yet truth be told, it hits a little too close to home. What has happened to our practice of worship that it has become yet another instance of a religious institution “going through the motions” rather than true, life-shaping (rather than sleep inducing) encounter with the living God? I don’t know about you, but a few cattle and sheep in the narthex of my church might be just the ticket to breaking our somnolence and accommodation to the “way things are” in congregational worship. Read more

Is Your World Shaped By the Gospel?

1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39 (Epiphany 5B)

Each of the New Testament lessons this week make reference to Jesus and Paul’s felt responsibility to proclaim the gospel message wherever they were. In the gospel, after healing Simon’s mother-in-law as well as many others who were brought to him, Jesus demands of the disciples that they move onto other towns so that he might “proclaim the message; for that is what [he] came to do” (vs. 38). Similarly, Paul speaks to the Corinthian Christians about the obligation he feels to proclaim the gospel to all people at all times. The question left for us, then, is “Do we also feel that obligation to proclaim the gospel in all times and places?” Read more

Epiphany 3B

Mark 1:14-20

I have a brother who is a bit of an adrenaline junky. In many ways he is not unlike most 26 year old boys who have no house payment, car payment, girlfriend, wife or kids: footloose and fancy free. On the other hand, there is something quite unique about my brother. It is the fact that, on average, he risks his life 2-3 times per day. You see, my brother has made a life for himself out of pushing the envelope. If you were to ask him, he would tell you that airplanes were invented to be jumped out of, mountains were made to be crawled up and then skied down, and waterfalls were created in order to slide off in 6’ pieces of molded plastic. My brother’s primary raison d’être is white water kayaking. He has traveled all over the world finding and conquering the world’s wildest rivers and creeks. If we didn’t share the hallmark Shuman nose, you might wonder how we are related. When it comes to taking risks, we are as different as night and day. Read more