The Emmaus Road

What’s goin’ on?

Luke 24:13-35

“Are you the only person who doesn’t know what’s been going on for the past few days?” Apparently Jesus had not been reading Facebook. Or listening to NPR. Or reading the newspaper.

Seriously—how could this guy not know what’s been happening? In the last few days the whole world has been in an uproar over the death of one man. Some people thought he should be killed. Others mourned his loss. Others didn’t know what to think.

Sound familiar? One man, killed at the hands of the government, whom many religious people were glad to see murdered. Read more

Truth Dazzles Gradually

John 1: 29-42

At age 51, Noah Adams, a host on National Public Radio, abruptly decided he had to have a piano so he invested in a new Steinway upright – a financial commitment that provided extra incentive to practice.

Adams tells this delightful story of his first year of learning to play the piano in his book, Piano Lessons.  Yet learning to play was a daunting task, particularly given his already demanding schedule.  He found it difficult and frustrating; he couldn’t simply sit down and make the beautiful music he wanted.  There were scales to learn, and basic rhythms to be mastered.  Initially, he decided against going to a teacher, trying such shortcuts as a “Miracle Piano Teaching System” on the computer.  A friend’s warning proved to be prophetic: “You might be learning music with that computer, but you’re not learning how to play.” Read more

Love and Virtue

I Corinthians 13:1-13

I have never found it easy to move from scripture to theological concepts like virtue when I am teaching. A gap seems to grow up within the flow of my thinking. Kenneth Kirk, a former Anglican bishop of Oxford, noted in a work on the Christian moral life that “from the Bible alone we can choose any one of innumerable different passages or pictures as a groundwork…” He names parts of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the “hymn of love” (1 Cor. 13) as good choices. “Yet it is to be noticed… that Western theology, at all events… has on the whole chosen to base its picture of the Christian ideal not on any one of these scriptural foundations, but upon a pagan classification of virtue.” I find solace in Bishop Kirk’s ability to move beyond this paradox to discuss the cardinal virtues. He does so, however, emphasizing that, though they remain recognizable as the pagan virtues, they also undergo a transformation in Christian usage. Read more

Neither the Best Nor the Brightest

Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

I’ve been married long enough now to understand how, in great ways and small, Hauerwas’ Law and its necessary Corollary apply to most committed relationships. The Law, in its most elegant formation, is: You always marry the wrong person. The Corollary: The wrong person is the right person.

In mysteries and sacraments (and my particular tradition considers marriage to be both), informed consent isn’t part of the package. Talk about a Kierkegaardian leap! Prenuptial legal agreements are for finger-crossers and crass pragmatists. If bride and groom had any real grasp of what they were getting into, who would go through with it? Read more

Imagining the Road We Share

A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. — Isaiah 40:3 (NIV)

“I’ve been to conferences on race and racism before, but this is different,” I was told several times at this summer’s Ekklesia Project gathering in Chicago. I agree. There was far less nonsense and posturing than I’ve endured at previous, allegedly “frank” discussions of race. We spoke, sang and worshiped together, without the “It’s a Small World After All,” ceremonies that suggest a few up-tempo songs will make restitution for centuries of bad theology and worse ecclesiology. The mood steered a difficult course between penitential and determined. Read more