Hurricane

Storm of the Spirit

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Psalm 107
Mark 4:35-41

Mid-May of this year, the Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life released findings from a recent survey that indicates a decline in the number of Americans claiming Christian affiliation, especially among Mainline Protestants and Catholics.

When the report was first released, reactions among those I know varied widely, from alarm, to those who met the findings with resignation and acceptance, or frankly as old news. As a divinity school student, preparing for perhaps a lifetime of full-time Christian service to the church, I have wondered at my curious position as someone apparently hoping against the odds. Am I tying myself to the bow of a sinking ship? Read more

Large Things in Small Parishes

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 4:26-34

The Texas historian of a generation ago, Walter Prescott Webb, has a wonderful paragraph in his classic book, The Great Plains. He contrasts the West with the East in the raising of cattle and notices that even though the West raised fewer cattle than the farms of the East, it was the West that defines for us what cattle raising is all about.

Webb writes, “A thousand farms in the East will each have six or seven cows, with as many more calves and yearlings – ten thousand head. But they will attract no attention … In the West a ranch will cover perhaps the same area as the thousand farms, and will have perhaps ten thousand head, roundups, rodeos, men on horseback, and all that goes with ranching. … The East did a large business on a small scale; the West did a small business magnificently” (p. 227).

I like Webb and I like what he says. The romantic notion of ranches, big cattle drives, cowboys, horses, spurs jingling, dust blowing, with perhaps some rousing Elmer Bernstein music in the background is magnificent. Nevertheless, I am more taken with his line, “The East did a large business on a small scale.” It was the small farms that did the large business of raising cattle.

Webb’s line reminds me of one from the Welsh poet and Anglican priest R.S. Thomas who wrote, “I was vicar of large things in a small parish.” It is a line, along with Webb’s, that keeps telling me of my vocation and the vocation of the church. Read more

Two Christianities

Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:6-19

During a haircut my barber asked me, “Do you believe that zombies are real?”

I said, “What?” not sure if I had heard her correctly. She asked again, “Do you believe that zombies are real?”

Realizing that it was a serious question, I said, “No. Zombies are in movies, books, TV shows, and games. But they’re not real.”

She said, “My preacher says that zombies are real. He preaches that the Devil reinvigorates dead bodies and that’s where zombies come from.”

Trying to avoid public criticism of another preacher I said, “Where in the Bible does he get this?” She shot back, “Well, I don’t know where he gets it. All I know is that he says we’d better get our guns ready because zombies are real.”

“Where do you go to church?” I asked.

“I go to the Cowboy Church outside the loop. You know, you can see the rodeo arena out back.”

“How many people attend on Sunday mornings to hear that zombies are real?”

She said, “Oh, we usually have somewhere around 400 on Sunday mornings, with most staying around Sunday afternoon for pot-luck dinner. We have roping, barrel-racing and other rodeo events after that.”

I didn’t know whether to cry, cuss, or pray for mercy. Every Sunday I preach well-prepared, biblical sermons to a congregation of 80 to 100 people, while across town 400 people dress up as cowboys and pack into a church to hear that zombies are real and go rodeo afterwards. Read more

Year B links

We’ve been doing bLOGOS for a while now. The 2014-15 bLOGOS posts will be our third cycle of lectionary reflections for Year B. This list is the complete collection of previous posts for Year B. Due to calendar changes and times when authors were unable to submit, there may not be two posts for each week, but we hope this set of links will be helpful. The authors for the two years, mostly by order of appearance were:  Jesse Larkins, Jake Wilson, Erin Martin, Doug Lee, Ragan Sutterfield, Kyle Childress, Debra Dean Murphy, Joel Shuman, Brian Volck, C. Christopher Smith, Janice Love, Halden Doerge, Mark Ryan, John Jay Alvaro, Danny Yencich, Jenny Williams and Heather Carlson.

A pdf file of the complete reflections can be downloaded here. 

Advent-  1: 2008, 2011  2: 2008, 2011 3: 2008, 2011 4: 2008, 2011

Christmas2011

1st Sunday after Christmas – 2008

Holy Name of Jesus2011

Epiphany-  +1: 2012 +2: 2009, 2012 +3: 2009, 2012 +4: 2009, 2012 +5: 2009, 2012 +6: 2009, 2012

Transfiguration: 2009, 2012

Lent- Ash Wednesday: 2009, 2012 1:  2012 2: 2009, 2012 3: 2009, 2012 4: 2009, 2012 5: 2009, 2012

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday: 2009, 2012

Easter- 2009, 2012 2:  2012 3: 2009, 2012 4: 2009, 2012 5: 2009, 2012 6: 2009, 2012  Ascension: 2009

Pentecost: 2009, 2012 Trinity: 2009, 2012

Ordinary Time 10: 2012 11: 20092012 12: 2009, 2012 13: 2009, 2012 14: 2009, 2012 15: 2012 16: 2009, 2012 17: 2009, 2012 18: 2009, 2012 19: 2009, 2012 20: 2009, 2012 21: 2009, 2012 22: 2009, 2012 23: 2009, 2012  24: 2009, 2012 25: 2009, 2012  26: 2009, 2012 27: 2009, 2012 28: 2009, 2012 29: 2009, 2012 30: 2009, 2012 31: 2012 32: 2012 33: 2009,  2012

All Saints: 2009

Reign of Christ: 2009 2012

 

Do As They Say, Not As They Do

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Micah 3:5-12
Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23: 1-12

Apart from a somewhat odd convergence of occurrences over the past few days, I would have been clueless as to how to write about this week’s lectionary readings. To be honest, my first couple passes at them left me mostly flat and uninspired. And then, as sometimes happens, things became just a bit clearer.

I was first awakened to the possibilities offered by the texts when I read Kyle Childress’s bLogos post from last week, which focused on that week’s epistle (1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, the verses immediately preceding today’s epistle lesson). Serendipitously for Kyle, and by extension, for me, this passage from Paul’s earliest extant letter was the text which our mutual friend Stanley Hauerwas had preached several years ago at a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Kyle’s pastorate at Austin Heights Baptist Church down in east Texas.

Kyle channels Stanley in noting the outrageousness of Paul’s words for those of us who, having been thoroughly formed, first by certain strands of Protestantism and then by modernity and its emphasis on the autonomy of the individual, to think of our relationship to God as pretty much our own private business, mediated neither by community nor priest nor pastor. Read more