Tuesday, June 9, 2020

History and the Pilate Routine


Read it as a child.
Enjoyed it in high school
Majored in it for college.
Focused on it in seminary.
Been reading it all my life.

A joy to keep probing the dots.
And follow the lines that connect them.

But a burden, too.

I look at others, and note the absence of history.
The absence of the times.
The absence of the present mess, crisis, and whatever.

For them, sweet Elysian fields.
Platitudes and campfires.
Bible verses and cute stories.
The intricacies of dogma - what fun.
S'mores and laughter.
Fun and games.

Middle Class comfort and easy going.
Christian solace and the sweet by-and-by.
Praise God for our ease.

As for:
The Pandemic?
Environmental disasters?
Income inequality?
And a thousand other realities, truths, hardships, and pains.

The Pilate routine works just fine:
Wash hands.
Shake head.
Walk away.

Clean hands feel good.
Shaking the head seems so astute.
Walking away - comfy.

The history muses won't let me alone.
I keep seeing the dots.
And all the lines.
And all the pain and sorrow.

I had a history teacher in high school.
He once scrawled on the black board.
With great drama.
Drama I've never gotten:


Well, maybe not HIS.
But certainly God's story.
A story unfolding.
In every season under heaven.

And to think about God, at least for me.
Is to be a student of God's Story.
A student of history.

I cannot do the Pilate thing.
Though what I do is never enough.
But a little work is better than nothing.
And I will do my little work.
For as long as I can.

And in some small way,
I hope that I am following the call of Christ.
The words of the prophets.

And the lives and hope of everyone.
Devoted to seeing the dots.
And connecting them.

For the sake of truth.
For the sake of faith, hope, and love.
For the sake of grace, mercy, and peace.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Mother, Daughter, and Holy Love.

All that's right and good.
Strong and lovely.
Bright and beautiful.
Great and small.

For the story.
We Shall Overcome!


*Dedicated to Heather Cox Richardson ... and those historians of past and present who will not rest on their laurels, but press on to know the truth, who stir the pot and keep us disturbed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Let No Christian Be as Judas

To be the church of Jesus Christ in relationship to the State, any state, anywhere, requires any number of things, and especially so the ability and the willingness to critique the state at one important point: that souls, people, and their destinies and needs, are always more important than the civilization represented by the state.
To put the civilization of the state, as good as it may be, ahead of people and their dignity, their rights and needs, is blasphemy.
That the Church should sometimes forget this central truth, and align itself with the State ought not to surprise us.
History is replete with an abundance of illustrations. Of a more recent time, we need look no further than the church's support of Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy, and Hitler in Germany. 
I dare say the drift of some churches here in the States, aligning themselves with the current administration and its willingness to write off the death of tens of thousands of people in service of the economy, is blasphemy.
It's the abomination in the Temple (Matthew 24.15) and the idolatry of power (Revelation 13.11ff) ... 
The Mammon God has made promises such that some Christians are willing to trade away the Gospel for the fulfillment of their political ambitions. Their desire for righteousness has made them susceptible to the smooth words of those who would use them to further the economic interests of the few, and thus has rendered their righteousness as so many "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64.6)
The Mammon God cares not one whit about life; all that matters is gold and silver, cattle and sheep, chariots and horses, "and human lives" (Revelation 18.13) all to be used for its own advancement and glory, its investments and its profits.
Let no Christian be as Judas - willing to trade away the Christ of God for 30 pieces of silver.

Of Reading Biographies

Been reading biographies of late - John Adams, Abraham Lincoln and now John A. MacKay (former missionary to South America and president of Princeton Seminary).

I am always comforted by women and men of courage and faith - no matter life's challenges, pitfalls, and pain,
they made it through.

They advanced the human cause,
they added to the goodness of human longing,
they enlarged the library of wisdom,
they lived with passion and compassion;
they weren't perfect, but they did great things for humanity.

They loved, as best they could;
they saw the realities and needs of others,
and to others they were devoted,
and each in their own way, devoted to God,
to the highest and best to which any of us might aspire.

These are some of the heroes of my life.
They make it clear: Life is hard.
And not to unduly fret.
But to stay the course.
Keep my eyes on what is good and fair and lovely.

And for me, personally, to remain centered in Christ.
In the words of the Sacred Text.
With mindfulness and generosity.
With love for fellow travelers on truth's road.

And so it is.
And so it goes.

To God be the glory.
And God's glory is a human being fully alive.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Bonhoeffer's Prayer for His Nation

When asked how he prayed, Bonhoeffer replied to Visser't hooft in Geneva, "I pray for my nation's defeat."

It was for Bonhoeffer a monumental decision ... he loved his homeland, he was worried that the Allies would repeat Versailles, he was already planning for what the church must be and do after the war and Germany's role in world Christianity.

Bonhoeffer was a servant of Christ, and that guided his patriotism.

And for me, I hope it's true, as well - that my faith in Christ is what guides my patriotism, and not the other way around, as it seems to be, as I see it, for some who claim to follow Christ.

These are difficult times, and our difficulties are mounting every moment, as a feckless leader bumbles and blusters his way from one crisis and failure to another.

Everyone who cheers for him furthers the chaos and damage, and every Christian who sides with him fails, I believe, to honor Christ.

It's a huge thing to say, but I believe I'm in good company with Israel's 8th Century prophets who were often accused of faithlessness to God and being traitors to their nation.

History has proven them right, and the same judgment for Bonhoeffer.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

We're Fundamentally a Good Nation

Let's say, for a moment, that Rump did nothing wrong ... that he did nothing illegal or even questionable ... that everything he did was normal.

And, then what?
What are we left with?

Chaos, crooks in jail, confusion.
Uncertainty and cruelty.

Lots of cruelty.
Abandoning the land to special interests.
Children in cages.
Families decimated.

A government full of scoundrels and scalawags.
Foreign policy in shreds.

He goes to cities for rallies and doesn't pay.
He refuses to release his taxes.
He runs away to his resorts.
He plays endless golf.

He's rude and crude.
He's foolish and full of himself.

His whole life is a combover.

He's not fit to lead our nation.
And if, for some, the economy is good.
That's not a result of his "greatness."
It's the result of America's ingenuity and energy.
Creativity and innovation.

We're fundamentally a good nation.
We've got skeletons in our closet, of course.
But we're a good nation.

But that goodness right now is being tainted.
As never quite before.

By a terrible man who otherwise would be a mob boss.

I think he's guilty of impeachable offenses.
But beyond that, he's guilty of crimes against his own humanity, and the humanity of millions around the world.

He's betrayed the common good.
He's betrayed the God he uses so skillfully to fool the religious naive.
He's betrayed everything that makes for truth.

Impeachable by the House?

Impeachable in the Courts of Faith, Hope and Love?

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

One of the finest I've ever read ... like an eight-course dinner in a five-star restaurant, every course just right, wonderfully plated and served with elegance, wine with every serving, plenty of time to savor every offering, delicious, with a stunned shake of the head ... can anything be this good? And it is.

Character development is rich ... Towles use of words masterful ... a man in charge of the words, and not, like so much self-published stuff, the words in charge of the writer.

The reader, at least this one, is swept up into the sorrows and joys of it all ... and on nearly every page, a quotable quote, and at all the right times, like a palette-cleansing sorbet, laughter, sometimes slight, and sometimes a hearty guffaw.

A book to be studied, enjoyed, loved, and when done, set aside with thanksgiving, that in this often crazy and cruel world, there are some who will not give in, but will find a way to find the gifts of life and love ... and Towles, as a master of the art, to tell the tale of hope.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

I Am Against ...

I am against The Wall.
I am against Liars and Cheats.
I am against Maggot Hats.
I am against private white schools.
Even Catholic ones.
I am against private schools that
Bar LGBTQ teachers and make life
Miserable for LGBTQ students.
I am against bigotry and hate
Claiming "just being Christian."
Such is nothing less than a baldfaced lie.
A heresy of incommensurable evil.
As I oppose such things, dark and wicked.
Mindless and malevolent;
I stand up for:
LGBTQ rights, across the board.
A woman's right to choose, in all matters of health.
Transgender rights.
Voter Rights.
Free birth control.
Sex education.
Fully funded public education.
All across the board.
I am for freedom of thought and religion.
For Equal Opportunity.
Equal wages for women.
Universal Heath Care.
Higher taxes on the upper crust.
Taxes are nothing more than the ancient
Art of Alms-giving.
The redistribution of wealth.
To help the poor.
And save the souls of the rich.
I am for fresh air and clean water.
Clear skies and job training.
For safe food.
And unions.
For all the things that make life good.
For all of God's creatures.
Great and Small.
I do this from the heart of my being.
My faith in God.
And the work of Christ.
Who fed the hungry.
Confronted the pious.
Tweaked the noses of the proud.
Refused Pilate's mindless chatter.
Freely expressed his doubts and fears.
And in ways never to be understood.
Came through death to life.
And with the angels, rolled away the stone.
I believe these things because they speak of love.
Of hope and faith.
And that's why I oppose the shenanigans
Of the power-hungry.
And elements of the Christian Family who are
Flat-out wrong, or so I think, and so I believe.
It's not the first time that Christians are wrong.
Nor the last.
And perhaps I'm wrong, too.
And if I am, so be it.
I can only be here and how.
With what I have, and what I hope.
And the way I see it.
By the Spirit, by reading and prayer.
In the company of good friends.
I do my best.
To honor what is best in the human story.
God's story, too.
From Cradle to Cross.
From Genesis to Revelations.
From the Tree of Life to the healing of the nations.