Thursday, April 20, 2006

"The Rolling Stones" Easter, 2006

Homily for Easter Sunday, 2006
Based on Mark 16.1-8

Fear to Faith to Conviction

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"We May Not Know What Footwashing Is, But..." Maundy Thursday, 2006

This is my homily for Maundy Thursday, based on John 13.
An act of footwashing followed this message, and it was a beautiful act of mutual love and care.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Faith in America

I record Meet the Press every Sunday and watch it when I get home from Church while reading the Sunday paper.

I love the theme song - composed by John Williams.

My wife and children think I'm weird.

Maybe I am.

Most the time, if all I'm hearing are carefully constructed talking points and sound bites, I'll just erase it without watching the whole thing.

But not this past week.

On Easter Sunday, Meet the Press featured a full hour on the topic "Faith in America." The link below will take you to the transcipt of the conversations featuring an ecumenical panel. You can also go to, follow the links to Meet the Press and watch the show through their video viewer.

A couple of comments of note. I'm a huge fan of Joan Chittister, and have been for years. She is a Benedictine nun and, in my judgment, gets it. Her life and example set a bar high for me to aspire to reach. Watch the dynamic at play between Father Richard John Neuhaus and her. It's telling.

Also, watch or read the contributions of Joel Osteen and the rest of the panel. The depth of his theological contributions in the vast ocean of theological conversation is about a teaspoon deep, and that's being kind.

The other is a comment exerpted from John Meachem's new book "American Gospel." Given our current climate on issues of church, state, politics and religion - it is as cogent a comment on the nature of the American enterprise that you'll find.

Look these over, and offer comments for the sake of conversation and mutual edification.

“As it was in the beginning, so it has been since: an American acknowledgement of God in the public sphere, with men of good will struggling to be reverent yet tolerant and ecumenical. That the Founding Fathers debated whether to open the American saga with prayer is wonderfully fitting, for their conflicts are our conflicts, their dilemmas our dilemmas. Largely faithful, they knew religious wars had long been a destructive force in the lives of nations, and they had no wish to repeat the mistakes of the world they were rebelling against. And yet they bowed their heads.
“More than two centuries on, as millions of Americans observe Passover and commemorate Easter, the role of faith in public life is a subject of particularly pitched debate. From stem cells and science to the Supreme Court, from foreign policy and the 2008 presidential campaign to evangelical “Justice Sundays,” the questions of God and politics generates much heat but little light. Some Americans think the country has strayed too far from God; others fear that religious zealots (from the White House to the school board) are waging holy war on American liberty; and many, if not most, seem to believe that we are a nation hopelessly divided between believers and secularists.
“History suggests, though, that there is hope, for we have been fighting these battles from our earliest days and yet the American experiment endures.”

"Who Tells You Who You Are?"

In February, 2003, William Sloane Coffin visited Memphis for the weekend. He preached at Saint John's, and, held a forum for clergy on the issues of faith and resistance in the run up to the Iraq war. This sermon, which he has preached in many variations and settings, is offered in memory of the last great American prophet of the 20th century whose words must inspire us to be more than we are - and embrace who God has made us to be the prophets and prophetesses of the 21st.

The reader of the text and giver of the introduction is Rev'd G. Scott Morris, M.D., my partner in ministry here at Saint John's, founder and Executive Director of the Church Health Center, and Bill's longtime friend.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006


My little brother died two years ago this Monday, April 17.

There is still a sting even in the typing of that sentence - just as there is in the reading of it.

I've spent the better part of the last two years living with Jimmy's death and my own grief, to say nothing of the collective grief of my family.

How much of my ministry is spent dealing with the grieving? It's incalculable. It just is. And, I'm pretty good at it. But when it came to me and mine - that's another deal altogether.

Who pastors the pastor?

Nothing, and I mean nothing has consumed me in my almost 42 years like this. My response to losing Jimmy surprises me still. As one who does all he can to keep the appearance of control, I had none in the days following his death.

In the months after he died, my depression controlled me, and my self-medicating for my back injury numbed far more than my physical problem.

Three months after he died, I turned 40. Holy crap! Too much baggage to carry into the next phase of life.

What am I to do? Is this what mid-life crisis is?

Talked about getting a tatoo. Still might one day

Can't afford a motorcycle.

Scared of an affair (Fatal Attraction haunts me still), and, I love my wife.

Taking too much hydrocodone.

Grief stricken.

I was a mess.

I give thanks for friends who loved me through this - gave me room to be who I was. I give thanks even more for those who loved me enough to get hold of me and demand that it's time for me to get my shit together.

Time has a way of buffering the immediacy of the pain of loss. But when anniversaries come - so does a revisitation with the pain.

I am much more able to deal with his death now than I was then, and I've learned a good bit about myself.

I've learned that pain left unshared and unprocessed will consume your soul until there's nothing left. Healthy ways to grieve and vent the pain are essential.

I've learned that questions about life and death can never be fully answered in the absence of faith.

I've learned that I must live with the unanswered "why," and "how," and I must come to peace knowing I'll never know.

I've learned that the opportunities lost to nurture what, at times, could be a troubled relationship are tragic only if I do not take the moment I have now to be sure not to lose such moments with others in the future.

I've learned that Jimmy is with me everyday - and my middle son is the spittin' image in more ways than one, especially his mouth that never stops.

I've learned that telling the folks I love "I love you," must come with every opportunity, as must my showing that love.

Right after Jimmy died, I wrote quite a bit to process what I was feeling. Among the things I wrote then was a vow that his death would show me how to live.

For most of these past two years, I wasn't sure I could keep that vow.

But "I can see clearly now, the rain is gone."

And two years on - I'm living again.

I love you, brother.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Death of a Prophet- William Sloane Coffin

One thing's for sure - nothing could silence the prophet's fire. Nothing could hush his righteous indignation. Until now.

William Sloane Coffin is dead, and the Church has lost the voice of prophet at a time when a prophet's voice is so sorely needed.

It's beyond imagination that I was able to call William Sloane Coffin "Bill," only because that's what he wanted me to call him. I have a note he wrote me not long after he preached at Saint John's offering encouragement and appreciation. It is a cherished possession. In my one weekend with him he treated me as an equal. And even as my partner in ministry, truly a friend of Bill's, would visit him, he'd ask about me and about our ministry at Saint John's.

Bill preached in the Saint John's pulpit in February, 2003. Check your history, folks, that's a month before our nation invaded a country that posed no imminent threat to our own. The reasons he shared then about why it was a bad idea, and the church's complacency in a moment such as this are scary when you think about how right he was.

Some saw Bill as anti-American - a sentiment he rejected with every fiber of his being. He loved his country. Loved it enough to have what he'd call a "lover's spat" with it, with hope that she could one day truly live up to her ideal.

Bill Coffin's prophetic witness is needed now more than ever, and those of us who have been touched by his vision must now carry on. Perhaps his last, best lessons he teaches us are those he provides in this Holy Week, that, his "great gettin' up mornin'" has come, and that which he came to know as true in his rhetoric is now true in his dying--for in it is the nature of God.

"Amo, ergo sum."

"I love, therefore, I am."

Rest in Peace, Bill.

What follows appears on the Yale Divinity School website. I've also copied in an article that ran on Bill from an appearance he made a couple of years ago where he reflects upon his failing health and the approach of his death.

William Sloane Coffin Jr., Yale chaplain during the turbulent 1960s, dies
William Sloane Coffin Jr., the fiery Yale University chaplain who inspired a generation of 1960s and 1970s college students with preaching that rankled the establishment even as it engaged the anti-war community, died Wednesday, April 12. He was 81 years old and had been ill for several years. According to family members, the cause of death was a heart attack, suffered while sitting in a rocking chair at his home in Strafford, VT.

Coffin was chaplain at Yale from 1958 until 1975 and then served for a decade as senior minister at Riverside Church in New York City from 1977-87, after which he became president of SANE/FREEZE, later known as Peace Action. In recent years Coffin has spent much of his time writing, including his 2004 national bestseller, Credo, A Passion for the Possible: A Message to U.S. Churches, and Letters to a Young Doubter.

Coffin, who earned an undergraduate degree from Yale in 1949 and a B.D. from Yale Divinity School in 1956, had little patience for any religious style that would draw strict separations between politics and religion. When he perceived injustices, he was prone to come out swinging, even at the risk of offending, leading many to describe his preaching style as “prophetic.”
He was among the “Freedom Riders” who rode the interstate buses in the South in the early 1960s to challenge segregation, and during the Vietnam years he was heavily engaged in protests against the war. He helped organize mobilizations, supported conscientious objectors and acts of civil disobedience.

At an October 1967 protest in Boston over 1,000 draft resisters turned in their draft cards as a church service led by Coffin, leading to his indictment and conviction on charges of conspiracy to aid draft resisters – a conviction that was ultimately overturned. And all of this by a man who once trained to be a concert pianist and who had worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for three years.

During one of his last major public appearances—at a celebration of his life and work held at Yale in April 2005 attended by the likes of Yale football great Calvin Hill, Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, and musicians Peter and Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary—Coffin was still prodding and pushing, encouraging seminaries to equip future church leaders to challenge the status quo.
Before an audience of about 400 at the Yale Commons, Coffin summoned the energy to rise from his wheelchair and speak for over 20 minutes. He declared, “Clearly, parish clergy could use a little more starch; they are gumption-deficient. But they also need more instruction from their seminaries to face difficult situations that lie ahead.”

Among those difficult tasks, according to Coffin: the treatment of same-sex couples, pollution, and nuclear proliferation. On issues such as those, he warned, the mainline church community should be prepared to “take on” the religious right.

Despite his public image as a firebrand, though, those who were closest to Coffin knew him as a man who had a gentle, caring interior, a “pastoral” side to his ministry that balanced the prophetic.

The Rev. Ronald Evans, who lived with the Coffin family as a seminarian, recalled, “Though Bill's personality easily filled great spaces and important places, yet he had that rare quality of being every bit as good at the up close and personal as he was in his more widely known pulpit and platform presence... He was the kind of preacher who made every sermon not only a call to action, but was heard as a personal pastoral call.”

Like many other Coffin admirers, Evans well remembers the literary bent that separated Coffin from other preachers who may have said the same things but with not nearly as much style. In particular, Evans recalls some “well-crafted turns of phrase” such as “a world not just for some of us, but truly just for all of us," or "God loves us not becausewe have worth, rather we have worth because God loves us already - AND so readily," or "I have always thought the term 'controversial Christian' a redundancy," Joseph C. Hough Jr., president of Union Theological Seminary in New York, called Coffin “one of God's chosen prophets” in March.

“He is a great patriot who loves his country too much to leave it alone,” said Hough, a 1959 graduate of Yale Divinity School. “ His early and strong leadership in the struggle against segregation and discrimination on the basis of race; his pivotal role in organizing opposition against the war in Vietnam; and his continuing personal investment and national leadership in the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons from an increasingly dangerous world, place him among the most important Christian leaders in American history.

The Rev. Bliss Browne, who earned an undergraduate degree from Yale in 1971 and served as a deacon under Coffin in Battell Chapel, said Coffin had taught her about a “love of justice, love of life” and about “living passionately from the inside out.”

Coffin's legacy of “prophetic imagination,” Browne said, concerns both grief and hope: “We must be willing to name what diminishes and destroys life and willing to name in bold terms the invitation into greater life, to renounce cynicism and choose hope over despair. And we can live in joy, in a way that shows that hope is appropriate and attractive.”

Out of the Yale celebration last year emerged two developments that are likely to extend the Coffin legacy: establishment of the National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger, and creation of the William Sloane Coffin Jr. Scholarship fund at Yale Divinity School.
The stated purpose of the Partnership is “to work toward the permanent elimination of nuclear weapons by empowering religious communities to take action on a local level.”

“Prophetic leadership,” “passion for justice” and “critical theological interpretations of the contemporary social and political scene,” reflecting the Coffin style, are characteristics that will be sought in Yale Divinity School students who are named Coffin Scholars. The fund has an endowment goal of $1 million—about $500,000 has been raised to date—and was initiated by former students who were deeply influenced by Coffin's ministry.

Plans are under way for a memorial service in Coffin's honor to be held in June during reunion week. As plans are finalized, updates will be posted on the Yale Divinity School web site.
Coffin and his life's work will no doubt be remembered, and have an impact, for many years to come. Over the course of the last half-century his name has become a yardstick of sorts in the broader world of faith and life. Ironically, perhaps providentially, in an issue that hit the newsstands just this week, The Nation magazine hailed Coffin's continuing engagement: “When asked who is the contemporary equivalent of Coffin...several mainline Christians signed and said, ‘Well, I guess—Coffin.”

Social-justice firebrand Coffin is anticipating a gentle, quiet death
[4-7-04]by Alexa Smith, Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE - April 7, 2004 - Having spent his life raging against bigotry, nuclear arms and economic excess, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin says he intends to die gently, without fuss, without fury.

"We should cooperate gracefully with the inevitable," he says pragmatically, acknowledging with some amusement that, while he's had a fiery public life, he is a man who picks his battles. "If you don't come to grips with death early on, but know you'll die, it will make you insecure. And that's the worst thing that humans can do, try to secure themselves against insecurity. With money. Or power. Pretending that life will go on forever. And it makes others pay a gruesome price.
"You see, you can't get rich without making someone else poor. You can't get power without disempowering somebody else. All of these things are forms of pride ... and are essentially corrupt."

At 79, Coffin's words still flow flawlessly. He is ever the preacher.

Coffin, who has been the voice of northern liberal religious dissent for a quarter-century, is a magnet for controversy. Ironically, he was an Army and CIA veteran in 1969 when he became a defendant in the "Boston 5" draft-resistance trial. He achieved fame while serving as chaplain at his alma mater, Yale University, as a lightning rod for opposition to the Vietnam War. A man born to privilege, he was jailed many times as a civil rights Freedom Rider, the first time in 1961. He was senior minister of Riverside Church in Manhattan for more than 10 years, and is president emeritus of SANE/FREEZE: Campaign for Global Security.

Since he suffered a stroke, Coffin's speech is slightly slurred; he sometimes must repeat a word or two. His voice doesn't boom like it used to, but he can still rant against what he finds intolerable - lately the duo of Bush and Cheney, men he believes are muddied by deception and are putting U.S. soldiers' lives at risk in a war with Iraq that shouldn't even be.

This morning, however, at his daughter's home in Oakland, CA, he is talking about death, and not just philosophically. He may not see another Easter this side of eternity. But he acknowledges death casually, like a man awaiting the first snowflake of the winter, not knowing its day or time.

He complains that he's short of breath before he even gets out of bed, and says his tennis-player legs are "pretty well gone." He can walk around the house, but needs a wheelchair to leave it, and usually needs his wife, Randy, the woman who helped him learn to speak again after his stroke, to push it. And there are grandkids always happy to push Poppy around. Without slapping a technical diagnosis on his condition, Coffin says that his heart is "thickening," which means that less and less blood gets pumped through it.

"I can do some things. I write a bit. ... I have not lost my marbles," he says, describing his good fortune to have a new book published by Westminster/John Knox Press, Credo, a compilation of quotes that is rapidly climbing the best-seller lists and on which he, happily, did little of the work. [Click here for Gene TeSelle's review of Credo, and a link to order the book.]

His old friend Bill Moyers recently interviewed him on NOW, about his life, about his impending death. There's a documentary, "Coffin's Lover's Quarrel with America." Warren Goldstein has just published a biography, William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience, published, appropriately, by Yale University Press. [Click here for a note about Goldstein's book.]
"I've got nothing to complain about," he says.

While Credo is rife with rage about a lack of justice in the world, the callousness of the rich, and Christians' reluctance to confront both, it is evident from its opening, Faith, Hope and Love, through the final chapter, The End of Life, that God is the central character in this volume - and Coffin's strength and comfort.

At its close, he contradicts the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, saying: "The only way to have a good death is to lead a good life. Lead a good one, full of curiosity, generosity, and compassion, and there's no need at the close of the day to rage against the dying of the light. We can go gentle into that good night."

There is no rage here, even though that may seem ironic to some.

Early on, Coffin got his mind around the core of a faith that has irony at its heart: Where love is the mightiest power, where unmerited good is as much a marvel as evil, and where a life put in God's good hands can instill hope and life even in the face of death.

It was out of such conviction that Coffin to delivered a now famous eulogy for his son, Alex, absolving God of any blame in his death in a car accident and rejecting the platitude that human suffering is part of God's will. "Nothing infuriates me as much as the incapacity of seemingly intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn't go around this world with his fingers on triggers, his fists around knives, his hands on steering wheels," he says. "... The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is, 'It is the will of God.' Never do we know enough to say that. My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God's heart was the first of all our hearts to break."

So the man whose social conscience is easily offended by human callousness - especially in people in power - doesn't feel one ounce of anger toward God. "I just don't," he says flatly. "If I am lucky enough to see God one day, I'll have a few questions. But God will have many more to ask me, if he's keeping tabs."

He quotes Paul as his expert, reciting the verse, "Whether we live or die, we are the Lords's."
"Paul says: From God, to God, in God again," he says, adding: "People ask me whether I think I'll see my son again. ... But I do not ... know. I need to know I'll be in God's hands. To demand anything more belittles your faith."

Unmerited cruelty baffles Coffin, but he's more fascinated by the opposite question: How to explain unmerited good?

"You have to be very tough-minded about God," he says. "If love is the name of the game, then freedom is the only pre-condition. Love is self-restricting when it comes to power. The only way God can stop the barbarous things that happen on earth is to restrict our freedom." Something God won't do.

"We have to accept responsibility that the name of the game is love."

That's what teased him into faith in the first place - over time. "I've never had anything as dramatic as the Damascus Road," he says. "I've had mini-conversions, moments when I could see things more clearly."

As a not-particularly-religious college student, Coffin found himself listening to an Episcopal priest intone the liturgy for two friends who'd been killed in a car accident. While the clergyman's voice sounded nasal and smug (Coffin thought about tripping the man as he walked down the aisle), the words threw him slightly off-balance: "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." It was the "giveth" part that put his mind into motion, a corrective to his youthful pride. "I just thought, 'You know, Coffin, you're only a guest here. ... A guest, at best.'"

He realized, as he sang in the Yale choir, "All of our hearts are open, all of our desires known," that unless the heart is full of love, the mind can't think straight.

And it was on a whim that he signed up to go to Union Theological Seminary one Monday for a "call to ministry" visit, during which he was bowled over by the visions of justice held out by Reinhold Neibuhr and others. "It was all gradual," he says now.

His theology and his politics combined to push him to the forefront of the social movements that defined his times.

Death may be inevitable, he says, but atrocities and injustices are not.
Mention the war in Iraq, and he says that he wishes the military brass had quit in protest. "Bush, Cheney, Pearl ... (they're) intellectually in a bunker. They're lacking in imagination, and have misled the country, including the military. I feel sympathy for those who are in Iraq."
Coffin says the churches have grown too conservative, like the whole country, forgetting that the devil tempted Jesus with wealth and power. He thinks his thesis in a book published in the 1980s by Westminster/John Knox, A Passion for the Possible, still holds up - that the world the churches ought to be working to create is one without violent conflict, without pollution, and without "a yawning chasm" between rich and poor.

Some churches are "irrelevant(ly) righteous," he says, and others are "more concerned with free love than free hate." He says the answer to bad religion isn't no religion - it's good religion. He laments that much about church life is "management and therapy. There is so little prophetic fire."

"Anger has a very important spiritual benefit," Coffin says. "If you don't have anger, you end up tolerating the intolerable - and that's intolerable. I still have plenty of anger that is ready to be used at a moment's notice."
He pauses, then adds: "When you get older, you find that you don't miss as much as you thought you would. I was a damn good tennis player. Now, I can hardly walk ... I don't grieve that. I was a serious pianist. But I no longer have the energy to keep up my digital dexterity. So, I listen to music; I don't play it. If you adapt in this way, it is a positive thing. You're not in control anymore, less and less. And that's very nice. ...

"As I think I have said other places, it's a very good thing we don't live forever. ... If life were endless, we'd be bored to death. ... The fact that we're going to die gives meaning to life, gives meaning to our days. And that is a good thing."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Reflections Upon Holy Week - Life Made Sacred

So I'm sitting with my Andrew watching TV last night (it's a "24" thing), and during a commercial he asks, "Dad, why do we have to go to church so much this week?"

And then, ticking off the nights we'll be at church for "extra" services and the like, he lamented how our worship schedule will put a crimp in his social life this weekend, especially considering that he doesn't go to school on Friday.

"Do you know why you're not going to school on Friday?" I asked.

With an eye roll and a Napoleon Dynamitesque exhale, which, I must say, I'm getting really tired of (even as my parents smile in a sweet justice sorta way), he says, "Yes, Dad, Jesus died on Good Friday.

But why do we call it Good Friday? Jesus being killed isn't a 'good' thing."“ You know,"

I said, "if we don't get what we do this week right, not much else of the 'Christian' thing matters."

That all left me to thinking--what are we to do with a story we think we know?

A week like Holy Week is full of homiletical challenges.

And that's surprising given that I'm at no loss for good material.

And that's the problem - we think we know this story.

And, we've assigned characterizations of who did what and when, and worst of all, we adopt a presumptive "why" for everyone's actions, and we reach conclusions based on Passion plays of varying kinds be they on stage or on film.

When Mel Gibson's movie came out a few years ago, as some of you who would have read my newsletter articles back then would know, I went on a tear. My biggest problem with Gibson's version, and there are too many to count, was, at first blush a visceral response from which theological considerations would spring forth.

Why, for the love of God, do we have to have Jesus literally ripped apart? Why must he suffer so horribly? Moreover, why must we have to see it? Wasn't that Gibson's point? Not only must Jesus suffer for the sins of the world, but I'm going to show you in the most graphic detail what that looks like.

Movie reviewer Roger Ebert called the movie the most violent film he'd ever seen and thought it merited an X rating due to the extremity of the violence.

The responses to the film were in one of two camps. Either you found the whole exercise anti-Semitic, a poor reading of the text and needlessly violent (which is were I landed), or, you were moved beyond all imagination at the pain Jesus would endure to "prove" he loves us.

As John Dominic Crossan so aptly put it, if you approach this whole thing from a standpoint that Jesus is up there on that cross instead of you, then darn right, you are profoundly thankful that he went through that so you don't have to.

This Lent, I've spent most of my study time with Crossan and Marcus Borg's collaboration, "The Last Week, A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’ Final Week in Jerusalem." I've found this text an extraordinary resource.

As a minister, I cannot count how many times I encounter questions around substitutionary atonement. We find that we spout it's presumed truth with such certainty that we don't really ever stop to question whether or not this "doctrine" captures the character of God.

I've come to the conclusion, and now have better language for it that ever I have before, that, in no uncertain terms it does not. But in the absence of explanation, we take it at face value that it's one of the Christian quirks we have to put up with.

From time immemorial, humanity has sought to be in relationship with the Divine. The Hebrew Scriptures indicate that God has sought that relationship, too. The most fundamental way for being in relationship, humans with each other, has been the gift and the meal.

Think about that for a moment. Gift-giving and meal sharing. Is there anything more essential about human interaction than that?

How then, Borg and Crossan ask, did humanity come to understand ways to be in relationship with God?

Does the gift and the meal apply here, too?


That's where animal sacrifice came into play.

In the time of Jesus, animal sacrifice was the norm. Not a matter of whether we like it or not. It was what it was.

And we need not judge that.

The hope was to reach a deeper relationship with the Divine.

Is that not what we all seek?

In that moment, someone would offer an animal of great value to them to the Divine. It was offered as a gift, and in the burning of that offering, it was shared as a meal. The gift was offered by a human seeking to be in relationship with God, and the meal was God's gift to humanity to give expression to the strength of that relationship.

Borg and Crossan translate sacrifice from its etymological beginnings - sacrum facere "to make sacred." Two points that are crucial to our understanding. "Sacrifice" in this context, does not mean suffering or substitution, and it never did.

As sacrifice, it would have never been considered that the animal being brought must suffer in it's death. Rather, "it was done swiftly and efficiently--ancient priests were also excellent butchers."

Neither was this sacrifice thought of as substitution.

The one giving the sacrifice never thought of the animal being brought as dying in their place. Or, that in their sins God expected somebody's blood to be shed and the animal would do.

It just never was a part of the norm of the people in the time of Jesus. Substitution and suffering came later, much later as a part of belief system that devalued the role of humanity in the Divine-Human relationship.

We pray that Jesus is the Paschal Lamb, the One who takes away the sins of the world.

That does not mean substitution, but more aptly put, it is the expression of Jesus as those who would execute him raised him on the cross, "Father forgive the, they know not what they do."

Does God suffer? Did Jesus? Of course. And God still does when our inhumanity to each other overshadows the Divine that dwells in us all. But this suffering for us in our injustice we do one another bespeaks God's character, and is not a prerequisite for making even the score brought by our sins.

Jesus’ life, as sacrifice, is a life made sacred not only by what he taught, but by what he did, what he does, and the Kingdom of God he announces. His life is made sacred by and through his giving, for us, and his invitation, if not expectation that we, who are his companions, go the way of the Kingdom.

The sacrifice Jesus makes is indeed sacred and saves us from the domination of the principalities and powers of this world into a community of grace. It is gift, and it is expressed in a meal - the Eucharist.

So, too, may our lives be made sacred in the ways we give of ourselves for others.

Sacrum facere - to make sacred - is that not our prayer always?

If we don't get this week right, think of how much we miss in our relationship with God through Christ. Think about how much "church-stuff" gets in the way of something so basic.

Use us God, to make our lives sacred through our living and giving - in the name of the One whose life made sacred makes us citizens into the Kingdom of God, even Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, April 07, 2006

What Do You Do When Yoda Needs Help? With Him, You Stand

For the past month or so, I've been in an email dialogue with a friend,

a mentor,

one who has been as a brother,

one who was pastor to me when my own brother died.

I've known Ed since I was 9 years old. He's stayed in my home many times growing up. His capacity to tell stories, to sing and play his guitar - and the boldness with which the truth of his message is delivered (while wrapped in grace) is among the most effective witnesses to Kingdom of God that I've known.

Plus, there's always been something cool about a guy who loads up his van, travels across the county and does his thing. That's my own "I wanna be a rock star" thing coming out again.

Ed truly is one of the last circuit riders.

I'm not going to tell Ed's story - I'll link to his blog where you can read it for yourself (
click here).

This episode in Ed's long ministry got to him - far more than I thought it would. But you know how it is when you see the humanity of those you've held in high regard for most of your life. There is no bubble burst for me. Rather, it makes firm the resonance of spirit I have long felt for him that even with our humanity, in spite of it, or maybe even because of it, God both needs and expects us to be faithful.

For my Saint John's readers, you'll see that we are mentioned.

What do you make of that?

For me, I'm not sure I could be more convinced that ours is a needed voice in the church now more than ever.

I'm damned proud of Ed,

and I stand with him,

and I pray for those who won't.

I pray for all (especially those of my faith tradition of origin)whose hardened and closed hearts betray the empty rhetoric of their denomination's grotesquely expensive PR campaign, that one day, those hearts may truly be open.

Oh, and be looking for Ed's return to Peabody & Bellevue before too long.

Monday, April 03, 2006

This and That

A regular reader noticed my lack of frequency of posts in the past month or so. And rightly so. It's not that I have nothing to say, but the changes in life have not provided me the adequate time necessary to do my usual quest for profundity.

Issues in my wife's family business have necessitated her return to fulltime work. Her travel schedule, and mine, have meant that we've actually slept in the same bed about a week out of the past 5.

I have profound respect and awe for single parents who raise their children. Doing it with two is challenging enough, with one - Fugetaboutit!

During these weeks, however, there's been plenty going on to make comment. So, in lightning round fashion - here we go.

Immigration -
I'm not sure what the "right" thing here is on this one - but I'm pretty sure deporting 15 million people ain't it. And I would remind the church - historically, "sanctuary" is not the place people of faith worship, it is the safe place the endangered go to know God's care through God's people. This is especially so for those whose skin looks a bit different, or whose native language isn't mine, or, who, by their orientation have been exiled (even by some elements of the church). So for all those handwaving, teary-eyed Christians who love to praise their Jesus and sing "Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I'll be a living, sanctuary, for you -" don't forget that there may well come a time when God's gonna need you to be one.

I had the rare opportunity to be present with Cameron and Amy as they prepared to go into surgery. They are only a few months wed, and Cameron was there to donate his kidney to his wife. He joked that hereon he should receive a pass if he were to forget an anniversary or a birthday. Truth is, they have a new anniversary neither of them will never forget, and Cameron has shown us what "no greater love" looks like, and the call to true stewardship to which all of us are called.

Katie Couric -
Please go to CBS. You drive me nuts on "The Today Show." You talk more than the people you are interviewing. This isn't about how pleasant or perky you are. I'm sure you're a fine person, and I know wondering whether or not you should leave a $65 Million job for a few $million less is a toughy for you. I'd say I'll be praying for you on this one, but God should smite me down if I did.

The Backyardigans Must Die
Not really. But it's Jack's new favorite show, and I can't get the theme song out of my head.

Get ready, I'm think I'm back - you'll want me to stop posting before long!