Lectionary Commentary: “Ray Charles and John 9 — Seeing for the First Time” (for Sunday, April 3, 2011)

Jamie Foxx, after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for playing Ray Charles in the film  biopic Ray, gave an emotional and moving acceptance speech. He began, I've got so many people to thank here tonight and first I'm going to start it out with Taylor Hackford [the Director of Ray]. You took a chance, man. That love for Ray Charles was deep down in the earth somewhere and you opened it up. It's cracked open. And it's spilling. And everybody's drowning in this love. I thank you for taking … [Read more...]

God Was NOT in the Earthquake

A friend shared with me earlier today that he had seen the following sermon title announced at a nearby church for this Sunday, March 20: "Earthquake Theology." While addressing the ongoing aftermath of Japan's recent earthquake would be fully appropriate in a sermon, my friend was rightly disturbed when he looked up the scripture reading listed underneath the sermon title. Nahum 1:2-8 says: 2 A jealous and avenging God is the Lord, the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on h … [Read more...]

I Hope Rob Bell Is a Universalist

I've been following some of the controversy over Rob Bell's not-yet-even-published book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which is poised to drop on March 15. As you may be able to guess from the title, a large part of the controversy is about whether Bell is espousing some form of the theological doctrine known as "Universalism": that every person (universally!) is, in the long run, saved. In short, God's "love wins" over everything: any … [Read more...]

Lenten Reflection: "The Questioning Servant Girl"

My contribution to Patheos' Lenten Series is now live -- written from the perspective of the Servant Girl who questioned Peter. In particular, see the reflection questions at the end of the piece.Click here to read my reflection.Also be sure to check out the whole "Shouting Stones" series, which will run throughout Lent. … [Read more...]

REVIEW: Stephen Sprinkle’s "Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims"

(Stephen V. Sprinkle. Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims. Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2011. 299 pages.)Stephen Sprinkle has published a much-needed book based on his work as director of the Unfinished Lives Project. The Unfinished Lives website has long been on the frontline of documenting, honoring, and remembering hate crime victims in the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) communities. This book grows out of that work, and i … [Read more...]

Lectionary Commentary: Listening to God at the Beginning of Lent (for Sunday, March 13)

The season of Lent is a forty-day period of self-examination in preparation for Easter -- in imitation of the forty days that Jesus spent in prayer and fasting in the desert, as recorded in this week’s Gospel Lesson.  As part of our corporate Lenten discipline, you will notice that “The Sacrament of Silence” has been added to the order of worship following the sermon as a time “to reflect prayerfully in response to the spoken word.”  We have intentionally added a practice of contemplative silence … [Read more...]

REVIEW: Michael Card's Biblical Imagination

Michael Card's new book Luke: The Gospel of Amazement brought to mind memories of his music that I listened to as a teenager growing up in an evangelical church. For fans of his singing, his latest book has a supplemental CD (available separately) that is titled, Luke: A World Turned Upside Down.  This initial book and CD pairing are part of a larger Biblical Imagination Series through InterVarsity Press, which includes both concerts as well as forthcoming installments by Card on the other three … [Read more...]

Lectionary Commentary: “Practicing Transfiguration”

What can we do beyond merely admiring Jesus’ Transfiguration? Said differently, what could it mean to practice Transfiguration? I owe my title to a 2010 sermon of the same name by one of my mentors, Dr. Bruce Epperly. His angle of approach reminds me of Wendell Berry's injunction to "practice Resurrection" from one of my favorite poems "The Mad Farmer's Liberation Front" -- although I could also credit Harry Potter for an entirely different meaning of practicing transfiguration!Before pro … [Read more...]

Oscars: A Last-minute Guide to an Informed Opinion

I would normally approach an Oscar blog for Patheos from an explicitly spiritual perspective. However, with the Academy Awards less than three days away, I want to offer you something more pragmatic: a guide to catching-up on films you’ve missed before the big night. Emergency Rooms use a process known as “triage” in order to treat the most critical patients first, and I’ll use a similar process to help you be best informed about the films you will most likely enjoy in the limited time period bet … [Read more...]

REVIEW: Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

From the title alone I was intrigued to read Brant Pitre's new book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper. As a Christian minister, who is married to a Jewish woman and who is writing his dissertation on the topic of Communion, I have a vested interest in the Jewish roots of the Eucharist. While reading, I was continually struck by the dual realization that, on one hand, the book is interesting and internally consistent; but, on the other hand, I co … [Read more...]