Participating in the light of Christ

Moses first meets God in the glow of a burning bush. After spending time with the Lord later in the story, he comes down from the mountain with a face that shines so bright he needs a veil. And when he appears in the gospel narratives with Elijah at the Transfiguration, he is awash with the uncreated light of God. These images from the scriptures are, among other things, snapshots in a progression of a life lived with God, a growing, intensifying illumination.The Church celebrated Epiphany … [Read more...]

Spreading the atmosphere of heaven

How powerful are your thoughts? For better or worse, they are affecting every relationship you have.I am reading for the second time a wonderful book about the life and teachings of a Serbian monk, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, called Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives. It covers many topics, but the central theme is, as Elder Thaddeus says, that “Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture.”“If our thoughts are kind, peaceful, and quiet, turned only toward good, then we . . . influ … [Read more...]

Simplicity is not all it’s cracked up to be

I once heard a pastor talking about how Jesus’ ministry was all about simplifying things. One of the examples was that Christ took the entire Mosaic Law and summarized it in the Great Commandment.On the surface that sounds reasonable. Cramming the essential meaning of reams of passages into two sentences is quite a feat. But is loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength simple? What about loving your neighbor as yourself?People talk about the simplicity of the G … [Read more...]

A model for real social justice

A rich young ruler comes to Christ and asks what it takes to inherit eternal life. Jesus says, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor. . . .”Christ is enthroned in glory and he divides the crowds to his right and left. He welcomes those on his right, saying that they ministered to him when he was hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, sick, and imprisoned. They’re surprised. “When did we do these things?” they ask. Christ answers, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least o … [Read more...]

Celebrating the circumcision of Christ

It may sound like a curious thing to celebrate, but the circumcision of Christ is commemorated by Orthodox, Catholics, and Anglicans alike on New Year’s Day. Special scripture readings, hymns, and prayers mark the observance. There are even stained-glass windows and icons depicting Joseph and Mary handing the little Jesus to the priest for the ominous moment.The story is well known. In the second chapter of his Gospel, Luke tells us that Christ was circumcised on his eighth day in accordance … [Read more...]

Life in the community of faith

American Christianity tends to be very individualistic. “God doesn’t save people in six packs,” as I once heard it put. But then again, God saved Moses and Israel. God redeemed Peter and the Church.You get a glimpse of this in Hebrews 11, in which the apostle Paul underlines the lives and deeds of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and others. … [Read more...]

Connecting Christmas, Easter

Christ is born!Do Christians put too much emphasis on Christmas and not enough on Easter? It may sound surprising, but it turns out that several serious theologians and Christian thinkers have been saying so of late. But not so fast! You can’t pit one holiday against the other. … [Read more...]

My broken foot

I’m not much of a dancer, but when I stepped off the stairs Saturday night and rolled my left foot, I heard snap, crackle, and pop, clutched my smarting member, and started hopping on the other like a Mexican jumping bean. I knew exactly what had happened. I knew by the sound and the pain. I’d broken my foot.I knew this with as much certainty as if an apostle had said so because I’d done exactly the same thing almost a year to the day before—October 19 last year, October 16 this. Further troubl … [Read more...]

Take heart, Jesus sees

Sight features frequently in the Gospel narratives. On several occasions, Jesus heals those who cannot see. The miracles are signs that he’s the long-promised messiah. They are also signs of spiritual renewal; restored physical sight stands as an outward picture of restored spiritual sight. The once-blind are no longer clouded in spiritual darkness, and those still befogged, like the Pharisees, are the “blind leaders of the blind.”Something I never noticed, however, is the role that sight plays … [Read more...]

Put not your trust in princes (or politicians)

As we get closer to the upcoming elections and hear the many promises tumbling from the mouths of hopeful and desperate office-seekers, we should reflect on Psalm 146.“Put not your trust in princes,” says the psalmist, “in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” From the rest of the text, it’s clear that the admonition is not primarily about what we might call eternal salvation; there are many other texts that cover that. This one is mostly about temporal salvation, earthly goods and conc … [Read more...]

Orphans and the heart of God

As many readers here know, Megan and I are adopting. It’s been an interest and passion of ours for some time, and day by day we get closer. Things continue to move. Our homestudy just came in about noon yesterday—thumbs up there—and we closed the day with a very encouraging meeting with our pastor.With those joyful moments there are also the sobering reminders. Our adoption coordinator has been in Uganda for the last few days and just posted a heartrending piece on her initial impressions. The … [Read more...]

Thanks for everything

Get this scene: A monk sits on a train. A fellow passenger approaches and offers him a cigarette. Monks aren’t much known to smoke, but this monk was once a soldier and gratefully accepts the gift.Holding the slender item, the monk suggests to his benefactor that they should make the sign of the cross before they smoke. The man is torn. Isn’t it, he asks, improper to make the sign of the cross before smoking?The monk answers that if an activity doesn’t square with the sign of the cross … [Read more...]