Ash Wednesday: repentance and solidarity with the crucified

"Ash Wednesday Lent Season 2015," John Ragal, Flickr C.C.

Ashes to Go. It's the latest trend in the mainline Protestant church for celebrating Ash Wednesday. Pastors get up early in the morning to stand in front of their churches with a black thumb while their parishioners drive through and get their foreheads stamped with a smudgy cross on the way to work. I'm doing it this Ash Wednesday on Tulane's campus under the Stern breezeway where I give out donuts and hot tea every Wednesday morning.Some of my fellow pastors like to gnash their teeth about … [Read more...]

A Lenten Fast of #EmbodiedSolidarity and #TrueReconciliation


[My friend Alicia Crosby asked me to share her call to action for a Fast of #EmbodiedSolidarity and #TrueReconciliation this Lent in response to the Larycia Hawkins situation. Alicia is a co-founder of the Center for Inclusivity in Chicago, IL, whose vision is to be "a place of peace at the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality." Please get connected with the Center for Inclusivity and support their important work of reconciliation and justice.]I, like many of you, have been following … [Read more...]

Mardi Gras, Psalm 150, and the search for an authentic hallelujah

"Mardi Gras Bourbon Street 2015" by Nick Solari, Wikimedia Commons C.C.

Hallelujah. I've been suspicious of that word my whole life. It means "Praise the Lord!" in Hebrew. Every time we say it, we are making a command to ourselves and everyone in earshot. It seems irredeemably stilted and churchy, a word that we say in order to speak correctly about God and show everyone else how appropriately thankful we are. There's definitely a version of hallelujah that is the pious posturing of people who spend most of their lives scowling at the sins of others. But my pastor … [Read more...]

Christian salvation and the Beatitudes #4: The pure in heart

"Sermon-On-The-Mount-Carl-Heinrich-Bloch-19th_C," ideacreamanuelaPps, Flickr C.C.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. This beatitude is everything. It captures the goal of contemplative Christian spirituality. It tells us the one thing that truly matters in life and what needs to happen for us to experience it. Even the most rationalistic, anti-mystical, fundamentalist Christians recognize that the words "heaven" and "hell" signify whether or not we experience communion with God. To "see" God is everything. Whenever you've have a glimpse or a taste, you … [Read more...]

Water To Wine: the salvation of a megachurch pastor

Brian Zahnd

For the past several years, Brian Zahnd has been like an abbott to me. Every week, I listen to his sermon podcasts as part of my spiritual rhythm of life. Brian's book Beauty Will Save the World completely changed my life. Brian has been on a journey from what he calls the "easy cheesy cotton-candy Christianity" he originally used to build his evangelical megachurch to a much richer, contemplative, sacramental Christian faith. Brian's new book Water To Wine is a story of salvation from toxic … [Read more...]

The wind is not always God

"Businessman chasing newspaper," Getty Images

Every Wednesday morning, I give away donut holes and, more recently, cups of yerba mate in a breezeway at Tulane University that forms a natural wind tunnel. I usually a hang a banner on the front of the table that advertises our NOLA Wesley Methodist campus ministry with a big rainbow flag painted on it. But this winter, the wind has been too rough for the banner. Today, the wind attacked me ferociously. It threw my signup clipboards, my ministry signs, and even my box of donut holes on the … [Read more...]

Christian salvation and the Beatitudes # 3: The Meek

"Sermon-On-The-Mount-Carl-Heinrich-Bloch-19th_C," ideacreamanuelaPps, Flickr C.C.

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." Is there any verse in the Bible that more plainly contradicts the ethos of our age than this verse? Blessed are the opportunists, the platform-builders, the meme-crafters, the virally-tweeted shade-throwers... but the meek? How are the meek supposed to inherit the earth? There's nothing to monetize about meekness! The meek don't get invited to speak at all the important conferences. The meek don't get profiled in the top forty people under … [Read more...]

Why I’m not really invested in what happens in Iowa today

"Iowa City Caucus 2008," Citizensharp, Wikimedia Commons C.C.

I remember when I thought Barack Obama was going to save our country. Back in 2008, I was running around Duke Divinity School trying to register everyone to vote. I remember being confronted by a hipster snob who said that voting was stupid and we should focus on organizing in our local communities. I guess I'm that hipster snob now. Mostly I'm just weary of messiahs. I'll probably vote for Bernie Sanders whenever Louisiana gets its turn to weigh in, but I don't think he can save our … [Read more...]

Can you party and still be a Christian?

"Mardi Gras Bourbon Street 2015" by Nick Solari, Wikimedia Commons C.C.

It's Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, which can be an awkward time for a campus minister. Many of the students I know will be drinking a lot during the next week. I will be having a few drinks myself. I'm also going to go to parades with students where I will abstain from drinking. Some Christian students I know see it as necessary to their Christian discipleship to give up alcohol. I deeply respect that, but I'm not going to declare that a hard and fast rule because I've been told that other … [Read more...]

Christian salvation and the Beatitudes #2: Those who mourn

"Sermon-On-The-Mount-Carl-Heinrich-Bloch-19th_C," ideacreamanuelaPps, Flickr C.C.

I've started a series looking at Christian salvation through the lens of the Beatitudes, the blessings that open Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Previously, I covered the first beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Today we will look at the second one: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."For centuries, Biblical interpreters have debated the meaning of the Beatitudes. There are two basic ways to interpret them. One way is to see them as words of comfort … [Read more...]