About Ragan Sutterfield

Ragan Sutterfield is a writer and Episcopal seminarian sojourning from his native Arkansas in Alexandria, Virginia. He is the author of This is My Body: From Obesity to Ironman, My Journey Into the True Meaning of Flesh, Spirit, and Deeper Faith (Convergent/Random House 2015).

Declaring Our Dependence: The Gospel of Neediness In a Society of Self-Sufficency

A reflection on the lectionary readings for Sunday, July 5thIn the spring and fall and sometimes the summer my wife and I love to go backpacking.  We enjoy the quiet of long miles on the trail, the beauty of God’s creation, and the simplicity of living from a backpack.  But if we admit it, another pleasure of backpacking is getting outfitted for the trip.  Before we head to the woods we lay out our equipment, an array of compact and lightweight items to provide a level of comfort for the jour … [Read more...]

The Kingdom of God is Like…Wait for It…

This is the text of a sermon preached at the Church of the Epiphany in Washington D.C. on June 14, 2015.The readings were for Proper 6, Year B.When you hear the name Jesus what words comes to mind?Wise.  Loving.  Caring.  Peaceful. Savior. God…One word we could wait for all day and never hear is “funny.”  We tend to think of Jesus as a kind of other worldly mystic, well beyond a joke and a sense of humor, but throughout the gospels Jesus is a satirist as good as John Stewart or St … [Read more...]

Following Rocky Balboa into the Wilderness of Lent

Among the many roots of the season of Lent is the remembrance that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. As we enter into our own 40 days of discipline, it would be good to ask what, exactly, Jesus was going out to the desert to do? The answers in the history of interpretation are varied. To fast, to pray, to reflect—those were certainly among Jesus’s activities, but to what purpose? The best answers and analogies may come not from Bible commentaries, but from mo … [Read more...]

Making Hell or Welcoming Heaven: Keystone XL and Our Disordered Desires

If you want to see hell on earth do an image search for “Alberta Tar Sands.”  You’ll see Boreal forests in the great Canadian wilds savaged into some kind of alien landscape beyond any recognition of a creation God called “very good.”  Deep craters spiral down to black rock, pools of water filled with the heavy metals of mine waste.  Nothing lives here—it is a landscape dominated by machines, bulldozer tracks and massive mining vehicles with monster truck tires.  The people working the machines a … [Read more...]

How was your weekend? Busy.

My daughter and I stood in line, our reflections curved in the glass of the pastry case. It was Monday, back to work day for most, and the coffee shop was full. Retirees sat at big tables swapping stories and headphone wearing remote workers huddled in the corners, faces reflecting the blue hue of laptop screens. The man ahead of us came up to the cashier. They knew each other (this is the kind of place where half the people in the room know each other).“How was your weekend?” “Really busy. … [Read more...]

A Lament for Martha: Passenger Pigeons and Psalm 78

We had to go to the basement to see her—off the escalator and to the left, the docent had told us.  There was none of the dark, evocative lighting of the dinosaurs, the fun electric interactivity of the insect displays, the hushed wonder of the gems.  Here were the recently extinct birds of North America—two small display cases under fluorescent lights, tucked in the extra space between two gifts shops and a museum café at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.It was a well put together d … [Read more...]

Cycling as an Eschatological Activity

I’ve been cycling a lot lately, the spandex, sunglasses and shaved-legs kind, yes, but also the get around town kind. To the coffee shop, to the store, to school—if I’m going someplace by myself I do my best to get there by bike.One particular stretch I ride regularly has newly striped bike lanes—lanes that didn’t come without protest from a handful of residents on the busy street. Essentially, the question came down to whether streets are for cars and for bikes or just for cars.  The residen … [Read more...]

Denying Christ’s Body: The Dangers of Ecclesial Gnosticism

The oldest heresies in Christianity have been those that have denied the body—Christ’s body, our bodies.  Gnosticism is a name that applies to a good many of them, Docetism another.  The idea is that God is too great to have taken on a human body and that the material realities of our body are too lowly to be welcomed into the eternal kingdom of God.  The Docetists said that Christ appeared to be human but that he didn’t have real flesh and bones—he was human image without human substance.  The G … [Read more...]