Before Bethlehem

Christians have a history of getting our relationship with Jews all tangled up in self-interest. Let’s not let that happen again. Especially not at the start, before Jesus took his first steps, before Bethlehem. Read more

Part Two of the Curious Case of the “Kick Ass” Messiah

Last week, I gave Christian Piatt a hard time. Why? Because I thought he oversimplified the world of Jesus. As Christian put it, in his typically vivid way, Jesus offered salvation, but “not in the way they [the Jews] had expected. They longed for a conqueror to ride in, kick ass, and take names, but instead he arrived as the Suffering Servant” (page 47). The Jews wanted a “kick ass” messiah, but Jesus came as a suffering servant. This isn’t… Read more

The Curious Case of the “Kick Ass” Messiah

You see? There was no single Jewish expectation for the messiah at the time of Jesus. So let’s stop caricaturing Judaism. They were not paper puppets who unthinkingly hoped for a violent regime change Read more

You’re Welcome

You know what I wanted to do this afternoon as I walked out the door for the drive back to Boston? I wanted to linger. Hospitable gestures—gestures that say your hosts want you to stay—make you want to do just that. To linger, languish a little in the certainty that you don’t have to rush away. Read more

Why Protestants Should Read Jon Sweeney’s Latest Book on Saint Francis of Assisi

He moved with uncharacteristic grace and unassuming charm—but with a tenacious impulse toward inclusion and acceptance. We Protestants, liberal and conservative alike, can garner a good deal from the life of Francis about how to respect others, especially those whom we may want to vilify. Read more

Double Vision, Saint Francis Style

Two Books I came to Assisi with two books, or parts of books in hand: pages 559-594, torn out of Rick Steves’ Italy, and Jon Sweeney’s When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages. Both have served me well. Rick Steves got me around this spectacular hill town in Umbria—the right tickets to buy, cafés with wi fi, viewpoints, basilica tours. Jon Sweeney’s book led me in another direction—an unexpected… Read more

Why Hasn’t Disney Bought the Rights to Jon Sweeney’s New Book on Saint Francis of Assisi?

I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood, with signs of Saint Francis everywhere. There he stood, a child-sized cement statue with a tonsure (that’s a self-imposed bald spot) and a soap on a rope belt, surrounded by birds and bunnies. It was Disneyesque. Why Disney hasn’t made a movie, Francis, I don’t know. All the ingredients of successful cinema are at Disney’s fingertips. Read more

Jottings from Assisi on Jon Sweeney’s When Saint Francis Saved the Church

I read this book about St. Francis of Assisi all wrong. I should have read chapter five, Through Personal Poverty, in the Piazza del Vescovado, where St. Francis stripped himself naked and defiantly returned the clothes he had taken (read: stolen) from his father’s shop to distribute them to the poor. Instead, I read chapter five–on poverty–in the basilica of St. Francis, whose grandeur might have embarrassed him, according to Sweeney. I should have read chapter six, By Developing a New Spirituality, at the… Read more

Three Nuns

Tucked into the second page of the Seattle Times under the heading, Newsline, and subheading, The World, I found this brief note. Nuns killed: Pope Francis on Monday led the Catholic Church’s mourning of three elderly Italian nuns, beheaded in Burundi following two separate attacks Sunday on the convent where they were serving as missionaries. Before we talk about these women, let’s turn the page for a moment. I watched in horror over the past monthor two the saga of beheaded Americans, with… Read more

Ebola, Faith, and Friends of Ours

Yesterday, Anderson Cooper interviewed Nancy Writebol and her husband. Nancy is an American ebola survivor and a missionary, with her husband, in Africa. Her interview is moving–full of realism, compassion, and faith. This interview reminded me of another missionary couple–also with SIM–we’ve known for more than thirty years. Read more

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