The altar between heaven and earth

altarwnc

In looking back over more than thirty years of conversations about the Eucharist most of what my colleagues and I have discussed has revolved around three things: the relationship between the church's practice and Judaism; the question of what happens to the bread and wine, if and when a priest blesses them; and the practice of the ritual itself.  All three are important.  But in retrospect, none of the three topics touches on the deeper assumptions behind the Eucharist.  Like the rituals in Je … [Read more...]

Holy Imagination

holyimagination

What most of us want is a God who will solve our problems. It is no surprise that petitions and intercessions top the prayer charts in most American churches.  Invite people to spend some time in silence opening themselves up to the will of God and folks will fidget.  Give them a chance to role out their list and there’s no stopping them.The same problem-solving God shapes the way in which most of us read the Bible.  There is a reason that the Gideons have long offered a Bible with a prob … [Read more...]

Once-Now-and-Forever

oncenowforever

One of the prevailing problems for all of us spiritually is that our experiences define and delimit our understanding of the spiritual life.  We close ourselves off to the language and experiences of the journey based on a single experience --- be it positive or negative --- and that becomes the once-now-and-forever way in which we see some dimension of the journey.A supportive church defines the place of Christian communityAn experience of the church as harsh and judging yields a very … [Read more...]

Take your gift and say thanks

Gratitude

For many across the United States the winter of 2011 has been filled with surprises.  Falling temperatures, snow, and ice have pummeled nearly every part of the country.  Here in Dallas the weather plunged from highs in the seventies to lows in the teens with ice and then snow.We complained about the uncharacteristically warm temperatures.  Then after days on end of ice and snow, others groused, “It’s beautiful, but enough.”When I was tempted to join the chorus, I thought, “Take your gift and … [Read more...]

Sallyland Fundamentalists

fundamentalism

During the time that I spent in Jerusalem, St. Catherine’s Monastery was a regular destination for the classes that I taught.  We took a chartered bus to Sharm el Shekh, crossed through the border control, and on the other side met Bedouin who drove us across the trackless expanse to the southern tip of the Sinai Desert.  There we visited the monastery; climbed Mount Sinai at three in the morning; and celebrated Eucharist on the way back down.  The return trip to Jerusalem, like the one on our wa … [Read more...]

Free range Christian

Free Range

Not long ago one of my students described herself as a “free range Christian,” alluding to the diverse and varied character of her denominational past.  The phrase captures in a fresh way a reality that has been true of the American spiritual landscape for quite some time.Robert Bellah described it in Habits of the Heart in 1985.  Robert Wuthnow in a book called After Heaven, written in 1998. And you see it on display all around us: Church’s that downplay their denominational connections or de … [Read more...]

No More Random Acts of Kindness

Caritas

Traffic jams force you to pay attention to the back of the car just ahead of you and after years of attending to the philosophical and political commitments of other drivers, I’ve concluded that not all bumper sticker wisdom finally wears well.One of the widespread bits of wisdom that doesn’t wear well from a Christian point of view is the one that urges the reader to practice random acts of kindness.  Of course, being kind is not a bad thing.  And the great strength of the invitation is the fr … [Read more...]

Preaching the Gospel

Reynolds Price Portrait

Novelist, English professor, and committed Christian, Reynolds Price, died this week.  He was 77, had battled spinal cancer, and spent much of his life in a wheelchair.  When he went to Duke University 53 years ago he was offered a three year, non-renewable contract.  But the success of his first novel changed all of that.In the course of his career he was described as “an heir to Faulkner” by the New York Times, a comparison which Price skewered nicely, writing:"The search for influences in … [Read more...]


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