Rob Bell, Love Wins, and the End

Lovewins

If you are reading this, we are (mostly) all still here and the end is not yet.  May 21, 2011 has come and gone and here we are.  So, perhaps it’s time to ask what “the end” is all about.Obviously, for some it’s about getting the date right.  Deciding whose left behind, caught by “the thief in the night”  --- a brick short of the full spiritual load --- and, of course, the wise virgin and the faithful watcher.  What so much of the contemporary conversation about the end focuses on is that all i … [Read more...]

Saving the Samaritan

GoodSamaritan

The namesake of my wife’s parish is the Good Samaritan.  So I have been more alert to that great figure in the teaching of Jesus than I might be otherwise.  Of course, the Samaritan has a proverbial and cross-cultural hold on our minds --- so he commands a bit of attention all on his own.  Along the way, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Samaritan could use some saving.What is striking to me is how little the parable is actually understood.It is not about what we should do.It’s about … [Read more...]

Ragged endings and hope-shaped lives

When I was a teenager I loved reading biographies.  (I still do in fact, but I have much less time to devote to it.)One of the things that fascinated me was the way in which people died.  It was probably a precocious neurosis, but in looking back on it, I think my preoccupation with the way people’s lives ended was also rooted in something for which we all long: for our lives to make sense, to mean something, to end logically, to finish in a way shaped by the same life-long dreams and con … [Read more...]

Wasted Words: Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy has become a dirty word.  It is treated as a synonym for “narrow,” “unthinking,” “uncharitable,” “mean-spirited,” “backward,” and “benighted.”But at root, orthodoxy is not about labeling things right for the sake of labeling them --- much less labeling other things “wrong.”It’s about accountability to something and --- even more importantly Someone beyond us.A wooden orthodoxy that needs “right belief” as a substitute for that Someone is misguided.  But a spiritual orientation tha … [Read more...]

Holy Saturday

The spiritual discipline of this day involves trust.  Suspended between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, much of life is like this day.We live with tragedy and loss, but not as people without hope.God is at work in the world.  Resurrection is on the way.  Waiting hopefully, means trusting that God is with us, though everything else may suggest otherwise. … [Read more...]

Head to toe

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around … [Read more...]

The shape of the journey

We talked with dear friends who have a close relative facing the slow, certain deterioration that characterizes ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Quickly the conversation turned to the question of what our prayers can reasonably include and the purposes of God in a moment like this.  It resonated deeply with the news I received today that one of my students died at the end of last month from a rare, aggressive cancer that claimed her life after just 5 or 6 years of active ministry.If the purpose of … [Read more...]

Missed Opportunities: Spiritual Disciplines

The phrases “spiritual discipline” and “spiritual practice” are widely misunderstood.  For far too many of us, what we hear is “work” or “effort” and that immediately subverts our ability to connect with their purpose.  Even sports metaphors (which the Apostle Paul used) can skew our understanding of prayer, fasting, contemplation, and worship.These are not adventures in spiritual bodybuilding and the spiritual life is not the exercise of an unseen muscle.  Spiritual disciplines are about openi … [Read more...]

Missed Opportunities: Confession and Repentance

Some of life’s missed opportunities can be traced to the meaning of words.  Not the dictionary definitions --- the definitions we give to the words out of our experiences.Confession and repentance are two such words.  For many they are the dirtiest words in the Christian vocabulary.  They refer to practices that are designed to make people feel badly about themselves, drive them back to church, fill them with guilt, and force them to need God.Those are lies out of hell.The goals of conf … [Read more...]

Your Church has an Angel

It’s time to begin thinking in new ways about church.Clergy often focus on the numbers and problems: the size of the budget, the number of people who pledge, average Sunday attendance, and a long list of other numbers.  Beyond that, all too often the conversation among clergy turns to questions about the problems to be solved and the hurdles to be cleared.Lay people, on the other hand, often focus on the question, “What does this church have to offer?”  “How is the preaching, the music, and t … [Read more...]


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