December 31, 2023

Those who suffer experience a deep relief when the holidays are finally over. At least they can stop pretending jolliness, if they even had that much energy. The blues, however, are not banished by the New Year. For some, they can actually intensify as the sense of a “new start” with all its promises seems to elude them. What is a new start when you are missing that one? when you are facing a terminal diagnosis? when you are still... Read more

December 26, 2023

Ludolph now moves into the specific petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. The “address” causes him to reflect deeply on the mysteries of that introductory phrase. Whom are we addressing when we call on “Our Father in heaven”? He focuses on three components in that opening petition: 1) Father, “whose children we are by faith.” This, Ludolph insists, is not the generic Fatherhood of God that everyone can claim by virtue of creation. Rather, this is the Fatherhood that is ours... Read more

August 17, 2023

In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, my medieval friend, Ludolph of Saxony, brings to our attention the Lord’s Prayer, beginning by commending it to us as the prayer that “excels all other prayers” and that which “enshrines an immense number of mysteries.” I’m not sure that opinion is widely shared in the evangelical world today. Protestantism’s dread of written prayers—rote, droned over, mechanical, and magical recitations of ancient formulae—has led to its widespread abandonment of the Lord’s... Read more

August 1, 2023

Jesus sums up his counsel about relationships with this command: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5.48). This perfection, Ludolph explains, is “the perfection of grace,” and it enables us to “be perfect in the way we can be” (not in the way we can’t be, thankfully). It’s a perfection of charity, a perfection of courage and humility, a perfection of patience and blessing. But Jesus is wise, so so wise, and he knows that those... Read more

July 26, 2023

At this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets very irksome. Until now, we can see the value of his counsel—control your anger, be faithful to your spouse, stay honest. Okay. All good points. But now he’s telling us, apparently, to do things that will really mess with the system: don’t resist an evil person, give to anyone who asks, love your enemies. None of these bits of advice settles well in this age of rights, hostilities, and... Read more

July 11, 2023

  Of course I don’t cuss. Well, not much. So that takes care of the Sermon’s verses about oaths, right? (You potty-mouthed people might want to spend more time with them though.) Ludolph, my medieval guide to the life of Jesus (see below), writes eight chapters on the Sermon on the Mount, concluding this one (Part One, Volume 1, Chapter 34) with several pages on Jesus’ words about oaths. Seems like overkill. We want to rush on to the guy... Read more

June 27, 2023

  “Purity” is a term reserved today for the properties of vitamins or the quality of drinking water or specialty treatments at spas. It has long sense lost much moral weight with people, and “purity culture” actually now has deeply objectionable connotations and a sad track record. Ludolph, however, sees Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount about adultery and lust as words of purity spoken by the Author of purity. Self-indulgence in deed is condemned by the law,... Read more

June 20, 2023

Ludolph’s commentary* on the Sermon on the Mount moves into touchy ground when he begins to talk about Christ’s plan to fulfill the law, and his warning that his disciples, too, must demonstrate true righteousness. “Sound doctrine,” he writes, “without virtuous living is not sufficient for salvation.” I know we all say that sound doctrine is not enough, but we certainly don’t act like it. Both the “right” and the “left” say they have right doctrine (right belief systems, right... Read more

June 9, 2023

  “So it is good to take a break occasionally—from preaching as from fishing—to repair your nets,” so says Ludolph, one of my medieval guides. As we enter the summer season, I find his counsel so good. June invites me to take a break—from preaching, from teaching, from grading; from PowerPoints and syllabi and schedules. June invites me to return to Ludolph* to help me repair my nets. They got a little worn this year, even threadbare in places. “After... Read more

January 30, 2023

Simeon (Lk 2.25-35) is one of my favorite saints. I love the way he emulates life in the Spirit. Whatever Paul teaches us (Rom 8; Gal 5-6) about the Spirit, we see beautifully depicted in this amazing old man. I love that he is old, ready and willing to let go of life, weary of waiting. I love that he has been waiting in the wings of life his whole life. Whatever else he did, it all fades to this... Read more

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