December 15, 2018

Advent is a season of waiting, and I have been awaiting the conclusion of the COP24 meetings in Poland as I haven’t waited for anything since the 2015 Paris climate meetings. Then, while waiting, I rewrote the lyrics of an old song. Today, with the meetings dragging on and my posting a day later than usual, a couple metaphors describe the various participants for me. COP24 is the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on… Read more

December 12, 2018

Recently the category of the impossible has become a theme for some theologians. If there’s going to be anything truly new in this world, it has to be something impossible becoming possible. If grace is effective in this world, it’s by making an impossible thing possible. Sometimes I’m convinced that only the impossible becoming possible will get me through a day or this country through a political season. That’s why I need Matthew and Luke’s infancy stories. These stories are… Read more

December 10, 2018

Christmas carols tell the story of Jesus that I first loved. Singing about manger, angels, “peace on earth,” shepherds and magi made the meaning of Jesus come alive. I can understand if Christians feel they lose something when a new story that scholars tell takes many of the incidents and characters in the traditional stories of the baby Jesus out of history and places them into another category that is more like fiction. Still, it can hardly be wrong to… Read more

December 7, 2018

Since I believe the humanity of Jesus is our best path toward understanding divinity, I am interested when I see atheists and agnostics who are sympathetic to Jesus. Kurt Vonnegut is one of these. The radical 1960’s loved him for his quirky wit and questioning of accepted wisdom. But the label of countercultural hero didn’t fit very will according to this article by Dan Wakefield. Vonnegut was in love with Jesus. (Quotations below are from the Wakefield article.) Vonnegut’s religious… Read more

December 5, 2018

The infancy stories that we find in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke pose two problems. One is for the historian, who wants to distinguish the historical Jesus from the evangelists’ theological interpretations. The more important problem is for the theologian who wants from Jesus a way into some understanding of God and world. The stories tell of a very human and very divine Jesus. It may just be that the humanity of Jesus, as historians can discern it, is… Read more

December 3, 2018

Christianity finds ultimate meaning in a snippet of history with Jesus of Nazareth at its center. Knowing Jesus in his historical existence is important to Christians because that’s our key to knowing God. The “quest of the historical Jesus,” as Albert Schweitzer named it, got off to a shaky start, however. Schweitzer concluded that all the “biographies” of Jesus up to his time told more about their authors than about the real Jesus. Their “Jesus” looked like an enlightened 19th… Read more

November 30, 2018

I was nearing the end of a presentation on the Mass to a Confirmation class. I got to the period of silence after Communion. How to explain the purpose of this moment after having emphasized repeatedly that Liturgy is the work of the people? It’s like the case of a difficult job that’s finally done. Tool belts come off. Before you open up the cooler, or maybe between gulps of liquid refreshment, you stand and stare at the completed project…. Read more

November 28, 2018

My proposal in this series on the Jesus of history and the character of God is something N.T. Wright put eloquently, namely, not that we understand what the word “god” means and manage somehow to fit Jesus into that.  Instead, I suggest that we think historically about a young Jew, possessed of a desperately risky, indeed apparently crazy, vocation, riding into Jerusalem in tears, denouncing the Temple, and dying on a Roman cross—and that we somehow allow our meaning for the… Read more

November 26, 2018

On an intellectual level, God is marvelously hard to know. On the same level New Testament scholars have had a hard time getting to know and agree on facts about the historical Jesus. Even so, of the two, God and Jesus, getting to know Jesus is much easier. Unfortunately, when Christians say “Jesus is God,” it seems to say, “We know God first, and Jesus is that.” Love and the sufferings and joys of one’s own life are keys to… Read more

November 23, 2018

As the weeks of Advent get me looking toward Christmas, I think about how my family used this time to celebrate the story of Jesus. That story came alive with the help of an Advent Calendar and a Christmas crèche, with cow, sheep and shepherds, angels, magi, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus, and a star on top of the Christmas tree. I remember how Marleen, I, and the children each night would open a door of the Advent Calendar. One… Read more

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