April 1, 2021

  Some biblical passages attract more errant interpretations than others.  It isn’t the stories’ fault.  The ones that do are often among the most powerful and vivid of them.  John’s description of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples is one of them. There are a lot of reasons for that misunderstanding.  Feet are a big part of it.  So, is the business of washing feet – and neither of them have a part in our public rituals.  So, the… Read more

March 26, 2021

Increasingly social scientists and others are noting that politics have become the new American religion.  This is a claim that many have been making, including John McWhorter, who is associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University; Emilio Gentile, who is an Italian historian who specializes in the study of fascism; and countless other opinion writers. This judgment is not just a construct or an educated guess.  Studies conducted by the Pew Foundation over the years suggest that… Read more

March 9, 2021

And what he has written about the prospect of dying is worth reading.  You can find it here and you should read it. None of us can promise how we will navigate dying. We all do it once. There is no dry run, no practice session, and – try though we may – there is no way to visualize the experience itself.   As Keller notes, not even sitting with one another through that last challenge can prepare us for our… Read more

March 2, 2021

Some years ago when I was serving as Canon Educator at Washington National Cathedral, I invited Jack Miles to speak as part of a program devoted to what we called The Changing Face of God.  Miles had written a New York Times best seller called, God, A Biography, that – among other things – explored Old Testament images.  It was an intriguing book and I expected him to make an interesting contribution to the topic we were exploring. The Religious… Read more

February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday, like other days in the Christian calendar, is designed to encourage spiritual reflection.  But in a culture that is easily bored and longs endlessly for relevance, the nature and purpose of that day is easily lost.  So, over the years, we have developed alternative interpretations and observances that don’t require reflection. “Ashes to Go” makes it possible to receive the imposition of ashes without sitting through the prayers and long silences of the service. Last year and this… Read more

February 1, 2021

  Over the years I have written on the subject of suffering.  I didn’t set out to do that.  It has been the object of human reflection for as long as people have strung sentences together.  To say that an ocean of ink has been spilled over the subject is an understatement.  It is also impossible to say anything utterly new about it. But over the years I wrote two books on the subject[1] and a long string of articles.[2]… Read more

January 10, 2021

  True confession: Clergy love telling liturgical blooper stories.  There are a lot of motives for this practice.  Some of it involves making mental notes of what to avoid.  Some of it is just about the quirky, humorous nature of it all.  And some of it is probably all about the relief at having managed to avoid making at least some of the mistakes that are possible. My personal favorite, which I’ve told some of you about, was the mistake… Read more

December 24, 2020

  Intuitively we are all wired to look for refuge at Christmas: A bit of peace, a relief from the routine, freedom from strife, protection for the poor, shelter for the homeless, reconciliation between those at war with one another (wars both large and small), healing for the sick, comfort for those who grieve. It is a very human thing to long for those things, and there are very good reasons theologically to long for them.  The first coming of… Read more

December 14, 2020

It is easy to wander in and out of a season like Advent without ever really understanding what it is all about.  On the whole, we don’t work very hard to orient our congregations to the Christian calendar and – given the way in which popular culture has wrapped itself around some of those seasons – it is hard to ensure that those explanations are heard, even when we offer them. That’s unfortunate, to say the least, because the Christian… Read more

December 7, 2020

2 Peter 3:8-15a Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise,… Read more

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