Then there was the man we picked up from the drain, half eaten by worms and, after we had brought him to the home, he only said, “I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die as an angel, loved and cared for.” Then, after we had removed all the worms from his body, all he said, with a big smile, was: “Sister, I am going home to God”—and he died. It was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man who could speak like that without blaming anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel—this is the greatness of people who are spiritually rich even when they are materially poor.

We are not social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of some people, but we must be contemplatives in the heart of the world. For we must bring that presence of God into your family, for the family that prays together, stays together. There is so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer, with our sacrifice, are beginning at home. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do. . . I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Be that good news to your own people first. And find out about your next-door neighbors. Do you know who they are?
Bl. Mother Theresa

Thoughts on Ferguson

Now that things are (hopefully) calming down in Ferguson, with the help of appropriately attired Highway patrol officers, I think it’s time to come up with a better term for the use of military grade equipment far beyond what is necessary by local police forces. “Militarization” implies that they have been given the sort of training one would need to use these tools responsibly. Given the *spirit* of the Posse Comitatus Act (which a number of friends assure me is dead, but anyway…) which technically applies only to federal troops, but really sought to avoid the deployment of military style forces against the American populace, it seems counter productive to have people in such gear attempting to police an area. This is a concern that cuts across political lines. But we need another name… Instead of “Militarization” how about “Evidence of government subsidies for weapons manufacturers via local police agencies” or something?

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Detail of Paul from mosaic of Peter and Paul meeting in Jerusalem

The Same Lord is Lord of All

Sermon notes for Proper 14 A, 2014
Scripture: Romans 10:5-15

Last week we considered Romans 9:1-5, where Paul opens his consideration of the fact that the bulk of the Jewish people did not accept Jesus as Messiah. In part, I took the occasion to unpack some of the themes introduced in that section, that flow throughout chapters 9-11 of the letter to the Romans. If I were to summarize this whole section briefly, I would do so by quoting Robert Jenson’s statement that  “God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead having before raised Israel from Egypt,” and I would add that, having raised Jesus from the dead, God will not now allow Israel to perish, for Jesus is the seal of the promises and covenant, and not their abrogation.1

The question then, is how the good news of Christ is to be proclaimed to those who have nor heard, or who have heard previously and rejected it. This is a concern that committed Christians must deal with in regard to all those who are not believers in Jesus Christ, but with whom we would like to share the gospel. Strangely enough, I believe that Paul encourages us to see humility as our watchword in these endeavors. More on what that looks like later.

To call Jesus the end of the Law, is not to say that Christ makes the Law null, but rather, it is to say that every word of the Law points toward Christ, the Messiah, God with God’s people, as the Telos, the end or purpose of the Law.2

There is no sugar coating the disagreement between Christians and Jewish people on the person of Christ. This was the source of Paul’s great anguish. But religious folks who are honestly seeking to follow God, and be faithful, owe one another honesty and fidelity to their own traditions. It is only from such a place of honesty and fidelity that true dialogue and unity of purpose can emerge. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist of the 20th century, the difference between traditions is more like a pie than a continuum. Those who move deeply into their own traditions–that is, those who move more deeply to the center of the pie–will find, somewhat paradoxically, that they are closer to ardent believers from another tradition, than they are to the semi-committed members of their own, who are at the fringes. Lewis, of course, was thinking about this in terms of various Christian traditions, but there is, I believe, a sense in which is also true between the great monotheistic traditions. It doesn’t completely map, but it conveys a truth: those who seek to be faithful and love the Lord God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and their neighbor as themselves, will find that they are inhabiting a place where a fruitful exchange of ideas is possible, and where Paul’s vision of outdoing one another in righteousness, and holiness can really come into play. 3

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  1. Jenson, Robert Systematic Theology v. I: The Triune God, p. 63″ []
  2. As Bryan notes in A Preface to Romans: “Greek telos (like Latin finis and English “end”) commonly bears a range of meaning all the way from “fulfillment, completion, consumation” to simple “finish, termination” (as in telos echein, “to be finished”) (LS τέλος, BAGD τέλος). The older Greek interpreters were generally clear that Paul intended the former of these senses at Romans 10.4–notably Origen (who in Rufinus’s Latin paraphrase says of 10.4, Finis enim legis Christus: hoc est perfectio legis [Migne, Patrologiae 14.1160]); John Chrysostom, who compares the phrase ‘Christ is the telos of the Law” with the notion that “health is the telos of medicine” (Homilies on Romans 17.2); and Theodoret of Cyrrhus, who notes that “the Law led us to our master, Christ [ton Despoten,] of the Law” (Migne, Patrologiae, 82.164). No doubt this unanimity of interpretation was in part a result of the influence of Matt. 5.17 (so Eusibius, Demonstratio Evangelica 8.2.33), but it remains impressive.” p. 171 []
  3. Matthew 22:37-40, as cited in the Book of Common Prayer 1979, p. 324). []

“Something has spoken to me in the night, burning the tapers of the waning year; something has spoken in the night, and told me I shall die, I know not where. Saying:

“To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth–

“–Whereon the pillars of this earth are founded, toward which the conscience of the world is tending–a wind is rising, and the rivers flow.”

–Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

The Grace of a Guarantee

Sermon notes & Background research for Proper 13 A 2014, the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Romans 9:1-5

Recording (Note: the delivered sermon differs from the text, as this is more background information etc… and the sermon is delivered without notes in most instances):

The Wandering Jew by Gustav Dore. A Medieval legend about a Jew who taunted Christ, and was then cursed to walk the earth until the second coming.
The Wandering Jew by Gustav Dore. A Medieval legend about a Jew who taunted Christ, and was then cursed to walk the earth until the second coming.
When I was in High School one of my close friends shared a story with me, about something that had happened to him when he was in elementary school. More accurately, it was about something he did while in elementary school, and its repercussions. A female classmate of ours had come up in conversation because of some recognition she was receiving, and he mentioned to me that they had once been friends in elementary school, but that he had said something to her that resulted in her slugging him. No… it was nothing like that… remember, it happened in elementary school. You see, our classmate was–is–Jewish, and as a naive elementary school student, when he heard this revelation one day, he blurted “But Jewish people don’t believe in God…” at which point, he received due penalty for his sin, in the form of a fist to the face.

I didn’t witness the event, but I got a good laugh out of his recounting of it. And I gave him a hard time about his ignorance, but of course, I couldn’t tell you when exactly I came to an awareness of the details–including the theism or non-theism-of other religions. And I can even see, based upon his protests, how he could’ve come to that conclusion, so closely was Jesus identified with God in his upbringing, and then also hearing that Jews do not share our faith in Jesus. But as humorous as this particular event is to think about on one level–probably more so for me, since I know the parties involved–it points to something dark at the heart of our own faith.

In many–ok, most–cases, religions are ambivalent about other faiths. Inter-faith dialogue is really still in its infancy. But religions that developed out of a particular faith, especially when the parent faith rejected the new insights or ways of considering the divine, tend to have particularly fraught relationships with their predecessor and sibling religions. This has certainly been the case with Christianity and Judaism. Episcopalian theologian Ephraim Radner, who teaches at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto has highlighted what this tension has meant for Christians:

The Jew, quite distinctly, becomes a “heretic” and the “heretic” becomes a “Jew.” In other words,intra-Christian discord becomes completely coincident with apostasy and/or the denial of Christ, and Christian division is read in terms of religious antagonism in a strong modern sense. Those who “call themselves Christian”—“heretics”—are in fact the same as Jews and Saracens…1

As Radner notes, this polemic gets mapped on to intra-Christian divisions, so that every time someone who says of Roman Catholics “They leave Christ on the cross,” also negatively compares the Roman Catholic Church to Judaism, this more fundamental division is revealed. As one commentator put it: “The point Radner is driving home here is profound. By showing how Jews came to be understood as heretics and later Christian heretics become to be understood as as Jews (i.e. apostates), Radner is suggesting that Christians have been so bad to each other because we were so bad to the Jews. Thus, the inability to handle division and conflict internally, or inability to see the conflict as internal, is a result of how Christians have understood themselves over against their Jewish religious ancestors and neighbors.”2

All of this challenging history makes my friends comment, and others like it, ominous, even if they are not particularly informed by the tradition. They come out of this context, and so, they have an edge to them that we cannot deny. That edge is provided at its root, in large measure, by this section of Romans (chapters 9-11). From the beginning, many Christians have used the phrase “The Rejection of Israel” to describe this section of Romans. It is a phrase that cuts in two directions, but by far the sharpest is in the direction of claiming that God has rejected Irsrael/The Jewish people. The reality is however, that Paul is emphasizing that God has not rejected the Jewish people, but that a portion of the Jewish people have rejected Christ because of a misguided reading of the Torah.

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  1. Radner, Ephraim (2012-01-15). A Brutal Unity (Kindle Locations 2065-2068). Baylor University Press. Kindle Edition. []
  2. Furry, Tim. “Radner’s BFB, Part I” from Theology Studio. Radner offers many pertinent thoughts on this matter–pick up the book!–here are a few that really hit home: “But just as in Rwanda it is inescapable that a central element of the violence was that Christians killed, not simply that killers “happened to be” Christians, so, in the case of the Holocaust, there is a consensus that we must face the fact that Christians killed Jews and that these identities given in terms of violent hostility were not only self-consciously defined but carefully supported by religious arguments and traditions. There is no longer any question but that elements of Christian theological understanding and practice—and not only discrete (and somehow Christianly uninformed) acts by Christians—motivated these killings, if in ways that were hardly exhaustive.”
    Radner, Ephraim (2012-01-15). A Brutal Unity (Kindle Locations 904-909). Baylor University Press. Kindle Edition. []

What I’m reading: On “The pious fellowship”

“A culture of stalwart respectability builds an impenetrable wall against truth-telling. In most mainline churches people drop out, at least for a while, when life gets messy. An impending divorce, an adulterous affair, chronic depression, a job layoff, a child in trouble with the law: all these commonplace occurrences drive people from the church just when they most need the grace of the sacraments and support of the community. Pastors find themselves tracking down the lost sheep. And why do they disappear? Because the missing members are ashamed or confused, fearful that their neighbor might “judge” them or think ill of their failures as spouses, parents, and solid citizens. Someone might even think them guilty of sin. When Bonhoeffer asserts “The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner,” he goes on to observe that as a consequence of this suffocating pretension “everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.”

Go in Peace: The Art of Hearing Confession, Julia Gatta and Martin L. Smith, p.6-7

Diversity’s Limits at Dartmouth | The Living Church

Dartmouth exposes their own ignorance, and demonstrates that in the realm of supposedly competing rights and goods, the ones that make or leave us most comfortable inevitably win out.

Randall Balmer details the sad situation:

“The president of Dartmouth, also a good and decent man, rescinded Tentatenga’s appointment as dean of the Tucker Foundation on August 14. He apparently thought — mistakenly, it turns out — that he was striking a blow against homophobia, but instead he succumbed to specious arguments tinged with racism.

What will happen with the Tucker Foundation? I’m typically a glass-is-half-full guy, but in this instance I’m not sanguine. The administration will appoint a task force, which, after a decent interval, will recommend that Tucker cede its religious bearings to the various affiliated chaplaincies and thereby rid the college of the “divisive” influence of religion on campus. At precisely the moment when Dartmouth needs to hear voices of conscience to help us navigate the shoals of diversity and globalism in the twenty-first century, the college will designate a student-services type as administrator. Then, sadly, the one place on campus that “educates Dartmouth students for lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality, and social justice” will be diminished.”

James Tengatenga, the Anglican bishop of Southern Malawi, will not be the next chaplain and dean of the Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College; the offer was extended and then later rescinded this summer. What does this unfortunate episode tell us about the limits of diversity at an elite liberal ar…

Read it all: Diversity’s Limits at Dartmouth | The Living Church

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Prince George christening: story behind the bishop’s ‘medallion’ – Telegraph

Thank you to the Telegraph for answering this question.

I wouldn’t mind that hanging on a wall, but I wouldn’t wear it…

Prince George christening: story behind the bishop’s ‘medallion’ – Telegraph

A large plate worn at Prince George’s christening by Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, was a giant clasp holding his robe together

Read it all: Prince George christening: story behind the bishop’s ‘medallion’ – Telegraph

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$20,000 Bathtub And $482,000 Closets Are Just Tip Of German Catholic Iceberg

What is it about the Roman Catholic Church in Germany… corruption was worse there before the Reformation too. Interesting that it’s the Pope trying to reform it this time…

“BERLIN (RNS) The $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets ordered by “Bishop Bling-Bling” — the moniker of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the now-suspended bishop of Limburg — have scandalized the German public.But Tebartz-van Elst, 52, is only the latest German clergyman to run into trouble since Pope Francis took the helm of the Roman Catholic Church. Francis temporarily suspended the bishop on Wednesday while a church commission investigates the expenditures on the $42 million residence complex.As the new pontiff tries to reform the way the church does business, German dioceses, which reportedly include the world’s wealthiest in Cologne, are chafing under the new direction as membership numbers continue to dwindle.“Tebartz-van Elst is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Christian Weisner, spokesman for the German branch of We Are Church, an organization advocating Catholic Church reform. “There is a real clash of cultures between Germany’s current cardinals and bishops — nominated under John Paul II or Benedict XVI — and Pope Francis.”Since becoming pope, Francis has repeatedly urged the church to strip itself of all “vanity, arrogance and pride” and humbly serve the poorest in society. Under Francis, priests living in luxury are no longer merely unseemly, but a scandal.”

BERLIN (RNS) The $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets ordered by “Bishop Bling-Bling” — the moniker of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the now-suspended bishop of Limburg — have scandalized…

Read it all: $20,000 Bathtub And $482,000 Closets Are Just Tip Of German Catholic Iceberg

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