Friday, April 29, 2011

Dear friends,

For my morning devotional, I read Katy Perry lyrics. She raises some good questions:

"Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?"

Every day, Katy, every day. I need your help.

"You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. Just own the night like the Fourth of July. Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!" You're gunna leave 'em fallin' down-own-own."

Morning devotional brought to you by Katy Perry. Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

[In regard to the King James Version]

"To all the women who read the Sacred Scriptures: We have left the male gender where the original text called for it. Please give yourself a special spiritual treat, substitute the word woman for man when you read these pages. Together we will feel that the Book was written just for ourselves."
-- Robert Schuller, Possibility Thinkers Bible

"How to ask for an extension in seminary"

Dear Dr. Portier-Young,

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! I hope your journey to the cross was meaningful. This cross, this death, this resurrection--what wondrous love is this? Oh, my soul.

Anyway, I was writing to see if you would consider granting me an extension. I got so caught up in the death our Savior (He is risen! He is risen, indeed!) that I did not have enough time to work on my final paper (It seemed wrong to research while grieving the death of my Lord).

Let me know your thoughts,

Dear Dr. Bowler,

When I was reading your dissertation, which was so, so good, you referenced The Art of Counseling by Rollo May (1967). As your writing about this book was so lively and altogether wonderful, I excitedly picked up a copy and found this treasure:

"The teacher without empathy is like a motor car with the gears unmeshed--the motor races, making a noise as ineffectual as 'sounding brass and a clanging cymbal.'"

I have decided not to write my final paper.


Dear Dr. Wacker,

I sat down for my morning devotionals the other day and before I knew it, it was 10 pm! I guess I got caught up in an ecstatic vision of my Lord.

Anyway, I'm running behind on my work now. Would you consider granting me an extension?


1 Thessalonians 5:17 -- "Pray Continually"

Dear Dr. Wirzba,

How good is our Lord. Oh, that we might fall before our God and praise Him!

I am writing to thank you for teaching me to see the world. You have enlivened my vision, teaching me to see Christ in apple blossoms, robins, and soil. Your advice to take a break from school and walk through Duke Gardens has changed my life. Thank you for teaching me to pause and taste the world.

I have decided to continue pausing. I will not be writing my final paper.

Thanks for teaching me to see Christ!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mini Homily: Eucharist

God invites us to the table to eat Jesus, invites us to bite down on grace, invites us to swallow grace and feel it sliding down our esophagus.

God invites every single one of his people to gather at the table and be fed, no matter whether his people smell that day or are tired and distracted or are confused as to why they’re sitting at the table at all. God invites us because he knows that his smelly, tired, confused children need nourishment, and so God invites us to feed on him—to slurp down eternal life that he’s flavored with the juice of grapes.

God teaches us what it’s like to sit together at the table so that we might invite smelly, tired, and confused people to our own kitchen tables. God feeds us so that we might feed others.

God invites us to have supper in the morning, and in so doing, scrambles all of our expectations for eating. God teaches us that unity is nonsensical and beautiful. God teaches us that inclusion is nonsensical and beautiful. God’s guest list includes the lady who wears cat vests, the man who chews like a drunken bear, and the child who cusses in the line at the grocery store. God says: “They are beautiful. They are mine. They are invited to the table.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mini Homily #2: Confession

It may be new for us to think about how our eating implicates us in patterns of injustice. We must eat to live—how can it be wrong?

Eating is never wrong. Food is a grand, delicious gift to be celebrated. The trouble is, we fail to celebrate it. We have forgotten where our food comes from. We have abstracted our bacon from pigs. We have abstracted our corn from fields. We have abstracted our strawberries from the Chilean workers who picked the plump, red fruit with their fingers. We care not about the Chilean worker or his fingers but rather we care about whether or not we’ll have strawberries all year long.

When we become disconnected from our food, we become disconnected from the lives that make our eating possible. We want cheap chicken. We want cheap tomatoes. We get upset when tasting is costly. We come to confess today because tasting is costly, and we have squandered the earth’s resources with our reckless tasting.

In our tasting, we must learn to ask: “whose blood is in this food?” How were the animals treated? How were the workers treated? What is the yearly income of the lady who raises chickens? How is the land being treated? Are we leaving gashes in the earth? Can they be sewn together or are we sowing permanent destruction?

Our insatiable desire for food that is cheap and convenient is tearing holes in God’s Creation. English poet, John Drinkwater, wrote that “when you defile the pleasant streams and the wild bird’s abiding place, you massacre a million dreams and cast your spittle in God’s face.”

Do we stand before God and spit in his face?

We do. For this reason, we must confess.

Mini Homily

Think of the last time you read the Creation story in Genesis. Did it blow your mind and leave you panting for a glimpse of this world? Did you yearn to put your hands in the dirt and feel what God put there? Did you find yourself wanting to lie down in a garden so you could smell God?

The last time I read the Creation story, I found myself unimpressed. It’s all that redundancy, really, that causes my eyes to glaze over: “And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.” It all seems so effortless, like God is pointing at products in a Pier 1 catalogue to furnish his living room.

God, we find ourselves unimpressed with the way you describe the furnishings of your world: vegetation, birds, wild animals—God show us the platypus! Show us the redwoods and the panther and the Pacific Ocean. Show us the gladiolus; lift it to our noses. The hawk, God, show us the hawk; we will study it and praise you. The colors must have been vibrant, and the textures! How did the world feel leaving your fingertips? What tasks did you delegate to Jesus? Did the Spirit scatter seeds and feed the animals? Tell us, God, impress us! Show us the hawk.

But there is nothing wrong with God’s imagination.

There is something wrong with our imagination.

Have we lost our ability to wonder? Can our eyes see that the world is soaked with God? Loss of astonishment is not a new phenomenon—St. Basil the Great wrote in the 4th century: “I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you the clear remembrance of the Creator…One blade of grass or one speck of dust is enough to occupy your entire mind in beholding the art with which it has been made.”

There is something wrong with our imagination. God is not picking out the world from a catalogue—trees are not products; chickens are not products; nitrogen is not a product. Rather, God imagined the earth, and it was so, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, every day.

God says: “Go outside, and within you I will cultivate astonishment. I only ask that you learn to see.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seminary Fail

Seminary student #1: “hey! what is a good bible verse about grace that i can memorize like a mantra? (not john 3:16)”

Seminary student #2: mmmm, that's a question for [seminarian who likes grace a lot]

Seminary student #1: haha. duly noted.

Seminary student #2: or pick up your copy of Brennan Manning

Seminary student #1: good point.

Seminary student #2: I'm making such good suggestions.

Seminary student #1: you are.

Seminary student #2: but yet can't think of a verse...

Seminary student #1: well, i mean other than the one about you are saved by grace, not by works, that is somehow the only one i can think of

Seminary student #2: yeah, other than that one, I don't think the Bible says much about it.

Seminary student #1: interesting. i should have noticed this before now. hahaha.

Seminary student #2: wait, is that true? I was being an ass

Seminary student #1: hahahaha.

man, i am just in an accept-everything-state-of-mind.

how can i not think of any verses with grace!

ok, i'm doing a computer search

ok, there are like a million hits

you are never to speak of this conversation with anyone



my grace is sufficient for you!

how could i have forgotten that one?