Occasional Blog Posts

Every now and then I publish other short pieces on the Web. These are blog-style essays, sometimes prompted by current events, the rhythms of the church year, or other things that grab my attention.

The Careless Biblical Interpretation behind Justin Lookadoo’s Views on Gender
The Huffington Post
November 18, 2013
The Bible is full of teachings that are working with, it seems to most of us, very outdated and even harmful views on gender. Some take these teachings as if they were permanent, universal laws. Rather, these biblical passages usually reflect the conventional wisdom or social mores of their day, which suggests we need to put them in conversation with other biblical texts and with other sources of knowledge. I briefly explore 1 Timothy 2:8-14 as a test case.

Maundy Thursday: What Happened at the Last Supper? 
The Huffington Post
April 5, 2012
What are Christians remembering when they observe Maundy Thursday? In the biblical texts that talk about Jesus’ last night before his crucifixion, he gives himself away to his followers.

The Spiritual Dimensions of Work and Unemployment
The Huffington Post
July 8, 2011
America’s current unemployment statistics are for many reasons a cause for alarm. What kinds of spiritual wounds can unemployment inflict? The Bible indicates that human work is a way in which we encounter and partner with God. Our various labors can connect us to God’s purposes. Christian communities need to tend to the spiritual losses of unemployment, along with the economic and psychological tolls it takes.

Pentecost: When Christians Dream
The Huffington Post
June 12, 2011
The story of Pentecost, as related in Acts 2, tells of the Holy Spirit coming to fill and inspire Jesus’ followers. This Spirit makes the community of faith a community of prophets, people who dare to describe what God makes possible for the world.

Understanding Jesus’ World
The Huffington Post
May 22, 2011
It’s important to know something about what was going on in the world when the Bible was written. I briefly introduce three big events or social phenomena that were shaping people’s religious understandings when the New Testament was being written. The Bible itself shows us people of faith articulating how their beliefs speak to their concerns and everyday lives.

Pontius Pilate v. Jesus: Was It a Fair Trial? 
The Huffington Post
April 22, 2011
Published during Holy Week, when Christians remember Jesus’ last hours prior to his execution, this post explores the gospels’ depiction of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who held power to decide Jesus’ fate. Pilate does not express sympathy or apathy toward Jesus. How he deals with him reflects a commitment to mocking Jesus’ identity as a purported king, to disgracing Jesus, and to reasserting Roman authority over the Jewish people.

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Apocalypse Now? A Christian Understanding of the End Times
The Huffington Post
March 27, 2011
Why does the New Testament have so much to say about Jesus returning again? How does the New Testament speak about this promise? Should Christians still expect Jesus to show up one day? This post offers my thoughts on these provocative questions.

Reading the Four Gospels: The Power of Different Perspectives
The Huffington Post
March 10, 2011
The New Testament contains four gospels. These books describe the same man named Jesus, but they do so in sometimes strikingly different ways. Instead of combining the gospels into a single, composite story, we do well to let each one speak for itself and keep varied perspectives in view.

The Parables: Understanding Jesus’ Strange Good News
The Huffington Post
February 24, 2011
In the gospels, Jesus tells parables but he rarely explains them for his hearers. Instead, he allows people to enter the unfamiliar and sometimes strange world that the parables describe. Maybe this suggests that God promises us a different way of living and being.

Earthquakes, God, and Living with Mystery
Working Preacher
January 27, 2010
James Wood wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, reflecting on the Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010. I thought the op-ed deserved a response, so I wrote this. Disasters tend to evoke bad theology, especially when we assume a God who is too distant from the groans and struggles of our existence. In our desire to explain God and God’s motives, we risk banishing mystery from our theologies.

Preaching During Lent
Working Preacher
January 5, 2010
I confess, I don’t think much of Lent. Most people, I suspect, already live pretty aware of their brokenness and mortality all year long. I yearn for churches to spend more time talking about how this life matters and how we can encounter and even bear the Divine amid all our brokenness. Lent seems a good time to do that. I wrote this essay to help preachers think about preaching the gospel texts assigned by the lectionary during Lent (Year C in the lectionary’s cycle).

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Rise Up, It’s Advent
Working Preacher
December 1, 2009
Advent stumbles into sentimentalism when it makes us romanticize winter and pretty little white lights. Rather, in waiting for Jesus, we proclaim that God will drive away the night and the falsehoods enveloping our world—once and for all. The posture of Advent is a posture of protest.

Nice Body
Working Preacher
May 1, 2008
The Christian faith has a lot to say about bodies. It’s an embodied faith. Our bodies matter for how we encounter God, love our neighbors, and respect the image of God that we bare. I can’t stand theology that denies or deemphasizes the importance of embodiment and the lives we live. I can’t understand how Christians who believe that God cares about human flesh (and whose Savior died as a torture victim) would stand around idly when their government tortures people.

They’ll Know We Are Christians By… 
Working Preacher
March 26, 2008
The March 2008 issue of The Atlantic included an article about violence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. It prompted me to think about two things: themes of retribution we find in the New Testament, and the rhetoric of violence issued by some Christians.

Anti-Judaism in Christian Teaching and Preaching
Working Preacher
February 26, 2008
This article highlights ways Christian sermons can fall prey to misrepresenting Judaism and voicing anti-Jewish ideas. Among the resources preachers might consult to address this problem is a fine book by Amy-Jill Levine: The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus.

The Preacher as Student
Working Preacher
January 28, 2008
I wrote this piece soon after the launch of the website Working Preacher. It introduces the website and offers advice for how a time-strapped preacher might stay abreast of resources that assist us in interpreting the Bible.

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One Text at a Time, Please
Working Preacher
January 7, 2008
The Revised Common Lectionary assigns four different texts to be read in church each Sunday. That’s nice, but I worry about sermons that try to cover too much ground and lead their congregations into more than one text on any given Sunday. I encourage preachers to dwell deeply in a single biblical passage. This makes for better preaching, and it helps churchgoers gain a better understanding of the Bible and its contents.

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