“You’re interested in religion; what do you think of creation/evolution?”

. . . and why I absolutely hate being asked that question.

Read this, an account of an incident at the screening of “Expelled” which was linked by a friend as being hilarious (which it is . . . if it’s true).

Now read this, a retelling of the same incident from a different perspective.

When I put the two accounts together and try to reconstruct what probably happened, everyone involved looks like an idiot or a jerk. This is why I more or less try to avoid questions of evolution/creation/intelligent design/whatever as thoroughly as possible: they bring out the worst in people, allowing them to mock and denounce and foam at the mouth over something that has absolutely nothing to do with the daily lives of most of the people who get outraged about it.

(Yes, I am sensitive to issues of academic censorship and the tendency of some fields to criticize people who approach the subject matter from a different perspective. But you don’t see nationally released documentaries about the hostility of historical-critical methodology in Biblical studies to literary criticism.)

((I am aware of the mild irony of this being my first blog post in ages, given . . . everything else that’s been happening. I’ll be posting about “everything else” at some point, I imagine.))


Ash Wednesday Sermon

I preached the 6 PM service for Ash Wednesday today. I honestly wasn’t that happy about the sermon — it just didn’t seem to click for me, either in preparation or in delivery — but afterward, a couple of people came up and said that it was good and something they really needed to hear, so I guess you never know how it’ll be received. At any rate, for my own records, here it is.

A blessed Lent to all who celebrate it.

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Broad trends, tiny moments.

Things that have happened since I last posted:

  • Semester ended, with all my work turned in on time. (!!!)
  • Flew to Israel. Celebrated Christmas in Haifa at an Arab Anglican church. Actually a really lovely service.
  • Got quite ill with sinusitis, and thus was grumpy, sick, and/or in bed for most of the next week and a half, while the family visited Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, and the West Bank.
  • Returned to Haifa, got antibiotics, and largely recovered.
  • Had foodie adventures, including a wonderful co-op at a local kibbutz (8 kinds of dates! amazing blends of spices! local honey!) and a fabulous Moroccan restaurant.
  • Flew home. Possibly caught another cold from the jerk next to me who wouldn’t turn off his cell phone while the plane was moving.
  • Started classes. Lots and lots of original languages this semester, it looks like.

One day, between Christmas and New Year’s, we were driving by the Sea of Galilee just before sunset. The sky glowed in shades of rose and peach and gold. An enormous flock of little birds, silhouetted in black, flew over the water — swooping upward then falling downward, fluttering about playfully while remaining a cohesive whole. As I watched them, I thought about Matthew 10:29, the promise that God watches and remembers each sparrow’s fall. I usually visualize it as a single sparrow, but in that moment, watching all the birds together, I shivered at the thought of God watching every flicker of those hundreds of wings.

Happy new year.

. . . figuring out what it means to love.

There are days when I just want to cry over humanity.

Many of you may have heard of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who killed herself after her “online boyfriend” — actually the mother of a slighted friend — wooed her and then spurned her, saying “The world would be a better place without you.”

We know the name (and address, and workplace) of the woman who incited her death, but faces no criminal charges, because bloggers uncovered it. In fact, the blogging world has blasted a near-unanimous burst of fury against her. For some examples, read the post where her identity was first uncovered.

Read through the comments, if you like. Here are some typical examples:

“I seriously hope Lori Drew kills herself . . . Good riddance to bad effing trash.”

“If I was Megan’s father I would’ve put a bullet in her head. This is a sickening story. How dare LORI DREW, A KILLER not even have an ounce of remorse.”

“Some anonymous douche said ‘Do you want to drive this woman to suicide as well? Would that be fitting?’ Yes. Actually, it would be VERY fitting. And I highly doubt that any of us on here would feel any sympathy for the poor wittle witch who’d driven a little girl to suicide ON PURPOSE and WITHOUT REMORSE.”

Maybe I’m overreacting; I spent much of the day reading and talking about Civil War rhetoric, in which supposed moral and religious leadership sanctioned cold-blooded slaughter because they were so convinced that they were the right side. Well, some of them were. Slavery was a terrible wrong, just like Lori Drew committed a terrible wrong.

But that doesn’t mean that we can adopt the exact same tactics. And the fact that so many people see absolutely no contradiction in inciting the death of a woman because she incited someone else’s death . . . it makes me shudder.

This is how the church went astray, how it so often goes astray even now. We forget that the law of love governs all of our lives, and that even while we work for justice and righteousness, we need to constantly question whether each action fits within that law.

As is so often the case, the historic peace churches provide some of the best lived examples here. After the shooting in an Amish school that left five girls dead, the response from the grieving community was simple. “The Amish neighbor came that very night, around 9 o’clock in the evening, and offered forgiveness to the family [of the shooter].”

Sermon: “Seeing with Resurrection Eyes”

Well, today was the big day. Today I preached to a full congregation for the first time.

And — despite a cold which my body decided to catch at the worst time! — I think it went well. My preaching class had gotten the “first-time jitters” out of me, and although I probably could’ve slowed down and paused even more, I think my delivery was good. (And everyone said very kind things afterward.)

I’ve been debating whether to upload my sermons and sermonettes in general, but I think I’d like to post this one, just to mark the occasion. I hope it doesn’t need to be said, but if you want to use this sermon elsewhere, I probably won’t mind — but you must ask me first.

The Lectionary readings for today were from Proper 27, Year C in the Book of Common Prayer. They may sound familiar to some of you from this morning, but if not, it’ll be helpful to read them before reading the sermon.

Finally, the writing style and layout may seem a bit unusual; it’s what my preaching professors call “oral/aural,” and it’s designed to facilitate writing (and reading) the text in a natural way for being heard.
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And I know that time will be / When I consider my source instead of me.

I am eating dinner. It is vaguely modeled on Corn in a Cup: sauteed corn, edamame, red bell pepper, carrots, onion, and garlic, with a good hit of cayenne and coriander, doused in a sauce of cream, milk, lemon juice, and Parmesan. It is delicious.

Last Sunday, I preached for the first time. It was at the 8 AM service, so practically no one was there, but it went . . . okay. I’m learning so much lately about preaching, and part of what I’m trying to learn is the courage to step back and get my self out of the way.

And tomorrow is a Greek midterm. One day I’ll have the luxury of journaling at length again.

I saw Eternity the other night.

When my father died when I was seventeen, I pondered heaven and God’s plan for el’s complex and contradictory children, and it seemed to me evident that nobody I know, certainly including myself, was ready for heaven after this mortal life in which we are all, one way or another, bent and broken. There may be a handful of people who are prepared for the unveiled vision of God. But most of us are not, most of us still have a vast amount to learn. I don’t know how God plans to teach me all that I need to know before I am ready for the Glory, but my faith is based on the belief that I don’t have to know. I have to know only that the Maker is not going to abandon me when I die, is not going to make creatures who are able to ask questions which simply cannot be answered in this life, and then drop them with the questions still unanswered.

A Stone for a Pillow, by Madeline L’Engle