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Showing posts from November, 2017

Revelation: a few notes

This fall, our small study group decided to take a closer look at the book of Revelation. All of us admitted that we found it a bit difficult to understand. The first time we met, we did a read-through of the entire book and it left us more baffled than ever, but also intrigued. As we have delved deeper into the graphic visions and vivid poetry, we have been surprised, over and over again. To quote one of the participants: "Mind blown...again!" It is more historical and at the same time more relevant than we imagined. It is more in tune with the rest of the biblical witness than we knew. It is more cohesive and intelligible and carefully crafted than we expected. And it is so much more hopeful than recent books and movies focused on the end-times led us to believe.

It is always best to view a book as a whole instead of plucking out provocative, twitter-size quotes, and an attempt at wholeness is my intent here. Though we are only half-way through our study, I want to give y…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…

crash course in surrender

Surrender. Not the most popular word or concept in today's world. To the athlete trying to best the competition, surrender is not an option. To the military commander in the middle of a skirmish with the enemy, surrender is shameful. To a political candidate vying for votes, surrender is weak. To someone trying to convince a skeptic about the merits of their beliefs, surrender seems faithless. And yet, surrender is a posture Jesus modeled for his followers. He prayed, "Not my will, but yours be done." When he was wrongly accused and condemned to death, Jesus did not defend himself or demand justice. He surrendered his life. Most often, the disciples did not understand Jesus's refusal to exert his will over others. They lived in a context where the people with the most power made the rules, so the exertion of power was seen as the only agent for change. But Jesus insisted on showing them another way, a way not reliant on threats, coercion, or pressure tactics. He is …