Monthly Archives: May 2016
Page 1 of 1
On Memorial Day we honor the American combatants who were killed in one of our many wars. In various places we have memorialized the war dead with statues and plaques and stained glass windows.
Daily we pass these pieces of stone and metal and glass, largely oblivious to what they signify.
Occasionally we may pause on our hurried way to lend more than the cursory glance. But for the most part these monuments fall into the background as we focus elsewhere.
They do not seize our attention and lead us to reflect on great questions like war and violence, justice and courage, peace and sacrifice.
We say that we want to provide a fitting memorial to those who have died in combat. And yet we recognize that these mute fixtures in town squares and overgrown battlefields and beautiful church buildings fall short of our aim.
And of course they do.
Deep in our souls we yearn to demonstrate to ourselves that these men and women did not die in vain. Their deaths bear enduring significance.
And so we set aside a day. Memorial Day. The nation celebrates the lives lost in our various conflicts. Parades, concerts, picnics, and festivals.
These are good things to do and they’re a lot of fun. But aside from the single prayer or the song designed to instill national pride, events like these are mere entertainments. Leisure activities designed to fill the empty hours of a civic holiday.
Some cable channels—AMC and TCM, for instance—will run war movie marathons. For the most part these films valorize war in order to portray a glamorized image of courage.
Valorizing war dishonors the war dead, combatants and non-combatants alike. To honor those laid low in war, we must first be honest with ourselves about war itself.
Clergy frequently joke that nobody wants to preach on Trinity Sunday. Our central theological doctrine stretches even the most able mind to the point of breaking. And let’s face it, doctrinal sermons rarely leave congregations rolling in the aisle laughing or reaching for the kleenex.
And yet, when they’re talking seriously about their craft, most of the preachers I’ve talked to about preaching on Trinity Sunday admit that they actually like it. That goes for me, too.
So it is with some regret that I find myself not preaching this Sunday. But those of you who read along with me on a regular basis know that I’m not likely to let a thing like that stop me from posting something as the Church gathers to ponder the nature of the Triune God.
So here’s the plan. I’m going to give you a couple of excerpts from past posts with links to the whole piece. Then, I’m going to share some links to blogs that I find helpful.
Here’s the first excerpt:
Of all the Sundays of the Church Year, there is no more appropriate day to reflect on Christian belief than Trinity Sunday. Along with the Incarnation, the Trinity is our central, non-negotiable belief. Now you might think that I’m about to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. And you would be mistaken.
Instead, I’m going to remind us that the Trinity and the Incarnation are Mysteries. We root our lives in and bank our lives on Mysteries. And yet some of us erroneously approach Christian belief as if it could conflict with natural science. We are mystery people, and yet some of us treat belief as if it were a kind of scientific knowing. (from “Mystery and Belief”,
May 31, 2015)
A friend of mine from South Louisiana told me, “Those Cajun boys know how to dance.” She was talking fondly about a particular young Cajun man as if to say, “I love dancing with that guy.”
I wondered what it must be like to dance so well that other people want to dance with me for the sheer joy of it. To move with such energy and grace and abandon that others are swept up in the movement.
From time to time I find myself—with some reluctance—on a dance floor. While I’m under no illusions about my abilities, I do still aim for a sort of John Travolta thing.
I’m not thinking of the wiry, lithe Travolta of “Saturday Night Fever.” Instead, I picture myself as the older, chunkier Travolta of “Pulp Fiction.”
In that film, his Vincent and Uma Thurman’s Mia win a twist competition at a fifties-themed restaurant called Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Their version of the twist was way cooler and, well, hotter than anything Chubby Checker ever dreamed of.
My flailing arms and wooden footwork bear no resemblance to Travolta’s sensuously effortless turning and twisting. A fair description of my dance moves might include words like awkward and stiff.
And yet, despite my clumsiness, my wife Joy and I have fun when we dance. It always takes me a few minutes to get past my self-consciousness, to push through my fear of looking foolish. But everything changes once I get over myself and get into the spirit of the thing.
Being the Church is a little like dancing. Actually, it’s a lot like dancing. That’s because the Church is the Body of Christ in motion.
Claudia, Anna, and Amy made a date to share a pizza. It was the Thanksgiving holiday.
As Brené Brown tells us in Rising Strong, Claudia was visiting her family in Madison, Wisconsin. Amy—the youngest of these three sisters—had texted Claudia with the pizza invitation. Her idea was to get together without the parents for a little sister-time.
As it happened, Amy did not attend Thanksgiving dinner or any holiday event at her parents home that year. In her late twenties, Amy had struggled with depression and alcoholism since high school. She got sober briefly when she was eighteen, spending the next decade in a declining spiral of sobriety and relapse.
Over the years, Amy would show up for some holiday gatherings. When she was drunk, predictable chaos and heartache ensued. On sober visits, her parents lavished attention on her. Their parents’ focus on Amy served only to remind Claudia and Anna how Amy’s disease had dominated the family dynamic and robbed them of their youth.
This year, Amy’s absence infused the family with an aching heaviness. Nobody talked about it. They all just felt the slowly moving train wreck that was Amy. And because they were family, they were all going off the rails with her in haunted silence.
Claudia and Anna took leave of their parents to meet Amy for dinner. Claudia later told Brené Brown, “I just thought we could have one meal together… Three sisters sharing a pizza and catching up. Like a normal family.” (Rising Strong, Kindle Locations 2035-2036)
Amy had texted her address, but as Claudia and Anna got close, they grew increasingly uneasy. Their parents had offered to set Amy up in her own apartment, but Amy had declined. She didn’t want their meddling and their control.
The surrounding neighborhood was sketchy. Their hearts sank when they rolled up to the actual address. It was a long abandoned store. Plywood covered broken windows. The door was broken.