Don’t Panic – It’s Just the Mother of God

The first time I offered prayers to Mary I had a panic attack – literally. I was in college and my best friend had become Roman Catholic. We argued a bit, and he won (mostly). It resulted in my return to Anglicanism, to the “high” side. So, like a good high churchman, I got a rosary and a book, and started my prayers. Then came the panic attack. Many Protestants are viscerally…

What Happened That Day in the Library

It is occasionally the case that we remember precisely where we were at a point in time, in which everything is before or after that moment. It is a Kairos, a particular moment that changes everything. There are collective moments of that sort: victory in Europe is announced; a President is shot; the Challenger explodes. There are also personal moments: the birth of a child; the death of a parent. There was…

Saved in Weakness – Redux

We are not saved by our talents and gifts nor by our excellence – we are saved by our weakness and our failure. I have made this point many times over the years – and the question comes up – but what does that look like? How do I live like that? The question can be urgent for some because the message is so utterly contrary to cultural assumptions that have been…

Transformation and Forgiveness

There are various applications in our culture directed towards “feeling good about ourselves.” In contrast to being shamed and condemned it is an improvement. But it also misses the truth of things. Pretending that everything is ok does not make it so. There is within this, a kinship to the Penal Substitution Theory of the Atonement, in which God agrees to see us as righteous (because of Christ’s sacrifice) even though we…

Face to Face – Without Shame or Fear

We are apparently living in the age of the face, and I don’t think it’s necessarily bad.  I know all the complaints about our culture of “selfies,” and there are certainly many things in that to make us wonder, but our fascination with our faces long predates the technology of our phones. In the usage of the early Church, the word for face (prosopon) is also the word for person. It is…

The Peaceable Kingdom in a World at War

The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, described the world as composed of autonomous, competing self-interests. We are at war with one another, a reality, he said, that can only be controlled through external force. The state serves as the enforcer of a negotiated peace agreement, a social contract, in which we legitimize its use of force in order not to kill one another. Hobbes himself preferred a strong monarchy. Certain times in our…

A Single Moment

Grushenka, a character in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, relates a now-famous fable about an old woman: Once upon a time there was a woman, and she was wicked as wicked could be, and she died. And not one good deed was left behind her. The devils took her and threw her into the lake of fire. And her guardian angel stood thinking: what good deed of hers can I remember to tell…

Drag My Soul to Paradise

A Prayer to Our Lord Jesus Christ My most merciful and all-merciful God, O Lord Jesus Christ! In Thy great love, Thou didst come down and become flesh in order to save all. Again, I pray Thee, save me by Grace! If Thou shouldst save me because of my deeds, it would not be a gift, but merely a duty. Truly, Thou aboundest in graciousness and art inexpressibly merciful! Thou hast said,…

Unbelief and Good Friday

  Christmas and Easter are often difficult days for those who do not believe in God. Christians are more public about their faith than at other times of the year and this brings with it an annoyance. Christmas bespeaks the birth of God as a human being. Easter bespeaks a resurrection from the dead. For those who do not believe, such miracles, spoken of so glowingly and with such assurance by Christians,…

Can the Middle-Class Be Saved?

  Speaking to His disciples, Christ said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mk. 10:25) Doubtless, most modern Christians take comfort from the fact that they are not rich. Over the centuries, the eyes of needles seem to have grown, while camels have gotten thinner. At the time, the disciples were astonished at…