Friday, April 27, 2007


It’s getting pretty busy around here at LSTC, as we only have two weeks left, and many final papers are already due next week. At this time students’ identity changes from “Tina” to “I am 25 more pages.” No longer do we say “Hello,” but we manage to utter, “two more exegesis papers.” Honestly, I don’t know why I’m typing in my Blog right now, when this could be counting as “one less page” if it was put into a paper. No, it’s not because I’m procrastinating, but rather because I wish to be in open dialogue with all of you. Really.

Anyway, as I’ve been writing my Systematic Theology II paper on various correlations between Christology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology, in the midst of my inner-theological discourse, I heard cooing. That’s right, cooing. Then came the sound of wings flapping. It turns out it wasn’t angels coming to bring the eschaton (end of the world).

Some of you may recall my Blog in October about the squirrels outside my window. In the winter I changed rooms, and now instead of my bushy-tailed buddies throwing themselves into my window screen, I have the cooing and flapping of the pigeons to keep me company. So far I like them better because they haven’t eaten any of my mom’s cookies like the squirrels did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Casting Out Fear

As I went for my morning run by the shore of Lake Michigan this morning (I wish I could show you the view of the city as the sun rose) I realized something about myself this year. There has been a common theme throughout my classes that has been fairly constant since the fall semester. It has had to do with fear and its manifestation in our lives. We fear the “other,” we fear God (not in the Martin Luther - we should fear, love, and trust kind of way), we fear our “authentic self.” These theme of fear have woven themselves throughout my learning. If I have learned anything it is that fear is paralyzing. It keeps us from living into the life that is intended for us. As class is soon beginning for the day, and I have a paper to write today, I cannot spend too much time on this topic now, but check back over the next couple days as I reflect on these different fears. I have a hunch that in the end, they won’t be that different.

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I don't really like conflict, but sometimes, it just comes up. Tonight I was playing a game with some seminarian friends of mine and I started to take some things personally that were happening and I felt attacked and was being competitive. When one of my friends started to take things personally as well, she snapped at me and I snapped at her. I am not sure what will happen because she stormed out and then I did. And we're grown adults! After a while, I felt bad and appologized because what I said had been more ludicrous than what she said and anyway, I shouldn't have said it. But her feelings were hurt and she doesn't want to talk to me. Looking back, the whole thing seems so unnecessary to me. If I had just moved out of my own selfishness in the moment that I snapped at her, I wouldn't be in the situation of having hurt my friend and possibly having permanently damaged the friendship. I think that much of the conflict in the world happens in this same way. We get selfish and we do something stupid without thinking about how our actions affect others, then pride comes in and blocks our ability to limit the damage that's already been done. I don't want discord in the world and yet it is one of those things which I am completely unable to get rid of. We all do stupid things. The most amazing thing is that despite this thickheaded inability to do what's right, even when we know full well what it is that is right, God somehow still values us. Tonight I don't have a whole lot of use for myself, but somehow God still does. How do I know that? I don't really, but I believe the Gospel message which is that God loves us enough to overcome sin for us. I wish I could prevent this discord, but even now when writing this blog entry, I believe I had a reason to be upset even if what I said was wrong. I still feel the need to press the point. And maybe we have to make our feelings known in order to have healthy relationships, but it makes it easy to understand how very different strangers can fight when good friends do.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mourning with Virginia Tech

As the nation mourns with Virginia Tech after the mass killings there last Monday, our inability to understand such a tragedy burns inside of us.
In the Virginia Tech memorial convocation Tuesday evening, professor and poet Nikki Giovanni said:
"We are Virginia Tech.
We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.
We are Virginia Tech.
We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.
We are Virginia Tech.
We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.
We are Virginia Tech.
The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.
We are the Hokies. We will prevail. We will prevail. We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech."

As we struggle to undertand this tragedy, our prayers go out all those who mourn at Virginia Tech, that God's healing presence would be felt.

Friday, April 13, 2007

After the Easter Lillies Wilt

I'm in Omaha tonight. It's my mother's 60th birthday. She's just a little upset about turning 60. I can understand it. I didn't particularly relish 30.

We're giving Mom a party. So I've been digging through old pictures and memorabilia in their basement. I found a picture of Mom being surprised at a birthday party for her when she was 34. I remember this party. And now, next month, I will turn 33. It's sort of strange when you get to be the age that you remember your parents being.

And it's a little strange for your parents to be 60 and not seem OLD to you. They don't seem old to me at all, but I know that at one point I considered 60 old. If I were really being honest with myself, I think I would have to admit that my dad is pretty bald, but he's been bald almost as long as I can remember and anyway, there are 23-year-olds at seminary who are bald. But he does have a few wrinkles. Mom's knee bothers her. She would argue that it has nothing to do with age and she's probably right. Still, there are little things that tell you they aren't completely untouched by time. Yet if you met my parents you would NEVER guess they are 60. It isn't just because they bought a Wii for themselves or that my mother likes to start a squirt gun fight every year at our Fourth of July party; they look young. Good genes, which I am pleased about, and they don't either of them drink or smoke or go to places where there is smoking. And they eat vegetables and my mom drinks milk.

The other day I was carded to buy a bottle of wine and the woman almost didn't let me get out of the store with it because she was convinced I had to have a fake i.d. I almost kissed her. I don't care when my students think I am supposed to be in the class, rather than teaching, on the first day. It's nice. When I was in high school and college I didn't like it much though.

I was studying the passage from Paul in 1 Thessalonians about the dead rising first. It makes me wonder always about how this is going to work. Do we get our bodies. In a class the other day someone was joking that she wanted her 19-year-old body. I think I'd take 24. It's a strange concept to think about. And then to think about cremation and the little problem of conservation of matter (assuming it will apply at the eschaton) and all the people who have existed and will exist. Who knows where we'll go. We'd probably just be too heavy for the earth if all people were alive bodily at the same time (Maybe it would just be believers? And anyway we'd have our 19 year old bodies so we'd be lighter.) The idea of the resurrection of the body is an interesting question. It is something I think about more and more at Easter time. Maybe we'll get cool walk-through-doors bodies like Jesus. Likely we will all be bodily resurrected to a place and in a way that we just don't understand now, but during this last Holy Week, I thought about it quite a lot.

My sister died when I was a child. My Godmother died last year. I've lost grandparents and friends and aunts and uncles and all sorts of people I love. As my parents get older, I am confronted with the finitude of their existence. I cannot imagine a world that is missing some of the people in my life. And perhaps the hardest part about grief, for me, is that I know that you live through it. You laugh other days and you do laundry and you go to work, even when someone in your life dies. And one of the reasons you are able to go back to life is the belief we all have in the life to come, the everlasting promise of Jesus on Easter.

And yet, I think about the resurrection of the body. And I think about all of that and I think that I would rather not know anything after I die if some of the people I have loved in my life, people who were not Christian, will not be wherever I am. And I would rather not know anything after I die if my baby sister will remain trapped inside of her infant body for eternity, unable to ever talk or understand the love that my family has for her. And I would rather my dad could have the afro-like hair back that he naturally had until it fell out.

I am comforted by the Easter message, but then I doubt. I doubt and I worry and I don't know how to accept that God is going to take care of all of my concerns and fears in ways I can't imagine. But I doubt.

In this post-Enlightenment world we live in, oftentimes non-Christians see Christians as those who just believe. Maybe the non-Christians think we are silly and superstitious for believing because they believe in something else (after all, belief in total logical positivism is itself an act of faith, but that's another blog). Maybe they think we are people who just happen to have this monolithic gift of faith that they don't. Sometimes I think we want to show people the love we feel in Christ so much, that we forget to show them our doubt, our struggle, our questions. What would it be like for us to say "Yes, I question all the same things that you question, all the things that seem foreign to our worldview. You don't have to believe all the time on every level to be Christian. You do have to nurture the little seedlings of your faith, but not believing all the time doesn't mean you are an unbeliever." Would the concept of Christianity which has so spread around our society by the more radical wings of Christians be affected if people heard Christians say "I doubt, but I believe too." Sometimes I think we say we believe, tell ourselves we believe because we are so afraid of doubt. And sometimes I think we build up false idols around things we can believe, around dogmatism, just because we can comfort our own doubts by having a strict litany of things we rehearse in our head as what we believe. Especially in a world of doubters that sees clergy as unfailing believers, perhaps the human frailties of doubt might not be a bad thing to show now and then. After all, Peter denied Jesus three times. Peter, whom the church was to be built upon, doubted. We've all heard sermons on "Doubting Thomas" and how he gets a bad rap. It's probably true. How powerful an image is it that Jesus didn't really get mad at Thomas. Jesus was patient and showed Thomas what he needed to see. I don't know why we live in a world where God allows doubt, but I do know it is one of the types of suffering that exists in this world.

I doubt, but I believe too.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I am Peter

To complete the Lenten series of monologues I was doing at St. Andrew, I performed one today (Easter Sunday) from the perspective of Peter, according to Luke 24:1-12. I did this for our three services, two in English and one in Spanish. It went like this:

"I remember the day, the other ten disciples and I were gathered together, grieving the death of our teacher and Lord, Jesus Christ.. He was killed a criminal’s death on the cross, and now here we were with deep sadness and confusion. All of a sudden the women who had went to Jesus’ tomb to bring spices came running in to tell us that the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb was rolled away, and Jesus’ body was gone! They said that two men in dazzling clothes—angels, told them that Jesus was risen from the dead. The disciples did not believe what the women said, and why should they have? Once you’re dead, you’re dead! Right? But why would the women make up something like this? I mean, I don’t know them to lie. What if what they were saying was true? What if Jesus had risen from the dead? No, it couldn’t be! Or what if someone had stolen his body from the tomb? I had to see for myself. So I got up and ran to the tomb, and was short of breath when I finally arrived. Then I stooped and looked inside the tomb and I saw only the linen cloths that had been wrapped on Jesus body. Could it be? They were right, Jesus’ body was gone! I was amazed! But what did this mean? My Lord Jesus, have you indeed risen from the dead?"

I can imagine Peter going back and forth in his mind like this. Finally, he needed to see it for himself. We can relate that the resurrection is tough to believe, but why? After reflecting on this story, I believe what Peter was struggling with was more than just the notion of resurrecting from the dead. He was so immersed in the death, struggle, pain and grief, that he couldn't see outside it. It is in this bitter grief of death on Friday that the hope of resurrection comes on Sunday.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Christian Peace Witness in DC

On Friday, March 16 I traveled with over 20 seminarians, mostly from McCormick Theological Seminary to the Christian Peace Witness (CPW) for Iraq gathering in Washington DC. We were a part of over 3,000 Christians uniting in response to our faith, to call for an end to the War in Iraq. This was the first of a weekend of protests around the country to mark the fourth anniversary of the war. The CPW gathering started with a service at the Washington National Cathedral at 7:00pm, where we sang songs of hope and heard from several speakers. After the service we marched in the snow and cold with battery-operated candles to the White House singing hymns of peace and hope (see picture). At the White House 222 people were arrested for praying in an area that requires constant movement. One of the speakers at the service was Celeste Zappala, who lost her son in the war, and shared the following words:

“Tonight we’re in the National Cathedral, the alter of the nation, and we lay before God the sorrow that lives in all of us because of this war. Since Sherwood (her son who died in the War in Iraq) died protecting the Iraq Survey Group as they looked for the weapons of mass destruction 2,483 more American lives have been lost… And how many limbs? And how many eyes? And how much blood? And what about the souls of soldiers who pick up the pieces of their friends? Or fearfully fire into a car and discover a minute later a shattered Iraqi family? In Iraq shamefully no one could say how many children and old people have died, those counts are only kept in the hearts of the people who lost them, keep these people in your heart. An Iraqi mother searches a morgue for the familiar curve of the hand of her child beneath a pale sheet. An American father watches his son beheaded on video tape. An Iraqi child wakes up in a shabby hospital in excruciating pain, because of the loss of his arm. An American girl writes letters to her dead soldier father. An American vet wraps a garden hose around his neck, and leaps away from the nightmares that beset him. And the ocean of tears spreads across both countries along with the numbers: 1,950 US kids have lost parents, 25,000 wounded and struggling through the VA system, scores and scores of suicides, 500,000 and more dead in Iraq, 2 million refugees, a wail rises from the throats from all who love these people and shakes our hearts as it reaches the crucified open arms of Jesus. We’re here tonight as the church, each one of us is a witness to this war and to our own complicity in it, when were we silent when we should have spoken, whose eyes would we not meet to face the truth? Now we are prostrate at this alter, begging: ‘Lord, help us, war is our failure to love you, and peace is your command, peace isn’t the easy way out, its creation is the most confounding, the hardest thing we can do, help us, we lay our souls open to you and question, how can we follow your command to love each other?’ Surely it cannot be by mindlessly sending the children of others to kill people we don’t even know. I know that nothing I say, no amount of logic or protest will bring my son back to me, or any of the lost ones home. Yet I ask the Lord to help us, we lay this grief before the Lord, our souls broken open, ready to rise to witness, ready to love God’s world to peace. Bless you and thank you.”
Zappala's words shook me because not only was it a call to peace in Iraq, it was a call to repentance of our own complicity in this war. She reminds us that even though for the past four years we've seen death tolls in the daily news, that there is mourning and wailing behind the words and numbers. I believe my faith calls me to hear their cry and to join in. This experience has affirmed a part of my call to ministry, that I carry the bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. As we approach Good Friday, may we not read the words in the newspaper, but may they be heard as "a wail rises from the throat from all who love these people and shakes our hearts as it reaches the crucified open arms of Jesus."