Crazy thought of the day: God Died. [QUOTE]

“The task of witnessing to the gospel is to vitalize the astonishing fact of the gospel. The message “the Son of God has died” is indeed most astonishing…. God has died! If this does not startle us, what will? The church must keep this astonishment alive. The church ceases to exist when she loses this astonishment. Theology, the precise understanding of the gospel, must be seized by this astonishment more than anyone else. It is said that philosophy begins with wonder; so theology begins with wonder. The wonder of philosophy pales before the wonder of theology. The person astonished by the tidings “God has died” can no longer be astonished at anything else.”

Kazoh Kitamori, Theology of the Pain of God


The Sex-Slave’s Name is Jesus


In preparation for my upcoming Guatemala blogging trip next month, I’ve been reading the wonderful book Geography of Grace by Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke. It opens by talking about the horrific story of Judges 19, where a nameless woman who is no more than a sex-slave, is given to a gang of men who gang rape her all night. She is then dismembered while still alive and the parts of her body are mailed to the twelve tribes of Israel. I found these lines so beautiful and redemptive in the just of such darkness.

When reading Judges 19 with a sanctified imagination, it is as if we become the disciples of Jesus on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. This passage tells of the disciples’ long walk with the stranger who is suddenly revealed as Jesus when he reenacts that meal on the night that he was betrayed. Just as the stranger is revealed to be Jesus in the breaking of the bread, so too is the unnamed woman revealed to be Jesus in the breaking of her body.

“Just as you have done it to the least of these . . . ”

lf we reflect long enough on the heart of the unnamed Woman [of Judges 19], We will come to know not only her heart, but her name as well. We will dare to give her the dignity of a name that she has been denied for more than three thousand years. We will even dare to name her the name above all others.

As grace flows downhill and pools up in Judges 19, We are confronted with what looks like a cesspool. It is offensive and scandalous beyond words, but if we can hold our gaze long enough and reflect on the Woman, she teaches us a hard but liberating truth-that she was not alone in her abandonment. She was not alone when she was handed over to the mob. She was not alone when she was gang-raped and beaten that night. She alone was not cut into twelve pieces and handed out to Israel. God was with her that night. God too was abused, beaten, raped, and dismembered. Where is God? God is with us, particularly among the least. Immanuel.

Advent & the Connecticut Shooting: Ross Douthat’s “The Loss of the Innocents”


In the same spirit as today’s earlier post by Austin Ricketts, I wanted to share with everyone this incredible piece by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (one of my favorite writers), entitled “The Loss of the Innocents”. It’s a beautiful and haunting reflection on the human condition and the theological senselessness inherent in events like last week’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut. He then concludes with these beautiful words of Advent hope in the midst of such darkness:

In the same way, the only thing that my religious tradition has to offer to the bereaved of Newtown today — besides an appropriately respectful witness to their awful sorrow — is a version of that story, and the realism about suffering that it contains.

That realism may be hard to see at Christmastime, when the sentimental side of faith owns the cultural stage. But the Christmas story isn’t just the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild.

The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable — the shadow of violence, agony and death.

In the leafless hills of western Connecticut, this is the only Christmas spirit that could possibly matter now.

Read the full piece here.

Advent & Suffering: silent only for a time [GUEST POST]


[Here’s another post by my good friend and occasional blog contributor Austin Ricketts. In light of last week’s shooting in Connecticut, it takes on even more meaning.]

“I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good. And my sorrow grew worse…I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, because it is you who have done it. Remove your plague from me; because of the opposition of your hand I am perishing”

These words are painful. They hit the reader with sadness and little hope. The Psalm itself does not end on a happy note:

“Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again before I depart and am no more.”

Why all this talk of sorrow during this time of year, a time that should be joyous and celebratory? It’s safe to say that many will not feel the joy that should be felt during this Advent. Many will feel that deep turning feeling in their stomach, the beginning of depression, the weight in the center of their back.

Not all see the light.
Continue reading

There is No One Like You (Adv, Days 23/24; HelloGoodBye 09/10) by David Schrott [GUEST POST]

[Through college up through about a year and a half ago, I ran a little online magazine called Reform & Revive. It’s dead now. While it was going on, one of my best friends, David Schrott, was one of our contributors. He’s an amazing drywaller, photographer, writerperson, and boyfriend (also here, here, and here). This is a post he wrote for R&R back in 2009 at the end of a particularly trying year for him. It’s one of my favorite Advent meditations I’ve ever read, and so I wanted to share it with all of you. Enjoy.]


“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer.”
–I Timothy 2.8, NIV

There are these days, when it is so difficult to find words that wrap around concepts, that, no matter how concrete in one’s mind, find it impossible to find substance in the barrier we use to communicate called language. In those moments, it seems that experience does precede existence and existentialism, for a moment, seems fun (and fun is clearly the wrong word, but for to-day, for this beautiful-day-before-Advent, will have to do).
Continue reading

Retelling the Story (in crisis, loss, & healing)

Why does healing take time? Have you ever asked yourself that? Why does pain, heartbreak, and loss seem to have a very real lifespan it must go through before the process seems completely done?

As I’ve said several times before on this blog, we humans live on the basis of story. Our life, our world, and our faith provide our lives with a grand “narrative” in which all of our “sub-plots” find shape. We can’t help but use this shape of the present story to fashion some sort of idea of where this story is going. We’ve all experienced this when reading a book. The entire time, we have a guess of where the plot is heading; as we receive more information, we naturally readjust our expectations and thoughts as to the goal or end.

In short, the only way we know to make sense of the various aspects of our lives is to give them shape, narrative, and an anticipated goal towards which they are moving. This is the only way we know to justify each step forward we take in this career, relationship, etc. It gives us our bearings and a point of reference.

Continue reading

i am not my own

…fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord with me abide…

Both viruses and people get themselves into us, infect us, surprise us, and change us–both for good and ill. And when they depart we are left with that most complex simplicities of emotions, asking simply: what was that? The story, the episode, that previously seemed to exist with such continuity now seems so disjointed from all others that “the purpose” seems our only thought.

…When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, abide with me…

We wonder, we wander, seeking our Home, our Rest, our Selves. We recast our history in the eyes of this present trial, this present pain, this present darkness, and feel the twitch and fear that comes whenever we seriously consider all we’ve done before and all it represents within us–all the trials caused, the pains committed, and the darknesses within us.

Continue reading

Pain, Suffering, & the Story of God

[Update: this post inspired a comment (below), that I ended up responding to. The commenter responded to that, then I gave my final response, and then he gave his. Lastly, a friend posted her thoughts on the discussion as well. Follow the links to get in on the discussion.]

You know that proverbial flu bug that is perpetually in existence all over the country all at once on snowy days?  Yeah, well I’ve got it.  Starting yesterday, the back of my head and the top of my neck were struck by a throbbing pain, pulsating with every heartbeat; my body temperature playing the role of ping-pong ball between the paddles of heat and cold; my body aching with every move.

I went to sleep last night, tossing and turning for a long while hoping for the pain to subside by the time I woke.  I woke and felt great.  That is, while I was laying in my bed.  The moment I stood up and the blood rushed throughout my body, the pain, dizziness, and energy-sapping delirium of flu raged against me.  And then I went to work. Continue reading

For Advent: A Reform & Revive Repost by David Schrott

In honor of this Advent/Christmas Eve, I decided to repost an article on Reform & Revive written almost exactly a year ago by my good friend (and incredible photographer) David Schrott.  He is an amazing writer (and here) and an even more amazing friend.  This article reflects much on the year that brought the writing into existence with anticipation for the year to come.  Well, having been with him and watching him for that year, it was an amazing moment for me to read this and see all that has been done in his life.

The article has all that Advent is about.  It’s a reflection on the work of God in the past to build your anticipation for the work of God to come.  May this article stir you, sober you, and give you a sense of both the fallenness of the world that is and the glory of the world to come.  Here’s the full link:

Also, feel free to check out an article I wrote for Going To Seminary magazine for Advent called “The Beauty of Theology (an Advent Call)”

Lastly, if you’re in town (Philly, that is), my church Liberti: South Philly is doing what should be a beautiful Christmas Eve service tonight (details).

Merry Christmas Eve

“On Fuel & Family, and the Costs Thereof” (a poem)

The cell burns from within the pocket
As the needle caresses the crimson “E.”
Justice questioned of the Almighty God
Over inevitability.

Car slows down, it’s time again
To press the speed dial “8;”
Re-bridging two worlds, renewing the scab-
Mom thinks all too late.

The red of the nylon vivid in hue
Tied to the basement rafter;
The blue of the note written on the washer
Heralding the hereafter;

The white of the face of dear old dad
Before kicking the chair from under him;
The brown of the sheriff ,came just in time,
To ring the bell and blunder him.

The images haunt the every thought
As gas necessitates the call
$2, $2.07, $2.75, $3
Causes this one to fall

Back to memories of screams and fights,
Of baseball bats and tears.
OPEC forces one still a child
To confront his darkest years

First once a month, then once a week,
Now once every couple of days.
Mileage doesn’t mean so much
anymore. . . .

Crude incites cruel making distance hit home

The sins of the father.
All he’s good at – selfish ways.
Never really seeking the God of this earth
The only thing to save him.

Laying down a family at the altar of his god:
His excuse, his past, his illness, his, his his
Never hers
When she’s deserved it all.

One desires not to talk about it, one never does. Living away, detached from the reality, still hurting.

Pain. Pain. Pain. Tears of pain, fulfilling a role one never meant to fulfill:
surrogate husband to a broken mother.

Making a man of the child but still hurting her in the process.
Just . . . don’t . . . know . . .

Satisfaction and faith in Almighty God
Restores order to it all.
My only real Daddy in this entire world,
No matter “what” I have to call.

One strange paradox defining my world:
Joy, satisfaction, abundant life!!
Amidst all the pain of family hurt –
The constant signs of strife.

Provision not the source of belief,
Rather a recent application.
The value I hold, for my Lord, my God;
Mirrors the gas price of this nation. . .

Copyright© 2005