All posts tagged “Lent

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Theology begins and ends in silence

The best theology begins and ends in silence. It begins in silence as we stop our idle chattering and listen to what God has to say. We start by listening for the quiet, strong, deep voice of God speaking to us through the pages of Scripture, through the words of those who have come to know him best through the centuries. It also ends in silence, as when we begin to glimpse the greatness, the mercy, the wisdom of God, there is not much we can say in return, apart from to wonder and worship. In between there may be many words… There is conversation to be had, questions to ask and ideas to explore, but all the while expecting to be quietened by the presence of God before whom all voices fall silent.”

– Graham Tomlin, Looking Through the Cross

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Repaso: February 28, 2014

+ Johnny Cash would have been 82 on Wednesday. It’s as good a time as any to ask, as Russell Moore does here, “Why would twenty-something hedonists revere an old Baptist country singer from Arkansas?”


+ It’s always nice when influential people prove that genuine friendship is possible between those on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Cornel West, a progressive public intellectual who belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America, and Robert George, who has been called “this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker,” recently sat down at Swarthmore College for a conversation about “what it means for intellectuals to learn from each other despite deep differences on important questions.” You can view their conversation here.

+ In last week’s Capital Commentary, David Koyzis reminds us, “What people believe makes a difference in their shared life together.”

+ Lent begins next week on Ash Wednesday, and Page CXVI is giving us a new batch of songs for this upcoming season of the Christian year. “Lent to Maundy Thursday” releases next week, which will be followed by “Good Friday to Easter” during Holy Week.

+ Speaking of Lent, among the books I plan to read this year is Graham Tomlin’s Looking Through the Cross. Here’s a trailer of sorts.

+ Christians in the Central African Republic are using their church buildings to shelter Muslims from attacks by other Christians. This crazy story comes from Slate: “On the grounds of the church, the men kneel on rice sacks pointed toward Mecca and whisper their prayers.”

+ I was inspired and encouraged by this introduction to “The Vicar of Baghdad” in First Things.

+ Given ongoing events in Ukraine and Venezuela, I was interested in Matt Ford’s piece in The Atlantic Cities about the public square as a “physical manifestation of democracy.”

+ How anti-poverty programs fail to account for the role fathers play in children’s lives.

+ This New York Times story about uranium pollution on the Navajo reservation is so tragic and sad.

+ Let’s face it: Arizona doesn’t have the best reputation in this country, and these findings sure don’t help. But as Jamie Smith kindly reminded me, it certainly could be worse.

+ A sobering look at the options Guatemalan migrants (don’t) have after being deported.

+ It’s time for some baseball.



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Repaso: March 1, 2013


1. Consuming church
Amy Simpson on what happens when churches act like businesses:

Churches behave like businesses but act surprised when people in their congregations behave like consumers. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against being organized. I’m not against plans. Anyone who knows me would laugh at that idea; I can’t go 10 minutes without organizing something. And if I had something against business, I wouldn’t have an MBA. But there’s a difference between organizing and institutionalizing. Between making plans and packaging them. Between building a loving community and surrounding yourself with “the best.” And it makes no sense to establish a business and expect either your employees or your customers to pitch in like they’re at a family reunion.

2. Yearning for the way things will be
Gideon Strauss offers a Lenten meditation on his experience serving as an interpreter for South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

During Lent we reflect on the life of the one who makes reconciliation possible. We recall moments of reconciliation, in our own lives and in the history of this wonderful, heartbroken world. But we look around and see, mostly, accommodation to the way things are. And so we yearn for the way things could be, for the way things will one day be. Slowly, as the days lengthen, we are turned, in our reflecting and remembering and yearning, toward the rising of the Christ, and the eventual complete reconciliation of all things in that rising.

3. Selling books to Johnny Cash
Jeff Elder worked in his family’s used bookstore in Nashville as a teenager, and during that time, this happened:

One summer day I sat at the large wooden desks we used in the store as front counters. The fans twirled hypnotically. The sun bleared through the storefront windows, shined along the shelves of old books, faded as it passed over the scuffed black-and-green tile floor, and died before it reached me. I was in the cool shadows, removed, reading I don’t remember what. A large figure in black appeared before me. It was Johnny Cash. He said the perfect thing for Johnny Cash to say. This is what he said: “Son, where are your books on trains?”

4. Common Good PHX
After months of tossing ideas around and weeks of hammering out details, I’m excited to begin spreading the word about Common Good PHX, a two-day conference featuring Andy Crouch, who will be speaking on the topic of how Christians in Phoenix can contribute to the flourishing of our city. The event will be held April 12-13 at Christ Church Anglican, and will also include local breakout speakers. Learn more and register here.


QU4RTETS from Pilar Timpane on Vimeo.

[Photo credit: Lakewood Church, Houston via]

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Repaso: February 15, 2013


1. Swords into plowshares, Kalashnikovs into xylophones
While watching this short BBC clip about what’s become of 7000 guns seized by police in Ciudad Juarez (the infamous “Murder Capital of the World”) I couldn’t help but think of the words of the prophet Isaiah and the hope that one day, all things will be made new.

2. Remembering Richard Twiss
Many of us were saddened to hear the news that Native American author and theologian Richard Twiss passed away last weekend after suffering a heart attack. I really appreciated his reconciliation work, including his writing and speaking. A number of tributes to Richard have been written over the past week, including this one from the Out of Ur blog, this one from Sojourners, and this one in Charisma by my friend Mark Charles.

3. The redemption of hipsterdom
Paul Bowers – “a skinny-jeans-wearing, Pitchfork-reading, banjo-playing writer for an alt-weekly newspaper” – writes in Patrol:

A word to my generation: It’s fine to make jokes, but know that not everything is a joke. We talk about hipsters on the internet not only because we love to hate them, but also because looking at them is a good way of looking at our own values. Well, I’m here to report that there are good and honest hipsters in our midst. But you’ve probably never heard of them.

4. Keeping a holy Lent
Father Thomas McKenzie writes:

Keeping Lent is designed to make more room for the Holy Spirit in your life. Keeping Lent may or may not lead to feelings of joy, sorrow, happiness, or anger. You may or may not alienate a friend, have a spiritual experience, lose weight, or feel grouchy at work. Keeping Lent will not make you more holy or beloved in the eyes of God. Keeping Lent will not save you. Keep Lent anyway.

5. Obama, literature, and drones
Novelist and photographer Teju Cole (whose book Open City I reviewed last year), has written a troubling but important piece for the New Yorker about the drone program being executed by our “reader in chief”:

This ominous, discomfiting, illegal, and immoral use of weaponized drones against defenseless strangers is done for our sakes. But more and more we are seeing a gap between the intention behind the President’s clandestine brand of justice and the real-world effect of those killings. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words against the Vietnam War in 1967 remain resonant today: “What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them?” We do know what they think: many of them have the normal human reaction to grief and injustice, and some of them take that reaction to a vengeful and murderous extreme. In the Arabian peninsula, East Africa, and Pakistan, thanks to the policies of Obama and Biden, we are acquiring more of the angriest young enemies money can buy. As a New York Times report put it last year, “Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”

6. New York Biotopes

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary related to the intersections of faith, development, justice, and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: “This drumlike instrument is among those that Mexican sculptor Pedro Reyes creates from parts of seized weapons” via]

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Jesus, friend of chorizeros

This year for Holy Week I thought I’d re-post something from two years ago. It’s the basic gist of a sermon I gave at a small church in San Rafael de Vara Blanca, Costa Rica, where I was living at the time.

Several weeks ago, shortly after I arrived here in San Rafael, my friend Tomas introduced me to the pastor of the local church before one of the services. That morning during his sermon, the pastor called on me by name several times, which I suppose was a way to make sure I was paying attention. I’d nod vehemently and perhaps mutter an amen. The following Sunday he did the same thing, four or five times. One of those times, he went so far as to ask if I’d do the sermon some upcoming Sunday.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, turned out to be that day.

In preparation, I read and re-read and re-re-read the biblical account of Jesus’ triumphal entry, but nothing was really coming together for me, and in the end I landed on Isaiah 53, which is fitting for Holy Week, albeit more of a Good Friday passage.

The theme of the chapter, as you may know, is the woundedness of Christ as foretold by the prophet Isaiah. It’s a brutal passage, really, full of words like suffering, pain, pierced, crushed, wounded, oppressed, afflicted, a lamb to the slaughter and cut off from the land of the living. But it’s also a wonderful passage, especially because in it is the tremendously good news that by his wounds we are healed.

I spoke in the sermon about our brokenness, our woundedness, our sin. It’s pretty obvious we’re in need of healing, if you take the time to stop and think about it. When we do our own thing, when we play by our own rules — when we wander off like sheep, as Isaiah puts it — things get pretty screwed up really quickly. And there’s generally quite a lot of collateral damage.

Not to get all sociologically insightful on you, but as people who have been nurtured in a society that highly esteems personal liberty and individual rights, I think we often make the costly error of reading the Bible as if it were addressed primarily to isolated individuals having their “quiet times” with God. But taking a step back, remember that the Old Testament books were addressed to the people Israel, and the epistles of the New Testament (at the very least) were addressed to churches.

With all of that in mind, when Isaiah writes that “by his wounds we are healed” it follows that he actually does mean we. There’s a communal element there, which is really good news because of that collateral damage I mentioned earlier, which we have all undoubtedly experienced. Our woundedness has everything to do with the fact that we interact with people who, like us, are broken and sinful.

So the question I posed to the church, and the question I pose to you, is this: what will we do with our wounds and the wounds we have inflicted — knowingly or not — on others? Will we hide them, pretending that we’re mostly healthy people, that we’re not wounded and that we do not wound others? We might try for a while, but we won’t succeed for long.

The tremendously good news, then, is that Jesus — by whose wounds we are healed — didn’t come for those who had their act together. He came for the notorious sinners, the ones who seem to fail at hiding their brokenness, the ones who were just waiting for someone to offer them a new and better way of life, to offer them healing.

In the gospels, many of these notorious sinners turned out to be tax collectors, those who abused their positions of power to achieve great monetary gain with no apparent concern for their dismal social standing in street corner public opinion polls. Here in Costa Rica there’s a great word for just this sort of thing. The word is chorizodefined formally as a “willful action or act of corruption to gain public funds.” One who engages in chorizo, then, is a chorizero.

So in my sermon I talked about the tax-collector-turned-disciple Matthew, a chorizero if there ever was one. Jesus called Matthew to follow, and next thing you know, they’re eating dinner at Matthew’s place, along with a whole motley crew of chorizeros and other scoundrels. The Pharisees, professionals at hiding their own woundedness, took issue with Jesus’ apparent lack of discretion. To which Jesus responded that he had not come for those who had it all together, but for those in desperate need of healing. So that’s either really good news or really bad news, depending on whether we’re honest about our wounds, self-inflicted or otherwise.

But even if we’re honest about our wounds and we accept the healing Jesus offers, the pain tends to linger for a while, and we’re often left with scars, in some cases permanently. These spiritual and relational scars, like all the miscellaneous physical scars we carry around on our bodies from years of wear and tear, give us opportunities to tell the stories. Not just stories of being wounded and of wounding others, but of being healed, and even of being used by God as instruments of healing in the lives of others.

And on that note I closed the sermon, reminding the church and myself that God does not bless us and heal us just for our own sakes. He blesses us and heals us so that we in turn may bless others, so that we might be instruments of shalom — undoing, by his grace, a bit of the collateral damage all around us.

If you’re wounded, this week is for you.

[Image credit: Woodcut by Sr. Mary Grace, O.P. via]