I had a very short career in journalism. It began, and ended , in grammar school. I attended a private school operated by a fundamentalist sect who believed themselves to be the remnant church, meaning there could be no salvation outside being a member of their denomination. One year I asked if I could create a small “newspaper” as a project. I did receive permission, then solicited copy from classmates, and mimeographed my weekly edition. Now, our sponsoring religion believed in a very literal interpretation of the concepts of heaven and hell; and, in a particular issue, I released the results of a non-scientific pollRead More →

This Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost — between the departure of Jesus and the birth of Christ’s Catholic Church — is often called Expectation Sunday for obvious reasons. For we stand at a point of transition. Today in John’s Gospel [17: 1-11], Jesus prays what is called his High Priestly Prayer. It is quite the oration, one in which Jesus asks God two things: (1) that his own death mean something, by revealing God’s glory, and (2) that all those who shall continue his holy mission be unified and protected. We, today’s readers, of course, know the score. We know what is coming in thisRead More →

Ascension Day marks an end to the resurrection visions described in the Bible. It is a holy day often overlooked and well worth our engaging. On this occasion the reading has Jesus taking his inner circle out to Bethany. Now Bethany, as you may recall, is just outside the walls of Jerusalem, the hometown of Mary and Martha, and the setting for the story of the raising of Lazarus. Bethany was specifically built just out of sight of the Temple, so that those coming to Jerusalem for the annual mandatory pilgrimage festivals would not see the ugly poverty and desperation of the people there. ItRead More →

Athens is an ancient city named for its goddess, the Virgin Athena, lovely daughter of mighty Zeus. Athena was a female to be reckoned with: the patroness of wisdom, but also the patroness of war. In charge of arts and crafts, but also law and order. She is appropriately depicted in art and in literature as beautiful, but tough. Athena’s great main Temple, called the Akropolis, ‘the high city’, was built on Mars Hill, so-called because the god Mars was tried there for the murder of Neptune’s son. Over time it logically became a place to convene tribunals, but also a place for public discussions.Read More →

At university, I was one student who seemed to take “the road less travelled by.” I studied both physical and cultural anthropology, and linguistics,. I studied German when everyone else was into Spanish. I even chose to study botany when everyone else was dissecting frogs in biology labs. One thing that my broadened studies taught me was the important lesson that all of life is connected, indeed interdependent. That is most certainly true of marine life, each stage of which supports the next higher stage, right up to us humans who consume food from the sea and to the many people who depend on theRead More →

We are indeed living in strange and, for most all of us, unprecedentedly troubling times. Two days ago the U.S. death total from COVID-19 passed the 75,000 mark and worldwide a quarter million have succumbed. Our economy is nearing the unemployment rate of the Great Depression with many shortages in goods across the country, as the national government is providing direct financial assistance in small amounts to ordinary citizens and in huge amounts to big corporations. Guidelines for recovery are, of course, provisional, always subject to change. Usually in conversation the first question I am asked is, “When will Saint Matthew’s reopen?” That is aRead More →

A friend related this week that, while masked and waiting to enter a shop in Tulsa, he was passed by an unmasked man who told him that mask-wearing was stupid because “if Jesus wants you to get the coronavirus, you’ll get it!” That attitude seemed reflected in a letter to the editor of the Tulsa World, published this morning, in which the writer opined that God has inflicted COVID-19 on humanity to make some point. This notion that God intends and inflicts evil on people as part of his role as the micro-manager of the universe goes back to thinking in ancient Jewish culture, inRead More →

It is no secret that the sine qua non of our U.S. economic system is growth. Although progressive economists argue for a standard of maintenance, the driver of the capitalist system is greed, and that requires a constant growth model, punctuated by booms and busts when the system can’t keep up. We just have to have more and more; there must never be impediments to the unlimited accumulation of wealth. (Never mind that Jesus said that drive is the greatest danger to our spiritual health.) The growth model means that profits will be placed ahead of people, which is a concern to many as ourRead More →

I was recently reading an essay on political history, when I came across an unfamiliar insight. The writer explained that the term “communism,” in fact, refers to an ideal social condition in which the slogan “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is reified. In other words, it is a mythical condition of absolute equality, social justice, and real harmony. It is a hypothetical human existence whose practical application is fraught with challenges. Indeed, the early Christian community was truly organized along the lines of primitive communism (viz. Acts 2: 44-45) but it soon encountered the human factors that ledRead More →

We are already beyond the half-way point in the Easter Season, but in some ways it feels like it could as easily be the tenth Sunday of Lent, living with the penance of social distancing and the many virus-fighting disciplines in place. Today is actually a great time to have Good Shepherd Sunday, vivid reminder that the Resurrected Christ is our shepherd, by whom we are led in times of uncertainty, loved in times of isolation, healed in these times of brokenness, strengthened in times of fear. The shepherd is an ancient and enduring symbol of our God’s loving, caring leadership of his people. AndRead More →