“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.”
Episcopal priest and theologian John Westerhoff, speaking about Christian formation, distinguishes between “nurture” and “conversion.” So often when we Christians do formation – like teach prayer, or talk about the importance of regular worship, or teach about the sacraments – we tend to talk in terms of nurture – how church consoles us, for example, or how prayer helps us get through our day. But nurture will take us only so far, says Westerhoff. A mature Christian faith – if we are truly to be the “salt of the earth” and the “lights of the world” – requires conversion: a deep-down, thorough and systemic transformation of the inner person.
We’ll get back to conversion, but first I want to speak to our present social and political environment. In the weeks since the inauguration, many have told me about the rallies they’ve attended, the letters they’ve sent or phone calls they’ve made, and the convictions they have regarding the environment or immigration or religious tolerance. An activism has been awakened, and I see a care for our nation that I haven’t seen in my lifetime, a desire to make a difference. Continue reading →
Gregory Palamas, the 14th century Greek Orthodox bishop and theologian, held that the natural world, the Scriptures, and our inner life all illuminated and informed each other. That is, if we want to know about our inner life, study the Scriptures and nature. Or if we want to know about the natural world, look to the Scriptures and to ourselves. Or, if we would truly come to appreciate the Scriptures, we must first truly appreciate both the wonders of nature and the depths of our souls. Continue reading →
Historians tell us that Alcuin was one of the most learned men of his time, a leading scholar in the court of Charlemagne and then Abbot of a monastery in Tours. He was a “man of letters” not merely because he was a great scholar, but also because he was literally a man of letters, the scriptoriums under his charge developing the so-called “Carolingian miniscule.” Carolingian miniscule was an elegant and easy-to-write hand that not only sped up the writing of manuscripts, but also made them more legible through things we take for granted, such as the insertion of spaces between words and the use of capital letters to begin sentences. Carolingian minuscule was so elegant and so efficient that it became the dominant script of Charlemagne’s empire, helping to standardize and unify not only the administration of Charlemagne’s government, but also the liturgy. Continue reading →
Yesterday one of Trinity’s members, Audrey, was Confirmed by Bishop Gates at the deanery service held at the Church of the Advent downtown. It was a beautiful service and a wonderful day for Trinity. And I’m going to get back to talking about Confirmation and the tools we used to help Audrey prepare – tools that are useful for all of us – but first I want to talk about Studebakers.
Every Tuesday I drive my son Shaw to Dorchester for a choir rehearsal at All Saints, Ashmont. Almost every Tuesday, parked across the street from the church, is a 1963 Studebaker Lark. When I first saw it, I was incredulous: a Studebaker, parked right on the street in Dorchester! Even though Studebakers ceased production shortly before I was born, I recognized it instantly as a Studebaker. It has that Studebaker grill: an open “mouth” canted ever so slightly forward and set between horizontal pairs of headlights. The body is so “Studebaker:” a little too short in length for its height – but still dignified, not unlike a porkpie hat. And then there is the slightly rounded and squished trunk – on the Lark, looking like the back half of a giant hamburger bun – that is so Studebaker-y. Even though I hadn’t seen one in years, the moment I saw it, I knew it was a Studebaker.
If you’re a New York Yankees fan, I don’t think this sermon will offend you; but I am going to gush a little about our beloved Red Sox.
The first professional baseball game I went to was a Red Sox game, back in 1975. I was just a kid, living in southeastern Wisconsin and rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers, the home team. My cousins had bought a block of tickets for “Helmet Day,” and they invited a bunch of the relatives to go as a group. I remember that it was a beautiful day in early August, warm but with a cooling breeze blowing in off Lake Michigan. We drove to County Stadium in our ’66 Oldsmobile, a pre-pollution control affair with an engine so powerful that the car dipped to the left during acceleration, and that had seat belt buckles big enough to chip a tooth on, if you weren’t careful. As we drew near to the stadium parking lot, I remember the smell of charcoal and sausages from the tailgaters, then the long walk across the parking lot, the long ticket line, the yeasty smell of stadium beer, and the long climb up to the second-highest row of seats deep along the right field line. The stadium was packed, and not just with Brewers’ fans. Even then the Red Sox faithful traveled to watch their team.
It was only much later, after I moved to Boston as a young man, that I realized what an extraordinary day that was. I got to see the ’75 Red Sox! There, right in front of my eyes, were names I had known only from baseball cards: Fred Lynn, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. There was Carlton Fisk, who looked big even from deep down the right field line. And, of course, there was famous number 8, Carl Yastremski, whose name we had no trouble pronouncing because we were from Milwaukee.
What a line-up! There was no stopping them that day. The Sox just kept hammering out hits, and they eventually wore the Brewers down, winning 5-2.
As I consider the series of readings that our lectionary gives us this Lent, I can’t help but think of the ’75 Sox. What a line-up! In past weeks we’ve heard the story of the fall in Genesis 2. We’ve heard God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12 to “Go from your country, your kindred, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” We’ve been hearing from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapters 4 and 5 and how “one man’s act of righteousness leads to… life for all.” And in the gospel, we are midway through a series of powerful readings from John’s Gospel. Last week we heard the story of Nicodemus; today, the story of the woman at the well. And in the coming weeks we’ll hear the story of Jesus healing the man born blind and Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Taken together, these readings form a line-up, not intended to get runners across the plate, but intended to take us even deeper into relationship with Jesus Christ, in preparation for his Passion.