Day #3: Community

One of them struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. 51 Jesus responded, “Stop! No more of this!” He touched the slave’s ear and healed him.
-Luke 22:50-51

Okay, I promised one verse per day, but it’s Day 3 and I’m already sneaking in an extra verse. But in this case, you can’t have one verse without the other. The way you can’t have resilience without community. In the U.S., we prize independence and rugged individualism–only to find these national treasures are a recipe for social isolation and invulnerability. No one can do resilience alone. Resilience is the skill to maintain relationships when times get tough. We need community. We need people to catch us when we begin to lash out at the world, to walk us back into kindness. Jesus reminds his friend that vengeance is not resilience. And then Jesus heals the damage done, calling both the injured party and the injurer back into healing relationship with each other.

Takeaway: Whose ear have you tried to cut off? And who was there to put the ear back together when you were too angry to repair it? Reach out to one of the folks who has helped you repair damage, in yourself or in a relationship with someone else. Share some love with them today. Root into your community and connect with someone who nurtures your resilience.

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflecting on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

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Lent is Not about Guilt, it’s about Resilience

The week before Ash Wednesday, my internal clock blasts a grating alarm, demanding that I search out something adequately worth giving up. (I wasn’t raised in a very Lent-observant family, but I always found anything self-minimizing to be impressionable.) It’s like last-minute Christmas shopping in reverse: return all the happinesses and cash in on austerity. Give up something! Lent is the season of repentance and reflection in the church calendar, but for many it’s more of a season of deprivation—giving up chocolate, alcohol, social media, meat, those small indulgences we know we “should” be moderating the rest of the year. It’s the restarting of New Year’s Resolutions with all the pep talks, guilt trips, and resignation contained in January.

And when you get to the first week of March, no one wants to repeat January. Continue reading

The Beatitudes are Like Yogurt

[This is adapted from a sermon I preached Jan. 29]

There is an awful lot that needs to be said about Donald Trump, but I don’t want to begin there. I want to approach American politics via Jesus. And yogurt. So I begin with the Beatitudes. Many Christians think of the Beatitudes as “the New Testament Ten Commandments,” but I prefer to think of them more like “yogurt.” The Ten Commandments are, as it happens, commands. What the Beatitudes and yogurt have in common is that they are both not commands. Continue reading

Our Generation Didn’t Ruin the Institution of Marriage

I considered titling this post “Everything I Know about Marriage I Learned from Beyonce”–but I don’t even have space to explain how true that is.

Last week, I fell into a conversation with several seniors in the church about how the younger generation–my generation–had ruined the institution of marriage: cohabitation, quick divorces, and promiscuity had eroded an important and valuable way of life. With none too much politeness, but perhaps the most politeness you will see in the next 800 words, I cut the conversation: “We didn’t ruin marriage. We have a deep respect for it. And that’s why we’re not doing it as often or as quickly as your generation did.”

It’s easy, in our cultural environment, to stay generationally segregated–in college dorms, retirement communities, day care centers. It’s equally easy to create a generational echo chamber around particular issues. But the idea that my generation–or the one before it–ruined the institution of marriage is shortsighted and destructive. Continue reading

Global Economics, Part 1: Amazon Prime as Devil

“Amazon Prime is the devil,” I said to a friend this week. The poor friend, the son of a preacher, was confused by my vehement rebuke, since Amazon Prime was only tangential to the story he was telling.

As a pastor, I try not to go around calling things the devil just because I dislike them. But if Amazon Prime isn’t the devil, it’s certainly something close to it. It amazes me how quickly Christians latched on to Amazon Prime as if their freshly arrived toilet paper is heaven-sent. How quickly we’ve let Amazon be our source not only for products, but invited Amazon to take over the whole supply chain, edging out competitors and creating functional monopolies on more and more products. How quickly we’ve bought into the idea that faster is better.

I waited three days for Jesus to resurrect; surely I can wait three days for my toilet paper (or at least, use my roommate’s bathroom until it arrives; although I should apologize to my roommate that I went through almost a whole roll of her toilet paper before I found the time to get my own; sorry, Stacy). Continue reading

Do We Need Transfiguration Sunday?

It happens every year. Transfiguration Sunday. Or, the Sunday before Lent in which Jesus time travels but we pretend he doesn’t, because it’s Christologically confusing, ecclesiologically misleading, and theologically extraneous. It’s the only moment in the four gospels when Jesus and Moses hang out together, and yet we insist on celebrating this mystical Ghost-of-Torah-Past every year. Yes, it is there, in the Bible, but I’ve wondered, for a long time, what is the point of Transfiguration Sunday? Continue reading

Jesus Calls us to Heal–and Crowdfund

Every three or four months, one of my friends gets sick. Well. Many of my friends get sick, but one of my sick friends gets swamped with astronomical, life-defining medical bills. I usually hear about it through Facebook, which is a shitty way to hear that your friend is sick, but it’s even shittier when the news comes with a link to a crowdfunded webpage. Every few months, I have a friend whose medical bills are so unaffordably high that he or she has to ask for help, and the only place they can turn is to the Internet.

Medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. There are a billion and a half reasons why medical expenses are so high–unnecessary testing, bloated administration, overpriced prescription drugs, overtaxed system, bad insurance balances, capitalism itself. Whatever. Continue reading