Human labor is not a commodity. Recent articles on “Ferguson, One Year Out,” which I was reading alongside commentary on the Greek economic showdown, brought this central Marxist insight back to mind. When I read economic and political journalism, I do so not with the insights and perspectives of an economist or a political scientist, but rather as … read more
This summer I concluded a year of studying about Judaism as lived in contemporary Israel. I was privileged to be part of a program, the Christian Leadership Initiative, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and the Shalom Hartman Institute. I was among fifteen other seminary professors and denominational leaders who learned and lived together in […]
It is sixty-one degrees outside today in Oxford, England, where I am teaching at Christ Church College for the summer. As some of you know, I try to get away from the Austin heat every summer, and I’ve certainly managed that here in Oxford. It has been an amazing opportunity, but like much of the […]
In many ways Berlin is a combination of two of my favorite places—Austin and Manhattan—stirred into one big sloppy stew: endless possibilities, wonderful cultural offerings, plenty of weird things, great restaurants, lots of young, creative people working hard, enjoying life, being hopeful. But, more than any other city I know, Berlin also is a place […]
Writing a summer blog post in July in Wellington New Zealand presents an additional challenge because it is the middle of winter. Living in the middle of middle earth that means day time temperatures between 50° and 60°, a lot of rain and in Wellington a lot of wind. According to Maps of the World […]
A Blues Brothers mystagogy was originally posted on The Living Church's Covenant blog on May 19, 2015.
My wife and I recently had a chance to entertain ourselves by watching The Blues Brothers, that 1980 classic, again.
Every other time I’ve watched this movie, the repeating theme wherein the “brothers” insist that they are on a “mission from God” came across to me simply as part of the joke of the movie or as a blasphemy (as it did to Aretha Franklin’s character in that famous scene), especially when I found myself in a rather pious mood.
This time I felt rather differently. Between the last time I watched this old comedy and this recent viewing, a lot of life, growing up, sorrow, and spiritual direction has intervened. I believe the brothers were indeed on a mission from God. And I believe it is “proved,” time and again throughout the movie by the constant intervention of grace.
In the accounts of the Resurrection, I have always resonated with these words from the angel at the empty tomb in the Gospel of Matthew: “He is gone ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Matt. 28:7). These words arrest me because of the sense that Jesus is always going ahead, drawing us forward to the next part of God’s will for us.
I have travelled the road from Jerusalem to Galilee. It is not an easy journey. You travel down from Jerusalem to the edge of the Dead Sea. Then you turn and travel along the Jordan River. It is a dry place, arid and dusty. The Jordan is not broad and deep. It is narrow and muddy. Surely there are good places to stop and rest, but to move from Jerusalem to Galilee takes a certain resolve.
Before Mom died in 2004, she and my dad lived in a beach house on the west end of Galveston Island. Afterward, Dad moved to Dallas, but the beach house stayed in the family, and a number of our collective belongings remain there—including Mom’s books.
Among them are many volumes I know she read: Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, Kathleen Norris’s Cloister Walk, and Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers, to name a few. Others, I know she never cracked; they’re too pristine, lacking the warps and creases of beach-combed books.
Still others I know she only partly read. I know this because of the bookmarks she left in them.
Some of these bookmarks are of the Hallmark variety, with colored tassels and wacky sayings such as “Reading is Forever!” Others come from her travels with Dad (the Moby Dickens Bookshop in Taos) or her devotional life (“Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!”). Still others are faded dry-cleaning receipts or rumpled grocery lists.
We had just arrived back at my son and daughter-in-law’s house after the baptism of their first child at five months of age. On my mobile, I noticed messages from two of my cousins. Their mother, my mother’s only sister, my last surviving aunt of her generation, had died unexpectedly and peacefully the day before at the age of 97 years.
After years of drought, this year’s winter and spring rains have brought almost unbearable beauty to Austin. I had gotten used to a minimal landscape, the trees calligraphic in their bare-branched simplicity – and then all of a sudden the world was shaggy and colorful and fragrant with blossoms on every branch. When I run in the neighborhood around the seminary, I find my head swiveling to take in a sweet smell or a brilliantly colored sidewalk garden.
In the midst of all this blooming, three of us realized that we had significant ordination anniversaries: Cynthia Kittredge 30 years, Kathleen Russell 25 years, and my 20, all adding up to a stunning 75 years of ordained life. We celebrated the occasion at noon Eucharist in Christ chapel on April 17, by remembering also the courageous women who went before us and made the path that we walk on. You can hear Kathleen’s beautiful sermon here. What follows is the Eucharistic prayer I wrote for the day, inspired both by the physical beauty that surrounds us here and by the beauty of the work that involves us day in and day out at Seminary of the Southwest: forming students to live and lead as Christ in all the contexts to which they are called.