Here’s my Berkeley senior sermon. It’s a bit different to the kind of thing I usually preach. It’s one of the few things I’ve put together which was very much designed to be spoken, rather than read. I also made the conscious decision to dive into a conceptual reading of Corinthians 7:26-29, and so preach from an explicitly philosophical/theological perspective. With that said, I hope it’s worth the read, and I hope that the pastoral import of the philosophical/theological manifests itself.
A dear friend described it—paraphrasing slightly—as articulating a ‘practice of how we might regularly evaluate what we presume to be normative, and why those presumptions might be what get in the way of our ability to experience mystery, chance, surprise, hope, grace.’ I think that’s exactly what I was trying to do.
For the present form of this world is passing away.
In our second reading today, Paul tells the Christians in Corinth that “the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none.” In other words, given everything’s going to get apocalyptic soon, be as if you weren’t what you are. In itself, this seems simple enough. It is complicated, however, by the verses right before, not included in our reading today. There, Paul writes that, “in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” In verse 26, then, ‘are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free.’ In verse 19, ‘let even those who have wives be as though they had none.’ Be married, and be as if you were not. Be—and be as if you weren’t.
The Episcopal Church and systematic theology are divided.1 They have been for a long time, and there are reasons for this on both sides. The problem I’m going to focus on in this post is a belief that abstract theological statements—about the Trinity, for example, or what it means to say Jesus Christ is very God and very Man—are irrelevant to Christian life. I’ve heard this belief expressed in myriad ways. In church, it’s not uncommon to hear things like “it doesn’t matter whether your believe Jesus is divine, only that you follow his teachings.” This is a ‘life not doctrine’ approach. In seminary, it’s not uncommon to hear the question “when am I ever going to use this? It’s of no use for pastoral ministry.” This is a theory/practice distinction. Continue reading “Why Should Episcopalians Bother with Systematic Theology?”→
I was lucky enough to come second in The Living Church’s Student Essays in Christian Wisdom Competition. They’ve just posted my entry on the Covenant blog, which you can find here. It deals with how we can look at points of schism as providing resources for navigating the fracturing or relationship—in this case, Richard Hooker and S.T. Coleridge’s accounts of reason. Hope it’s enjoyable, and here’s the first paragraph! (p.s. For any reading who considered entering, it’s well worth doing so next year.)Continue reading “Seeking Wisdom in the Spaces of Schism (Living Church essay)”→
I bought the cross I wear on a retreat to Holy Cross Monastery in April, 2014. It was a spontaneous decision made while browsing through their bookstore. A heavy rainfall eroded the glue holding the beams together about two months later, so I patched it up using superglue and a bit of red thread a housemate of mine had to hand. I’ve worn it almost every day since. Continue reading “Why Do I Wear a Cross?”→
I was fortunate enough to participate in the Graduate Colloquium hosted by the Centre for Barth Studies this week. Each person gave a 20-30 minute presentation on a selected portion of Church Dogmatics, Volume 3:3, followed by 40-30 minutes discussion. The presentations were amazing, and showed just how many diverse and brilliant lines of thought can be developed through to exploration of Barth’s work. The opportunity to listen to and engage in discussion with the community that had gathered was a true gift—not least because it showed how much there is yet to be learnt. In any case, given the current events in Charlottesville, I figured I might as well post the presentation I gave (as well as some of the lines of interrogation that emerged in the discussion afterwards). I hope it’s worth reading.
In any case, I just finished working through Giorgio Agamben’s The Kingdom and the Glory. Right at the start of the text he gives an account of secularization which I think makes sense of how Biblical Literalism is a secular phenomenon, apart from my initial presumption. So, here’s a quick post describing that account and that making sense, followed by a few other thoughts. (To be clear, I’m thinking throughout of Biblical Literalism as I have encountered it in person, not as it may or may not have been worked out in the academy.) Continue reading “How is Biblical Literalism a Secular Phenomenon?”→