New Here?
     
Death

Lord God, From Even Our Motives, Save Us

Lord God, From Even Our Motives, Save Us

This past Sunday was the kind of Sabbath that heals me. It was All Saints Sunday, my husband preached about my grandmother, and the church was full of loud children. During communion, a guy played “Amazing Grace” on the horn. It was a taste of heaven.

And then I turned on the radio in my car and heard about the horrific church shooting, just a few hours away from us, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. And then I turned the radio off.

My heart felt too full of heartache. The vision of babies being shot to death in a Baptist church was more…

Read More > > >

He Descended Into Horror

He Descended Into Horror

The approach of Halloween and Reformation Day begs an interesting question for the modern Tertullian: what hath Halloween to do with Jerusalem? As a rhetorical move, the implied answer is: nothing at all. In the eyes of many a pious Protestant, it is some rough beast that slouches off towards Halloween while soldiers of the five solas parade to the fanfare of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” “Trick or treat!” and “Here I stand” seem poles apart, incommensurately opposite. But what if the convergence of the two in one day presents an apposite moment for reflecting upon solus Christus…

Read More > > >

Performance-Based Culture Is Killing Us

Performance-Based Culture Is Killing Us

Grateful for this one written by The Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase, whose book Done and Left Undone: Grace in the Meantime of Parish Ministry hits in January.

When I preached at the closing Eucharist of our recent Cursillo on Sunday, I reminded participants that they’d just been gifted with a cross on which was written: “Christ is counting on you.” I told them (to a few gasps in the congregation) to please forget about that for now. They should rather be “counting on Christ.” Later, when they’re a bit more mature in faith, they might heed the words on their crosses, while…

Read More > > >

An Obituary from Beyond the Grave

An Obituary from Beyond the Grave

With Halloween right around the corner, it’s the perfect time of year to remember the sobering reality that death comes for us all. Hooray! That’s the case for many as the streets fill up with ghosts, ghouls and zombies, though that certainly isn’t the case universally. In my neighborhood, the ghosts and ghouls are generally outnumbered by the hoards of Jedi, Avengers, and Disney Princesses that come with open pillowcases. For a master primer on our cultural denial of death, look no further than Ethan Richardson’s piece in the Mockingbird Magazine’s Love & Death issue.

While we may be in a…

Read More > > >

When Death Happens To The Unknown Next Of Kin

When Death Happens To The Unknown Next Of Kin

My 67 year-old brother-turned-sister had retreated into work over the last 15 years. She was a bus dispatcher, but was, by all accounts, totally dedicated to being “at work”. No friends outside of the office, no hobbies.

So when she told her co-workers that she was going home after a morning shift to return for the night shift to “Do some things at home” it was unusual.

She never returned. They found her body, in bed, on Monday morning.

I wish it was a surprise. I wish I could say I now will miss her. But we had not spoken since I was…

Read More > > >

No Need to Explain

No Need to Explain

A lovely piece by Andrew Taylor-Troutman:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery.” (1 Corinthians 15:51 KJV)

It was our first visit. I sat on the sofa in her living room surrounded by pictures of their four children, eight grandchildren. And pictures of him. The shades were drawn against the sunlight as we chatted: get-to-know-you preliminaries about where I was from, the obligatory lament concerning the weather (I forget, now, whether it had rained too much or too little). Her recently deceased husband hovered in picture frames. In their most recent church directory photo, he smiled above her right shoulder, his moustache trimmed, his…

Read More > > >

Art and Death in A Ghost Story: An Interview with David Lowery

Art and Death in A Ghost Story: An Interview with David Lowery

This interview was conducted by Daniel Melvill Jones. A Ghost Story is available for rent on iTunes and other outlets as of today Tuesday, October 3.

Director David Lowery burst onto the filmmaking scene with his breakout indie hit, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. This led to Disney entrusting him with last year’s remake of Pete’s Dragon, a critical success praised for its personal vision. But nothing prepared critics for this year’s Sundance hit, A Ghost Story. Wholly unique, this small film has a scope at once cosmic and contained. It elegantly expresses questions of loss, death, creativity, and the permanence of…

Read More > > >

Two Poems by Brandon Courtney

The following poems were originally published in Tin House’s recent “Rehab” issue and are written by US Navy veteran Brandon Courtney (with featured art by Guy Catling):

Lazaretto

Without a shipboard morgue,

we kept the dead Iraqi

in the dairy box—his corpse

supine beside the eggs (more…)

Robert Jenson (1930-2017) on the Proclamation of the Gospel

Scott Jones has already posted an article worth your time on Robert Jenson who died last week. He is, as Scott also pointed out, likely the most brilliant American theologian since Jonathan Edwards. My seminary professor, Piotr Małysz, lent me his Systematic Theology, Volume 1 while I was still in school, and I could tell immediately that I was reading one of the greats. If you have yet to read him, start with “How the World Lost Its Story” or with his latest book, A Theology in Outline. Here is an early writing from Jenson on the mind-blowingly profound, yet simple, Gospel that tells me about Jesus’ future and thus about my future as well:

The word of proclamation narrates what happened with Jesus and asserts that what happened with Jesus will happen to you as your death-certain destiny, that the achievement of love-out-of-death which he enacted will fulfill your lives also. The word of proclamation is the assertion that you go to meet him, and will therefore conclude your lives by total involvement in his. It is the assertion that you have a destiny and that he is it, that his story tells of it.

In the word of proclamation, the story of the past Jesus is addressed to me as my future, as my possibility. If then it occurs that as an event in my life I enact this story as and when it is so proclaimed, then what happened with Jesus is not only the past which my action recalls, it is also the future in which my action will eventuate. Then this enacting is the event of my being destined to this destiny. In the context of the proclamation and not otherwise, our speaking and acting-out of the gospel story is, precisely as an enacting which is an occurrence in our lives like any other, our choosing and being chosen to this destiny which is real to us as the story of Jesus. It is, therefore, the event of our having Jesus’ story as our story.

In the context of this proclamation, worship is the effective hearing of the proclamation, by which I am given love-out-of-death as my chosen future. As such it is the being done to me of what Jesus suffered himself and did to his followers. It is when Jesus’ story is enacted as not only past but also future that the enactment and not merely the enacting is a present event in our lives—and it is the word of proclamation that the past can be future.

A Religion Against Itself

Can These Bones Live?

Can These Bones Live?

The greatest American theologian since Jonathan Edwards died this week. His name was Robert Jenson. But to his friends he was “Jens.” Jenson wrote scores of books. His impact on Christian theology will be felt for generations to come. He was a theologian’s theologian with a pastoral heart and a subtle missiological eye. He was one of the great ecumenists of our time, one with deep convictions; we don’t often associate the two. We think of the former as watering down particularity of belief in order to go along to get along. The latter we might admire but don’t invite…

Read More > > >

Heroin in the Hymnals

Heroin in the Hymnals

There is a moment deep into Netflix’s underrated Ozark (spoilers below), where the raising of a cross atop a church emits ripples of fear, as if recreational Missouri were ancient Rome. Whatever the show’s imperfections, I submit that restoring a sense of the scandal of the cross to America’s Bible belt is a considerable accomplishment. For the most part, the sex and violence in this show is more narrative tool than titillation – though I do wish there had been less of it. Even so, while most critics have fallen into lock-step complaint that Ozark is not Breaking Bad, I…

Read More > > >

Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

Another glimpse into the Love & Death Issue, our interview with pediatric palliative care oncologist, Ray Barfield. Ray also teaches philosophical theology at Duke Divinity School. Tissues at the ready…

When you think of modern healthcare, what comes to mind? White hallways, beeping monitors, lots of nervous energy, little laughter? Whether or not you’ve had positive experiences there, it’s hard to deny that the hospital often feels far from home. Part of this is unavoidable—CAT scans and physical exams will always be intrusive. But, as Atul Gawande noted in his groundbreaking bestseller, Being Mortal, much of what makes medicine scary is…

Read More > > >