ADVENT REFLECTION: Fight Now With Sin by Hugh Latimer

November 28, 2018

From Sermon on the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Advent There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the Earth. (Luke 21:25) There are some who think that there shall be great eclipses, against the course of nature; and you know that there have been strange things seen in the elements many times.  Sometimes there has been seen a ring about the sun; sometimes there have been seen three suns at once; and such like things have been seen in times past: which no doubt signifies that this fearful day is not far off in which Christ will come with his Heavenly host, to judge and reward every one of us according to our desserts. “People will faint from fear and foreboding,” (Luke 21:26); people will be wonderfully fearful; [...]

WISDOM STORY: The Monk’s Three Sins by Nathalie Leone

November 30, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom A monk felt resentment toward the abbot of the monastery.  Unable to rid himself of this aggression – rather the reverse – he brooded over it, justifying it, and making excuses; thus, the hatred increased rapidly.  In the solitude of his cell he was assailed by a terrible thought: He wished to see the abbot dead. Hardly had this thought taken root in his mind than the abbot had an apoplectic fit.  He collapsed and died forthwith.  That very evening the Devil appeared to the monk.  He greeted the monk, but the poor brother did not reply.  He moaned, wrung his hands, rolled on the ground, and blamed himself for this vile act. The Devil deployed all his artifices, but the monk could not be [...]

POETRY: Mrs. Adam by Kathleen Norris

October 8, 2017

I have lately come to the conclusion that I am Eve, alias Mrs. Adam. You know, there is no account of her death in the Bible, and why am I not Eve? (Emily Dickinson in a letter, 12 January, 1846) Wake up, you’ll need your wits about you. This is not a dream, but a woman who loves you, speaking. She was there when you cried out; she brushed the terror away. She knew when it was time to sin. You were wise to let her handle it, and leave that place. We couldn’t speak at first for the bitter knowledge, the sweet taste of memory on our tongues. Listen, it’s time. You were chosen too, to put the world [...]

POETRY: A Recuperation Of Sin by Scott Cairns

August 13, 2017

I suppose we might do away with words like sin. They are at least archaic, not to mention rude, and late generations have been pretty well-schooled against the presumption of holding anything to be absolutely so, universally applicable, especially anything like sin which is, to put it more neatly, unpleasant, not the sort of thing one brings up. Besides, so much of what ignorance may have once attributed to sin has been more justly shown to be the end result of bad information, genetic flaw, or, most often, an honest misunderstanding. And I suppose sin’s old usefulness may have paled somewhat through many centuries of overuse by corrupt clergy pointing fingers, by faithless men and women who have longed more than anything for a more [...]

POETRY: Evening Prayer by Louis Glück

June 24, 2017

I believe my sin to be entirely common: the request for help Masking request for favor and the plea for pity thinly veiling complaint. So little at peace in the spring evening, I pray for strength, for direction, but I also ask to survive my illness (the immediate one)—never mind anything in the future. I make this a special point, this unconcern for the future, also the courage I will have acquired by then to meet my suffering alone but with heightened fortitude. Tonight, in my unhappiness, I wonder what qualities this presumes in the one who listens. And as the breeze stirs the leaves of the little birch tree, I construct a presence wholly skeptical and wholly tender, thus incapable of surprise. I believe my sin is common, therefore [...]

SAINTS: Margaret Of Cortona — Three Stories Of Mercy by Greg Friedman

April 3, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30; Psalm 23:1-6; John 8:1-11 Two women accused of adultery are the focus of today’s scriptures.  We add to the mix a lay Franciscan whose conversion from a state of public sin inspired others to penance in the thirteenth century. From the book of Daniel comes the story of Susanna, a woman wrongly accused of adultery.  It becomes the occasion for the hero of the book, young Daniel, to trap the elders who lusted after Susanna and brought the false accusation. In the Gospel, Jesus is presented with a woman caught in adultery.  Her guilt is not in question, though, under Jewish law, her partner in the sin is not on trial.  Jesus challenges those publicly shaming the woman to [...]

FORGIVENESS: Role Reversal At Tables—Jesus, a Pharisee, and a Sinful Woman by John T. Carroll

January 26, 2017

From Luke: A Commentary Jesus, the man with the well-earned reputation of enjoying a good meal and befriending sinners, finds himself in a banquet setting where he can befriend the righteous.  At the home of a Pharisee, however, the unexpected appearance of a woman with her own reputation in the town – as a sinner – turns the occasion into another display of feasting and embracing, and being embraced by, a sinner.  The twin themes of inside-out role reversal and divergent responses to Jesus continue, bound up with differing views of his identity.  Jesus defends the uninvited guest who honors him and criticizes the righteous host who finds fault with him.  Within the realm of God, honor and virtue are not what, in polite company, [...]

FORGIVENESS: Reconciliation by Todd Flowerday

January 26, 2017

The Lord asks, “Do you see this woman?” Is he speaking only to Simon the Pharisee? Or to us as well? In considering Luke 7:36-50, may we ask if this is an illustration of a sinner who comes to Jesus as an act of metanoia and of love? Or is this a prick of our consciences not to be like the Pharisee? Or is this a theological lesson how God forgives us, and what that mercy might look like in real life? One thing is certain: this is a rich reading that operates on many levels for the participants as well as us modern readers. Luke is a master dramatist, and no passage in his Gospel surpasses this for his skill as a storyteller: A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. [...]

LECTIO DIVINA: The Penitent Woman by William A. Anderson

January 24, 2017

From The Gospel of Luke: Salvation For All Humanity And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus [...]

PRAYER: Prayer, The Treasure Of Our Lives

January 23, 2017

From The Word Among Us The lifting up of our whole being in prayer is so pleasing to God!   And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that [...]

PRAYER: The Miracle Prayer

January 23, 2017

(Author unknown) Lord Jesus, I come before you, just as I am. I am sorry for my sins. I repent of my sins. Please forgive me. In your name, I forgive all others for what they have done against me. I renounce Satan, the evil spirits, and all their works. I give you my entire self, Lord Jesus, now and forever. I invite you into my life, Jesus. I accept you as my Lord, God, and Savior. Heal me, change me, strengthen me in body, soul, and spirit. Come, Lord Jesus, cover me with your precious blood, and fill me with your Holy Spirit. I love you, Lord Jesus. I praise you, Jesus. I thank you, Jesus. I shall follow you every day of my life. Amen.   [...]

POETRY: Repentance by George Herbert

August 24, 2016

Lord, I confess my sin is great; Great is my sin. Oh! gently treat With thy quick flow’r, thy momentany bloom; Whose life still pressing Is one undressing, A steady aiming at a tomb. Man’s age is two hours’ work, or three: Each day doth round about us see. Thus are we to delights: but we are all To sorrows old, If life be told From what life feeleth, Adam’s fall. O let thy height of mercy then Compassionate short-breathed men. Cut me not off for my most foul transgression: I do confess My foolishness; My God, accept of my confession. Sweeten at length this bitter bowl, Which thou hast pour’d into my soul; Thy wormwood turn to health, winds to fair weather: For if thou stay, I and this day, As we did rise, we [...]

POETRY: Adventures In New Testament Greek—Metanoia by Scott Cairns

August 24, 2016

Repentance, to be sure, But of a species far less likely to oblige sheepish repetition. Repentance, you’ll observe, glibly bears the bent of thought revisited, and mind’s familiar stamp —a quaint, half-hearted doubleness that couples all compunction with a pledge of recurrent screw-up. The heart’s metanoia, on the other hand, turns without regret, turns not so much away, as toward, as if the slow pilgrim has been surprised to find that sin is not so bad as it is a waste of [...]

MYSTICISM: The Quaker Conception Of Man by Rufus M. Jones

June 2, 2016

From Friends Intelligencer It is of all things important for us as members of the Society of Friends to have a vivid and vital conviction of the reality of the living God. It is difficult to see how we as God’s people can be spiritually effective if we are halting and stumbling between two opinions: (1) that the universe is a blind-chance mechanism which has fortuitously come into being with no guiding, creative mind at the helm, and (2) that there is before, above, and within the processes of the universe one Eternal Creator Spirit, the living God, who has revealed himself, and is still revealing himself, to those who have ears to hear his word. But hardly less important for our spiritual mission in the world of today is [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: The Relinquished Life by Oswald Chambers

March 8, 2016

From My Utmost For His Highest So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours.  But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, with the whole Christ – “for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” – so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet. (Andrew of Crete) No one is ever united with Jesus Christ until he is willing to relinquish not sin only, but his whole way of looking at things. To be born from above of the Spirit of God means that we must let go before we lay hold, and in the first stages it is the relinquishing of all pretense. [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: In Mirrors by Walter Wangerin

February 23, 2016

From Reliving the Passion In mirrors I see myself.  But in mirrors made of glass and silver I never see the whole of myself.  I see the me I want to see, and I ignore the rest. Mirrors that hide nothing hurt me.  They reveal an ugliness I’d rather deny.  Yow!  Avoid these mirror of veracity! My wife is such a mirror.  When I have sinned against her, my sin appears in the suffering of her face.  Her tears reflect with terrible accuracy my selfishness.  My self!  But I hate the sight, and the same selfishness I see now makes me look away. “Stop crying!” I command, as though the mirror were at fault.  Or else I just leave the room.  Walk away. Oh, what a coward I am, and what a fool!  Only when I have the [...]

STORY: The Strength Of God by Sherwood Anderson

February 12, 2016

The Reverend Curtis Hartman was pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Winesburg, and had been in that position ten years.  He was forty years old, and by his nature very silent and reticent.  To preach, standing in the pulpit before the people, was always a hardship for him and from Wednesday morning until Saturday evening he thought of nothing but the two sermons that must be preached on Sunday.  Early on Sunday morning he went into a little room called a study in the bell tower of the church and prayed.  In his prayers there was one note that always predominated.  “Give me strength and courage for thy work, O Lord!” he plead, kneeling on the bare floor and bowing his head in the presence of the task that lay before him. [...]

SIN: A Deeper Understanding Of Sin by Timothy Keller

June 30, 2015

From The Prodigal God With this parable [of the Prodigal Son] Jesus gives us a much deeper concept of “sin” than any of us would have if he didn’t supply it.  Most people think of sin as failing to keep God’s rules of conduct, but, while not less than that, Jesus’s definition of sin goes beyond it. In her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor says of her character, Hazel Motes, that “there was a deep, black, wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.”  This is a profound insight.  You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws.  If you do that, then you have “rights.”  God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to [...]

SIN: Seven Roads To Hell by Evelyn Underhill

March 12, 2015

From The Mount of Purification There are seven dispositions in us which specially block the action of God and are hostile to the Holy; which twists our souls out of shape.  Theology calls them the seven deadly sins – deadly because once they get their claws into us they tend to spiritual extinction instead of spiritual life. Pride, uppishness, the great instinct of self-regard.  No one can see straight in religion till they get rid of that. Envy – an inimical, snarky attitude to others, ill-wind in all, even its most subtle and refined forms. Anger, the combative instinct, turbulence, emotional uproar, self-centered vehemence, the negation of Peace. Sloth, the opposite number of wholesome zest, the deadly spirit of slackness, [...]

SERMON: The Fire And The Calf by Phillips Brooks

November 2, 2014

So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf. (Exodus 32:24) In the story from which these words are taken we see Moses go up into the mountain to hold communion with God.  While he is gone the Israelites begin to murmur and complain.  They want other gods, gods of their own.  Aaron, the brother of Moses, was their priest.  He yielded to the people, and when they brought him their golden earrings he made out of them a golden calf for them to worship.  When Moses came down from the mountain he found the people deep in their idolatry.  He was indignant.  First he destroyed the idol, “He burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel [...]

SATURDAY READING: Despair by Joyce Carol Oates

November 1, 2014

From Deadly Sins What mysterious cruelty in the human soul; to have invented despair as a “sin”!  Like the Seven Deadly Sins employed by the medieval Roman Catholic Church to terrify the faithful into obedience, despair is most helpfully imagined as a mythical state.  It has no quantifiable existence; it “is” merely allegory, yet no less lethal for the fact.  Unlike other sins, however, despair is by tradition the sole sin that cannot be forgiven: it is the conviction that one may be damned absolutely, thus a refutation of the Christian savior and a challenge to God’s infinite capacity for forgiveness.  The sins for which one may be forgiven – pride, anger, lust, sloth, avarice, gluttony, envy – are [...]

GOD 101: Finding Our Sin

October 30, 2014

This wouldn’t be the first time that I think the church has things completely backward. Back end front, and all that. Perhaps it’s the challenge of being a mystic that is at the root of this dissension. Don’t get me wrong, I think the church – any Christian church, really – does a great job in finding ways to point out to people how wrong they are. It’s just that they do this from a people perspective. And people aren’t God. This passion to point, condemn, and feel satisfied in the condemnation could be separated out into its own little sideshow and entitled, This Is Exactly What You Do That Pisses Off Others.  I think that would handle the phenomenon. And put it in its place. But the church, in [...]

FORGIVENESS: Anger by Mary Gordon

October 30, 2014

From Deadly Sins There would be no point to sin if it were not the corridor to pleasure, but the corridor of anger has a particularly seductive, self-deceiving twist.  More than any of the other sins, anger can be seen to be good, can perhaps even begin by being good.  Jesus himself was angry, brandishing his whip and thrillingly overturning tables: coins, doves flying, the villainous sharpsters on their knees to save their spoils.  It would seem to run in the family; by far the angriest character in the Old Testament is God. Of all the sins, only anger is connected in the common tongue to its twinned, entwined virtue: justice.  “Just anger,” we say.  Impossible even to begin to imagine such a phrase made with the others: [...]

SIN: Pride by Gore Vidal

October 28, 2014

From Deadly Sins Is pride a sin at all?  The Oxford English Dictionary strikes a primly English note: “A high or overweening opinion of one’s own qualities, attainments or estate,” or too clever by half, the ultimate put-down in those bright arid islands where ignorance must be lightly worn. Apparently, the Romans and the Greeks had other, by no means pejorative, words for it.  The quintessential Greek, Odysseus, reveled in being too clever by any number of halves.  Of course, neither Greeks nor Romans had a word for sin, a Judeo-Christian concept that the Germans did have a word for, Sunde, which Old English took aboard.  Obviously, in any time and place an overweening person is tiresome, but surely laughter is [...]

PRAYER: The Seven Specific Prayers Against The Seven Deadly Sins

October 27, 2014

With Seven Thanksgivings for the Seven Effusions of our Lord’s Blood (Author unknown) PRIDE Pride was the first sin ever committed and so it is at the heart of all sin. It was the cause of the fall of Lucifer, the bright angel, who was the first to resist God’s will, and rebelling against God’s plan brought, we are told by the Scriptures, a great portion of the Lights of Heaven with him, the other angels. In fact, we are told in the Book of the Apocalypse, that he swept with him a third of the stars from the sky. Does that mean that he brought as many as one third of all the angels? Once when Padre Pio was looking out a window with a friend, he remarked as he saw so many gathered for Mass at the monastery, “If all the [...]

PRAYER: A Sinner’s Prayer, by Thomas Merton

October 27, 2014

Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving you glory. Therefore, keep me, above all things, from sin. Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire until he is devoured. Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life. Keep me from the dead works of vanity and the thankless labor in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. Staunch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hungers that exhaust my nature with [...]

PRAYER: For The Forgiveness Of Sins, by Thomas Aquinas

September 1, 2014

To You, O God, Fountain of Mercy, I come, a sinner. May You wash away my impurity. O Sun of Justice, give sight to the blind. O Eternal Healer, cure the wounded. O King of Kings, restore the despoiled. O Mediator of God and man, reconcile the sinful. O Good Shepherd, lead back the straying. O God, have pity on the wretched, show leniency to the guilty, bestow life on the dead, reform the impious, and give the balm of grace to the hard of heart. O most merciful God, call back the one who flees, draw back the one who resists, lift up the one who falls, support the one who stands, and accompany the one who walks. Do not forget those who forget You. Do not desert those who desert You. Do not despise those who sin against You. For in sinning, [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Human Existence In The Spirit, by Sallie McFague

July 29, 2014

From Collected Readings “Christians believe the world is hidden in God.”  This is the same as saying that human existence takes place within God’s Spirit.  The world does not have a separate existence for Christians.  Ontologically, we live from, toward, and with God.  I did not used to believe this; in fact, I fought it.  I wanted the world to stand on its own; I feared that otherwise it would be sucked up into God – shades of Hegel and Barth!  But believers are always mystics (even if they are not philosophical idealists).  One (or, at least I) cannot believe in God as a being, no matter how infinite, eternal, ubiquitous, good, powerful, or supernatural.  God is either everything or nothing, or to phrase it [...]

EVIL: Answers To Common Questions About Christus Victor, by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

June 24, 2014

From Death By Love Can Christians be possessed by demons? This is one of those questions that many people answer too quickly.  The problem is that the word possess has several meanings.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it can mean three things.  First, possess can mean “own” so that a Christian would essentially belong to Satan.  Second, possess can mean “dominate” so that a Christian would be controlled by Satan.  Third, possess can mean “influence” so that the life of a Christian would be marked by the influences of Satan.  Obviously, what people mean when they use the word possessed matters very much when answering the question, “Can Christians be possessed by [...]

POETRY: Down In The Depth Of Mine Iniquity, by Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke

December 10, 2013

XCIX Down in the depth of mine iniquity, That ugly center of infernal spirits; Where each sin feels her own deformity, In those peculiar torments she inherits, Depriv’d of human graces, and divine, Even there appears this saving God of mine. And in this fatal mirror of transgression, Shows man as fruit of his degeneration, The error’s ugly infinite impression, Which bears the faithless down to desperation; Depriv’d of human graces, and divine, Even there appears this saving God of mine. For on this sp’ritual cross condemned lying, To pains infernal by eternal doom, I see my Savior for the same sins dying, And from that hell I fear’d, to free me, come; Depriv’d of human graces, and divine, Thus hath his [...]