What is “the Way”? Part 2: Rediscovering the “Ancient Way” of Hebrew Hope

In order to grasp the deep roots of "the Way" in Israel’s past, I will ask you to sequentially follow a series of clues in Scripture. By following these hints and allusions, we will peel back the temporal onion to reveal the core significance of the early Christian’s self-description as "the Way." So, returning to Paul’s words in Acts 24:14–16, we find the language of ancient philosophic practice overlapping with unmistakably Hebraic emphases.   … [Read more...]

Where Are We? A Brief Reflection on the Death of Alfie Evans

Alfie Evans was a British citizen who died last Saturday, April 28, at just under two years of age, after an extended period of treatment for a neurological condition afflicting his brain. What do the events of his brief life tell us about the world we live in and how Christians should engage it? … [Read more...]

What is “the Way”? Part 1: Fulfillment of Philosophical Aspirations

Three hundred years before Christianity was a religion, Jesus taught his disciples to walk in “the Way.” Alongside the simple term “students,” his earliest followers most common self-description was "the Way.” But what's that? Categories can help us narrow in on the target. When asked by their Greco-Roman contemporaries to plug themselves into an existing category, early Christians had only one answer. “Although we gather to worship, we are not a religion – much less a mere superstition.” (Superstition was the derisive term the Romans’ used to designate various religions of foreign extraction.) “Although we provide, from our own pocket, … [Read more...]

“Remember Me:” Worship, Stuff, and the Communion of Saints

Like most congregations, the church that I attend has our Sunday hymns projected onto the screen at the front of the building. This has been very helpful for several members who struggle with eyesight problems. But unlike some congregations, we’ve kept our hymnals in the pew as well. I always like to hold the hymnal in my hand and sing along that way—usually because the projected songs don’t have shape notes, which is the only way I can read music, but also so I can reflect on the words of the songs we’re singing. On a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago I took the hymnal from the back of the pew in front of me in preparation for the opening … [Read more...]

More Effective Ministry

I was recently intrigued by a student who shared with me his primary reason for coming to study at Austin Graduate School of Theology.  While heavily involved in prison ministry, he found himself on the receiving end of questions that he had a hard time answering.  And these inquisitive prisoners, who had quite a bit of free time on their hands for reading and contemplating, asked some tough questions. The prison minister admitted that he was getting tired of saying, “I’ll get back with you on that one,” and he sensed a little frustration from the prisoners who also noticed this continuing refrain.  He acknowledged that he … [Read more...]

The Chronicler as a Writer

What is the Chronicler up to as a writer? He quotes Bible passages, expands them homiletically, he omits sections not of interest to him, and he interprets them according to his approach as a theological preacher in the post-exilic era. Not unlike what we do! The Chronicler takes the Bible and ancient historical documents, and he interprets them for the discouraged community of believers in the Persian Empire. … [Read more...]

Ring Around the Collar and the Gospel: What’s Your Story?

  Human beings are “enstoried” creatures. We find ourselves inundated, moment by moment, with data of various kinds that must be interpreted, and the stories that we live within form the framework for our interpretation of the world around us. This can be true at the simplest level of life—I recognize and understand the different functions of a fork and a knife because of the narrative surrounding such implements (especially around proper table etiquette)—to the most profound of social difficulties—see, for example, the highly charged competing narratives on either side of various race issues in the United States. The stories we tell … [Read more...]

Grace and Peace: Remembering the Kingdom Work of David Worley

Grace and Peace: Essays in Memory of David Worley is a compilation of biographical essays honoring the life of a remarkable man. A man, that I must admit, I did not know before reading this commemorative work. Edited by Thomas H. Olbricht and Stan Reid, this compilation was penned by 18 very different authors – all of whom knew David well. An honest and intimate look at one man’s life, this book is a collection of memories to be preserved and passed on for the benefit of those who grieve him now, as well as those who never knew him. As the back cover indicates, “David Worley was an extraordinary man of many talents and interests.” In reading … [Read more...]

The Struggle is the Glory: Trials, Travails, and the Astros

//  On November 1, 2017, it was all worth it. The struggling, the long-suffering, the disappointment of the many years all made this moment sweeter. I was suddenly aware that I was glad for the struggle. Glad for the broken TV remotes, for the moments of absolute heartbreak. I savored the hurt now in light of the glory. I suppose I should explain what I’m talking about: I grew up in Houston. That’s probably enough for you to understand what I’m getting at, but I’ll explain for those of you who grew up in, say, Dallas, or Pittsburgh. This means the sports teams I’d loved my whole life specialized in tearing my heart out. Oh, the … [Read more...]

Edelweiss, Rosmarie von Trapp, and tel Tamar

I was six years old when Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “The Sound of Music” was first performed on Broadway in 1959, starring Mary Martin. I was a few years older when the movie, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, came out in 1965. “The Sound of Music” is the musical adaptation of the story of the von Trapp family singers, who escaped from Austria after the Nazi invasion in 1938. “The Sound of Music” has gone on to become one of the most beloved musicals in American theatrical history. Fast forward to 2004, at the Israeli community of En Hazeva in the Negev Desert, at the juncture of hwy. 90, the Eilat highway, and 227, that … [Read more...]