Lutherans are trained to hear the scriptures as proclaiming either law or gospel. By "law" they mean not passages from the Old Testament but all of the Bible's bad news: the sins we commit, the misery we experience, the sorrows we inflict on one another, the death we anticipate, the distance from God that diminishes our lives. By "gospel" they mean not the final reading on Sunday morning but the good news of the mercy given by a loving God, wherever in the Bible it is proclaimed.
Like many cities, Asheville, North Carolina, has a “Before I Die . . .” wall—a large chalkboard with multiple spaces for people to write some of their hopes for the future. Since the wall is on the path I take for most of my downtown walks, I read them several days each week. I’ve laughed and wept, said “me too” or “not me,” and wondered how many of the hopes chalked on that wall will be realized.
Time was when we had a neutral commons where those of us who wanted to say something could say it, try to earn people’s attention, and choose whether to give them our own. I’m speaking of course of the internet—a long decade ago, before social media swallowed it whole.
Many years ago I was the interim pastor at a small church and was free to celebrate Pentecost without regard to that congregation’s tradition. We decided that it would be confirmation day for the small group of youth who had been going to classes and they wanted red balloons among other things. This was long before I knew anything about latex allergies so red balloons it was. They were tied in bunches all over the sanctuary and there were red streamers galore. It was a day of joy to be sure.
Until a balloon escaped and wrapped itself around a ceiling fan.
Analyzing the relationship between faith and the political left—its history and present condition—reveals a century filled with antagonisms. But there are also affinities and technologies for continuing rapprochement.
Historically there has been an undeniable antagonism between religion and communism.
Recently I read about a proposal for eliminating e-mail. After all, e-mail consumes time, adds extra pressure to an already stressful workplace, fragments attention, and feels like a never-ending black hole sometimes. One friend says bluntly, “I hate e-mail.” Some have written about taming the e-mail monster, and others have already abandoned e-mail in favor of texting or other forms of communicating.
As I work today, my mind travels to the United Methodist clergy who came out as LGBTQ before the General Conference, to challenge the denomination’s policy which bans the ordination of “practicing homosexuals.” While the number is stunning, I keep thinking of each individual person who has risked their livelihood and calling, for this historic moment.