In one of the most famous sermons ever delivered, John Donne described the challenge of retaining concentration during prayer. The year was 1626. The occasion was the funeral sermon for Sir William Cockayne.
I was out of the country recently when a member of my congregation died. When this happens I feel the pain of being unable to do anything helpful, and a little guilt as well. That’s when I relearn a basic lesson in ecclesiology: I belong to a community of faith that knows how to be a church in my absence.
At my 20-week ultrasound appointment, my husband and I learned that the baby that we are expecting has a fatal birth defect. Sometime very early in his development something went drastically wrong. His skull never formed—the whole top and back part of it simply did not exist. We will probably never find a medical answer to why he developed this way.
The church sign of a Pentecostal congregation facing a busy Los Angeles–area street bore a single message for months: let us pray for our new president. The church’s pastor, a Republican, said that right after the November elections he and congregational leaders decided to follow New Testament admonitions to pray for those in governing authority.
This past Christmas, I wished for and received a chainsaw. On New Year’s Eve, while I was engaged in a woodworking project, the chainsaw slipped, grabbed my left sleeve, threw me to the ground, and in a matter of seconds dug into my arm, cutting my hand and wrist to the bone for about six inches. I began bleeding profusely. My arm looked like a piece of fresh, badly butchered flank steak.
When Rick Warren was invited to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, the choice annoyed some people because of Warren’s conservative position on several important and controversial issues, and it pleased others who either like Warren or like Obama’s ecumenical approach.