Spring is a time for wondering about things: When will the tulips come up? What will summer camp be like? How many miles can I do on my bike before it snows again? Will the rhubarb come back this season?
Every spring I wonder if there will be baseball in heaven. If there will be baseball then there will be those we love and they will have bodies. If there will be baseball then there will be burgers and beer and soft pretzels drenched in butter. There will be ice-cream. If there will be baseball then there will be movement, speed and grace. There will be the luster of grass and sunshine. If there will be baseball then there will be agriculture and music. There will be the fabric and plastic arts. If there will be baseball then there will be nature and culture, story and statistic, spectacle and minutia. Baseball includes the world. It even includes cats, Detroit’s mascot is a tiger. Read more
One of the more persistent topics that has come up in and around the church is about the nature of faith. What is it? Can we lose it? Is it contagious? Over the years I’ve found myself coming back to a couple of key points: 1) faith isn’t about being absolutely sure, it’s about faithfulness; and 2) in many aspects of our lives we carry on even though we don’t know for sure. Those two points open up a host of new questions, but I think they also shift our view of faith away from the impossible ideal of having everything figured out and away from the notion that religious faith is wildly contrary to how we usually live. Here’s a link to a message from Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills on the topic: http://whchurch.org/blog/11599/rediscover-faith (ignore the initial promo, or not, it’s your call). He gets at this pretty well. I’m generally skeptical of famous pastors but I confess a soft spot for Anabaptists like Boyd who risk a lot for an unpopular peace witness.
There is a tradition within both Christian and Jewish theology of saying that God doesn’t exist. Sounds provocative, doesn’t it—God doesn’t exist? God doesn’t exist, it is said, in the sense that existence is a property of things. A building exists, your thoughts exist, but both of these share in the sense that they have been caused and that they are part of the created order. God by definition is different. God doesn’t share those things. So, it can be argued, God doesn’t exist. Which isn’t to say that God is not; rather, it’s to say that God simply is. Those things that do exist do so within the is-ness of God. Think about it again; it isn’t as provocative or as complicated as it seems at first.
Here’s my reason for starting with this bit of philosophy: much of the book of Revelation can have a similar effect. Just as this thought about God’s non-existence can broaden our understanding of what we mean when we say ‘God’, so can the imagery and the liturgy of the book of Revelation. However, this happens bests when we realize that we’re encountering imaginative images, scenes that strain to bear witness to the truth, not photographs of God or video of the future. A Lamb slaughtered, a God who does not exist: we realize our view of God is too small.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. . . . I’m sure you recognize these lines, the first two sentences of the Lord’s Prayer. The text I want to draw our attention to comes from the book of Revelation (2:4-8). We could say that the whole book of Revelation fits into that second sentence of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The New Testament book of Revelation was written near the end of the first century, we believe, by John of Patmos. At the core of this book is a description, a series of vivid images, representing how we go from here to there: from here, a world ruled by force and self-interest, to there, God’s kingdom on earth as it has always been in heaven. Read more