Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Theological Joke

Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone find themselves all at the same time at Caesarea Philippi. Who should come along but Jesus, and he asks the four famous theologians the same Christological question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Karl Barth stands up and says: “You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.”

Not prepared for Barth's brevity, Paul Tillich stumbles out: “You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”

Reinhold Niebuhr gives a cough for effect and says, in one breath: “You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming oughtness in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”

Finally James Cone gets up, and raises his voice: “You are my Oppressed One, my soul's shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”

And Jesus writes in the sand, “Huh?”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Japanese Fable

Tasuku was a poor man who cut blocks of stone from the foot of a mountain. One day he saw a well-dressed prince parade by. Tasuku envied the prince and wished that he could have that kind of wealth. The Great Spirit heard Tasuku, and he was made a prince.

 Tasuku was happy with his silk clothes and his powerful armies until he saw the sun wilt the flowers in his royal garden. He wished for such power as the sun had, and his wish was granted. He became the sun, with power to parch fields and humble people with thirst.

 Tasuku was happy to be the sun until a cloud covered him and obscured his powerful heat. With that, he had another wish, and the Spirit complied. Thereafter Tasuku was a cloud with the power to ravage the land with floods and storms. 

 Tasuku was happy until he saw the mountain remain in spite of his storm. So Tasuku demanded to be the mountain. The Spirit obeyed. Tasuku became the mountain and was more powerful than the prince, the sun, or the cloud. And he was happy until he felt a chisel chipping at his feet. It was a stonecutter working away - cutting blocks to sell to make his daily living.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Words are Windows (or They’re Walls) by Ruth Bebermeyer

I feel so sentenced by your words,
I feel so judged and sent away,
Before I go I’ve got to know
Is that what you mean to say?
Before I rise to my defense,
Before I speak in hurt or fear,
Before I build that wall of words,
Tell me, did I really hear?
Words are windows, or they’re walls,
They sentence us, or set us free.
When I speak and when I hear,
Let the love light shine through me.
There are things I need to say,
Things that mean so much to me,
If my words don’t make me clear,
Will you help me to be free?
If I seemed to put you down,
If you felt I didn’t care,
Try to listen through my words
To the feelings that we share.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Need to be More Loving

Almighty God,
I know so little of what love in its fullness can be.
My love is marred by jealousy,
    scarred by envy,
        limited by selfishness.
I withhold love at the slightest provocation,
and withdraw myself from involvement with others
    for fear of being hurt.

Still, I know something of what love can be like.
I can remember being forgiven generously and freely
    by someone I had wronged.
I can remember being comforted and cared for
    when, bruised and battered, I crept home.
I can remember being made strong
    by the realization that someone cared.
I am grateful for such experiences,
    for they tell me what love is about.
And if the Lord Jesus be right,
    to know what love is like
  is to know what you are like.

If we humans can manifest unselfishness and concern,
is it not because such experiences are of the very
    nature of that which is most important?
For out of the heart of the Lord Jesus
    came the evidences of his love
        for all kinds of people
    and his refusal to give up on any of us.
I am grateful for that love and for that refusal,
    for in him I have hope.
I can even hope
    that I may catch more of his Spirit in my life.
Will you help me to be more outgoing,
    less sensitive to slights,
    and more alert to the feelings of others?
Will you help me to be less quick to judge
    and less righteous in my indignation?
Will you help me to be more open to life
    and to other people?
Will you give me confidence enough to be less
    defensive and less ready to react to rebuffs?
Give me steadiness and firmness
    and true commitment to the life of faith. Amen.

—From A Book of Uncommon Prayer by Kenneth G. Phifer

Thursday, March 06, 2014


The more aware we become of the range of human need that surrounds us, the more overwhelmed we can become to the point that we end up doing nothing. The secret of the compassionate life is to focus our care on a few things that we can do something about, including in our intercessions those concerns that are beyond our reach. I know of one person who chose to focus all of his energy on dealing with the problem of Vietnamese refugees. He stayed with this until he felt he had made some genuine contribution, resisting the sometimes angry entreaties of friends to take on things which, to them, were more urgent. The ability to bring into focus the energy we expend is of critical importance to the Christian journey. It allows us to give to others without losing touch with ourselves. It reminds us that we are finite, with the freedom to say no as well as yes in the recognition that our particular gifts can be used in some ways better than others.

—From Mutual Ministry by James C. Fenhagen

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

What to give up for Lent

GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, "In everything give thanks." Constructive criticism is OK, but "moaning, groaning, and complaining" are not Christian disciplines.

GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion.

GIVE UP looking at other people's worst points. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.

GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?

GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. "Love covers a multitude of sins."

GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about: like tomorrow! Live today and let God's grace be sufficient.

GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, visit some lonely or sick person. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the "tube?" Give someone a precious gift: your time!

GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We are called to be stewards of God's riches, not consumers.

GIVE UP judging by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ.

by Rev. Craig Gates, Jackson, MS