The Bible study that night focused on where the sower places the seed and the imagery of soil to describe various responses to God's work in the world. I do not know what Minister Pinckney and the others present specifically discussed as they engaged the text, but the actual verses are compelling.
People around the world are suffering more now than at any time in my lifetime, and probably much longer. But the peoples of the world, including we who live in and love the United States, have become increasingly permissive and secular.
The great thing about being a love fundamentalist is that the more strictly you abide by your fundamentalism, the greater your freedom. Instead of narrowing your vision, limiting your options or scaling down your scope, love fundamentalism opens whole new worlds of possibilities and promise.
Millions of people from all parts of the world will celebrate Easter because they, like I, believe what the early Gospel writers wrote about: that Jesus was raised from the dead and life eternal with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven is ours through faith in Jesus. Hallelujah!
By the time Jesus got to the outskirts of Jerusalem, the Jewish leaders -- the priests, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin -- were concerned about the large number of people who apparently had joined up with him. Was Jesus about to launch a campaign to anoint himself as the expected Messiah?
This strange early twentieth-century expression of religious faith is not widespread -- confined to a small number of churches in the southeastern United States -- but has its roots in a literal reading of a cluster of biblical metaphors.
This is one of the issues we find in modern, "biblical" archaeology: the need to locate everything mentioned in Holy Writ. Scripture is the only place Dalmanutha is mentioned. It is not found in other sources of the time.
There are basically two kinds of scholars: The "scholars' scholar," who concentrates on very advanced levels of research that other scholars understand, and the "laymen's scholar," who focuses on scholarly matters of a less intense nature that the average layperson understands.
I left the movie Man of Steel pleased that the modern version of Superman was actually good but pondered on the depiction of any superhero of any sort could be compared to Jesus. Or is this just plain sacrilege?
So, the question really remains -- who killed Jesus? If we read the Gospels poorly, as with what is labeled "face value" or "plain sense", we will always have to decide between the three usual culprits: God, the Romans, or the Jewish leaders.
For those who believe God's Spirit does work in the world through signs and miracles, tragedies can function as intellectual puzzles, but they should never stop us from responding with heart, head and hands.
Voting should be an easy affair: people of faith should vote for the candidates whose policies would most embody a love of God and neighbor. It seems so easy, but it isn't if we are honest with ourselves and gracious toward those who disagree with our political persuasions.
I don't know what theological changes are needed to save American evangelicals, but I really don't think that we're destined to howl in the graveyard forever. The pigs are headed for the lake, and I believe for the first time in my life that the evangelicals are going to make it.
The Bible is neither an operating manual nor a policy book. In all its soaring ideals and unsettling messiness, it reflects to us -- sometimes clearly, sometimes dimly -- what we might find near to God's heart.