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Merciful Children of the Most High: Deification in the Gospel of Luke

By Essays

Luke’s gospel witness to the life of Jesus from Nazareth comes to an astonishing and climactic ending. As Jesus ascends into the heavens, his followers worship him. Among the clues Luke gives that Jesus shares in God’s divine identity, this is perhaps the most clear. Elsewhere, Luke corrects every impulse to worship a human being (see Acts 10:26 and 14:15). But when Jesus receives the worship of his followers, Luke shows us that Jesus receives what belongs properly only to…

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Why Go to Church When You’re on Vacation?

By Essays

This past January in Ecuador, in the middle of a conversation about Darwin and the Galapagos Islands, my taxi driver looked me in the eye and asked, “What religion are you?” The first thing I wanted to answer this multitasking man was, “Do you mind keeping your eyes on the road? I’m not planning to meet my Maker quite yet.” The second was, “Could you slow down when you talk?” I was doing my best to keep up, but my…

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Praying in the Dark: Lament, Providence and Protest

By Essays

A cancer diagnosis occurs in a moment, but the losses it brings come in slowly yet steadily, like a tide pushing against the shoreline, again and again. In the days after my own diagnosis, I sometimes felt resignation rather than anger or protest. “I’m not the center of the universe, after all,” I told a friend. “The world will continue just fine without me.” But that was just for some moments. Particularly as I considered the implications of this incurable…

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Nature’s Space into Ethnic Place

By Essays

The train hugged the Hudson River before crossing the bridge over Spuyten Duyvil onto Manhattan Island as my friend asked in a tone I’d become accustomed to, bemused Big-City incredulity: “I hear you’re moving to Idaho?” Actually, I explained, we were headed for Iowa. “Oh. Well,” he waved his hand in dismissal, as if he’d been close and I was quibbling over minor details: “One of those vowel states.” I was trading my commute from Westchester County into Greenwich Village,…

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Saints Surround Us

By As We See It

When I was 18, I had about two hundred grandmothers, give or take fifty. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d had a maintenance job at a nearby retirement community for more than two years, and, during that time, I’d gotten to know the residents pretty well. For three summers, I cleaned all their windows, a process made much more difficult by my constant struggle against all the knickknacks on the windowsills. Sometimes as I worked…

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A Child of God Called Home Too Soon

By As We See It

Most readers of Perspectives will know very little about Dale Brown, my friend and colleague whose life is the focus of a clutch of pieces in this issue of the magazine. Dale was my friend for 27 years; readers who didn’t know him may need some small bit of introduction in order to get a clearer sense of who this man was. What follows is my attempt to fill in a few of those gaps so that Dale’s work at…

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The Great Inviter

By Essays

W. Dale Brown, put in front of an audience, was always disarming: smart, artless, arch – and Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing put him in front of many audiences. Given his druthers, though, Dale would station himself at the back of a crowd. From there, he could wink at the latecomers. He could chuckle, a little less than circumspect, at the speakers’ jokes and quirks. He could whisper along with the poets and commit the orators’ maxims to…

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A Seeker of Gospel-Shaped Stories

By Essays

I somehow managed to earn a bachelor of arts in literature without ever encountering Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote until a high school production of Dale Wasserman’s 1965 play Man of La Mancha. I went as a rookie minister in the 80s because a 16-year-old junior from my youth group was playing the role of Aldonza, the scorned scullery maid Quixote keeps calling Dulcinea because somehow when he looks at her, all he can see is a princess: “I see…

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A Curious Professor

By and Essays

Part I: Holberg In all the years of our long friendship, there was never a week that went by when Dale Brown and I did not talk about teaching. We talked about our own classes, of course, and our students, but we also talked about all the pedagogical “nitty-gritty” – grading and assignments and course readings – trying to figure out how to get ever better at what we felt was the most meaningful part of our job as professors….

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The Work of Lent: Learning with Emily Dickinson

By As We See It

I didn’t grow up celebrating Lent. I came to it later in life. My first Ash Wednesday came late winter, only months after burying our firstborn son. Ashes; all was ashes. Dust; all was dust. In the dimly lit sanctuary, I found dried palms, ashes and words about loss. I discovered words to voice what was seething in my heart: words of honesty in Lent, however unsavory they might have been. How does one sing the songs of Easter when…

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