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Saints and Sinners – Can You Tell Them Apart?

By Essays

Benedict Joseph Labre was an unemployed transient who begged around Europe for 13 years, eating refuse that other people didn’t want and clothing himself in rags. He was infested with vermin; he smelled bad. Yet fewer than a hundred years after his death in 1783, the Roman Catholic Church canonized him a saint. How and why did this happen? More important, what does it tell us about homelessness today? “The poor you will always have with you,” Christ said in…

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Baptism in the Spirit and the Trinity

By Essays

The practice of baptizing infants has been sufficiently defended by many writers. (Bromiley’s Children of Promise: The Case for Baptizing Infants [1979] and Brownson’s The Promise of Baptism [2006] are both good examples.) So too, the supposed necessity of immersion has been well contested. What’s often overlooked is that our disagreements on infant baptism harbors a deeper division on the foundational meaning of baptism to begin with. I want to address this contentious issue in a new way, by rethinking…

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The Comfort of Our Insignificance

By Essays

The universe is vast. On the average, it is about 140 million miles to Mars, which is our next-door neighbor. Considering the broader solar system (from Neptune to the sun), if we were to throw a dart at the solar system, the odds of hitting anything would only be about one in 10 million. Further out, the next closest star in our galaxy is four light years, or tens of trillions of miles, away. Andromeda, the next closest galaxy, is…

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Whom Shall We Fear?

By As We See It

I’ve been thinking lately about fear. There are books already written – and probably a library’s worth on the way – about the way that fear has been used to influence politics. Fear of immigrants is used for political marketing the way fear of failure is used by Gatorade and fear of not-belonging is used by GAP. Fear is powerful. In John 10, Jesus tells us he is the gate. He’s setting up a contrast when he says he’s the…

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More Bread than We Bargained For

By Essays

“Did you know that the phrase ‘daily bread’ in the Lord’s Prayer really means ‘supersubstantial bread’? Like, supernatural?” This is the sort of tidbit that gets dropped casually at my house from time to time. It’s what happens when you live with a seminary professor. “Where did that come from?” I asked my spouse. “I dunno. The interwebs.” Classic. Turns out it’s true. How many times have I prayed the Lord’s Prayer – thousands? And I never heard this before?…

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Remembering My First Communion

By Essays

On a leafy Sunday morning, the girls, adorned in lacy white dresses, and the boys, decked out in immaculate suits and ties, excitedly joined their families in a colorful parade to Our Lady of Grace on Avenue W in Brooklyn, New York. Our son’s second-grade friends and their parents had spent weeks preparing for the big day – First Communion. After the church service, joyous celebrations resounded amidst backyard grape vines, fig trees and colorful lanterns. The term “first communion”…

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The Sacramental Imagination: How Can We Foster and Grow It?

By Essays

“A sacrament is when something holy happens. It is transparent time, time which you can see through to something deep inside time. Generally speaking, Protestants have two official sacraments (the Lord’s Supper, Baptism) and Roman Catholics have these two plus five others (Confirmation, Penance, Extreme Unction, Ordination, and Matrimony). In other words, at such milestone moments as seeing a baby baptized or being baptized yourself, confessing your sins, getting married, dying, you are apt to catch a glimpse of the…

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My Summer Vacation: a Report

By Culture, Essays

Late in a recent summer, I spent an entire day with my departmental compatriots working on Student Learning Outcomes. This is merely the latest manifestation of the assessment mania now gripping our college – and higher education as a whole. Naturally I came home with a crushing headache. Meanwhile, many of us had seen each other only in passing for the previous few months, so we engaged in some pleasant chit-chat and catching up with one another: “How was your…

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I’m Sick of Appreciating Teachers

By Culture, Essays

Don’t get me wrong, teachers are my heroes. This week, my son’s kindergarten teacher discovered that he had been unknowingly playing with another child’s vomit on the playground – somehow thinking it was “slushy snow” leftover after the spring melt – and she calmly sent him straight to the bathroom to wash his hands. She’s a saint. What if appreciating teachers went beyond a Hallmark card and a latte? If you think teaching is easy, you have never spoken to…

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I Never Was an Evangelical, and I Never Want to Be

By As We See It, Church

Those of us in this little Reformed tribe: Do we, or do we not count ourselves as Evangelicals? Since the rise of the current American Disgrace-in-Chief, flung into power on a trebuchet constructed by white Evangelical voters, the Reformed/Evangelical dilemma has become the subject of some urgent consideration. On  the Reformed Journal’s blog, The Twelve, Kristin du Mez wrote  back in April 2015 about Rachel Held Evans’ defection from Evangelicalism, and du Mez described her own youthful forays into Evangelical culture,…

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