forgiving, forgiven (three)

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt
This week we at University Hill Congregation gather for the third of seven conversations about Christian practices of forgiveness. When we gather we will be discussing our reading of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the short story "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor and the concluding chapter of Henri Nouwen's book "The Return of the Prodigal Son". I am looking forward to the group's response to these readings and, in particular, to its reaction to "Revelation". A favorite story of mine, it is unfamiliar to many in the congregation. As I look ahead to Sunday when we will mark All Saints Day I notice that the scriptures are similarly revelatory (Isaiah 25:6-9 & Revelation 21:1-6a) and so the sermon has the working title: "The Revelation". I wonder how to capture something of the surprising revelation that occurs in O'Connor's story in this week's sermon. In the meantime, here is the worksheet for this week's conversation about Christian practices of forgiveness ...


the performance of the biblical text ends only at death

Recently I purchased a copy of "Theology on the Way to Emmaus" by the Roman Catholic writer Nicholas Lash. Over the years I have borrowed the book from the theological school library many times, finding in it a helpful interpretive lens. Out of print for a number of years, it has recently been reprinted by Wipf & Stock publishers in Oregon. It now sits by my bedside (yes, I know, how many of us consider books on theology and hermeneutics to be bedside reading?). Each night I am reminded of the reasons that I have found Lash so helpful over the past fifteen years.

It is from Lash that I discovered the language of the performance of scripture to describe the purpose of Christian life in community. As I think about the conversation we are having in the congregation this autumn about Christian practices of forgiveness I realize the conversation is primarily intended to thicken our capacity to enact forgiveness and reconciliation in our lives and life together. Our talking about forgiveness is akin to actors discussing how to interpret a script before going on stage. The discussion is necessary but it is only preparatory to the performance of the story in our lives.

In the same way, the story of the way in which we play out our mortality - and, in my case, the symptoms and treatment of multiple myeloma and amyloidosis - enacts our interpretation of the biblical story. Recurrent themes in a people whose lives are scripted by the gospel include the sharing of suffering, the embodiment of compassion, and courage rooted in a cruciform hope. When I look to the years ahead my hope is to belong to a cast who help me to live this script faithfully.

Here are some quotes from Nicholas Lash ...


forgiving, forgiven (two)

Each week when we gather for a conversation about forgiveness in Christian community we read scripture together and discuss readings that we have read in preparation for our time together. As part of that preparation I offer a page with selections from the readings as well as with some questions to stimulate our discussion. Here is the worksheet for our discussion this week, session two ...


forgiving, forgiven (one)

We have begun our fall mid-week evening gathering. At University Hill Congregation this has come to mean an open invitation to dinner at Janet's home. Janet lives in a home that reminds me of a prairie farm house. It is full of love with a table that can extend and extend and extend to make room for as many as arrive for dinner. The living room is a circle of couches and chairs, each with a blanket to cozy under if needed. Janet prepares a main dish with others often bringing a salad or some wine or dessert. As we do not own a church building we have grown accustomed to meeting in each others' homes. Over the years Janet's home has become our second home, a kind of "UHill annex".

By 7:30 dinner is over and all have arrived and we begin ninety minutes of conversation intended to inform and aid our formation as apprentices of Jesus and his way. This fall the conversations open up the challenge of Jesus' command that his disciples seek and practice forgiveness. On seven Thursdays we will host biblical passages along with articles and sermons that speak about Christian practices of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the curriculum this fall as a result of a sermon that hosted and proclaimed the story found at John 20:19-31. It was the Sunday after Easter Sunday this year. The text famously ends with the story of Thomas and his doubts. But on the way to that famous ending Jesus charges the church with a huge ministry - the ministry of forgiveness. In the sermon (the one posted here as A New Beatitude) I found myself saying this:


velcade - cycle five

I am well into my fifth thirty-five day cycle on bortezomib (Velcade). Today I received my second of four weekly treatments. It is good to be able to continue to report good news. After the failure of the autologous stem cell transplant to provide a remission and after the allergic reaction that I experienced when receiving lenalidomide (Revlimid) I am grateful that Velcade in combination with dexamethasone is working to reduce and stabilize my protein free light chain count below 100 (down from 1600 when first diagnosed). The results after my fourth cycle on Velcade are a count of 96.6. Yay! I am also grateful that I am experiencing only minor side effects - soreness, redness and itchiness at the injection sites and some fatigue on the weekend. As a result of feeling (relatively) normal and stable I have begun to work with a fitness trainer at Back on Track Fitness who specializes in working with cancer patients. It will be interesting to see how my body responds. No, another marathon is not on the horizon. On second thought, this new journey is my next marathon. My goal now is simply to feel better, stronger, fitter. In the meantime, I am enjoying this precious time in my life. I hope that you are also able to experience these days as precious.


salt of the earth: a christian seasons calendar 2012/2013

Good news - the 2012/2013 edition of Salt of the Earth: A Christian Seasons Calendar is now available. This unique venture had its beginnings in 1999 as we at University Hill Congregation imagined a calendar that begins with Advent and turns with the Christian seasons (the story of the calendar's beginnings can be found here). The calendar continues to grow by word of mouth.

You can find the calendar at the Christian Seasons Calendar website where you can view sample pages, read reviews, download a poster and order online. Single copies of the calendar cost $15.95 (plus shipping and applicable taxes). There is a 20% discount on orders of ten or more and a 40% discount on orders of twenty five or more. Many people purchase in bulk and then give the calendars as gifts or make them available in congregations at a reduced rate.

We appreciate your assistance in spreading the word about Salt of the Earth: A Christian Seasons Calendar to friends and colleagues.