Devotions for Thinking Christians
Sermon on the mount

Christians make a big deal out of "discipleship." We claim that we are disciples of Jesus and most churches consider the call of Jesus to "Go into all the world and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19) to be at the heart of their mission. Our discipleship doesn't seem to be showing.


Lent is a time when I used to respond to the call to give something up for 40 days. But as life got harder and loss piled upon loss, I began to resent being told that I had to give up something else for Lent.

A dark pit

"For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit."    --Psalm 16:10

The Communion of Saints Tapestry by John Nava

Last summer, the house I grew up in went on the market and I went to an open house. Things had changed, of course. Some of the changes were intentional, but mostly the house and lovely grounds were simply showing their age.  Small trees were large trees, the basketball court was like an archaeological discovery in a jungle overgrowth.  The apple orchard was gone.

Tree mirrored in water showing all four seasons

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."
                                                              Ecclesiastes 3:1              

Gandalf the Grey from Lord of the Rings

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
                                                                                                                  J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring.


"Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you."                             Philippians 4:8-9

Crucifixion painting by Anthony van Dyck circa 1622

As I wrote my new book, Introducing the New Testament, one thing became increasingly clear to me.   As I wrote about Jesus the man, Jesus the Jewish rabbi, and Jesus the Christ I realized that although we Christians revere Jesus as the Christ and learn to live our lives through the teaching of Jesus the rabbi, we sing songs like "Oh, How I Love Jesus" because of Jesus the man.  And that emotion is thoroughly rooted in Good Friday.

While Good Friday church attendance makes clear that most people would like to avoid the dark and horror of crucifixion and go straight to the Hallelujah's of Easter morning, we don't, in the end, love Jesus becaues he was resurrected.  We love Jesus because he died. 

Cardinal Sean O'Malley and Rev. Anne Robertson (George Martell/Pilot New Media)


Fifty years ago, as Vatican II was sending the ecumenical spirit soaring, Cardinal Richard Cushing was invited to speak at the Sudbury United Methodist Church.  In that new spirit of Protestants and Catholics getting along, he accepted the invitation and gave the gathered congregation of Protestants and Catholics about 90 minutes of his best stuff.

Pitcher of clear water becoming wine in a glass.

Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water."  And they filled them up to the brim.  He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward."  So they took it.  When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk.  But you have kept the good wine until now."   &nb