The Lectionary This Week (Part 1): Why Not Zebedee?

Where I contemplate on the Sunday scripture readings according to the Revised Common Lectionary.

Epiphany 3, 25 January 2014 (Year B)

  • Jonah 3:1-5, 10
  • Psalm 62:5-12
  • 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
  • Mark 1:14-20

Today’s gospel passage is a fairly typical synoptic “call story” — Jesus calls someone to follow, and immediately (καὶ εὐθὺς) they drop everything and follow. Jesus is baptized, and now he begins his proclamation of “good news” (τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ) to the world:

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20 ESV)

Jesus is calling a bunch of rough, hardscrabble fishermen (ἁλιεῖς) to become “fishers of men” (ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων). Fishermen he meets along the way. There’s a couple of ways we can tell this story, bare of detail as it is in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus has been busy proclaiming the fulfillment of time, the on-handedness of the Kingdom of God (yeah, it’s awkward), and calling on those who hear to repent and believe in this good news. He’s been doing this long enough that everyone, or nearly everyone, has seen him doing this strange thing. They’ve heard him. So, when he gets past the preliminaries, and starts calling folks to follow him, this isn’t so strange. They know who he is, they’ve heard him preach, they are primed and ready for that command: “Follow me.” Maybe they’ve even been subconsciously waiting for it. Or … They don’t really know who Jesus is or what he’s said. And he just walked into their lives, unannounced, with the command to follow. The response is still the same — Jesus calls, and we follow. Throughout the synoptic gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — when Jesus calls, we follow. And Jesus does just walk into our lives. He chooses us. We do not choose him. And this is true regardless of which reading we follow. Even if they’d watched and listened to Jesus, and talked about him (“No good can come of him,” I suspect was one reaction, and may have even been Simon’s), and considered him from afar, they were still not ready for that moment when he walked up to them and said: “Follow me.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. That’s how you respond to the call of Jesus. Except, well, not everyone does. Jesus sees John and James, the two sons of Zebedee, and he calls them, and they leave their father and the hired men in the boats and followed. Zebedee and the hired men are left behind. Are they not called? Do they not respond to Jesus? And why not? Why not Zebedee? The name Zebedee makes four appearances in Mark’s gospel, two of them in this chapter. Aside from these two references, where he stands silently in the family boat and watched while his sons leave the family business for the utterly unrewarding career of preaching the Good News (think about it — it ends badly for just about everybody), the name Zebedee never appears except to note that John and James are brothers. It’s used to mark the identities of James and John, and really, nothing more. But why not Zebedee? Why is he left standing there holding a fishing net? Why doesn’t leave the boat as well? Why don’t the hired men follow? Partly, this is an acknowledgement of the very subjective nature of the experience of God, even when we meet Jesus. (Perhaps especially when we meet Jesus.) Not everyone hears the call the same way, and as stunning as it sounds, not everyone hears the call at all, and not everyone drops everything to follow. This isn’t some deep theological point (such theological conversations make my head hurt), but an appreciation of reality — God calls some and not others. We can speculate all we want about the nature of the call of God, about why God called me, and not you, or them, and not those others, or why we seemed to respond in this way to the call, but you did not, but all of that is attempting to reason our way out of something overwhelmingly subjective. God called us, and we followed. What others do, or do not, is not in our control and, in the end, not really our concern. We were called to follow. And so, we left everything. And followed. (One of the things I’m looking forward to as my book makes its way out into the world is — did anyone else at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, meet Jesus there?) So, in the end, we cannot know why Zebedee watched his sons abandon the family business. We could say, well, Jesus knew someone needed to stay and take care of the family business, but what about Andrew and Simon a couple of verses earlier? Did they have family dependent on their efforts? Was anyone left on their boats? So, we cannot really justify or even explain what happened here that way. We have no explanation. Just the encounter with the incarnate divine. Just a call, a command to follow. And the realization that we who are called cannot say “no.”

The Lectionary This Week – Fill Your Lamps

Where I contemplate on the Sunday scripture readings according to the Revised Common Lectionary.

Lectionary 32, 09 November 2014 (Year A)

  • Amos 5:18-24
  • Psalm 70
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Matthew 25:1-13

I’m going to a little something different as I consider these lectionary readings this week.

The last time these readings rolled around was 2011. Kurt Hendel, a professor of church history and Lutheran confessions at LSTC, asked me to play a song I’d played earlier in the semester, “No People, No Pity,” one of two I wrote on prophetic judgment and promise for the confirmation kids at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Somonauk, Illinois, for a sermon he was set to preach in the seminary chapel the week of these readings.

I was not keen on playing the same song twice in one semester, so I told Dr. Hendel I’d write him a pair of songs based on the Amos reading and the Matthew reading. It wasn’t a commission as such, but what came out of this was “Fill Your Lamps” and “Let Justice Roll Down.” And writing these songs about this bit of the lectionary was actually quite eye opening.

First, the readings. I’ll start with Amos:

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light,
19 as if a man fled from a lion,
and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
and a serpent bit him.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
21 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
(Amos 5:18-24 ESV)

What we have hear is the passing of judgment on the Kingdom of Judah, following the long indictment of Israel and Judah (which themselves come after an indictment and judgement of Israel’s neighbors). It proclaims the “Day of the Lord,” which apparently some in Judah are eagerly awaiting. (Rapture, anyone?) Amos says that day will not go very well for those who actually want it to come. It will be a dark and frightful day, full of dread, and pain, and suffering, and death.

And now, the Matthew reading, which at first glance struck me as utterly unrelated:

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him. ’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. ’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves. ’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us. ’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you. ’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13 ESV)

Again, this is a judgment text, in a long line of Matthew judgment texts. And for Matthew, for the community Matthew speaks to (and for), escaping the coming judgment is hugely important. That some will be swept up in that judgment, and not ready for it, is also crucial to Matthew. I have written at length about judgment previously, and so I will set that aside today.

When I looked at these two texts, and considered how to make songs out of them, the thing that struck me most was how to balance them against each other, and how to make sense of them in terms of each other. The editors of the Revised Common Lectionary didn’t just simply pull them out of hat, or matched them together on a whim. There was a reason. To quote Craig Satterlee, “They may have actually known what they were doing.”

The link, I decided, was in the judgement of the deeds in question. In the Amos reading, God utterly rejects Israel’s worship, its sacrifices, its praises. They are meaningless, and God has promised to flood Israel and destroy it rather than heed worship and praises that were empty and pointless. The justice God plans is an annihilating justice, and it reminded me of desert storms that seemed to come out of nowhere, dump an intense and overwhelming amount of rain, and then as quickly as they came, simply move on or disappear. Gullies become temporary — and frequently dangerous — temporary rivers.

“Let Justice Roll Down” is a fairly straightforward rewording of the text, with my experience of desert rain (From New Mexico, California, and Saudi Arabia) informing how I understand the flood of justice that Amos is calling down. I’m not a “social justice” Christian, and I frequently find social justice talk smug and self-righteous, as most of those talk that talk seem to me to assume they are always on right side (or will be) of God’s justice. Amos here is reminding all who listen that God’s justice is overwhelming and annihilating — it destroys all in its path (Noah’s flood, for example).

We experience that annihilating justice as mercy in baptism. Because in baptism, we are put to death, we are annihilated, and then raised again. There is the prophetic promise of new life that Amos leaves to the last few verses of his long and somewhat frightening declaration of judgment. And at Kurt Hendel’s suggestion, I altered the repetition of the last verse to reflect the fact that even though these quick desert storms wash away and destroy, they also provide the necessary water for the plants of the desert to bloom. Desert plants bloom quickly and furiously after a even a short rain. New birth, new life, coming from the annihilating flood.

And now that I look at the passage, the desert comparison is even more apt, because Amos also wants “an ever-flowing stream.” After washing away the old, this new water will not be subject to the vagaries of the monsoon cycle, but rather, will bubble up and provide water so a garden can grow and thrive where once only parched plants and the hardiest of critters struggled to survive in the harshest of conditions.

I don’t remember if I played that revised second refrain in chapel or not when Dr. Hendel preached it. It wasn’t part of my original lyrics, and I’ve scrawled them at the bottom of the lyric page.

Okay, but how does this relate to the Matthew reading? I mean, aside from judgment, which I’m not really dealing with today? I thought a lot about the relationship between the actions condemned in Amos and approved of in Matthew. What might be the difference? God condemns empty worship for the sake of empty worship in Amos. But why might those who fill their lamps be the young women ready to meet the bridegroom here?

This is where I got creative with “Fill Your Lamps.” I’m going to post the lyrics to the son as well, and I hope you can see what I’ve done.

Fill your lamps with the oil of gladness
Fill your lamps with the oil of kindness
Keep your lamps full, wait for the Lord to come

Fill your lamps with the oil of healing
Fill your lamps with the oil of blessing
Keep your lamps full, wait for the Lord to come

Fill your lamps with the oil of patience
Fill your lamps with the oil of celebration
Wait for the Lord to come

Dark midnight’s coming, yet the Spirit pours
Abundant oil to anoint and to restore

Fill your lamps with the oil of friendship
Fill your lamps with the oil of worship
Keep your lamps full, wait for the Lord to come

Fill your lamps with the oil of compassion
Fill your lamps with love in action
Keep your lamps full, wait for the Lord to come

Fill your lamps with the oil of mercy
Fill your lamps with the oil of hospitality
Wait for the Lord to come

Behold, it’s midnight, and the bridegroom’s here!
In our darkest moment God’s light appears!

I made the oil, and the filling of the lamps, a metaphor for the commands Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere in Matthew, on how we should live together as the people of God. In effect, we fill our lamps and “wait for the Lord to come” by living as Jesus has called us to live — with self-giving love, compassion, mercy, and kindness. Our lives together as a community of people, the love we show to each other and to the world, is itself a form of waiting for the Lord. Yes, the implication is some will be ready and some will not. But that message is central to Matthew — some will, in fact, be ready, and some will not. Judgment is coming, the master is coming, the bridegroom is coming. We don’t know when. So be ready.

The main difference I saw when I wrote these two songs — Amos condemns acts aimed at solely pleasing God for the sake of pleasing God. By “filling the oil” with the content of the beatitudes here, Jesus is encouraging acts intended not to please God but to show love to neighbor by noting that such acts will also please God.

This song is an exhortation, and not a condemnation. But if I want to go that route, then something this approach to the reading suggests is that this Christian way of living together is not a commodity, not something that can be bought or bartered or traded. It cannot be given away either. It must be carefully cultivated, and it cannot simply be acquired at a moment’s notice. (And even the virgins who are ready fall asleep, and are awoken by the bridegroom.) Kindness. Mercy. Generosity. Love. These are not easy things. They are hard, and hard to live in an unkind and violent world.

Now, perhaps I am doing a tremendous injustice to the passage by making the oil (and the lamps) so metaphorical. I don’t know. I do know I like “Fill Your Lamps,” and it was one of my more inspired melodies. Because I don’t actually write musical notation, it took concerted effort to remember this melody (that happens a lot), some deliberate dwelling on it before it got properly lodged in that part of my memory that contains song melodies.

And so, I will be playing this song this coming Sunday at Grace Lutheran Church in Westchester, Illinois. Come out and listen, and maybe even sing it with me!

The Lectionary This Week — The Humbling of the Exalted

Where I contemplate on the Sunday scripture readings according to the Revised Common Lectionary.

All Saints Sunday / Lectionary 31, 02 November 2014 (Year A)

While this Sunday is All Saints Sunday in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I will be going with the Lectionary 31 readings, as they continue a theme of judgment in both the Old and New Testament readings that has fascinated me for the last few weeks.

  • Micah 3:5-12
  • Psalm 43
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
  • Matthew 23:1-12

There are some tremendous parallels between the Old Testament reading, from the third chapter of Micah, and the Gospel reading for this Sunday. I’ll start by putting the entire third chapter of Micah here, because even though the reading begins with the fifth verse, the whole thing is worth contemplating:

1 And I said:
Hear, you heads of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel!
Is it not for you to know justice? —
2 you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin from off my people
and their flesh from off their bones,
3 who eat the flesh of my people,
and flay their skin from off them,
and break their bones in pieces
and chop them up like meat in a pot,
like flesh in a cauldron.
4 Then they will cry to the Lord,
but he will not answer them;
he will hide his face from them at that time,
because they have made their deeds evil.
5 Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets
who lead my people astray,
who cry “Peace”
when they have something to eat,
but declare war against him
who puts nothing into their mouths.
6 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,
and darkness to you, without divination.
The sun shall go down on the prophets,
and the day shall be black over them;
7 the seers shall be disgraced,
and the diviners put to shame;
they shall all cover their lips,
for there is no answer from God.
8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the Lord,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.
9 Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice
and make crooked all that is straight,
10 who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with iniquity.
11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on the Lord and say,
“Is not the Lord in the midst of us?
No disaster shall come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height
(Micah 3:1-12 ESV)

This is a condemnation, of both rulers — the “heads of Jacob” (רָאשֵׁ֣י יַעֲקֹ֔ב) — and of prophets (נְּבִיאִ֖ים, a word which has its root in נבא نبأ نبو exalting, elevating, informing, but can also have implications of remoteness, distance, overcoming or even something that sickens). The lectionary reading focuses solely on the prophets, but Micah here bundles God’s condemnation of those prophets with God’s condemnation of Israel’s rulers.

The rulers devour the people, and the language here is both graphic and brutal. Those rulers hate what is good, and love what is evil. They butcher and devour the people of God, “my people” in the ESV, “from them” מֵֽעֲלֵיהֶ֔ם (likely referring to Israel) in the Hebrew. These awful rulers are cannibals, slowly skinning, cooking and devouring the people they are responsible for, down to the marrow. Their fate is clear — there will be no help for them when the judgment comes. God will abandon them.

The prophets are not accused of devouring the people. They merely lead the people astray by proclaiming not God’s truth but by speaking solely on behalf of those who pay them. (Verse five confused me for a bit, but realizing the “they” in “when they have something to eat” and “who puts nothing into their mouths” refers not to “my people” but to “the prophets” earlier in the verse.) These are people paid to speak good words on behalf of the rulers, to justify their rule, their power, their acts and deeds. They believe they act in the way of God, with the favor of God. “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us!” All their pretense will come to nothing when the day comes. They shall be in darkness, and see nothing, they will be able to say nothing, and God will abandon them as utterly as God has abandoned the “heads of Jacob.”

In the end, the rulers and the prophets, though their misrule and their lies, will lead the people to destruction. The coming judgment on Jerusalem is all their doing: “Therefore because of you [plural], Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.”

It’s a fairly straightforward prophetic warning. Except that Micah refuses to claim the mantle of prophethood for himself. It’s as if he’s saying, “I am not a prophet. I am not paid to do this. I have the Spirit and Power of the Lord prompting me to do this.” Here, it’s not a good thing to be a prophet, and Micah’s calling is clearly NOT as a prophet. His calling is something bigger. We might call it prophetic, his condemnation of Israel’s leaders — rulers and spokesmen — but Micah wouldn’t.

Which brings us to Jesus, pronouncing woe upon the scribes and the Pharisees in Matthew 23:

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses ‘seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:1-12 ESV)

“Do as they say, and not as they as do,” Jesus tells those assembled of the Pharisees and the scribes. They teach correctly, they just don’t live what they teach. (Oh, that so sounds like the church in just about any age I can think of…) This is the beginning of all the woes pronounced to the scribes and the pharisees, woes that they live in ways which impose “heavy burdens” on those they teach, burdens they themselves are unwilling to take up and carry. This pronouncement of woes takes up nearly all of chapter 23, including what is probably the “nut graf” for this entire section, verse 23:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness [τὴν κρίσιν καὶ ⸂τὸ ἔλεος⸃ καὶ τὴν πίστιν]. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23 ESV)

It’s not one or the other, not mercy or the teaching. It’s both. And here, a teaching without mercy, without justice, without faithfulness, is empty righteousness.

But it’s actually worse than that. Because these woes are the beginning of a long discourse on the coming judgment against Jerusalem. The woes are God’s indictment against the “rulers and prophets” of Israel. Micah’s pronouncement, which saw the coming of God’s judgment with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, is being repeated here.

Even when Jesus repeats the claim from the scribes and Pharisees that “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets,” that is part of his indictment of the people ruling Israel. Such an admission is, he says in verse 31, “witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” (This has some interesting implications for those who apologize for the sins of ancestors…)

Jesus ends this with another pronouncement of the coming judgment:

32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:32-36 ESV)

It’s just as well, I think, that this coming Sunday is All Saints Sunday. No one has to struggle with the few measly words of grace from the 1 Thessalonians reading.

Because there’s a huge question in all this: Where is the good news?

Were I to preach this, I might focus on the last three verses of the assigned lectionary reading, when Jesus tells all those assembled, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” And then to talk about how Christ does that, and makes it possible.

But I’m still fascinated here with Jesus’ prophetic — or not, if we take Micah’s cue — pronouncement of the coming judgment. It seems to be central to Matthew’s gospel, and so it needs to be dealt with.

So, a word on what judgement isn’t. Because these are easily misused words. What Jesus (and Micah) aren’t doing, and what those who truly speak prophetically don’t do as well, is blame someone, or some (typically marginalized and powerless) group, outside the community of God’s people, for calamity or disaster. This isn’t about blaming homosexuals, or abortionists, or liberals, or illegal migrants, or atheists, or the president of the wrong political party, or whatever, for earthquakes, hurricanes, plagues, or a bad economy, or whatever. This isn’t about some them who is not us being responsible for whatever is wrong, and it is not about dealing with that them properly in order to get right with God.

The judgment is upon us — and only upon us — the people of God. And this judgment is coming because those with the responsibility to rule and guide us, to teach and lead us, have done that selfishly and cruelly, for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of those they rule. Because our elites are venal, incompetent, self-centered, greedy, and evil.

Yes, evil.

Now, the terrible thing of this is that while the judgment may be upon us all because our leaders are incompetent, stupid, and cruel, the entire people of God will suffer. When the Babylonians arrive to lay siege to Jerusalem, they won’t just kill those in charge and then go home. The guilty and the innocent alike shall suffer from war, starvation, and disease. And if that wasn’t unfair enough, all this is happening not because of what we did, not really, but what was done ages before us. We are bearing the burdens, and paying for the sins and faithlessness, of our ancestors.

This may be why Jeremiah, and Jesus in chapter 24, counsel flight. I remember staring up at the burning World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and thinking: “All smart little animals will run fast and hard right now, because when those buildings come down, they will respect neither person nor position.” If this judgement is solely a temporal one, then flight from the disaster is possible. And absolutely necessary if a faithful remnant is to survive.

Which leads me to one more point. A lot of the covenantal language of Deuteronomy and Leviticus — the covenant in which God promises to bless Israel if it keeps its end of the bargain with God, and expel it from the land if is does not — has an “if-then” construction, and is phrased in terms of real human choice. And perhaps Israel could have kept its end of the deal. Who knows.

But Israel did not keep its end of the bargain, and the prophets are not warning Israel to improve its behavior. They aren’t telling Israel to care for the poor and do justice in order to keep the Babylonians at bay. It’s too late for that. The consequences outlined in the Wilderness are coming true. (Though Jonah suggests change is possible.) The disaster is upon Israel, either right there at the walls or looming on the eastern horizon. It is too late to make the kinds of changes that will save the people and the leaders who have brought this mess upon us all. At this point, the only redemption coming is for a faithful remnant who flee the disaster. Who keep the faith, who gather and worship, who take risks by living out the generous faithfulness of our crucified and risen Lord in the same world that put him to death.

Now, whether this judgment is immediate and temporal — the Jewish War in which Jerusalem was besieged and the Temple destroyed — or eternal, or both, I don’t know. I’m not sure it matters. I have been considering the fate of the Church in the West in terms of God’s judgment, with Modernity and Enlightenment as metaphorical Assyrians and Babylonians, and am considering what a book along those lines would look like.

But as followers of the crucified and risen one, we must never forget that judgement is never God’s final word. Redemption is. And that’s always good news.