Formations 05.29.2022: Lavish Liturgy

Think about how John describes worship in Revelation 4–5. The worshipers wear special clothing. They play musical instruments. They burn incense, symbolic of the prayers of the saints.

Formations 05.15.2022: Doing Our Part

Nearly 200 years ago, Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard famously suggested that the institutional church has misunderstood what happens during worship. On the analogy of the theater, he says, we assume that the clergy on the platform are the performers.

Formations 05.08.2022: Praying or Posturing?

Prayer is a funny thing. Ostensibly, prayer involves communication with God. We speak to God, expressing thanksgiving, praise, and of course petitions for God’s blessings.

Formations 04.24.2022: In Praise of Doubt

Mark tells us about the women at the tomb and how the angel told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but then the story abruptly comes to an end.

Formations 04.17.2022: Views of the Tomb

It may be tough to find something new to say about this familiar passage. I wonder, though, if we don’t do a disservice to our students—and to the text—by looking for novelty rather than resting in wonder.

Formations 04.03.2022: Glory Amid Grief

I rarely think of John 11 without thinking about George. George was in pretty bad shape as long as I had known him, pretty much stuck in his house and tied to his oxygen tank.

Formations 03.27.2022: Why?

The disciples ask why a man they encounter was born blind. They entertain the idea that it is punishment for some sin his parents committed. They also raise the possibility that it was because of some sin the blind man himself committed.

Formations 03.13.2022: Breaking Bread

John 6:28-35, 41-51 Meals were always a big part of Jesus’ ministry. He famously ate with tax collectors and sinners, to the consternation of the religious authorities. He engaged in dialogue and debate around the dinner table. He taught his disciples to pray for “daily bread.” He told parables about baking bread and inviting people […]

Formations 03.06.2022: Born from Above

In the sliver of the Baptist family in which I grew up, Lent was something you brushed off your clothes. Honestly, anything past Christmas and Easter were looked upon with suspicion.

Formations 02.20.2022: Holding On

Genesis 8 describes a return to normality after a seemingly endless time buttoned up inside. Is it just me, or does that sound wonderful?

Formations 02.13.2022: The Rains Came Down and the Floods Came Up

The rains come. In obedience to God’s command, Noah enters the ark with his family and all the animals he has gathered.

Formations 01.30.2022: Bright Hope for Tomorrow

The traditional hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is on my mind. In particular, I feel drawn to the line, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine and ten thousand beside.”

Formations 01.23.2022: Let the Earth Rejoice!

Psalm 96 invites us to praise God for God’s glory, salvation, and majesty. We likely hear such an invitation to praise every time we gather for worship.

Formations 01.09.2022: Good News

“Gospel” comes from Old English god spell, “good news.” That second word, spell, is related to the word spiel. A spiel is a speech, often a sales pitch intended to persuade.

Formations 01.02.2022: Name above All Names

I’m an adjunct professor at Mercer University. That means every semester, I meet a few dozen college students, mostly first years, and set about learning their names.

Formations 12.19.2021: Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels are everywhere. That’s not a theological statement; it’s just an observation of life in a modern, Western culture in December.

Formations 12.12.2021: God Will Be Our Shepherd

I’ve met—and am related to—a bunch of farmers and others who live in rural communities. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a shepherd.

Formations 11.28.2021: Yet More Truth and Light

In 1620, John Robinson preached to a band of English Separatists who were about to embark upon the Mayflower to start a new life in North America.

Formations 11.21.2021: Giving Thanks by Giving Back

Today’s passage describes a ritual of thanksgiving that the Israelites are to perform once they have entered the promised land. They are to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the priest.

Formations 11.07.2021: God Will Take Care of You

I remember an old hymn that people rarely sing in church anymore, at least in the churches where I have worshiped. The first verse begins, “Be not dismayed whate’er betide; God will take care of you.”

Formations 10.31.2021: Rhythms of Creation

I grew up in the suburbs, but my parents both grew up in rural Kentucky, and that’s still where a lot of my cousins live. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve sitting at my Aunt Myrtle’s table.

Formations 10.17.2021: Inconspicuous Giving

We love to be recognized for our good deeds, don’t we? A thank you is always appreciated, and often the only encouragement we need to keep up the good work.

Formations 09.26.2021: Going Against the Flow

I used to think that Jesus’ command to “enter through the narrow gate” (Matt 7:13) and avoid the wide road to destruction had to do with the kinds of things I’d been brought up to believe that good Christians avoided.

Formations 09.19.2021: Loud and Clear

The term “virtue signaling” has been around for a little over a dozen years. It refers to expressing opinions or attitudes that demonstrate one’s good character or moral correctness.

Formations 09.05.2021: Blessed

“Blessed” is a perspective that many today seek to embrace. The word captions photos on social media of our good-looking and well-behaved children or of our wonderful beach vacations.

Formations 08.29.2021: A Life of Blessing

I’m thinking about my dad this week…because of something he did for my daughter. My daughter needed her own car so she could drive to observe a teacher in the classroom for her education courses.

Formations 08.15.2021: Leadership

What do you do when your church’s nominating committee calls? Maybe you’re thrilled to know that others have recognized your gifts and think you have something to offer.

Formations 08.08.2021: The Most Important Lessons

Even if we were blessed to have had loving parents with the means to provide for our physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, honesty demands that we acknowledge that they didn’t do it alone.

Formations 07.25.2021: Come and See

It was a significant turning point in my faith when I discovered there is more than one valid, biblical model of evangelism. Growing up, my idea of what it meant to share the gospel was rooted in passages like Mark 5:19.

Formations 07.18.2021: Owning Up

As an only child, I’ll readily admit that there are some aspects of growing up that I missed out on. Some of these things I count as plusses and others I count as minuses.

Formations 07.04.2021: Peace?

Zechariah sees a vision of four riders. Unlike Revelation’s “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” these riders work on God’s behalf, riding to and fro to patrol the face of the earth.

Formations 06.27.2021: Farewell

From May 30, 1982 ‘til September 19, 1998, Cal Ripken Jr. played 2,632 straight games for the Baltimore Orioles, far surpassing the record formerly held by the legendary Lou Gehrig.

Formations 06.13.2021: #Exvangelical

As I write this week’s reflection, the hashtag #exvangelical is trending on social media. As you might guess, an “exvangelical” is an ex-evangelical, someone who grew up in a particular kind of Christian community—Protestant, conservative, most likely white—but has since left the fold.

Formations 06.06.2021: Conversion, Dramatic or Otherwise

“I used to drink, get into fights, and run around with loose women. But then, at the age of ten, I surrendered my life to Christ….”

Formations 05.23.2021: Rekindling the Gift

What have you done with yourself during the pandemic? If your answer is, “I stayed afloat,” that’s perfectly okay!

Formations 05.02.2021: Our Demon-Haunted World

We modern Americans have outgrown belief in demons. To borrow a phrase from physicist Carl Sagan, we no longer inhabit a “demon-haunted world.” We no longer have room in our worldviews for invisible forces of chaos.

Formations 04.25.2021: How Much Farther?

“How much farther?” What child hasn’t asked that question on a trip? What parent hasn’t dreaded that question, knowing that the trip has barely started?

Formations 04.11.2021: Who We’re Looking For

It used to bother me that, so many times in the Gospels’ Easter stories, Jesus’ followers don’t recognize him after the resurrection. To be honest, I suppose that still bothers me.

Formations 04.04.2021: Change of Plans

Have you ever put a lot of effort into a task and then not gotten to do it? Maybe you did a ton of research.

Formations 03.21.2021: A Suffering Messiah?

“You keep using that word,” Inigo Montoya tells Vizzini in the 1987 comedy The Princess Bride. “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Formations 03.14.2021: Pressing On

I’ve always imagined Jesus as fairly unflappable. He always seems to know the right thing to say.

Formations 02.28.2021: Let Anyone with Ears to Hear Listen

The other three Gospels have the decency to postpone overt reference to the plot to kill Jesus until about the halfway point. Mark, however, is famous for never beating around the bush.

Formations 02.21.2021: Not Me!

I admit it: I’m a sucker for Family Circus comic strips. Yes, they’re corny. Yes, they repeat the same gags over and over again.

Formations 02.07.2021: Helpmate?

In the second movement of the Genesis 2 creation story, God takes note that the man is alone and takes measures to correct that situation.

Formations 01.31.2021: A God Who Speaks My Language

When I teach Old Testament, I ask my students whom they would cast as God in the six-day creation story in Genesis 1. The answers are usually actors with a deep, commanding voice.

Formations 01.17.2021: A Christ of Cosmic Proportions

There is a Latin aphorism from the earliest centuries of the church that has always resonated with me: lex orandi, lex credendi, “the rule of prayer is the rule of belief.” In a nutshell, this aphorism says that there is a deep connection between liturgy and faith.

Formations 01.10.2021: We Are God’s Workmanship

I grew up on Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Formations 12.27.2020: Blue Christmas

It’s always good to remember that the Christmas season isn’t always joyful for some of us. Those folks ringing the bells and collecting donations outside your favorite grocery store?