#7: As Is

Chapel
A visit to Yosemite Chapel on our 35th Anniversary…

+ Larry’s List of Dark Corners, Holy Nudges, and Faithful Nonsense +

My long-ago stint in seminary included:

  • Barely surviving a semester of Greek.
  • Forgetting lines in a dramatic reading of a W.H. Auden piece.
  • An esteemed professor, in an aside, declaring I’d be a good preacher.
  • Learning that learning was a lifetime endeavor.
  • Rediscovering Jesus again. (And again.)
  • Meeting beloved friends that are still friends.
  • Arriving married, leaving divorced.

The last one is the punchline with a grimace; a shameful, unavoidably obvious truth.

My time at Claremont School of Theology, all in the 1970s, was a transformational journey. I was raised in a loving Christian family. I attended Sunday school since being “knee high to a grasshopper.” Though declaring my plans to become an attorney before high school started, the parallel nudge of ministry shadowed me. Law faded, ministry blossomed. And yet even with all of my background and support, seminary staggered me.

And some of that involved a divorce. Continue reading →

#6: Atonement

Abraham & Isaac+ Larry’s List of Dark Corners, Holy Nudges, and Faithful Nonsense +

Jesus died for our sins.

I no longer believe that. (And yet I could be very, very wrong.)

Though having minimal academic credentials for expounding on the history and theology of the atonement, let me offer a simplistic explanation. Jesus, a good Jew, was part of a religious tradition that included atonement. Jewish religious ceremonies during (and before) Jesus’ era routinely included the ritual sacrifice of animals. There was an ancient belief about blood sacrifice, perhaps most famously depicted in Genesis when Abraham takes his son Isaac into the wilderness. The eventual “first responder” for the three major monotheistic faith traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), Abraham was ordered by God to sacrifice—to ritualistically offer and kill—his young son as a demonstration of . . . what? Loyalty? Fidelity? Trust?

In the middle of nowhere, father and son gathered wood for a fire.

An altar of sorts will be created. Continue reading →

#5: Wilderness

sunset+ Larry’s List of Dark Corners, Holy Nudges, and Faithful Nonsense +

Wilderness inspired the best of my ministry.

On a few occasions, with a distant nod to John the Baptizer or Moses, I sauntered alone into the wild. However, the most memorable sojourns were with groups. Children. Teens. Men. Women.

My faith, such as it is, has been influenced by the famous John Muir quote: When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. A trip into the backcountry, along the wandering established paths or across stretches of unmarked ground, causes some hikers to feel small in the midst of the grandeur. Not me. I always felt I belonged, part of Muir’s “universe,” part of that long, wide-eyed and humble tradition of prophets (and other foolish believers) seeking to discover or lose themselves in a place of beauty and danger. Continue reading →