#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 →

#4: Tears

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

Jesus wept. Much, much later, so did he . . .

The “he” in question arrived at my cramped office adjacent to the sanctuary. He had made the appointment. Just the two of us, each representing the stereotypically taboo subjects to avoid if you want to keep the conversation polite: religion and politics. In the small town where we lived, I was the pastor of a church. He was one of that zip code’s movers and shakers, a guy whose “yes” or “no” meant a project would succeed or be stuck in committee hell.

We both likely knew we were the proverbial “big frogs” in the tiny “pond” of a somewhat isolated community.

I had no idea why he wanted to see me for a lunchtime meeting. Wasn’t he supposed to be at work? Continue reading →