Wisdom for the (Whiny and) Aged

Romans 12:1-8 – The 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 24, 2014

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…” (Romans 12:2)

I so enjoyed these words when Garrison Keillor shared them in one of his Lake Wobegon tales . . .

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Wait!

10502483-standardKeillor didn’t write them! They didn’t first appear in a Prairie Home Companion radio drama!

Of course Paul wrote this encouragement to the Christian community in Rome. Indeed, long before I heard Keillor’s tale, Roman 12:2 faithful challenge inspired and intimidated me. Nonetheless, whenever I read Paul’s cautionary insights about conforming, I also revisit a fictional time in Minnesota’s Lake Wobegon . . .

In the yarn Keillor spun, every youth in the Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church’s confirmation class had to select a Bible verse that would be memorized and eventually read to the congregation. My fractured memory recalls that one boy chose John 11:35 . . . Jesus wept. Clever lad, since he only had to memorize two words. Another youth took Genesis 1:1, one of the most popular verses in the Bible: In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth. Didn’t everyone know the Bible’s opening line? A young woman named Lois was either less smart or more adventurous than her fellow students when she selected Romans 12:2. Continue reading →

I Can Blame Capitalism!

Romans 7:15-25 – The 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, July 6, 2014

“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:19)

800px-Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_ProjectThere are few verses in the Bible more vulnerable than Paul’s confession in Romans 7:19:

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Poor Paul!

Blunt Paul!

Honest Paul!

The crass side of modern me wanted Paul to spill detailed dirt about the evil that he did.

Did Paul click a first-century mouse once too often for some easy-access pornography? Was he leering at little boys? Would he be referring to lustful thoughts—even lustful actions—related to his neighbor’s wife? Can we read a tad more about how much of his tent-maker’s paycheck was lost to the horses or poker? When he broke bread with Jesus’ followers, what happened to the leftover wine? The guy had harsh words about certain people in other letters to other communities; what if his criticism and sarcasm in person made his writing feel tame? Did Paul gossip? Did he “lighten” the offering plates? What was his drug of choice? Was he gay or a gay-basher? Was he disabled or belittle those that were? Did he stutter or . . . Continue reading →