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The Top Ten Reasons the Lectionary Sucks and Five Half-Assed Solutions

A lectionary is a collection of readings for Sunday worship, ordered according to the seasons of the church year. The version most widely used by mainline Protestants is the Revised Common Lectionary, though others such as the earlier Common Lectionary and the Roman Catholic Lectionary for Mass are pretty similar. Each Sunday gets an Old Testament reading (except when it doesn’t: see below), a Psalm, an Epistle or on rare occasions a reading from Revelation, and finally a Gospel reading. It runs on a three-year cycle, one year each devoted to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (No John—see below.)

In other words, the lectionary is the reason why, if you’re a preacher, you’re bored to tears, and if you’re a layperson, you have a sneaking suspicion you’ve heard this one before… Keep reading

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Oh Good Grief! A Review of The Complete Peanuts
by Charles M. Schulz

First things first: The Complete Peanuts is not yet complete. This ambitious project of reprinting fifty years’ worth of daily strips—some never before reprinted, some “lost” in archived newspapers until now—began in 2004, with four years’ worth of strips published in two volumes every year. Whether you are a Peanuts scholar or merely a passionate fan, it’s a dream come true. No more frustrations at the non-sequiturs caused by other less complete collections’ random deletion of key strips in a sequence… Keep reading

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Still Reckoning with Luther

Most towns in the former East Germany have gotten a face-lift in recent years, but none so diligently and lovingly as Lutherstadt Wittenberg. The would-be pilgrimage site was cut off from most of its constituency for 40 years, and when the Berlin Wall came down and the iron curtain was drawn aside, it was hardly ready to receive the flood of eager pilgrims... Keep reading


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Searching for a Church: Life on the Ecclesiastical Frontier

Sometimes ecclesiological wisdom pops up in the unlikeliest of places. Reading through Taoism-influenced Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for the umpteenth time, I couldn’t help noticing that her wizards—the best of whom are trained on the isle of Roke in the center of the Archipelago before scattering to heal, protect and guide far-flung communities—are for all intents and purposes the pastors of Earthsea...
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Seminary Sanity

When you start out at seminary with an eye toward entering the ministry, the first thing they want to know about you is not whether you believe in God, or pray, or go to church. The first thing they want to know is whether you are a loony-toon. And so, in a move that may or may not make sense, they bustle you off to a psychological evaluation to find out. This is mildly irritating to someone like me who believes in God, prays, goes to church, and wonders how much sanity has to do with any of it...
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Salvaging C. S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy for Mission and Cultural Awareness

In recent years the Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis’s beloved children’s series, have come under attack for their alleged sexism and racism, and indeed for the very Christian faith to which the stories analogically witness. The most famous of these attacks is Philip Pullman’s essay “The Dark Side of Narnia”…
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Eat the Scroll

I have only two theses to advance, not ninety-five. Thesis 1: in popular memory and usage, Luther the historical figure is far more important than Luther the theologian, to the point that the former has all but obscured the latter. Thesis 2: However, in truth and from the perspective of Christian faith, Luther the theologian is far more important than Luther the historical figure, to the point that one might wish to obscure the history that his theology might come more readily forward... Keep reading


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The Towpath

I used to have a singularly long and skinny backyard, thirty-six miles from end to end and about ten feet wide: the towpath along the Delaware and Raritan Canal. Sometimes I shared it with others, on Sunday afternoons with the leisurely sorts and at either end of the workday with the jogging sorts. The canal was dug by Irish immigrants in the 1830s, and for the next hundred years or so mules and boats toted coal up the canal from the Delaware River at Bordentown to the Raritan River at New Brunswick… Keep reading