The Best of DT

Because, sometimes, the best theological ideas take a long time to catch hold of the public, here is a sample of the best writings of Daily Theology’s bloggers: not based on popularity, but on the possibility for future engagement and reflection.  Whether for small-group discussion, preparing a sermon, teaching a class, or hoping to gain a better understanding of your daily walk in faith, these posts are for you, grouped into four convenient categories!

1. On Christian Life
2. Vatican and Popery
3. Advent
4. Lent

1. Christian Life:

Better Hermeneutics through Star Warsby Stephen Okey

Reflection: What does is mean to transform a text through your own interpretation?  How have you done this recently?

Snippet: In releasing the Star Wars films, Lucas (as the author) surrenders control over the meaning of the films. The public is free to engage the film, interpreting it in whatever way they see fit, quite apart from whatever Lucas may have intended. …The author becomes another interpreter of the text; Lucas becomes another viewer of Star Wars

It is safe to say, however, that Lucas disagrees with Ricoeur on this point….Of his experience as a filmmaker, Lucas said, “In essence, films never get finished, they get abandoned. At some point, you’re dragged off the picture kicking and screaming while somebody says, ‘Okay, it’s done.’ That isn’t really the way it should work.”

Discerning a call for another theological space?  by Kevin Johnson

Reflection: What does it mean to consider the world theologically?  How does it benefit our life of faith?

Snippet: As a husband and father of two, people want to know how the study of theology will open employment opportunities for me.  This question seems particularly pointed since I left the practice of law in order to pursue this degree and career path.  Often, I join in: What WILL I do with this degree?  Does it make good practical sense as a married lay person to pursue this path as a career and what does it really mean to be a theologian anyway….

The Road to Emmaus and Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball”: The Journey Back to Communityby Katherine Greiner

Reflection: How does Springsteen’ vision of community communicate with our Christian vision?  Do we have a properly formed Christian vision of community in the first place?

Snippet: What does this have to do with Bruce Springsteen’s newest album “Wrecking Ball”? In some ways, both journeys depicted in Luke’s story are main themes present in Bruce’s long list of works. If we listen to Springsteen’s catalogue chronologically we witness his subtle growth from the disappointed, disillusioned guy who leaves home behind in hopes of finding redemption somewhere else to the man who realizes just how entangled and committed he is to his community. “Wrecking Ball” is the culmination of Bruce’s long and winding journey of faith in community.

To Be in That Number:  Death, Friends, and the Communion of Saints, by Andrew Staron

Reflection: How do we employ a conception of Christian friendship?  Whose friendship has transformed our understandings of Christianity and God?

Snippet: And what might be only a reluctant acceptance of a common fate, can become if shared in the company of friendship, an embrace of communion. We can find that in our love for our friends, we are freed from our fearful desire to be the exception and instead embrace the end shared by us allnot because it is inevitable, but because it is the end that comes to our friends…. Indeed, if nothing else, we can hope to be where they are, not so much comforted, but borne in depth of mystery by our communion with them. When the idea of death and the idea of being with our friends meet in our mind, perhaps, too the idea of death might be changed for us….

2. Vatican and Popery:

Happy Are the Poor. (Yes. Really.) by Marc RuganiHappyPlanetMap

Reflection:  What do we wish to attain in life?  Do such wishes reflect our Christian identity or our national/personal ideals?

Snippet: The Pope, at his Mass of Installation, preached: “Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!”  We must take the words of Jesus and those of top-tier of the Happy Planet Index seriously.  Happy are the poor.  They experience well-being, objectively live long, healthy lives, and they live in and leave a good earth for their children and their children’s children….

Pastoral Care as Triage: Pope Francis and the Church as Field Hospitalby Katie O’Neill,

Reflection: What would it mean for our individual church to become a spiritual triage center?  What practical changes might we affect, if given the opportunity?

Snippet: Most importantly Francis invokes this image of church as field hospital to indicate that the focus of the church needs to be on the most proximate issues.  He says “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars!  You have to heal his wounds.  Then we can talk about everything else.  Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…and you have to start from the ground up.” …A person in pain or deep in sin or addiction or loneliness needs to be given pastoral care that first addresses this pain.  Only after this pain is addressed and has been given time to heal can other priorities be examined. 

Praying for Our Enemies and the Pope’s Interview, by Brad Rothrock

Reflection: How can Francis’ imagery and vision lead Catholics past political boundaries?  How can/should we separate our national and ecclesial political beliefs?

Snippet: It is too easy to fall into a defensive posture that does nothing but criticize. It is too easy to feel that you can somehow stand above it all in an atmosphere of purity because you have “right” (or, often for progressives, “justice”) on your side.  In this sense, progressives and conservatives in the Church easily find unity in a form of holy righteousness, in thinking that they hold the key to the true Christian vision….

Global Problems Require Global Governanceby Kevin Ahern

Reflection: What does a strong political stance by a Vatican document mean for us as everyday Christians? How does/should this affect how we view our own country’s politics?

Snippet: Modern Catholic social teaching…has pointed to the need for the creation of a worldwide public authority to address the challenges facing the global common good. While the present note recognizes the United Nations as a good starting point, Catholic social teaching advocates for a more effective and robust “supranational Authority.”  At the heart of the present note is the realization that global problems call for global solutions, and the multifaceted process of globalization calls for the creation of a more effective global authority…. 

3. Advent:

Oh Come EmmauelAdvent, Counterculture, and Prayer, by Jennifer Owens

Reflection: What does it mean to transform Advent into a cultural act? How do we do this?

Snippet: The good news of today’s Gospel is that Jesus is Emmanuel, which literally means, “God is with us.”  And God will be with us, if we allow God to be.  Jesus comes to save us from this and from all unnecessary suffering, to alleviate that insecurity, to remind us that we are loved.  His offer of Christian fullness in the face of the emptiness of consumerism is always there for us.  It’s up to us, especially during this season of Advent anticipation, to make room for him, to say “yes” to the promise of new life in Christ and “no” to the empty promise of consumer culture….

The Evangelization of Emmanuelby Amanda Osheim

Reflection: How do we “share the context of all peoples”?  How does this relate to the “newness” of God?

Snippet: When Augustine described God as “ever ancient, ever new” what did he mean?  Certainly neither that God is a crumbling ruin nor the latest fad.  Rather, Augustine’s poetic imagery gives praise to the God whose creation of the world inaugurated time itself and whose sustaining love holds each creature in being at every moment…

St. Andrew, Patron of Constantinopleby Brian Flanagan

Reflection: How can Advent transform our perceptions of “people of good will”?   How do experiences of differences–experiences out of the ordinary–transform our perception of reality?

Snippet: If we keep Advent not simply as preparation for the celebration of Christmas, but as the season to pray through the gap of where we are and where God is bringing us…then this Advent might be a time to ask for God to heal our deep wounds: the divisions in humanity between the Christian East and the Christian West, between Christians and Muslims, between people of good will, as well as the more personal wounds of those in pain because of what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what has been done on our behalf.

4. Lent:

The Necessary Terror of Holy Saturday, by John Slattery

The Death of Jesus. Lodwar Cathedral, Kenya.

Question: What does it mean to dwell within Holy Saturday?  Are our lives more like Good Friday, Holy Saturday, or Easter Sunday?

Snippet: If we view Easter Sunday as completing what God began at creation, we are completely missing the point.  Easter Sunday is about beginning a journey of hope, not about rejoicing in the arrival of the end.  The early Christians, with such limited access to secular political positions, could never quite grasp this point.  But now, with 1 of every 3 people in the world self-identifying as “Christian”…perhaps now we can begin to see the other side of Holy Saturday and remember that we must always recognize the terror of the world before we can begin to transform it into hope.