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Kierkegaard re-contextualized, part II: The agony of Pontius Pilate

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This is the second in a three-part series examining the theological ideas of Søren Kierkegaard through the work of three contemporary church critics. The first part can be found here.

To me, the most memorable voice in the St. John's Passion has always been that of Pontius Pilate. After struggling fruitlessly to undo the inevitability of Christ's death, confronted with the real certainty of executing the world's most innocent person, Pilate is shaken to the core. He is left clinging to one existential question: "What is truth?"

I thought I screwed up Lent

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I, too, have a confession to make. I didn't give up anything for Lent. For someone so attached to the poetic rhythm of the liturgical calendar, I failed to do something "special" for Lent.

I suppose I could give you all these superficial excuses about not having time, being too busy, just forgetting that it's Friday, but that would not get to the heart of the issue.

I even thought of saying that I am just tired. Tired of the giving something up just to get back into my previous habits. Tired of trying something new just to do more. Tired of broken monologues and debates that keep the same positions.

But all of these excuses would merely be symptoms of a deeper resistance: My pride has really gotten me away from God.

I first noticed it when I started making exceptions for myself and challenging God's grace: "Wow, God was really looking out for me. I wasn't supposed to park there, AND I didn't even get a ticket. Whew!"

Then I puffed up my chest even further when I was asked to consult on a number of different projects: "Surely, there is no one like me who could do this job. Obviously, I'm special."

A look at Kierkegaard and his infinite passion of inwardness

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This is the first in a three-part series examining the theological ideas of Søren Kierkegaard through the work of three contemporary church critics.

Kierkegaard’s work is notoriously difficult to comprehend in total: He was a prolific author and frequently wrote under pseudonyms using characters designed to represent contrary or hypocritical positions. Most of my observations on Kierkegaard over this and the next two columns come from writings selected in "Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard" (edited by Charles E. Moore, Plough Publishing House 1999). Unless otherwise noted, the translations quoted here come from that volume. The podcast "The Partially Examined Life" provides a good introduction to the philosophical Kierkegaard. (Be advised that the recording contains occasional adult language.)

Giving up coffee to be spiritually quenched

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My husband likes to boast that he has been drinking coffee since he was knee-high on his father's leg. Coffee is a habit I figured I would never acquire, as I avoided the habit even in college. But when the second month of sleepless nights with a newborn kicked in, I surrendered, and the addiction formed.

It started with the frozen specialty drinks. Frappuccinos turned into mochas, and mochas turned into dark roast with a little bit of cream.

Imagine me, a priest

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A good friend of mine has found himself at another impasse along his journey where he comes to understand his calling ever more clearly as Father.

I met Brian's fiancée this past summer. As the two of them begin to discern their calling to become family to one another, they have invited me into their sacred process: Brian and Jane asked me to marry them.

Brian was in the process of becoming ordained. After seven years in a religious community and preparing for holy orders, he left when his consolation came to an end. We have walked with one another for more than 10 years and have watched each other deepen in relationship with God and navigate the complexities of life. He routinely confirms and supports my calling, and we imagine a church where we both can be called, he as a married man and me as a woman, and recognized by a community.

The subjectivity of happiness: on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 'Flow'

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The pursuit of happiness, one of the most popular subjects of contemporary spiritual writing, is also among the most superficially addressed themes in the church's homiletics. From Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) to Rhonda Byrne's The Secret (2006), seekers of the last 60 years have demonstrated an unquenchable interest in the power of spiritual technologies to better their well-being or cure anxieties and depression.

These popular approaches, with their insistence on the ability of individuals to affect their material conditions entirely independent of God, are decisively anti-Christian. All the more reason, then, for the church to offer a strong alternative.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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