The life of the Church is – I will use a rather strong word – a contamination of light. — Pope Francis 
A tip of my hat to Sojourners for bringing the above to my attention.
 Holy See Press Office, August 2, 2017, Catechesis of the Holy Father, accessed August 11, 2017, http://press.vatican.va.
Every week when I prepare for a sermon, I come across some gem that I don’t have room for in the sermon. Here’s the one from this week.
The commands of Jesus, taken seriously, create miracles; they open an incredible reservoir of divine resources. Apart from such commands, not much unusual is going to happen. 
Every time I have dared to ignore the world’s scorn and follow Jesus’s commands, I have been awed by the unusual results.
 Walter Brueggemann et al., Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary, Based on the NRSV—Year A (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 441.
Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. — C. S. Lewis 
Prudence is important, though often overlooked because it usually goes unnoticed until it is absent. Prudence is one of the four “the Cardinal Virtues” (the others are courage, temperance, and justice). These virtues were recognized by both the ancient philosophers and the (slightly less ancient) early church theologians who added the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.
 C. S. Lewis, “The Cardinal Views,” in Mere Christianity (1952).
Lillian Daniel is often blunter than I am. That means that she’s often saying what I’m thinking. Below is one such example. I’m just going to let it stand on its own.
Someone was complaining to me about why she had stopped going to her church, saying, “You know, when I was sitting there in worship I just didn’t get much out of it.”
To which I replied, “Well, it wasn’t directed toward you.” 
 Lillian Daniel, When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church (Grand Central Pub, 2013), 173.
Today’s quote ties into this coming Sunday’s sermon:
” … now may be a good time to remind ourselves that ours is a kingdom that grows not by might or power but by the Spirit, whose presence is identified by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” — Rachel Held Evans 
 Rachel Held Evans as Quoted in Jonathan Merritt, “Q&A: Rachel Held Evans on the Ills of American Christianity, and Leaving Evangelicalism,” Religion News Service, March 10, 2015, accessed July 26, 2017, http://religionnews.com/2015/03/10/qa-rachel-held-evans-ills-american-christianity-leaving-evangelicalism/.
Jenny, Liz, and I are fans of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but it was with fear and trepidation that I started watching the episode titled “Kimmy Goes to Church.” The show satirizes everything, and to a satirist, the church is a target rich environment. It was touch and go throughout much of the episode, but the climax of the show produced this line, delivered by Kimmy Schmidt, the main character, in front of the gathered congregation:
“So … I guess real religion is about knowing we’re not perfect but trying to be better. Together.” —Kimmy Schmidt 
There are three key points about the nature of the church in the quote above:
- We know we’re not perfect.
- We’re trying to do better.
- We’re doing it together.
Drop any one of those points and the whole thing falls apart. 
Note: Unless you already watch the show, I don’t think there is much of a point in watching this episode. I don’t think it would make any sense at all to someone unfamiliar with the backstory.
 Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, writers, “Season 3, Episode 9: Kimmy Goes to Church,” in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix, May 19, 2017, http://www.netflix.com.
 I know, I know there are a lot of other ways the whole thing can far apart.
Posting has been and will continue to be light because I’m on spiritual renewal leave this week. One of the things I’m doing is rereading Godric: a Novel by Frederick Buechner. (One of my seminary professors made it a practice to reread Godric every year.) There is a lot of deep wisdom in the book, but it is all so moored to and intertwined with the story that’s hard to break a nugget loose to share with you. Below is my best try. The speaker of these words, the protagonist of the book is Godric, a medieval hermit, immersed in God.
But this much I will tell. What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup. 
When I find myself immersed in God the words ring true. But if I am not immersed in God, they appear as balderdash. If they don’t mean anything to you know, I encourage you to try again later.
 Frederick Buechner, Godric: A Novel (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1983), 96.
Wisdom from C. S. Lewis:
The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. — C. S. Lewis 
 C. S. Lewis, “Is Christianity Hard or Easy?” in Mere Christianity: A Revised and Amplified Edition, with a New Introduction, of the Three Books Broadcast Talks, Christian Behaviour and Beyond Personality (London: HarperCollins Publ., 2001), 198.
In my sermon preparation, I came across the following quote from one of my old seminary professors, Emilie Townes. I don’t know if I’ll have room for it in the sermon, but it’s too good not to share:
The discipleship to which Jesus calls us not only offers us rest but also guarantees us persecution. — Emilie Townes 
Not only is important to prepare for persecution, but we also need to discern between actual persecution and the mere loss of a previously privileged position.
 Emilie M. Townes, “Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30: Theological Perspective,” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Year A, vol. 3 (Louisville (Ky.): Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 214.
Yesterday I mentioned a theological rationale from church historian Justo Gonzalez for standing while receiving communion:
“At an earlier time, the practice was not to kneel for prayer on Sundays, for that is the day of our adoption, when we approach the throne of the Most High as children and heirs to the Great King.” — Justo L. González 
Gonzalez is writing specifically of prayer, but the rationale applies to receiving communion as well. As I mentioned yesterday those who want to kneel after receiving communion are welcome to go up to the altar rail and those who wish to receive communion while kneeling are invited to the weekly Wednesday communion service at 5:30 p.m.
I was reminded of this quote because although I had previously read his epic two-volume history of Christianity, the audio version recently became available and I’m enjoying the listen. I’m listening through my earbuds because making everyone in the office listen to it would probably constitute the creation of a hostile work environment.
 Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, vol. 1 (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), 144.
You may have heard the recent story about the inmates in Georgia who saved the life of the correctional officer who was guarding them.  It reminded me of this quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 
Even as Christians we often want to sort people into good and evil, sheep and goats, but we are all a mixture of the two. (For example, even Judas felt remorse.) The only question is are we using God’s grace to become better. We need to be generous, compassionate, and merciful in our assessments of other people just as God is to us.
 Catherine Park and Deborah Tuff, “Georgia Inmates save Correctional Officer Who Passed out during Work Detail,” USA Today, accessed June 23, 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/06/20/georgia-inmates-save-correctional-officer-who-passed-out-during-work-detail/411522001/.
 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “A Quote from The Gulag Archipelago,” Goodreads, accessed June 23, 2017, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/13750-if-only-it-were-all-so-simple-if-only-there. I am too cheap to buy a copy of The Gulag Archipelago just to track this quote all the way down. I’ve heard it attributed to Solzhenitsyn, so I’m taking Goodreads at their word.
In my mind, this tweet stands on its own:
There’s no need to tell everyone how Christian you are. Just act like one: love, forgive, be merciful, help the poor. They’ll get it[.] — James Martin, SJ 
 James Martin, SJ. Twitter post, June 21, 2017, 8:48 a.m., https://twitter.com/JamesMartinSJ/status/877523683719479296.