If God required the execution of an innocent man before God could save us, then what does that say about God’s power? Or God’s goodness? Isn’t God powerful enough to forgive sin without an unjust execution? Isn’t God good enough to desire to use divine power to save us without violence? If we think in terms of “ransom,” in which Jesus pays God for our release from eternal death, then Go saves through bribery. These thoughts about God’s actions should upset our moral equilibrium — the morality that God instilled in us. When we hold to our traditional theories of atonement we choke out God’s compassion, grace, and power to heal and save us and compromise love with the divine necessity for retribution.
— Sharon L. Baker, Executing God, p. 70
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 8, 2024
It may be that we have lost our ability to hold a blazing coal, to move unfettered through time, to walk on water, because we have been taught that such things have to be earned; we should deserve them; we must be qualified. We are suspicious of grace. We are afraid of the very lavishness of the gift.
But a child rejoices in presents!
— Madeleine L’Engle, quoted in Glimpses of Grace, collected by Carole F. Chase
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 20, 2024
Your emotions are not wrong or bad
or lying to you or telling the full truth.
They are giving you a bit of data
that you shouldn’t ignore.
We love, and lose, and fall, and get back up,
and fail, and try again.
Your humanity is not an affront.
We are reminding ourselves that
this is who we are, how we’re made:
to feel the pain, the grief, the stress,
the risk, the fear, the heartbreak.
So, you beautiful creature,
here is your permission slip to feel it all.
To feel the joy and delight and excitement.
And the sorrow and fear and despair.
All the yellows and pinks, and violets and grays.
Because you are the whole damn sky.
— Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie, The Lives We Actually Have, p. 4-5
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 18, 2024
We can never undo what we have done. We can never go back in time. We write history with our decisions and our actions. But we also write history with our responses to those actions. We can leave the pain and the damage in our wake, unattended, or we can do the work of acknowledging and fixing, to whatever extent possible, the harm that we have caused. Repentance — tshuvah — is like the Japanese art of kintsugi, repairing broken pottery with gold. You can never unbreak what you have broken. But with the sincere and deep work of transformation, acts of repair have the potential to make something new.
— Danya Ruttenberg, On Repentance and Repair, p. 45
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 22, 2023
All I can do is try to draw closer to your uniqueness, to feel linked by the small overlaps between us. This is how empathy works. It’s how differentness starts to weave itself into togetherness. Empathy fills the gaps between us, but never closes them entirely. We get pulled into the lives of others by virtue of what they feel safe and able to show us, and the generosity with which we are able to meet them. Piece by piece, person by person, we begin to apprehend the world in more fullness.
— Michelle Obama, The Light We Carry, p. 241-242
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 8, 2023
I am certain that God will bless me, but I don’t need to know how. When we think we know exactly how the one who made us is going to take care of us, we’re apt to ignore the angel messengers sent us along the way.
— Madeleine L’Engle, Glimpses of Grace, p. 55
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 21, 2023
Take a look at Luke 13:10-17. Jesus is in a synagogue on the Sabbath. The rabbis had rules about what you could and could not do on the Sabbath, but Jesus sees a powerless and infirm woman there, feeble and frail, bent over. She’d been disabled, Luke says, “by a spirit for eighteen years.” “When he saw her, Jesus called her to him and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your sickness.’ He placed his hands on her and she straightened up at once and praised God” (verses 12-13). Can I tell you how much I love this picture of Jesus? He knows what he’s about to do is against the rules. Furthermore, he is in the synagogue and there is a religious leader there! But he cannot help himself. This woman has been in pain for eighteen years. This is one of the things I hope you will remember about Jesus: Jesus put people ahead of rules. The synagogue leader is undone and he chastises this woman and the crowd around, “There are six days during which work is permitted. Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath day” (verse 14). I’ll let you read Jesus’s response in Luke 13:15-16 and how the crowd responded in verse 17.
Notice, though, that he saw the woman. Notice that he had compassion for her. Notice that he refused to let her suffer anymore, Sabbath or not.
— Adam Hamilton, Luke: Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws, p. 67.
Photo: From Klosterruine Disibodenberg, Germany, August 23, 2008.
But does the defeat of sin within the person take place only in the temporal realm, within time itself, while we live in this body? Why should it? If we are beings who live on after death, like the Bible seems to say, what makes us think that God limits the bestowing of eternal grace to one time period? Why can’t God extend the offer of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation through Jesus even at judgment — when all will be laid bare, when all persons will see the extent of their sin and the extravagance of God’s love? If the effectiveness of Jesus’ work on our behalf extends even beyond the grave, that means that no one is ever beyond grace.
— Sharon L. Baker, Razing Hell, p. 107
Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 5, 2023
What I think, my fellow second sons, is that we were told the truth. This story is for us. We are the prodigal son. But we are also the lost and hungry sheep. We have gone unfed, walked without rest, been chased by wolves, and our friends and leaders did not see our pain. But God, in big and little ways, has donned a shepherd’s cloak and come running after us. God, in big and little ways, has clambered over rocks and climbed down cliffs. God has found us, hungrier and more hurt and terrified, and cradled us close to say: No matter why you left or where you went, you are mine.
— Emmy Kegler, One Coin Found, p. 8
Photo: Above Gundersweiler, Germany, June 14, 1998