Monday, May 21, 2018

Resurrection of the Church

Here is my sermon for Pentecost Sunday. The text was Acts 2:1-21:

I want to start this morning telling you the story of a church that I know of, that some of you have probably heard about as well. It was founded by a fairly charismatic minister, who was known to preach good sermons. They didn’t have a permanent home where they met, but instead met where they could, and while they would get higher than normal attendance on the big holidays, sometimes more than a hundred, their normal attendance was in the twenties, although there were only around a dozen who could be counted on to be there all the time. Just as soon as it seemed like they were moving in the right direction, that they were about to see some huge growth, people would decide that this wasn’t the right church for them because it challenged what they had been taught as children, or it just wasn’t big enough, or stable enough, or it was too challenging, or they couldn’t be anonymous, or too much was required, or whatever the reason was, they just decided it wasn’t for them. But they did all the right things, although some of them were a little unusual, but it just didn’t seem like they were ever going to be bigger than they were. And then their pastor suddenly died, and no one knew what was going to happen, because one of the things that happens when charismatic leaders die is that their movements tend to quickly dissipate, unless another leader steps into the void, and it wasn’t clear that any of the members of this church had the skills or graces or ability to fill that hole. And so the members of the church gathered together, and they worshipped and prayed, but they didn’t know what their future held, and they were a little scared and a little nervous and a little anxious and timid, they hoped something might happen with their little church, they loved it after all, and while the people weren’t perfect, and there was some conflict, over all it was a good place to be, and they didn’t want to find another place to go, and so they gathered together into a room to discuss what they should do, to hold the dreaded all church meeting, and then something miraculous happened.

Does anyone want to take a guess as to what church this was, or where this took place? It was the original church with Jesus as its head, although traditionally we would say that there was not, in fact, a church yet, because today, Pentecost, is seen as the birth of the church. But we forget what the group of was like just 51 days before when they had no idea what was going to happen, and then they encounter the risen Christ, but that still didn’t mean that anything was going to become of this group, and so as we have been talking about resurrection stories, I think it’s important to recognize the resurrection story of the disciples to become the church. According to the author of Luke, who also writes Acts, and we should see them as a complete whole, Jesus has spent the time after the resurrection, until his ascension into heaven, which we recognized on Thursday. I know all of you had ascension parties, right? He has spent that time instructing the disciples, and one of the things he has said to them was that they would receive the Holy Spirit, and when they received the Holy Spirit they would receive what? Power.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Resurrection: Adoption

Here is my sermon from Mother's Day. The texts were Galatians 3:25-4:7 and Exodus 1:22-2:10. If you would like to see the testimonies given, please view the video on our Youtube page.

This past week I was at a conference center located right on the shore of Lake Tahoe. The lake, which is beautiful, played a significant role in human populations from the time of native Americans coming to the area on to the present, which is not really surprising, because water is obviously important to us as humans for survival. So perhaps it’s not surprising that according to the national institute of health, that 50% of the population on the earth live within 3 kilometers of freshwater, and only 10% of the worlds population lives more than 10 kilometers away. That’s true even with the increasing urbanization of the population, because the majority of large cities are also close to water. That was just as true in Egypt, and the Nile River played a crucial role in the life and activities of the people. While water can bring destruction and death, as see in storms and flooding, water is seen as a giver and protector of life, and so the Pharaoh’s instruction at the beginning of the book of Exodus to have male Hebrew children thrown into the Nile to drown stands in strong contrast to how the Nile was seen. Rather than being a source of life, he wants to make it, to turn it into, a source of death, but his actions are thwarted by four women.

Now perhaps that is not surprising that it is women who choose to protect life, and to even keep the water as a symbol and source of life. Even more striking, or important, is that other than the instruction from the Pharaoh handed down that all Hebrew male children are to be killed, there are no adult males in this story of Moses, and the fact that women play such a prominent role is not because this is a birth story. In fact, the story of Moses’ birth is just half a verse, half a sentence. It’s the role the women play in saving a life, in direct contradiction to the edict laid down the by the pharaoh himself. They are counteracting the rule which would distort the purpose of the Nile, the meaning of the Nile, to bring about death, rather than life. And so, Moses’ mother, who is not named, although Moses is not actually named yet either, makes a basket that is covered in bitumen and pitch, so that it will be waterproof. The Hebrew word translated here as basket, is the same word used to refer to Noah’s ark, and so we are called to see that this is a new form of salvation taking place here. Then the mother takes the basket, the ark, and places it amongst the reeds in the Nile. Now later when Moses will lead the Egyptians out of slavery, contrary to popular opinion, and some translations, he leads them not across the Red Sea, but across the Reed Sea. Again, we are called to see the story of the Israelites, of salvation, of freedom, of life, being played out here in this initial story of Moses.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Resurrection: Homelessness

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was John 14:23-27. To see the testimony given, please visit our Youtube page and watch the message.

One of the great things about baseball, and one of the reasons it’s a far superior sport, is that involves home. On offense, you start out at home plate, and it even looks like a house, but then you make your way out onto the bases, if you’re lucky, or good, but it’s dangerous out on the bases as there are people trying to get you out, and the original rules of baseball had the defense throwing the ball at the batter, soaking them was the term, in order to get them out. But, it’s dangerous out there, and your goal is to get back home, and to be safe, to be safe at home, and isn’t that much more like life? It’s certainly the story we also see witnessed throughout scripture, from beginning to end. It’s the expulsion from the garden of Eden, and even the angel guards to keep Adam and Eve from going back to what had been their home. It’s Abraham leaving what was his home, to go to the promised land. It’s the escape from Egypt, seeking to return home. It’s the exile into Babylon and the desire to return home. It’s the prodigal son leaving home and then seeking to return, and that’s to name just a few of the stories in scripture that surround the loss of home, or the search for home, and then there is even Jesus himself saying that the son of man has no place to lay his head.

Now we know that there were times that Jesus was living without a roof over his head, but there were other times when he was sleeping inside, including when he makes this comment about not having a place to lay his head as they had just been in Peter’s house. But there is a difference between having a place to stay and having a home. You can be homeless and still have a place to stay. I was hoping to get the testimony of a member of the congregation who lost their job and was homeless for a while, even though they always had a place to stay, but it was not their place. They were couch surfing, as its sometimes called, and were technically homeless, but our schedules couldn’t match up to make it happen. But it happens a lot. Many of the people we see on street corners are homeless, even if they might have a place to sleep that night.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Resurrection: Imprisonment

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Acts 16:25-34. To see the testimony given, please visit our Youtube page and view the video.

There was a post on Facebook this week, which is the modern source for all good wisdom, but woman posted that she was driving behind someone who had a sign in their back window that said they were learning to drive a stick, and asked for patience in allowing them to make mistakes. For those who have driven a stick, you might remember how difficult it was to get right when you started. So, she said she was very patient in being stuck behind them, but them wondered if she would have been as patient if they sign hadn’t been there. The answer was for her, as it probably is for most of us, no. But, it reminded her that if everyone wore a sign saying what we are dealing with and asking for patience, that we would probably be more patient with everyone around us, and they with us as well. I have thought that same thing as I have been working through this series on resurrection stories as I hear, and you hear, the stories people have to tell, and remember that other people in the congregation, and in our lives are dealing with exactly the same thing, we just don’t know that’s happening. We all need to be a little more patient with each other.

But what we didn’t hear is that just before today’s passage, and what leads to Paul and Silas ending up in prison is actually a lack of patience on Paul’s part. As they enter the city of Philippi, a slave girl runs up and announces them as slaves of the most high God who proclaim the way of salvation. Now this slave girl is also a fortune teller, and apparently a pretty good one because we are told that she makes her owners lots of money. After following Paul and Silas around for a few days continuing to cry out who they were, we are told that Paul was very much annoyed, and turned to her and cast out the spirit that gave her the ability to tell fortunes. Now we might wonder why Paul was more concerned that she was possessed than that she was a possession, but that’s an issue for another day. But the girl’s owners get upset that she is now no longer able to make them money, and so bring Paul and Silas to the magistrates for disturbing the peace and trying to overturn Roman customs. The magistrates them have them flogged and thrown into prison, and the prison guard is ordered to keep them securely. Now I need three volunteers to help me for a moment. Two of you are going to be prison guards, and your job is to keep them secured, not to let them get out of prison… now who is imprisoned in this story? It turns out that you don’t need to be behind bars to be imprisoned, that we can live in prisons of our own creation, or creations that others would like to put us in. And so that is part of our story for today as we hear the stories of some being caught in prison….

Monday, April 16, 2018

Resurrection: Mental Illness

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Mark 5:1-20. To see the testimony given, please visit our Youtube page.

Last week in the parable of the prodigal son, the son goes off to a gentile area where he does his dissolute living, which means it’s a land of impurity, and just to emphasize this fact, we are told that he ends up tending to pigs, which is one of the ultimate humiliations for any Jew because it means that they will remain ceremonially or religiously unclean all the time. That plays an important role then in the son’s restoration into the father’s house. Today’s passage is also about ritual impurity, but more importantly about Jesus’ reaction to it. Jesus has crossed the sea of Galilee into gentile territory. On the way there, a storm strikes the sea and the disciples are terrified, but Jesus is sleeping through it, until they wake him up and Jesus calms the storm, which amazes everyone because not only is Jesus able to overcome the forces of nature, but more importantly water was seen as a sign of chaos, and so Jesus’ calming the storm is the first sign of what he is able to overcome. Just as the miracles of healing the woman with the issue of blood and raising Jairus’ daughter immediately after today’s miracle are also crucial for showing his power and dealing with things that were said to be unclean.

So, he goes to the area around the town of Gerasene where he immediately encounters the man known as the Gerasene demoniac. But, Mark also wants us to be very clear about this man in relation to rules of Judaism. So, he is in a gentile land, unclean, he lives among the tombs, which is pointed out three different times, unclean, and he lives near pigs, unclean. But, the man is not only surrounded by uncleanness, he is also said to be possessed by demons, which means he is “utterly and completely alienated by God.” Everything tells us that this is not the person anyone who is religious is going to come near, nor can he approach God. He is as far from God as you can possibly get. He is also separated from society itself, which is why he lives not in the town, but in the graveyard outside of town. The best modern analogy is that the man is like a homeless man we might encounter who is walking down the street ranting and raving, perhaps not even saying words that make any sense, the man who makes us want to cross the street, or maybe even go to another street because we’re not sure what to do and we’re not sure what he will do. And neither did the people because they had tried to contain him with chains, which was to keep him from hurting himself, as we are told that he is hurting himself, and so finally it seems they had just given up. There was nothing they could do to contain or control him. He is the one that no one wants to talk about, that we wish would just go away, and is clearly separated from God.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Resurrection: Adiction

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Luke 15:11-24. To hear the testimony, please go to our Youtube page to see the video.

Today we begin a new sermon series entitled resurrections stories, looking for times in scripture in which people have been changed, but also hearing stories of resurrection from within our own congregation when possible, and so I thought it perhaps appropriate to begin with a story of resurrection of the son who was died but is now alive. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most famous parables that Jesus told, and is one, like the Good Samaritan, that has even crossed over into the secular world as people talk about prodigal sons, or daughters. But the first thing we might look at is whether that is even an appropriate title as it seems to make the story about the younger son, rather than also being about the father or the older brother, whose side of the story we left out in our reading this morning. Not something we are going to answer today, but I invite you to think about that and what changing the title might mean as we interpret this story. But, what we do need to know is the context of what is happening when Jesus tells this parable. At the beginning of chapter 15, we are told “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (15:1-2) so that tells us about whom Jesus is focusing on, and who the parables that follow are told to and about.  And then begins with the parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep, where the owners go out and seek to find the lost item and then celebrate for having recovered the one who was lost but is now found, and Jesus says so too is it for those in heaven who rejoice at the one who repents.

And then he begins the parable of the prodigal son, and we know something is wrong right from the start because of the demand made by the younger son, which is to receive his part of his inheritance. What he is basically saying to his father with this request is “I wish you were dead.” It’s clear that this request is not only unusual, but also disrespectful. In fact, a literal translation is of the father’s response is that he divided his life between them. This is the first of many broken relationships that are represented in this story. But for whatever reason, the father gives into his son’s demands, and the son takes what he receives, cashes it all in and then goes off to another land, a gentile land as it turns out, and squanders his money in dissolute living. It’s not clear what this means here, and perhaps it’s intentionally vague. Later, we will hear from the older brother who objects to his father treating his brother so well, that he has squandered the money on prostitutes, although its not clear how the brother would know this information. But the Greek word used here for dissolute living, is used three other times in the New Testament. One time it is related to drunkenness, the second is to rebelliousness and the third is to debauchery, which is a great word because it sounds dirty but you’re not really sure what’s going on. But whatever it is the son is doing, it’s not good, and he wastes all his money at it, and then a famine strikes the land, which only makes his situation worse. To try and survive, the son then finds himself having to work with pigs, which, according to Jewish laws, is an abomination in the eyes of God, although for some reason when Christians talk about abominations this one is left off the list. He is so hungry that he finds himself wanting to eat what the pigs are eating, and unlike his request to his father, no one will give him any assistance, but it reminds us that in dissolute living, we end up doing things that we never imagined we would do.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Greatest Joke God Ever Told

Here is my sermon for Easter. The text was Mark 16:1-8a:

Three men died and are at the pearly gates of heaven. St. Peter tells them that they can enter the gates if they can answer one simple question. St. Peter asks the first man, "What is Easter?" He replies, "Oh, that's easy! It's the holiday in November when everyone gets together, eats turkey, and are thankful..." St. Peter shakes his head, and proceeds to ask the second man the same question, "What is Easter?"  The second one replies, "Easter is the holiday in December when we put up a nice tree, texchange presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus." St. Peter looks at the second man, again shakes his head in disgust, and then peers over his glasses at the third man and asks, "What is Easter?" The third man smiles confidently and looks St. Peter in the eyes, "I know what Easter is. Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus was crucified on a cross and then buried in a nearby cave which was sealed off by a large boulder." St. Peter smiles broadly with delight.  Then the man continues, "Every year the boulder is moved aside so that Jesus can come out...and, if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter."

The account of Easter that we get in the gospel of Mark is rather brief. When we get to the end, we might think that someone is playing a trick, an April Fool’s joke on us, because we know there is supposed to be more, and we might even ask, “Hey what happened to the ending?” If you look in your Bibles, you will find two different endings after the passages we just heard, with a heading of either the shorter or longer ending. But our earliest and best manuscripts don’t actually have those endings. Instead they end with the women fleeing from the tomb in fear and not telling anyone. Those endings were added later because editors thought that there needed to be more, just as there is in the other gospels. I mean after all, the women did eventually tell someone, and we know that because we are sitting here this morning, and for the first time since 1956 celebrating Easter on April Fool’s Day.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Books I Read

Here are the books I read in 2017. This is more for my records, then for others, but I would recommend nearly all of them.
  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
  3. A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
  4. All That Glitters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
  5. America at War with Itself by Henry A. Giroux
  6. American Religious History by Patrick Allitt
  7. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  8. Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving
  9. Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
  10. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  11. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
  12. Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflection on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy
  13. Canada by Mike Myers
  14. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  15. Christmas Every Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren
  16. Clip In: Risking Hospitality in Your Church by Jim Ozier and Fiona Haworth
  17. Con Ed by Matthew Klein
  18. Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness and Justice in American Culture and Politics by Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski
  19. Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of Mark by Marcus Borg
  20. Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic
  21. Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydide's Trap? by Graham Allison
  22. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  23. Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the US House of Representatives by Robert Draper
  24. Engineered for Murder by Aileen Schumacher
  25. Finding God is a Galaxy Far, Far Away: A Spiritual Exploration of the Star Wars Saga by Timothy Paul Jones
  26. Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible by Daniel Burrus
  27. For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
  28. For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn
  29. George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones
  30. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
  31. Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law by James Q Whitman
  32. Holy Spirit by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
  33. Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches edited by Walter Wink
  34. How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain by Gregory Berns
  35. How English Became English: A Short History of a Global Language by Simon Horobin
  36. How to Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron
  37. How to Read Proverbs by Tremper Longman III
  38. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
  39. Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter
  40. Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong
  41. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
  42. J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys by Andrew Birkin
  43. Jim and Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversations about Faith, Churches and Well Meaning Christians by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper
  44. John Birch: A Life by Terry Lautz
  45. Lost at Sea: An American Tragedy by Patrick Dillon
  46. Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders by Joel Manby
  47. Lovingkindness: Realizing and Practicing Your True Self by William Miller
  48. Men Without Work: America's Invisible Crisis by Nicholas Eberstadt
  49. Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
  50. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  51. No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea by James Livingston
  52. On Immunity: An Innoculation by Eula Bliss
  53. On Tyrrany: Twenty One Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
  54. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
  55. Paper: Paging Through History by Mark Kurlansky
  56. Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson
  57. Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku
  58. Preaching from the Minor Prophets by Elizabeth Achtemeier
  59. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History by J.P. Romney and Rebecca Romney
  60. Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself by Rabbi Donniel Hartman
  61. Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income can Renew our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream by Andy Stern and Lee Kravitz
  62. Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man's Fight for Justice by Bill Browder
  63. Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insight by Gary Klein
  64. Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality by Rob Bell
  65. Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
  66. Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds by Carmine Gallo
  67. Tall Tales and Half Truths of Pat Garrett by John LeMay
  68. The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing and Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport by Rafi Kohan
  69. The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City's Most Infamous Crimes by Sarah Burns
  70. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
  71. The Deadliest Cast Member by Kelly Ryan Johns
  72. The Earth Moves: Galileo and the Roman Inquisition by Dan Hofstadter
  73. The End of Leadership by Barbara Kellerman
  74. The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones
  75. The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts came to be as They are by Henry Petroski
  76. The Gospel According to Star Wars: Faith, Hope and the Force by John C. McDowell
  77. The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die by Niall Ferguson
  78. The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle
  79. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  80. The Kindness Challenge: 30 Days to Improve Any Relationship by Shaunti Feldhahn
  81. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
  82. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
  83. The Martian by Andy Weir
  84. The Meaning of Human Existence by E.O. Wilson
  85. The Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella and the Making of an Empire by Teofilo Ruiz
  86. The Plot Against America: A Novel by Philip Roth
  87. The Second Death of George Mallory: The Enigma and Spirit of Mount Everest by Reinhold Messner
  88. The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed the World by Michael Lewis
  89. The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Daniel Jones
  90. The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz
  91. The Whistler by John Grisham
  92. The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer by Roseanne Montillo
  93. The World America Made by Robert Kagan
  94. Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
  95. Three Weeks with My Brother: A Memoir by Nicholas Sparks
  96. Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman
  97. When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Kindness Challenge: Breaking Bread

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Luke 22:14-23:

A little more than two week’s ago, former presidents Bush and Obama made speeches about the current political atmosphere in the country. Obama said “Why are we deliberately trying to misunderstand each other and be cruel to each other and put each other down? That’s not who we are!” while Bush the younger said “We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty…. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.” Now, this decline in civility has been building up for a long time, and is clearly found in more than just politics. Just turn on the television and we see people screaming at each other on cooking shows. I’ve spent some time in kitchens, and every kitchen I’ve been in that type of behavior would not be tolerated, but it makes for good television. There is a reason why we don’t have a show called the sweetest housewives of Beverly Hills, because that’s not exciting, and people don’t want to watch two political commentators agree with each other. Instead we’d rather watch people be oppositional, except we’ve moved passed just disagreeing to being disagreeable. And as much as we say that we don’t like it and we want it to be better, the truth is our behavior says exactly the opposite because people are watching these shows.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Reformation and Re-Formation

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Matthew 22:34-40:

When European Christians began building their great cathedrals, and then began to paint the ceilings, they encountered a unique problem, that is it’s hard to project true geometry onto vaults and domes. Because the space starts large at the beginning, but then pulls into a point at the top, the sense of perspective gets totally off. If you were, for example, to be painting the image of a saint in the dome, the saint’s feet would be really large, but then the body would have to get consistently narrower until they ended up with a really small head. So, artists had to create a new way of showing perspective, but even then, sometimes it would be a little off depending on where you stood, that is in some churches there is an ideal viewing location. When he was painting a soaring trompe l’oeil dome, that is a fake dome, on the ceiling of the church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Rome, the artist Andrea Pozzo had an even more unique problem. Because not only did the perspective need to be done correctly, but because the entire thing was fake, and there was no true vanishing point in the center, he inserted a marble disk in the pavement of the church to indicate where people should stand to be able to witness his masterpiece. There is only one place to stand to have proper perspective on the painting, and the farther you get from that, then it stops being effective.

When I read of that a few months ago in a book on the trial of Galileo by the Inquisition, I thought it was the perfect metaphor for what’s going on in the world today. That for a long time, most people were standing on the marble disk and so the world looked okay, it looked like they expected it to look, and certainly how they wanted it to look, and how others said it was supposed to look. But now, we have moved off of the marble disk and everything seems weird, the image to some people is now distorted and they are searching desperately for the marble disk, so they can go back and stand on it and the world will make sense again. Except that we can’t go back to the marble disk for the very reason that the disk isn’t even there anymore and the image itself is changing anyways, so even if we could find the spot where it used to be the image still wouldn’t be the same. As much as this strikes anxiety and outright fear into some people, and celebration into others, this I not all that unusual in the history of humanity and its true in the church as much as it is in politics.