Jared Witt l March 30, 2017
For followers of Jesus Christ, serving those who are poor or on the margins is not something we might choose to do because we have a particular passion for it as individuals. It’s not something for us to do on the side when we feel like “giving back.” It’s not something Paul lists alongside personal charisms like the gift of prophecy or of speaking in tongues, which some might possess but not others.
If we don't live to serve the outcast, it becomes very cloudy what exactly we mean when we call ourselves Christian. In fact, we can light candles, and start a prayer group at work, and sing songs at church, and read our Bibles at a coffee shops, and join a small group, and wear crosses over our hearts, and teach kids about Daniel in the lion’s den, and hang a cross stitch of the “Serenity Prayer” over our beds, and make spiritual pilgrimages, and sit through (bleckk!) church regional gatherings, and any number of other things that are conventionally recognized as “Christian” and, as far as we know, still have not done a single thing that Jesus ever did.
But he was constantly serving the marginalized.
Jared Witt l March 24, 2017
So I guess Lent is all the rage now (at least in my circles).
Honestly, I get why some people make fun of us church nerds. Our claim is this: a man got the death penalty one day, and his expiration somehow matters twenty centuries later to a CPA named Ernie in West Virginia. And, oh, by the way, we reenact a 40 day journey toward this event every year all over the world.
To be clear, it would not be readily obvious to anyone standing on the hill outside Jerusalem that day why this man’s death should matter to Ernie. But Christians have grown so accustomed to the idea that it does, we treat it like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. So I want to write about one very unhelpful way of getting from Jesus to Ernie, which many Christians treat like it’s as matter-of-fact as gravity, and then suggest a more helpful way.
Jared Witt l March 16, 2017
Like many saints, Ignatius of Loyola was far from pious in his early days. He concerned himself with the things that most ambitious young men did, winning prosperity, military prestige, and of course women. Then came the ecstatic day—typical in the lore of medieval saints—where he ripped off his clothes, just like Francis of Assisi centuries before, handed them to a homeless person, and dedicated his sword and dagger to a statue of the virgin Mary at the Spanish abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat.
Most of us are not going to have a beatific moment like that in our lives. And such moments are generally understood to be a gift of the Holy Spirit, so there’s no way to stage one even if we wanted. Fortunately, there is a less inspiring but, in some ways, far more usable second part to this story.
Jared Witt l March 9, 2017
I am no saint. And I am not just a sinner. I am loved like a saint and at the same time have an almost religious devotion to selfishness and self-harm.
So does God forgive me or not?
A lot of people try to start with the Bible when they answer that question--never a bad place to start. The only problem is, allow me to save you some time with this if you didn't know already, scripture goes back and forth all the time on this question. So the only way to get a satisfying answer is to take the answers you like and to lie to yourself about what the rest of it says. This doesn’t mean that scripture isn’t your most precious resource when answering this question of urgent importance. It just means that the Bible is a book which argues against itself all the time. This isn’t some flaw that needs to be covered up in the historical records. It’s perfectly intentional. Scripture should be read argumentatively because it is, itself, a history of argument. To read it slavishly and unthinkingly is to either be very confused or to lie.
Jared Witt l March 2, 2017
Last night at our first ever Ash Wednesday service, a few of us spiritual pilgrims from the Castle Church community wrote down our confessions on paper, set them ablaze, and used that for the ashes to mark our foreheads and say to each other, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
Just as we will one day lie back down in the dirt, so will our faults and failures. Nothing we have ever said or done is ultimate. Only God’s love is. In doing this ritual, we also decided that a good practice this Lenten season would be to give up bashing “the other side” for 40 days. For many of us, at this particular juncture in our society, the other side is going to be a political opposition. But obviously it can be more broad than that: a mother-in-law, the coworker who always wastes your time with slow, meandering stories, or really anyone whom you might snicker about behind closed doors.
How Castle Church is stirring up a new spirit in the church from a brewery in Orlando, FL.