Jared Witt - July 18, 2019
There was a time when Christians weren’t called Christians. Rather, they were called followers of The Way.
One day, a famous follower of The Way was interrogated by an official of the state named Rusticus, who wanted to know if this riff-raffy hodgepodge of misfits had some kind of subversive intent. He hurried the interrogatee through the boilerplate questions about the group, you know, doctrines and behaviors and what have you, but what really seemed to concern him was this seemingly mundane question: “Where do your gatherings meet?”
Whatever the agenda of this strange new cult, it would put his mind at ease to know that their meetings were at least hidden away in some officially sanctioned religious house. Then there would be little to bother with in it.
Jared Witt - December 3, 2018
To a preacher with a forgiveness hammer, everything looks like a guilty nail.
So what happens when said preacher’s people don’t feel guilty? Well, obviously, forgiveness of someone who doesn’t feel guilty is pretty unsatisfying and anti-climactic. So the preacher who originally set out to preach forgiveness must start out by first convincing everyone of their guilt. And so, in pulpits everywhere, you can observe the common irony that most of that preacher’s time is spent creating the one problem he or she knows how to solve rather than actually solving it.
Jared Witt - September 24, 2018
I assume you don’t want to read a blog long enough to cover the entire history of how it got to be this way. Support your local library for that.
But basically a bunch of stuff happened. Something called a North American was invented at one point, and North Americans are “rights” people. We base everything from our private morality to our public policies and every major value in between on this nebulous thing called “rights.”
Not everyone in every time and place has thought like this. There are a million other values on which humans can and have based their moral systems. Familial loyalty, tribal or national loyalty, sense of divine holiness or justice, and pleasing the rain god have been among the most popular throughout history. And each of those old favorites pops its head up here and there whenever it’s helpful to a given speaker’s argument. But when it comes down to brass tacks, we’re rights people.
Jared Witt l 500 Year Anniversary of Reformation Day, October 31, 2017
We’re sorry. The position of Savior has already been filled. Others need not apply.
Today, we Lutherans celebrate 500 years of nailing this memo to church doors, and library doors, and municipal doors…pretty much any door we can find, because it just never stops being relevant. If you’re not sure why it’s still relevant, I invite you to scan your Twitterfeed or favorite news app. Greasy demagogues and be-robed religious nuts are forever getting up on their pedestals and setting themselves up as the new Christs, telling you that you need to join their institution, jump through their hoops, or vote for their ticket for your salvation.
And we Lutherans keep knocking them down. That’s our role in this world, I guess. We knock down false messiahs.
Jared Witt l September 14, 2017
Martin Luther had this phrase that would’ve unnerved a lot of stuffy church folk if he had uttered it yesterday, let alone in the 16th century, when he sparked the movement that would become all of western Protestantism.
“Faith creates the deity.”
He wasn’t trying to be heretical. He was just trying to take seriously what the Bible says about gods and our relationship to them. From Genesis forward, God, the creator, goes by many regional names and qualitative descriptions in the Hebrew scriptures. El Elyon (“God Most High”), Adonai (“Lord”), Elohim (“God of gods”), and El Shaddai (“the many breasted one”) are among the most popular. Then, as of Exodus, the mysterious YHWH, the unpronounceable anti-name given to Moses at the burning bush, begins to push those other identifiers to the side. By design, we don't really know anything about this unnameable name other than that it's associated with One who has a particular concern for the poor and the marginalized.
As we move into the proto-Trinitarian thinking of the Christian Testament, Jesus becomes the face of God the Father (note that "father" is a metaphor, not an identifier) by the power of the Holy Spirit, but just like YHWH, that also seems to be a paradoxical refusal give us an easy handle on the divine. So, biblically, “God” is not a proper noun, despite how comfortable we get using the term that way. If the creator of the universe had a birth certificate, it would not read:
Name - God
Birthdate - 01/01/00
Birthplace - The Center
Parents - Judith and Reginald van Nihilo
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 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 February 9, 2017
I recently went to see a counselor—surprising, I know, given my cheerful disposition—and there was a question on the patient information sheet asking about my religion.
I don’t purposely try to be a smartass with stuff like that. Well, ok, I once told a dentist that maybe my molar no. 2 was sensitive to hot or cold because of his relationship with his father. So let us say that at least 60 percent of the time I try not to be a smartass with stuff like that.
But if I'm to be totally honest, it has started to feel even more disingenuous to say that I'm a “Christian” with no other qualifiers. So I settled on “Christian – mostly.”
Counselor: What’s with the 'mostly'?
Me: It’s complicated.
Jared Witt l August 18, 2016
My wife, Nikki, is absolutely in love with people. And I don’t just mean that she loves the people who feel most familiar and comfortable to her. We all love those people. My wife loves strange people, foreign people, difficult people specifically because they are strange, foreign, or difficult.
I first started noticing this about her while we were still in school, dating and barista-ing together at Starbucks (kind of a big no no except that everyone in the history of baristas has done it). The café where we worked is in an uncharacteristically diverse pocket of Columbus, Ohio, which has one of the highest Jewish population densities in the US and people from several different central African cultures. Watching her interact with the neighborhood, while I spilled cappuccino on the floor, was where I first learned that my wife was going to become my wife.
I’d watch her face soften into pure, self-forgetful tenderness when our Eritrean and Ethiopian customers would come in and make an order through broken English. I’d watch her become as patient as a mother to one of our regulars, who was mentally ill, and several others who were just plain mean. Her short, tight crop of brown curly hair created more than a couple conversation in-roads with the African American women (I’m not sure if the term “white girl afro” is politically correct, but you get the idea). If you were well-traveled, she would ask you about it with the fascination of a two year old but would take equal interest in your story if you’d never even been out of the state.
Have you ever wondered what beer from the Middle Ages might have tasted like? If you thought that wheat, hops, yeast esters, and barrel aging were modern craft beer trappings, you may be surprised to know that over 500 years ago the region of Einbeck, Germany was successfully producing a style of beer with a profile that could rival that of the best craft breweries today.
How Castle Church is stirring up a new spirit in the church from a brewery in Orlando, FL.