Raskolnikov and resurrection
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Raskolnikov and resurrection

Many years ago, when I was still a graduate student, I decided to read some of the major Russian novels of the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s taken me decades, but I finally got to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866). The story is set in the imperial capital of St. Petersburg. Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov…

More than just surviving
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More than just surviving

Does anyone recall “Build Back Better”? It became a popular rallying cry midway through covid. After the first lockdown, we saw that collective action could develop vaccines faster than ever and provide support to keep poor households afloat. Covid exposed vulnerable spots, such as old age homes, but there was also optimism that we could…

Our human insignificance and the One who makes us matter
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Our human insignificance and the One who makes us matter

“As long as we are not quite sure we are unworthy, God will keep narrowing us in until he gets us alone.” Oswald Chambers There’s a kind of loneliness that almost befriends you. A kind that wraps around me, scarf-like, as I ski across the fields. The snow is much like I imagine manna would…

Holy Laughter
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Holy Laughter

The sky was blue and so was the mood in the drop-in center. Everyone kind of moped, here on Main Street, in this place where the homeless and vulnerable gather daily for cheap meals and free conversation.  I came in as I always do, Wednesdays at lunch, to sit at the long rectangular table and…

Crystal clear
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Crystal clear

A lead crystal vase graces the shelf of our old hutch. I hold it, feeling its familiar weightiness. My finger traces the fluted rim until it catches on a jagged point and I’m transported back to my childhood. I was very young, but the event is engraved as deeply in my memory as the design…

The broken silence of Christmas
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The broken silence of Christmas

On a regular basis Angela Reitsma Bick, Editor of Christian Courier, sends out an email to columnists like me with a reminder of due dates and with a heads-up about issue themes. In November she reminded us that the December issue would have two themes: Christmas (no surprise there) and “In Praise of Broken Things.”…

Incarnation and renewal
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Incarnation and renewal

One of my earliest memories is of Christmas 1957. I was just short of three years old, and our family was living in a rented one-storey bungalow on Pershing Avenue in Wheaton, Illinois, then on the outskirts of town. We had a tree in the front bay window facing north, and the five of us…

Enduring the Longest Night
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Enduring the Longest Night

I remember about five years ago, newly separated and in the thick of depression and emotional pain, I attended my church’s Blue Christmas service. It was my first Christmas in this new reality of no longer being a family of four, and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. And this service – created…

Breaking with Christmas
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Breaking with Christmas

It is common to hear people say “our healthcare system is broken.” Or they say the education system is broken. The Emergencies Act inquiry is exposing how broken our police and security systems are, in spite of huge budgets, sophisticated equipment and impressive uniforms. In Egypt, COP 27 is exposing broken promises to reduce harmful…

To Cancel or not to Cancel
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To Cancel or not to Cancel

There is a question that looms for pastors, elders and other church leaders this year. The last time we had to answer it was in 2016 and the next time will be in 2033.  Should we cancel worship services on Sunday, December 25th? Most Presbyterian congregations normally hold services on Christmas Eve rather than on…

The end of the world as we know it
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The end of the world as we know it

“Each morning comes along and you assume it will be similar enough to the previous one – that you will be safe, that your family will be alive, that you will be together, that life will remain mostly as it was.” That’s from Cloud Cuckoo Land, American author Anthony Doerr’s new book. “Then a moment…

Resurrection life
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Resurrection life

Most religions address the challenge of death with some concept of an afterlife. Islam presents the goal as paradise. Eastern religions speak of reincarnation, then escape into the great universal spirit. Most Materialists say, “When you’re dead, you’re dead,” with hope being in the next generations. Christians sometimes talk of life after death as “heaven,”…