God of the Big Picture (ch. 6)

My reflection on Chapter 6 (“Plotting Goodness”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.

While eating breakfast and drinking my morning coffee, my routine is to check headlines on my tablet. First I scan the online version of our local newspaper—local news and sports, national headlines, today’s obituaries. Next I select a couple different news agencies and read a couple stories from each. Then a few essays from Real Clear Politics. I always do it in that same order, being the creature of habit that I am. However, I can sometimes get bogged down in stories that break my heart or leave me anxious: The latest shooting by a police officer. The most recent terrorist attack. The epidemic of heroin. The details of computer hacking. The growing cases of Zika. The photos of young children in Aleppo.

A morning that began with hope and promise is now tinged with anguish and helplessness.

Some mornings I have to tell myself, will myself NOT to click on a particular story, for fear of the emotional aftermath I’ll experience. This is not Nancy being an ostrich with her head in the sand, denying the world’s woes. But it is setting some boundaries that keep me from drifting into despair.

I was glad to read McLaren’s words in Chapter 6 today. To be honest, most of the chapter didn’t hold my interest. But it was one particular phrase, early on, that caught my attention and sums up where I need to place the news of the day.

We Make the Road by Walking

McLaren is busy working through the following idea in chapter 6—that while you and I plot among ourselves and in ourselves to acquire things FOR ourselves, God is plotting goodness. But the phrase that I hold onto is this simple one: “While we plot ways to use God to get blessings for ourselves, God stays focused on the big picture of blessing the world…”

God stays focused on the big picture of blessing the world. I may not always be aware of it, or be able to see it, but that is truth of our faith. From Abram and Sarai, who were called to journey into the unknown (a “big picture” that God could see), to Mary, informed by Gabriel that she would bear a son by the power of the Holy Spirit and that this child would save her people (a “big picture” that God could see), the Bible is full of stories of this particular truth. And I am like those poor, anxious, fretful, disciple-student-apprentices of Jesus—wondering what I will eat or drink or wear…wondering what Jesus could possibly mean by his strange stories…wondering what Jesus is up to when he offers love to the unlovable and commands I do the same. I say to myself, it’s the big picture, dummy!

Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pay attention to the news of tragedy and war and man’s inhumanity to man. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try, in my own little corner of the world, to shed our Lord’s light in dark places. It DOES mean that while I am asking God for strength that I might do these small acts of grace, I can rest assured God is taking charge of the big picture. And knowing that, I am less overwhelmed, and more hope-filled each day.

Our next chapter is 7 (“It’s Not Too Late”). See you on the journey!

Those Difficult Old Testament Stories (Ch. 5)

My reflection on Chapter 5 (“In Over Our Heads”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.

The waiting room in my father’s dental office had an array of magazines, including Time, U.S. News and World Report, and Highlights. Somewhere along the way, my dad also acquired a free sample book—Volume One of Arthur Maxwell’s series The Bible Story. It contained various stories from the Old and New Testament, plus several moralistic tales about good children and bad children.

bible-story

I used to read the book, skimming through the story of Adam and Eve (beautifully illustrated, with leaves strategically placed on the first humans who were handsome and decidedly Anglo-Saxon in feature). I made my way to the story of Noah and the great flood. That illustration was not beautiful. Good thing I was not an overly sensitive child, because the illustration showed a numberless people drowning in flood waters. All heads and hands reaching out above the waves, begging for help, while Noah and his family and a bunch of animals were safely aboard the ark.

I don’t think I thought too much about the illustration back then and what it represented. Bad people—or at least disobedient people—dying through God’s righteous anger. That’s what those Bible stories all seemed to be about.

But I think back now and realize it was a horrific illustration, and so contrary to much that I believe today about God because of the story of Jesus. There are several Old Testament stories, including the great flood, which confuse me with their intent, and portray God as angry and vengeful and demanding. Or at the least, strangely silent about and seemingly supportive of violence. There’s God’s command that Abraham should slay his son Isaac to prove his obedience to God. There’s God sending poisonous serpents to sting the Israelites when they got grumpy and grumbling during that long journey in the wilderness. Don’t even get me started on the rape and dismemberment of the Levite’s concubine in Judges. Then there’s the entire book of Job.

When an Old Testament lesson is tied to the Gospel or Epistle on a given Sunday, it is so much easier to deal with it. But when all I have is an Old Testament lesson, and I am mired in incomprehensible stories of God’s wrath and a violent world where there is no justice, well, it is difficult to see where the “Gospel” (the good news) is to be found.

McLaren tries to explain this by showing how Old Testament writers were able to take universal legends and mythical stories and refine them for theological purposes. Ok, but it still doesn’t make the tower of Babel sound any more palatable. The flood still seems like a terrible way for God to respond to human sin.

To be honest, I’d rather immerse myself in the REAL good news, found in the person of Jesus. I realize I can’t ignore the Old Testament images, but I do have to see them as part of the process, part of the journey that God himself was making in the midst of his created world. McLaren keeps saying in this chapter that “God is better than that” and that gives me some solace. McLaren says that as the biblical story continues, the stories interact and weave through one another, and we come to know “an ever-fuller and deeper vision of God.” He writes how we come to know a God who “consistently opposed the oppressors and consistently takes the side of the humble, the vulnerable, and the poor.”

So I note how a rainbow placed in the sky by God is his promise never to destroy the world with a flood. And I read where the bronze serpent on the pole that Moses is commanded by God to fashion is the antidote to the stinging serpents God sent in the first place. And God makes it so that a ram gets caught in a thicket, and Isaac doesn’t need to be the thing sacrificed by Abraham to God.

But even so, I admit I often have had my fill of Old Testament. So I move ahead, turning the pages till I read about an angel appearing to Mary and announcing she will conceive and give birth to a son who will save his people. McLaren writes, “In word and deed, in parable and miracle, Jesus shows that God is at work in history to heal what is broken…” It is in those pages where I linger, it is in that holy and perfect love where I abide.

Our next chapter is 6: “Plotting Goodness.” See you on the journey!

 

 

Green with Envy Over Green Granite Countertops (Ch. 4)

My reflection on Chapter 4 (“The Drama of Desire”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.

I’ve been avoiding this post. And not just because I didn’t feel like sitting down and cranking out a post on the next chapter of McLaren’s book. It was THIS chapter I just didn’t want to comment upon. Because it hits too close to home. It is a chapter all about envy and desire, competitiveness and judgment. These things are part of the human predicament, and, I’m embarrassed to say, part of MY predicament.

We Make the Road by WalkingMcLaren takes the 2nd creation story in Genesis, and brings up the topic he mentioned in chapter 2 about the two trees in the Garden of Eden. We can choose aliveness with God by eating from the Tree of Life, or we can become destructive by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Here in chapter 4, McLaren addresses the concept of desire head-on. He writes, “To be alive is to imitate God’s generous desires….to create, to bless, to help, to serve, to care for, to save, to enjoy. To make the opposite choice—to imitate one another’s desires and become one another’s rivals—is to choose a path of death.”

How often have I made the foolish choice here? Too many times over a lifetime. I’ve been envious of someone else over the most trivial things, and I’m ashamed to admit it. Whether it was the friend who ended up with the guy we both liked…or the girl who got the part I wanted in the musical…or the acquaintance who seemed so popular and EVERYONE was enamored with them…or the neighbor with the green granite countertops…or…well, you get the picture.

But it’s not just the desire for those things/people/qualities that is the problem. It is the resulting judgment made about that person who suddenly has become my imagined rival. It’s one thing to say, “Boy, I really wish I was as popular as _____.” It is quite another thing to say, “Why in the world are people so mesmerized by her? What do they see in her?” It’s one thing to say, “I am disappointed that I didn’t get that role in the play.” It is quite another thing to say, “She is a pathetic actress. I would have handled that role so much better.”

So here was the post I didn’t want to make regarding the chapter that hit too close to home. I’m glad for the simple confession we will use today in worship. It begins where perhaps all confession needs to start—with our failure to recognize what God has given us and to be thankful for it. (Because when we desire something someone else has or is, we are saying that what we have or who we are simply isn’t enough.) Our confession at the worship service I will lead begins like this: “Lord, all that we have is a gift from you, yet we do not live lives of gratitude.” It is absolutely true that when I am thankful for the things I have, I treasure them more, and seem to need those other things less. The green granite countertop, beautiful as it is, recedes into the background, and my skin tone begins to look decidedly less green.

Our next chapter is 5 (“In Over Our Heads”). See you on the journey!

The Pattern That Is Jesus’ Way (ch. 3)

My reflection on Chapter 3 (“A World of Meaning”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.

Several months ago, my husband, son, and I watched a television show that dealt with the “history” of mathematical study. It was a topic right up my son’s alley (a recent math graduate from PSU), as well as of interest to my husband (physics graduate from PSU, not so recently). The topic of mathematics is not up my alley, of course, but I figured I’d learn something by watching it.

Before I actually fell asleep (yes, I had an exquisite nap during the bulk of the hour), I did indeed learn something. It has to do with patterns in nature. Something called the Fibonacci Series. This is a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. The sum is called the Fibonacci number. A simple example of such a series is 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 etc. An Italian mathematician named Leonard Bonacci, known as Fibonacci, introduced the sequence into Western European mathematics.

Now, usually by this time I would be asleep. Except the television program went on to say that the Fibonacci series is found as a pattern in nature all the time. For example, flower petals and leaf stems and the scales on a pineapple all exhibit Fibonacci numbers. You’ll find 3 petals on an iris, 13 petals on a corn marigold, 21 petals on a black-eyed Susan, 89 or 144 on a sunflower. Scientists theorize these patterns in nature are the ways these plants grow efficiently, perhaps maximizing the space utilized so that the sun falls on each part evenly.Sunflower

I had never heard about the Fibonacci series—or perhaps I had merely been asleep already in a math class by the time the topic was introduced. At any rate, I found it fascinating. The orderliness of nature, the organizational quality of creation, fills me with awe. So McLaren’s Chapter 3, opening up with the patterns in creation reminded me of this first 15 minutes of a television show I’m glad I caught before I snoozed. We can look at God’s good creation and see the amazing mathematical orderliness of it, and how God fashioned a world of intricate and organized beauty.

But McLaren also points out the reality of what happens in this orderly creation. Sometimes you and I experience chaos, disorder, and situations where the randomness of events makes us wonder whether life really makes any sense at all. When we face illness, when a loved one dies, when we are let go from our job, when a friend betrays us, when terrorism strikes too close to home, when 30 inches of snow dump themselves in our driveway after meteorologists assured us we were looking at maybe 14-18 inches max—well, the stability of well-known patterns of our lives is completely shaken.

And then we wonder where God is, and why disorder and senselessness seem to reign. These are the times when clinging to faith is as hard as it gets.

McLaren ultimately encourages us to look to the pattern in Jesus. He refers to the Gospel of John, and his emphasis on a particular Greek word, logos, used for Jesus. It means “word.” But it also seems to mean “wisdom” or “meaning.”

All of our “ologies” – theology, biology, meteorology – use that word as their suffix. “Ology” is a subject of study, a branch of knowledge. So if Jesus is, as John called him, the logos of God, then Jesus – in his very person – is the fullness of the wisdom of God. In the person of Jesus (his words and deeds, his life and death) we can begin to understand who God is. McLaren goes on to define “logos” as “pattern” or “logic.” Thus Jesus is the “logic” of God, the visible “pattern” of God incarnate in our world.

Then McLaren suggests we look to Jesus, this itinerant preacher who traveled around and healed, befriended, and forgave, and follow that pattern ourselves. It is a life marked by a pattern of service, compassion, acceptance, and love. He suggests we spend our lives discerning this pattern of love and wisdom that can be found in God’s universe, and let it become the pattern that guides our lives.

Our next chapter is 4: “The Drama of Desire.” See you on the journey!

The Anonymous and Cruel Judge (Ch. 2)

My reflection on Chapter 2 (“Being Human”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.

Of the two creation stories found in Genesis, I’ve always resonated with the second one, the one found in Genesis 2. Genesis 1 is an all-orderly and systematized creation, a place for everything and everything in its place. Moon there, stars there, plants there, and human beings there. But Genesis 2 presents a messiness to creation—at least when it comes to the appearance of humans. The one human has loads of animals to name and know, but does not have a helper fit for that human, so God creates another. The humans are given an abundance of good things from the hands of the Lord God, and are warned not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (God probably should have used reverse psychology here. Of COURSE they eat from the tree.)

The messiness of their lives began in that garden when they, as McLaren indicates, misjudged God and decided to play God themselves. The messiness of their lives continued as they ate of that tree and now recognized their brokenness, their refusal to trust God, their tendency toward selfishness and manipulation, their lack of self-control.

What was once all orderly and systematized is now a creation run amok at the hands of fallible humans. It could have been so different. But it wasn’t. Here in Genesis 2 we gain an early understanding of human sin, and whether or not you agree with the doctrine of original sin, it’s clear we are not all that different (or better or wiser or less selfish) than Adam and Eve.

We Make the Road by Walking

McLaren makes clear that although we are created in the image of God, we make choices along our journey which take us pretty far afield from what God intended us to be. McLaren writes, “We can use our intelligence to be creative and generous, or to be selfish and destructive.” There. Pretty much sums up that human predicament of ours.

Then McLaren asks, in his discussion section, for us to consider when someone has been destructive with us—playing God and judging us. (Or, conversely, when have we judged others and played God.)

Funny how a person can remember hurts from years ago, even if those hurts have been dormant and placed in a little corner of the mind that one doesn’t go to very often. While my story was not a moment where I was judged cruelly, I did feel its sting. I decided to pull it out from its little storage bin in my memory to sift through again here. It is one of the reasons I abhor anonymous comments (like the Sports Fan Line that used to be part of the Harrisburg newspaper sports page). When someone can remain relatively anonymous, they feel empowered and bold to say anything without caring about consequences.

I was editor of my college newspaper. Originally, it was a job that was going to be shared with another classmate—we worked well together, and I looked forward to sharing the challenging responsibilities of the editorship with her. As it turned out, she decided to graduate early, and about six weeks before my senior year began, I learned I would be editor alone. It made me a bit anxious, as there were things with which I was unfamiliar, and the workload would be double. I recall the first few months of publishing this weekly paper were a bit rocky. Recruiting more staff, dealing with equipment that was sluggish or persnickety, tackling hot potato issues on campus and then offering editorial comment—some weeks were tougher than others.

Then I got the long, anonymous letter. It was shoved through the bottom of my office door one night. It was all critical critique. Some of it was quite accurate. Yes, there was too much white space in the headline area—we needed to use bigger headline fonts. Yes, a few photos were blurry, and the caption didn’t capture the essence. Yes, our layout was haphazard, and selection of front page stories was questionable. The letter covered it all, one minute item after another. In exquisite detail, the author of the letter picked out every error, every mediocre bit of journalism evident. And of course my editorials were critiqued, too. I felt ashamed; I did experience hurt.

I didn’t know who wrote it, though I had a suspicion or two. But what did it matter? The judgment rendered was fairly spot on. I had much to learn in editing a newspaper. Yet I had to wonder what the point was. The person or persons didn’t offer to help me. The person or persons didn’t offer one small crumb of encouragement. And they knew they were anonymous. They knew me, but I didn’t know them.

Of course, I got over it. The newspaper chugged along, improving as the months went by, and in the long run I was glad I had taken up the challenge. However, it did give me food for thought as I discerned a career in journalism…

I really hadn’t thought about the anonymous judge who sent me that letter in a long time. But I think of how there are many anonymous and cruel judges out there, playing God, and eviscerating people over the internet, on Facebook and Twitter. Leslie Jones, the comedian and actress, has been cruelly trashed on Twitter, and recently had her Facebook hacked. The vile stuff put out there about her—well, if you or I were on the receiving end, we would be afraid to leave our homes and just want to pull the covers over our heads. I am aware of several female journalists, such as Jessica Valenti, who constantly receive disgusting comments. Whatever it is that Leslie Jones and Jessica Valenti have (Courage? Willingness to be themselves? Chutzpa?) apparently makes others see fit to crush them, defame them, destroy them with obscene commentary.

See the mess we human creatures have gotten ourselves into? Eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, fail to trust and rely upon God, insist on going our own way on the journey, and we threaten to destroy one another. In our hands, creation continues to run amok.

There is so much of which to repent. May God grant us time for the amendment of life.

Our next chapter is 3: “A World of Meaning.” See you on the journey!

Wow (Ch. 1)

My reflection on Chapter 1 (“Awe and Wonder”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.

So we are back to beginning of McLaren’s book (remember we actually began at chapter 14 at the start of Advent), and now we are back to where everything began. Not just where McLaren’s book began, but where EVERYTHING began. I remember how this particular chapter captured my attention because it reminded me how all creation contains in it beauty and majesty and power and awesomeness. All because of God our Maker. McLaren writes that as we walk on the road through this world and witness this creation, we are filled with that aliveness God desires us to have. For the world—all of it—has become sacred space.

So, yes, nothing is boring, as McLaren indicates. Not walruses or spiders (ick) or sunsets (ahh) or blades of grass. Of course, in a world where we are always looking for the next exciting thing (right now it is the Olympics in Rio and Ryan Lochte’s concocted story about a hold-up) we forget that right under our nose…and right at our eye level…and right there above us…and all around us…is some pretty magnificent creation waiting to be appreciated. And McLaren adds that God isn’t boring either!

God’s dream that God brought into reality out of nothing is nothing short of amazing.

We Make the Road by Walking

McLaren, in his discussion questions, suggests we name the most beautiful place we have ever seen. Fine, happy to do that, Brian—but why do you limit me to one most beautiful place? The moment I bring up one memory of a place I have seen, a memory of another beautiful place rises up to meet it.

So I will offer my short list of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. You go ahead and consider yours. Betcha can’t list just one.

Niagara Falls (I sense a “Three Stooges” routine coming on, so let’s keep going.)

The first view down into Zion Canyon from the tunnel

 A full moon reflected on the water, seen from a Dunes Motel balcony in Ocean City, MD

Looking down upon tiny Innsbruck, Austria from atop a mountain in the Alps (reached by 2 inclines and 1 aerial cable car)

 The Vernal Falls at Yosemite (both from the bottom, and then, upon reaching the top)

 My Hershey Red azalea bushes in front of our house in mid-April

 Fall foliage along Route 322 west (from about Newport to Lewistown)

 The Grand Tetons, viewed while boating on Jackson Lake

The massive tossed-about rocks of Devil’s Den, as seen from Little Round Top, Gettysburg

The bluest of blue waters at Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda

 The baby bunny and its parent eating our clover and playing in our backyard

 Seeing as I can’t seem to stop thinking about beautiful places, and my list is ever-growing, I’ll come to a stop here. You get the point. You probably got the point as you considered your own most beautiful places. They are legion. God has made creation so.

Of course, there are places I have yet to see in my lifetime. They are legion as well. One of those places is Iceland. A parishioner is there right now, as I speak. I hope he puts a few photos on Facebook for me. I’m sure it’s beautiful.

The main reason I want to go to Iceland is Mrs. Gresh, my 6th grade Social Studies teacher, once assigned the class a big report on the country of our choice. I chose Iceland, entranced by the pictures in the encyclopedia. First I wrote to their tourist bureaus to receive colorful pamphlets, and then cut those pictures out and glued them on my hand-printed report. (Definitely low-tech in 1968.) Then, with the help of my mom, who was much better at crafts, I produced a large visual aid of the typical Iceland landscape. It helped that my dad was a dentist, so I had ample compound material (the gooey stuff you chomp on in a mouth tray so the dentist can create an impression of your teeth?) to create glaciers and mountains and lakes and hot springs. Mom and I mounded up this compound, shaping it until it was in the form desired, allowed it to harden, then painted it brown and green and blue and white. Glitter was sprinkled on the “snow caps.” A handful of fiber glass was applied at one end, and curved to form the “spray” of a geyser. Plastic wrap was stretched tight over a depression in the compound that had been painted blue, then more compound applied to hold the plastic wrap down. A crater lake with a shiny flat surface was formed on the landscape.

Last year, when I helped my mom clean out her attic, we found the Iceland project. She suggested I take it home to keep it. I suggested I take a photo to remember it by, then chuck it.

image2

I have included the photo (disregard the liquor boxes in the background. Remember, this is an attic filled with my parents’ stuff in liquor boxes and whatever other containers they found over the years.)

The whole point of this story is that, to be honest, it was hard work to create that Iceland landscape. Mound up the mountains, dot the peaks with snow, fill the lake with water. And I was just using dental compound, and needed my mother’s help at that. Think of the Maker with stardust and snowflakes, water droplets and sun rays, seeds and stones and sand. What masterful work is creation in God’s hands—no wonder all we can do some days is say “Wow!”

 Our next chapter is 2: “Being Human.” See you on the journey!

 

 

When We Reach the End of All Things (Ch. 52)

My reflection on Chapter 52 (“God in the End”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.

Unable to look much further past our noses, unable to glimpse too far into the future, people of faith do turn to God’s stories and promises about what is to be when we reach the end of all things. McLaren’s final chapter of his book deals with this by lifting up the hypothetical and theoretical concepts of our greatest scientists. This universe, and perhaps other universes as well, die off. Stars burn out and planets grow cold. Black holes expand infinitely as creation collapses into them. While still countless years off from coming true, these scientific theories frighten us in their finality and bleakness, their cold and dark nothingness.

And all this—or some of this—may come to fruition. But the story of God and God’s people describes an end that is not bleak, that is not nothing. Instead, it is an end to our journey that leads us back to the One who created us in the first place.

McLaren finds that Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) best describes for him what happens as we reach the end of all earthly things. He calls it the “Big Celebration” to which God the loving parent invites his children, both the rebellious and the resentful. Whatever that celebration is like, one feels as if staying out in the cold, dark evening all alone (as the older brother seems bent on doing), and merely looking in the window at the warmth and light and laughter of the celebration inside is the wrong choice to make. Accept the invitation! Enter the open door! Be loved and love in return!

prodigal son

Just as the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son is McLaren’s choice for the ideal image of what that heavenly banquet looks like, there are other writers outside scripture who have captured images of the Big Celebration in one way or another. For example, I remember watching the 1984 movie “Places in the Heart” with Sally Fields, and when I reached the end of the movie, found myself weeping at its sheer beauty.

places in the heart

The final scene shows Sally Fields, her family, and her neighbors, all in church. It is a communion Sunday, and they are passing a tray of bread cubes and little glasses of grape juice down through the pews (you may not be familiar with pew communion as a Lutheran, but this was a fairly common practice in other denominations). Sally passes the tray to one neighbor, and they pass it to another, and suddenly the tray of communion elements is being passed to her husband, a character who died very early in the movie. Then it is being passed by him to the young black boy who accidentally caused the husband’s death, and who then was lynched by the townspeople. The camera widens its scene and the congregation is filled with the communion of saints, living and dead, now reconciled, now sharing in the Lord’s Supper as one Body of Christ.

That final scene of the movie still gives me chills.

Then there is the beautiful writing of the late, great writer Madeleine L’Engle. In her book, The Irrational Season, L’Engle follows the church year with essays on faith and life.

the-irrational-season-book-cover1

Having begun at the start of Advent, and reaching through the year to the beginning of the next Advent, she considers what it will be like when Christ finally returns to this broken world of ours. She notes that the long days of summer and fall have now shortened, and the cold air fills the early dark evenings. Here are the last words of her essay “The Day is at Hand”: We have much to be judged on when he comes, slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are the symptoms of our illness, and the result of our failures in love. In the evening of life we shall be judged on love, and not one of us is going to come off very well, and were it not for my absolute faith in the loving forgiveness of my Lord I could not call on him to come. But his love is greater than all our hate, and he will not rest until Judas has turned to him, until Satan has turned to him, until the dark has turned to him; until we can all, all of us without exception, freely return his look of love with love in our own eyes and hearts. And then, healed, whole, complete but not finished, we will know the joy of being co-creators with the one to whom we call. Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus. (Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season, 1977, Crosswicks, Ltd.)

The theme for these three visions of the end of all things is reconciliation with God and with one another. There may well be some huge black hole into which all the universes collapse, but as for me, as for the children of God from all times and places, we will collapse into the arms of the One who made and loved us all.

We may have reached the final chapter of McLaren’s book, but our journey is not over! Go the front of the book and begin by reading Chapter 1 (“Awe and Wonder”). We’ll read the first 13 chapters. See you on the road!