The Pope, Relics, and My Bathroom Window

Pope and Dave 2From my bathroom window I can see the local Catholic church two hundred yards away.  Yesterday, I noticed huge crowds in the parking lot, much bigger than I had ever seen, so as I was walking our dog Tig, I asked the gentlemen directing the vehicular chaos in the parking lot, “What’s going on?”

They said, “The relics of Saint Maria Goretti are on display.”

Now, the question you may be asking, is “Who is Saint Maria Goretti?”  I was very familiar with the name, since this particular church that I pass by literally several every day is named after her.

But I didn’t know her story, so I quickly went to The Compendium of All Knowledge (i.e., Wikipedia) and discovered that Maria Goretti was the youngest Catholic saint.  She was from eastern Italy, and at the age of twelve one of her neighbors, Alessandro Serenilli attempted to rape young Maria.  When she resisted, he threatened her, but she still refused, so he stabbed her with a knife several times.  Later, as she lay dying in the hospital she forgave her attempted rapist, reportedly saying that she hoped Alessandro would join her in heaven.  He was eventually arrested, convicted, and jailed, but after he release he became a lay brother in a monastery.  She became the patron saint of, among other things, teenage girls and rape victims.  I now know why her relics are so popular. If I had known her story earlier, I would have included it in my chapter on rape in Prostitutes and Polygamists.

We may ask if the Pope’s Catholic (particular for Francis), but there’s no question about me.  I’m not.  But I thought, I’m an empty nester now, I might as well walk the two hundred yards over to the church and check out the relics.  I stopped by at 8:30 last night, but the Mass had just finished and it was still packed, so I came back later about 10:30, which allowed most of the crowds to dwindle.

They had set up exhibits around the church, including one on “Relics.”  Now, I’m a bit skeptical about the whole idea of venerating relics, but I appreciated the message of this particular exhibit which made several valid points.
1) Relics are not “magic.”  Amen.
2) The relic doesn’t perform any miracles.  That would be God.  Great point.  
3) But God does use objects in Scripture to heal people: Elijah’s bones (2 Kgs. 13:21), Jesus’ cloak (Mark 6:56), Paul’s apron (Acts 19:12-12).  That’s true.

If you are interested, my “Zombie-interpretation” of the story of Elijah’s bones can be found here.

I probably won’t be spending my empty nest years chasing down relics, but I appreciated my short pilgrimage to Saint Maria Goretti Church, what I learned about her story, and how they support what they do with Scripture.

While I was at the church, Pope Francis stopped by to say hi, so I took a picture with him.  I may not always agree with Francis, but he is clearly a man who loves God, God’s word, and God’s people.  May God bless his visit to my city.

Prostitutes & Polygamists: An Excerpt, an Interview, a Podcast, and a blog

Jesus Family TreeA lot has been happening related to my new book, Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style (Zondervan).

Here is what Carolyn Custis James says about the book, “Thank you, David Lamb, for shedding light on these important issues, and for calling Christians to engage on behalf of the vulnerable and wounded.”

My hope is that this book will help people realize that all Scripture is truly inspired, and profitable for teaching, even the nasty bits of the Old Testament.

If you want to find out more about the book before making the big purchase, here are four things you can do for free.

  1. For a book excerpt from Zondervan about Tamar, the pious prostitute who was the first woman mentioned in the New Testament: click here.
  2. For an honest review of Prostitutes and Polygamist by Laura Vavz, who was initially skeptical and thought the book was going to be boring: click here.
  3. For a podcast of an interview I had last week with Debbie Chavez (“What can we learn from the sexual sin of Bible Heroes?”): click here.
  4. For a blog I wrote on the gang rape of the Levite’s concubine (Judg. 19) from OnFaith: click here.

The Great Chasm by Derek Engdahl

Derek Engdahl works with Servant Partners, an organization committed to sending teams of people to urban slums, with the vision of seeing them transformed with the Gospel of Jesus.  Over the course of his years with Servant Partners, he has reflected on Luke 16, particularly the chasm described there between the rich and the poor.  He shares his reflections along with his many experiences of urban ministry in his new book, The Great Chasm: How to Stop our Wealth from Separating us from the Poor and God.

Here is my endorsement of the book:

Jesus talks a lot about money.  So does Derek Engdahl.  Whenever I read what Jesus says about money, I feel convicted.  I felt the same way as I read The Great Chasm.  This book isn’t for everyone—only people who own some money.  Although you don’t need much to profit from Engdahl’s wisdom.  Engdahl’s stories and insights into Scripture challenged me, motivated me, and encouraged me.  An investment in The Great Chasm will yield rich benefits.

Check it out.

Full disclosure, while we were both on staff with InterVarsity at the Claremont colleges, Derek and I were roommates (1989-1991).  He was actually the last roommate I had before I moved in with my current roommate.

Who’s voice is going to be heard?

When the Church“When the church whispers about sex
and the culture yells about it,
who’s voice is gonna be heard?”

(Prostitutes and Polygamists, p. 19).

Parents, children, pastors, teachers, all of us feel a bit uncomfortable talking about sex, sexual sins, and sexual scandals. We avoid the subject, or when we do discuss it, we whisper. But avoiding doesn’t make it go away (think of the proverbial ostrich).

The Bible doesn’t avoid it.  It talks about it in the beginning. God’s first command to the freshly made humans is basically, “Have a lot of sex” (my paraphrase of “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth”; Gen. 1:28).

And the Bible talks about Abraham pimping his wife Sarah in Egypt, Judah hooking up with his daughter-in-law Tamar, who’s pretending to be a prostitute, David’s affair (I call it rape) with Bathsheba, the gang rape of the Levites concubine (read my take on Judges 19 here).  And what’s up with all that polygamy and incest?

For some subjects like homosexuality, it seems like some churches are yelling, but generally I think they’re sending the wrong message.  I discuss homosexuality in the context of the story of Sodom, and you might be surprised by what Scripture says about the story of Sodom.

The Bible talks about sex and sexual scandals a lot.  We need to talk about these subjects because the Bible talks about them, assuming we think all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching.

Our culture talks about sex all the time, perhaps Christians need to start teaching these overlooked, ignored sexual scandals of Scripture.  That’s what I try to do in Prostitutes and Polygamists.  Check it out.