Amy Lindeman Allen

Assistant Professor of New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary and an ordained Lutheran minister (ELCA). She holds her PhD from Vanderbilt University and is interested in the intersections of God’s Word in scripture and the world.

Essays

The Pharisees were not wrong to question Jesus, but as much as we might want to empathize with them, to agree that there are simply certain things good people do not do, Jesus rejects human propriety as an orienting standard. Jesus is talking about the human heart, something Christians today also must consider.

In a modern political milieu where leaders are choosing strength over heart, 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 reminds us of Paul finding his strength through weakness.

Rooted to the spot after the Ascension, the disciples needed to be told, not primarily what to think, but what to do.

When Jesus clears out the Temple in John 2, he presents a vision for the reformation of God’s house. As questions about guns in churches are raised once again in America, this vision is one to which we must attend.

Epiphany is a story of a baby who, in the time of King Herod, despite all the principalities and powers that continue to overpower and oppress in our world, offers a different hope.

Perhaps the kind of wakefulness that Christ is calling us to in anticipation of his coming is a wakefulness to the urgent cries and needs of one another. Perhaps Christ is calling us to truly recognize one another before we will be able to recognize God in our midst.

God’s vision for reform does not simply replace the one at the center—in God’s vision for the reformation and renewal of the world, the One at the center instead gives their very life and self for the sake of the margins.

Jesus’ shrewd response to the elders and chief priests’ question about his authority revealed the authorities to which they themselves were beholden. It should provoke us to ask which authorities prevent us from following God in our situations.

Christians are called not to ignore despair, but to help sow joy in its wake; not to condone hate, but to be all the more zealous in their own loving in its face. The politics of overcoming evil are about neither ignoring nor condoning evil, but rather, fighting it with the strongest power possible—love.

In the interaction between God’s establishment of circumstances and our free response to them, we see something of the way that God enables us to be more human.

Water is a right, not a privilege. It is not something won for right belief or fortunate circumstances of birth, but rather a gift of sustenance and refreshment that comes from our Living God.

Pentecost does not present us with the ideal of the uniform, homogeneous community, but with a divine power that traverses all of our differences. God’s will is to unite us in our diversity, not to extinguish it.

God is calling us to life in God’s world together. We are to live as those who recognize our Shepherd, who heed and follow Christ’s call.

Jesus calls us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. What would these metaphors have meant to his first hearers?

John the Baptist presents Jesus as the Lamb of God, an identification continued in the book of Revelation. Looking to the Lamb, rather than to the great and powerful Beasts, should inform our politics as Christians.

The words that we use to describe ourselves and others are significant. John the Baptist’s description of the Pharisees and the Sadducees as a ‘Brood of Vipers’ lies at the heart of a powerful prophetic critique.

Habakkuk 2:4—’The righteous person will live by his faith’—is a familiar text. The recognition that the faith in question may be God’s own faithfulness, rather than our own stumbling faith, may inspire a stronger confidence in us as we face a world of injustice.

Jesus calls us to count the cost, to engage in an act of budgeting, when embarking upon the path of discipleship. Yet this budgeting occurs within a logic of abundance, not one of scarcity.

The quest for a homeland and the experience of being a stranger and an alien—a refugee—in the world is central to the calling of the faithful in Hebrews 11. This reality should remain integral to our self-understanding as the people of God today.

God’s peace is a peace founded on life, rather than death. On relationship, rather than enmity. On engaging in and accepting mutual hospitality, rather than building walls of division.

Beyond mere understanding—which we can arrive at with languages not our own—God’s communication in people’s native tongues at Pentecost manifests a deeper commitment to the recipients of revelation. The Holy Spirit addresses us in the language of our hearts and our dreams.

In Jesus’ teaching concerning the Good Shepherd in John and the healing of Tabitha in Acts we see the importance of hearing and of the forms of response that hearing makes possible, whether for serving and following God or for our serving of each other.

Although the parable is typically referred to as that of ‘the Prodigal Son’, the son who receives the father’s welcome has long since fallen from his state of prodigal living into one of the most abject poverty and lack. This father’s loving embrace challenges us to consider our provision of welfare and welcome to those in need among us, irrespective of how ‘deserving’ we might suppose them to be.

Both in Jesus’ baptism and in the later giving of the Spirit through the laying on of hands in the early Church, we see significance accorded to touch. This importance given to touch—to the tangible—summons us into the realm of human and bodily connection and engagement with others.

‘And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.’ The notion of love overflowing in knowledge is odd to modern Western ears, accustomed as we are to a divide between reason and affections. However, such a love that overflows in knowledge could transform much of our politics.

The greatness of the love commandment lies not in its surpassing value over and against all of the other commandments of Jewish law but, rather, in its ability to hold up all the rest. It’s less about beating out all of the other candidates and more about helping them to do their jobs.

Jesus’ welcome of the little children provides us with the appropriate paradigm for understanding grace and the reception of the kingdom of God and challenges our emphasis upon rules and conditions.

In turning Jesus’ seemingly dismissive image of dogs and children at the meal table to her advantage, the Syrophoenician woman illustrates the tenacity of parents fighting for their children. As we act in God’s name within the world we should show the same determination on behalf of all of his children.

Jesus bears God’s seal of origin, the sign that he is God’s message to humanity. Yet this seal often remains unbroken, the message unreceived.

In this week’s reading from Mark’s gospel Jesus challenges the complacency that so commonly comes with privilege. The ease of privilege within the status quo can inure us to the claims of truth or justice that might unsettle it or that might trouble its assurance of its purchase upon reality. Yet such claims lie at the very heart of the Kingdom of God.

In Isaiah 42, the prophet speaks both of the vulnerability of a dimly burning wick and the great light of the world. Understanding the relationship between these two images can provide us with hope and insight as we seek justice in our situations.

Micah’s message reminds us of the importance of small beginnings and the potential of the things that can start from them. Alongside this, he teaches us of the necessity of the actions whereby we live the difference that God desires to create in the world.

Our discomfort with the notion of God visiting the sins of parents upon their children may lead us to avoid wrestling with Exodus 20:5-6. This would be a mistake. This reference occurs in the context of the prohibition upon idolatry and challenges both our attempts to sanitize God and our idolization of our children.

It is tempting to airbrush out the uncomfortable reference to the Canaanites living in the land promised by God to Abram. However, the questions raised by this text are worth tarrying with, presenting us with challenges that are deeply pertinent to our own situations.

Perhaps part of the reason why disparities in food distribution continue to exist is that, when those of us who have food enough on our tables try to respond to disasters such as famine, without connection with the people who suffer them, both they and us are likely to come away empty. The ironic use of famine in Naomi’s story is able to suggest to us another way, an approach to famine that sees first the emptiness in relationships when kin from the ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ worlds find ourselves absent from one another.

Exodus reminds us of what as human beings we have in common with the land and all of its resources—we are all both creations and possessions of the eternal God. In light of this, as we recognize and respond to our own needs and desires, making claims on the land as a result, we must also recognize the land as possessing its own distinct claims, dignity, and integrity.

In the account of the slave with the spirit of divination, Paul, Silas, the Philippian jailer, and his family we encounter dynamics of agency and constraint, of freedom and slavery. There are a number of surprising instances of human action within this narrative which nonetheless speaks powerfully of the power and activity of God.

One plots and schemes in order to exert control. One embarks upon a pilgrimage in order to relinquish control. Entering Jerusalem as a lowly king, Jesus foils both the plots of those who would capture him and those who rally around him as a political revolutionary.

Although at first glance they may appear incidental, the frequency of border crossings in the story of the raising of Lazarus suggests the presence of a theme. Through a narrative of successive boundary crossings, the power and willingness of God to traverse any distance and border is made manifest.

Preventable cases of and deaths from malaria remain a reality in many poor countries in our world. In Jesus’ encounter with a royal official and the healing of his fever-ridden son, we can gain insight into an appropriate way to relate to such continuing crises.

In John’s account of the Wedding of Cana, the part played by Mary merits our attention. On account of the honor due to her as a mother, she wields great authority. She provides us with occasion to reflect upon the esteem in which we hold mothers today and the authority that we accord them in our lives and society.

In light of the two kingdoms doctrine and the separation of church and state, understanding the appropriate form of Christian prayer for and engagement with the political realities of our societies can be complex. In Jeremiah’s message to an exiled people, we find a pattern for prayer in a pluralistic context, a calling that identifies our primary task to be one of seeking the common good and welfare of our communities, rather than one of submission or conversion.

Defining one’s territory is in and of itself a highly contentious endeavor. Defining God’s territory brings this to a whole new level. In the building of Solomon’s Temple we see that God is to great to be contained by any single building or territory.

This week, on the heels of the 12th anniversary commemorations of the September 11th tragedy on US soil, many Americans have returned to the biblical refrain of divine blessing.