We—all of us Christians—are bound together in our baptism, no matter the river. And so nothing separates us—not even death. That’s why we pray for the departed. And that’s why I believe the saints pray for us, that the great cloud of witnesses intercedes in the name of Jesus on behalf of the those who have yet to finish the race.

What we believe about Mary directly impacts what we believe about Jesus. The virgin birth of Jesus is a central—essential—doctrine of Christianity. And it’s impossible for there to be a virgin birth without, well, a virgin.

It seems inevitable now that we are going into a period of schism, uncertainty, and—very likely—more loud and rancorous disagreement. And I believe that much of it could be avoided by simply doing what the Church has done for centuries: thinking theologically and sacramentally about what it means to be human and alive in God’s world.

I know we all believe marriage is important. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be debating the future of the United Methodist Church primarily around this single issue. I believe something this important deserves theological treatment. United Methodists (and in more general terms, Evangelical Protestants) have shied away from making very many theological claims about marriage. In the process, we have ceded the definition of marriage to the civil authorities, leaving a very important question unanswered: What is the difference between civil marriage and a Christian marriage?

In the sacrament of the Eucharist, in Holy Communion, God meets us where we are. The humble elements of bread and wine communicate the flesh and blood of the one who became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Jesus, who poured out himself for the life of the world, offers us the food and drink of unending life in him. The holy mystery of Eucharist is also the mystery of the Incarnation: that God would deign to abide with humanity.

There is a second at the apex, just before the car goes over the hill to plunge 135 feet into the first of four loop d’ loops (the industry folk call them ”inversions”), when, for me, time stands still. It’s a moment of pure anticipation. Then, in a heartbeat, it’s over and I’m hurtling downhill with nothing but the wind to slow me down.