Preaching Romans (Scot McKnight & Joseph Modica, eds) -- A Review

PREACHING ROMANS: Four Perspectives. Edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2019. Xi + 191 pages.
Paul is an intriguing person. He is loved and hated within the Christian community. He's often accused of messing up what Jesus began, even if the earliest Christian writings come from Paul. I find myself somewhat ambivalent about Paul. I like a lot of what I read, but he does say things that cause me headaches and heartaches. Yet, his letters form a significant portion of the New Testament and as a preacher who seeks to root his preaching in Scripture, I have to spend time with Paul. That includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In recent years Paul has undergone significant re-evaluation. There are these new perspectives on Paul that have emerged since I was in college and seminary. I've read about some of them, but not in any depth. I like a lot of what I read, and I feel as if Paul has been increasingly freed from the stric…

Sign of Discipleship - A Sermon for Easter 5C - (John 13)

John 13:31-35

We might be nearing the end of the Easter Season, but according to the lectionary we’re back at Maundy Thursday. We opened worship singing the ancient Easter hymn “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness” as a reminder that we’re still celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. We give voice to this celebration in the second stanza of the hymn, when we sing:  ‘Tis the spring of souls today; Christ hath burst his prison, and from thee days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen; all the winter of our sins, long and bleak is flying from his light, to whom we give laud and praise undying.  (Chalice Hymnal, 215) Though the “sun hath risen” we need to return to the upper room where we hear a word from the Gospel of John.
Judas has just left the building following Jesus’ last meal with the disciples where he had washed the feet of his disciples, including the feet of Judas. With Judas off on his errand, Jesus is ready to offer his Farewell Discourse. He has demonstrat…

The Miracle Lady (Amy Collier Artman) - A Review

THE MIRACLE LADY: Kathryn Kuhlman and the Transformation of Charismatic Christianity (Library of Religious Biography). By Amy Collier Artman. Foreword by Kate Bowler. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2019. Xii + 282 pages.

I seem to remember catching a glimpse or two of Kathryn Kuhlman, "the miracle lady," on TV during my early teen years. It was during this period that I was drawn to a charismatic form of faith. Although I've focused my attention on the story of Aimee Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman is a name I’ve known for many years. She died during my senior year in high school, while I was a member of a congregation affiliated with the denomination founded by Aimee Semple McPherson. The two women are different in some ways but similar in others. While Kathryn Kuhlman shied away from rooting her own ministry in that of Sister Aimee, it seems to me that Sister Aimee Semple McPherson paved a path for people like Kuhlman, though she clearly created her…

Exemplars, If Not Saints -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

I think we're all a bit awe-struck by celebrities. Perhaps we would like to be celebrities ourselves. But in an age of crassness and division maybe there are other exemplars. They may not be saints, but they are people who can teach us to look down, to become grounded, to care for others. They might be people like Saint Phocas or the recently deceased Jean Vanier. I know of Jean Vanier because Henri Nouwen left the world of academia to serve those with disabilities at an L'Arche community founded by Vanier. Martin Marty reflects on being grounded and Vanier's legacy in this Sightings essay. I invite you to read, reflect, and if desired, share a word.


Who Am I to Hinder God? - A Lectionary Reflection for Easter 5C (Acts 11)

Acts 11:1-18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
11 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled …

Words that Heal: Preaching Hope to Wounded Souls (Joni Sancken) -- A Review

WORDS THAT HEAL: Preaching Hope to Wounded Souls (The Artistry of Preaching Series). Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2019. Xv + 122 pages.

Some Sundays, the task of preaching is rather easy. The text and the context are joyous. Everything is great! Praise the Lord! But such is not the case every Sunday. More often than we would like (speaking as a preacher), the text and the context poses a challenge. Something in the text or context is traumatic, and we must attend to the wound. It is not easy. We may not have the words handy. Often, it seems, the traumatic event occurs even as we are finishing the week's sermon (or perhaps it occurs after we’ve gone to bed on Saturday evening). Now, it seems, we must turn on a dime and offer words that comfort and heal. It might be something that happens some distance away, perhaps in a foreign land, but it has a universal impact. On the other hand, it could also be something that occurs within the congregation or in the local community. Whatever is …

Building Bridges of Blessings during Ramadan

The season of Ramadan, which is the Muslim month of fasting, began on Monday. I am not given to fasting, but I honor the dedication that is demonstrated by Muslims across the world to refrain from food and drink, and other pleasures, during the daylight hours for nearly a month. In recent years I've made numerous friendships with Muslims, thus have been invited to share in a variety of festivals and events, including Iftar dinners. In fact, this year marks fourth year that my congregation, Central Woodward Christian Church, will be co-hosting with the Turkish American Society of Michigan an Iftar Dinner. It is a distinctly interfaith/inter-religious event that is offered to the congregation and to the broader community. My feeling is, the more we share in such events the more we break down barriers. It is not that we agree on matters of theology. We do, however, agree to each other's full humanity, which is the gift of the Creator.
This weekend, I've been invited to two Ift…