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Unity in the Power of the Cross - A Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany 3A (1 Corinthians 1).

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1 Corinthians 1:10-18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might n…

Dreaming of Justice in an Age of Fear: A Reflection for Martin Luther King Day 2020

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I was five when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. I was ten when he was assassinated, just weeks before Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed. I don’t have any firsthand memories of Dr. King’s life or death. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing during the 1960s, but I was only a child living a rather sheltered life. Growing up I didn’t realize I might have certain privileges that were based on my race or even my gender. I did have a few friends who were African American, and I don’t remember thinking of them as being all that different from me. Nevertheless, I grew up in something of a white bubble. It would many years before I truly understood that I might have benefits accrued to me due to my race and gender, let alone my sexual orientation. I just took my reality for granted.
Over time the blinders began to come off, but not until my context began to change. It really wasn’t until I moved to Southern California to attend seminary, that the scales coverin…

Called to be a Covenant People - A Sermon for Epiphany 2A (Isaiah 49:1-7)

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Isaiah 49:1-7

When Elwood Blues picked up his brother Jake at the Joliet Prison, they set out on a “Mission from God.” They felt called to raise money to prevent the foreclosure of the Catholic orphanage in which they grew up. It’s a movie filled with music and car crashes, but the main point is this “mission from God.” Nothing was going to stop them from raising the money to pay off the creditor before it was too late. It was a race against time, but nothing would stop them from saving their home.    
In our reading last Sunday from Isaiah 42 we heard God speak to a group of exiles, reminding them that they were God’s covenant people. God said to them:  “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Is 42:1). 
This morning we’ve heard a second Servant Song as found in Isaiah 49. In today’s reading, we hear that God called the Servant to be a light to the nations  while still “in my mot…

Planning Sabbaticals (Robert Saler) - A Review

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PLANNING SABBATICALS: A Guide for Congregations and Their Pastors.By Robert C. Saler. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2019. Viii + 69 pages.
Why would pastors take a sabbatical? Isn’t that something that professors do so they can do research and pursue writing projects? The idea that clergy might take a sabbatical, and by sabbatical, I don’t mean a two-week vacation, is a rather new idea. I’ve had the opportunity to take two sabbaticals during my time as pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church. The first came after my fifth year with the church, and the second after my eleventh. I will say that I am grateful to the church for allowing me to step away from my responsibilities for three months. I found both sabbaticals to be enriching and renewing and recommend them to my colleagues and the congregations they serve.
So, what might a sabbatical entail? Is it a study leave? It could be? Is it a time to go off in the woods or to a monastery for an extended period? Perhaps. Could it involve tr…

Sunday Is . . . -- Sightings (Martin E. Marty)

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What is Sunday for? Is it a time of relaxing, recreation, mowing the lawn? Is there still some spiritual relevance to Sunday (or to other days deemed sacred by faith traditions -- Saturday for Jews and even some Christian groups, or Friday for Muslims)? Or is it simply a secular day? Martin Marty opines on these matters, raising some intriguing questions for us to ponder. Take a read and offer your responses!


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Envisioning the Reign of God: Preaching for Tomorrow (Debra Mumford) -- A Review

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ENVISIONING THE REIGN OF GOD: Preaching for Tomorrow. By Debra J. Mumford. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2019. Xii + 242 pages.
Eschatology is a rather broad theological category. It involves all things future-oriented, from possible forms of divine judgment to the nature of the afterlife (if there is one). We often think of it in apocalyptic terms, while apocalypticism is included in the category, the category is much broader. In fact, not only is this a broad topic, but the perspectives are broad as well. Standing at the center of these conversations is the Christian vision of the reign of God (kingdom of God). We know from the Gospel of Mark that Jesus preached the kingdom/realm of God. Thus, it would seem natural that Jesus' heirs would also preach about the kingdom and other things related to eschatology. So, how might we approach these topics as preachers? That is the question explored in Debra Mumford’s Envisioning the Reign of God.
The author of this book, Debra Mumford, …

Lacking No Spiritual Gifts - A Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany 2A (1 Corinthians 1)

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1 Corinthians 1:1-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Je…