Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Do the Math - Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 16C

Luke 14:25-33 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.


                When I read this passage words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Cost of Discipleship come to mind: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Everyone who knows Bonhoeffer’s story knows of his execution and thus connects his death with these words. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Bonhoeffer explored in great depth the relationship of discipleship and the cross, and for him the cross involved the expectation of suffering. It’s not just any suffering, it’s not sickness or injury, it is suffering that comes as a result of one’s confession of faith in Christ. Looking out at his own context of 1930s Germany, he could take note of how “a Christianity that no longer took discipleship seriously remade the gospel into only the solace of cheap grace” [Discipleship, p. 86].

Monday, August 29, 2016

50 Ways to Help Save the Earth. Revised Edition. (Rebecca Barnes) - Review

50 WAYS TO HELP SAVE THE EARTH: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference. Revised Edition. By Rebecca J. Barnes. Foreword by Gradye Parsons. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016. 128 pp.

As the debate about climate change rages on, whatever our position, the challenge to be good stewards of the environment is ever before us. Green is the color of the future – new energy sources, conservation of existing resources, and cleaning of toxic sites. The question is – what can we do as individuals and as churches? According to Rebecca Barnes is the Associate for Environmental Ministries of the Presbyterian Church (USA), there are at least fifty ways that we can go about saving the earth. This is a revised version of a 2009 book, though the revisions seem minor. There is also a preface added to this edition written by Gradye Parsons, the recently retired Stated Clerk of the PC(USA). 

I've chosen to essentially repost, with minor changes, my earlier review from 2009.  The point of the book is the introduction of fifty things we can do that can help save the earth. Reading a book like this, despite its slim size, readability, and useful graphics isn’t easy. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the feeling that there’s simply too much to do. You read a section, and before long you have this overwhelming sense of guilt. Or, you look at suggestions and taking them as commands, you feel like it’s simply not doable. But, while the author may envision our embracing every idea in the book, I expect that she understands that we will start small, and work way up to the more difficult and challenging possibilities. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Are real cross-party political conversations possible? (Revisited from 2012)

Four years ago, we were in the midst of an election cycle.  The candidates for President in 2012 (in case you've forgotten) were Barack Obama, the incumbent, and Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger. The conversation that year was pretty bleak, but here we are four years later and if anything the conversation has gotten even worse.  Below is what I wrote four years ago on this very day. I invite you to read and consider the current state of affairs.  I'm leaving it as is, so you can ignore the announcement for the conversation about my book Faith in the Public Square.  That being said, I do recommend reading the book, and what appears below! 


For the past few weeks my Monday posting has answered a political question offered by my publisher.  The intention was for a conservative voice to join me in a conversation or debate.  I didn't really like this described as a debate, because debates tend to separate rather than bring people together.  Although I am, according to a little Pew Research Quiz a radical left winger, I don't see myself in that way.  My own self-perception is of a person a bit left of center.  Back to the conversation with Elgin Hushbeck (at the time my conservative conversation partner) -- I found his answer over the top and decided I couldn't go further.  You can decide for yourself whether I over-reacted. In any case the conversation is on hiatus, but with the start of one party's national convention this week and politics on everyone's mind, I thought it worth devoting at least a little time to the conversation -- after all, on Wednesday evening I'm hosting a conversation on Faith in the Public Square that will include a book signing,

Friday, August 26, 2016

Study Guide for David Gushee's Changing our Mind!

I want to share news that my Study Guide for Changing Our Mind: A pastor helps classes and small groups study David P. Gushee's book about the Christian acceptance of LGBT men and women is available in e-book format from the publisher (Read the Spirit Books). David's book Changing our Mind and his presence at Central Woodward Christian Church proved immensely helpful to our move toward Open and Affirming Status.  

I created a study guide for use by our congregation and I'm pleased that David and his publisher wanted to make it available for other communities who are moving through the process of discernment. David's book is important because he comes at the question from the perspective of an Evangelical who concluded that it was the right thing to do on the part of the church to move toward full inclusion of LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Like many of us, relationships, especially family relationships proved eye-opening and might I say Spirit-moving.  The links above are to the Amazon Kindle version. There are several other options if you don't use Kindle. They are:

iBooks/iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/…/study-guide-for-ch…/id1146580952…

Nook/Barnes&Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/study-guide-for-…/1124435369

Google Play/Google Books: https://play.google.com/…/Rev_Dr_Robert_Cornwall_Changing_O…

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Justification -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

A year from this October 31, the world will observe the 500th anniversary of Luther's famous nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, thereby launching the Protestant Reformation. It also launched centuries of conflict, sometimes violent, between Protestant and Catholic partisans. In recent years there has been rapprochement as conflict was replaced with conversation. It's not that all of our differences have been ironed out, but then we Protestants have our share of differences inside the "family," but there has been great movement towards one another. Standing at the heart of our differences is the question of justification and communion. Recently steps were taken by Lutherans and Catholics to bridge that divide. Martin Marty, a Lutheran, offers his take on that movement in this essay. Won't you take a read?

By MARTIN E. MARTY   August 22, 2016
Last week, while the sports-loving public watched timed Olympic events, viewers relearned the values of timing, measuring, and scorekeeping. Some races were decided by 1/100th of a second margins. The substantially smaller, microscopically observable religion-news-watching public did not always have to measure outcomes quite so close. Thus on August 18 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, during its Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans, voted to approve a document called “Declaration on the Way” relating to a document, “From Conflict to Communion,” approved earlier by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation. The vote, by more than a whisker? 931-9.