Monday, June 27, 2016

Public Faith in Strange Times

I have always believed that my faith has a public dimension. That is, my faith should guide the way in live in public. As a Christian that means Jesus should be the norm for my actions and beliefs. I may not always live out these beliefs fully and completely, but that is my intention. In every age we must figure out how this is going to work. Modern American political life is not the same is the first century Roman imperial context in which Jesus acted and Paul wrote. No voted for the emperor or Herod or any other political leader. People might not like the choices their presented with in the contemporary American political scene, but there are choices that are to be made. 

I have written variously on matters of faith and politics. I think we need to have conversations about their intersection, lest we fail to understand how they connect. Too often we have equated God's realm with the political realm, as if creating a "godly kingdom" or "Christian America" will be the harbinger of the kingdom of God. But such is not the case. That doesn't mean that God is not active in our world (and even active beyond the church). I cannot enact the kingdom through my political acts, but the kingdom can guide my political involvement.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Seek God in Times of Trouble - A Sermon for Pentecost 6C

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

In the words of Isaac Watts’ hymn, which we sang earlier this morning, we capture the message
of Psalm 77:
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home. 
When times of trouble strike, and they will strike, where do you turn? To whom do you look for guidance and protection? Do you turn to God, who is “our help in ages past, our hope for years to come?”

As we have been moving through the Psalms, we’ve discovered that they invite us to cry out in laments. They give us permission to rage and complain. It’s okay that our souls refuse to be comforted. It’s not a sin to have doubts. Here in Psalm 77 the Psalmist cries out to God demanding to be heard. After issuing a torrent of complaints, the Psalmist then remembers that God has been our help in ages past. Recognizing the prospect that life can be challenging, Martin Luther wrote a hymn that picked up on another Psalm, Psalm 46, where he also affirmed God’s strong presence in the face of difficulty. This hymn is a favorite of many, who sing boldly: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing, our present help amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Marriage in Interesting Times -- A Bible Study for Our Times

This is a study guide on marriage. Discussions include: covenant vs contract, concepts of biblical marriage, loneliness and looking for a mate, the realities of divorce, and family in the larger community.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Race in a Post-Obama America (David Maxwell) - Review

RACE IN A POST-OBAMA AMERICA: The Church Responds. Edited by David Maxwell; Foreword by Otis Moss III. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016. Xix + 139 pages.

                Racism is referred to as America’s “original sin.” It is a sin that led to the genocide of much of the Native American population. It was expressed in chattel slavery of persons brought to this continent from Africa. It was also expressed in laws that denied persons from Asia from either immigrating or gaining citizenship in the United States. It has also been expressed in the treatment of Latinos/as—a community of peoples, many of whom trace their ancestry to a time before much of the Southwest was part of the United States. The ramifications of these original sins remain with us. We might like to believe that all of this lies behind us, but the truth is, racism remains a scourge on the American psyche. Many hoped that the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States would mark the dawn of a new post-racial era. While his election was an important milestone in American history, the past seven years has seen not the decrease of racism but an increase in its public presence.

                Even as attempts are made to build relationships, educate against racism, and reform institutions change has proven to be slow. Indeed, the names Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown that gave birth to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, along with the rise of the Birther Movement, and growing Islamophobia are all signs that there is much work to do. Simply claiming to be color-blind will not suffice.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hate is Mobile - Sightings (Martin Marty)

I once served as project coordinator for the Santa Barbara ADL's No Place for Hate Campaign. I was tasked with helping schools, congregations, businesses, etc. find ways to be educated about becoming places where hate was not present. Of course, hate is present in many places as seen in the recent attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando as well as the murders of church members in Charleston the year before. How do we create a world where hate no longer prevails? Martin Marty does some reflecting on these topics in this week's posting, which I would like to share with you. Take a read and offer your thoughts. 

Hate is Mobile
By MARTIN E. MARTY   JUNE 20, 2016
Demonstrators show support near funeral service for Christopher Andrew Leinonen, victim of Pulse nightclub shooting, outside Cathedral Church of St. Luke, June 18, 2016, in Orlando, Forida.     Credit: John Raoux / AP Images
Three week-end stories about mass murders help frame crisis issues. The first recalls the murders of nine blacks in and during church in Charleston, South Carolina, exactly one year ago by a white supremacist. (New York Times, June 16). The same paper, the same day, front page, dealt with “Young New York Muslims, Robbed of a Respite” because of anti-Muslim speech and actions after the mass murder in Orlando. The third, same day, in the Wall Street Journal, dealt with “Orlando Shooting Leaves Gay Survivors, Mourning Families Struggling with Secrets,” also by reference to the Orlando killings.