A Reversal of Fortunes - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 19B (Esther 7, 9)

Esther 7:1-10; 9:20-22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

7:1 So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2 On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. 4 For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” 6 Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. 7 The king rose from th…

Muslims at the American Table - Sightings (Eboo Patel)

As I often do, I am posting an essay published by the Martin Marty Center in their Sightings series. This essay is written by Eboo Patel, the founder of Interfaith Youth Corp. It is, as noted adapted from his latest book, which I have not read. In this essay he speaks of the ways in which the American experience is forming an American Islam, one which recognizes the diversity of Islam, and that while diverse, American Muslims share more in common than they do in their differences. The Islamophobia triggered by 9-11 began the process of bridge-building. The current Trump Administration inspired Islamophobia is encouraging it as well. As a Christian who has significant contact with Muslim friends, I found the essay very helpful. I also take to heart the warning that Muslims will not be the last religious minority to face discrimination. Take and read.


Living the Wisdom of God -- Sermon for Pentecost 18B (James 3-4)

James 3:13-4:3; 7-8a

In times past, we Disciples often spoke of being part of “The Restoration Movement.” This label has come down to us from Alexander Campbell who wanted to “restore the ancient order of things.” He wanted to restore the church practices of the first century because he believed that things were purer back then. You might call that nostalgia for the past. That’s not surprising, because there’s a human tendency to think that life was better back then than it is now. That’s why we still watch reruns of  Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best, and if you spend any time on Facebook, you’ll discover that, at least among my peers, the 1970s was a golden age. They weren’t for me, but I get it!
Church people can indulge in nostalgia as well. It’s easy to look back to the 1950s, when the churches were full and influential, and think that was a golden age for the church. Of course, women would have to step down from being elders and only men would get to preach. But, at least t…

Prayer for International Day of Peace 2018 -- Troy, Michigan

Today is the International Day of Peace, an annual event sponsored by the United Nations. I was asked to participate in the local celebration of this day. It was held last evening at the Troy Public Library. In the spirit of peace, I'd like to share that prayer today:
We have gathered as a community to celebrate the International Day of Peace. We know that peace is elusive. Wars and conflicts are many. Some among us might be refugees from some of these conflicts, and so peace seems even more elusive. While peace seems far away, the call for peace remains strong within us. It is rooted in our faith traditions. So, even when we fail to live in peace, the witness to peace remains with us.
Jesus proclaimed: “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” May we hear this call to become peace-makers in our community, by pursuing justice in our world and by recognizing that our common humanity transcends ethnicity, nationhood, religion.
Peacemaking is relati…

Making Faithful Decisions at the End of Life (Nancy Duff) -- A Review

MAKING FAITHFUL DECISIONS AT THE END OF LIFE. By Nancy J. Duff. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. 134 pages.

People don't like talking about dying. There is something unsettling about such conversations. If you talk about it, death might come. If you ignore it, well maybe you keep it at bay. Unfortunately, everyone will face the prospect of dying at some point. More likely than not we will experience the deaths of loved ones. It might be parents or a spouse or a child, a sibling or a friend. As a pastor I have stood with many a family as they said goodbye to a loved one. I have been in the room with a church member, when the ventilator was turned off and the last breath was taken away. Deciding to "pull the plug" is always difficult, especially if we've not had the conversations about what to do when life is no longer sustainable (without the aid of a ventilator). While I have had conversations about end of life decisions, I know that more could have bee…

Dealing With Daniel

Today the Bible Study I lead begins a new series focusing on the Book of Daniel. I've never led a study on Daniel, but the group decided it would be an interesting subject. As I have been preparing for the study, knowing that the book is divided into parts --- the first part sharing what some scholars call "Court Tales" (Daniel 1-6) and part two being the apocalyptic visions (Daniel 7-12) --- we will need to ask a number of questions of the book. The first question we must address is the role God plays in the book. How is God sovereign? It is an intriguing question for us to address in our own day. In terms of interpretation, there are two basic paradigms. An older paradigm suggests that the message of Daniel is that one can remain faithful while participating in life in a foreign land, much as Esther did. On the other hand, there is a more recent post-colonial vision that suggests that this is a story of resistance. Could it be that the book will speak differently in d…

The Warrior-like Woman of Wisdom - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 18A

Proverbs 31:10-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
10 A capable wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant,
    she brings her food from far away.
15 She rises while it is still night
    and provides food for her household
    and tasks for her servant-girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
    and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor,
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
    for all her hous…