Monday, October 16, 2017

The Path of Christianity (John Anthony McGuckin) -- A Review

THE PATH OFCHRISTIANITY: The First Thousand Years. By John Anthony McGuckin. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017. Xviii + 1207 pages.

The history of Christianity is filled twists and turns that need to be documented, explored, and interpreted. One cannot understand church history outside the flow of history itself, because every religious act occurs within the broad stream of world history. That means even those of us who approach the history of Christianity from within, may believe that God’s providence plays a role in the story, but we still use the same principles and tools that any historian might use.  As a church historian myself, I appreciate those persons who write from within the faith community, but also have an appreciation for the complexity of the story and take their task as a historian seriously. Such is the case here with The Path of Christianity, written by John Anthony McGuckin.  

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Disciples Witness - A Sermon


John 8:31-36

What does it mean to be a Disciples of Christ Church in Michigan in the 21st Century? Who are we as a people, and what is our witness? I must confess that I am not a lifelong Disciple. My faith journey began in the Episcopal Church and it took a few twists and turns before the Spirit led me to a community of Christians that prizes unity, freedom, and the life of the mind. In the years that I’ve been a Disciple, I’ve come to believe that we have an important witness to share. I’d like to share a few words this morning about our witness as a community of faith. I’ll begin with our witness in unity, and then move to our witness in freedom and covenant. 
  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality (Tim Stead) - Review

MINDFULNESS AND CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY: Making Space for God. By Tim Stead. Foreword by Eden Koz. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017. Xvi + 144 pages.

                How do we make space for God? Most of us living in the Western world always seem to be on the run. Americans are known for their “doing” not their “being.” As for Christians, it has been said that most of us are “practical atheists.” We say we believe in God, but we operate without giving much thought to God. I must confess, I am guilty of this myself, and I am a religious professional. So, how do we make space for God? What disciplines might help us focus our lives better?

                Although the practice of "mindfulness" is often seen as a Buddhist practice, many Christians have found that the principles of “mindfulness” can be of help to the spiritual life. It can help us make space for God. Tim Stead, an Anglican priest, serving a congregation in Oxford that once welcomed C.S. Lewis a member, has written a helpful guide to the use of “mindfulness” within the Christian community. He acknowledges the Buddhist connections, but suggests that many of the principles of “mindfulness” are deeply rooted in Christianity. Even as he is an Anglican priest, he is a teacher of mindfulness for the Christian community.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Who Is God? Part 2 - A Disciple Conversation about God's Triune Nature

Today, I am sharing part two of a two-part conversation about the nature of God. I take up what might be controversial in Disciples circles --- the doctrine of the Trinity. We are not of one mind on this topic, but the majority of our ecumenical partners embrace it. So, it's important that we be conversant. I will state up front that I am a Trinitarian, so much of what I share below reflects my own perspectives. I invite your contributions to the conversation. For that is what this is intended to be, a conversation starter about the key elements of Christian theology. 

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                The Christian understanding of God has been largely defined in Trinitarian terms.  The Trinity is the way in which most Christians have named God.  We maybe monotheistic, but Judaism and Islam have a much more consistent and narrow understanding of monotheism. While the majority of Christian traditions are Trinitarian, the Disciples have been largely ambivalent about the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus, as Ronald Osborn notes:
The Disciples regarded themselves as neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian.  Alexander Campbell would not use the term Trinitarian because it did not appear in scripture.  He even changed one line in the great Trinitarian hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” so that instead of saying “God in three persons, blessed Trinity,” people would sing, “God over all, and blest eternally. [ Ronald Osborn, TheFaith We Affirm: Basic Beliefs of Disciples of Christ, (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1979), p. 52.]
One could say that among Disciples affirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity is not a test of fellowship.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Make gods to lead us - Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 19A (Exodus)


 Exodus 32:1-14 Common English Bible (CEB)
32 The people saw that Moses was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come on! Make us gods who can lead us. As for this man Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t have a clue what has happened to him.” 
Aaron said to them, “All right, take out the gold rings from the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took out the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He collected them and tied them up in a cloth. Then he made a metal image of a bull calf, and the people declared, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf. Then Aaron announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” They got up early the next day and offered up entirely burned offerings and brought well-being sacrifices. The people sat down to eat and drink and then got up to celebrate. 
The Lord spoke to Moses: “Hurry up and go down! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, are ruining everything! They’ve already abandoned the path that I commanded. They have made a metal bull calf for themselves. They’ve bowed down to it and offered sacrifices to it and declared, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” The Lord said to Moses, “I’ve been watching these people, and I’ve seen how stubborn they are. 10 Now leave me alone! Let my fury burn and devour them. Then I’ll make a great nation out of you.”  
11 But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, “Lord, why does your fury burn against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and amazing force? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He had an evil plan to take the people out and kill them in the mountains and so wipe them off the earth’? Calm down your fierce anger. Change your mind about doing terrible things to your own people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, whom you yourself promised, ‘I’ll make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky. And I’ve promised to give your descendants this whole land to possess for all time.’” 14 Then the Lord changed his mind about the terrible things he said he would do to his people.

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                Many of us are visual people. We need to see it to believe it. Moses may have seen the burning bush, but the rest of the people only saw Yahweh through the eyes of Moses. Now, Moses seemed to have disappeared. He had gone up the mountain to talk with God once again, but hadn’t returned, so the people became afraid. They needed something to reassure them that God was with them on this journey from slavery to a new life in the Promised Land. Yes, they had experienced God’s provisions, but how long would they last without some sense of guidance. What they needed, or so they thought, was a visual image of Yahweh. They needed tangible proof that God was with them. So, they asked Aaron, the brother of Moses, to create an image of Yahweh. Aaron, seemingly without giving any thought to the matter, agreed. Aaron instructed the men of the community to gather gold rings from their wives, sons, and daughters. He told them to bring these items to him, so he could create an image that would serve to reassure the people that the LORD was with them. He created a golden bull calf from the gold he collected, set up an altar on which he sets the image, and then tells the people—here is the Lord who led you out of Egypt. Yes, this golden calf is Yahweh, or so Aaron wanted to believe.