When a Church Hosts an Iftar Dinner

It is the season of Ramadan for Muslims. According to the Quran, "The Month of Ramadan is that wherein the Quran was sent down as guidance to mankind, as clear proofs of guidance, and as the Criterion. Let him among you who is present fast during that [month]." [Surah 2:185]. As a season of fasting, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, refraining from even drinking water. It is a season of spiritual reflection. At the end of the day, the fast is broken, and a meal is shared. It is called an Iftar meal. It might be shared within the family, and perhaps with a few friends invited in. Sometimes it is shared in community.

During this season of Ramadan, before last night, I had participated in two meals and had been invited to a couple of others, all of which were efforts to reach out beyond the Muslim community to demonstrate hospitality. Last night, however, was a rather unique Iftar dinner. That is because it was hosted at a church. 
Now sometimes churches rent out their buil…

How are the Dead Raised?

One of the big questions Christians face concerns the resurrection. We’re still in Eastertide, so the question is a live one. The hymns of the season boldly proclaim Christ to be alive. Death cannot hold him. Therefore, death has lost its sting. This is good news, is it not?
Then comes the question of how this all happens. Science seems to represent a significant hurdle. Though there are numbers of reports of near-death experiences, they remain controversial and problematic. I won’t argue for or against them, but I confess to being skeptical about the reports. But, for some these reports have proven helpful, and so I’ll leave them there.
The reason I ask the question is that my Wednesday Bible Study has reached part two of 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul responds to the question of how the dead are raised. People apparently asked then, as they do now: “With what kind of body do they come? (1 Cor. 15:35). It’s a good question, though Paul’s response suggests that he found it without merit …

Come on Over - A Lectionary Reflection for Easter 6C (Acts 16)

Acts 16:9-15 NewRevised Standard Version (NRSV) During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were bapti…

Preaching Romans (Scot McKnight & Joseph Modica, eds) -- A Review

PREACHING ROMANS: Four Perspectives. Edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2019. Xi + 191 pages.
Paul is an intriguing person. He is loved and hated within the Christian community. He's often accused of messing up what Jesus began, even if the earliest Christian writings come from Paul. I find myself somewhat ambivalent about Paul. I like a lot of what I read, but he does say things that cause me headaches and heartaches. Yet, his letters form a significant portion of the New Testament and as a preacher who seeks to root his preaching in Scripture, I have to spend time with Paul. That includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In recent years Paul has undergone significant re-evaluation. There are these new perspectives on Paul that have emerged since I was in college and seminary. I've read about some of them, but not in any depth. I like a lot of what I read, and I feel as if Paul has been increasingly freed from the stric…

Sign of Discipleship - A Sermon for Easter 5C - (John 13)

John 13:31-35

We might be nearing the end of the Easter Season, but according to the lectionary we’re back at Maundy Thursday. We opened worship singing the ancient Easter hymn “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness” as a reminder that we’re still celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. We give voice to this celebration in the second stanza of the hymn, when we sing:  ‘Tis the spring of souls today; Christ hath burst his prison, and from thee days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen; all the winter of our sins, long and bleak is flying from his light, to whom we give laud and praise undying.  (Chalice Hymnal, 215) Though the “sun hath risen” we need to return to the upper room where we hear a word from the Gospel of John.
Judas has just left the building following Jesus’ last meal with the disciples where he had washed the feet of his disciples, including the feet of Judas. With Judas off on his errand, Jesus is ready to offer his Farewell Discourse. He has demonstrat…

The Miracle Lady (Amy Collier Artman) - A Review

THE MIRACLE LADY: Kathryn Kuhlman and the Transformation of Charismatic Christianity (Library of Religious Biography). By Amy Collier Artman. Foreword by Kate Bowler. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2019. Xii + 282 pages.

I seem to remember catching a glimpse or two of Kathryn Kuhlman, "the miracle lady," on TV during my early teen years. It was during this period that I was drawn to a charismatic form of faith. Although I've focused my attention on the story of Aimee Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman is a name I’ve known for many years. She died during my senior year in high school, while I was a member of a congregation affiliated with the denomination founded by Aimee Semple McPherson. The two women are different in some ways but similar in others. While Kathryn Kuhlman shied away from rooting her own ministry in that of Sister Aimee, it seems to me that Sister Aimee Semple McPherson paved a path for people like Kuhlman, though she clearly created her…

Exemplars, If Not Saints -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

I think we're all a bit awe-struck by celebrities. Perhaps we would like to be celebrities ourselves. But in an age of crassness and division maybe there are other exemplars. They may not be saints, but they are people who can teach us to look down, to become grounded, to care for others. They might be people like Saint Phocas or the recently deceased Jean Vanier. I know of Jean Vanier because Henri Nouwen left the world of academia to serve those with disabilities at an L'Arche community founded by Vanier. Martin Marty reflects on being grounded and Vanier's legacy in this Sightings essay. I invite you to read, reflect, and if desired, share a word.