Faithful Friendships (Dana L. Robert) -- Review

FAITHFUL FRIENDSHIPS: Embracing Diversity in Christian Community. By Dana L. Robert. Foreword by Christine D. Pohl. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2019. Xv + 210 pages.

Over the years, as I've encountered more and more people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, my view of the world and its people has evolved. Once my friendship circle was rather small, with most of my friends looking much like me: white/Euro-American. I did have a chance to travel to Brazil in my teens, which opened my eyes a bit, but by and large, my community remained fairly narrowly confined. As time went on, especially after I moved on to seminary, my circles expanded, at least in terms of ethnicity/race. Religiously, it remained Christian in orientation. In the past two decades that circle has broadened considerably because I've lived in religiously diverse communities. Over these past two decades, my friendship circle has expanded to include Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikh…

Anti-Anti-Catholicism -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Anti-Catholicism has a long history in the United States. Fear of popery led to opposition to the candidacy of John Kennedy from both left and right among Protestants. That fear subsided in many ways, though the sex abuse scandals have raised that issue in more recent years (we Protestants aren't immune either). Martin Marty addresses anti-anti-Catholicism, which appears to take aim at Pope Francis (a favorite of progressive Protestants like me). I invite you to read Marty's thoughts on these matters, including the call to move to a more pro-position.  


I Will Tell You the Mystery (Ronald J. Allen) -- A Review

I WILL TELL YOU THE MYSTERY: A Commentary for Preaching from the Book of Revelation. By Ronald J. Allen. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2019. Xxxviii + 229 pages.
The Book of Revelation is a rather mysterious book, but then you would expect that of an apocalyptic text. Like the Book of Daniel, it seems to casts the present in futuristic and symbolic tenses. It is a favorite of Christians who believe that we live in the last days, that Jesus is returning soon, and that Revelation and Daniel lay out the plan of attack (so to speak). Whether it’s Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye (the popularizers of this view of the world) it has had an important influence on our culture. It is assumed by many Christians that these texts provide the key to understanding the world we live in. Look around at all the wars and rumors of wars? Isn’t this evidence that we’ve reached the end of the line? Back in my youth, I bought into that vision. I even assumed that by 1988, after reading Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet…

Just Be Patient! Lectionary Reflection for Advent 3A (James 5)

James 5:7-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. *******************
This word about patience comes at an interesting time in the year. The season of Advent is meant to be a contemplative time. That means we should slow down and prepare ourselves to welcome the coming Lord. John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord, making the pathways straight, by proclaiming the coming reign of God by inviting all who would list to repent and change their hearts It was a ministry that Matthew saw foretol…

A Stable Lamp is Lighted

As I'm not preaching this morning I will simply share this version of one of my favorite Advent hymns, "A Stable Lamp is Lighted." May this Second Sunday of Advent be a day of blessing as we continue our journey to Christmas. 

The Advent of Hope

It is the season of Advent. We are lighting candles at church marking time with reflections on Hope (week 1), Peace (week 2), Joy (Week 3), and Love (Week 4). These actions in time move us toward the lighting of the Christ Candle, which signals that Christ has come. Every year we repeat this effort. Our eschatology (our view of the future) may come in many forms, some are optimistic and others are pessimistic. Some visions of the future place hope in a land beyond this one, and thus no hope is held out for this world. Others invite us to attend to the needs of this world in the hope that we can participate in the renewal of God's creation. I place myself in the camp of attending to the present world without giving up a sense that there is to more to reality than what we're experiencing now. 
At times like this, with the world situation in a mess (witness the NATO meetings this week, the conflagrations in Syria, the protests and crackdowns in Iran and Hong Kong, the impeachmen…

Christmas Movies and the Religious Dimensions of Story Structure -- Sightings (Russell Johnson)

You can't have Christmas without Christmas movies, whether religious or not. My family puts a priority on watching various versions of The Christmas Carol. You may have your favorites as well. Russell Johnson suggests that even if not always intended Christmas movies tend to have story structure that is informed by basic Christian idioms (mainly Protestant). One element in these stories is the centrality of work and perhaps being workaholics -- representing perhaps insights from Max Weber's connection of Protestantism and Capitalism (though Walter Rauschenbusch would want to challenge that linkage). So what do you think of the whole Christmas movie industry, do you see the religious dimensions he mentions, even in Die Hard?