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What Is a Spiritual Gift? Characteristics of the Spirit’s Gifts of Grace - An Excerpt from Unfettered Spirit

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With the first reading from Scripture as stipulated by the Revised Common Lectionary being 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (a passage I apparently have preached from on several occasions, and will do so again on Sunday), I thought I might share a brief excerpt from my book Unfettered Spirit: Spiritual Gifts for the New Great Awakening,(Energion, 2013).  There is of course much more to be found in the book, but this gives a glimpse!
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If spiritual gifts are signs of divine grace, then what forms does this grace take? If we look at the gift lists in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians, it becomes clear that there is a wide diversity of gifts, and these lists are only suggestive and not definitive. We could say that the possibilities are limited only by the imagination. 
One could even say that as people embrace their giftedness, they become – as individuals – gifts of God to the world. To say that a person is a divine gift, doesn’t mean they’re better than anyone else, it simply means…

Called by a New Name - A Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany 2C (Isaiah 62)

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Isaiah 62:1-5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
62 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
    and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
    and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
    and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
    so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
    so shall your God rejoice over you.

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In a word spoken to a post-exilic community seeking to rebuild and create a new identity, the…

The LifeSaving Church (Rachael A. Keefe) -- A Review

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THE LIFESAVING CHURCH: Faith Communities and Suicide Prevention. By Rachael A. Keefe. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2018. X + 102 pages.

Most of us have known someone who considered, attempted, or succeed in suicide. It might have been someone close to us. You, the reader of this review, might have considered or attempted suicide (I switched to the second person as I’ve not considered or attempted suicide). Suicide and suicidality have stigmas attached to them, which creates a whole host of problems. Nowhere is this truer than in the church. It might be an issue of theology or simply an unwillingness to address the situations that lead to suicide. Just recently, a minister of a church in a nearby community used a funeral for a young man who had committed suicide to launch into a tirade about suicide, suggesting that the young man, who had taken his life, was in hell as a result. Now this minister was suspended from ministry, at least for a time, but that he not only believed that this was…

Baptized in the Spirit - A Sermon for Baptism of Jesus Sunday (Acts 8)

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Acts 8:14-17

Last Sunday we celebrated Epiphany by joining the magi in giving homage to the one who is the light of the world. Today we celebrate another epiphany by remembering the baptism of Jesus.  After John baptized him, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove, and Jesus heard God declare from the heavens:  “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”(Luke 3:21-22).
Since this is Baptism of Jesus Sunday, we have the opportunity to reaffirm our own baptisms and hear God say of us: “You are my beloved child.”  With this reaffirmation, we’re reminded that we not only have been baptized in water, we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit. 
This morning we heard a small portion of the story in Acts 8 of Philip’s mission to the Samaritans. In this brief passage we hear about a visit by Peter and John to Samaria. When they discover that these Samaritan believers have been “baptized in the name of Jesus,” but haven’t received the gift of the Holy Spirit they lay hands on…

Kaddish - Sightings (Joshua Fiegelson)

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As a long time reader (and reposter) of Sightings essays from the Martin Marty Center, I again do so. This essay is written by Joshua Fiegelson, Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Divinity School. In this essay he reflects on saying the Kaddish in honor of his recently passed father. The reason for writing the essay is to invite us to consider the relationship of private and public dimensions of religious traditions, including traditions of reciting prayers and gathering as community for these prayers. He writes from a Jewish perspective, which puts more emphasis on practice than doctrine. I think you will find this illuminating and helpful whether Jewish or not. 

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What Is It with Baptism? Thoughts from 1 Corinthians 1

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This coming Sunday those of us who follow the liturgical year will likely be observing Baptism of Jesus Sunday. If you’re like me, you will be taking your cues from the reading from Acts 8:14-17, which speaks of the visit of Peter and John to Samaria after Philip (one of the seven) has had great evangelistic success in that region. He’s baptized a number of people “in the name of Jesus,” but apparently this was not accompanied by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Instead the Spirit waited until Peter and John made their way to Samaria and laid their hands on the people and imparted the Spirit. Something happened, though as to what happened isn’t described, as Simon (known as Magus) offered to pay Peter and John so he could do what they were doing. Unfortunately for Simon, the two Apostles rebuked him. Such things are not for sale (this is where we get the term “simony”).
As I was in the early stages of preparing for this upcoming sermon on baptism, I encountered another passage about…

Be Not Afraid - You Are Mine -- Lectionary Reflection for Baptism of Jesus Sunday - Year C (Isaiah 43)

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Isaiah 43:1-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
43 But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
    Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
    I will bring your offspring from the east,
    and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
    and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
    and my daughters from the end of the earth—