Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Lost Cause Lost


Hanging on the wall of my study at home is a print of Tom Lovell's The Surrender at Appomattox.  At times I've hung it in my college office and even my church office. It pictures Robert E. Lee signing the surrender document essentially ending the Civil War. In later years, after Lee's death a movement was born known as "The Lost Cause." It was born out of an attempt to reframe the history of the Civil War away from slavery to states rights.  It was also a response to attempts by African Americans to claim rights granted to them by the Constitution, rights that were often denied through Jim Crow laws. It was during the early 20th century and then again during the era of the Civil Rights Movement that statues were erected lionizing Confederate leaders such as Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis. Those statues and monuments, many of which stand at the center of city parks or along boulevards around the country are not meant just to honor long dead leaders, but to send a message. That message is simply one of white superiority. That the "Unite the Right" rally was held in a park where the local leaders planned to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee was also meant to send a message. People of color, Jews, Muslims, people who don't fit the vision of a white dominated America need to remember their place. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pondering Charlottesville

It's now Wednesday. Charlottesville remains a topic of conversation in the country and beyond (I spent a couple of nights in Canada earlier this week and it's interesting to watch coverage of American political life from that vantage point -- let me just say they're concerned that racist nationalism could spill over the border). On Sunday, like many of my colleagues, I condemned white nationalism and called for the church to be a beacon of hope. I knew what needed to be said, I said  it the best I could on short notice, and and my congregation seems to have received it well. I might even say that they expected me to speak to the moment. But where do we go from here? How do we change the rhetoric of our era which is increasingly course and often dehumanizing, a rhetoric that unfortunately has been given cover by the President. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Divine Providence and Family Reconciliation


Genesis 45:1-15 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

45 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So, no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. 
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
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                We continue with our journey through the Genesis story, which takes us from the call of Abraham through to Joseph’s rise to power, which serves as a means of rescuing the family through whom God is going to bless the nations. I used the term “divine providence” in the title, because the trajectory of the Genesis story has in mind God’s intent to bless the nations through Abraham and his descendants. While I embrace this message, believing it connects the Christian community to Abraham, through Jesus, so that we might share in God’s purpose of blessing the peoples of the earth, I also believe that the future is open. That means we humans can choose not to cooperate. Perhaps that is why the covenant story isn’t a straight-line path. We wander off, and God woos us back on the path forward. God knows where God wants to go, but it will take some cooperation on our part to get there.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Come … Why Do You Doubt? -- A Sermon for Pentecost 10A



Matthew 14:22-33

On a day after White Nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a Confederate monument and declared their intent to take back American for white people; a day after violence broke out in that city leading to the death of one and the injuring of others, when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters; in a week when it seemed as if we are on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea, we gather to worship the God who stands firmly against hate, racism, violence, and the destruction of life. We come here needing to say no to white nationalism and nuclear war. We also come to hear Matthew  invite us to use our spiritual imaginations so we can embrace the “impossible possibilities” of the Bible’s miracle stories, so that we can, as Brian McLaren suggests, “play a catalytic role in co-creating new possibilities for the world of tomorrow” [We Make the Road, p. 97]. It is in the midst of all of this that we attend to the story of Jesus walking on water and calming stormy seas. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Uncontrolling Love -- A Book Announcement


I want to take this opportunity to share word of a new book titled Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God with Introductions by Thomas Jay Oord,  (SacraSage Press, 2017). One of the reasons I want to share word about the book is that one of the 80 essays in this book was written by me. It's titled: "What Use Is God?" In this essay I engage the question of evil, asking how a God defined as uncoercive or uncontrolling can help us deal with life. 
Below is the description of the book take from Amazon. You can purchase a copy of the book from Amazon by clicking on the image of the cover or by clicking here. 

You might want to also follow the Facebook page, where you'll find more information about upcoming conversations about the book, including a 24-hour Facebook Live event covering August 24-25..  My time for a 30 minute reflection is scheduled for Friday, August 25 at 3 PM (EDT). 
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What if God is not in control? And what if this lack of control isn’t because God is weak or uninvolved? What if, instead, God’s powerful and universal love is inherently uncontrolling?
In this book, more than eighty writers explore uncontrolling love, an idea first suggested by Thomas Jay Oord in his award-winning work, The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (IVP Academic). Contributors explore uncontrolling love in practical, political, scientific, personal, economic, biblical, ethical, and philosophical dimensions. Many tell stories and pose questions. Others offer novel ideas to make sense of life or promote well-being. Oord offers introductions to key ideas and concepts.
“This book is amazing! Each essay contains precisely worded insights and thoughtful, practical responses to Oord’s book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. Essayists cite their own reasons for recognizing, claiming, and articulating what Oord calls “essential kenosis theology.” In an array of accessible vignettes, essayists illustrate Oord’s relational thesis: God’s love is necessarily self-giving and others-empowering.-- Karen Winslow, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biblical Studies, Azusa Pacific University
“Jesus proclaimed God as a loving parent, and this basic approach dominates in the New Testament. But many people revere controlling power more than love. Thomas Jay Oord has reclaimed the good news of the uncontrolling love of God. Many rejoice and respond with uncontrolling love for one another and all God’s creatures. This book embodies the response of the church, lay people and pastors, students and teachers, liberals and conservatives. Readers can join in this work of theology by witnessing to what a loving God is doing in the world.”-- John B. Cobb, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University