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Who Do You Think You Are? - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 22B (Job 38)

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Job 38:1-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
    I will question you, and you shall declare to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

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As we learned in chapter 2 of Job, the central character in this story (Job) is the victim of a wager made by God with Satan regarding the nature of Job’s righteousness. Despite being tortured, Job refuses to curse God, though it might have been the best thing for both him and his wife had he done so. As Jonathan Walton points out Job isn’t the only one suffering here. His wife had to watch as ten o…

A Guide to Ministry Self-Care (Richard Olson, et al) -- A Review

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A GUIDE TO MINISTRY SELF-CARE: Negotiating Today’s Challenges with Resilience and Grace (An Alban Institute Book). By Richard P. Olson, Ruth Lofgren Rosell, Nathan S. Marsh, and Angela Barker Jackson. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. X + 232 pages.
I don't remember talking that much about self-care in my ministry classes during college or seminary. We talked about caring for others, but not much about ourselves. Topics like days off, vacations, sabbaticals (especially sabbaticals) weren't at the top of the list of topics. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention, but I don’t remember putting a focus on such things. We also didn’t talk much about proper boundaries. Things have changed over the past thirty years, with more and more conversations are taking place regarding setting proper boundaries and caring for one’s self. Younger clergy seem more adept at raising concerns about work hours and conditions, pay and time away. All of this is rather new for clergy, as well as c…

Really Big Sins -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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Martin Marty has returned to the scene, offering his words of wisdom through his Sightings column. I often repost these columns here as they speak to concerns that I and others have regarding the intersection of faith and public life. In this column Marty addresses the "really big sins," to which all of us who are clergy will be tempted. The Roman Catholic Church has been put at the center of the conversation about sexual abuse, but they are not alone. For we Protestants who think that the Catholics would solve all their problems by allowing married priests (something I would support), need to remember that we have our own problems. As Marty notes, no denomination has been left untouched. I invite you to read and respond. This is an especially good essay, which speaks to us as clergy!

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A Transformed King? Reflection on Daniel 4

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Each Wednesday I have been offering a reflection on the Book of Daniel. The Bible Study I lead on Wednesday afternoon has reached week four, which brings us to chapter four of Daniel. In each of the previous three chapters we have encountered the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who is known in Scripture as the king who destroyed Jerusalem and took its leading citizens into exile in Babylon. The Jewish lament over their exile is described poignantly in Psalm 137:1-6, a Psalm that give birth to a song for Godspell:
By the rivers of Babylon—
    there we sat down and there we wept
    when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
    we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
    asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How could we sing the Lord’s song
    in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not …

A Bitter Complaint - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 21B (Job 23)

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Job 23   NewRevised Standard Version (NRSV)
23 Then Job answered: “Today also my complaint is bitter;
    his hand is heavy despite my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
    that I might come even to his dwelling!
I would lay my case before him,
    and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would learn what he would answer me,
    and understand what he would say to me.
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
    No; but he would give heed to me.
There an upright person could reason with him,
    and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. “If I go forward, he is not there;
    or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
    I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.
11 My foot has held fast to his steps;
    I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
    I have tr…

Side by Side (Richard P. Olson) -- A Review

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SIDE BY SIDE: Being Christian in a Multifaith World. By Richard P. Olson. Foreword by Charles Kimball. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2018. Xvii + 172 pages.


I do believe that world peace will require peace among the various world religions. Religion can be a partner for good or for evil, the choice is ours. Often religions, including Christianity, are co-opted for nationalistic or political purposes. This is when they become dangerous. They can, however, become bridges to peace and understanding. This can happen without faith traditions giving up what they hold most dear. This is the conclusion I’ve come to after nearly twenty years engaged in interfaith conversations and work. With that in mind, I’m always on the lookout for books and resources that speak to my journey. Richard Olson’s book Side by Sidefulfills this requirement.
Olson is an American Baptist pastor and educator who has taken a very similar journey. He is a retired professor of pastoral theology at Central Baptist S…

Healing Power of Prayer - A sermon from James 5 (World Communion Sunday)

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James 5:13-20

Today is World Communion Sunday. While we may gather at the Table every Sunday, this particular Sunday reminds us that we part of a global fellowship of Christians. Our fellowship crosses ethnic and national boundaries, and with the rise of a nationalistic spirit across the globe, this is an important fact to remember. 
This morning we’re bringing to a close a series of sermons exploring the Letter of James, the Lord’s Brother. Although this was the designated reading for last Sunday, I wasn’t here to share it with you. I did preach on this text at Congregational Church of Birmingham, but I’m preaching on it this morning so we can bring this series of sermons to a proper conclusion. While this isn’t the designated text for today, I do believe it’s a fitting text for World Communion Sunday. That’s because it speaks of healing prayer, and our world is crying out for healing.  
In the very first chapter of the letter, James speaks of a form of religion that’s pure and undefile…