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James K.A. Smith's "Cultural Liturgies" - Sightings (Martin Marty)

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Martin Marty is not appearing as often in Sightings as he once did, sharing the Monday spot with others. Nonetheless, he appears again this week with comments about James K. A. Smith's "Cultural Liturgies" Project.  I've reviewed a couple of his books Awaiting the King, which is the third volume in his Cultural Liturgies series and You Are What You Love. The latter is a more concise version of the first two volumes, but it nicely explores Smith's contention that we are what we love, and what we love is what we do. I'll let the reviews speak for themselves (just click on the titles to visit). I find some of what Smith writes resonating with me, and others not so much. That said, I appreciate Marty's engagement and the reference at the end to Smith's comments about civil religion at the end. Take a read and offer your thoughts.  


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A Vision of Desolation and Restoration - A Reflection on Daniel 9

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Daniel 9
            As part of the Bible study I'm leading, we have encountered two dream sequences on the part of Daniel, which suggest patterns of historical developments. In Daniel 7, we read Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, representing four empires. In Daniel 8, we encounter the Ram and Goat (Media-Persia and Greece/Seleucid kingdoms). In both we’re reminded that despite their apparent overwhelming power, they fall short. They may attack God’s sanctuary, even invading heaven, but in the end they fall short, suffer judgment, and watch as the realm of God stands firm eternally. As we come to Daniel 9, we encounter a much different account. For one thing there are no mysterious beasts or animals that are to be interpreted in terms of kings and kingdoms. Things are pretty straightforward in that context. That doesn’t mean, however, that this is not a complex and complicated passage. Much of the same territory is covered, only that it is explored in very different terms.
We can …

A Soul Poured Out - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 26B (1 Samuel 1)

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1 Samuel 1:4-20 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servan…

Evangelism After Pluralism (Bryan Stone) -- A Review

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EVANGELISM AFTER PLURALISM: The Ethics of Christian Witness. By Bryan Stone. Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2018. Vii + 151 pages.


How does one evangelize in a pluralistic culture? That is a question that has dogged many Mainline Protestants. This is in part due to having seen heavy-handed efforts used to convert people to the Christian faith. We would like our churches to grow, but we would rather not seem coercive and intolerant. Knocking on doors and handing out tracks isn't our cup of tea. So, we keep quiet about faith matters. Besides, we live in a pluralistic culture, where differences out to be respected. So, who am I to try to convert my neighbor who happens to be part of faith tradition different from mine. Thus, we shy away from what some might call proselytism.
Martha Grace Reese tried to address this challenge a decade back in her Unbinding the Gospel books, which were addressed to congregations struggling with this issue. As helpful as those books were, we still seem to…

What Does the Lord Require? - A Stewardship Sermon for Pentecost 25B

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Micah 1:3-5; 5:2-5a; 6:6-8

What shall we bring? This is the question that guides our stewardship season for this year. Over the past few weeks we’ve heard a word from Joshua, asking us whom we will serve. It’s a good question, because there are many claimants to our allegiance. We just had an election that asked us to commit to particular candidates, parties, and platforms. I believe in voting, but I also believe we owe first allegiance to God. That’s the way Joshua answered his own question. He declared: “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). We’ve heard Jesus tell his followers to be salt and light. So, don’t let your salt lose its flavor and don’t hide your light under a bushel. (Mt. 5:13-16). Just remember that song we learned as children: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” 
This morning we come to the word found in the Book of Micah. We’ve heard selections from three chapters of the prophet’s message, which leads to the question of the…

Election 2018 – Some thoughts on important themes

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On Tuesday a sizable portion of the United States citizenry went to the polls and cast their votes, as is our right as citizens. We may like some things about the election and other things not so much. Here in Michigan, things went as well as a person like me could hope. Most of the people I voted for won. The person whom I had devoted the most attention, my friend Padma Kuppa, won her race to represent the Michigan 41st district in the State House. Padma is a close friend and partner in interfaith work. I spent quite a few Saturday mornings walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors. I enjoyed the conversation and learned a lot about the community in live in (and my church lives in) as well as the neighboring community that is also part of her district. More about the importance of that race in a moment. As a Democrat I was glad to see the U.S. House of Representatives fall to the party, though I was disappointed in the senatorial elections. But that is the way our democracy works …

How Long? A reflection on Daniel 8

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Daniel 8
How long will this time of wrath, of destruction, last? When things aren’t going our way or when we think the world is going in the wrong direction, we’re liable to ask—how long? When will it all end? That is a question that was surely on the minds of those who experienced exile in Babylon. The Book of Daniel takes place during the Babylonian exile, which in round numbers lasts seventy years. That’s a long time. It’s enough time for a couple of generations to emerge. The Book of Daniel, which my Bible study group is working through, tells the story of a prophet, a seer, an interpreter and dreamer of dreams. Daniel’s life, according to the book, covers the entirety of exile. It begins in chapter one with Daniel and three friends, who had been taken into exile, are raised up in the court of the Babylonian king. In the course of time, Daniel will serve in the administrations of the Babylonians, the Medes, and the Persians. In these days he will interpret dreams for kings and rece…