The Disciples Plea for Christian Unity

This Sunday I will be preaching on Christian unity. I am drawing from Psalm 133, which declares “how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” This is one of my favorite passages. It has served as a foundation for my own sense of call to ministry. I am an ordained minister in a denomination that made the pursue of Christian unity its core message. Barton Stone called unity his “polar star.” Thomas Campbell argued that the division of the churches was a moral evil (Declaration and Address).
As I have been thinking on this question, which emerges from the sermon preparation, but also my invitation to join the Council of Christian Unity board (the CCU is the Disciples ecumenical arm), I have been looking at the work of Edgar DeWitt Jones (founding pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church and a noted ecumenical leader, having served as President of the Federal Council of Churches from 1937 to 1939). I am not Edgar DeWitt Jones, who was one of the premier preachers o…

The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall - Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 5B (1 Samuel 17)

1 Samuel 17:32-49 32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”\
38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he …

Mentoring (Dean Thompson & Cameron Murchison, eds.) - Review

MENTORING: Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspectives. Edited by Dean K. Thompson and D. Cameron Murchison. Foreword by Jill Duffield. Afterword by Martin E. Marty. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018. Xi + 244 pages.

If we're honest, we all have mentors, people who have helped guide us on the path of life. They might be a parent, professor, pastor, colleague. None of us makes through life on our own, without some help along the way. This is especially true in ministry. While education is important, there are many things to learn after we're finished with our initial schooling. I have three degrees, all of which helped form me, but it was the relationships with others who helped me grow in my faith and work as a pastor. I continue to be mentored, even as I engage in mentoring relationships. One thing I have discovered is that such relationships are part of a collegial relationship (such as a more experienced pastor with a less experienced colleague), a men…

Harvest Time - A Sermon for Pentecost 4B (Mark 4)

Mark 4:26-34

We just finished studying the Gospel of Mark in the Wednesday afternoon Bible Study. Our group discovered that Mark is full of surprises. His gospel proclaims the “good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1), but for some reason Jesus tries to keep this news a secret.  Even though the disciples spend their days and nights with Jesus, only the demons seem to recognize him for who he is. 
When you read Mark, it’s difficult to set aside stories from Matthew, Luke, and John. We want to read into Mark’s story what we know from the other gospels, but if we do this, we won’t hear Mark’s version of the story. There is one word that stands out. That word is “immediately.” Mark’s story moves quickly. He rarely stops to let Jesus catch his breath. He starts with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan at the hands of John the Baptizer. Mark doesn’t have an infancy narrative. His family appears only once and they come to take home, because they thought he had lost his mind. Jesus’ …

Ruling by Divine Mandate?

I have posted this excerpt from my book Faith in the Public Square.The essay was first written while George W. Bush was still President (for the Lompoc Record), with the book published when Barack Obama was President, and shared once again on the day that Donald Trump was inaugurated. Now, in light of AG Jeff Sessions reference to Romans 13 in response to questions about separating children from their parents at the border, I will reshare. 

In a conversation with a friend I was stunned by his insistence that God chooses our presidents for us. Apparently God is guiding the nation’s voters – or at least the Electoral College. My friend finds the constant criticisms of the President, including my own, troubling and inappropriate – for we’re to honor our leaders and support them. Now, things might have changed since that conversation, as the person holding that office has changed. His beliefs, which I don’t think are unique, have a long history—they’re rooted in a tradit…

Thirty Years of the Federal Council of Churches - Edgar Dewitt Jones (1938)

The speech that follows was given by Dr. Edgar Dewitt Jones, then Senior Minister of Central Woodward Christian Church of Detroit Michigan (now Troy, MI), and at the time also the President of the Federal Council of Churches. It was delivered at the Biennial Meeting of the Federal Council of Churches, of which he was serving as President. The date was Tuesday December 6, 1938. It was broadcast over Red Network of the National Broadcasting Company (6:45-7:00 PM). It was released by the Department of National Religious Radio in New York City.This transcript was found by me in the Edgar Dewitt Jones papers housed at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society. I spent several days in 2013 at the Historical Society working through his papers. In the spirit of Christian Unity, a vision I share with my predecessor, I decided this was a speech worth sharing.

Thirty Years of the Federal Council of Churches Address by Dr. Edgar DeWitt Jones, President The Federal Council of Churches of Chr…

Fifty Years after Humanae vitae, Is Opposition to Birth Control a Lost Cause?

I was born not long after the pill became popular in America, allowing familes to put limits on the number of children they would have. The pill also, most likely, allowed the sexual experimentation of the 1960s to blossom (if you don't have to worry about pregnancy, then there is more freedom to engage sexually). Then came Pope Paul VI's encyclical that forbade the use of artificial birth control methods. That was fifty-years ago. Surveys suggest that most Catholics disobey this edict, even as they embrace anti-abortion views. Martin Marty takes a look at this anniversary through the lens of his own theological education. I'm not Roman Catholic, so I don't have to worry about the meaning of the encyclical, but the anniversary does raise interesting questions about how we view sexuality and reproduction in our day. Take a read, offer your thoughts.