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The Art of Prayer Meets the Prayer of Art - Sightings (Cynthia Lindner)

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Art is in the eye of the beholder, or sometimes in the ear or touch of the beholder. In any case, Cynthia Lindner, who is both a Disciple of Christ minister (as am I) and a faculty member at the University of Chicago Divinity School, speaks of an exhibit at the Chicago Institute of Art on prayer. In this piece, which I invite you to read and contemplate, Lindner takes us into the exhibit and invites us to consider how it might affect us regarding prayer and human life, especially in an interfaith context. What does hearing/experiencing our own prayers and hymns in a room with a blank wall say about who we are as humans? Take, read, and reflect.

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Writing on the Wall – A Reflection on Daniel 5

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If you’ve been following my reflections on the Book of Daniel, you will know that the first four chapters of the book focus on the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who laid siege to and later destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including the Temple, and then carted off a portion of the populace into exile in Babylon. Along with people, we’re told that the Babylonian king took the sacred vessels (the gold and silver wares) back to Babylon, where he put them in storage. As the exile set in, we watched as a young exile named Daniel (Belteshazzar) and his three friends rose to prominence in the Babylonian kingdom, apparently due to their faithfulness to the God of Israel—and in Daniel’s case, an ability (like Joseph in Genesis) to interpret dreams. In each of the four prior chapters, the sovereignty of the God of Israel has been demonstrated, and while the king may start out disbelieving, by the end of the chapter, Nebuchadnezzar will have embraced the God of Israel, recognizing …

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 …