Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Best Books of 2017 -- the Cornwall List


I read a lot of books in the past year. Most of the books I read during the year are sent to me by publishers to be reviewed on this blog or elsewhere. All the books in the list below were published in 2017, and except for a few, were read in 2017. Most of the books on the list below were provided by the publisher, and to them I offer my thanks. I have been offering a Best Book List for several years. I started out with top ten lists, along with a Book of the Year Selection. In recent years I’ve found it difficult to limit the list to ten books, so you will find seventeen books. Two of them are named Best Book of 2017. The remaining fifteen are divided into four rather loose categories.  All seventeen books are excellent and worthy of reading. Links to reviews are provided (click on the title).

My Best Book of 2017 nod goes to:
Carol Howard Merritt, Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church, Harper One
Joshua Jipp, Saved by Faith and Hospitality, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Thanks goes to all seventeen authors! What great contributions to the faith conversation. Consider each of the books listed below, and add them all to your "to read" list if you haven't already.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Divine Change of Mind - A Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany 3B (Jonah 3)

Jonah Preaching at Nineveh - John Martin

Jonah 3:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. 
When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” 
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
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                Jonah was a reluctant prophet. He wanted to have nothing to do with Nineveh. As far as he was concerned, it was an evil empire that deserved whatever came its way. When God called him to go to Nineveh and proclaim God’s judgment, he ran away. In fact, he got on the first boat out of town, and headed in the opposite direction. You can run, but can’t hide, and God had other ideas. It seems that those other ideas included having Jonah spend some time in the belly of a fish. With no other choice, Jonah gave in and headed off to Nineveh, where he went around preaching gloom and doom to the people who lived in this city he detested.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Promised Land -- Not Yet - A Reflection for Martin Luther King Day

Today we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. While Dr. King has almost universal approbation, fifty years after his assassination in 1968, we have yet to live into to his dream. We may give lip service to it, but we have not yet come to the point where we recognize each other's full humanity. There is a Promised Land that Dr. King believed lay out in front of him (and us), but we haven't yet crossed the river. 

In the message he delivered, on the night before his death, in Memphis, as he prepared to lead a march in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, he spoke of the land of promise. He told that gathering that he had seen this land, but he wouldn't get there with them. He seemed to know that his life would be cut short, perhaps not as soon as it occurred, but he knew the day was coming when he would die. At the same time, he had confidence that a day was coming when the nation would cross the river into a new reality.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Body and Spirit - A sermon for Epiphany 2B (1 Corinthians 6)



1 Corinthians 6:12-20

I find Paul’s Corinthian letters to be intriguing. There is so much going on in these letters. They address real life issues and concerns. So, when I was in seminary, I took two classes that focused on all or part of 1 Corinthians. In fact, a friend and I drove across LA from Pasadena to Westwood in my less than reliable Ford Maverick to study 1 Corinthians with Scott Bartchy. Going to class wasn’t a problem, but coming home around five o’clock on the 405 Freeway was an adventure. But it was worth the effort! When I sat down to plan my sermons for the season of Epiphany, and noticed that the epistle readings in the lectionary came from the Corinthian letters, I got excited. 


Paul wrote these letters to a congregation filled with new converts who came out of a very different cultural context than he did. So, when they heard Paul’s message of grace and freedom, they interpreted it in light of their former lives, and what they heard was an invitation to live with reckless abandon. They heard Paul saying that no rules applied. That’s not what he intended, and so he had to address the situation brewing in that community. One of the issues that emerged had to do with a topic that is rarely discussed in church, and that is sex. So, when I sat down to read the text again on Monday, I asked myself—why did I choose to preach on this passage? This can only get me in trouble. But here we are, with a word from Paul addressing a forbidden subject.    

Friday, January 12, 2018

Disciples Leader Speaks to President's Words


If the reports are true, and I believe they are, the President spoke offensive and derogatory words about persons from the Caribbean and African nations who have come to our nation. The words are ripe with racism. Rather than writing my own reflection, I have decided to share the message published by the Rev. Dr. Teresa Hord Owens, the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Unfortunately, fifty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, we must continue to address the racism and nativism in our midst. 

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As a follower of Jesus Christ, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I must speak to repudiate the comments from the President of the United States on Jan. 11, 2018. As Christians, we believe that all humans are made in the image of God and therefore worth of dignity and respect. We are called to love, and Jesus tells us that we will be known as his disciples if we have love for one another. (John 13:35).


There are certain roads that love cannot take. Love cannot take the road of discrimination; love cannot take the road of hate; love cannot take the road of oppression; love cannot take the road of racism; love cannot take the road of gender bias; love cannot take the road of homophobia. There is no justification for these hateful and racist comments. None. As the nation prepares to honor the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I remind all  those who claimed to be followers of Christ of Dr. King’s admonition to speak up against injustice, to work for human dignity, for peace, and for equal justice for all. Dr.  King was most disappointed that those who called themselves Christians were telling him to wait until a more judicious time for action.
Today it is clear that we still cannot wait. I call upon those who believe in the dignity of all persons to not only speak, but work together to rid our nation of systemic injustice, to register to vote, and hold those who are not in solidarity with basic human dignity and justice to account. Acts of charity and songs of unity will not be enough to dismantle the structural injustice that exists in our society.  We cannot allow such hatred to stand unchallenged, and we cannot be silent or inactive in the face of words and actions that violate the Christian mandate to love all whom God has created.