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Showing posts from November, 2010

Acts 29: A Never Ending Gospel (Bruce Epperly)

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In last week's posting Bruce Epperly brought to an end our journey through Luke's Acts of the Apostles, a journey that reminds us that the Christian faith is an adventure.  It's not something to be taken lightly.  But, the Book of Acts ends with Paul in prison, but with the hope of release, perhaps to continue his planned journey to Spain.  In this final posting of this series, Bruce points us forward through history to our own day, where we continue writing the 29th chapter of Acts.  This may be the final contribution for a while, but it has been a blessing to have Bruce be a regular contributor to Ponderings on a Faith Journey.
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Acts 29: A Never Ending Gospel
Bruce G. Epperly
The final words of Acts of the Apostles describe the Apostle Paul teaching and preaching from prison "without hindrance." The message of Acts from start to finish is that God's good news is unfinished and unhindered; it breaks down the barriers o…

Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible -- Sightings

In 1611 a new English translation of the Bible appeared.  It carried the authorization of the British monarch, King James 1.  James I was the son of the infamous Mary, Queen of Scots, the rival of Queen Elizabeth, and who had been raised Presbyterian.  When he became king of both Scotland and England at the death of Elizabeth there was great hope that he would side with those in the English church that wanted to abolish episcopacy, a party that came to be known as Puritans.  He was unsympathetic to the anti-episcopacy crowd, but he was willing to support the translation of a new bible, and so four hundred years ago one of the most influential books in the English language was published.  Over the next year we will likely have conversations about this version of the Bible and its influence.  I'm not of the view that we should use it as a primary translation (the English is majestic, but not current), nor follow the textual tradition (as does the New King James Version) as it is a d…

America's Religious Identity -- Boom, Shocks, and After-shocks (Part 2 -- Long 1960s)

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In the Post World War II era, religion boomed in America, along with all sorts of other service and fraternal organizations.  Their wives, many of whom had worked at America's factories during the war, returned home, had babies (remember Leave It to Beaver?).   This is the generation to which the famed Baby Boomer Generation was born, and as the War babies and post-war babies matured into adulthood, they encountered a new kind of world, and in many ways remade the world -- especially religiously. 
According to Robert Putnam and Dennis Campbell, writing in American Grace, there has been one major shock (the Long 1960s) and two Aftershocks since the religious boom of the 1950s.  Religious attendance among young adults reached its apex in 1957, when 51% of young adults claimed regular church attendance (growing from about 31% in 1950).  That number would fall just as quickly as it rose as the 1960s hit.   
This new era of "Shock" is labeled the "Long 1960s" by Putna…

A Candle of Hope -- Advent Lectionary Meditation

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Isaiah 2:1-5



Romans 13:11-14


Matthew 24:36-44

A Candle of Hope
We begin the Advent journey by lighting a candle of hope, and hope is in the biblical scheme of things more than wishful thinking. The hope that the season of Advent holds out to us as we light this first candle is rooted in the promises of the God who is ever faithful. It is rooted in the covenant relationship that exists between God and humanity. Therefore, we can gather and sing with a sense of purpose the final stanza of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel":  "O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind; bid envy, strife and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace. Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!” (Chalice Hymnal, 119). And so as we begin the journey we do so in the company of Isaiah, Paul, and Matthew’s Jesus. Each of these texts for the first Sunday of Advent speak to the hope that is present in us, and reminds us that we should continue to stay awake and liv…

America's Religious Identity -- Boom, Shocks, and After-shocks (Part 1)

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The 1950s saw one of the largest booms in religiosity that Americans have ever witnessed.  All you had to do was open the doors and the churches were full.  Liberal and conservative, Mainline, Catholic, Evangelical -- everyone was doing well.  And the key to success, interestingly enough, were the men returning home from the War.  Yes, it was the returning GI's and their wives, the so-called "Greatest Generation" that fueled this incredible spike in religious (and civic) involvement.   Robert Putnam and Dennis Campbell lay out this scenario in American Grace.
[T]he distinguishing features of the men now accompanying their wives to church were that they were mostly young fathers, mostly veterans, and mostly college-educated.  The postwar boom in church going was fueled above all by men who had survived the Great Depression as teenagers and World War II as grunts, and were now ready at last to settle into a normal life, with a steady job, a growing family, a new house, and …

Please and Thank You -- A Thanksgiving Homily

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Luke 17:11-19

We’ve gathered together to ask the Lord’s blessing and to give thanks for the bountiful gifts of God. Giving thanks is deeply rooted in our faith tradition, going all the way back to our Jewish ancestors who heeded the Psalmist’s call to make a joyful noise, worship with gladness, and come into God’s presence with singing, because the Lord is God. Yes, we’ve heard the call to “enter the gates with thanksgiving, and the courts with praise . . . For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100 NRSV).

1. Being Thankful
Thanksgiving is a national holiday, but it has a strong spiritual dimension. For some this is simply an expression of civil religion that can be quickly dispensed with before watching the game and digging into the feast. For some Thanksgiving will offer a rare opportunity to gather as family or with friends for a time of merriment and sharing, that may or may not have any spiritual dimension. But, it a…

Time to Give Thanks --Psalm 100

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Psalm 100 e-card sent by a college friend to share.  Click on the picture and then on the card, and give thanks to God for God's bounteous blessings.

Reviewing of Books -- there is no End!

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As anyone who reads this blog with regularity can attest, I review a considerable number of books.  I'll confess, I'm addicted to reading books, and reviewing forces me to complete the books I'm reading, well sort of -- I've got such a stack right now that I'm way behind!  Briefer versions will sometimes appear elsewhere, at places like the Christian Century blog (formerly Theolog), Progressive Christian Magazine, and at the Englewood Review of Books, among other places.  Chris Smith, editor of the Englewood Review of Books asked me to blog the newly published print edition of the Review, which I'm pleased to do.And no, none of my reviews appear in this first edition of the Review, nor is there any quid pro quo for future inclusions (though who knows!).  
The print edition of the Englewood Review of Books, to which you may subscribe here,  is an extension of an online presence that began in January 2008.  The online review appears weekly and covers a wide range …

Adventurous Theology #10: A Never Ending Story (Bruce Epperly)

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The journey through Acts is nearing its end -- that is, the exploration of the adventurous spirit that pervades Luke's description of the early church's journey comes to an end in this posting.  Bruce Epperly has taken us from Ascension to Paul's prison cell, noting here in the end that "God is still speaking."  There is one last post to consider -- next week -- that reflects on Acts 29, our continued writing of the story of this faith journey.  I invite you to consider with Bruce what the Spirit is doing in the world and in the church as, to quote (as Bruce does) Doug Pagitt, we live out a "Christianity Worth Believing."

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Adventurous Theology #10: A Never Ending Story Acts, Chapters 21-28 Bruce G. Epperly

Acts of the Apostles comes to an end with a travelogue descriptive of Paul’s journey to Rome. But, the final words, describing Paul’s preaching from prison in terms of “boldness and without hindrance,” suggest that Acts is but the …

Buddhism and Violence -- Sightings

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Last night the Troy-Area Interfaith Group held it's annual Thanksgiving Service at the local Hindu Temple.  It was good to gather together and affirm our common humanity, which transcends our religious and cultural differences.  One of the values of gatherings such is this is that they allow us to get to know each other as human beings, recognizing that each religious tradition has its positive and negative attributes.  In today's Sightings column, Martin Marty takes note of something pointed out in the book American Grace, which I myself am currently reading with great fascination.  As the title of the posting suggests, it has to do with Buddhism.  Robert Putnam and David Campbell in comments, which I've yet to come upon, note that Americans don't have very warm feelings toward Muslims, Mormons, and Buddhists.  The last might seem surprising since most Americans deem Buddhists a fairly peaceful group.  But then, they don't know much about them.  But, in the intere…

Give Thanks for God's Bounty -- A Sermon

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Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21

We began our journey through the Stewardship Season on Halloween, and we end it today on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The first holiday suggested that stewardship might be a bit spooky! But, we haven’t let this spooky feeling keep us from hearing testimonies about the importance of stewardship. Each voice challenged us to consider the blessings God has poured out on us and they called on us to respond through the sharing of our lives and resources with others through the church. The Stewardship team led by Felicia sent out letters that invited members and friends to consider how they might give to the congregation’s ministries during the coming year. And, now it’s time to bring in the harvest!
A month ago, in that “spooky sermon,” I talked about God’s abundance that has touched our lives. I pointed out that this year’s stewardship theme is “More than Enough.” Of course, in these difficult economic times, not everyone feels like there’s “more than enough.” There’…

Envisioning the Reign of God -- Lectionary Meditation

Jeremiah 23:1-6



Colossians 1:11-20


Luke 23:33-43



Envisioning the Reign of God
There are very few true monarchs left in the world. Most are of the sort that “rule” in England. They’re mainly figureheads who are trotted out on special occasions. True power is held by someone else, whether Parliament or the Prime Minister. Americans don’t very much like monarchs, whether constitutional or not, though we seem to have an interest in things royal, as long as we don’t have to support them with our taxes. So, for moderns, the idea of observing Christ the King Sunday might seem rather odd. Yet, this is the Sunday in which we proclaim Christ as King, as the one in whom and through whom God creates, sustains, and rules the universe. In observing this particular Sunday, we conclude another liturgical cycle. When the church gathers a week later, it will begin the cycle once more with a season of waiting, a season waiting for a king to be born. These two realities – the hope and the fulfillment can be …

The Emerging Evangelicals -- Sightings

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Trying to define the true nature of evangelicalism has never been easy.  Consider that in the 18th century both Whitefield and the Wesley's were called evangelicals, but despite similar methodologies, their theologies were quite different.  One was Calvinist and the other Arminian.  In Germany Evangelical means Protestant.  And so, when pundits and critics of the Religious Right equate evangelism with either Fundamentalism or the Religious Right they're only getting part of the description correct.  There are many different varieties of evangelicalism, something that Donald Dayton has been proclaiming for several decades.   Being a product of Fuller Seminary, I knew quite clearly that there was a difference between the kind of evangelicalism that was present there and that found to the south at Talbot Seminary. 
In this edition of Sightings Jenny Rae Armstrong suggests that there is a movement underway in evangelicalism that has embraced not just salvation in the next world, b…