Showing posts from November, 2011

What is the Hope of Advent?

We are on a journey toward Christmas.  It is a season called Advent.  It invites us to consider our callings as the people of God, to look inwardly and consider what distractions and issues need to be dealt with so that we can love God and love neighbor.  In the spirit of Advent, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) offers a brief video message.  It features, among others, the thoughts of Sharon Watkins, our General Minister and President, as well as, the elected leadership of the church.  I invite you to watch, consider, and offer your own thoughts about the hope of Advent.  What are your hopes for this coming year as we walk the path set before us.  As John the Baptist shouted, taking his cue from Isaiah:  "Prepare the way of the Lord:  Make his paths straight."  (Mark 1:3; Isaiah 40:3 CEB)

Transforming Relationships: Spiritual Friendship (Bruce Epperly)

What role does Christ play in our own relationships with one another?  Is there a deeper spiritual relationship that connects our spirits with each other?   Bruce Epperly explores these and other questions through the lens of Celtic spirituality, using the Celtic concept of anam caraor soul friend.  May we find union with one another through Christ, our soul friend.  Read, enjoy, respond.


Transforming Relationships: Spiritual Friendship Bruce G. Epperly
Celtic spirituality views life as a process of dynamic and evolving relationships.  Our lives emerge from our environment and shape the world beyond ourselves. As the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead asserts, the whole universe conspires to create each occasion of experience.  While, as Whitehead also notes, religion begins with solitariness, our spiritual growth is nurtured by creative and loving relationships, persons whose care mirrors our spirits and enables them to grow.  The Celts spoke of anam c…

A Word of Comfort -- Advent Reflection on Isaiah 40

1 Comfort, comfort my people!    says your God. 2 Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,       and proclaim to her that her       compulsory service has ended,    that her penalty has been paid,    that she has received    from the LORD’s hand    double for all her sins!

3 A voice is crying out: “Clear the LORD’s way in the desert!    Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God! 4 Every valley will be raised up,    and every mountain and hill    will be flattened.    Uneven ground will become level,    and rough terrain a valley plain. 5 The LORD’s glory will appear,    and all humanity will see it together;    the LORD’s mouth    has commanded it.”

6 A voice was saying:    “Call out!” And another said,    “What should I call out?” All flesh is grass;    all its loyalty is    like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass dries up    and the flower withers    when the LORD’s breath blows on it.    Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass dries up;    the flower withers,    but our God’s word    will …

The Road to Missional -- Review

THE ROAD TO MISSIONAL: Journey to the Center of the Church (Shapevine).  By Michael Frost.   Grand Rapids:  Baker Books, 2011.   152 pages.
            The term missional has taken on a life of its own, having entered the stage where no one really controls its meaning.  Originating from within evangelicalism, and influenced by the writings of Leslie Newbingin, today folks of every theological and ecclesiological stripe have adopted the term, often meaning different things by it.  Thus, a left of center mainline Protestant church like mine might have something different in mind than would a conservative evangelical church.  Indeed, even the sorting out of the Emergent movement has led to some redefinition of the word, with the more conservative elements of that movement now taking hold of the term missional to define themselves over against the more “liberal” Emergent Village folk.  As is often true, when a term gets such broad usage, a pronouncement will be made declaring that the term…

The Church and the Crisis of Community -- Review

THECHURCH AND THE CRISIS OF COMMUNITY:  A Practical Theology of Small-Group Ministry.  By Theresa F. Latini.   Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011.  Viii + 243.
            It’s no secret that there’s a crisis of community brewing.  I expect that this crisis has been underway for as long as I’ve been alive, and it shows no signs of ending any time soon.   Simply the time of Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone offers us a fairly succinct summation of our situation.   It’s not just that we’re no longer joiners, but we’re finding it ever more difficult to create deep and abiding relationships with others.   Although the church “should” be different, reality suggests that it isn’t.  There have been any number of attempts at rectifying this reality, including the embrace of small group ministries, but have these been successful?  Or, are they simply another attempt at developing church growth strategies?  And even if successful at building relationships, have these attemp…

Church Leadership in the New Testament

Fourth essay in series on Developing a Theology of Ministry
           In my tradition (Disciples) there was a long held belief that the New Testament provided the church with a fairly straightforward vision of church leadership.  Just go to Acts and perhaps the Pastorals and you’ll have what you need.   That vision has proved to be rather simplistic, especially since a close reading of the New Testament reveals a rather varied understanding of church leadership. 
            Having already noted the post-apostolic developments of Ignatius, I’d like to step back for a moment and look at that variety present in the New Testament.  We might ask ourselves, what do these developments have to do with the contemporary church?  There are those who wish to reproduce the New Testament church, but many of us feel that this is a dead end.  So, what might we take from our engagement with the biblical text for today?
It seems rather clear that from a NT perspective, ministry begins with the whole pe…

Ode to Black Friday

It's Black Friday and I slept in!   I may wander out later on today, once the crowds have subsided to look for a few items on my shopping list, but so far I've avoided the mass rush.
Black Friday highlights the dilemma that we face as people of God, especially we who are concerned about social justice and equality.  We hear the prophets speak so clearly about the dangers of consumerism.  Consider these words from the prophet Amos, one of the earliest Hebrew oracles on record:

4 Hear this, you who trampleon the needy and destroythe poor of the land,5 saying,“ When will the new moonbe over so that we may sell grain,and the Sabbathso that we may offer wheat for sale,make the ephah smaller,enlarge the shekel,and deceive with false balances,6 in order to buy the needy for silverand the helpless for sandals,and sell garbage as grain? ”7 The LORD has swornby the pride of Jacob:Surely I will never forgetwhat they have done.8 Will not the land tremble on this account,and all who live …

Time To Tear Open the Heavens? A Lectionary Meditation

Isaiah 64:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:24-37

Time to Tear Open the Heavens?

In the Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass) , an effort is made by Lord Arseniel to tear a hole into an alternative reality, which could be “heaven?”  One can argue as to whether this is an atheist treatise or not, or whether the alternate reality is heaven, but the series did tap into this long-standing human desire to find a way into heaven on our own terms.  If given the opportunity, many would love to storm heaven and gain access to the riches of the divine realm.  It is an idea that goes back in the biblical story at least to the story of Babel and its tower.  Of course, there is another side to this story, and that is God’s comings and goings, and the prospect of God coming into the world and bringing the rod of  judgment.  In some of the more apocalyptic texts, the vision is that of God tearing open the veil separating the…