Showing posts from 2012

Looking Forward -- Moving from 2012 to 2013

The month of January takes it's name from the Roman god Janus, that two-faced god who looked both backwards into the past and forward into the future.  Although I'm not a follower of Roman gods (I'm a Christian, thank you very much), on a day like this this image seems appropriate.  If you're like me, you're looking forward to the new year.  The turn of the calendar seems to offer the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start in life. I am a great believer in Paul's message of new beginnings, a vision that is summed up nicely in these words:  "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:  everything old has become new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The message is clear to me -- there is no need to be a prisoner of one's past.  There is the possibility of something new happening.  
So, I look forward to 2013.  I don't know exactly how things will work out in the new year.  We can make plans, but plans have a way of changing.  I do know that…

Best Books of 2012 (including Book of the Year)

Every year I seek to honor those books, which were published during the past year that I've read and think are worthy of special attention.  Besides a Book of the Year, I want to recognize a number of other books that merit this attention, books that have affected and influenced my life.  Of course, I can only honor those books I've read, and so my list may look different from other lists (and there are books I've read this year that were published earlier, that I have found very compelling as well).  But these are the ones that standout to me, books that I would recommend for your reading.  After the book of the year, the rest of the best are found listed and described under three categories:  Public life, religion, and history; Bible and Theology; and Church and Spirituality.
Book of the Year

THE COLOR OF CHRIST: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America.By Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey.   Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press,  2012.  325 pages.

Ed Bl…

Summoned from the Margin -- A Review

SUMMONED FROM THE MARGIN: Homecoming of an African.By Lamin Sanneh.  Foreword by Kelefa Sanneh.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012.  Xx + 281 pages.

               Writing a memoir that describes both a spiritual and an intellectual journey is fraught with danger.  How much do you reveal and what do these revelations say not only about the person writing the memoir, but the people and events encountered along the way?  Some memoirs are mere fluff, while others are full of pathos.  Lamin Sanneh’s memoir may lack the pathos of Stanley Hauerwas’s Hannah’s Child, but there’s no fluff here either.  Instead, we find a revealing look at one man’s journey from his African Muslim roots into Christianity, a journey to America, and finally a homecoming of sorts in the Roman Catholic Church.  It’s a journey with many twists and turns that offer insight into the challenge posed by conversion not only to the one converting, but to those left behind and those who are destined to re…

Father's Business -- Thoughts on a Gospel Reading

41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.42 When he was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to their custom.43 After the festival was over, they were returning home, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know it.44 Supposing that he was among their band of travelers, they journeyed on for a full day while looking for him among their family and friends.45 When they didn’t find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.46 After three days they found him in the temple. He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and putting questions to them.47 Everyone who heard him was amazed by his understanding and his answers.48 When his parents saw him, they were shocked.His mother said, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Listen! Your father and I have been worried. We’ve been looking for you!”49 Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s …

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction -- A Review

RELATIONAL THEOLOGY: A Contemporary Introduction (Point Loma Press). Edited by Brint Montgomery, Thomas Jay Oord, and Karen Winslow.  Eugene, OR:  Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012.  Xix + 115 pages.

          After my introduction to Pentecostal and Evangelical understandings of the Christian faith, I learned of the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus.  Even if God was distant, Jesus was close by.  Although the popular theology that I imbibed could be described as romantic and even cloying in its orientation, it was attractive to people like me who grew up in rather formalized religious settings.  The songs we sang to Jesus may have sounded a lot like the love longs we heard on the radio; they expressed our need to for intimacy with God.  As Diana Butler Bass has shown in her recent book, Christianity After Religion, (Harper One, 2012), religion (defined institutionally) is no longer tenable.  People are looking for something other than singing songs to Aristotle’s …

On the Second Day of Christmas . . .

Christmas has come come and gone, or so they say.  Now it's time to either sit back and  relax or head back to the stores and exchange all the unwanted and inappropriate gifts.  I did pretty well this year -- I got a new Detroit Tigers hoodie and Tigers World Series t-shirt.  The latter I wear as cover for the fact that I rooted for my Giants in the World Series (it's good to be a fan of the top 2 teams in baseball, at least for 2012).  
But here we are, on the 2nd day of Christmas, when supposedly my true love gives me two turtle doves; does the good news of Christmas continue to speak?  Are we ready to take to heart the message of peace and good will?  Yes, have we taken to heart the good news that God is in our midst, or are we back to the way things have always been.  So we don't lose focus, maybe we can focus our attention this day on sharing a word of praise to God.
The Psalm for the First Sunday of Christmas is the 148th.  It is a straightforward song of praise.  Perh…

I’ve Got Good News for You

Isaiah 52:7-10

I’ve got good news for you. So “go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”  We’ve come tonight to hear good news, to sing songs of praise, and rejoice in the Lord, because Emmanuel is here with us.  We’ve been waiting in patient expectation for the coming of the one who is the “Desire of nations” who will “bind all peoples in one heart and mind; bid envy strife and quarrels cease; fill the whole word with heaven’s peace.”  So now it’s time to rejoice, because “Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”   
The reading from Isaiah was first spoken to exiles who wondered if God still heard their prayers.  The prophet answers their questions with a message of good news, proclaiming a word of peace and salvation.  When all hope seemed lost, the prophet declared: “Your God Rules!”  Don’t give up hope, because the day of your redemption is here.     
Although this message was first spoken to the exiles in Babylo…

And Mary Committed to Memory -- The Good News of Christmas

Luke 2:1-20
In the Gospel of Luke, the Christmas story begins with the Holy Family traveling south from Nazareth to Bethlehem due to an imperial census.  Although there's lots of historical red flags raised by this suggestion, the point is, Luke needs to get the Holy Family to Bethlehem, because as successor to David, that's where he must be born.  According to Luke, Jesus is born in some kind of structure where the animals take shelter, for he is laid in a manger.
From the manger the scene shifts to nearby fields, where shepherds gather to guard their sheep in the night.  An angel of the Lord appears to them, and of often happens, they're terrified.  The angel's first words seek to calm the situation, so that the angel might deliver the Euangelion –  the good news (KJV has Great Tidings).  
What is this good news?  The shepherds learn of a birth in the City of David – The savior, Christ the Lord has been born.  This is joyous news not only for the shepherds, but for all …

Help Is on the Way -- A sermon for Advent 4

Micah 5:2-5a

It’s been a little more than a week since news broke that more than two dozen children and adults were gunned down at a Connecticut school.  Many of us stopped to pray and possibly weep at this shocking news. In the past week or so we’ve engaged in many serious conversations about why and how this happened. The conversations will continue, because the problem of violence in our society remains unresolved. Although this is supposed to be a season of great joy, sadness continues to hover over our nation.  With Christmas just two days away, many wonder – where is God?  
As we ask these questions, the prophet Micah declares that help is on the way.  Rising from the little town of Bethlehem will be a ruler, whose “origin is from old, from ancient days.” 
The words “help is on the way” can be comforting and empowering. In the old western movies I grew up on, it always seemed like the cavalry, often led by John Wayne, showed up just in time to save the day.  There are all kinds of …