Showing posts from January, 2012

Government, Religion and Contraception -- Sightings

The latest church-state flap centers on a government ruling that all health plans, including those offered by the Catholic Church must off access to contraception.  Martin Marty takes up the controversy that focuses on a perceived government intrusion into church affairs, while from a state side it appears to be a matter of justice.  Now, as Marty points out this is largely a Catholic issue -- one might say a Catholic Bishops issue, since apparently 98% of Catholic women ignore church teaching and use birth control.  As an example of this, my wife taught for a number of years in a Catholic school, and she reported how the Catholic teachers were upset that their health coverage didn't include access to contraception.  But, the question raised is important -- where does the line between church and state get drawn?  Take a read, offer your thoughts.  Is this an infringement on church rights or is this an effort to extend justice to all?     *********************************
Sightings  …

An Inclusive Gospel -- What would it mean for the church?

9 At noon on the following day, as their journey brought them close to the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted to eat. While others were preparing the meal, he had a visionary experience. 11 He saw heaven opened up and something like a large linen sheet being lowered to the earth by its four corners. 12 Inside the sheet were all kinds of four-legged animals, reptiles, and wild birds.13 A voice told him, “Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!”  14 Peter exclaimed, “Absolutely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke a second time, “Never consider unclean what God has made pure.”  (Acts 10:9-15 Common English Bible.) In this passage of scripture, Peter has a vision that will expand his understanding of God's realm.  It is a vision that opens up the gospel (the Good News of God's reign) to Gentiles.  Those who had been deemed unclean, were now clean.
The Christian Church (broadly speaking) has long struggled with what i…

What is Happening? A Sermon

Mark 1:21-28

Jesus walks into the synagogue at Capernaum, immediately heads to the pulpit, and without so much as asking for permission from the synagogue leaders,  starts preaching.  After that, the place falls into chaos.  
That’s because, no sooner had Jesus started preaching, when suddenly, a man stood up in the sanctuary, and started shouting Jesus.  The man, whom Mark says was possessed by an evil spirit, screamed at Jesus, demanding to know what Jesus would do with “us?”    Are you going to destroy us?  After all, “I know who you are.”  Yes, “you are the holy one of God.”
Picture yourself in such a congregation.  How would you have responded to all of this commotion?  Would you have been amazed and shaken, as Mark suggests was the case for this congregation?  I expect that like us, this congregation liked things to be done “decently and in order.”  What would you make of both the preacher and the respondent to this preacher?  Would you call the police?
As Mark tells the story, the …

The Hyphenateds -- A review

THE HYPHENATEDS: How Emergence Christianity is Re-Traditioning Mainline Practices.  Edited by Phil Snider; Foreword by Phyllis Tickle.  St. Louis:  Chalice Press, 2011.  Xxii + 162 pages.

         It’s no secret that Mainline Protestantism has experienced significant decline over the past fifty years.  If you’ve been to a typical Mainline church you’ll likely notice that those present are relatively order than the general population.  Many pundits have put this branch of the Christian community on a death watch.  Although the theology and social views (especially on issues such as homosexuality) of this brand of Christianity would seem to position it well to attract younger generations (GenX and Millennials), such has not been the case.   Despite attempts to contemporize worship and become less traditional, these churches (my church) continue to struggle. 
Despite the apparent downward trend, there are signs of hope springing up here and there.   This doesn’t mean that the present ra…

War Horse and Red Tails -- Thoughts on 2 War Movies

On back to back Fridays, Cheryl and I took in a movie.  We saw War Horsea week ago and then yesterday we went to see Red Tails.  Both are war movies, though they focus on two different wars.  Both are moving and well made movies.  Both have famous producers/directors who have made blockbuster movies -- Spielberg and Lucas.  The two movies tell different sides of the story of wars.
When we went to see War Horse, we actually thought we would see Sherlock Holmes, but I had mixed up the times, and so we "accidentally" saw War Horse.  It was much different than I expected, and I was deeply moved by the story that focuses on a horse and his master.  Joey is a beautiful horse, fit for racing, but ends up owned by a family that needs a plow horse.  When the family suffers financial hardship, Joey is sold to the military, and becomes the cavalry horse for a British officer.  We see the war essentially through the eyes of Joey, who becomes the property, at least momentarily of a Britis…

Reading the Common English Bible

In 2011 we observed the 400th anniversary of the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible.  The KJV reigned supreme for more than 300 years, with true challengers emerging only in the mid-20th century, as new understandings of translation theory and new textual discoveries began to make themselves felt.  There are a few folks left that not only prize the KJV, but hold tightly to its authoritative status.  It's as if good old King James I was God incarnate.  But even most conservative Christians today embrace modern translations.
It's possible that we've reached the point of translation saturation, but new translations continue to emerge, giving the reader of Scripture more and more choices.  For the past twenty years or so, I've been using the New Revised Standard Version.  It is a well-attested scholarly translation that takes into consideration contemporary concerns about gender inclusion.  It retains a strong sense of formality that resonates well when read publ…

Hearing God's Message -- A Lectionary Reflection

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28
Hearing God’s Message
How does one know the voice of God?  What helps one discern when God is speaking and when God isn’t?  These are important questions, as people of faith desire to know what God is up to and what God would have us do.  We needn’t embrace a deterministic world view to concern ourselves with such questions, for in our prayers we do desire to enter into conversation with God.  Sometimes we have difficulty with this need because the voice we hear seems to be different from what we expect. 
Our ability to hear God’s voice and sense God’s presence is that we now live in a de-enchanted world – our view of the world, in the words of Rudolph Bultmann, has been demythologized.  It has been laid bare and we find it difficult to find underlying meaning and purpose.  It appears to many people, that we are alone in this world.   It’s true that there are still remnants of an older worldview that clings to extreme supernaturalist …

Knowledge and the Danger of Arrogance

1 Now concerning meat that has been sacrificed to a false god: we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up. 2 If anyone thinks they know something, they don’t yet know as much as they should know. 3 But if someone loves God, then they are known by God.  (1 Corinthians 8:1-3 -- Common English Bible.) I'm not preaching on this text from 1 Corinthians 8 this Sunday (it is the lectionary selection from the Epistles), but I thought it interesting for a time like this.  Paul isn't discounting education, which is important.  The knowledge that he speaks of here is one that leads to arrogance -- knowledge that puffs up, leading one to believe that one is better than the other. 
I'm hesitant to bring up a text like this at a time when there is political gain to be gotten from attacking education and knowledge -- especially scientific knowledge.  There is political gain from misrepresenting history.  But despite the hazards, I think i…

A Call to Teamwork -- by the President

Last night's Presidential State of the Union laid out a laundry list of accomplishments and and things yet to be done.  The President spoke of foreign policy victories and economic improvements at home.  Things aren't "good" but they're getting better.  No, not everyone is feeling it yet, but all the markers suggest slow and steady improvement -- despite partisan gridlock.  The President called for investment in the national infrastructure and pursuit of clean energy.  He suggested that the rich could pay more in taxes so that others could have a fairer shake (that didn't go over well with the opposition).  
Now, I'm not going to rehearse the State of the Union Address, though I thought it was an excellent speech.  Yes, it was a political speech -- most are and this is the beginning of a lengthy election year -- but it was also an address to the nation, a call to action on behalf of the common good.   
What I do want to pick up on was the call to being a…

Politics -- What should we do with it?

It's a political season.  Last night there was another debate -- number 18 with a myriad more to come.  I don't watch them, the analysis is often more interesting and revealing.  What is most interesting to read are the fact checkers.  The misstatements are fast and furious.  Are they intentional?  Possibly.  Are the result of ignorance of the facts?  Possibly.
Tonight the President will give his State of the Union Address.  Will it have a political tone to it?  Of course, it's an election year and this is one of the few moments that he has to present his side of things.  
Will everyone lay down their arms and welcome one another in a new bi-partisan fervor that will put the country first?  Hardly.  The right will find things they hate, even if the President re-gifts to them one of their own positions.  Will the left find things to hate?  Of course -- it would be nothing new.
Is governing getting more difficult?  Indeed!
We live in an age of instant communication and anal…

American Divide -- Sightings

Why is America so divided?  Why is the 99% falling so far behind the 1%?  Why is the church losing ground?  Martin Marty takes up the critique of our contemporary situation by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute.  Murray suggests that social policy that emerged in the 1960s has lead to a breakdown in society and development of a "cultural inequality."  There may be some truth in what he says, even if there is much that is debatable -- at least from what I read in the WSJ article Marty points us to.  I'd like to invite you to take a look, and offer your thoughts -- what is the cause of the divide? ********************************
Sightings  1/23/2012

American Divide -- Martin E. Marty
Next week Crown Forum will publish Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 . The weekend Wall Street Journal gave a generous two-page preview. The foretaste in the Journal presented no surprises, since the author, Charles Murray, offered the standard American Enterpris…