Showing posts from April, 2012

What Barriers? Reflections on Acts 8:26-40

26 An angel from the Lord spoke to Philip, “ At noon, take the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza. ” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he did. Meanwhile, an Ethiopian man was on his way home from Jerusalem, where he had come to worship. He was a eunuch and an official responsible for the entire treasury of Candace. (Candace is the title given to the Ethiopian queen.) 28 He was reading the prophet Isaiah while sitting in his carriage. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “ Approach this carriage and stay with it. ”30 Running up to the carriage, Philip heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “ Do you really understand what you are reading? ”31 The man replied, “ Without someone to guide me, how could I? ” Then he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him. 32 This was the passage of scripture he was reading:
Like a sheep he was led to the slaughterand like a lamb before its shearer is silentso he didn’t open his mouth.33 In his humiliation justice was taken away from him.Who can tell…

Tending to the Other Sheep -- A Sermon

John 10:11-18

As far as I know, none of us here has direct experience at being a shepherd.  Whatever we know about sheep and shepherding probably comes from books, movies, and our imaginations.  But, large numbers of people living in the ancient world did know a lot about sheep and shepherding, and so we shouldn’t be surprised to find both images present in the biblical story.  There is David the Shepherd King, and Jesus the Good Shepherd.  One of the most beloved passages of Scripture is the 23rd Psalm, which declares: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . .”  
For many, the image of sheep and shepherds is rather serene and comforting.  If you Google Jesus and shepherd, you’ll find lots If you Google the words Jesus and shepherd you’ll find lots of pictures of a smiling Jesus surrounded by adoring sheep.  But, as both the 23rd Psalm and John 10 remind us, the life of the shepherd is anything but peaceful and serene.  There are wolves seeking to scatter and devour the sheep, an…

Is Storytelling Sermonics Sufficient?

Narrative preaching and inductive preaching have become popular in recent years.  At one level it taps into Jesus' manner of preaching (parables), but preaching inductively is not easy.  Simply standing up and telling a few stories may prove entertaining, but may not get us very far.  Narrative preaching when most effective assumes that the audience has a connection with the biblical story, but unfortunately in most of our mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches there is a lack of knowledge of the biblical story.  I might have issues with the way conservative evangelicals interpret the biblical text, but they do use it.
Now, I must confess that I'm not a good story teller.  I'm much more likely to read non-fiction, theological books, than fiction.  Much of the narratives I connect with come from movies or TV.  I'm also trained as a theologian (focus on historical theology), so I'm probably more comfortable with theology than story.  But, having made the co…

What Does the Lord Require? A Review

WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE?: Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, and Walking Humbly.By James C. Howell.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.  80 pages.
What does the Lord require of us?  The answer is clear, at least in the mind of Micah – justice, kindness, and humility (Micah 6:8).  This passage of scripture is well-known to many of us.   It is simple and direct, but like other simple and direct statements, there are nuances and meanings that are buried deep in these words that require our attention. 
                United Methodist pastor James C. Howell (Myers Park UMC of Charlotte, North Carolina) is a prolific author of books that speak both to clergy and laity, and in this brief book Howell draws upon his hermeneutical and homiletical skills to help us unpack this most powerful of biblical texts for today. 
                In the course of eight chapters, Howell walks us through the passage, introducing us to the prophet, the controversy that led to the prophetic wor…

A Shepherd's Love -- A Lectionary Reflection for Easter 4

Acts 4:5-12
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18
A Shepherd’s Love
        To whom do we belong?  To whom do we owe allegiance?  Who is the source of our salvation and the unity of the community?  Is it not the Good Shepherd, who demonstrates his great love for us through his willingness to lay down his life for his brothers and sisters?  Is it not the one whom the powers and principalities of this world chose to put to death, but whom God has vindicated through resurrection and by creating a new community in his image?  These seem to be the messages emerging from the texts for this Fourth Sunday of Easter.  The connection between the cross and resurrection, and our own realities continues to ring strong, inviting us to find meaning and purpose, love and truth, salvation and hope, in the person of the Good Shepherd.
            These are in many ways familiar texts, especially when you add into the mix Psalm 23.  They offer words of comfort and hope, but also challenges to our ways of doing things…

An Islamic State in Egypt? The Muslim Brotherhood and the Presidential Elections -- Sightings

It has been a year since Hosni Mubarak fell, and a new day dawned for Egypt.  It was called the Arab Spring, and hopes of further change in regimes arose.  In some places that envisioned change did occur, wile in others things have remained the same or as in Syria have evolved into a bloody civil war.  Progress in Egypt, the largest Arab state, has been slow and has at times lurched backward.  As many in the West watched last Spring, they envisioned a Western style democracy led by more secular types.  What they feared was the rise of religiously based parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.   The Muslim Brotherhood has become a player, though rulings by the Election Commission have tempered their prospects of taking the presidency.  Still, more religiously-focused parties have gained traction.  But, should that a problem for us?  After all, here in the United States, one of the two major parties has strong conservative religious orientations.  In today's edition of Sightings, Ba…

Bonhoeffer's Works -- Volume 11 Arrives

I have been fascinated by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's story for many years, first reading Cost of Discipleship (simplyDiscipleshipin the Works of Bonhoeffer series) in college.  I took the "Ethics of Bonhoeffer" class with Lewis Smedes at Fuller, which allowed me to read fairly widely in Bonhoeffer's works, though the focus was his unfinished Ethics.  I've read many of the biographies, starting with Eberhard Bethge's standard bio through Ferdinand Schlingensiepen's Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance (I'd recommend steering clear of the Metaxas popular but extremely problematic bio and go with this one).  And I subscribed to Fortress's English edition of the Works of Bonhoeffer -- sixteen volumes in all.
Yesterday, the most recent volume, number 11, arrived in the mail.  This is by my count the penultimate volume (only volume 14 remains unpublished), and is entitled Ecumenical, Academic, and Pastoral Work, 1931-1932 (Dietr…


SACRAMENTS AND WORSHIP: The Sources of Christian Theology.  Edited by Maxwell E. Johnson.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Books, 2012.  Xvii + 422 pages.
        The sacraments and worship stand at the heart of the Christian faith.  Everything we do is rooted in our worship of God, and the sacraments provide grounding for worship and serve as its expression.  Having said this, it is clear that Christians are not of one mind when it comes to either worship or sacraments.  Protestants have two sacraments, while Roman Catholics have seven.  For some worship is extremely formal and for others quite informal.  There is, you might say, some history behind this diversity of belief and expression, and Maxwell Johnson’s book provides the kind of resources that help illuminate this diversity.
Sacraments and Worship forms part of a new series entitled The Sources of Christian Theology.  According to the publisher, this series is intended to”provide resources for the study of major Christian d…

Annenberg Poll on Religion in the Media -- Sightings

Why does the media focus on the sensational, which large numbers of users of media believe happens?  Well, if it's not sensationalized do you pay attention?  Probably not.  Just normal, everyday, religion, doesn't grab us, but if there's a scandal, many of us will look up and pay attention.  But, there's another component to all of this -- very few reporters know much about religion.  Martin Marty comments on a new poll and its implications -- take a look and offer a thought!    ************************** Sightings  4/23/2012
Annenberg Poll on Religion in the Media-- Martin E. Marty
“Most Americans Say Media Coverage of Religion Too Sensationalized” reads the headline of a report on a poll of a sample of “the public” and of journalists. That headline is perhaps a bit too sensationalized itself, because the pollsters had to choose which finding to feature, if they wanted your and my attention. Less apparently sensationalized findings abound and merit more attention than tha…