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Showing posts from May, 2012

Transformed by God's Glory -- A Lectionary Meditation for Trinity Sunday

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Isaiah 6:1-8
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17
Transformed by God’s Glory
For the third week in a row, the church celebrates a historic festival of the faith.  We began with the Day of Ascension, whence we remember Jesus’ farewell commission and accompanying promise to send to the disciples the Spirit of God, who would empower their mission into the world.  From there we moved on to Pentecost, wherein we celebrated the coming of that promised gift of the Spirit, who would be our companion along the way, empowering us and encouraging us as we fulfill our calling to be witnesses of the in breaking of God’s reign on earth as in heaven.  Now, we observe Trinity Sunday, the one festival of the church that is focused on a doctrine rather than an event in the ongoing story of the revealing of God’s reign in this world, which God loved enough to send a Son, that those who entrust their lives to this reign might experience fullness of life.  
The doctrine of the Trinity has defined the Christian understa…

Are You a Trinitarian?

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This coming Sunday has been designated by the ecclesial calendar as Trinity Sunday.  For much of Christian history Christians have designated God as Trinity -- "One God in Three Persons."   It is a key divider of Christians from the other two Abrahamic faith traditions, that like Christianity affirm monotheism.
Saying that you believe God to be Trinity, however, is not the same thing as understanding what it means for God to be Trinity.  My sense is that most Christians nod at the idea of Trinity and then move on, adopting one of two basic ideas -- unitarianism or tri-theism.  Many Christians think of Jesus as more divinely inspired prophet than God in the flesh, in that they would embrace a view that is shared by unitarianism -- as well as Muslims.  Many other Christians, however, end up in what is best called tri-theism.  That is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are essentially three separate beings.  It's no wonder that many Muslims see Christians as tending toward polyth…

Onward Christian Soldiers . . . ?

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Growing up I learned my share of hymns and songs at church.  Among these was the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers."  It's not in the Chalice Hymnal, but a generation earlier it was a singular favorite.  
The first stanza goes like this:
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;  forward into battle see his banners go!  Refrain:  Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.
It was sung with missionary fervor -- Christians saw themselves taking the message of Jesus to the far ends of the globe, making the world a Christian place.  And with whom were we at war?  Well, the second stanza suggests that our foe is Satan (the ruler of this world).  We push Satan back by converting to Christianity the people of the world.  In an age when "foreign missions" galvanized the church, not just evangelicals, but Mainliners too, the idea that…

Gathering at God's Table -- A Patheos Book Club Review

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GATHERING AT GOD'S TABLE: The Meaning of Mission in the Feast of FaithBy Katherine Jefferts Schori.  Woodstock, VT:  Skylight Paths Publishing, 2012.  Xxvi + 218 pages.
          What is the meaning of mission for Christians living in the 21st Century?   Is it something done “over there” on the mission field?  Is it centered in converting non-Christians to the Christian faith?  I once worked for the U.S. Center for World Mission (I was director of their library), and at the center of their vision was making sure the Christian message penetrated every people group.  Or, is mission seeking to bring healing to bodies and souls?  Is it defined in terms of acts of service – building schools and hospitals?  Mission has many different connotations and nuances, depending on your theology and how you view your place in the world. 
There is an effort underway to define the church as “missional.”  That is, instead of the church doing mission, mission is the church.  It’s not one emphasis …

Andrew Greeley -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

In today's edition of Sightings Martin Marty revisits an earlier conversation regarding Andrew Greeley, prompted by a review published by Kevin Christiano of Greeley's book Chicago Catholics and the Struggles within Their Church.  Marty speaks of his long friendship with Greeley, and Greeley's observation that American Catholics remain faithful, but not necessarily obedient.  We've been watching recent attempts by the bishops and the Vatican to rein in the faithful, but their success rate is questionable.  Marty updates us on Greeley's condition after suffering brain damage from a fall some years ago.  I invite you to read and comment on the question raised by Greeley concerning the way in which the Catholic Church will function going forward. ********************************* Sightings5/28/2012 Father Andrew Greeley -- Martin E. Marty Sightingsdoes not conventionally review books, but one book has been on my desk for months as a prompt for something on which I wanted t…

Welcoming our Companion -- A Sermon for Pentecost Sunday

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John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Pentecost Sunday has finally arrived and some of us are wearing red or something that suggests the color of fire.  We’ve come to celebrate the arrival of the Spirit of God, whom Jesus promised would come and empower the people of God.  It’s also Memorial Day, so we stop to remember those who have died, whether they are family, friends, or those who have died in service to country.  Perhaps the text for today offers us a sense of connection between the two.  Jesus is about to leave his disciples behind, but he doesn’t leave them alone.  If he goes away, the Spirit will come and be present with them, wherever they go in the world.    
The ways in which we celebrate Pentecost varies from tradition to tradition and from region to region.  I recently learned that in Germany, for instance, Pentecost is a two-day holiday.  It begins with worship on Sunday, but continues on into Monday, when Germans, and many other Europeans, get the day off from work so they can partici…

Any Day a Beautiful Change -- A Review

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ANY DAY A BEAUTIFUL CHANGE: A Story of Faith and Family.  By Katherine Willis Pershey.  St. Louis:  Chalice Press, 2012.  118 pages.
                Writing one’s memoirs is risky, because it requires one to be rather transparent about our lives.  A good memoir not only celebrates one’s successes, it also reveals the pathos and struggles that we endure.  Unlike a work of fiction, even ones based on real events, the stories told in a memoir involve the lives of real people whose names are not always changed to protect their identities.  When the persons standing at the center of the story are family, especially a spouse and a child, one must be rather circumspect about what is revealed – their interests must be taken into consideration.   My own inclination (and family request) is to keep family matters relatively private, but to make this a compelling story, and the author of this Any Day a Beautiful Change,  Katherine Willis Pershey, takes a leap of faith and opens up her life and th…

The Wait is Over? -- A Lectionary Meditation for Pentecost

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Acts 2:1-21
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
The Wait is Over?
On the Day of his Ascension, Jesus gave the disciples a commission – be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.  He also told them to wait for the day when the Holy Spirit would come upon them, to empower them, so that they might fulfill this calling (Acts 1:1-11).  The question is – did they do this patiently or not? 
Waiting patiently is not something most us do with any degree of success.  More often than not our waiting is filled with anxiety.  If you call me in the afternoon and tell me you want to meet in the morning to discuss something important – I’m going to fear the worst.  So, if you’ve got something to say – tell me now, because I’ll be tossing and turning all night.  So, let’s get this over with.  Of course in this case the disciples know what has to be done; they just have to wait for the right moment.  They may not be filled with fear, but anxiety can still creep in to our thoughts.  And in our day, when i…