Showing posts from July, 2012

Jews in "The Economist" -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Jews are often in the news.  It can be good or bad, but even though the population isn't large (under 14 million worldwide) they continue to make their presence felt.  We who are Christians consider ourselves connected to them -- their Bible is part of our Bible.  Our founding figures were Jewish. So, you could say -- I'm interested.   Martin Marty writes in this post about the issues facing the Jewish people and Israel, as recounted in an article in The Economist.  I would like to share it and invite comment. ************************

  7/30/2012 Jews in the Economist
-- Martin E. Marty Jews receive and merit attention, in this case twelve pages of it in a “Special Report” in the Economist. According to the report, there are 13,580,000 Jews in the world, which is fewer than there are Southern Baptists (15-16 million) in the United States, where there are 5,275,000 Jews. Both of the two “populations” choose to make news and do make news, so Sightings could not overlook them …

From Pain to Power

As I spend time this week at the PICO Network's National Training, I've been struggling with how to use principles of community organizing in my congregation and in coalition with others in organizing in suburban congregations.
One of the words, as I shared yesterday, that we've been working with is "power."  For many Christians, especially Christians living in suburban contexts, this isn't a topic of conversation.  Power is usually seen as having "coercive" tendencies, and we're not supposed to engage in such things.  But how do we engage the world in which we live without making use of power?  If we go talk to civic leaders we address power brokers, so if we don't have our own power, how are we to engage?  As we role-played civic conversations today, we recognized that persons in power will often try to distract or diminish our voice -- so how do we make them listen and take our concerns seriously?  
As you contemplate this question, cons…

Faith in the Public Square -- A Conversation

Central Woodward Christian Church Presents:

A Conversation

August 29, 2012 (Wednesday Evening) 7:00 P.M. -8:30 P.M.

Join us for an evening of conversation about living faithfully in 21st Century America with Dr. Bob Cornwall, Pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church and Convener of the Troy-Area Interfaith Group. The event will include a book signing of his new book Faith in the Public Square (Energion Publications, 2012). Books will be available for purchase.

3955 W. Big Beaver Road
Troy, MI 48084

For More information about the book go here:

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Is It Okay to Build Communities of Power?

In Acts 1 we read about Jesus' departure from the earth post resurrection.  In his final conversation he makes a promise that though he leave the Spirit will come and with the coming of the Spirit the followers of Jesus are to be witnesses for Jesus of the coming kingdom.  The text reads:
6As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “ Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? ” 7Jesus replied, “ It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority.8Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. ” Note the word "power"  in verse 8.  With the coming of the Spirit the community will receive power (dunamis).  
I think that many of us are uncomfortable with this word "power."  Perhaps it's because with power comes responsibility, and we'd rather not take responsibility.  Mayb…

What is Shari'a Law in The Contemporary World?

You likely have heard about efforts to ban Sharia law in America.  These efforts are expressions of fear that somehow Muslims will gain a foothold in America and implement/impose Muslim forms of law on the American people.  Proponents of these laws suggest that Sharia will bring draconian forms of punishment such as beheadings and cutting off of hands and the like.  And, with daily reports from places like Afghanistan in the news, it's easy to see why this is true.
But, is this really what Sharia is all about?  Could it be that Sharia is really an overarching vision of justice and even salvation?  Is it, therefore, more a spiritual concept developed to organize life in a Muslim context than a legal code focused on rules and punishments?  Indeed, is it more akin to Jewish laws that guide diet and marriage and the like, laws that are considered without concern in American courts?
The reality is -- we who live outside the Muslim context simply don't understand Sharia in all it&…

THE PRAYER OF THE APOSTLE -- Reflections on Ephesians 3:14-21

The chapter closes in a prayer that can be broken into three parts. The letter begins by proclaiming to the world the majesty of God (vs. 14-1 5), Then the prayer moves on to three related petitions: 1 ) That they might be strengthened in their inner being as Christ dwells in their hearts through faith; 2) That they might comprehend the love of Christ; 3) That they might be filled with God’s fullness (1 6-1 9). Finally, the prayer closes with a doxology, declaring praise to the God who is at work in the believer, “accomplishing far more than all we can ask or imagine.” 

Focusing on the three petitions that form the middle of the prayer, we notice that the author is making a request of God, that God would strengthen the believers internally so that they might be prepared for the tasks ahead. In making this petition the author recognizes that faith, or better yet, trust, is needed if the believer is to participate in God’s work. The second petition focuses on the love of Christ, in whic…

Sharing God's Bounty -- Lectionary Meditation (Ordinary Time)

2 Kings 4:42-44
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

Sharing in God’s Bounty
                It doesn’t seem to matter where you’re at these days – you will find people talking about scarcity.  There’s a scarcity of jobs, food, water, money, young people (in church), and more.  Consumer confidence decreases by the day and people are pulling inward, focusing on themselves.  Why?  Could it be that many people don’t think there’s enough “stuff” to go around.  You have to take what you want, even if it’s at the detriment of others.
                In the United States, we have about 5% of the world’s population but we consume about 24% of the world’s energy.  You can see the disparity here.  And then there’s the whole issue of taxation – what is fair and what is just and what is necessary?  Consider that the top 1% of Americans holds 42% of the nation’s wealth – and that is on the rise not the decline, even in a time of economic stagnation.  Why does that 1% need so much wealth?  Is it good for the…

Dancing with Diana 7 – Intelligence on Ice or Ignorance on Fire

It appears to be a truism that conservative worship is lively and progressive/liberal worship is cold.  One is heart focused and the other head focused.  It's not really that cut and dry, but Mainline Protestant Churches often seem tied to traditional patterns, even as they open up their theology.  Conservatives, on the other hand, don't seem to care as much about style as they do about keeping the theology narrowly focused.  Bruce Epperly in this seventh post inspired by his reading of Diana Butler Bass's Christianity after Religion (Harper, 2012), takes up the question of worship and suggests that progressive worship should engage both heart and head.  Take a read, offer your responses.
Dancing with Diana 7 –  Intelligence on Ice or Ignorance on Fire Bruce G. Epperly
Diana Butler Bass recounts a question she received on Facebook: “Why is it that the choice among churches always seems to be the choice between intelligence on ice and ignorance on fire?”…

Episcopal Church Adapting to Culture -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

The fact is, churches have been adapting to culture from day one.  We've translated the message and tried to find points of contact.  Sometimes that has positive results -- sometimes not so much.  There are often unintended consequences.  The growing openness to gay marriage and ordination is seen as an adaptation to culture and a cause of decline.  But was not the evangelical embrace of slavery in the south a cultural adaptation?  Or, we could point to the intertwining of patriotism and religion.  Is it not a cultural adaptation, one that blunts our ability to speak prophetically? Well, there's been much conversation going on lately between left and right.  Martin Marty picks up on the conversation and gives it some context.  Take a look and a read, and offer your thoughts. **************************************
Sightings  7/23/2012
Episcopal Church Adapting to Culture -- Martin E. Marty Miracles do happen. They are happening recently in the media world on the church front. Critics…

A Woman Called by Sara Barton-- Review

A WOMAN CALLED: Piecing Together the Ministry Puzzle.By Sara Gaston Barton.  Abilene, TX:  Leafwood Publishers, 2012.  220 pages.

       It seems so simple.  The New Testament states clearly that women are to be silent and that they should not have authority over men.  It seems simple enough, except that there are other words from the New Testament that speak a different message, one that hints at, if not always explicitly states, that women were called to ministry and did teach and likely weren’t silent.    But complicating the picture further is the reality of call.  What happens if from your youngest years you have a yearning to preach the gospel and to teach the Bible, not just to women and children, but to every person?  One could, as many have, simply throw away the text, but what if you feel drawn to the biblical message and you don’t want to let it go? 
      Sara Gaston Barton is a woman called to preach.  We should celebrate this calling, but unfortunately she is a member o…

What makes a document sacred? Thoughts on Visit to the National Archives

Most Sundays I go to the pulpit and preach a message that I seek to root in my reading of Scripture.  The biblical text is an ancient document that most Christians consider to be sacred or holy, even divinely inspired.  Some believe they are inerrant or infallible, others don't, but still believe that God can and does speak through them.  Some read the texts flatly, with little attention to critical reading.  Others, focus on their attention on questions raised by a critical reading.  I'm of the opinion that while the text isn't infallible or inerrant, God is in the midst of them.  Perhaps the old Lutheran understanding of the Eucharist applies here -- "in, with, and under."   If you listen carefully and thoughtfully, you will hear the voice of God.  
During my recently completed trip to Washington, DC, my family and I, took a few moments out to visit the National Archives, which are located just off the National Mall, and near both the Capitol and the Supreme C…