Showing posts from September, 2012

The Power of Prayer -- A Sermon

James 5:12-20

Back in my Pentecostal days we talked a lot about the power of prayer.  We were taught to expect that God would do mighty things, just like in the Bible days.  So, if you pray for the sick, you should expect them to recover.  If they don’t, then something is wrong with the prayer.  Either the pray-er or the pray-ee must lack faith.
It’s easy for those in non-Pentecostal circles to make light of such views, but don’t you expect God to answer your prayers for healing by restoring people to health?  Why else would you pray?  And when someone we’ve been praying for reports back that their cancer has gone into remission or they got that desired job, don’t we rejoice at this answered prayer?    
Eric was my TA back when I was teaching in Kansas.  As far as I know, no one ever said anything bad about him. He was a joy to be around, and because he had all the tools to be a great youth minister, that’s where he devoted his ministry.  Yes, everybody loved Eric, but despite a lot of p…

Taking Jesus at His Word -- A Review

TAKING JESUS AT HIS WORD: What Jesus Really Said in the Sermon on the Mount.Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012.  X + 166 pages.

                The Sermon on the Mount, three chapters of text found in the Gospel of Matthew (and in briefer form and separate location in Luke), is a perennial challenge to Christians.  We like pieces of it – especially the Lord’s Prayer, which many of us recite each Sunday – but many other statements are difficult to receive.  Oh, we like the words; we just don’t see them being a realistic vision for this life.  Maybe in the next life we can love our enemies and turn the cheek, but in this life, especially in places where Christians are the majority, we feel the need to relegate them to a rather spiritual reality.
                  Having preached on this sermon myself, I know the difficulty of receiving the word that is present here, but are we who claim to be followers of Jesus willing to take him at his word?

The Line -- Poverty in America

Too many Americans live at or below the poverty line.  We claim to live in the richest nation in the world, and the riches that mark America are great, and yet poverty continues to persist in our midst.  It affects people living in cities, in rural areas, and even in the suburbs.  Yes, there is poverty in Troy, MI, one of the most affluent cities in Michigan.  No, it's not as visible as in Detroit, but it's there, largely out of sight.
Jesus is quoted as saying that the poor will always be with you.  And that maybe true, but we shouldn't take that truism as license to ignore realities.  People are poor for many reasons.  It can be related to lack of education or bad decisions, but often people fall into poverty for reasons beyond their control.  Factories close, schools are improperly funded, jobs leave, storms hit, the rain ceases to fall, or a medical crisis drains the funds.  Many of the poor work multiple jobs to put food on the table and pay rent.  No one wants to li…

Don Shelton: A Remembrance

“I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7 CEB)
I received word today that my friend, colleague in ministry, and my former Regional Minister, the Rev. Dr. Don Shelton, has died.  I write today to give thanks for his life, for his devotion to family and to his faith, his leadership in the church, and his loyalty to friends and family.  I reach out to Linda, his wife, and to his family, seeking to share my thanks for his life, while sharing my prayers for them in this time of loss.  I don't know the details of when he died or funeral plans, but I would like to share with you my words of gratitude for the life of Don Shelton.
If you don’t know him, Don served two terms as Regional Minister for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Pacific Southwest.Before that he served as pastor of First Christian Church of Bakersfield.Like me, Don and his wife Linda, were graduates of what is now Northwest Christian University in Eugene, OR.He d…

We're All in this Together -- A Lectionary Reflection

Numbers 11:4-6,10-16, 24-29
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50
We’re All in this Together
This is clearly an individualistic age.  Especially in the United States, any hint of collectivism is cause for concern.  Sharing power and resources – the idea of redistribution – is difficult to affirm.  Americans have long lived with the elixir of individualism.  Indeed, my own denominational tradition is built on the premise of individual freedom to interpret and live out the biblical story.  As a pastor it’s easy to get caught up in the game of doing it all – you know, if I don’t do it, it won’t get done.  Now, individual initiative isn’t a bad thing.  The freedom to interpret isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes we forget our kinship with one another.  Sometimes we forget that there is power in relationships. 
       I’ve become more aware of the power of relationships in the course of becoming rather deeply involved in faith-based community organizing efforts.  One of the most important principles of com…

Postcards from Claremont - 5 – Healing the World (Bruce Epperly)

The Disciples of Christ, as I've noted before, have as their motto -- "A Movement of Wholeness in a Fragmented World."  The point of the motto is to express our founding vision of being a community oriented to bringing unity to the Christian community, while at the same time expanding that vision into something broader -- a vision of working together to bring healing to the world.  In today's postcard from Claremont, Bruce Epperly picks up on that theme with a meditation on bringing healing to the world.  It's an important cause, to which he invites us to join him in.  Take a read, and consider how you might be used by God to bring healing to the world.

Postcards from Claremont - 5 –  Healing the World Bruce G. Epperly
For many years, I have centered my understanding of theological ethics and social concern around an image from Jewish spirituality – tikkun olam – mending the world.  Imagine my joy when during my first facult…

The Coptic Papyrus -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Senior Christian statesman Martin Marty is back writing his Sightings column, offering words of wisdom that we need to hear with regularity.  So, here we have his wry take on the recent hullabaloo over whether Jesus had a wife.  You may have heard the news -- there's a fragment of a supposed Coptic manuscript that features the words Jesus and wife, and thus the debate begins.  For many of us, this is really a non-issue.  The canonical texts don't speak of a wife, but what if he did?  Well, as Marty notes -- as with most things relating to Jesus' identity, this one will like fade into history as fast as it emerged, but for now it's a cause célèbre!
*************************   Sightings  9/24/2012 The Coptic Papyrus -- Martin E. Marty
Vying for space and time on the religion-and-media front this week, in competition with presidential campaigns, Muslim extremist riots, and almost numberless other stirs, has been the attention given to a tiny piece of papyrus which includes t…

Energion Political Roundable -- Q. 6 -- Medicare and the Presidential Candidates

The Energion Political Roundtable has reached round six, which as you’ll see focuses on the question of Medicare. My conversation partners are  – Allan Bevere,  Elgin HushbeckJoel Watts, and Arthur Sido. You can check out their responses, and if I have opportunity I’ll share my own responses.  So, on to the question posed by our publisher Henry Neufeld. Here in Florida we're getting a lot of political ads. One of the key topics in both the Senate race between Connie Mack and Bill Nelson and in the presidential race is Medicare. How would you evaluate the plans that each presidential candidate has for Medicare? Should senior citizens be concerned?
Living in Michigan, which apparently has ceased being a battleground state, the ads aren’t coming as fast or as furious (no pun intended) as they are south of the border in Ohio or I presume in Florida.  As for the Senate race in Michigan, this particular issue (Medicare) doesn’t seem to be a major issue, at least at this point.  So, it’s…

Disability, the Body of Christ, and Ministries of Inclusion

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the denomination in which I have my ordination and in whose churches I have and continue to serve as pastor, has as it's "motto":  "We are a movement of wholeness in a Fragmented World."  This motto not only serves to restate our founding vision of  being  advocates for Christian unity, but pushes the imagery further to envisioning our role in God's work of bringing wholeness to a world that is fragmented by ethnic, linguistic, social, cultural, religious, economic and political differences.  But what does wholeness involve?  What does it look like?
I've been pondering this question this weekend as Central Woodward Christian Church, the congregation I serve as pastor, has hosted it's third annual Perry Gresham Bible Lectures.  We've had as our presenter/leader, Dr. Amos Yong, who has authored a powerful book entitled The Bible, Disability, and the Church:  A New Vision of the People of God (Wm. B. Eer…

The tension between sacred principle and human context: A Muslim approach

Today we have before us the second part of Keith Watkins's engagement with Ziauddin Sardar's book Reading the Qur'an.  The conversation reminds us that every faith tradition must wrestle with bridging the gap between the ancient text and the contemporary world.  This book helps engage the Qur'an, but for Christians it can help us engage our own sacred text, helping us recognize our own issues of inculturation.  I would encourage you to first read the piece from yesterday and then take up this one.  This is reposted from Keith's blog Keith Watkins Historian.  

Just a note, Keith is a historian and liturgical scholar, retired from Christian Theological Seminary.

By Keith Watkins: Reading the Qur’an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam, by Ziauddin Sardar (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). Part Two
The sacred books used by Christians, Muslims, and Mormons contain many prescriptions about how p…