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Showing posts from June, 2012

Cultivating Sent Communities -- A Review

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CULTIVATING SENT COMMUNITIES: Missional Spiritual Formation (Missional Church).Edited by Dwight J. Zscheile.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012.  Xv +201 pages.
                Being missional is about more than simply doing things.  It’s a question of being.  It relates to the identity of a congregation, and therefore it’s a very spiritual reality.  Our doing emerges out of our spiritual being.  That said, no congregation is born missional.    Missional identities must be formed – spiritually. 
                In Cultivating Sent Communities, we’re presented with a series of essays that focus specifically on this issue -- the spiritual formation of missional communities.  The list of contributors reveals that this particular book has a “Lutheran feel,” or at least the majority of contributors has a connection with the Lutheran tradition or is connected with Luther Seminary (the editor for the book is an Episcopal priest who serves as Assistant Professor of Congrega…

Health Care Reform, the Court, and Jesus!

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Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that the Health Care Reform law enacted by Congress in 2009 is Constitutional under it's ability to issue taxes.  In essence, with this 5-4 decision, the Court sent the issue back to the political arena.  John Roberts, a rather conservative Justice, doesn't seem to have joined the majority because he liked the law, but because to reject it outright threw the court into the middle of a political storm, and this time he didn't want to do this.  So, now the Congress and the current or next President will have to deal with the consequences -- for good or ill!
As for me and my house, we welcome the decision.  The Affordable Care Act is far from a perfect law, but it is probably the best we can do at this moment to provide health care for as many Americans as possible.  The United States has a great health care system if you have the money or good insurance, but for the most part its a system designed to react to health problems not prevent th…

Translating the Trinity for Muslims -- Sightings

I want to start off with a confession-- I am a Trinitarian who is in regular conversation with Muslims about what monotheism actually means.  I am also part of a Christian communion that has traditionally shied away from making determinative statements on the Trinity -- not with Muslim consciences in mind, but because the word is not present in the New Testament and it took three centuries for the doctrine to be fully defined.  In addition, as Miroslav Volf points out the concerns that Muslims have about the Trinity can be relieved if we are careful in our definitions.  I say all of this to introduce the Sightings column written by Sarah Yardney that deals with the complaints made against the Wycliffe Bible Translators, whom they charge with removing the Trinity from the New Testament (as if the full blown doctrine is actually present).  As Yardney notes much of the debate focuses on English words, rather than on what would be the best way to translate Pater and huios into Arabic or U…

Authentic Love -- A Lectionary Reflection

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Lamentations 3:22-33
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43
Authentic Love
We robustly sing “They will know we are Christians by our love” believing that these words accurately reflect our profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  But is this accurate?  Is our love of God and others truly authentic?  And what is the mark of this love that we profess?  Are we willing to lay down our lives for our friends? 
            When we think biblically about love, we often turn to the Greek word agape.  I think the best definition of this word is offered by theologian Tom Oord, who defines agape as “acting intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being in response to that which produces ill-being” (Oord, The Nature of Love: A Theologyp. 56).  He calls this “in spite of love.”  Agapedoes goodin spite ofevil previously inflicted.  Just as God loves usin spite ofour rebellion, complacency, and sin, so we ought to love others and ourselves in spite ofthe pain, suffering, and destru…

Dancing With Diana 3 -- A Multi-Faceted God (Bruce Epperly)

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Who is God?  What is God's nature?  That is the question that Bruce Epperly takes up in response to his reading of Diana Butler Bass's Christianity after Religion.  The stern, angry, distant God, seems to be going by the wayside.  The question is -- how do we envision this God we seek to encounter?  Take a read, offer your thoughts.

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Dancing with Diana – 3  A Multifaceted God? Part One Bruce Epperly
My dance partner Diana Butler Bass notes perceptively “God as Stern Father is going away and is being replaced by a multifaceted divinity open to invention and interpretation.” (Christianity after Religion, 50)  While there are a lot of Stern Father God’s still out there, many of them in the most conservative sectors of the religious and political worlds, a more fluid and accessible God is emerging not only among seekers but among mainstream, progressive, and evangelical Christians.  As Thomas Jay Oord argues from an evangelical perspective, our best images of Go…

Southern Baptist Decline -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

As the pastor of a Mainline Protestant congregation, I know all about membership decline.  My congregation, actually is holding its own after years of experiencing decline, and hopefully poised for growth.  More liberal or moderation congregations have been told repeatedly that conservative/ideologically narrow congregations grow, while more open ones don't.  I think that theology could play a role, but I think cultural adaptation plays a bigger role.  Conservative churches appear to have been first adapters of technology and they tend to have larger families.  But, I digress.  In this week's edition of Sightings, Martin Marty notes that both the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Church are experiencing declines of their own.  What all are encountering is a changing attitude among younger people, who are no more enamored with Baptist mega-churches as they are with organ-playing Mainline ones.  So, with Dr. Marty, we contemplate the realities of the day.  Decline r…

Blurring the Lines -- Review

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BLURRING THE LINES. By Jerry Zehr.  Self-published, 2012.  203 pages.

I was asked by the author of Blurring the Lines to read and offer my thoughts on this first novel.  As an author, I must commend Jerry Zehr for taking on the task of writing a novel that would offer a compelling story while also providing a platform for readers to explore spiritual things.  Narrative is an increasing important vehicle for us to share faith stories, but it's not an easy genre to master, especially in a first novel.

Taking into account that this is a first novel, we can let question of style and formula take a back seat as we try to inhabit the story that Jerry wants to tell in these pages.  We're invited to see the world  in all its beauty and ugliness (and there's a lot of ugliness in this story), through the eyes of Thomas, a young man who grew up Mennonite in a small Indiana town that is predominately Amish.  His father had left the Amish tradition but remained present in the broader …

Friends for Life -- A Sermon

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1 Samuel 17:57-18:5

What is a friend?  In the age of Facebook, that’s not as easy to answer as it was before the advent of Social Media.  I have nearly a thousand Facebook friends, but truth be told I’m not quite sure who many of them are!  Still, I’ve found Facebook to be a wonderful way to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. 
Of course, we’ve always known that there are different levels of friendship.  Some can last for a week at camp and others a lifetime.  Some are extremely close and others are more distant. But this need to make friends is a reminder of what God observes in the Garden – It’s not good for humans to be alone.    I know that Facebook or Twitter isn’t for everyone, but we all find ways of connecting and reconnecting with others. That’s the reason many go to reunions.  We like to keep rekindling old friendships.  But, it’s not enough to keep old friendships alive, we have continually make new ones, and for introverts like me that’s not always easy!  But maybe …

Beware the Contagion of Sinners and Tax Collectors!

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9 As Jesus continued on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. He said to him, “ Follow me, ” and he got up and followed him. 10 As Jesus sat down to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples at the table.11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “ Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? ”12When Jesus heard it, he said, “ Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do.13Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice.t I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners. ”  (Matthew 9:9-13 CEB).

I stay with the text from Matthew 9, as I continue with my reflections on Richard Beck's provocative book Unclean.   As you read and reflect on this brief passage, which speaks of God's preference for mercy over sacrifice, consider why the Pharisees might be concerned about Jesus' table fellowship.  As we reflect on this passage, we wil…