Showing posts from February, 2013

Nurturing Spiritual Fruitfulness -- Lectionary Reflection for Lent (3)

Isaiah 55:1-9
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

Nurturing Spiritual Fruitfulness
There are a variety of ways in which we can envision nurturing or nourishing spiritual fruitfulness.  We could take the route of parents providing good nourishing food for their children or that of the gardener who tends the trees so that they bear fruit.  Whatever the images we choose, the point is that the life of faith is expected to lead to spiritual maturity.  We’re expected to bear fruit.
The call to covenant, which is a dominant theme in the biblical story, starts with God’s initiative.  God reaches out to humanity and seeks to build a relationship, but for the covenant to bear fruit, we must respond.   God reaches out in love, but in making the covenant, God sets out certain expectations for us.  The question is, while God will be faithful, will we be faithful to that covenant as well?  There is recognition in the biblical story that this relationship needs to be nurtured and nourished by the Spirit.  …

Revealing Heaven -- Review (TLC Book Tour)

REVEALING HEAVEN: The Christian Case for Near-Death Experiences.By John W. Price.  San Francisco: Harper One, 2013.  165 pages.

I think that most people are somewhat curious about what lies beyond the grave.  Maybe it’s just our hope that death isn’t the end, but most people want to believe that something awaits us beyond the grave.  It might take the form of reincarnation or bodily resurrection or some other manifestation, but whatever the form, death can’t be the last word.  The fact is, no one knows for sure what awaits us.  So, most of us take this as an act of faith, hoping that our ultimate fate comes out well (many seem to believe in a hellish afterlife, but few believe they’re destined to go there).
While most of us take the idea of life after death as a matter of faith not fact, there have been, down through the ages, many reports about people going to heaven and returning to tell their story.  For them, this seems like proof, and there are those who take their testimony as pro…

Christian Pop -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Back in the day, I was an aficionado of Christian Rock and Roll:   Love Song, Larry Norman, The Way, and the rest.  Christian Rock is rock and roll music with Christian lyrics, because as Larry Norman famously declared:  "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?"  There were those who didn't think this was appropriate -- putting religious words to obviously secular music -- but then we'd point to Luther and Wesley who did exactly the same thing.   Well, today Bach lover Martin Marty wades into the discussion of the aesthetics and appropriateness of Christian pop -- in it's variety of forms.  He notes that the walls between secular/sacred music seem to be eroding, with the recognition that there might not be a firm point of demarcation.  Marty will stick with Bach, and maybe a bit of Brubeck, but he opens up the conversation about musical genre's and the church.  What say you? ******************************
Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Reli…

A Time to Weep -- A Lenten Sermon

Luke 13:31-35

It is written in the book of Ecclesiastes: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: (Eccl. 3:1) There is, therefore,  “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (vs. 4).  
We began our Lenten journey with the imposition of ashes, which is a sign of mourning and repentance.  This is a time to weep.  But, we end our journey on Easter Morning with shouts of Alleluia, because Christ our Lord is Risen from the Dead.    Lent reminds us that the life of a disciple of Jesus is complicated.  There are moments of great joy, but also moments of sadness and even suffering.
The reading from Luke begins with a warning from a group of  Pharisees.  They tell Jesus that Herod Antipas wants to add his head to that of John the Baptist.  Jesus tells the “fox,” as he calls the king, that his destiny lies not in Galilee but in Jerusalem. That’s where prophets go to die.    
In the spring of 1968, Martin Luther King went to Memphis t…

God's Incomprehensible Love -- A Lenten Devotional

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.” These words are familiar to a majority of Christians – so familiar that people will flash large cards with John 3:16 at major sporting events. Remember the guy with the rainbow hair who could always be found in the end zone at big time football games. We know the words, but what do they mean?
For the Gospel of John it’s extremely important that we embrace the concept of the incarnation. As John declares in the prologue of his gospel, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus, and therefore Christian spirituality must be embodied.
Although we’re in Lent, perhaps to best understand the message of this passage is to turn to a Christmas song written by Iola Brube…

Seven Glorious Days (Karl Giberson) -- Review

SEVEN GLORIOUS DAYS: A Scientist Retells the Genesis Creation Story.  By Karl W. Giberson. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2012.  Xiii + 190 Pages.

For many of us who profess faith in God, we’re tired of being subjected to the dueling voices of the Richard Dawkinses and the Al Mohlers of the world.  We’re tired of having to choose between good science and our faith.  Fortunately, there are good scientists and theologians who have been able to bridge the gap.  Their voices, unfortunately, often get drowned out by the more extreme voices.  Therefore, it’s important that we elevate those voices that can bring a balanced approach to the conversation, people like Karl Giberson, whose books include the fabulous Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.

Giberson holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Rice University and is currently a professor of science and religion at Stonehill College in Easton Massachusetts, and brings together a strong evangelical faith with a commitment to p…

Capability and the Papacy

Whether or not we were surprised by Benedict XVI's recent letter of resignation, many of us have been fascinated by it.  Many have tried to figure out why, while others want to know what's next.  We've seen plenty of suggestions that ultimately leaving us asking:  "Is the Pope Catholic?"  That  is, many of us from outside the Catholic Church have been essentially inviting the next Pope to become an Episcopal Bishop at the very least.  Some of us have been interested enough in the whole question of resignation that we've looked back at the two previous instances, one demanded by a Council to end the Great Schism (1415) and the earlier one the result of a seemingly accidental Pope, feeling overwhelmed, who walks away (Celestine V).  [On Celestine V, Jon Sweeney's book The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvationis an interesting read.]
One of the issues raised by Benedict's resignation, a decision that only a Pope (or apparent…

Becoming Citizens of Heaven -- A Lenten Lectionary Reflection

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:14-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

Becoming Citizens of Heaven
The Lenten journey reminds us that our ultimate allegiance lies beyond family, tribe or nation.  It’s an allegiance to the Creator of all things, the one who chooses to make covenants of blessings with us, inviting us to join in the creative process.  We can use many terms to describe this relationship of allegiance, but perhaps the words from Paul found in this week’s lectionary readings says it perfectly.  We are “Citizens of Heaven.”  Now, to be a citizen of heaven doesn’t mean we live with our heads in the clouds, with no concern for this world.  Instead, to be a citizen of Heaven is to live out of a different set of values.  We live with a divinely given set of values, values that express God’s love, mercy, and justice.  We acknowledge this reality each time we say the prayer Jesus taught the disciples, reciting these words:  “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven.”    To live…