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Showing posts from July, 2013

When Will You Do the Right Thing? A Lectionary Reflection -- Pentecost 10C

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Hosea 11:1-11

Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21
When Will You Do the Right Thing?
Most of us who live on the liberal/progressive side of the Christian faith have qualms about the portions of Scripture that deal with things like judgment and wrath.  We prefer a loving God over an angry God; the light side of God to the dark side.  We know that these images are there, we’d just rather they not be there.  They complicate our theology and our image of God.  The creators of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) seem to understand our sensitivity and so they do their best to filter out as much as possible such images.  However, occasionally we must face God’s dark side. 
            In each of the texts I’ve chosen to address there is both a word of hope and a word of judgment.  We might call this realism of sorts. 
The prophet Hosea speaks to a people facing great uncertainty.  After experiencing the long reign of Jeroboam II, things have gotten somewhat chaotic and the Assyrian Empire is knocking…

Legacy of the Protestant Mainline Reconsidered -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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As Martin Marty packs up his bags to go to the "beach," he offers us ideas for reading.  It's not typical beach fare, but it will be of interest to those of us interested in the present and future of the church in which many of us serve . . .  The readings focus on the whole question of Protestant liberalism and the decline of the mainline.  Why, the question is asked, should we be surprised by the decline.  History shows that empires rise and fall, or at least decline.  Those groups regnant today will likely find their own day of decline.  And some empires even regain their footing!  Take a read -- it will be the last opportunity to read Martin Marty until September.
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Sightings SightingsLegacy of the Protestant Mainline Reconsideredby Martin E. Marty
Monday | July 29 2013NOTE: Sightings will be on hiatus during the month of August and will return September 2, 2013.During Sightings’ annual “August Hiatus,” I (figuratively) load up my beach bag …

Created and Led by the Spirit (Mary Sue Dehmlow Dreier) -- Review

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CREATED AND LED BY THE SPIRITt: Planting Missional Congregations (Missional Church).  Edited by Mary Sue Dehmlow Dreier.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013.  Xiii + 209 pages.

                In this day and age, it is important to describe one’s church as being missional.  Confession – my church seeks to be missional also.  It’s too early to know if the word missional is so widely used that it’s descriptive usefulness is questionable, but whenever one reads a book on being missional, it’s probably a good idea to stop and take stock to discern whether this is really a missional book or not.  Created and Led by the Spirit is missional in orientation, but it places its focus on the task of planting missional congregations.  Thus, it’s not a book about becoming missional, it’s about being intentional in the course of planting churches that these congregations see themselves as being missional from the start.
Created and Led by the Spirit is the most recent volume in a se…

Ask, Seek, Knock -- Sermon for Pentecost 10C

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Luke 11:1-13


The theme for this year’s General Assembly emerged from this very passage of Scripture – “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.”  It was a good theme for us to take up as we entered once again into important but often difficult conversations.  It is always good to bathe our conversations in prayer.  After all, we come together as followers of Jesus who seek to be in relationship with the living God.  Sometimes we forget that this is true.  Our prayers become perfunctory rituals.  We offer a quick word to God, assuming God is paying attention, and then we get on with business, often forgetting that we’ve invited God into the conversation.    
The Disciples come to Jesus and they ask him to provide them with a distinctive way of praying – just like John did for his disciples.  And Jesus complies.  The result is a prayer that in one form or another we’ve been offering up to God for two millennia.  
Luke’s version is a briefer than the one in Matthew, which is closer to what we pray today.  B…

Why Are Millennials (and others) Leaving the Church? Thoughts on a Rachel Held Evans Post

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Demographic studies tell us that Millennials (our current group of young adults) are leaving the church in droves.  Those of us serving in leadership at smaller mainline churches already know this to be true. In fact, for many of our churches it's not the Millennials who are missing, it's the GenXers who seem most absent (at least this is true in my congregation).   
So, depending on who you listen to or read, the reasons given vary, but the fact is -- fewer young adults are attending church than in previous generations (I should not here that when we look at trends it's quite likely that the 1950s was an anomaly).  Whether in church or not, many still seek to be spiritually-oriented and even see themselves aligned with specific religious categories -- but as for the church as a body -- not so much.
It's not a new conversation, but a posting today at the CNN Belief blog Rachel Held Evans sought to answer the question:  Why Millennials are Leaving the Church.  She has …

Liberty to the Captives (Ramond Rivera) -- Review

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LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES: Our Call to Minister in a Captive World.By Raymond Rivera.  Foreword by Jim Wallis.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012.  Xii + 160.

It is a truism that conservative theology goes with conservative politics.  That may be true in middle class suburban communities and congregations like the one that I inhabited during my late teens and early 20s, but it’s not necessarily true in Hispanic or African American communities.  In these communities a strong commitment to social justice is often combined with evangelical theological commitments.  Experiences of oppression, discrimination, racism, and economic marginalization can eventuate in a theology of liberation that calls not just for charity but for systemic restructuring of society.    
In Liberty to the Captives Raymond Rivera, a Pentecostal pastor and social activist, offers a vision of the church engaged in prophetic social engagement.  The theology is, as one might expect from a Pentecosta…

Finding God in a Song -- Sightings (Mary Channen Caldwell)

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What is the relationship of musical genre to faith expressions?  Back in the day, during my teen years, as I became more engaged with evangelical/Pentecostal Christianity, I exchanged my old Moody Blues records for Love Song and Andrae Crouch.  The lyrics changed, but for the most part the music wasn't all that different.  The early Jesus Movement bands were composed of rock and rollers who had converted, and as Larry Norman asked:  "Why Should the Devil have all the Good Music?"  In this piece Mary Channen Caldwell explores the question of genre and faith in relation to two musicians, one Jewish and one Christian who shared in a duet on a hymn.  I invite you to read and consider the question -- what is sacred music anyway?
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Sightings SightingsFinding God in a Song: Religion, Klezmer, and Countryby Mary Channen Caldwell
Thursday |  July 25 2013In a 2012, New York Times music-album review, “On Religion: A Search for God Through Bluegrass an…

When We Fall, God Raises Us -- Alternative Lectionary Proper 13 (David Ackerman)

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With his book and website -- Beyond the Lectionary -- David Ackerman provides preachers or students of scripture an alternative lectionary, with focus on texts that often get neglected. We all know the story of Samson and Delilah. We learned it in Sunday School, but do we preach it. Then there's the story of Eutyches, who falls out a window due to Paul's long winded sermon, and in the Gospel of John there's conversation about eternal life. I invite you to consider these texts and David's guidance into them.

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Proper 13
August 4, 2013 “When We Fall, God Raises Us” Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:17-24 NRSV One:  Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word. Many:  Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. One:  I live as an alien in the land; do not hide your commandments from me. Many:  My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times. One:  You rebuke the insolent, accursed one…

Marriage Equality, by Steve Kindle -- Review

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MARRIAGE EQUALITY:   Why Same-sex marriage is good for the church and the nation.  By Steven F. Kindle.  CreateSpace.com, 2013.  178 pages (Kindle version available).
When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June on a 5-4 vote it confirmed what growing numbers of Americans had already begun to believe – the definition of to whom one can be married has begun to change.  In recent years, slowly but surely the states have begun to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  The vast majority of states continue to ban such marriages, but as for the Federal Government, at least in states where marriage rights have already been granted, the Federal Government shall henceforth affirm them as legal marriages.
The trend may be moving toward both openness and affirmation, but there remains a strong though diminishing opposition.  Most opponents argue from a religious perspective – arguing that the Bible forbids it.  They may also turn to “nature,” but nature is p…