Showing posts from June, 2014

MARRIED OR SINGLE -- What's God got to do with it?

In Genesis 2 we read that God saw that the man was lonely, and God created a companion who was fit for him.  That reading from Scripture is recognition that we as humans need some kind of human community.  We have often read that passage as the foundation for marriage, and because the two partners are male and female it’s easy to assume that marriage involves a male and a female.  As we’re witnessing, the definition of what accounts for marriage is changing.  Not everyone is in agreement with the changes, but the courts and opinion polls are pointing us in the direction of change.

            I’m working on bible study guide on the topic of marriage.  I’ve already posted one piece dealing with the story of Laban, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.  I noted there that definitions of marriage and family evolve over time.  They are cultural/social constructs that reflect their context. Before I move into the conversation about marriage, it would be helpful to recognize that not everyone gets marrie…

Christians in China Have a Message for the West: -- Sightings (Paul H.B. Chang)

The story of Christianity in China is an amazing one.  Missionaries have been going to China for centuries, but at the time that the Communists kicked them out in 1949, the church was still rather small.  Since then it has boomed -- without the help of Western Missionaries.  Yes, it has suffered persecution, but the church has thrived nonetheless.  In this helpful essay, Paul Chang invites us to dwell not on the persecution suffered, but the values developed -- values that are appealing to Chinese people growing ill at ease by the hyper capitalism that has grabbed a hold of the nation.  Take a look, read, and consider!

Christians in China Have a Message for the West: Don't Focus on Our Oppression, Focus on Our Valuesby PAUL H. B. CHANG
Thursday | June 26 2014The Holy Family                                               Image Credit: Olaer / Elmer Anthony (flickr Creative Commons)Like many Chinese Christians of his generation, Brother Bai had a stirring autobiography shaped by China…

Slow Church (Chris Smith & John Pattison): A Review

SLOW CHURCH: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus. By C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison.  Downer’s Grove:  Intervarsity Press, 2014.  246 pages.
                The song goes like this:  “Slow down, you move to fast, you’ve got to make the morning last . . .”  The Simon and Garfunkel song celebrates having “fun and feeling groovy” (very 1960s), but perhaps it is a clarion call to our society, and to the church, which has embraced speed and efficiency.   It’s not just fast food that we embrace; it’s speed in all its forms – especially its technological forms.   The growing impatience that marks our culture is, as one would expect, making itself felt in the church.  We need to get in and get out quickly, because we’ve got so much to do.  The lure of the megachurch is due in part to this felt need for speed and efficiency.  Turn off the freeway, turn right into the parking lot, get your spiritual tank filled up, and off you go.
                I’m not a Ludite, so I wel…

Wasting life?

We live in a society that values productivity.  We are becoming increasingly concerned about efficiency.  But is there a place for wastefulness in life?  I was reading through the sermons of Paul Tillich in preparing a homily for the wedding I'm doing this weekend.  And I came across this word.  Perhaps it will resonate with you.
The history of mankind is the history of men and women who wasted themselves and were not afraid to do so.  They did not fear the waste of themselves, of other men, of things in the service of a new creation.  They were justified, for they wasted all this out of the fullness of their hearts.  They wasted as God does in nature and history, in creation and salvation.  The monsters of nature to which Jahweh points in His answer to Job -- what are they but expressions of the divine abundance?  Luther's God, who acts heroically and without rules -- is He not the wasteful God who creates and destroys in order to create again?  Has not Protestantism lost a a…

Giving Up, Giving Down -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

A consistent theme in most congregations is stewardship.  Most of us take an offering each week as part of worship.  We sing some sort of doxology.  We talk about the good gifts that God has given us, and thus return a portion for the work of God.  The funds collected goes to pay for the heat and the cooling, salaries for people like me, and ministries that include outreach into the community.  Martin Marty writes this week about a slight drop in giving levels among religious communities.  I had heard that this was happening -- perhaps as a result of the economic downturn.  The decline in worship attendance and church membership doesn't help.  What has gone up is giving to education, arts, and animals.  The first two likely due to foundation grants, whereas religious giving comes from individuals who participate in congregations.  I invite you to read along and offer your thoughts on the value accorded religious institutions..

Giving Up, Giving Downby MARTIN E. MARTY
Monday | June …

The Welcome Mat -- Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 3A

Matthew 10:40-42New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”                 Jesus sent out as disciples two by two – all twelve of them – on a missionary journey.  He sent them out with just the clothes on their backs.  No money in their belts.  No health insurance.  No lunches.  They were to preach the Good News to the Jewish community – not Gentiles or Samaritans.  As they went out on this journey they were to live off the land.  When they entered a community, they were to find a house that was worthy and stay there.  If they found a home to be un…

Adding Chairs to the Table

Hospitality is, so says John Pattison and Chris Smith, at the heart of what it means to be a Christian community.  In saying this,they don't mean that we should make sure we put out our best silver and china each week at coffee hour.  No, true hospitality is demonstrated through inclusion.  They turn on its head Jesus' parable of the great banquet in Luke 14:15-24.  In the parable a dinner host sends out invites.  Everyone sends their regrets, so the host sends out his servants to bring in as many people from the highways and byways to fill the seats -- so that if the original invitees reconsider there won't be room.  This sounds rather negative and exclusive.  But they offer this take, which I think is quite illuminating. 
Christians spend too much time "deciding" who can't be invited at the dinner party.  In contrast, we believe it's our responsibility and privilege as followers of Jesus to add chairs to the table, not take them away, almost compelling …

Alive for God in Christ -- Sermon for Pentecost 2A

Romans 6:1b-11

On the day of Pentecost, the people gathered in the streets of Jerusalem asked Peter what they needed to do to be saved.  Peter told them that if they would repent and be baptized, they would receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).  That passage of scripture has been a foundation stone for Disciples life from the beginnings of the movement.  In some circles, just giving the biblical reference Acts 2:38 is like saying John 3:16.  Everybody knows what it says.
Baptism comes up again in Romans 6, where Paul is in the middle of a conversation about sin, law, grace, and the Christian life.  In Romans 5, Paul wrote that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”  It seems that there were some Christians in Rome, who believed that grace was an eternal get out of jail free card, so why not throw caution to the wind.  After all, God will forgive.  There’s a name for this belief – “antinomianism.”   That’s Greek for “no law.”  
While we v…