Showing posts from July, 2014

Choosing a Partner -- Bible times and today

Hosea 1:2-9
How do you go about finding a mate?  How we answer that question may depend on our culture and our time in history.  In America it is assumed that a person will date a number of people, starting in high school or soon after, before making a decision.  It’s assumed that a person needs to get know different kinds of people so that they can figure out with whom they can find the best match.  Over the course of time, they might meet someone they feel comfortable with and wish to commit the rest of their lives.  Although some couples create pre-nuptial agreements protecting assets they bring into a marriage, that rarely happens the first time around.  For one thing they often bring very few assets into the relationship, and the romantic vision has yet to be tainted by broken relationships. 
The age at which marriage first occurs is getting later every year.  Over the past thirty years the median age at which couples get married has increased from 24.7 for males and 22.0 for wome…

GRACE against sex abuse -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

You have heard much information about sexual abuse by Catholic priests.  But they're not alone.  It's present in many places and forms.  This includes the evangelical community.  We don't hear much about it, but if Billy Graham's grandsonBoz Tchividjian, is correct, it could be worse than what we've seen in the Roman Catholic Church.  In his last piece of the summer, Martin Marty examines this situation, highlights the leadership being taken by Tchividjian and his organization -- GRACE --  inviting us to do the same.  Take a read, and offer your thoughts.  

GRACE against sex abuseby MARTIN E. MARTY
Monday | July 28 2014                                                                                                 Image Credit: Mikael Damkier / ShutterstockGRACE acronates “Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.” Its story is well told in Kathryn Joyce’s “By Grace Alone,” an article in American Prospect (May/June; see “Sources,” below). Please read it…

A Hidden Abundance

Matthew 14:13-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was …

Toughest People to Love (Chuck DeGroat) -- Review

TOUGHEST PEOPLE TO LOVE: How to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in Your Life -- Including Yourself.By Chuck DeGroat.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.  177 pages.
We have all encountered people whom we find difficult to love.  For a variety of reasons they cause us headaches and heartaches.  They can be family members, neighbors, people we work with, and as the title of this book suggests – we might even find it difficult to love ourselves.  All of this is especially true for those who have been called to pastoral ministry and leadership.  While we might called to serve all the people in the congregation, there will invariably be people we find it difficult to work with.  Yes, Jesus may call us to love our neighbors, but some neighbors are more difficult to love than others.
Chuck DeGroat, Associate Professor of Pastoral care and counseling at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI and former teaching pastor at City Church of San Francisco, h…

Strange Customs -- A Sermon for Pentecost 7A

Genesis 29:15-28

This summer I had the privilege of officiating at the weddings of two  of our couples.  I’ve done a few weddings in my time, so I’ve got a bit of experience with these sorts of things.  It’s clear to me that wedding customs have changed somewhat since Cheryl and I were married thirty-one years ago.  I think things were a bit simpler back then, or at least that’s the way it seems to me and others my age.  But, that’s the way life is – things tend to change.
The reading from Genesis this morning tells an interesting wedding story. It’s part of a larger story that goes back to when Jacob tricked his brother Esau out of his inheritance.  From the very beginning of the story, we learn that Jacob, who is one of the heroes of the Bible, is also a  trickster who gets by on his wits. But sometimes tricksters get tricked, and that’s what happens here. 
What stood out to me as I read this passage is how different our customs are from those in the ancient world.  If things have chan…

Myanmar: Buddhist-Muslim Tensions -- Sightings (David Steinberg)

There are growing political, ethnic, religious tensions.  Wherever we look in the world there is something going on and no one seems able to control it.  The world is becoming increasingly diffuse.  Religion plays a role in this, in part because religion often has cultural components.  It's not just Constantinian imperialist Christianity -- it is part of reality.  Americans are frustrated that we can't control events anymore.  We blame the President (both the current and the former), but in reality we are living in an age of transition, and that makes for a lot of discomfort.  David Steinberg in a Sightings piece explores the dynamics of Muslim-Buddhist relations in Myanmar (Burma).  Yes, even Buddhists have a dark side!  I invite you to read and reflect on these ongoing realities.  

Marriage Covenants -- the Ties that Bind

Ruth 1:16-18

When we look at marriage from a government perspective, it is essentially a binding contract entered into by two consenting parties.  This contract brings with it certain obligations and privileges – including significant tax benefits.  The state provides these incentives, because it has been believed that stable families – with legally binding agreements – provide for a stronger community and nation.  This contract continues indefinitely, unless the parties choose to end it through divorce proceedings.  These contracts can, and often are, celebrated with religious ceremonies.  The ceremonies, however, are optional.  The most important requirement is that the couple signs the document, has it witnessed by their representatives and another duly authorized person, often clergy, but not necessarily clergy.  That kind of definition of marriage might seem rather dry and mechanical, but essentially – from a governmental perspective that’s what marriage is. 

Feasting on the Gospels -- Mark -- A review

FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS -- MARK: A Feasting on the Word Commentary.  Edited by Cynthia A. Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.  x + 552 Pages.

Lectionary preachers, like myself, continue to be blessed by resources like the Feasting on the Word Series from Westminster John Knox Press.   With that lectionary based series finished, WJK Press has launched a companion series, this time focusing on the gospels utilizing the same methodology used in the first series. Matthew as the first gospel to be treated in this way.  Now, editors Cynthia Jarvis and Elizabeth Johnson, have added a volume covering the Gospel of Mark.  

The two editors bridge the academic-parish divide.  Cynthia Jarvis is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Elizabeth Johnson is J. Davison Philips Professor of New Testament  at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decataur, Georgia.  Both editors served on the editorial board of the ear…

Russian Orthodoxy -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

With Russia and Vladimir Putin in the news following the downing of the Malaysian Airlines plane by (it would seem) Russian separatists, Martin Marty explores recent conversations about the nature of Russian Orthodoxy and whether it informs or is being used for "bum causes."  The closing line is key -- "what we don't know can hurt us."  So what do we need to know about Eastern forms of Christianity?  What do we need to know about religion and how it is used?  

Russian Orthodoxyby MARTIN E. MARTY
Monday | July 21 2014Putin by Platon                                                       Image Credit: firdaus omar / flickr creative commons“Many a bum show has been saved by the flag,” actor and playwright George M. Cohan once mumbled in criticism of the hypocritical use of patriotic symbols in efforts to rescue bad plays. One could also mumble, “Many a bum cause has been saved by the cross, or the crescent, or the star of David, etc.,” in criticism of the hypocritic…

Treasure Hunting in the Kingdom -- Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 7A

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[a] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore…

Dare We Speak of Hope? (Allan Boesak) -- A Review

DARE WE SPEAK OF HOPE?: Searching for a Language of Life in Faith and Politics.   By Allan Aubrey Boesak.  Foreword by Nicholas Wolsterstorff.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.  Xiv + 202 pages.
                Religion and politics – these can be and often are volatile partners.  The founders of the United States sought to separate them institutionally, but since religion and politics are central to human life, the lines are often blurred.  So, how does one speak a word of hope when faith and politics intersect?
                Religion played a significant role in the South African struggle for freedom and equality.  Both sides in this struggle appealed to religion.  Both found support and sustenance.  That apartheid finally collapsed could be a sign of God’s favor, but that is a matter of interpretation – as was true 150 years ago in the midst of the American Civil War.  One of the key figures in this struggle for freedom in South Africa was Allan Aubrey Boe…

Oh God, Please Let My Team Win. Please. Amen. -- Sightings (Joseph L. Price)

It is common to hear athletes thank God for delivering them victory.  God seems rather partisan when it comes to sports -- or at least many of us hope so.  That must mean that the Cub fans are rather poor in their praying (not to mention Lions' fans).  The World Cup brought out many pray-ers on behalf of team and nation.  Obviously God was on the side of the Germans and not the Argentinians.  Could this be a sign that God preferred Benedict to Francis?  (I hope not).  In any case, Joseph Price offers us interesting reflections on the phenomenon of sporting prayers.  I invite you to read and reflect.   By the way, I'm praying for a either a repeat of the Bay Bridge Series of 1989 (so the Giants can obtain bragging rights) or a repeat of the 2012 Series (with the Giants winning, of course).     

Oh God, Please Let My Team Win. Please. JOSEPH L. PRICE
Thursday | July 17 2014                                                                                            Photo Cr…