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Showing posts from February, 2014

The Doniger Affair: Freedom of Scholarly Inquiry Takes an Ominous Turn in India -- Sightings

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I h ave been watching the debate over the pulping of Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus by Penguin India, with curiosity and deep concern.  I have good friends who are Hindu-Americans.  I understand their desire to have their religion presented in a way that they recognize.  I would want that for my own faith. I also understand the feeling that Western scholars may not understand their faith from the inside and may impose perspectives they don't affirm.  At the same time, I'm concerned that there is within some of this response an anti-intellectualism that I see present in other faith traditions, including my own.  I've not read the book, so I can't comment on it.  That said, Wendy Doniger is a highly regarded scholar, having doctorates from Harvard and Oxford. She is on the faculty of one of America's leading research universities.  She's an expert in Sanskrit.  But she's not a Hindu.  Does the latter preclude her from interpreting a faith tradition not h…

We Want to See Jesus

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I was reading through a book of sermons by one of my predecessors at Central Woodward Christian Church.  He was a highly regarded preacher in his day -- a national ecumenical leader -- Edgar DeWitt Jones.  I found this closing paragraph in a sermon entitled "Jesus -- an Unfinished Portrait" profound enough to want to share it.  It centers on the question posed to Philip, a disciple of Jesus, by a group of Greeks (that is Gentiles), who ask:  We want to see Jesus"  (John 12:20-21).   In the course of the sermon he speaks of the portraits offered by art, theology, ritual, and institutionalism.  All have offered a portrait, but all are incomplete, and at times obscure the true nature of Jesus.  Jones, closes, with this word:
The portrait of Jesus as exhibited in the character of those who have been captured by his spirit is the only Jesus the multitudes will ever see.  Theology is a closed book to millions; elaborate rituals have slight appeal to host upon host who "t…

Forgive Us Our Anti-Semitism -- Alternative Lectionary for Lent 1 (David Ackerman)

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Christianity, unfortunately, has a horrific legacy of anti-Semitic/anti-Jewish activity.  Much of this is justified by appeal to Scripture.  Texts like the ones chosen for these readings by David Ackerman in his Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionaryhave powerful messages that can speak to us today, but because they also seem to encourage anti-Jewish sentiment they need to be read with great caution.  Texts like these rarely appear in the Revised Common Lectionary -- and you can see why -- but if we're willing to be wise in our interpretation we can hear a Word from God in these texts and avoid blaming the Jews in the course of our preaching and our study.  These texts require careful handling, and a recognition that we have been complicit, even if inadvertantly in these activities, but then that's part of the message of the Gospel reading from Matthew.
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Lent 1
“Forgive Us Our Anti-Semitism”
Call to Worship:  Psalm 25:…

Invitational Ministry (Laurene Beth Bowers): A Review

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INVITATIONAL MINISTRY: Move Your Church from Membership to Discipleship By Laurene Beth Bowers.  St. Louis:  Chalice Press, 2014.  Xv + 144 pages.
                The word membership has a very different sense to it than the word discipleship.  You can be a member of any number of clubs and groups.  You just pay your dues, attend meetings, and maybe join a committee.  The groups we become members of can do good things, and are often worthwhile participating in.  To be a disciple is to be a learner and a follower of one who gives meaning and form to one’s life.  Much more is demanded of a disciple than a member.  Jesus called to himself women and men who would be his disciples, but over time as the church became more and more institutionalized (a natural and normal reality), discipleship was replaced with membership.  Indeed, within a few centuries membership in the church and membership in the nation were essentially synonymous.  This cultural definition of Christianity and the chur…

Eyes Opened -- Lectionary Reflection for Transfiguration Sunday -- Year A

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Matthew 17:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version)

17 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about…

Religious Liberty No Reason to Discriminate

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The number of judicial rulings declaring gay marriage bans to be unconstitutional is growing quickly (Michigan may have an opportunity to add to this collection in the next week or so).  Seeing the writing on the wall -- there's a good chance that a majority of the Supreme Court will finally have the critical mass of decisions to determine once and for all whether the constitution allows states to discriminate against same-gender couples seeking to be married -- a number of state legislatures from across the country have attempted to enact laws that allow persons and businesses to discriminate against LGBT persons on the basis of religious liberty.   
Fortunately in most of these states, enough people realized that passing laws that give license to discriminate isn't good policy.  In Kansas such a law made it through one branch of the legislature but didn't pass muster in the other.    
I understand that not everyone is on-board with  the marriage equality movement.  I kn…

What’s in a Name? -- Reclaiming a Founding Vision Sermon #7

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Genesis 17:1-8, 15


How did you get your name?  I’m named after my father, Robert David Cornwall, Sr, who was concerned about the family legacy.  As for Brett, he’s named after the center-fielder from the 1989 National League Champion San Francisco Giants.  This was a compromise choice, after Cheryl rejected my first choice -- Will Clark, who was the Giants’s first baseman that year. Our names reflect the eras in which we were born, our family heritage, and even our cultural climate.  Some names endure and others don’t.   
While we don’t usually think about the meaning of a name, names often have meanings in the biblical story.  In the Gospel of Matthew, the Angel tells Joseph to name the couple’s child Jesus, because he will save the people from their sins. Jacob’s name gets changed to Israel, because “he has striven with God, and has prevailed” (Gen. 32:28).  Then there are names that Hosea gave to his children:  “Not Pittied” and “Not My People” (Hosea 1:2-9).  Those names will never …

Selling Scientology at the Super Bowl -- Sightings

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I must admit, I've always found Scientology a rather odd religious movement.  It's been around long enough that it has made its mark in the religious marketplace.  In part this is due to its ability to attract celebrity endorsements.  Of course, that can have adverse affects as well.  In any case, Ken Chitwood takes us on a brief tour of this group's attempts at attracting our attention using modern media -- including ads at the Super Bowl.  Like the author, I also hope that next year the San Francisco 49ers will be well ahead by half time in next year's Super Bowl.  Humor aside, this is an insightful introduction to Scientology.


Selling Scientology at the Super Bowlby KEN CHITWOOD
Thursday | Feb 20 2014                                                                                                                         Photo Credit: Jasmined / flickrSuddenly, there it was. Like a spaceship, it appeared and, in a flash, it was gone. It promised a fusion of science and…