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Showing posts from November, 2014

Restoring Hope -- A Meditation for Advent 1B

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Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
    before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us! Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved. O Lord God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
    our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved. 17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
    the one whom you made strong for yourself.
18 Then we will never turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call on your name. 19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.
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                We begin the…

Feasting on the Word Worship Companion, Year B, Vol. 1 (Kimberly Bracken Long) -- Book Note

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FEASTING ON THE WORD WORSHIP COMPANION: Liturgies for Year B, Volume 1. Edited by Kimberly Bracken Long.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.  Xiii + 226 pages.
Year B of the liturgical year is here, and so those tasked with planning worship will want to trade their Year A resources for new materials.  With that in mind one might want to check out the next volume in the Feasting on the Word Worship Companions.   This is another addition to the expanding collection of materials that is linked to Westminster John Knox's now completed Feasting on the Word lectionary commentary series.   The worship companions are edited by Kimberly Bracken Long.   

          In addition to editing the worship companions for the Feasting on the Word series, Kimberly Bracken Long is Associate Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary.  She is also the author of The Worshiping Body: The Art of Leading Worshipand The Eucharistic Theology of the American Holy Fairs,  both of which ar…

Theology from the Trenches (Roger Gench) -- A Review

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THEOLOGY FROM THE TRENCHES: Reflections on Urban Ministry.  By Roger J. Gench.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.  Viii + 151 pages.
Does the church have a role to play in public life?  That is, should the church devote its attention to things spiritual and stay out of things temporal?  Of course there is always a place for charitable work – that is what it means to love one’s neighbor, but what about taking a further step and engaging the systems that often oppress those living on the margins of society?  Should the church be involved in transforming society or should it stay focused on building the church?    If one feels called to the work of transformation, how will one go about doing this? Questions of this sort relate to one’s theology and how one reads the biblical story.
Using H. Richard’s paradigms of the relationship of Christ and Culture, the Reformed tradition, going back to John Calvin, has assumed that the church is called to engage in the transformation of…

Giving Thanks with My Whole Heart

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1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
above everything.[a]
3 On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.[b] 4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth.
5 They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.   (Psalm 138:1-5 NRSV)


It is Thanksgiving morning, and I do have much to be thankful for. I have good health, a family

It’s Christmas Time Once Again

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With Thanksgiving a day away and shopping time coming with it, I am reposting a piece written for the Thoughtful Christian's Gathering Voices Blog earlier this month.  May it provide a word of hope in the midst of all the hullabaloo of the season.  
A Gathering Voices Post by Bob Cornwall  (Reposted) While many Christians find it difficult tokeep focused, others are also upset at store clerks who greet them with “Happy Holidays” instead of the obligatory “Merry Christmas.” They get angry the “Christmas party” is now a “holiday party.” To them, December belongs to Christians, and they want to be treated with “respect.” Never mind that not everyone enjoying the season is a Christian.  Indeed, our Jewish friends speak of a “December Dilemma.”   Christmas has long had both a secular and a religious side to it. At least since the mid-nineteenth century Santa has played a key role in the story of the season. Even if the legend of Santa is rooted in Christian lore, Santa long ago transcen…

Awake, Awake, the Son of Man is Coming -- Lectionary Reflection for Advent 1B

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Mark 13:24-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[a] is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert;[b

John Wesley in America (Geordan Hammond) -- A Review

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JOHN WESLEY IN AMERICA: Restoring Primitive ChristianityBy Geordan Hammond.  Oxford, UK:  Oxford University Press, 2014.  Xv + 237 pages.
                Primitivism comes in many forms.  Throughout the history of Christianity reformers have attempted to return to the pristine purity of the primitive church, even if they haven’t always agreed on what marks the true primitive church.  For some the true primitive church is to be found in the pages of the New Testament Church (especially the Book of Acts), while others extend the boundaries of primitive Christianity into the fifth century, long enough to include Nicaea and Chalcedon.  Counted among these primitivists was John Wesley.  Wesley had imbibed a high church vision of primitive Christianity, one that was rooted in the traditions of the early church during his days at Oxford. When an assignment came to go as a missionary in the new British colony in Georgia, Wesley decided to use this assignment as an opportunity to implement h…

Abiding with Christ at the Table -- A Stewardship Sermon

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John 6:53-59

This morning we celebrate both Christ the King Sunday and Thanksgiving Sunday.  We are also bringing in the harvest of our stewardship conversation.  During the offering you will have the opportunity to share your estimate of giving cards so that we might celebrate the commitment that we are making as a community to support the ministry of this church. Christ the King Sunday brings to a close the liturgical year that began on the First Sunday of Advent.  The liturgical year begins with a word of hope and anticipation. We move through the year lifting up stories of how God is present with us in Christ and through the Spirit.  On this day we celebrate the coming of Christ’s reign in its fullness on earth as in heaven. We will continue repeating the cycle until the Day of the Lord comes.  
This Thursday has been set aside by presidential decree as a day to give thanks for the abundance given to us.  Although Thursday has become synonymous with turkey, football, and now shopping…

Income and Wealth Inequality: Religion's Current Efforts Won't Cut It -- Sightings (Myriam Renaud)

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It is increasingly clear that the income inequality gap is not only getting larger, but it is proving to be damaging to the country. With money being the key to power, we seem to be moving toward an era of rule by oligarchs. Just to make sure we know what we're talking about, an oligarchy is defined as "a country, business, etc., that is controlled by a small group of people."  Myriam Renaud suggests that one of the few institutions left that can challenge this trend are religious ones, but right now our efforts at charity and advocacy are not dealing with the core issue -- the power of money in politics.    I am involved in community organizing, but we haven't tackled this one yet.  None of our efforts are really dealing with it.  So, take a read, offer your thoughts.

Income and Wealth Inequality: Religion's Current Efforts Won't Cut Itby MYRIAM RENAUD
Thursday | Nov 20 2014                                                                                    …

Obama, Congress, Immigration -- time for real action

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I will confess -- I didn't watch President Obama's speech last night.  Like many Americans I watched the latest episode of the Big Bang Theory.  Sheldon was signing off from his internet series on flags.  It's not that I don't think that immigration reform isn't important.  It is very important.  But really, this was not an earth shattering move on the President's part.  Yes, the Republican Party is having a temper tantrum and is threatening all manner of retaliation.  Democrats are sort of giddy.  I say sort of, because they seem to understand that this didn't go far enough.  Indeed, the only way to truly get things moving forward is for Congress to act in a comprehensive way.  Of course a bi-partisan bill was passed some time ago in the Senate and sits there untouched by the House leadership. But the President did address a bit of the problem facing the nation.  
There is a moral case to be made for immigration reform.  Millions of people have come to th…

"Come, take the risk of being more." -- Archbishop Blase Cupich

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Yesterday Blase Cupich was installed as Archbishop of Chicago, one of America's most important archdioceses.  The Archbishop of Chicago usually gets one of those famous red hats from the Pope (named as a Cardinal).  Interestingly Cupich came from the rather backwater diocese of Spokane.  In other words Pope Francis passed over a number of more high profile bishops to fill this most important post.  What we have learned so far is that this unassuming bishop is of a common mind with the Pope.  He is a pastor who cares about people, especially immigrants and the poor. 

Mormon Issues -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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I would venture to guess that a great many people know that back in the day polygamy was practiced by members of the Mormon faith. If you go to Salt Lake City and visit the Beehive House and the Lion House next door you will learn about Brigham Young's multiple wives. Although polygamy was officially set aside in 1890 in the United Sates by Latter Day Saints President Willard Woodruff.  There have been a few TV shows that explore modern plural marriage, but all my LDS friends over the years, while they highly valued marriage and family, showed no interest in reviving this old practice.  One area of debate has been over whether polygamy went back to Joseph Smith and whether he had multiple wives.  His original wife, Emma Smith, always denied it and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ) always denied it.  Recently, as Martin Marty notes, the church in the desire to be transparent is admitting that he had up to forty wives.  Now this …

Build Transit, Build Business -- Regional Transit for Detroit

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You may have heard that Detroit recently emerged from bankruptcy.  If you don't live in or near Detroit, you may have heard more about the bad things than the good things.  But there are signs of new life budding all around us (even if winter is setting in).  One of those buds is the prospect of a truly regional transit system.  People have been trying for forty years to create something that would work.  That day has finally come.  The State established a Regional Transit Authority.  A CEO was hired.  Conversations have begun.  The future looks bright.  Yes, there is a major hurdle lying on the horizon.  To create a regional transit system will require funding, because transit systems don't survive on fares alone.  It takes tax money to sustain the system, but whether we use the system or not we benefit.  Businesses benefit because their workers and their customers can get to where they need to go.  Educational institutions, hospitals, churches can benefit.  Riders young and…

Here Comes the Judge! -- Lectionary Reflection for Christ the King Sunday

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Matthew 25:31-46 -- New Revised Standard Version


31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed yo…

A Community of Sharing --A Sermon on Stewardship

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Acts 2:42-47


Back during my days teaching at Northwest Christian University, a couple of my students asked me what I thought about them living as a group of students in community. I remember acknowledging their interest in this arrangement, but since one of the students involved had just gotten married, I suggested that they might want to take it slowly and cautiously. While they decided not to pursue the venture, one of those students ended up forming just such a community. That community in Eugene is part of a movement that has come to be known as the New Monasticism. This movement builds off the teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who called on Christians to live together in community and pursue life lived under the guidance of the Sermon on the Mount.  
Down through the years many Christians have experimented with living in community as described in Acts 2 and Acts 4. This community, according to Luke, gathered for the Apostles Teaching, for fellowship, for prayers, and to break bread…

Surviving a Son's Suicide (Ron Higdon) -- A Book Note

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SURVIVING A SON'S SUICIDE: Finding Comfort and Hope in Faith, Friends, and Community,  By Ronald Higdon. Gonzalez, FL:  Energion Publications, 2014.  66 pages.
Ron Higdon is a retired pastor (although he continues to do interim ministries) and a member of the Academy of Parish Clergy (an organization of which I am also a member).  He is also a father whose son committed suicide. Writing as both father and as a pastor he has written a brief but compassionate book that speaks from the heart to those who also have suffered similar losses. 
As I write in the blurb I provided the publisher for the book:   It is always difficult to lose a loved one to death.  When the loved one is your child, it is even more difficult, especially when death comes by suicide.  Ron Higdon is a pastor who has experienced this very tragedy, and with this book he shares his own grief and wisdom.  It is a wisdom he passes on to others, those who have experienced such a loss, those who want to be supportive, a…

Thinking Religion and Democracy in Dark Times -- Sightings (Corey D. B. Walker)

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We live in age when the lines between the political and the theological are blurred. On all sides of issues, people are engaging the issues using religious/theological language. There is, of course, in such conversations a sense of ultimacy when theology is brought into the conversation. It is a question of which side God is on. And we all know which side God is on -- our side, of course. Corey Walker, the essayist for Sightings this week, points us to the debates in North Carolina between the religious right and the participants in Moral Mondays, an effort I might add led by a Disciple pastor, the Rev. William Barber, whose book Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation has just been released (review to be forthcoming).    Corey Walker takes us into the thick of the debate in this brief, but dense essay, suggesting that perhaps“ours is the age of thetheological organization of political hatreds.”  I invite your thoughts in response -- how does faith engage the public squ…