Posts

Showing posts from March, 2017

Religious Identity Hiding under the Cloak of White Fragility -- Sightings (Zach Parris)

Image
Do we choose our religious identity? Or is it a given, a cultural given, mind you, but a given nonetheless? That is the question raised in this very interesting piece by Zach Parris, a Lutheran campus minister at the University of Colorado. Is it possible that the idea of being a "none," is really a sign of being formed by White Protestantism? Could it be that our desire to declare our choice is really a cover for white fragility? The questions emerged out of a visit to the campus by Eboo Patel, a Muslim interfaith leader. The article is intriguing, and I'm wondering what you think about the premise?!
FacebookTwitterArchive

Is Truth Dead?

Image
This week's edition of Time, a magazine to which I've subscribed for years, asks this very question: "Is Truth Dead?" The context is the Trump Administration and the President's penchant for sharing "alternative facts." He has a history of making outlandish and often untrue statements, one of which was the accusation that President Obama wiretapped his phones. There are many examples of false statements on his part, which include his leadership in the Birther Movement, which in many ways propelled his rise to political fame. He has branded the traditional press as purveyors of "fake news," even as he draws from less than reputable sources for his own declarations. At one point in the lead article, the author, Michael Scherer, notes that "Trump has discovered something about epistemology in the 21st century. The truth may be real, but falsehood often works better."
Donald Trump has found a way to use falsehoods to further his own age…

Not Wishy-Washy -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Image
In this week's edition of Sightings, Martin Marty, who continues to offer words of wisdom (as a good historian should) about matters involving religion and society, introduces us to a new effort housed at the University of Notre Dame, and led by his former co-author/editor of the Fundamentalism Project, Scott Appleby.  The word "wishy-washy" as used here his reminder that the way forward to peace in the world doesn't meant that people of faith should half-believe and half-practice their religions. Instead, the way forward involves principled engagement. This effort may be one important way to move forward.  I invite your attention to his words of wisdom.  

FacebookTwitterArchive

Dry Bones and the Breath of Life - Lectionary Reflection for Lent 5A (Ezekiel)

Image
Ezekiel 37:1-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 37 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covere…

Rebuilding the Foundations (John & Walter Brueggemann) -- Review

Image
REBUILDING THE FOUNDATIONS: Social Relationships in Ancient Scripture and Contemporary Culture. By John Brueggemann and Walter Brueggemann. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017. Xii + 211 pages.
                The Bible is an ancient book that several billion people look to for guidance on all manner of concerns, spiritual and otherwise. There is much distance separating the ancient world and the contemporary world, which has led many to cast aside the Bible as a collection of outmoded and irrelevant stories from another era. To read the Bible as anything other than literature, might be akin to watching Leave It to Beaver for guidance on family matters. Perhaps it would be helpful to experience a conversation between two people who have expertise in matters biblical on the one hand and contemporary on the other. That is just what this book, Rebuilding the Foundations, attempts to do.
The authors of the book are a father/son duo. The father in this case is biblical scholar Wa…

Don’t Judge by Appearances - Sermon for Lent 4A

Image
1 Samuel 16:1-13


You’ve heard it said: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” There is great truth in this. I have first hand experience, because one of the reviewers of my first book, which was a revision of my dissertation, did just that. He made disparaging remarks about the book’s cover, and said next to nothing about its contents. Now, I will admit that the book’s cover is a bit odd, but I had nothing to do with the cover design. This lead me to think that he judged the book by the cover, and never read a page of what lay inside. 
It’s easy to judge people based on their appearance. We do it all the time. But when we judge by appearances, we often get things wrong. I once took a man whom I knew fairly well to the ER. He looked dirty and disheveled, and was dressed in the blue overalls a car mechanic might wear. The ER staff looked at him and asked if he was homeless. I told them no. In fact, he probably had more money than all of us in the room. That’s just the way he lived. On the  ot…

Religion and Human Rights

Image
·     Tuesday evening I had the privilege of being one of three speakers at a Niagara Foundation sponsored Abrahamic Dinner.  This event was held at Rochester College, and brought together members of the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian communities -- to promote dialog and understanding. Each of us, a Rabbi, an Imam, a Christian pastor, was asked to speak to the ways in which our faith traditions understand human rights, and whether this overlaps with or differs from secular understandings. We were asked to speak from the perspective of our own faith tradition, which is difficult when Christianity's 2 billion adherents are divided into thousands of denominations and sects. Nonetheless, I did my best!  As for my partners, the Rabbi went first, and I didn't find much if anything to disagree with. In fact, he set me up nicely! As for the Imam, I learned a lot about the flexibility of Islamic law, which allows for support of human rights (more so perhaps than secular American law).

Humanities Endangered -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Image
On the budget chopping block are the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. They make up a minuscule part of the budget, but seem easy pickings for budget cutters. After all, what "results" can be measured from the humanities? In fact, what are the humanities? Don't we need to invest in STEM, which leads to good jobs? Let me question differently: does history matter? Does literature matter? These are the humanities. The funds from this endowment doesn't just fund projects by elitist academics. It funds programs at the local historical society that help students understand their community better. Martin Marty is one who understands this question better than most, and I appreciate his word for the week, and share it with you, that you might take up the cause. That is, if you think that telling our stories is just as important as building a few bombs!

FacebookTwitterArchive

Revelations of the Heart -- Lectionary Reflection for Lent 4A (1 Samuel)

Image
1 Samuel 16:1-13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.  6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s an…

The Witness of Religion in an Age of Fear (MIchael Kinnamon) - A Review

Image
THE WITNESS OF RELIGION IN AN AGE OF FEAR. By Michael Kinnamon. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017. X + 122 pages.
Once upon a time an American President declared that the “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin Roosevelt made that declaration in his first inaugural address, even as the nation was in the throes of the Great Depression. Times have changed, and we have entered an “age of fear.” It doesn’t matter what your political commitments are, fear has taken hold of our lives. While fear has its benefits, too often it takes hold of our lives in dangerous and destructive ways.
When it comes to the things we fear, the list is long. It might be changing demographics or economic uncertainty. It might be crime or unfettered access to guns. It might be the religious other who has moved into the community and erected mosques and synagogues and temples. We seem anxious about the threat of terrorism, but then that’s the point of terrorism. Terrorists win when people l…

Seeds of Blessings - a Sermon for Lent (Genesis 12).

Image
Genesis 12:1-4

The word “bless” is found in some form nearly 600 times in the New Revised Standard Version. When I looked up the words we translate bless, blessed, and blessing in my Bible dictionary, I discovered that the Hebrew words speak of health, longevity, and fertility. I also discovered that it can be translated as flourishing. So, if you say “I’m blessed,” or “what a blessing,” is this what you mean? 
When Bruce Barkhauer was with us, he spoke of a "thread of hope" running through Scripture, linking creation to new creation. I believe that there is also a "thread of blessing" running through scripture that connects the call of Abram to Jesus, and through Jesus we are connected to the realm of God. 
This morning we heard God call Abram to leave his homeland and migrate to a new land so that God could make him and his descendants a great nation so that all the families of the earth would be blessed in him or because of him. All he had to do was pack up his fam…

Hard Power in an Age of Fear

Image
Many of us who grew up in church learned the story of David and Goliath in Sunday School. In that story the Philistine army featured a very strong and very large warrior named Goliath. He is described as being six cubits and a span in height. In other words, very tall! He was so tall that he instilled fear in the army of Israel. No one was willing to go up against him, until a young shepherd arrived. That shepherd was named David, and he volunteered to meet the enemy. He did so, not armed with conventional armament but with a sling and a few stones. He prevailed. (1 Samuel 17).

Transitioning Out of Mediocrity -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Image
The church hasn't yet fully responded to the question of faith and sexual orientation, but it's not the only question to be pondered. There is also the question of gender identity. Neither sets of questions are new, but the church dealing with them openly is rather new. Martin Marty, who completed his theological education, by his own admission, two years prior to my birth notes that questions of cisgender (a term so recent that my spell checker doesn't recognize it) and transgender weren't part of his theological education. I'm not sure it was part of mine either, thirty years later. Nevertheless, this is a conversation some of us are having and the culture at large is engaged in it, thus the church will have to come to the Table sooner or later. In the meantime, I invite you to read this brief Sightings essay by Martin Marty, who offers words of wisdom and points us to helpful resources as well.
FacebookTwitterArchive

Plant Gardens and Eat the Produce - A Reflection (Jeremiah 29)

Image
Jeremiah 29:4-14 - NRSV
4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,[a]9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord. 10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For …

Is God With Us? - Lectionary Reflection - Lent 3A (Exodus)

Image
Exodus 17:1-7 Common English Bible (CEB) 17 The whole Israelite community broke camp and set out from the Sin desert to continue their journey, as the Lord commanded. They set up their camp at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why are you arguing with me? Why are you testing the Lord?” But the people were very thirsty for water there, and they complained to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with this people? They are getting ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of Israel’s elders with you. Take in your hand the shepherd’s rod that you used to strike the Nile River, and go. I’ll be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Hit the rock. Water will come out of it, and the people will be able to dri…