Showing posts from April, 2017

Sacramental Revelations -- A Sermon for Easter 3A (reposted)

Note: As I am not preaching this morning, I'm reposting my sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  
Luke 24:13-35

Two disciples, one named Cleopas, journeyed to Emmaus.  Although we don’t know why they were taking this trip, they know that Jesus had been executed, buried, and according to some reports, had been raised from the dead.
Could they be fleeing the city, fearing they might suffer Jesus’ fate?  Were they ready, with Jesus dead, to give up the whole Jesus enterprise?  Or, were they heading home to await further instructions?

What Must We Do? -- Lectionary Reflection for Easter 3A (Acts 2)

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, . . .  36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. ************** 
On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell upon the church and created qui…

Breath of the Spirit -- Sermon for Easter 2A

John 20:19-31

Seeing is believing. Mary Magdalene saw Jesus on Easter morning, and she believed, and then she told the rest of the disciples “I have seen the Lord.” Later that evening, Jesus appeared to the disciples who had locked themselves in out of fear of the authorities. He came to them in the darkness of night, which in the Gospel John serves as a symbol for unbelief. At the beginning of his Gospel, John declares that the Word of God “was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (Jn. 1:4-5). Jesus came to them that evening as light shining into their darkness of unbelief. 
Mary prepared them for what came next, but I’m not sure they were completely ready when Jesus suddenly appeared in the room. He said to them: “Peace be with you,” and then he showed them the wounds in his hands and side. Then the disciples “rejoiced when they saw the Lord,” moving them from darkness into the light. But that’s not the end of the story, beca…

The Front National and the “Religion” of Ethnic Nationalism -- Sightings (Tamir Bar-On)

Around the globe we are seeing the rise of political movements centered on ethnic nationalism. Sometimes religion seems to play a role, but is it religion itself, or a new form of religion, that would be the religion of ethnic nationalism.In this interesting essay by Tamir Bar-On for Sightings, the French election this weekend serves as a means of exploring the idea of the "religion" of ethnic nationalism, which sacralizes politics and pushes for homogeneity in the state -- thus immigrants, especially Islamic immigrants are seen as polluting the French identity (as one example).  Invite you to read and consider trends in Europe and here at home, to see if there is some truth here!!

Bowing Toward Babylon (Craig M. Watts) -- A Review

BOWING TOWARD BABYLON: The Nationalistic Subversion of Christian Worship in America. By Craig M. Watts. Foreword by Michael Kinnamon. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017. Xi + 183 pages.

Walk into the sanctuary of the typical American church and you will find an American flag somewhere in the room. It will probably be found in the chancel. It’s possible that you’ll find a flag in the room, but not a cross (too religious). You might even see one flying on a pole outside the church, with the “Christian” flag flanking it, a step lower than the national flag. If you grab a hymnal, you will find several national songs. find a hymnal, you will likely find a few patriotic songs as well. If you go to church on Memorial Day or Fourth of July, it’s possible that you’ll experience a patriotic themed service. But is this appropriate? Or is it a nationalistic subversion of Christian worship? As you can tell from the title of Craig Watt’s book Bowing Toward Babylon, he believes that these nationalisti…

Credible Christian Worship

Churches do many things, including things that look rather political. They can engage in charitable activities, advocate for social justice, provide social outlets (often called fellowship). But at the heart of the church is, I believe, the worship of God. It is worship that defines the mission of the church, so that it is more than "outreach." I realize people come to church buildings and join congregations for many different reasons, but are they formed by what happens in worship? 
I recently re-read Craig Watt's powerful and provocative book Bowing Toward Babylon (Cascade, 2017) --- and my review of the book should be up tomorrow --- which speaks to the way in which nationalism too often malforms our worship, which leads to the malformation of the Christian. The question is --- what is credible Christian worship? That's a question that I, as one who is engaged in planning and leading worship, that I have great interest in.

Bearing Witness to the Risen Christ -- Lectionary Reflection for Easter 2A

Acts 2:14a, 22-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, . . .\
22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me,    for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;    moreover my flesh will live in hope.27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One experience corruption.28 You have made known to me the ways of life;    you will make me full of g…

Out of the Office: A Theology of Ministry (orientation)

The following forms the opening paragraphs of the Orientation chapter of my book Out of the Office: A Theology of Ministry (Conversations in Ministry, #3). The book is the third volume in a book series I edit for the Academy of Parish Clergy in partnership with Energion Publications. I share this with you to give you a sense of the book, which I believe will provide clergy and those preparing for vocational ministry an opportunity to do theological reflection on engaging in ministry in the 21st century. Before you dive deeper into my own introductory words, I invite you to consider this word from theologian Grace Ji-Sun Kim concerning the book's value: Once again, Dr. Robert Cornwall provides the church with a valuable book. In his new book, Out of the Office, he tackles the important questions of what is ministry; how do we effectively engage in ministry; and what does ministry look like in our globalizing world? This prophetic work is eloquently written and beautifully reflects …

I Have Seen the Lord! -- A Sermon for Easter - A

John 20:1-18

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb” (Jn. 20:1). This morning as you come to the tomb, what do you see? Is it an empty tomb? What does an empty tomb say to you? As I read this passage, I noticed that the word “saw” kept appearing and wondered what this word says to us about the meaning of Easter morning?
When Mary came to the tomb, she saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. That’s not what she expected. When Peter and the Beloved Disciple, heard Mary’s report, they ran to the tomb, and looked inside. They saw the linens that had wrapped the body of Jesus neatly folded and lying on the bench where his body should be, along with the cloth that had covered his face. While, the Beloved Disciple let Peter enter the tomb first, when he finally went into the tomb “he saw and believed.” While we know what he saw, we don’t know what he believed, because…

Father Forgive Them -- A Word for Good Friday

Note: It is Good Friday, and I will be participating in a community Good Friday Service. Once again we will share the Seven Last Words. As I am not preaching, but doing hosting duties, I would like to re-share a message delivered in 2012.

32They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus.33When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left.34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing." They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.
35The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”
36 The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of t…

Eating on the Run - A Meditation for Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14

We gather tonight around the Lord’s Table to remember Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. During that meal Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them, and gave the elements to his disciples. He told them to continue sharing this meal in remembrance of him until he returned (1 Cor. 11:23-26). The roots of this meal of remembrance are found in the Passover celebration. The reading from Exodus 12 describes the origins of that meal, which celebrated God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. 
According to Exodus 12, this meal featured three items—roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. It’s a fairly simple meal, which took some time to prepare, but once the meat was cooked and the bread baked, it could be eaten on the run.
There is another part of the story that needs to be mentioned. Not only did God direct the people to prepare a meal, but God told them to take some of the blood from the slaughtered lamb and put it on their doorposts. This…

Love and Service on Maundy Thursday - A Reflection

John 13:1-17, 31-35 Common English Bible (CEB)
13 Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.  2 Jesus and his disciples were sharing the evening meal. The devil had already provoked Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. 4 So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. 6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

An Irrelevant War? -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Last week the United States observed the centennial of its entrance into World War I, or what was once known as "The Great War," until an even larger conflagration enveloped the globe a few decades after the close of the the "War to end all wars." In this week's edition of Sightings, Martin Marty remembers that day by digging up comments made by Anglican clerics in support of the war, even embracing revenge and retaliation as suitable responses to the enemy. When war breaks out, it does seem as if the temptation to go all in is hard to resist. I can't find the reference, by Edgar Dewitt Jones, founding pastor of my congregation, confessed that he had been caught up in war fever during the First World War. He regretted his fervor. He made that confession during the interregnum between wars. I can't find any references to World War II, so I wonder if he got caught up once again? In the meantime, Marty invites us to consider the responses, noting that not…

Dancing Before God on Easter -- Lectionary Reflection - Easter (Jeremiah 31)

Jeremiah 31:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
31 At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.
Thus says the Lord:
The people who survived the sword
    found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
    the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
    O virgin Israel!
Again you shall take your tambourines,
    and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
    on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
    and shall enjoy the fruit.
For there shall be a day when sentinels will call
    in the hill country of Ephraim:
“Come, let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.”
********                  We who have been on a Lenten journey have reached out Easter destination. Lent is, after all, a season of preparation, much l…

God's Servant, A Light to the Nations - A Meditation for Holy Monday

Isaiah 42:1-9New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
42 Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

A Humble and Triumphant King - A Sermon for Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

This is probably the most confusing day in the church year. Some churches celebrate Palm Sunday by waving palm branches and shouting hosanna to the king of kings. Other churches observe Passion Sunday, with its emphasis on Jesus’ death on the cross. But maybe these two emphases belong together, because they reflect the tension that exists between how humans view power and how Jesus viewed it.  The reading from Matthew describes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which suggests that we’ll be focusing on the triumphal part of the story. But, there is a catch, because Jesus’ vision of triumph is different from the way most humans understand it. 
The story begins with Jesus and his disciples drawing near to Jerusalem, which will soon be celebrating Passover. When the group arrived at Bethphage, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent out his advance team to locate a donkey and her colt, and then bring the animals to him. When the animals arrived, Jesus mounted them and head…

Exit West (Mohsin Hamid) -- Review

EXIT WEST. By Mohsin Hamid. New York: Riverhead Books, 2017. 231 pages.
                I will once again confess to not reading a great deal of fiction. However, on occasion a book emerges that requires my attention. Such is the case with Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel titled Exit West. I became acquainted with the book listening to an interview with the author on NPR. The discussion intrigued me, and I decided I needed to read this book. That is because the book deals with some of the important questions of our day, including religiously-inspired violence, migration, refugees, nativism, and fear of the other. Thankfully, the publisher’s publicist graciously sent me a review copy so I could share my thoughts with you my blog audience.
I regularly write reviews of non-fiction books, and in these reviews, I don’t have to worry about spoiling the plot of the book. That is not the case when you are reviewing a work of fiction. Readers of a review of fiction would like to know something of …

Niebuhr and the Situation -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

I don't know if I am a Niebuhrian, but I find Reinhold Niebuhr to be a compelling figure, even if he's largely unknown to most contemporary Americans (except perhaps those who know him through the Serenity Prayer). He is known as a "realist," and at the end of the day, I think that describes my approach to things. Many who know of him ask about where the modern Niebuhr's are? That is, where are the theologians who engage the public sphere as Niebuhr did? Martin Marty offers some suggestions in this post stimulated by the new film that takes up his life -- An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story, which I hope the local PBS station will air, since Niebuhr got his start as a pastor here in Detroit. It would be tragic if his story doesn't get told here, as much of whom he became was forged during his ministry here.  I invite you to read and consider Niebuhr's legacy.

No Shame -- A Lectionary Reflection for Passion/Palm Sunday -- Year A

Isaiah 50:4-9a New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
    the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
    wakens my ear
    to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious,
    I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
    and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
    from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
    he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
    Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
    Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
    who will declare me guilty?
***********************                 Preachers have a choice when it comes to the lectionary for the Sunday prior to Easter. They can choose to…

Do All Lives Matter? -- Review (Wayne Gordon and John M. Perkins)

DO ALL LIVES MATTER?The Issues We Can No Longer Ignore and the Solutions We All Long For. By Wayne Gordon and John M. Perkins. Foreword by Senator Dick Durbin, Afterword by Richard J. Mouw. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017. 92 pages.
Do all lives matter? I could answer that question with an unqualified yes. After all, when it comes to human lives, my theology declares that every human being is created in the image of God. That means that every human life is sacred. Unfortunately, the very fact that the Black Lives Matter movement arose after several African Americans were killed by police or what I will call vigilantes (George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin), suggests that we’ve not reached the point when our society truly believes that all lives matter.
                After the Black Lives Matter movement was born, an alternative “movement” arose, largely among white Americans who didn’t appreciate the view offered by the Black Lives Movement. It reflected the view held by ma…