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Showing posts from November, 2017

Out of Adventism (Jerry Gladson) -- A Review

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OUT OF ADVENTISM: A Theologian’s Journey. By Jerry Gladson. Foreword by Edwin Zachrison. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017. Xx + 306 pages.

People’s experiences of religion are not monolithic. For some participation in a religious community can be very positive and life affirming. They can also be destructive spiritually, emotionally, and physically. For some a particular community can be supportive, while that same community can be spiritually abusive to others. In other words, we need to take seriously the testimony of those who have been abused, while recognizing that not everyone in a particular community has had the same experience.
This book is the testimony, the story, of a person who was deeply involved in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Jerry Gladson was a theological educator, an Old Testament scholar and theologian, who taught at one of the Adventist’s colleges. He was an ordained minister as well. At one point, early in his career, he was a rising star, but in time he ran…

Restore Us O God! a Reflection on Psalm 80

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Psalm 80 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm. 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. You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
    it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
    the mighty cedars with its branches;
11 it sent out its branches to the sea,
  …

Disciples of Christ and the Nature of Salvation

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With this essay, I am picking up my ongoing exploration of Disciples of Christ theology (knowing that Disciples have struggled with the entire idea of doing theology). With this post I explore in brief the concept of salvation, a posting that picks up from the previous conversations on sin.  

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The Disciples of Christ identity statement defines the Disciples as a “movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” This identity statement is understood to be a reframing of the Disciple commitment to Christian unity to envision a broader commitment to engaging in ministries that bring healing and wholeness to the world. Without naming sin as a problem, this statement embraces both the reality of sin (brokenness) and the call to be witnesses to God’s gracious provision of salvation in Christ, a provision we celebrate at the Lord’s Table. This vision is missional in intent, and connects the call to the table with Peter’s invitation to repentance and baptism as expressed in Acts 2:38,…

Remember Your People - A Lectionary Reflection for Advent 1B (Isaiah 64)

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Isaiah 64:1-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
64 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
    so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
 as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
    so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
    those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
    because you hid yourself we transgressed.    We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
    or attempts to take hold of…

Church in Ordinary Time (Amy Plantinga Pauw) - A Review

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CHURCH IN ORDINARY TIME: A Wisdom Ecclesiology. By Amy Plantinga Pauw. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017. Ix + 188 pages.

I've never liked the liturgical designation ordinary time, preferring to speak of Epiphany and Pentecost as extended seasons. I’ve not even bothered to learn the numbering system, preferring to refer to the Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost (excepting Trinity Sunday) as further expressions of those two days. Epiphany marks the earthly presence of Jesus and Pentecost the outworking of the Spirit’s presence in the church. I’m not sure I’m ready to abandon my current practice, but Amy Plantinga Paw has given new meaning to the designation “ordinary time.” She does this in the context of working out what she calls a wisdom ecclesiology. In this book "an ordinary-time ecclesiology emphasizes that the church lives in the gap between the resurrection of Jesus and the last things as God's creature." (p. 1). That would mean that we curre…

Judgment Day - a Sermon for Reign of Christ Sunday (Year A)

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Matthew 25:31-46

We’ve  all faced a judgment day or two. It might be a call to the principal’s office or maybe the boss’ office. Whomever it was who called you in, you knew that it wouldn’t be good news. The day I got called into the President’s office at the college where I was teaching, I knew something was wrong. After all it was June, and school was out for the summer!  Here in Matthew 25 we encounter an apocalyptic vision of humanity’s judgment day. The Son of Man comes in glory and gathers the nations, separating the sheep from the goats. This scene has its roots in the visions of Daniel and Ezekiel. Jesus picks up on these visions to point us toward the day of judgment, when the reign of Christ will be fully established, and things will be set right.  
Today is the last day of a church year that began with the promise of Advent and continued on through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, and then into the days of Pentecost. This last, lengthy season ends by looking forwa…

All Good Gifts -- A Thanksgiving Blessing

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It is Thanksgiving Day, and while there is much brokenness in the world today, there is also great abundance. Thus, it is appropriate to stop and give thanks. This past week, I have been blessed to share an early Thanksgiving meal with my friends at the Turkish American Society of Michigan. I give thanks for their hospitality and welcome! I got experience once again the gathering of the Troy-area Interfaith Group on Sunday evening, in our annual Thanksgiving Celebration. This community, in which I live is truly diverse, and that was expressed well in this celebration. Then, on Tuesday evening, there was a distinctly Christian gathering for a Thanksgiving Worship Service sponsored by the Troy Clergy Group. Now that the Day of Thanksgiving has arrived, I wish to share one of my favorite Thanksgiving songs: "All Good Gifts," from Godspell.

Introverts in Worship

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As a pastor who is by nature an introvert, I found this piece by my seminary friend and now a professor at Fuller Seminary's School of Psychology very interesting.  Dr. Cameron Lee is Professor of Family Ministries at Fuller Theological Seminary. He blogs regularly under the title Squinting through Fog.  

Sometimes worship seems fit for extroverts. Indeed, we seem to prize extroverts as preachers. Such a person is not me, though like Cameron I have figured out how to be extroverted professionally. But, like Cameron I need to get away from the crowd afterwards. I invite you to read and reflect -- You will need to click through to read the entire piece.  But come back and offer thoughts!!

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In some ways, I’m a pretty public person, as a teacher with a writing and speaking ministry. But I’m also an introvert by nature. A fairly strong one, in fact. I’ve learned to adapt to the demands of my role, the vague (and sometimes not so vague) expectation that I should be more extr…

The Flock Restored -- Lectionary Reflection for Reign of Christ Sunday (Ezekiel 34)

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24   New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the inju…

Building the Good LIfe for All (L. Shannon Jung) - A Review

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BUILDING THE GOOD LIFE FOR ALL: Transforming Income Inequality in our Communities. By L. Shannon Jung. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017. Vi + 125 pages.



The rich keep getting richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class is getting squeezed downward. The gap between the salaries of CEOs and the wages of workers is difficult to comprehend. Much has been said of late about income inequality and the growing gap between rich and poor in the United States. Politicians argue that tax cuts are needed for the “job creators” so they will be willing to invest in jobs in the United States, but there is little evidence that “trickledown economics” works as advertised. At the same time investment in infrastructure and education dwindles. Thus, the gap continues to grow wider every day, and we’re left to wonder if anything can be done to rectify the situation. More specifically, is there something that the church can do?
One who has some ideas that could bear fruit within the church is L…

Wise Investments - Sermon for Pentecost 24A/Thanksgiving Sunday

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Matthew 25:14-30

Since today is Thanksgiving Sunday, we gather to “raise a song of harvest home” for “all is safely gathered in.” Yes, “God our maker does provide for our wants to be supplied.” So we “come to God’s own temple,” to “raise the song of harvest home.” [Henry Alford, "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come," Chalice Hymnal, 718]
We will have a number of opportunities over the next few days to give thanks for God’s abundance. Last night Brett and I attended the Turkish American Society of Michigan’s Thanksgiving Dinner. We got to share in fellowship with our friends from Turkey, and help them celebrate the season. Tonight there is the annual Troy-area Interfaith Group Thanksgiving Service, and then on Tuesday evening there is the Troy Clergy Group service. Then on Thursday many will gather with family and friends to share in fellowship, offering thanks for God’s provisions. Let us, therefore, “make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.” Let us “serve the LORD with glad…

Calvin, for a Change -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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While we commemorate October 31, 1517 as the beginning point of the age of Reformation in Western Christianity, it was only a passing moment. Much more would come as time passed. Luther would be joined by others who often had differing emphases. Among them was John Calvin, the renowned Reformer of Geneva who has left his mark on not only Christian history, but also world history. Like Luther he has a complex legacy. My own tradition, the Disciples, are rooted in the Presbyterian tradition, a descendant of Calvin's movement. While the founders by and large rejected Calvin, we still bear many traces of his influence. Martin Marty, who is by tradition Lutheran, notes that his people stem from a community in Switzerland that was and is Reformed in orientation. Thus, he finds it appropriate to take note of Calvin's legacy as we continue our commemoration of the Reformation's 500th anniversary.  Take a read and offer your thoughts. If you find Calvin someone to honor, why?  If y…

Disciples of Christ and the Problem of Sin – Part 2

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In part one of this discussion we looked at several texts that speak of the problem of sin within the human community. While the opening lines of Genesis declare that all of God’s creation is good, when we get to Genesis 3 the dynamics seem to change. The question is why?  One way to look at the question is to compare the differing perspectives of two theologians who lived at the turn of the fifth century CE, and who engaged in debate on the question of sin and free will. As Disciples, we might ask, which of these perspectives seem to be the most compelling? Do we lean in one direction or the other, and what does that mean for us when it comes to how we live in the world?  

Pelagius or Augustine?
Pelagius (ca. 350-ca. 424) was a British ascetic and monk who came to Rome around 390. He was a strong advocate for moral reform and the value of asceticism. In espousing these two themes, he argued that humans have the freedom and the ability to choose the good. Not only that, but if humans ar…

Disciples of Christ and the Problem of Sin – Part One

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Below is the next offering in my attempt to forge a foundation for a theological conversation among members of the Disciples of Christ community and beyond. This is part 1 of 2, with a conversation about salvation to follow.
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The creation story begins with a resounding “It is good,” but what began well soon went off course.As we read the unfolding biblical story, we discover that humanity has chosen the wrong path, one that leads to alienation, death, and destruction. It is the story of sin.  As we read the story, we discover that God is not content to let humanity continue down the wrong path. Like a good parent, God seeks to restore a broken relationship. This is the story of salvation. Both issues stand prominently in the biblical story, though the various Christian traditions have placed differing emphases on them. For some, this is the primary issue, while for others it is just one aspect of the story. As Ronald Osborn notes, Disciples have, in general, put the …