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Showing posts from 2018

Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith: 19th-Century Restorationists (RoseAnn Benson) -- A Review

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ALEXANDER CAMPBELL AND JOSEPH SMITH: 19TH-Century Restorationists.By RoseAnn Benson. Forewords by Thomas H. Olbricht and Robert L. Millet. Provo, UT: BYU Press; Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2017.Xx + 396 pages.


The first half of the 19th century was a period of religious and cultural ferment as the new American nation pushed west into new territory. During this period of religious experimentation and expansion, new and often heterodox movements emerged. With people leaving behind more settled communities for the frontier, they encountered a variety of movements that sought to claim their allegiance. Many of these movements claimed to restore earlier and purer forms of religion, though their visions of restoration often diverged when it came to the details. Among those who preached a restorationist message were Joseph Smith and Alexander Campbell. Both spoke of restoring the ancient order of things, but their visions of restoration were quite different. Because the …

The Lord Is Good! - A Sermon for Pentecost 12B (Psalm 34)

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Psalm 34:1-8


Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Taste and sight are two of the senses that help make life what it is. For instance, when we sit down to a meal, we take in the smell, the sight, and then the taste. It might be sweet or savory. Some like the sweetness of cake and others like the savoriness of chips. Some like kale and others don’t. So, when it comes to taste, we’re all different.  
If you want to know more about such things, I suggest watching episodes of Good Eats with Alton Brown. He makes a big deal about how our taste buds work. He likes to illustrate his message, since the viewer can’t smell or taste the food he is demonstrating. He might show a chart of the tongue, pointing out the  different sensory areas found on the tongue. There is sweet, salty, savory, sour, and even bitter. Yes, there is a sensor in our tongues that looks for bitterness. 
A bitter taste can be unpleasant, but we also might enjoy certain bitter flavors, like coffee or unsweetened chocolate. Some…

Election Day Firsts and Faith in the Public Square

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On Tuesday, August 7, 2018 there seemed to be a number of election day firsts. These include the number of women running for Congress and governorships. But there were other firsts, some that reflect the changing cultural and religious landscape of the United States.While there is a significant cultural backlash underway, that is rooted in the fear that white, European, Christian dominance is being eroded. There is the fear that "others" might claim a position of dominance in our country. This isn't new. Just think back to 1960, when many Americans were feared the election of a Roman Catholic as President. Today, the majority of members of the Supreme Court are Roman Catholic. While attempts to limit immigration, legal and otherwise, and to make getting green cards and citizenship more difficult, change is afoot. 
Just this week, in our elections a Muslim American and a person of Indian descent ran for Governor of Michigan. They didn't win their party's nomination…

I Voted

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Yesterday I once again went to the polls and voted. I've been doing this since I was eighteen years old.  The year I turned 18 was the first year that persons under 21 could vote. The argument for letting 18 year-olds to vote was that if they could be drafted to serve in the military, then surely they were old enough to cast votes. I grew up in a politically involved family, so I took that first opportunity very seriously. I have continued to do so ever since.
I realize that voting can be inconvenient. It can take time, and in some communities multiple barriers are erected that discourage people to vote. I'm fortunate to live in a community where there are sufficient numbers of polling places. Such is not always true. Even here, in this community, the state has made it difficult for persons to get absentee ballots. It is worth noting that on Monday, we celebrated the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed literacy tests, poll taxes, and provided for federal …

Rebellion in the Household - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 12B (2 Samuel 18)

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2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15,31-33 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 5 The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.6 So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.
9 Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. 15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.31 Then the Cushite cam…

1 Corinthians: Belief (Charles Campbell) -- a Review

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1 CORINTHIANS (BELIEF: A Theological Commentary on the Bible). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. Xviii + 300 pages.


Augustine, Luther, John Wesley—they all had a conversion experience as they encountered Paul’s letter to the Romans. Karl Barth changed the theological conversation in the early decades of the twentieth century with his commentary on Romans. There is something powerful about that letter, which few would accord to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. However, for me, 1 Corinthians has proven more influential than the book of Romans. I find it to be filled with possibilities, both theological and practical. Perhaps it’s my ongoing interest in spiritual gifts and pneumatology that drew me to this particular letter, but over time I have discovered that it is filled with intriguing ideas and experiences. There are words about ecclesiology, resurrection, marriage, the Lord’s Supper, and more. During my seminary days I had opportunity to take two classes th…

Abundant Mercy - A Sermon for Pentecost 11B (Psalm 51)

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Psalm 51:1-12

There’s a fairly well known biblical story that features King David, Bathsheba, Uriah, and Nathan the Prophet. The story, which is found in 2 Samuel, begins with David spying on the wife of Uriah, one of his military officers, who is away at the front. When David sees her bathing, he grows covetous. He likes what he sees, and as King he believes he can have whatever he pleases. So he sends for Bathsheba, sexually assaults her, and sends her home. He believes he can do this without consequence because he has no equals, or so he believes. Before too long word comes to David that Bathsheba is pregnant. Since Uriah is away at the front, David knows that questions will be raised as to the father. He’s afraid that fingers will point his way. So, he calls Uriah home, hoping Uriah will share his wife’s bed. Then, when the child is born, no one will be the wiser. Unfortunately for David, Uriah is an honorable man, who refuses to take advantage of the comforts of home when his fell…

Election Time in Michigan -- Vote August 7 for Padma Kuppa

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It is election season. The mid term elections have never been more important than this year, whether for governor or state representative. While I always vote in elections, this year I have chosen to get engaged a bit deeper. In part this is due to the challenges facing our nation and the state in which I live.  Issues like immigration and education -- and the roads -- require our attention. We have a President, who I believe simply doesn't understand the principles of American democracy. So, we have to challenge that fear-based vision by electing people who offer a different vision.
This year one of my really good friends and partners in interfaith work is running for state representative in the 41st district of Michigan. I believe that Padma Kuppa has the ability to listen and represent our community. She's not a politician (and I don't believe that being a politician is a bad thing), who feels so strongly about issues like education and immigration (being an immigrant …

Sighting Farm Religion -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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I've never been a farmer, nor am a child of a farmer, but I did grow up in small towns (after being born in LA and moving to San Francisco). Cheryl's father raised grapes -- mainly for raisins -- so she could be considered a farmer's daughter, but she didn't live on the farm. Nonetheless, I know a little of the rural experience, and I've preached at a few rural churches in my time (only as pulpit supply). When we lived in Kansas, little country churches dotted the landscape, at junctions, where the many farmers once gathered for worship and social events. Churches remain strong parts of small towns. I remember preaching an ordination sermon at the home church of a former student. The town had a population of around 1500, but the church was strong. I'm not sure that I'm ready for small town America, having lived in larger cities since I went off to college, nonetheless there is something important about such communities. It would be sad to see them disappear…