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Showing posts from February, 2018

Cultural Disintegration -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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Are we experiencing a season of cultural disintegration? Are we tending toward cynicism and skepticism? Is this a new phenomenon? Perhaps not. In this essay the esteemed chronicler of our times the historian Martin Marty points us to the words of a famous theologian of a previous era, who had something to say about his time that might speak to our time. I won't name the theologian. You can read and ponder his words.

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Latino Protestants in America (Mark Mulder, et al) -- A Review

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LATINO PROTESTANTS IN AMERICA: Growing and Diverse.By Mark T. Mulder, Aida I. Ramos, and Gerardo Martí. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. Xii + 206.


Having lived in Southern California for a good portion of my life, I am well acquainted with the significant presence of Latinos in the United States. While one might expect large numbers of Latinos to live in a state that borders Mexico, the fact is, Latinos are spread across the country. These are our neighbors who hail from lands across the Caribbean, South and Central America, Mexico, or who trace their ancestry back to the earliest days of European presence in North America. Yes, our Latino neighbors might be new immigrants, or they may trace ancestry back to the sixteenth century. Latinos make up the fastest growing demographic in the country, and despite stereotype they’re not all Roman Catholic.
I normally review books provided to me by publishers. In the case of this book, I purchased a copy at a conference because I was…

Freedom amid Divine Expectations - Lectionary Reflection for Lent 3B (Exodus 20)

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Exodus 20:1-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 20 Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. 
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not d…

The Pathway of Faith A Sermon for Lent 2B

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Romans 4:13-25

When we lived in Santa Barbara, we enjoyed hiking the canyons and hills behind the city. Some pathways were smooth and well-marked, while others cut across rock strewn creek beds. There were easy paths and more difficult ones. Such is the pathway of faith. It is often difficult to traverse, but the rewards are great.
Our pathway of faith begins on the day that God invited Abraham and Sarah to pack their things and travel to a new land. God promised to make them a great nation, through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham, who was still known as Abram, was a young man of seventy-five and his wife Sarai was just a few years younger when God’s call came. Why not set out on a new journey that will lead to descendants and blessings? (Gen. 12). A few chapters later, Abram had another conversation with God. He and Sarai are now a few years older, and they still didn’t see any signs of descendants to carry on the promise. The situation was dire, since Sarai…

Billy Graham -- A Remembrance

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Yesterday we learned that Billy Graham died at the age of 99. His life stretched from the end of World War I to the second decade of the 21st Century. Yesterday Facebook and Twitter were awash of remembrances from people across the religious/political spectrum. Inn this day when we are extremely polarized in our politics and our religion, Graham has engendered respect and appreciation even from those who do not abide with his evangelical beliefs. Perhaps that is because he conducted himself in a manner far different from many religious figures of our day (including his own son).  Here is a man, who was theologically a conservative evangelical, and yet he partnered with Mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians. He was committed to racial justice and the relief of the poor. 
If you are near my age, you grew up with Billy Graham crusades (that's what they called them back then) on TV. I was never in a position to hear him in person, but I remember him say simpl…

Evangelical Identity Crises -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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I am an ordained minister in a Mainline Protestant denomination -- read non-evangelical denomination. I am also graduate twice over of one of the flag-ship evangelical seminaries -- Fuller Theological Seminary. Mainliners have been having an identity crisis for some time, as revealed in our crashing membership numbers. Now, it appears evangelicals are having an identity crisis. What is a Mainliner with Evangelical roots to do? While we constantly hear that 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, apparently a lot of "evangelical elites" have chosen not to join with this number. Martin Marty may have recently turned 90, but he's still adept at noticing trends and conversations. Here he notices a new book of essays edited by the President of my alma mater -- Mark Labberton --  that addresses this identity crisis. I've not read the book, but I've been feeling the angst. And, as usual Marty is worth reading!
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Covenant Promises - Lectionary Reflection for Lent 2B (Genesis 17)

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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover…

The Myth of Equality (Ken Wytsma) - Review

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THE MYTH OF EQUALITY: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2017. 216 pages.



We live in strange times. We hear conversations in certain circles about white privilege, while in other circles we hear complaints that white men face discrimination. Which is it? Standing at the center of the last Presidential election was the claim that the white working class was being ignored. The same arguments undergird the current immigration debates. When the Black Lives Matter movement emerged after the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer, many White Americans responded with a declaration that “All Lives Matter.” While this response sounded egalitarian, it failed to acknowledge that in our country the powers and principalities have valued white lives more than black and brown lives. We may have elected a Black President in 2008 and again 2012, but it’s clear from the rhetoric of the hour that we are not living in a “post-racial society.” In fact, …

Making an Appeal to God -- A Sermon for Lent 1B

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1 Peter 3:13-22


We began our Lenten journey on Wednesday by having our faces marked with ash as a sign of repentance and re-commitment to being Jesus’ disciples. This morning we hear a word from 1 Peter that invites us to share in Jesus’ life and ministry. The letter mentions baptism, making a defense of our faith, the suffering of the cross, and the resurrection. Each of these elements mark the life of Jesus’ followers.  
There is a lot going in this brief passage. It’s rich with theological content, which we can’t unpack in one sermon. So, I’m going to focus on the better story, which we have been given, and which Peter calls on us to share with the world. 
Before we move into Peter’s message, I would like to share the word from the Gospel of Mark that ushers in the season of Lent. As you’ll hear, Mark doesn’t waste time on details: 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the he…

A Lament for Parkland

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I have not posted on the shooting in Parkland, Florida that left seventeen students, teachers, and staff dead until now, because I really had no words to offer. I grieve with those who grieve. I grieve with mothers and fathers, with sisters and brothers, with wives and husbands, with friends and with acquaintances, but I have no prayers or thoughts to offer. I decided to break my silence this morning. I wanted to share a Psalm of Lament. Nothing I read really expressed my feelings. Psalm 23 offers comfort and Psalm 22 expresses abandonment. I don't know of Psalm 12 speaks to the moment either, but it does seem to catch the feeling that "the faithful have disappeared from humankind." I know there are no easy solutions. I know taht there will be trade offs if changes are made to our laws that might restrict some "rights." But are not the lives of our children worth it?  So, I offer this Psalm as a sign of my frustration, my anger, my grief. 
I believe that God is…

Faith and Enlightenment in Dark Times - Sightings (Martin Marty)

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As a historian, I have studied how faith intersected with the Enlightenment -- the British Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Enlightenment as a movement emerged as Europe tried to emerge from more than a century of conflict. The Enlightenment gave birth to the Modern Age, of which we are heirs. For some Enlightenment and faith cannot coexist. Martin Marty, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday and the 20th anniversary of the Martin Marty Center offers a response to one writer who sees faith and Enlightenment as incompatible, offering his hope that one can embrace both. I invite you to read and while you read, may we all give thanks for the long witness of Martin Marty. 
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Practicing Piety - A Meditation for Ash Wednesday

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Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

We have come here today to have our faces marked with ash, as a sign of our piety. We’re doing this, even though Jesus tells us not to practice our piety to be seen. After all, God can see our hearts and our actions, even when we don’t make a big display of our spirituality. Nevertheless, we have come today to mark our piety with ash.
Jesus takes up the question of practicing piety in the Sermon on the Mount. He tells the crowd that when you give offerings, pray, and fast, make sure no one is looking. If you’re going to fast, then wash your face. If you’re going to pray, do  it in your closet. If you’re going to give offerings, well, don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t wave your envelope so everyone can see and don’t ask for a plaque to mark your gift. Just give, because God sees and God rewards.

Ash Wednesday is the Day of Salvation

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2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
6 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you,and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons o…

Divine Repentance? Lectionary Reflection for Lent 1B (Genesis 9)

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Genesis 9:8-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all fle…