Showing posts from July, 2018

1 John, Christ against Culture, and Our Times

As I was working on my study guide on the Letters of John, which I hope to publish soon, I decided not to add a section to each chapter that invited the reader to engage in a theological reflection on an excerpt from a theological document ancient or modern that paralleled the chapter. As I was removing those reflections already present in the document, I came across this excerpt from the session on 1 John 5:1-12 (titled “Overcoming the World”). While it would have to be removed from the book, I decided it was too good to simply toss out. It seemed to fit our times. The excerpt comes from H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic book Christ and Culture.
Niebuhr offers an interpretation of 1 John in Christ and Culture, suggesting that the message of 1 John fits his “Christ against culture” paradigm. While he rejects this paradigm as insufficient, he recognizes the importance of having this vision present in the conversation, as a check on the tendency to get too enmeshed in the culture. Christen…

A House for the Lord - Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 9B (2 Samuel 7)

2 Samuel 7:1-16 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts…

Loving and Leaving a Church (Barbara Melosh) -- A Review

LOVING AND LEAVING A CHURCH: A Pastor’s Journey. By Barbara Melosh. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. 206 pages

When a church calls a minister (or a minister is appointed to a congregation), the new minister and the church usually share one thing in common. Both parties believe that something wonderful is about to happen. The new minister believes she or he has something to offer the congregation that will help it grow and achieve its potential. The congregation, especially congregations that have experienced decline, live in hope that this time things will click, and resurgence of life will occur. Congregations often look to the new minister to be their savior, and the new minister may be inclined to buy into that hope. More often than not, these hopes and dreams don’t come to fruition. Many small and struggling congregations don’t have a lot of energy. They’re living in the hope that the new pastor can breathe life into the congregation without requiring too much of them…

Good Neighbors or Bad?

Under the current administration that is leading the United States, there seems to be an intentional effort to antagonize neighbors, near and far. Our President seems intent on turning long standing friendships into enemies, while embracing those who have demonstrated less than honorable intentions toward us (that is Vladimir Putin and Russia). He has been especially antagonistic toward our neighbors to the north and to the south, countries with which we share borders, and with whom we have exchanged trade and more over the years. It's not that we never have problems. Neighbors can have disputes big and small, but at the end of the day they treat each other with respect (at least when it comes to Canada and Mexico, we hope for good relations). I've lived a significant portion of my life in California, which is near the Mexican border. California's population is diverse, with immigrants from the South and elsewhere contributing to its economy and its culture. Now, I live i…

The Morality of Mister Rogers - Sightings (Martin Marty)

In an age of growing incivility and discontent, the voice of Mr. Rogers is making an appearance. Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood came on to the scene a bit too late for my early TV watching. It was Captain Kangaroo not Mr. Rogers that spoke to my generation. But Mr. Rogers made his mark, bringing a gentle spirit that was rooted in his own Presbyterian ministerial background. Martin Marty invites us to consider his legacy, as revealed in a recent op-ed piece by David Brooks, that points to Fred Rogers' deeply moral message that could speak to conservative evangelicals and secular liberals.  I invite your thoughts, especially if Mr. Rogers influenced your upbringing.  

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Dancing Before the Lord - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 8B (2 Samuel 6)

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 6 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. 3 They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart 4 with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. 5 David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.  12b So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; 13 and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girde…

Poured Out (Leonard Allen) -- A Review

POURED OUT: The Spirit of God Empowering the Mission of God. By Leonard Allen. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2018. 208 pages.

The Stone-Campbell Movement was born on the American frontier, but it was influenced by the Enlightenment ethos that influenced the founding of the United States. In its origins, this movement was both Biblicist and rationalist, leaving little room for the Holy Spirit to work. Yes, Barton Stone hosted the Cane Ridge Revival, which was known for its spiritual phenomenon, but for Alexander Campbell and many of his followers, the Holy Spirit was enshrined in the pages of the New Testament. This was the perfect spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13, which led to the closing of the age of miracles. Now the Spirit worked through the Word. Miracles, tongue-speaking, prophesy—they were things of the past, not the present. That rather narrow vision of the Spirit has begun to change. Across the movement, whether in the Churches of Christ, the Christian Churche…

Great is the Lord -- A Sermon for Pentecost 7B

Psalm 48

We began worship by singing “Great is the Lord.” We heard Mike sing “How Great Thou Art.” Then, we shared together in the reading of Psalm 48, which opens with the words “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God.”  Yes, great is the Lord who is “faithful and true” and who dwells in Zion! 
This week as we turn again to the Psalms, we encounter one of the “Songs of Zion.” These songs celebrate Yahweh’s position as the cosmic king, who rules over all things. In these songs of Zion, human kings, like David and Solomon disappear. While the people of Israel asked Samuel for a king to fight their battles for them, this Psalm declared that it’s God, and not these earthly kings and their military prowess that provide security to the nation.
The creators of the lectionary have paired Psalm 48 with a reading from 2 Samuel 5, which tells the story of David’s coronation as Israel’s king, and his conquest of the citadel of Jerusalem, where he set up his new capital. …