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Showing posts from July, 2018

A Christology of Religions (Gerald O'Collins, SJ) -- A Review

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A CHRISTOLOGY OF RELIGIONS. By Gerald O’Collins, SJ. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018. Xi + 178 pages.
Where does Jesus fit in interreligious/multi-faith conversations? The traditional claim that Jesus is the definitive revelation/incarnation of God can lead to awkward interreligious conversations. It’s not that other faith traditions don’t have their own sense of finality, but as the largest faith tradition in the world, an exclusivist posture is off-putting, which leads some to go to the other extreme and simply put Jesus off the table in search of commonalities. It is one thing to affirm Jesus as a prophet of God and another to claim for him the status as Son of God and second person of the Trinity. When Christians enter interreligious conversations, they face the fact that Jews consider him at most to be a prophet, but history has made even that conversation difficult. Islam hails Jesus as a noted prophet and messiah, just not the Son of God. For Buddhism and Hinduism, Jesus can b…

I Have Sinned! - Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 11B (2 Samuel 11-12)

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2 Samuel 11:26-12:13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27 When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, 12 1 and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him…

The Prosperity (Anti-)Gospel - Sightings (Martin Marty)

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It's difficult to compete with the message of Joel Osteen. First and foremost, he is on TV bright and early on Sunday morning, connecting a message of prosperity with the Bible. Believe the Bible and you will find a road to prosperity. That seems American enough! Of course, he's not the first to make this message known. There has always been a prosperity stream within Pentecostalism, one that is linked to the promise that Jesus is healer. Good things flow to those who claim Jesus' blessings. That message percolated down and took on a more distinctive style with people like E.W. Kenyon (one of my friends wrote his PhD dissertation on Kenyon), Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, etc. There is another line of similar thinking that isn't Pentecostal, but Reformed, as seen in Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. Martin Marty takes notice of these movements in this week's edition of Sightings in large part due to attention given to the movement by the Vatican. Yes, Po…

Baba's Love (Bill and Cristy Millington) - A Review

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BABA’S LOVE.By Bill and Cristy Millington. Meadville, PA: Christian Faith Publishing, 2017. 165 pages.


Christianity is a global faith, with missionaries going out across the world, sometimes evangelizing and sometimes providing caring missions. Different traditions have different perspectives on these matters. My tradition focuses on partnering with indigenous churches and ministries, rather than engaging in missionary driven church planting. Other traditions go about this differently. There are legitimate questions to be raised about missionary efforts, some of which have, especially in the past, shown little respect for the people or the cultures to which missions are being sent. We can have a conversation about the appropriate way such efforts are undertaken, while also hearing the stories of people feeling called to cross cultures and share the gospel in deed and in word. Most undertake such work at great cost to themselves but engage in it because of a love of God and of the peopl…

Importance of Local Elections

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It is said that "all politics is local." I believe that this is a truism. While we must be concerned about things that happen in Washington, Geneva, New York, and Brussels, as well as Helsinki, Moscow, and Beijing, politics begins at home. Sometimes we forget about our local elections, whether school board, city council, or state representatives (to name a few), thinking that they are less important than Presidential elections. While I believe that Presidential elections are vitally important, issues of education, jobs, transportation, even the environment require local input. So, without diminishing statewide and national elections, it's important that we pay attention to these local elections, including primary elections.  
So, speaking of local elections, my good friend Padma Kuppa, is running as a Democrat to represent the 41st District (Troy and Clawson) in the Michigan House of Representatives. I know Padma well, having been engaged in interfaith work with her for…

Dwelling in the House of the Lord -- A Sermon for Pentecost 9B (Psalm 23)

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Note:  This sermon was shared as part of our annual outdoor service, which is less formal. Because of the nature of the text for the day, it is laid out as a more participatory sermon.

Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” These opening words of the 23rd Psalm are deeply embedded in many hearts and minds. We turn to this Psalm in times of grief and doubt and fear. We look to this Psalm in the hope that the Lord is with us, restoring and protecting us, as we journey in life.
Since most of us are deeply familiar with this Psalm, and because we’ve gathered for worship in a different space, I want to make this a more participatory sermon. We’ve already heard the Psalm read from the NRSV, but I’m going to read it again a couple of times from other translations, including the King James, and then I have some questions for us to discuss. 
There are different ways of dividing the six verses of this Psalm, but I’m going to follow a traditional three-part division. We’ll start by fo…

Protecting Core Democratic Values

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Recently residents of Michigan learned that a commission tasked with setting socialstudies standards chose to remove the phrase “core democratic values” from the standards, along with several other important concerns. This was done at the behest of a Republican politician running for governor, who got himself appointed to the commission. He complained that that the phrase was partisan. After all, he wasn’t asking for “core republican values” to be part of the standards. I think that this politician flunked civics in high school. Having students learn about the “core democratic values” of the United States doesn’t involve learning the platform and principles of the Democratic Party. Instead, learning about our democratic values is to understand that all political power emerges from the people, who determine the priorities and principles of the nation through the exercise of their vote.
Now this politician argued that the United States isn’t really a democracy. It is a republic. He is p…

1 John, Christ against Culture, and Our Times

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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…