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Showing posts from December, 2018

Blessed Endurance - Sightings (Martin Marty)

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Paul talks in Romans 5 about suffering producing endurance, and endurance producing character, and ultimately this leads to hope. My Bible Study group just finished working through the Book of Daniel, which also has something to say about endurance. Now, I encounter Martin Marty's Sightings column, which highlights a book with the title Blessed Endurance. Marty doesn't mention either Romans 5 or Daniel, but he does note that the title of the book is a riff off of the Fanny Crosby song "Blessed Assurance." The question, it would seem, is that the author, a former Marty PhD student, John Wimmer. From what Marty shares, this might be a book worth considering. So, check it out.

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How Long? A Reflection on Daniel 12:5-13

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The book of Daniel is an enigma to most of us. The Revised Common Lectionary has clipped to passages for use by preachers—Daniel 7:1-18 (Christ the King Sunday B) and Daniel 12:1-13 (Proper 28B/Ordinary 33B). The Narrative Lectionary looks to have selections from Daniel, but I’ve not used it. I did preach two sermons using an alternative lectionary in Advent a few years back, but I’m going to assume that Daniel isn’t at the top of the list of books lectionary preachers investigate. Daniel has received a lot of attention, however, from those who look to it and the Book of Revelation to figure out eschatological time tables. It’s not a theology I’ve embraced, but it has its share of adherents.
As I’ve been exploring Daniel with my Bible Study group, we’ve been following scholarly consensus that suggests that the book came together in the mid-second century BCE. In other words, the visions laid down by Daniel in chapters 7-12, speak not to events unfolding in our century but during the S…

A Joyous Homecoming! - A Lectionary Reflection for Advent 3C (Zephaniah 3)

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Zephaniah 3:14-20 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
18 as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
19 I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
20 At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples…

The Minority Experience (Adrian Pei) -- A Review

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THE MINORITY EXPERIENCE: Navigating Emotional and Organizational Realities. By Adrian Pei. Downer’s Grove: IVP Books, 2018. 215 pages.


Being a white male, I've never had to navigate the minority experience. Yes, I've occasionally found myself in a space where I am the minority figure, but even then, my place in the broader majority culture has given me a certain amount of power. I cannot change who I am, but I can listen to voices whose experiences are different than mine. This is why the slogan "all lives matter," usually uttered by white males, fails to catch the reality of the human situation in the land that I call home. It is, therefore, from this vantage point, as a member of the majority culture, that I read Adrian Pei's important book The Minority Experience
Adrian Pei is an Asian-American evangelical Christian who has had to navigate the “emotional and organizational realities” of working within a white-majority Christian organization. Pei was once a st…

Love Overflowing - A Sermon for Advent 2C (Philippians 1)

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Philippians 1:3-11

We entered Advent last Sunday with the choir leading us through the Christmas story in narrative and song. They did us a favor by connecting the biblical story with our contemporary story. They reminded us that the Holy Family ended up as refugees, guided by angels to safety. With that broader story in mind, both ancient and modern, we hear the Advent invitation to prepare ourselves for the Advent that took place some two thousand years in the past and the Advent that is yet to come. 
The path we are taking will lead to that moment on Christmas Eve when we will hear the message that  Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory, and the one who sustains all things by his word (Heb. 1:1-4). Hearing that message we can join the angels in singing “Gloria in excelsis Deo”; “Glory to God in the highest.” 
Christmas Eve will come soon enough, but there is still more to do before we get there. Last Sunday, we lit the candle of hope, and today we lit the Peace candle. We lit it in t…

Remembering Goodness

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Yesterday a state funeral for George H. W. Bush was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Due to other duties I couldn't watch it in full.  I caught a portion of Jon Meacham's testimony and heard a portion of George W. Bush's statement honoring  his father. I later watched the son's message in full, as I had caught a word in his statement about being a loyal friend and wanted to check it out because it might fit something I wanted to do in my sermon on Sunday.

Funerals are interesting experiences. I know, I've officiated at quite a few over my years of ministry. None have been as large or grand as the one that took place yesterday. Funerals are not the time to lay out dirty laundry. They're not the time to point out faults, unless they are the kind that make for a memorable moment. George W. shared a few of those yesterday about his father, but they were designed to humanize not demonize.

Every President of the United States will produce a mixed b…

Reading the Present in Light of the Past - Reflection on Daniel 11-12

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Daniel 11:2-12:4
I have been walking through Daniel with my Bible Study group. I’ve not done this before, that is, I’ve not worked my way through Daniel with this much attention to detail, and certainly not in the company of others. It is an intriguing journey. We start with stories of faithfulness to God in the midst of exile. Then, we encounter strange visions that purport to describe the future. One constant theme is that no matter how powerful an empire grows, it will certainly fall. Only the realm of God, on earth as in heaven, will be sustained. This is a word to the people of Judah, living under oppressive rulers, offering a vision of hope that despite what their eyes see and what their bodies and spirits experience, God will emerge victorious.
Daniel’s visions are set in the sixth century during and after the exile. This vision, found in Daniel 11 and the first four verses of chapter 12, is the final vision. It is quite long and quite detailed. It lays out the progress of histo…

The Coming Refining Fire -- Lectionary Reflection for Advent 2C

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Malachi 3:1-4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?  For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. ***************

The message of Advent is clear. Get ready. Get cleaned up. Prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord. But, are we ready to bear the burden of purification? Are we ready to be refined by the refiner’s fire? A little water from baptism maybe, but fire? Sometimes we ask fo…

Moral Leadership for a Divided Age (David Gushee & Colin Holtz) - A Review

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MORAL LEADERSHIP FORA DIVIDED AGE: 14 People Who Dared to Change Our World. By David P. Gushee and Colin Holtz. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2018. Xiii + 367 pages.
There likely never has been a time when the world, or even the nations which we inhabit have been truly united. War sometimes brings people together. Disasters can as well. However, such unity is quickly tested by the realities of current experiences. That being said, there is something about the current moment that gives us pause. We watch the news and learn that nations and communities are pulling inward, focusing on their own contexts, often at the detriment of others. Nowhere is this truer than the nation I inhabit. The leaders and people of the United States of America may have always looked at the world through the lens of self-interest, but this nation of which I am a citizen has, at least since the time of the Second World War, projected itself as a moral leader in the world. That leadership has been flawed, and…