Showing posts from February, 2019

Hope and Other Superpowers (John Pavlovitz) -- A Review

HOPE AND OTHER SUPERPOWERS: A Life-Affirming, Love-Defending, Butt-Kicking, World-Saving Manifesto. By John Pavlovitz. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018. Xvii + 235 pages.

The economy seems to be going pretty well, at least if you measure things by the Stock Market. That doesn’t mean everything is going well in here at home (for me, the United States) or around the world. We seem more divided than ever. People talk at each other, but not with each other. The political divide is wider than it’s been in my memory. The racial divide seems to be re-widening. Of course, not all is bad, it’s just there is this feeling that things aren’t right. Even the religious world is a mess. So, is there any hope for us?
I remember Barack Obama writing a pre-election best-seller titled The Audacity of Hope. Many of us had great hope that he would usher in a new age of hope and change and progress, but he gave way to Donald Trump who wants to “Make America Great Again.” I’m not sure we moved the needle …

Votes and the Future of the United Methodist Church

Like many non-United Methodists, I have been watching the proceedings of the UMC Special General Conference, which was called largely to deal with the question of whether LGBTQ persons would be fully welcome within the denomination. Several options were provided, but the “Traditional Plan,” which is designed to put teeth into the existing ban on celebrations of same-sex marriages within the church as well as the ordination of openly gay clergy was received by a majority of the delegates. Thus, the One Church plan offered by UMC bishops was rejected, though it was designed to provide space for all within the church. There was another, more progressive plan, that was also rejected. This decision may lead to schism within the largest mainline Protestant denomination. My prayer is that schism will not be the end result, but as one who is deeply committed to Christian unity and believe that division is horrid, I also know that some marriages can’t be saved. This may be true in this case.

Reflecting God’s Glory -- A Lectionary Reflection for Transfiguration Sunday (Exodus 34)

Exodus 34:29-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34 but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put…

Three Hours: Sermons for Good Friday (Fleming Rutledge) -- Review

THREE HOURS: Sermons for Good Friday. By Fleming Rutledge. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2019. Viii + 83 pages.
It is common for Good Friday services to focus on the Seven Last Words of Christ. Traditionally, this is a three-hour series of reflections, accompanied by some form of liturgy. This task might be shared by a group of clergy, perhaps in an ecumenical fashion, or it might be undertaken by one person. For much of the past twenty years I have participated in Good Friday services featuring the Seven Last Words of Christ, but we have attempted to fit the service into a one-hour time-frame. That way, one can hear the entire series of reflections without taking the entire day. I have found these services, which I share with other clergy to be meaningful (our services have been designed to last one hour).
Not only have many preachers taken up the Seven Last Words on Good Friday, but many have published reflections and sermons. I even published one set from my day…

Academy of Parish Clergy Books of the Year Awards

2018 Book of the Year Announcement
The Academy of Parish Clergy, Inc. proudly announces that the 2018 Book of the Year Award has been awarded to Preaching about Racism: A Guide for Faith Leaders and Anxious to Talk about It: Helping White ChristiansTalk Faithfully about Racism, both of which were authored by Carolyn B. Helsel and published by Chalice Press (2018). Helsel is Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The Book of the Year Award is given by the Academy of Parish Clergy to the book—in this case books—published in the prior year (2018) the committee believes best speaks to the needs and interests of parish clergy. In addition, the Academy presents the Reference Book of the Year Award toConnections: ALectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship edited by Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, and Cynthia L. Rigby. The committee reviewed the first volume—Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Epiphany—published by Westminster John Kno…

The Bible as/and Literature -- Sightings (Richard Rosengarten)

The Bible represents different things for different people. It can be understood as literature, as history, as mythos, as theology. For one like me who is a Christian pastor and theologian, it is the primary source of revelation. For others it is the key to understanding literature. How can you appreciate Handel's The Messiah, without some understanding of the Bible. The King James Version was translated and published to make the Bible accessible. Over time it has become a cultural icon. The Historical Critical method takes the Bible a part, hoping to find its true meaning. Literary critics look at the whole and not just the parts. Robert Alter's recent translation of what Christians call the Old Testament and Jews Tanak, approaches the text from a literary point of view. I've not yet read from it, but it sounds intriguing. In any case, Richard Rosengarten offers us a brief essay for Sightings on the way all of this works.  It is worth pondering. 


God Provides, Reconciles, and Redeems - A lectionary reflection for Epiphany 7C (Genesis 45)

Genesis 45:3-15  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not d…

Christ’s Resurrection: First Fruits -- A Sermon for Epiphany 6C (1 Corinthians 15)

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Today’s hymns, scripture reading, and the sermon title might suggest that Easter came really early this year. Don’t worry.  You didn’t sleep through Lent. While the service has the feel of Easter, it is good to remember that the resurrection is itself an epiphany. It’s a manifestation of God’s presence in the world. Besides, as the song puts it: “Ev'ry morning is Easter morning from now on!  Ev'ry day's resurrection day, the past is over and gone!" 
In the spirit of Easter, we have already sung: “Thine is the glory, risen, conquering Son, endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.” Death did its best to keep Jesus in the Tomb, but by raising Jesus from the dead, God put Death on notice. God declared that life, not death, will emerge victorious, and we can join in serving the risen savior who is in the world today. We can “see his hand of mercy” and “hear his voice of cheer” (“He Lives,” Chalice Hymnal, 226).
Paul’s foundational message shared…