Showing posts from June, 2019

Restored Life -- A Sermon for Pentecost 3C (Luke 7)

Luke 7:11-17

John the Baptist was sitting in jail waiting to be executed. As he sat there in that cell, he wondered if he had fulfilled his calling. Had he prepared the way for the one would bring God’s salvation to the world? Was this Jesus, whom he baptized, the one they were waiting for? (Lk 3:1-6). With all of these questions running through his mind, he decided to send a few disciples to check things out. These disciples asked Jesus: “Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?” (Lk 7:18-19 CEB). Jesus told them to tell John how he healed people of their diseases, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, and brought good news to the poor. Look around you: What do you see? What do you hear? Go back to John and report what you’ve seen and heard.  
This question comes after the Centurion’s slave was healed, from a distance, on the basis of the Centurion’s faith (Lk 7:1-10). It comes after Jesus travels from Capernaum to the village of Nain. A large crowd of peo…

Defending the Ideals of Freedom in Our Non-Ideal Public Life - - Sightings (William Schweiker)

What is freedom and what does it mean to be free? The United States was founded on the premise of freedom, though we have not always lived out that promise. Freedom, even at the beginning was something only white males could enjoy. Over time it has been expanded, but not completely. We live at a time of growing attraction to authoritarianism (usually in the form of populism). In part, this openness to authoritarianism is accompanied by or lead up to through a closing of the mind. In this essay, William Schweiker, a professor at the University of Chicago points to two figures who have addressed some of the questions we are facing today -- those persons being Jurgen Habermas (a contemporary philosopher) and Erasmus, who lived five centuries in the past. I invite you to read and if you would like -- respond to his essay. 


Creeds, Disciples, and Theology

Last week I posted a couple of pieces suggesting that Disciples of Christ (my denominational tribe) might benefit from some more overt theological discussion. As one colleague responded, we tend to start with ecclesiology. Most of our denominational disputes have been over things like ministry, baptism, church structure. We haven't divided over the Trinity, though that has been a subject of controversy down through the millennia. Regarding the Trinity, I've written a small book titled The Triune Nature of God, which isintended to stir some conversation (but not impose a Trinitarian perspective on Disciples). 
As a denomination, our "tradition" is to be noncreedal. We have valued freedom as a virtue. I titled my book on Disciples core values Freedom in Covenant, where I lay some of this out in more detail. But here's the question -- might we benefit from engaging with different creeds and statements of faith, not as tests of fellowship, but as points of conversat…

Passing the Mantle - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 3C (2 Kings 2)

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
2 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let m…

Discerning the Spirit(s) (Amos Yong) -- A Review

DISCERNING THE SPIRIT(S): A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions. By Amos Yong. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2019.

Ecumenical conversations among Christians are not easy, but even if the participants in the conversation don’t share the exact same Christology, they can at least agree that Jesus belongs in the conversation. The same cannot be said for interfaith conversations, where Jesus is often a stumbling block. If we start with Christology, then the conversation often ends quickly. Jews aren't sure what to make of Jesus, but the history of Christian-Jewish relations down through the centuries doesn’t make for an easy conversation. Muslims affirm Jesus as one of the great prophets, even affirming the virgin birth, but they reject the idea that he is the Son of God, is divine, or even crucified. Hindus and Buddhists may have ways of incorporating Jesus, but probably not in the same way Christians would. So, is there another approach available to…

True Faith -- A Sermon for Pentecost 2C (Luke 7)

Luke 7:1-10

What is faith? Is it assent to a set of beliefs? Or, is it putting your trust in someone else? We don’t recite The Apostles Creed very often, but it’s a standard Christian confession of faith. It begins with the words: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” It goes on from there to speak more fully of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, as well as his ascension and his partnership with the Father in judging the world. There’s also a brief mention of the Holy Spirit and then statements about the holy, catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. While we Disciples may have set aside the creeds in the name of unity, this creed does raise the question: what do I believe and why? Is belief the same as faith? 
As we approach the reading from Luke, the question is twofold: What did the Roman Centurion know and believe, and why was Jesus amazed at his faith?  
The opening …

Theology and the Disciples -- expanding the conversation

Yesterday, I posted the question: Why Theology? I asked this question specifically to those who are part of my own denominational tribe, but it is a question that ought to be a concern for any who proclaim some form of belief in God. Being that the Disciples or Stone-Campbell Tradition is non-creedal, we tend to be all over the map when it comes to theology. There are conservative evangelicals in our midst and modernists (if I can use that term in the 21st century) amongst us. Over the four decades or so that I've been wandering with this community of Christians (I attended a Stone-Campbell college while still part of the Foursquare Church), I've discerned a discomfort with theology. This shouldn't surprise us as the founding generation was less a bit averse to it as well. 
I am finishing revising an article that will appear at some point in the Restoration Quarterly that explores a schism that occurred in Detroit that presaged the Disciples/Churches of Christ split that …

Why Theology? A Question for Disciples of Christ

A friend and I, both of whom are Disciples of Christ ministers (and now both of us having Ph.D.s), have had conversations over the past few years about the need for ways of encouraging Disciples to engage in serious conversations about theology. We've talked about the need for resources that can be used in congregations. That's one reason why I decided to put together me brief book on the Trinity (The Triune Nature of God), which is a topic that many Disciples steer clear of (often claiming support from Barton Stone, who famously denied being a Trinitarian, though he also denied being a Unitarian, Socinian, or an Arian, all of which he had been accused of).. I understand why Stone felt the way he did, but my hope is that my contribution will stimulate some conversation. 
From conversations over the years, and from watching social media more recently, I have discerned a reticence to have deep theological conversations. Maybe it's because we're non-creedal, which means …

Woe Is Me -- Elijah's Lament -- A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 2C (1 Kngs 19)

1 Kings 19:1-15 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get …