Showing posts from July, 2019

Is This Heaven? No, It's Iowa

Perhaps you, like me, find watching the movie Field of Dreams to be a rather moving experience. Maybe it brings you to tears as it does me. Perhaps it's a Dad thing. I don't know. But there's something magical about the movie. I can now saw that there's something magical about the movie site as well, as I discovered last week when Cheryl and I visited the site.  

It was on our return trip from the Disciples of Christ General Assembly that Cheryl and I experienced the site. This site is located outside Dyersville, Iowa, not too far from Dubuque. It's a ways off the Interstate, so you have to want to get there. Being baseball fans and fans of the movie, we made the trip, arriving a little after 9 in the morning. When we arrived, a man dressed in a circa 1919 Chicago White Sox uniform (You know the team that featured Shoeless Joe Jackson), was pitching to anyone who wanted to pick up a bat (I was one who did so, but the pictures are still on Cheryl's phone). 

Practicing the Preaching Life (David B. Ward) -- A Review

PRACTICING THE PREACHING LIFE. By David B. Ward. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2019. Xviii + 193 pages.
There are many books that offer guidance on how to preach. They offer advice as to forms and styles—some inductive, others deductive. They are all valuable and will help preachers and students of preaching in their preparation and delivery of sermons. Form and style have their place, but what about the person who preaches? How does one practice the preaching life? That is the question addressed in this book by David B. Ward, an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church who serves as associate professor of homiletics and practical theology at Indiana Wesleyan University.
Titled Practicing the Preaching Life, Ward’s book addresses forms and styles, but not until the end of the book. What Ward wishes to do in this book is to address the person of the preacher. He speaks to the aims and the virtues that are involved in preaching. Just in case you’re wondering, Ward doesn’t offer a Donatist…

Beloved Children - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 8C (Hosea 11)

Hosea 11:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
11 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
    the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
    and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    I took them up in my arms;
    but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with bands of love.
I was to them like those
    who lift infants to their cheeks.
    I bent down to them and fed them. They shall return to the land of Egypt,
    and Assyria shall be their king,
    because they have refused to return to me.
The sword rages in their cities,
    it consumes their oracle-priests,
    and devours because of their schemes.
My people are bent on turning away from me.
    To the Most High they call,
    but he does not raise them up at all. How can I give you up, Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Ad…

Back from Disciples General Assembly 2019

Some 3500 members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathered in Des Moines, IA for our biennial General Assembly on the 50th anniversary of the formal merger of the International Convention of the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) and the National Missionary Convention (African American Disciples) to form the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). So it was a historic moment. Over the four days of the gathering, there were business sessions, worship services, study opportunities, and fellowship (of different sorts). Many of us look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. That I did!! I've been away from blogging for over a week, but now that I'm home, I can do a bit of reflecting. 

I'll begin by saying that we all go for different reasons and take home different pieces. We might return celebrating the near-unanimous passage of a resolution calling for the provision of educational materials concerning Transgender persons and the church, movin…

The Letters of John -- Introductory words to a new Study Guide

The Letters of John lay at the end of the New Testament. There are a few passages that we hold on to because of love. But, do we pay attention to the entirety of these letters. I've written a study guide that fits the Energion PublicationsParticipatory Study Guide series (it's the third book I've written for this series, the others being on Ephesians and marriage). I think these letters are worth exploring either in groups or as individuals. I hope my attempt at creating a resource will facilitate that conversation. Below are the opening paragraphs of my introduction, just to give you a sense of where I'm going with this book. 


“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” Love is a central theme in the letters of John. The author of the first letter declares that “God is love.” Indeed, we are to love one another, because “love is from God” (1 John 4:7). There is more to these letters than a message of love, or perhaps I might put it this way. While love …

Interfaith Conversations -- Building Bridges

Amin is a Muslim friend with whom I have had many a conversation about things of faith, family, and the world. A group of us get together when we can to have conversations -- we usually gather at a local Tim Horton's and generally are sent packing at closing time. Amin contacted me to see if some of us could gather -- his invitation was last minute so most were unsure of gathering. But Amin and I could get together if nothing else. So we did. At first, it was just the two of us. We talked about religion, politics, the community in which we live. In the course of our conversations, the various eastern churches came up -- perhaps because my son is going to focus his thesis on medieval hagiography comparing a figure from the Church of the East (Iraq) and a Muslim figure yet to be determined. Whatever it was that we were discussing at the moment, a young man sitting nearby turned to us, noting he had overheard us talking. He revealed to us that he is a Coptic (Egyptian) Christian. So…

Judgment Day -- A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 6C (Amos 8)

Amos8:1-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel;
    I will never again pass them by.
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
says the Lord God;
“the dead bodies shall be many,
    cast out in every place. Be silent!” Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
    and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, “When will the new moon be over
    so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
    so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
    and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
    and the needy for a pair of sandals,
    and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this acco…

Sacred Misinterpretation (Martin Accad) -- A Review

SACRED MISINTERPRETATION: Reaching Across the Christian-Muslim Divide. By Martin Accad. Foreword by Gabriel Said Reynolds. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2019. Xxx + 366 pages.
There is much that Christians and Muslims share in common. We claim a common inheritance from Abraham. We both venerate in some form or another Jesus. At the same time, there is much that separates us. Part of what separates us from one another is our differing understandings of who Jesus is. Christians have, traditionally, affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ (the second person of the aforementioned Trinity). Muslims consider Jesus to be one of the great prophets of God, but they reject both the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. The story of Christian-Muslim relations, therefore, is a complicated one. It involves differences in theology, but also crusades, colonialism, and the conquest of formerly Christian lands by Muslim forces. Both sides have killed each othe…

Neighborliness - A Sermon for Pentecost 5C (Luke 10)

Luke 10:25-37

Who wouldn’t want to be a “Good Samaritan?” We’re so used to connecting the word “good” to the character of the Samaritan it’s easy to miss the scandalous nature of this parable. What if there’s nothing good about a Samaritan? No one in Jesus’ audience would have applied the word “good” to a “Samaritan.” Do you still want to be a Good Samaritan?  If you go back to chapter nine, you’ll discover that Jesus ran into trouble in Samaria. He was turned away from a village because he was heading toward Jerusalem. Fortunately, Jesus didn’t follow the advice of James and John who wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the village, but that goes to show that something is up in the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk 9:51-56).
Not long after Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan villagers, he sent out the seventy to preach. After they returned from their mission trip, Jesus was approached by a lawyer. Now, I need to let you know that Luke doesn’t seem to like lawyers. I’m not sure…

Labels and Christian Identity

A colleague recently opened a conversation on Facebook about labels. He confessed his discomfort with the label Progressive Christian. He asked his Facebook audience if they had any suggested alternatives. You can only imagine the response. I thought about entering in, but your voice quickly gets lost in the mass of comments. So, I decided to write a blog post instead.
Both Phil and I are Disciples of Christ pastors. Both of us are left of center on the political and religious spectrum, though I imagine he is farther left than am I. I too am uncomfortable with the available labels, which tend to be more political than theological. The words liberal and conservative have lost their original meanings, and for many on the "left" liberal is old hat. So, progressive has been adopted. Here's the thing, the opposite of progressive isn't conservative, it's regressive. If we take the word seriously, then it's opposite becomes a pejorative. If you disagree with me, th…

Not Measuring Up? Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 5C (Amos 7)

Amos 7:7-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line
    in the midst of my people Israel;
    I will never again pass them by;
the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
    and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
    and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
    and Israel must go into exile
    away from his land.’”

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again …