Showing posts from October, 2019

The Psalter for Christian Worship: Revised Edition (Michael Morgan) -- Review

THE PSALTER FOR CHRISTIAN WORSHIP: Revised Edition. By Michael Morgan. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019. Xiii + 184 pages.
In some parts of the Christian community, the Psalms have a central role in worship. That is, in some traditions, the Psalter served as the hymnal. They might be chanted or put to tunes, but they were the songbook for the church (as they were for the Jewish community). While this is doable it's not always the easiest form of singing. That is one reason why the hymns of the church have replaced the Psalter as its primary songbook. Now, the lectionary does include readings from the Psalms for each week of the church year, and many hymnals include a Psalter. They can occasionally become the foundation for a sermon. More often than not they are spoken (often responsively) in worship (my experience) rather than sung.
One reason why singing the Psalter is not easy is that we rely on translations of Hebrew poetry. These translations, though faithful to …

White Crucifixion -- Jesus the Jew

I hope you will spend some time pondering this image. It is a painting by Marc Chagall that is housed in the Art Institute of Chicago, which Cheryl and I recently visited. Chagall painted this in 1938 and first displayed it in 1940. It was at this moment in time that the Nazi regime was in the midst of its push to conquer Europe, having invaded France and the Soviet Union. As part of its effort, the Nazis were determined to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe. They were aided in this by religious efforts to coverup Jesus' Jewish identity.  The "Final Solution," of course, wasn't the first attempt at trying to destroy the Jewish people. As you can see from Chagall's paintings, the crucified Jesus is surrounded by images of persecutions and pogroms directed at the Jewish people.

According to the sign posted with the painting, this was Chagall's first attempt at portraying Jesus as a Jewish martyr as a way of calling attention to the persecution of the …

Marked for Life: A Prison Chaplain's Story (Nancy Hastings Sehested) -- A Review

MARKED FOR LIFE: A Prison Chaplain’s Story. By Nancy Hastings Sehested. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2019. Xv + 168 pages.
The United States has a mass incarceration problem. Though we proclaim ourselves to be the “land of the free,” it appears that the American prison population is larger than any other nation. Tough on crime laws, including three-strikes laws, along with anti-drug efforts have filled our prisons to overflowing. This reality has especially affected communities of color. Even as the prisons fill up, the nation is not of one mind when it comes to the purpose of prisons. Are they designed to rehabilitate or warehouse people we don't wish to deal with—all in the name of protecting the citizenry? But at what cost, not only economically, but in terms of humanity, have we undertaken this “project.” “Law and Order” continues to be a productive political slogan, but with diminishing returns. When it comes to prison life, whether one is a prisoner or a guard, the situation …

The Righteous Live By Faith - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 21C (Habakkuk 1-2)

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
1:1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous— therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. 2 Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. 4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them,

The Restorative Waters of God - A River Crossings Reflection

Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

Going on eastward with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, “Mortal, have you seen this?”
As I came back, I saw…

Low (John Pavlovitz) -- A Review

LOW: An Honest Advent Devotional. By John Pavlovitz. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2019. 59 pages.
Advent is a rather brief liturgical season easily overlooked as we speed our way toward Christmas. There are liturgical attempts to slow things down, but the rush to the big day tends to run through every boundary and border. Thus, Advent, which is a preparatory season often gets short shrift or gets reinterpreted in a way that undermines its more somber tones. In church, we’d rather sing “Joy to the World” than “Let All Flesh Keep Silence.” Nevertheless, Advent remains with us as a season that invites to examine ourselves, our context, our world, so we can ask where God fits into all of this. How might we prepare ourselves to receive the good news that the Messiah has been born in Bethlehem?
Christian publishers do sense the need for resources that can be used during the season, resources that give voice to the preparatory nature of Advent. So, each year they invite us to purchase guides and…

Theologizing Virtual Reality -- Sightings (A. Trevor Sutton)

Baptism is, in my tradition at least, is a public not a private event. it seals a covenant relationship with Christ and with the faith community. So, is it possible to perform baptism virtually? With the growth of virtual reality technology, will virtual baptisms and communion become commonplace? What does that mean for the church as an embodied community? Do we have the theological resources to answer this question? I must confess I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to sacraments, but what about the future? Where will all this lead? While looking for another item in my email folders, I came across this essay by Trevor Sutton from July, an essay I hadn't shared. Nevertheless, I found it intriguing and worth sharing (I must have been traveling when this appeared). Take a read and let's begin a conversation.