Showing posts from November, 2019

Near the Exit (Lori Erickson) -- A Review

NEAR THE EXIT: Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper. By Lori Erickson. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019. 171 pages.

Maybe it's the fact I'm growing older or perhaps it's because as the pastor of a congregation that is on the older side, with a number of members who are over ninety, but questions of death and its meaning interest me. I'm fairly traditional in my views of death and its aftermath. For example, I tend toward embracing traditional understandings of the bodily resurrection (with a universalist bent). What fascinates me is the fact that despite differences of view regarding how we exit from this life, most religions and cultures have some sense that there is more to reality than what meets the eye. That is, we may envision death and its aftermath differently, but most cultures affirm the premise that there is something lying on the other side of the grave. For the most part, this gives us comfort, though not always (I know people who believe that …

The Righteous Branch—A Lectionary Reflection for Reign of Christ Sunday (Jeremiah 23)

Jeremiah 23:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
23 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.…

Wrestling With God at the Jabbok - A River Crossings Reflection (Genesis 32)

Genesis 32:22-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen …

What to the Immigrant is Veterans Day? -- Sightings (John Sianghio)

My maternal grandfather was an immigrant from Holland, who served the United States during World War II overseeing the Port of Embarkation in San Pedro, CA. By that time he had become a citizen, which I think back then was a bit easier, at least for Europeans. While only a small percentage of Americans serve in the military today, quite a few are immigrants. Some have died in service to a country they have yet to become citizens (indeed some vets have been deported because of undocumented status prior to enlistment). John Sianghio, a Philipino-American and doctoral student at the University of Chicago, asks the question "what to the immigrant is Veteran's Day?" It's an important question, and he raises important issues. So, I share this Sightings piece with you. What do you say in response?


Streams of Righteousness - A River Crossings Reflection (Amos 5)

18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
    Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
19     as if someone fled from a lion,
    and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
    and was bitten by a snake.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
    and gloom with no brightness in it? 21 I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos5:18-24 NRSV
As my River Crossings journey (sabbatical) nears its end, I continue to discover texts and readings that are suggestive of what it means to walk in the presence…

Vesper Time (Frank J. Cunningham) -- A Review

VESPER TIME: The Spiritual Practice of Growing Older. By Frank J. Cunningham. Foreword by Joyce Rupp. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017), xxviii + 146 pages.
I am growing older. My hair is getting thinner and grayer; my joints can get stiff; I don’t have as much energy as I once did. Then again, I've entered my seventh decade of life, so what should I expect. As I look back on my sixty-one plus years of life, I have a lot of memories, some are good and some are not. Although I’ve not yet retired, I spend time wondering about what is next. What will retirement hold for me? After all, if I’m like growing numbers of older Americans, I might live into my 90s. Being that I find myself in this place in life, a book on the “spiritual practice of growing older” seems appropriate. Indeed, I found Frank Cunningham's book Vesper Time to be insightful and encouraging. He might be writing as one fifteen years or so my senior, but the wisdom present in the book is worth attending to even fo…

The Day Will Come . . . A New Creation -- A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 23C (Isaiah 65)

Isaiah 65:17-25 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
17 For I am about to create new heavens
    and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
    or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
    and its people as a delight.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
    and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
    or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
    an infant that lives but a few days,
    or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
    and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the wor…

Prayers for Veteran's Day -- 2019

I have been asked, once again, to offer the invocation and benediction at the Veteran's Day observance in Troy, Michigan. I offer these prayers, modified somewhat from the prayers I offered at the same event in 2017, in honor of those who have served and with a prayer for peace on my heart.
God of peace,
We gather today to give honor to women and men who have served their country with dignity, honor, and courage. We seek to recognize the willingness of our veterans, who have shown a willingness to serve in difficult and often dangerous moments, whether they were drafted or volunteered.
As we gather here today, we pray that a spirit of peace will come upon the nations of this world, so that young women and men will no longer be called away from family and friends and put in harm’s way. We look forward to the fulfillment of the prophet’s words, who spoke of a day when the nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall no…