Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Come, take the risk of being more." -- Archbishop Blase Cupich

Yesterday Blase Cupich was installed as Archbishop of Chicago, one of America's most important archdioceses.  The Archbishop of Chicago usually gets one of those famous red hats from the Pope (named as a Cardinal).  Interestingly Cupich came from the rather backwater diocese of Spokane.  In other words Pope Francis passed over a number of more high profile bishops to fill this most important post.  What we have learned so far is that this unassuming bishop is of a common mind with the Pope.  He is a pastor who cares about people, especially immigrants and the poor. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mormon Issues -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

I would venture to guess that a great many people know that back in the day polygamy was practiced by members of the Mormon faith. If you go to Salt Lake City and visit the Beehive House and the Lion House next door you will learn about Brigham Young's multiple wives. Although polygamy was officially set aside in 1890 in the United Sates by Latter Day Saints President Willard Woodruff.  There have been a few TV shows that explore modern plural marriage, but all my LDS friends over the years, while they highly valued marriage and family, showed no interest in reviving this old practice.  One area of debate has been over whether polygamy went back to Joseph Smith and whether he had multiple wives.  His original wife, Emma Smith, always denied it and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ) always denied it.  Recently, as Martin Marty notes, the church in the desire to be transparent is admitting that he had up to forty wives.  Now this isn't new news.  I read Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History years ago and she documents as many as fifty-two wives.   In any case, it is interesting that one of the few growing religious movements in America is wrestling with its own past.  Take a read.  

Mormon Issues
Monday | Nov 17 2014
The Melchizedek priesthood is conferred to Joseph Smith                 Photo: More Good Foundation
Sightings has sighted and commented on trends and travails among standard-brand faith communities this fall: Jews, Protestants, “The Mainline,” “Evangelicals,” “Southern Baptists” and more. Most of them report on or envision down-trends in matters of affiliation and participation.

Who’s left? We get asked: “Why don’t you report on an up-trending group, a set of winners, for a change? Answer: we are not political scientists (or book reviewers) and have to wait until something of public consequence beckons.

Suddenly, in the particular case of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), out of a clear (well, “partly cloudy”) sky, these Mormons obliged us, with one action of their leaders hitting front page and top on-line status. Most-quoted and cited was Laurie Goodstein’s front page story in the New York Times (Nov. 10), “It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had up to 40 Wives.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Build Transit, Build Business -- Regional Transit for Detroit

You may have heard that Detroit recently emerged from bankruptcy.  If you don't live in or near Detroit, you may have heard more about the bad things than the good things.  But there are signs of new life budding all around us (even if winter is setting in).  One of those buds is the prospect of a truly regional transit system.  People have been trying for forty years to create something that would work.  That day has finally come.  The State established a Regional Transit Authority.  A CEO was hired.  Conversations have begun.  The future looks bright.  Yes, there is a major hurdle lying on the horizon.  To create a regional transit system will require funding, because transit systems don't survive on fares alone.  It takes tax money to sustain the system, but whether we use the system or not we benefit.  Businesses benefit because their workers and their customers can get to where they need to go.  Educational institutions, hospitals, churches can benefit.  Riders young and old benefit.
 Unfortunately regional politics have often stood in the way of creating a system that would lift the region.

As a pastor I believe transit is a moral issue.  The Metro Coalition of Congregations  is one of the leaders in raising the moral side of the question.  I serve as the President of the coalition, which is a project of the Harriet Tubman Center.  Our transit task force, which began under the leadership of two young adults from the congregation I serve, and now is chaired by my colleague, the Rev. Louise Ott, laid the ground work for now two important summits.  The first was held in June at the Detroit Zoo with the moniker "Better Transit, Better Business."  This morning we held a second summit, where we heard from the chair of the RTA Board and the new CEO Michael Ford.  We heard from leaders of four educational institutions in the region.  We heard from an expert in laying out campaigns to achieve the goal of successful transit systems.  We pledged our commitment to working together to accomplish the goal.  Rev. Kevin Turman, the Chair of the Board of the Harriet Tubman Center and a leader in the Detroit Clergy Group and I as President of MCC pledged to gather clergy and religious leaders from across the region to pursue this cause.  My hope and prayer is that this effort to achieve a reliable transit system connecting all points of the region can help build bridges across the divides present in this region. One word that we heard as a criticism of the event was that while Millennials were talked about on the program, they weren't on the program -- we will make every effort to address that next time!!

Near the end of our time together the clergy surrounded the gathered group and offered a word of blessing on all who were gathered and all who were yet to gather.  As they gathered around the room I was asked to offer a few words, which I'd like to share:

Transit is a moral issue. In North Carolina the Moral Monday Movement began with a handful of people gathering at the state house who were concerned about justice.  It took time, but that handful grew, week by week, a few persons at a time, until there were thousands gathering to make their voices heard.   A similar movement is being born in the faith communities of this region.  We also began with a handful, but little by little the numbers are growing.  We are watching and talking and most of we’re praying that the leaders of our communities, whether in the government or in the business sector will purse the common good.  Today we have come to give our support to the development of a reliable and affordable regional public transit system.  Even as I am speaking clergy are encircling the room.  We come from the city and the suburbs lending our voices to the cause we’ve been talking about today.  We are going to stay on this task until we reach success.   

We know that the road ahead will be difficult.  Many people must be convinced that this is a worthy endeavor.  They want their tax dollars spent wisely.  No more bridges to nowhere.  But though there will be skepticism and cynicism to be overcome, we believe that the path forward is the right one.  If you're living in the region and you read this, won't you join me in this work.  If you live outside the region and you read this, won't you pray for us.  Detroit is on the mend. And by Detroit I mean both the city itself and its suburbs!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Here Comes the Judge! -- Lectionary Reflection for Christ the King Sunday

Matthew 25:31-46 -- New Revised Standard Version

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

                The liturgical year comes to an end with Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday. As we ponder what it means for Christ to be king, it is perhaps fitting that the gospel reading for the day focuses on judgment. One of the roles an ancient king had was that of judge. Solomon, we’re told, was renowned for his wisdom as exemplified in the judgment rendered with the women who contested to whom a child belonged. It was said that Israel “stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute judgment” (1 Kings 3:16-28).  With knowledge that monarchs were charged with being the final judges in their realms, we end this cycle of readings knowing that judgment has been a central theme of recent readings from Matthew’s Gospel.  Since the moment that Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem being hailed as Son of David, this has been at the heart of his message even as he faces imminent arrest.    

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Community of Sharing --A Sermon on Stewardship

Acts 2:42-47

Back during my days teaching at Northwest Christian University, a couple of my students asked me what I thought about them living as a group of students in community. I remember acknowledging their interest in this arrangement, but since one of the students involved had just gotten married, I suggested that they might want to take it slowly and cautiously. While they decided not to pursue the venture, one of those students ended up forming just such a community. That community in Eugene is part of a movement that has come to be known as the New Monasticism. This movement builds off the teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who called on Christians to live together in community and pursue life lived under the guidance of the Sermon on the Mount.  

Down through the years many Christians have experimented with living in community as described in Acts 2 and Acts 4. This community, according to Luke, gathered for the Apostles Teaching, for fellowship, for prayers, and to break bread.  You can see a pattern here that is relived in our worship services.  In liturgical circles this is called the service of Word and Sacrament.  Bonhoeffer wrote:
 “All Christian community exists between word and sacrament.  It begins and ends in worship.  It awaits the final banquet with the Lord in the kingdom of God.  A community with such an origin and such a goal is a perfect community, in which even the material things and good of this life are assigned their proper priority.”   [Discipleship (DBW, Vol. 4), 233]
Community exists between word and sacrament – preaching and sharing at the table. Within the bounds of this definition come prayers and fellowship.