Showing posts from February, 2010

Living in the Kingdom: Sermon on the Lord's Prayer #2

Matthew 6:7-13; Luke 13:18-21

We live in a modern democracy that enshrines the words: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Didn’t the nation’s founders throw off a king in order to gain this independence?   And yet, week after week, we pray that God’s kingdom would be revealed and that God’s will would be done, both in heaven and on earth.  How do we reconcile our prayers with our politics?
    I suppose we reconcile these two very different perspectives, by spiritualizing the kingdom of God.  We live in a democracy here on earth – where we get to run our own lives – and when we get to heaven, well, then God gets to be in charge!  
    Unfortunately, Jesus won’t let us off the hook so easily.  Reme…

Prayers for Chile (and Pacific Neighborhood)

In the wake of the devastating earthquake that has wreaked havoc on Haiti, news has come of  one of history's largest earthquakes, one measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, has hit off the coast of Chile, about 200 miles southwest of the capital of Santiago, and 70 miles north of the second largest city, Concepcion, which is in the zone that has experienced the highest amounts of shaking due to the quake. (see the map from the New York Times to the left).
   The damage is great, as one might expect, but added to the earthquake damage in Chile, there is the possibility of a dangerous tsunami hitting through out the Pacific Region, including Hawaii. Despite the magnitude of the quake, the effects on Chile likely will be less than in Haiti, for the people of Chile are used to large quakes and have prepared for them -- much as in Southern California.  Still, as I know from living in Southern California, and having experienced much smaller quakes, the devastation will still be great. 

The Church -- Not a Family?

In the churches I've pastored, all of which have been small or smaller, have liked to think of themselves as family.  Of course, we have always been rather dysfunctional families!   Still, we like the idea of being family, because it speaks of intimacy and support.  But is this a good image for the church?  Does it portend something that undermines the purpose of the Church?
Tony Robinson has written a piece for Duke Divinity School's Call & Response blog that calls into question this idea that the church is family.  Entitled "Quit Thinking of the Church as Family," Robinson notes that there are a number of reasons why this image runs contrary to the purpose of the church to be a community that is transformative of people and the broader community to be more Christlike.  He writes:
Many of the congregations that claim “We’re a family,” lose sight of larger transformative purposes and settle, instead, for the comfort and satisfaction of their members. The core purp…

Thy Kingdom Connected -- Review

THY KINGDOM CONNECTED: What the Church Can Learn from Facebook, the Internet, and Other Networks.  By Dwight J. Friesen.  Foreword by Leonard Sweet.  Afterword by Dan Allender.  Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009.  189 pp. 

    Writing to a church that prizes individualism and autonomy, Dwight Friesen preaches networking.  In a world that seems increasingly polarized – despite the ever expanding opportunities to communicate – he embraces a message of unity, what Mainline churches call ecumenicity.  The model for achieving this unity is different from the one embraced by the ecumenical movement.  It’s not institutional; it’s a grass roots effort, involving efforts to build links between separated people.   Friesen isn’t focused on getting denominations to agree on a theological construct.  Instead, he envisions people getting caught up God’s vision and begin joining together in giving witness in word and deed to God’s missional presence in the world.   An image that appears in the later …

A Summit on Health Care -- the Way forward

I didn't watch the Health Care Summit yesterday -- I had a pretty busy day at the church.  So, I have to take my cues from the clips and reports that I've seen since.  As one might expect, when it comes to nailing down what happened, it depend on who you check with.  If you support the GOP position, then they did well.  If you support the Democrats, they did well.  If you like the President -- well he did a good job, etc.
There was a bit of the old campaign fire in the conversation as McCain tried to tangle with the President, who reminded his former foe that the election campaign is over.  Both sides brought to the table their political agendas, and at times, apparently found some points of agreement.  But no agreement was to be found.  
The reality is that our political system has become so polarized, and the Republicans have gotten pretty good at using the filibuster in the Senate to put a stop to any Democratic Party efforts, that the government is at times grinding to a ha…

In Toyota We Trust -- Sightings

I know, it's probably  a bit unseemly for a Ford-driving metro-Detroit resident to post a piece like this, but the posting by Frances Leap is quite interesting, for it talks about what we put our trust in and why.  I remember growing up, Toyota and Honda were considered less than desirable cars.  The Accord, for instance, was known by many as the "Accordian" -- of course the Accord of the 1970s wasn't a midsize car.  My uncle, who was an engineer for Boeing told my mom not to get a used foreign car for me because of their low reliability and the difficulty finding parts.  Now, the fact that I got a Ford Maverick should have cured me of my antipathy for foreign cars, but I've stuck with American!  But, I know that many my age and younger, especially those living on the West Coast have a love affair with Toyota that is hard to break.  Now, even as Chevrolet and Ford are offering more and more reliable vehicles, Toyota faces a major public relations problem.  It had…

Religion among the Millennials

The blogs, Facebook, Twitter -- they're all talking about religion and the Millennial Generation.  This is the generation born between 1981 and 1992 (more or less).  It's the generation that envelopes my own son -- and the young adults in my church.  
A new Pew Research Report suggests what many of us in church work already knew, young adults are increasingly unaffiliated, especially in relationship to earlier generations.  Whereas at a comparable age, people of my generation (Boomer) saw maybe a 13% unaffiliated  rate at a similar age, it's climbed to 26%.  That's one out of four who feel that the church doesn't meet with their expectations of a community that sustains their faith.  They decry the institutionalism of the church.  
They believe in God at similar rates as earlier generations, but their understandings of God and social mores are different.  To give a key difference.  According to the poll, 78% of those born before 1928 say that homosexual relationships…

A Sad Day for a City

I know that in some circles today, there are victory parties and high-5s.  They will say that they have brought the city of Troy to its knees.  Interestingly it is former leaders of the city who have led the charge.  But with the votes in, the property tax millage went down to defeat.  I know that I received fliers, letters, and robocalls that not only urged a no vote but defamed city leadership and city staff.  Now, we face the loss of services -- closings of one of the best municipal libraries in the country, a beautiful community center that provides meeting places for community groups -- including young people, seniors, the disabled, and more.  The nature center and the museum face closure, and there will be cuts to the police force that makes Troy one of the safest cities in the country (we may pay less taxes now, but we'll likely pay more in insurance).  
Should we be all that surprised?  Probably not.  There is an anger and a frustration that is present in society, that is b…

Four Years a Blogger!

It was four years ago, Friday February 24, 2006,  that I created this blog and posted the first essays.  I started out small, not really knowing where this would go.  At some point, I read a post by Scot McKnight of Jesus Creed, back before he went with Beliefnet, which suggested that if you wanted to be a writer, you had to  devote time and energy.  That included, being a blogger, and so, that's what I've done.  I've tried to post something every day.   I posted a piece in November of 2006 that acknowledged Scot's advice.  I don't have his following, but over time the following has grown. That first day I published three times.  Here is the very first posting, a posting that gave a sense of what I thought I was undertaking at the time.  
Journey is an apt description of faith. When we think of the biblical story, of Abraham and Jacob, Moses and Jesus all were people on journeys. Faith is not so much a destination as it is a pathway. But we don'…

Living into the Kingdom

What does it mean to pray that God's kingdom might come into existence?  What role do we play in its emergence?  What are we committing ourselves to in offering this prayer?
New Testament scholar John Koenig writes that it's on this petition that the rest of the prayer hinges -- whether daily bread, forgiveness,  or deliverance from evil.  As I was reading through is chapter on the Lord's Prayer and the Kingdom of God -- in his book Rediscovering New Testament Prayer  (Harper San Francisco, 1992-- now available from Wipf and Stock) -- I came across a couple of paragraphs that really speak to the question of the day.  I'd like to share them and invite your responses.
I suspect that even when we pray "Thy kingdom come" most intentionally, most of us do not think of ourselves as true insiders, residents of God's reign who know pretty well how to enact it on earth.  At best, we are petitioners at the doorway of the kingdom, painfully conscious that we have not…

God's Kingdom -- the Great Divine Clean up

My friend Steve Kindle, in a comment on an earlier post, suggested that we look to Crossan and Borg to get a sense of the context of the Prayer Jesus taught the disciples.  The second petition, which we will consider this coming Sunday, speaks of the coming of the kingdom, so that God's will might be done on earth as it has been in heaven.

Looking to John Dominic Crossan for a moment, he writes in his book God and Empire this of the Kingdom of God:

"The Kingdom of God" was a standard expression for what I have been calling the Great Divine Cleanup of this world.  It was what this world would look like if and when God sat on Caesar's throne, or if and when God lived in Antipas' palace.  That is very clear in these parallel phrases of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:10:  "Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  The Kingdom of God is about the Will of God for this earth here below.  That earthly presence agrees, of course, w…

Time to Vote for the Future of Troy, Michigan!

The polls are open, the city's plows have cleared the streets as they always do with great dispatch, and so it's time to vote.  You've seen the signs, received the mailings, and likely received the robocalls.  They've been telling you that you'll be receiving a 29% tax increase if the measure passes.  This is not true.  Due to falling values, taxes will go down for most folks in the city -- unless you live in one of the few areas of the city where values have stayed the same or risen (lucky you).  Even then, it's still not a 29% tax increase -- but the opponent's math sounds so simple it must be true.  Unfortunately, that's not the way you figure the tax.  If you think you're going to get a big tax increase, before you vote, check with the assessor's office.  Oh, and just to note -- Bloomfield Township to our west has a 1.3% millage increase, while Sterling Heights to the East is contemplating one.  So, it's not as if Troy is alone in this.

Thy Kingdom Come . . .

Having prayed the first petition of the Lord's Prayer, asking the God would hallow God's name in our lives, we move on to pray that God's kingdom would come in its fullness.  This is a petition that seems odd, or should seem odd, to those of us living in a modern republican democracy.  Living in a country that threw off its monarch more than two centuries ago, monarchy seem old fashioned and inappropriate.  Even nations with monarchs, such as England or Spain, don't accord the monarch any real power.  Indeed, in many ways, the monarch is one who goes to funerals and opens shopping centers.  
And so, here we are, invited by Jesus, to pray that God's kingdom might come into existence.  The text that I chose to use Sunday as a catalyst for the sermon is Luke 13:18-21. 
The Parable of the Mustard Seed18 He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and b…

Sexuality -- Sightings

Well, the title says it all. It's the issue that in one way or another seems to dominate the conversation, except in the church. Martin Marty speaks today to the recently released report on sexuality and the churches, issued by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.  I have already commented on the release here.  
Marty, who is always a wise observer, notes that Al Mohler took notice of the report, and while apparently attacking the paper, ultimately admitted that conservatives also struggle with the issue.  What Marty suggests is that if we agree that there is a problem in the house, maybe it's time for conversation rather than debate.
Take a look, offer your thoughts:

Sightings 2/22/10
 Sexuality -- Martin E. Marty
Thirteen months ago Sightings commented on a report by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, and its unsurprising finding that most theological seminaries do nothing to prepare future…

Grad students -- making bad life choices?

Saw this YouTube piece at Ben Meyer's blog -- Faith and Theology.    Having been a grad student (I am a Ph.D. after all), I do somehow resemble this Simpson's send up. 

As Marge says -- "Don't make fun of Grad Students, they just made a terrible life choice."

First Sermon audio "podcast" -- Worshiping the Holy God: Lord's Prayer Series #1

This morning we used our new digital recorder at Central Woodward and made our first audio podcast -- thanks to the work of my son Brett and Will Boyd our web designer.  We didn't do any major editing to the audio, so its somewhat raw.  As I listen to the audio, I must admit that I'm not used to hearing myself speak.  Thus, this seems rather strange to me.  Still,  if you're more the audio type than the reading type, I invite you to check out the podcast, and subscribe if you'd like.

The sermon is the first in a series of sermons looking at the Lord's Prayer.  We pray this prayer every Sunday, but what do we mean when we say these words -- Our Father and Hallowed is Your Name?

Now, for one last item, I'd like to thank Will Boyd of 3 Story Church for doing such an excellent job with our web site.  If you have a church and want a well designed and functional web site, I'd suggest checking with Will. 

So, if you want to check out the sermon -- whether in prin…

Worshiping the Holy God -- The Lord's Prayer Series #1

Isaiah 6:1-8

    Every Sunday we recite the prayer that Jesus is said to have taught his disciples.  It’s a prayer that many of us know by heart.  There is, of course, a debate as to whether this is a model for us to follow or a prayer to be said as is.  There are good arguments on both sides, but my sense is that this really isn’t an either/or situation.  Instead, we will be blessed both by using the prayer as a model and by using it as our own prayer to God. 
    John Calvin suggested that while the form has value, we shouldn’t feel so bound to the form that we’re unable to change a word or syllable.  The point is not the form but the meaning, but still the form has great beauty and meaning.  And so he writes:  
    Truly, no other can ever be found that equals this in perfection, much less surpasses it.  Here nothing is left out that ought to be thought of in the praises of God, nothing ought to come into man’s mind for his own welfare.  And, indeed, it is so precisely framed that ho…

Our Father -- One In Whom We can Trust

I begin tomorrow a sereies of six sermons on the Lord's Prayer.  I had originally intended to end the series on Palm Sunday, but I needed to vacate the pulpit one Sunday, so we'll end on Easter.  As I begin the series tomorrow, we will lift up the opening phrase:  "Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name."  The opening words, "Our Father" ( πάτερ ἡμῶν) sets the town and has nuances that need to be explored.  As I noted in a posting yesterday there is much scholarly debate about how the word Father is used in the Gospels.  In both versions of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9ff and Luke 11:1-4), the Aramaic Abba is not present.  Rather it is the Greek pater.  To argue theologically from Abbais to argue from silence.  Anyway,  as I'm thinking through this text, I've been dabbling a bit into John Calvin.  Calvin has a bad rap, but he has much wisdom to impart, if we're willing to work through the difficult and challenging parts. 

As to…