Showing posts from October, 2010

Atheist Song - First hymnal for Atheists

This was sent to me -- a Steve Martin rendition of the First Atheist hymnal. Should be enjoyable to watch! Whatever your religious persuasion!

Don't Be Spooked: Stewardship Isn't That Scary

2 Corinthians 9:5-15

Considering that today is Halloween, and because the sermon title has a Halloween flavor, I suggested to Pat that the choir might want to sing “The Monster Mash” as an anthem. And in keeping with the spirit of the day and the sermon’s emphasis, I even thought about dressing up as a “TV evangelist.” After all, what’s more spooky than a TV Evangelist with that slicked back hair and smiling face asking everyone in TV land to fork over the big bucks so that God might bless the giver, while TV Evangelist adds another luxury car to an already crowded garage.
Alas, Pat didn’t think this anthem choice was a great idea, so he sent me an email suggesting that we might want to reconsider the idea, since he still needs employment. And so, as you heard, the choir sang something other than “The Monster Mash!” And without the Halloween anthem, there didn’t seem to be any reason to dress up in a costume.
But, in all seriousness, perhaps it’s fitting that we’re launching our month-…

The Coming of the Lord

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Luke 19:1-10

The Coming of the Lord
Whenever preachers look at the week’s lectionary texts they tend to look for any common threads. Sometimes, in our eagerness to find the threads, we push the envelope, and I suppose that I could be accused of that in titling today’s meditation. Except that each of the texts, even the Gospel text, speaks of the coming of the Lord. It is true that in Luke’s gospel, the Lord is simply inviting himself over for dinner at Zacchaeus’s house, but it still has that “eschatological flavor” that is present in the other two texts. In the Lord’s coming, there is salvation. And salvation involves or leads to righteousness – a word that needs defining.
The Habakkuk text closes with the phrase “The righteous shall live by faith,” a phrase that is repeated in Romans 1:17 (not the lectionary reading for the week). This phrase proved troubling to Martin Luther, who saw in it the possibility of “work’s righteousness,” and …

Religious Language and Women’s Rights in Afghanistan -- Sightings

One of the big concerns about the future of Afghanistan, especially if the Taliban and the current government reconcile to end the conflict is the impact on women.   If the current conflict is to end it will involve reconciling all parts of Afghan society, so what will happen to women, whose status at this time is rather precarious.  Helen Zeweri writes today about the way in which religious language can be used to affirm and lift issues of gender equity in Afghan society.  That is, if women are to take control of their lives they will need to make use of Islamic religious language, institutions, and texts.  Her essay reminds me of the way in which many evangelical women (and their male supporters) looked to biblical texts, examples, and language to create a pathway to equality.  Thus, texts like Galatians 3:28 were lifted up, as were examples of Deborah and Mary Magdalene.  The same can be true in an Islamic nation (remember that women have led Islamic states such as Pakistan, Bangla…

Is Voting an Act of Violence? Reflections on Election Process

Yesterday I offered up some thoughts on the upcoming elections.  The day before that I offered up a review of a book entitled Split Ticket: Independent Faith in a Time of Partisan Politics.I have always believed that voting is not just a right, but a sacred privilege to be taken very seriously.  I have tried to vote in every election and I make it a point to go to the polls to vote.  I have taken my lead in part from Romans 13, though my interpretation might not be standard issue. 
In Romans 13, Paul tells the people to be "subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God."  In our country, which is a democracy, the governing authority is the voter.  Thus, I am to be subject to the direction given by the voters, even if I don't always agree with the majority on every issue or candidate.  Now I don't follow this lead blindly, but I understand that in our system we have the rig…

Election Day is Near at Hand

A week from now, we'll all wake up and be able to enjoy watching TV without having to endure the constant drone of political ads that seem to multiply exponentially each year.  We will know whether the GOP has been able to wrest control of one or more houses of Congress.  We'll have a better sense of the short term impact of the so-called Tea Party.  And we'll get on with life.  Indeed, we likely will see the stock market soar. 
I'd like to make a few comments about the political forecast.
Third party ads  that are financed by unknown groups and corporations are impacting this election cycle -- though we don't know in what way to this point  (there could be a backlash against candidates backed by shadowy groups that are financed by corporations protecting their own interests) Restating the first point, the recent Supreme Court ruling, allowing Corporations to spend whatever they wish on elections is having in my mind a negative impact on the elections. Concern about th…

Split Ticket -- A Review

SPLIT TICKET: Independent Faith in a Time of Partisan Politics. Edited by Amy Gopp, Christian Piatt, and Brandon Gilvin. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2010. viii + 184 pp.

If the reports are to be believed, young adults are leaving the church, either because it has become too politicized or because institutional religion has become corrupt and moribund. They are, for instance, turned off by their perception that churches tend to be anti-homosexual. And if truth be told, they’re probably correct in this perception, for at most, a majority of churches have followed the lead of the military and have instituted a policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In other words, stay in the closet.
Of course, not all young adults are leaving the church. Neither are all young adults rejecting what some would call political agendas (definitions are important here, because many consider social justice advocacy/action to be political, while others see it as a proper extension of the gospel). As is true of people…

Adventurous Theology: Transforming Paul (Bruce Epperly)

The Book of Acts is one of the more fascinating parts of the New Testament.  It tells the story of an expanding mission of God, wherein the gospel goes forth into the world.  At first it is a mission to Jews, but quickly expands to embrace other groups, including Samaritans and Gentiles.  It is a mission that is rooted in the Jewish witness, but as the story of Acts suggests, the mission that goes forth in the name of Jesus, modifies the terms of conversion so that circumcision is removed as the marker of entrance into the community.  The key preacher of this new understanding of salvation in the name of Jesus is Paul, whom we meet in Acts 9 as Saul of Tarsus, a zealous protector of orthodoxy, whose visionary encounter with Jesus transforms his life and witness.  Bruce Epperly continues his exploration of the adventurous theology of Acts by focusing on the transformation of Saul into Paul. 

Adventurous Theology: Transforming Paul (Acts 9:1-31) By…

Christian Violence -- Sightings

Perhaps you've heard rumors that Muslims are violent, even though they claim to be a religion of peace.  The folks spreading this word tend to be Christians, but as Jesus said be sure to take the log out of your own eye before trying to take the splinter out of your neighbor's eye.  And thus, today, Martin Marty reviews a number of recent reports on the level of Christian violence.  Perhaps we all need to step back and recognize that religiously inspired violence is not the province of any one specific religion, but is a possibility present in all of them (as well as in non-religious communities).  One need not take the story literally to see in the story of Cain and Abel a parable for every age.   Thus, I pass you on to the care and feeding of Martin Marty who offers helpful wisdom on the issue of Christian violence. ****************************

Sightings 10/25/2010

Christian Violence - Martin E. Marty

“Christians kill too!” is the topic this week as frightened and angry Americans…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945 -- Review

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance.  By Ferdinand Schlingensiepen. Translated by Isabel Best. New York: T & T Clark, 2010. xxix + 439 pp.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has become an almost mythical being. His death at the hands of Nazi thugs has proven to be so inspirational that everyone wants to claim him as their own. Therefore, Death of God theologians of the 1960s could build a theology on Bonhoeffer’s theological musings about a “religionless Christianity” and a world “come of age.” On the other hand, radical antiabortionists have claimed his mantle and appealed to his involvement in the plot against Hitler as a rationale for their acts of violence directed at abortion clinics and their personnel. There is also the recent attempt by a biographer of Bonhoeffer to turn him into an American Evangelical. Yes, Bonhoeffer has become of the great modern saints, standing alongside Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bonhoeffer’s life story and his theology a…

Poured Out -- A Lectionary Meditation

Joel 2:23-32

2 Timothy 4:6-18

Luke 8:9-14

Poured Out
Each week, as I sit down to write this lectionary meditation, I look at the text to see if there is something that connects them in one way or another. After all, the creators of the lectionary have tried to some extent to bring some thematic unity to their choices. It doesn’t always work, but often something sticks out, something catches the imagination. As I looked at these three texts, which in some ways are quite distinct, a phrase stood out in two of the passages – the words “pour[ed] out.” In the Joel passage, the Spirit is poured out on the whole people, empowering and equipping them to bear witness to the things of God. In the passage from 2 Timothy, the author (assumed to be Paul in the text) claims to have been “poured out as a libation.” That is, he is being offered up as an offering to God. The words don’t appear in the Lukan parable, but consider the cry of the tax collector, he pours out his heart before God, seeking forgi…

Building Cultures of Trust -- Review

BUILDING CULTURES OF TRUST.  By Martin E. Marty.   Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.  192 pp.

    Back in the day, a song by the rock group Three Dog Night suggested  that “one is the loneliest number that there ever was.”  I’d like to paraphrase that line to read: “trust is the loneliest word that there ever was.”  At least in the current situation, trust seems in short supply.  Where once the mantra was “don’t trust anyone over thirty,” today we don’t trust anyone or thing, including politicians, government, religious institutions, science, corporations, banks – think about that for a minute, a bank is supposedly a “trust” institution -- and the courts.  We have become a nation of conspiracy theorists, where a significant minority believes it’s Jesus-confessing President is a closet Muslim who was born in Kenya.  But, if trust is in short supply, how then can our society survive, let alone function?   Although a certain degree of suspicion is healthy, lest…