Showing posts from January, 2013

Concerning Guns: The Time to Act is Now

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony regarding passing strong gun legislation.  At this meeting former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gave an emotional call for action.  Still recovering from gunshot wounds to the head that have affected her speech and eyesight, she called for courage and for boldness.   I want to echo her call for action.   Action needs to be taken now in at least three areas: 
We need to make sure that universal background checks are instituted, which take into consideration all relevant information.I’m not sure how we can introduce mental health information, but I’m not sure what that would involve.  Do we enter into this database every person’s name that is taking anti-depressants, or is there a higher threshold of mental health related issue?    What is clear is that if you wish to buy a gun, you should have to go through the same process whether you buy it at Walmart or through a private dealer.  Background checks won’t keep every gun out o…

Hearing a Word from God -- A Lectionary Reflection

Jeremiah 1:4-10
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-27

Hearing a Word from God

It’s said that a prophet finds it difficult to get a listening audience from the hometown folks.  This is especially true if you’re young and inexperienced.  There’s that rule about being seen and not heard, and often it extends well into adulthood.  We’ve all been young once, and know that feeling that the message we wish to share is being discounted by those who are older than us.  Now that I’m a bit older than I used to be (I’m now in my mid-50s), I do have this sense that I’ve “earned” a right to be heard due to my longevity.  That being said, I’ve been in meetings where a young adult or a high school student speaks a word of great wisdom.  Unfortunately that word isn’t often heard or at least it’s discounted.  We know all about generational conflict, which often erupts because people can’t hear each other.  Maybe that’s why a mentor pastor writes to a younger pastor in 1 Timothy and counsels him to not let any…

Relational Healing: Urgency and Gentleness – A Reflection on the Healing of Bartimaeus (Bruce Epperly)

Bruce Epperly brings to a close his series of four posts reflecting on the possibility of divine healing.  The reflections emerge from his recently published book -- Healing Marks (Energion, 2012).  Bruce's theological orientation is relational.  As a Process Theologian, he believes that there is a connection between spirit and matter, and thus healing is possible.  In this reflection he looks to the story of Bartimaeus, the man born blind.  What does the healing of Bartimaeaus say to us as 21st century scientifically sophisticated persons?  Is healing possible?  What is its nature?  With questions like these in mind, let us hear from Bruce.
Relational Healing: Urgency and Gentleness – A Reflection on the Healing of Bartimaeus Bruce Epperly
Is God’s quest for healing unilateral or relational?  Does God take into account our freedom and creativity in relationship to God’s own freedom and creativity?  Do we have freedom to “yes” or “no” to God, and even propose “new…

Leadership that Fits Your Church -- A Review

LEADERSHIP THAT FITS YOUR CHURCH: What Kind of Pastor for What Kind of Congregation (The Columbia Partnership). By Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce.   St. Louis:  Chalice Press, 2012.  Xv + 160 pages.

            It should be abundantly clear to both clergy and
congregation members that not every match is made in heaven.   Even with the best of intentions and tools, matching a pastor with a congregation is complicated.  I suppose E-Harmony and can bring couples together with their patented computer models, but matching pastor to church seems a lot more complicated.  As a pastor whose first pastorate ended with a less than happy resignation, I look back now and can see how this was not a good fit from the beginning – at least not as a first call as a solo pastor.  Hopefully now that I’m in my third call, I’m a bit wiser and better able to discern proper fit, but even now it’s not always easy to know for sure how the match is working. Of course, a match needn’t be perfect to …

Immigration Reform -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

There are a number of important issues on the front-burner of the nation's political horizon.  Gun violence, national debt, health care, jobs, etc.  On many of these issues there is little agreement as to how to resolve seemingly intractable problems.  With regard to Immigration Reform, however, there seems to be a growing consensus that we must deal with this issue in a comprehensive way.  Although Nativist sentiment is still widespread, even many Republicans have seen the hand-writing on the wall and realize that at least on a national level they can't hope to win the Presidency while ignoring persons of color, especially Hispanics.  A key component in this change of focus is to be found, as Martin Marty points out, among Conservative Evangelicals, who have begun to recognize the biblical mandate for welcoming the stranger.  Perhaps this is an area where we can build a consensus that will make it possible for the millions of people, mostly young people, who have lived here, …

The Spirit's Mantle -- A Sermon

Luke 4:14-21

I’ve always found the story of Elijah passing over the mantle of the Spirit to Elisha to be quite powerful. It’s really the story of one generation passing the torch to the next.  So, when it came time for Elijah to ascend to heaven, he turned to Elisha, and asked him: What can I do for you before I leave?  In response, Elisha boldly asks Elijah for a “double share of your spirit.”  Yes, he wants everything Elijah has, but more.  So then, after Elijah ascends into the heavens, Elisha picks up the same mantle or outer coat that his mentor used to hit  and divide the Jordan, so they could cross over to the other side, and he followed his mentor’s example and hits the water and it divides so he can cross back over to the other side.  When the other prophets see Elisha coming toward them, they recognize the spirit of Elijah resting on Elijah’s former assistant, and affirm his calling to begin a new era of prophetic ministry in Israel (2 Kings 2:1-18).
Although the stories are d…

Gerrymandering and the Rigging of Presidential Elections

Perhaps the time has come for us to rid ourselves of the Electoral College!!  At least since the 2000 election, in which the loser of the popular vote managed to gain an Electoral College victory (though it was disputed), many have talked about abandoning the Electoral College as an outmoded relic of a by-gone era -- an era in which slave-holding states had a population disadvantage, and thus would have fared poorly in national elections.  The Electoral College gave them a certain amount of clout (remember that a slave was reckoned as 3/5s of a person and thus counted in assigning Congressional votes).   The contemporary argument for keeping this relic of that age is that it gives small states a certain stature needed to counter-act the population advantages of larger states.  Why would a candidate visit New Hampshire or Iowa, if the votes that counted would be found in New York, California, and Texas?  In deference to these states, we've continued on with this process.
But the t…

Valuing All Human Beings: Disability and Reproductive Rights Meet Congress -- Sightings

What happens when anti-abortion advocacy collides with the rights of the disabled?  That is the question raised by the US Senate's inability to approve the "United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."  Courtney Wilder notes the problems with the GOP opposition, including complaints about US sovereignty.  If we can not stand up for the disabled, then there is a real problem here.  I invite you to read the essay and offer your responses.   ******************** Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion
The University of Chicago Divinity School
Sightings  1/24/2013

Valuing All Human Beings:  Disability and Reproductive Rights Meet Congress -- Courtney Wilder On December 4, 2012 the U.S. Senate narrowly voted not to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty that has been signed by 154 nations (including the United States) and ratified by 126 of those nations. The treaty describes the precarious po…