Showing posts from September, 2013

Billy Graham Taught Christians New Ways of Being in the World -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

In her recently published book on The Christian Century, Elesha Coffman noted how Martin Marty was involved in Century efforts to counter Billy Graham's growing influence in the 1950s.  A lot of water has gone under the bridge, and both Marty and Graham are considered senior statesmen of the Christian faith in America.  Graham is older and feebler, but both continue to have influence.  In this posting Marty reports on what he heard at a recent conference at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.  He concludes that Graham may have had and continues to have a salutary influence.  Although he doesn't address how he felt in the 1950s, here we find a word of appreciation.   Take a read and offer your thoughts.    

Billy Graham Taught Christians New Ways of Being in the Worldby Martin E. Marty
Monday | Sept 30 2013 White House photo office / Wikimedia CommonsBilly Graham was feted in a conference at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, September 26-28, 2013. T…

Ode to the Organ

The organ played poorly is of no value to worship.  I'm in agreement with that assessment, and I've been privy to some bad organ playing over the years.  But, I've also been blessed with very good organists.  My current organist being among the best around.   I appreciate that he doesn't drag the hymns, but knows how to lead the congregation in good singing from the organ (and we have a very good organ as well).

During my sojourn in England, I was treated to some very fine organ work.  You will find pipe organs in churches of all sizes, along with the chapels of most of the Oxford Colleges.  The music at Christ Church Cathedral (Oxford) and St. Paul's Cathedral (London) was led from the organ (along with men and boys choirs).   I was treated to recitals at Magdelen (pronounced Mawd-lin) College (Oxford) and Westminster Abbey (my only opportunity for entrance to the Abbey since I worshiped in the morning at St. Paul's).  
I realize that not everyone likes the or…

Upon the Return from Pilgrimage

The first month of my sabbatical is drawing to a close.  I have returned home from my two plus week trip to England.  For me this was more than just a trip, it was a dream fulfilled.  It's been twenty-two years since I finished my Ph.D. program at Fuller.  I didn't get to England during my school days, and I hadn't gotten there since.  But the dream was there.  While many Christians seek to go to the Holy Land and trace the footsteps of Jesus, my point of pilgrimage was England.  I finally made it there, thanks to my congregation's willingness to support my sabbatical, and a fellowship provided by the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History (Oxford Brookes University).  
In an earlier post, before going to England, I had pointed to Salisbury Cathedral as the centerpiece of my pilgrimage.  It would be there that I would experience that thin place we seek to find when on pilgrimage.  I enjoyed going to Salisbury.  It is a magnificent cathedral -- and the company …

Being Catholic -- Some Thoughts

When we use the word Catholic we think of it in denominational terms.  Even if the Roman Catholic Church eschews the idea that they are a denomination, they are in fact one -- whether they like it or not.  They are but one branch of the Christian community.  
The word "catholic" speaks of universality.  Thus, it is proper to speak of the Roman Catholic Church.  The word Roman modifies the word Catholic.  In my time in England I spent time working in the Bodleian Library, reading through letters and papers that flowed between Thomas Brett, a Nonjuror, and a wide variety of other correspondents, most of whom shared his Nonjuring commitments.  The Nonjurors are a rather obscure group of late seventeenth through eighteenth century dissenters from the current religious and political establishment in England during that period.  I won't go into detail on the Nonjurors -- if interested you can read my online article about their theology -- but I bring them up because they, even …

“God Can Deal With Our Anger” -- Alternative Lectionary -- Proper 22 (David Ackerman)

Christians aren't supposed to get angry!  We've all been taught this bit of wisdom.  And yet we do get angry.  And for good reason.  Even Jesus gets angry on occasion.  And we've all heard about the wrath of God -- right?  A good Jedi always keeps his or her emotions in check (Stoic), for anger leads to the dark side.  But is there a place for emotions?  These are the kinds of questions that David Ackerman raises for us in this set of alternative lections for Proper 22, which falls on October 6 (World Communion Sunday).  David invites some reflections on that connection as well.  I invite you to consider this set of readings for Proper 22. 

Proper 22
October 6, 2013 “God Can Deal With Our Anger” Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:113-120 NRSV One:  I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. Many:  You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. One:  Go away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God. Many:  Uph…

Lively, Loose, and Affirmative: "Loosely Christian" as Transformative Faith (Bruce Epperly)

Bruce Epperly returns to offer us a vision of a Christian faith that is able to move with some fluidity, isn't rigid and yet able to transform.  As I have been considering the transcendent in my own reflections, Bruce brings in the immanent in his.  I appreciate his ability to provide a means of finding that bridge between spiritual dimensions.  So, from England, I invite you to consider Bruce's offering from Massachusetts.

Lively, Loose, and Affirmative: “Loosely Christian” as Transformative Faith

Bruce Epperly

I believe that we can claim the term “loosely Christian” as a positive affirmation.We can affirm the life and teachings of Jesus and share intimately in Christian community and mission, and also be open to God’s movements in the novel and rich textures of a post-modern, post-Christian, and post-Anglo-European world.In this ever-changing, multi-centered world, faithful Christians, can embody a fluid, protean, and transformative faith.Th…

Rewarded in Heaven? A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 19C

Luke 16:19-31 Perhaps you grew up with the adage that the poor, or at least those who have been treated with some degree of oppression, will get their reward in heaven.  I suppose that this idea has some roots in this parable from the Gospel of Luke.  If you know the parables at all, you've heard this parable.  Like others in Luke, the poor are set above the wealthy.  Poverty, whether voluntary or not, is more likely a sign of godliness -- or at least of God's preferential treatment.  Pope Francis, thankfully, has been giving attention to this vision, reminding us that the Church has a responsibility for the needs of the poor.    
For those of us who are Protestant the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man can be a troubling passage.  It seems to speak of something of a middle state, or at least a post-mortem reality, where sinner and saint are in close proximity but separated by some sort of barrier.  One's position seems determined by how one lived prior to death, perhaps h…

Transcendent Moments -- Reflections after a Day in London

On Sunday I traveled to London from Oxford by train.  It was my one stop in London -- and I only had time to get a glimpse of the city.  I began the day in worship at St. Paul's Cathedral, the 17th century  edifice designed by Christopher Wren to replace the earlier Gothic Cathedral that had gone down in the Great London Fire of 1666.  Worship at the Cathedral is what one would call Broad Church -- or Middle of the Road Anglicanism.  No Incense, but still vestiges of ritual.  Choir and organ dominate.  The sanctuary was full -- maybe a 1000 in attendance.  Some visitors like me, others regular attenders.  The sermon on the Gospel delivered by Simon Jones, Chaplain at Merton College, Oxford.  Our ability to hear with understanding was hindered by the echo of the dome.  Interestingly enough the Dean of St. Paul's as he led the Eucharistic Liturgy could be heard without problem or without echo -- perhaps because of his location closer to the center of the dome.  While I must say…


I'm nearing the end of my time in England.  Just four more days I return home.  As I begin to reflect on my time here, including my many hours spent reading through three hundred year old letters in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, I'm recognizing the need for rootedness.  Not foundations, but roots.  Organic not building materials.  While I understand the attractiveness, of being "spiritual but not religious," I'm not sure it is sustainable.  While I understand the attractiveness of starting new communities, I also see the value of long established communities.
Coming here to England has allowed me to connect with my inner Anglicanism.  I attended services at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford on three occasions.  On Sunday the 22nd, I will attend services at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.  The cathedral in Oxford is much smaller than St. Paul's.   I don't know how these two experiences will contrast with each other until I actually go to St. Paul'…

Preach it, Putin! -- Sightings (William Schweiker)

One way or another Syria seems to be in the news.  So far no bombing runs, but the rhetoric continues.  I've not read Vladimir Putin's op-ed, but apparently he brings the Lord into the conversation.  Not sure Vlad is truly a prophet of God, in fact he doesn't seem keen on practicing what he's preaching, but we can always be reminded about the need to pursuit peace and justice!    Take a read and offer some thoughts.

The University of Chicago Divinity School
                   SIGHTINGS, a publication of
Preach It, Putin! by William Schweiker
Thursday | Sept 19 2013Credit: Creative Commons / Russavia

God Frees Us to Be Faithful -- Proper 21 (David Ackerman)

What does it mean to be free? How does freedom lead to faithfulness?  Who is the one who sets us free, and what are we free from?  These are all questions that are pertinent for today's world.  David Ackerman's alternative lectionary choices allows us to consider these questions, and at least in 21st century America, the freedom of God isn't the same thing as libertarianism! ************************************************* Proper 21
September 29, 2013 “God Frees Us To Be Faithful” Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:89-96 NRSV

One:  The Lord exists forever; your word is firmly fixed in heaven.
Many:  Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
One:  By your appointment they stand today, for all things are your servants.
Many:  If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my misery.
One:  I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
Many:  I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.