Showing posts from October, 2013

Luther, Faith, and Reformation Day

Today is Halloween for all the trick or treaters, but it has religious significance as well.  It was on All Hallows Eve (October 31), 1517 that Martin Luther, monk and professor of Bible at Wittenburg University famously nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the castle church -- at least that is the story.  I know there are questions about the facticity of the event, but he did issue a challenge to the church concerning what he perceived to be abuses.  I shall not go into them here.
I want to note that in part the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century has roots that go back much earlier and lasted well into the seventeenth century.  It was a complex movement that occurred both inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church.  At one level the Reformation centered on the question of authority.  Early reformers such as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cramner, and Menno Simons sought to root their reforms in Scripture, placing church tradition below Scripture leading to the hallowed princip…

God Helps Us through All of Life’s Storms -- Alternative Lections for Proper 27 (David Ackerman)

Life isn't a bed of roses, or at least a bed of roses minus the thorns.  We encounter many storms in life.  The question is -- can we put our trust in God in the midst of them?  In this set of readings for Proper 27 from Beyond the Lectionary, David Ackerman invites us to consider the way we live our lives.  Do we live in fear or in trust that God is with us, even in the storms of life.  If you're a preacher or a teacher perhaps this alternative set of readings will prove valuable.  Or perhaps this offering can be of use for pursuing your spiritual journey.  


Proper 27
November 10, 2013 “God Helps Us through All of Life’s Storms” Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:169-176 NRSV One:  Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word. Many:  Let my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. One:  My lips will pour forth your praise, because you teach me your statutes. Many:  My tongue will sing of your promise, f…

Guess Who Is Coming to Dinner? -- A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 24C

Luke 19:1-10 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town.A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich.He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd.So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said,“Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.”So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.
Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.”
Jesus said to him,“Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham.10 The Human One[a]came to seek and save the lost.”   (Common English Bible)
                Everyone who has gone through Sunday School probably know…

Evangelical Pullback/Retreat-- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Are conservative Christians stepping back from the culture wars?  It's a good question. Pope Francis isn't a theological liberal, but he is calling on Catholics to turn their attention to issues like poverty and away from social issues.  Many evangelicals are also refocusing their attention to issues of social justice.  So where are the trends leading?  Martin Marty helps us think through these issues in this week's Sightings post.

Evangelical Pullback/Retreat
Monday | Oct 26 2013 Nick Forslund / Compfight         The public is getting used to headlines like these: “Evangelical Leader Preaches Pullback from Culture Wars” and “Southern Baptists Sounding Full-scale Retreat in Culture War?” The former is from The Wall Street Journal and the latter from Renew America. The theme has become a constant in the blog world and among public media, just as it has become a topic of conversation in churches, and wherever “culture wa…

Breaking through Barriers

One of our first stops on our trip to Southern California was to Angelus Temple, the mother church of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.  For those not familiar with the Foursquare denomination (one of my own denominational stops), it was founded in the early 1920s by evangelist Aimee Sample McPherson.  Long before many mainline Protestant denominations were ordaining women, Aimee heard a call from God and never looked back. 
I have long been fascinated by Aimee.  I dare say that the vast majority of members of the denomination she founded know her name.  Few know of the barriers she broke through.  Consider that at age 17 she married a young evangelist and headed off to China, where her husband died soon after they arrived leaving her pregnant and stranded.  She found her way home, remarried, had another child, and headed out on the road.  She didn't have a strong formal education, but she had a powerful sense of call, believing that if God had gifted her, then …

Christian or Not, Ghanianians Continue to Rely on Traditional Healers. -- Sightings

As Christianity penetrated new areas it has had to wrestle with the cultural dynamics of the receiving cultures.  In this piece, Alice Brown introduces us to the Ghanaian experience, where the majority of the population sees itself as Christian yet makes use of traditional healers.  I invite you to read and engage in conversation with the author.


Christian or Not, Ghanaians Continue to Rely on Traditional Healers
Thursday | Oct 24 2013Credit: MamaYe Africa / flickr        Ghana is a predominately Christian country, with only a small fraction of the population following “traditional” religious practices. According to a 2010 census, 71 percent of Ghana’s 25 million people identify themselves as Christian, while only 5 percent say they believe in traditional religion. Ghana is also an elder-oriented society, in which kinship plays an important role. Traditional healing by herbalists, fetish priests, and psychics co-exists alongside science-…

God Helps Us in Our Grief -- Alternative Lectionary -- Proper 26 (David Ackerman)

We return to the alternative lectionary with the guidance of David Ackerman.  For many this will be an opportunity to observe All Saints Day.  We are enabled to delve into the path of grief and faith through these texts.  May they prove to be a blessing.

******************************************************** Proper 26
November 3, 2013 “God Helps Us in Our Grief” Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:161-168 NRSV
One:  Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.
Many:  I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
One:  I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
Many:  Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.
One:  Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Many:  I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I fulfill your commandments.
One:  My soul keeps your decrees; I love them exceedingly.
Many:  I keep your precepts and decrees, for all my ways are before you.

Gathering Prayer:  In the midst of our days, yo…


I need to preface what I'm about to write by noting that I am a minister in a faith tradition that practices believer baptism.  My own theology of baptism reflects this tradition.  I have my reasons for believing this way, but this is not the time to share it.
I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church, a faith tradition that practices infant baptism.  I was later the recipient of confirmation by the bishop of Eastern Oregon.  Still later I was immersed while at a high school camp (I was at that time part of a Foursquare Church).  But back to my baptism in the Episcopal Church.

I was baptized sometime after my birth at St. Luke's of the Mountains Episcopal Church of La Crescenta, California.  The priest was Father Sadler.  I don't have the exact date, but it was prior to our move to San Francisco nine months after my birth at Queen of Angels Hospital in Los Angeles (now the Dream Center, a ministry of Angelus Temple, the mother church of the International Church of the…

Thanksgiving and Secularization -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Although Halloween is the next holiday, Thanksgiving is just weeks away.  It has become the key moment in our consumerist society, when we head out to the stores to get the good deals for Christmas.  Martin Marty takes note of those who resent the encroachment of secularization on this holiday that once had religious observances attached.  Marty notes that services once held on Thursday morning and then sent to Wednesday evening have faded away.  I will add that there still are services -- but often poorly attended.   Rather than resent and whine, Marty offers some sage advice -- advice we might carry over into the Christmas season.   

Thanksgiving and Secularizationby MARTIN E. MARTY
Monday | Oct 21 2013 djLicious / flickrHaving had enough of talk about Congress and the Affordable Care Act and “default,” let’s look ahead, not back. I propose a glance at the calendar, with Thanksgiving Day several weeks off. It is in the news already because Macy’s stores, one of which is close, across…