Showing posts from February, 2016

America's Original Sin (Jim Wallis) -- Review

AMERICA'S ORIGINAL SIN: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.By Jim Wallis. Foreword by Bryan Stevenson. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016. Xxv + 238 pages.

                Racism is America's original sin. That is a very theological diagnosis, but an accurate one. It is a sin that has festered in our midst from the earliest days of European exploration and settlement to the present. It is a sin that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is deeply embedded in the American psyche, and even today many of us live in denial that one can be infected by this sin. Yet, the evidence suggests otherwise.

                Jim Wallis is a Christian activist who has attempted to address this reality throughout his adult life and ministry. He is aware that his own reality is affected by his own ethnicity. He, like me, benefits from what we have been calling white privilege. He has been involved in this work through the auspices of Sojourners, a leading Ch…

Come to the Waters - A Reading from Isaiah 55

I am not preaching today, so I simply will share one of the two readings from the Old Testament that have been designated for today for your meditation.Isaiah 55New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
55 Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.

Flourishing (Miroslav Volf) -- A Review

FLOURISHING: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World. By Miroslav Volf. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. Xviii + 280 pages.

Miroslav Volf is one of the preeminent theological voices of our time. He has a kept a keen eye on the broad religious and cultural issues that play out in the world, with his bookAllah: A Christian Responsebeing a masterpiece of theological reflection that seeks to build bridges between Christianity and Islam.  Volf’s latest book, titled Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World, continues the kind of work exemplified in Allahand Exclusion and Embrace.  More importantly, this book speaks to the moment at hand. At a time when religion is seen by many as a danger to the world’s existence, Volf offers a trenchant defense of the role religion can play (at its best) in shaping the ongoing globalization of our world.

Politics as Usual?

I must admit that I’m a bit puzzled by the current political season? I may be a pastor, but I’ve always been interested in politics. I first got involved in politics as a ten-year-old. It was 1968. My parents were both active in the Republican Party. I got to spend time at the Republican headquarters and stood with the teenagers who lined the road when Richard Nixon came to town. We all wore sashes that declared “Nixon’s the One.” Four years later, as a fourteen-year-old, I went door-to-door for the party’s candidates. I was so interested in politics that I began to dream of a day when I could enter the political ring. I admit I was young and maybe naïve, but I believed that this was an honorable profession.

Where’s the Fruit? - Lectionary Reflection Lent 3C

Luke 13:1-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

13 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around …

Covenant Promise - Sermon for Lent 2C

Genesis 15:1-11, 17-18

We worship a covenant-making God, and as Disciples of Christ we speak of the covenant relationship that binds congregations, regions, and the General Church to each other. Ronald Osborn was one of the leading figures in creating a restructured Disciples church, and he wrote:  In religion, in marriage, and in the life of a nation, a covenant is a sacred bond sealed with an oath or vow of allegiance. In the community of Christians the pledge is called a sacrament. A Christian swears faithfulness to God. God promises faithfulness to the church. This two-way pledge is seen most clearly in the Christian covenant sacraments of baptism and communion.[Faith We Affirm, p. 59]When God called on Abram and Sarai to leave their homeland and head toward a strange land, God promised to make them to be a great nation that would bless the rest of creation (Genesis 12:1-3). Three chapters later, Abram is beginning to wonder whether God intends to fulfill that promise. He and Sarai …

Walls or Bridges?

You might have heard that Pope Francis and Donald Trump have gotten in a bit of a tussle. Or, rather, the Pope raised questions about whether building walls is Christian. Trump took offense and in true style fired back. I'm going to leave that conversation to others to decipher. My sense is that the Pope's statement has been misinterpreted.  It's the policy not the person that he is addressing, though policies do emerge from a person's vision of themselves and of the world. Since Mr. Trump has made exclusion, deportation, and wall building the center of his campaign, we might want to ask whether his perspective is in keeping with Jesus' call to love one's neighbor.
I appreciated hearing John Kasich's response to the kerfuffle. He suggested there are too many walls and not enough bridges being built.  I think the GOP candidate has put his finger on something important. 
We live at a time when more walls than bridges are being built (and if you've seen t…

Microaggressions in Ministry (Cody Sanders & Angela Yarber) -- A Review

MICROAGGRESSIONS IN MINISTRY: Confronting the Hidden Violence of Everyday Church. By Cody J. Sanders and Angela Yarber. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Books, 2015.  X + 161 pages.
                There are books you would like to set aside—permanently—but know you shouldn't. This is one of those books. The reason I say this is that we don’t like to think of ourselves hurting others, intentionally or unintentionally. When it is brought to our attention that we may have offended or someone, it’s easy to become defensive. I know, I’ve been there. Sometimes what we think is inconsequential behavior or teasing, can be rather hurtful. Again, I’ve been on both sides of the ledger. It’s no longer appropriate to be overtly bigoted, but that doesn’t mean that subtle bigotry, and sometimes less than subtle, isn’t out there.
                I had never heard of microaggression until this particular book, authored by Cody Sanders and Angela Yarber, showed up in the mail. I picked it up and…

Evolution -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Evolution is a dirty word in some Christian circles. I made my peace with evolution a long time ago, as you can see by my book that goes by the title Worshiping with Charles Darwin, (Energion, 2013). But the question of how religion and science relate has yet to be fully answered. There are, of course, as Martin Marty points out, fundamentalisms of religion and science that will not give room for other's existence, but that need not be us. In this essay, Marty reflects on the recent discovery of the sounds made by gravitational waves. It leads him to a reflection on a speech given by a Dominican priest and scientist years ago that speaks to the messiness of our realities. I invite you to read and reflect on the relationship of faith and science. 

. Evolution
By MARTIN E. MARTY   FEB. 15, 2016 Skulls showing human evolution.                                         Credit: JuliusKielaitis / Even bigger news this week than U.S. presidential campaigns came from the LIGO…

Holy Spirit I Pray (Jack Levison) -- A Review

HOLY SPIRIT I PRAY: Prayers for morning and nighttime, for discernment, and moments of Crisis. By Jack Levison. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2016. Xi + 114 pages.
                It is standard Trinitarian procedure to pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. To pray directly to the Holy Spirit is not unheard of, but it’s not the most common way of praying. Yet, there are valid reasons why one might want to address prayers directly to the Holy Spirit. After all, when one gathers at the Table and blesses the communion elements, one invokes the Holy Spirit, inviting the Spirit to be present in and with the elements that the recipients might be drawn into the presence of God. Nonetheless there are few resources available that invite us to address the Spirit in prayer. Jack Levison, who has written a number of thoughtful books on the Holy Spirit, has chosen to rectify that lack of resources. He has composed a set of prayers to the Holy Spirit, which have been published b…

A Time to Weep - Lectionary Reflection for Lent 2C

Luke 13:31-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” ******                 As we continue along the Lenten path, we know that for Jesus the path leads to death. Jesus could flee, but that would mean giving u…

Ancestral Immigrants - Sermon for Lent 1C

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Lent is a season of reflection that begins on Ash Wednesday with words of confession, marked by ashes, and accompanied by a word of forgiveness. The journey continues with a word about how the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he fasted and prayed and was tested for forty days (Luke 4:1-12). These forty days of Lent mirror the forty years that Israel wandered in the wilderness having their faith tested.
The reading from Deuteronomy 26 invites Israel to bring in an offering of Thanksgiving to celebrate the completion of the exodus from Egypt and the arrival in the Land of Promise. In words attributed to Moses, the people of God are directed to lay down their offerings and recite a confessional statement that begins with the words: “A wandering Aramean was my Ancestor.”

We gon' be alright: Rap and Reggae as Black Sacred Space -- Sightings (Noel Leo Erskine)

Music is a powerful force. It touches hearts more than minds, but the messages carried by music can be powerful. That's why we sing in church. It helps us connect with God and with one another. Music also has cultural components, which means that not all music touches us in the same way. Rap and Reggae have now been with us for some time, but I came of age prior to the advent of rap. I'm not sure the style hits in the same way as it does others, but I appreciate this essay because invites us to listen to how music can be a vehicle for creating alternative visions of reality.  So, I invite you to read and contemplate this essay from Sightings, written by Noel Leo Erskine of Candler School of Theology.
We gon' be alright: Rap and Reggae as Black Sacred Space
By NOEL LEO ERSKINE   FEB 11, 2016 Kendrick Lamar performing in Barcelona at the Heineken Primavera Sound Festival (05.30.14)
Credit: Christian Bertrand / shutterstock Celebrated hip hop rapper Kendrick Lamar and his album,…

40 Days, 40 Prayers, 40 Words (Bruce Reyes-Chow) -- A Review

40 DAYS, 40 PRAYERS,40 WORDS: Lenten Reflections for Everyday Life. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016. Xvi + 85 pages.
Lent is a season of forty days, mirroring Jesus’ forty-day sojourn in the wilderness. Lent is supposed to be a season of prayer and contemplation, and it is useful to have guides for the journey. Westminster John Knox offers us this guide authored by Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian pastor, writer, and cultural critic. He is a Senior Consultant with the Center for Progressive Renewal and served as the youngest ever Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly. In this brief book, Reyes-Chow brings together forty brief prayers and meditations focusing on forty words. Although the book is offered as a Lenten reflection, it can be used at any time of the year.

Where is Your God? Thoughts for Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)2 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
nor will be again after them
in ages to come.
12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing.