Showing posts from May, 2018


We have been talking once again about racism in America. This time the catalyst was a tweet from Roseanne Barr suggesting that Valerie Jarrett, President Obama's former advisor and friend was the product of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes.  The reference to the Planet of the Apes suggests that Jarrett, who is African American, is an ape, which has been a common trope to suggest that people from Africa and of African descent are less than human. That is, they are not as far a long on the evolutionary track as Europeans and their descendants. It was used in previous centuries to justify slavery. After all, they weren't really fully human. We even enshrined this belief in the Constitution, counting people who were black as three fifths of a person. 
Roseanne's tweet isn't harmless. It is one more expression of a view held by some that white people are by nature superior to others. It is a view enshrined in the principle of manifest destiny. We used it t…

The Living Pulpit (Mary Alice Mulligan) -- A Review

THE LIVING PULPIT: Sermons that Illustrate Preaching in the Stone-Campbell Movement 1968-2018. Mary Alice Mulligan, General Editor. St. Louis: CBP Press, 2018. Viii + 280 pages.
Disciples (my denomination) call ourselves “people of the Table.” While this may be true, preaching plays a leading role in our life together. Along with the Table, at which we gather weekly, preaching serves a foundational role in our worship. Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and Walter Scott (the acknowledged founders of the Stone-Campbell Movement) all were preachers, with Stone and Scott being evangelists. They proclaimed the word, believing that it would lead to redemptive purposes. The movement has been marked by strong preaching down through the years. This commitment to preaching within the movement has been recorded by the movement through published volumes reproducing representative sermons. The first of these compilations was published in 1868. Another was published in 1918, and a third …

A Prophetic Calling - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 2B (1 Samuel 3)

1 Samuel3:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then…

A Prayer of Remembrance -- Memorial Day 2018

I have been asked to offer a prayer of invocation for the Memorial Day observance in the city of  Troy, Michigan, where I serve as pastor and as a police chaplain. I have been doing these prayers for special occasions frequently in recent years. I recognize that it is an act of civil religion. My hope is that the prayer offered will call to mind a higher calling, and that is the pursuit of peace, but also to speak of healing of heart and mind. I decided to post a picture of the Vietnam Memorial, for in its starkness calls to mind lives given in a war that we have come to believe was wrong headed. But, we shall never forget the lives of these women and men, most of whom were drafted, to serve far from home. It was not their choice to enter this war or any war. So, we remember. We honor. We also must commit ourselves to peace. 
Holy One
We gather together as a community in solemn remembrance of those who have died in service to country and to community. We seek to recall to memory t…

The Voice of God - A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Psalm 29

Have you heard the voice of God lately? Did you hear it in the “still, small voice” that spoke to Elijah? (1 Kings 19). Did you hear it coming out from a burning bush? Did you hear it in the thunder and lightening of the recent storms? Do you hear God speaking through Scripture or maybe through conversations with people of wisdom and grace? 
Last Sunday we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit, who empowers and inspires the church for mission. We listened to the words of Romans 8, hoping to hear a word from God. In that passage, Paul writes that when we don’t have words to speak, the Spirit interprets our groans and sighs to the Father (Rom. 8:22-27). That must mean God hears our voices. That is good news, but what about us? How do we hear God’s voice? 
As we gather this morning on what the liturgical calendar calls Trinity Sunday, we are invited to contemplate the very nature of God. We are invited to ask the question: Who is God? As we ask that question, we can also ask how…

A Church Hosts Iftar Dinner, Helps Break the Ramadan Fast

On Wednesday evening the church I serve as pastor (Central Woodward Christian Church) co-hosted an Iftar Dinner with the Turkish American Society ofMichigan. It was our third annual dinner. An Iftar dinner is the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast, which Muslims undertake during the ninth lunar month. Muslims will fast from dawn to sunset. When the sun sets, which was 8:56 in Troy, one can begin eating the meal, though usually you begin by eating a date. For a Muslim this fast covers all food, all drinks (including water), and all intimate activities. I will confess that I did not fast, but I did share in a wonderful meal prepared by our friends from TASM.
While a church hosting such a meal might seem odd, I believe it is an important expression of Jesus’ practice of an open table. In this case we provided the space, TASM provided the meal. Together we shared fellowship, building important relationships. Christians and Muslims, along with Jews, form the Abrahamic faiths. All three tra…

More Thoughts on the Trinity

This Sunday churches around the globe will celebrate Trinity Sunday. Even Disciples of Christ churches may choose to observe the day (we will at my congregation). With that in mind, I wanted to share a little more from an essay I'm working on that is intended to help folks from my tradition consider the value of the doctrine of the Trinity. It's not our way to impose a doctrine, so I will have to be persuasive. So here are few paragraphs from the section exploring the biblical framework of the doctrine. 
While it is understandable that the Hebrew Bible might have few if any explicit trinitarian declarations, one might expect the New Testament to be more forthcoming. However, even here there are no explicit statements of a trinitarian doctrine. The doctrine is a theological construction that attempts to make sense of the biblical witness, especially those texts that affirm the primary relationship between Father and Son. The most explicit statement is the baptismal formu…

Too Many Liberals in the Liberal Arts? - Sightings (Martin Marty)

I am a believer in liberal arts colleges, which are designed to give students a broad education that forms the foundation to life. It's designed to help people learn to think for themselves. They come in all forms, from religious to non-religious. Now, I will confess that I am the graduate of what was a bible college that became a liberal arts college. By bible college, I mean we took a lot of bible! We had a mix of politics on our campus, probably more Republican than Democrat, but I never took a poll. In any case, the point here in Martin Marty's essay is the apparent preponderance of Democrats on the faculty of elite liberal arts campuses. Am I surprised? Not really, especially in light of the recent turn on college education on the part of Republicans. But that's my response.  I invite you to read and consider!