Showing posts from September, 2018

Forgiveness as a Theological Construct -- A Reflection

Note: What follows are the notes I wrote up for an educational moment that follows the worship service at Congregational Church of Birmingham, where I am preaching. Pastor Louise Ott and I traded pulpits so she and the Stephen Ministry team at the two congregations could lead the service at Central Woodward Christian Church. They will do the same next week at CCB, while I will preach the sermon (or a facsimile of it, completing my series of sermons from James, next Sunday at CWCC). 
          I have been asked to address the question of “Forgiveness as a Theological Construct.” This is not an easy task, because I must wrestle with my own experience with forgiveness and the lack thereof. When it comes to developing a theology of forgiveness I must start with the prayer recited each Sunday as I gather at the Lord’s Table. As we recite the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Some congregations use the trespasses or sins instead of debts…

True Inclusion (Brandan Robertson) - A Review

TRUE INCLUSION: Creating Communities of Radical Embrace. By Brandan Robertson. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2018. Ix + 118 pages.
Creating truly inclusive religious spaces is not easy. In fact, it may not be possible to include everyone in order to be inclusive (do you include those who disrupt or could cause harm to the community?). Being of the view that it is important to move toward a place of being as inclusive as possible, I am open to hearing from those who have some experience with this calling. While I serve a congregation that chose, after a long journey, to become Open and Affirming, I know that there is much more to learn. Our pathway proved to be costly, but I think necessary for us to be faithful to our calling. We have moved a long way toward becoming inclusive, but we have a long way to go. Of course, that may be true for all. 
Over the past decade or so, more and more resources have emerged that assist in the process of becoming inclusive, especially with regard to creati…

Dreaming Big Dreams -- Reading Daniel 2

Today our Bible Study group will work through Daniel 2. In chapter 1 we encountered four Jewish exiles living in Babylon, The four were trained for service in the king's court. All were gifted, but one among them--- -Daniel---had the added ability to interpret dreams. As with Joseph before him, that will come in handy when the king has a bad dream and needs it interpreted. This particular dream features a statue composed of four metals---gold, silver, bronze, and iron---the feet of which is made of a mixture of iron and clay. In the dream, which Nebuchadnezzar wants to have both recited and interpreted (he seems a bit paranoid about being overthrown). Interpreting is one thing, reciting an unrevealed dream on pain of execution is another. All is lost until Daniel gets wind and is brought in to both reveal the dream and an interpretation (though both are gifts of God and not a result of his own powers).
The interpretation is itself ambiguous, lending itself to numerous interpretat…

A Reversal of Fortunes - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 19B (Esther 7, 9)

Esther 7:1-10; 9:20-22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

7:1 So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2 On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. 4 For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” 6 Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. 7 The king rose from th…

Muslims at the American Table - Sightings (Eboo Patel)

As I often do, I am posting an essay published by the Martin Marty Center in their Sightings series. This essay is written by Eboo Patel, the founder of Interfaith Youth Corp. It is, as noted adapted from his latest book, which I have not read. In this essay he speaks of the ways in which the American experience is forming an American Islam, one which recognizes the diversity of Islam, and that while diverse, American Muslims share more in common than they do in their differences. The Islamophobia triggered by 9-11 began the process of bridge-building. The current Trump Administration inspired Islamophobia is encouraging it as well. As a Christian who has significant contact with Muslim friends, I found the essay very helpful. I also take to heart the warning that Muslims will not be the last religious minority to face discrimination. Take and read.


Living the Wisdom of God -- Sermon for Pentecost 18B (James 3-4)

James 3:13-4:3; 7-8a

In times past, we Disciples often spoke of being part of “The Restoration Movement.” This label has come down to us from Alexander Campbell who wanted to “restore the ancient order of things.” He wanted to restore the church practices of the first century because he believed that things were purer back then. You might call that nostalgia for the past. That’s not surprising, because there’s a human tendency to think that life was better back then than it is now. That’s why we still watch reruns of  Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best, and if you spend any time on Facebook, you’ll discover that, at least among my peers, the 1970s was a golden age. They weren’t for me, but I get it!
Church people can indulge in nostalgia as well. It’s easy to look back to the 1950s, when the churches were full and influential, and think that was a golden age for the church. Of course, women would have to step down from being elders and only men would get to preach. But, at least t…