Showing posts from November, 2018

Building a Bridge - Revised Edition (James Martin, SJ) -- A Review

BUILDING A BRIDGE: How the Catholic Church and the LGBTCommunity Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. Revised and Expanded Edition. By James Martin, SJ. San Francisco: Harper One, 2018. 190 pages.   

The question of whether and how the church should include people who are Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning continues unabated in both Protestant and Catholic communities, and I expect Orthodox ones as well. My congregation voted a few years back to become Open and Affirming. We were acting that way, for the most part, but we hadn’t embraced it in an official way. We did. We lost a few members and gained some. It was a difficult journey, but it was, in my view the right path. For some traditions the path is more difficult, as there are institutional realities to navigate that my congregation did not face. This is especially true of the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the challenges, the conversation is taking place in at least some parts of t…

Angels We Have Heard on High – A Reflection on Daniel 10

I have been walking through Daniel with my Wednesday Bible Study Group. We’re nearing the close of the journey, which I’ve been sharing here, having reached Daniel 10. The final vision in Daniel covers the final three chapters, beginning in with a prologue in chapter ten and concluding with a postscript in chapter 12, with the vision itself appearing in chapter 11. Because of the length of the section, I’m dividing the vision into three sessions.
Session One, which takes place today, sets up the vision. Daniel is in the midst of a three week fast from rich foods, meat, and wine, while choosing not to anoint himself. We learn that the fast ends on the 24th day of first month of the Jewish year (the month of Nisan), a time period in which the Passover would have been observed (except that during the exile and later under Antiochus, it couldn’t be celebrated, as they still awaited liberation). Daniel, we’re told, is situated on the banks of the Tigris River (the eastern branch of the Gr…

God’s Righteousness Revealed - A Lectionary Reflection for Advent 1C (Jeremiah 33)

Jeremiah 33:14-16 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
It is the First Sunday of Advent and a new liturgical year begins. This first Sunday in the Christian year is designated “Hope Sunday,” which is a good place to begin a journey. Advent has an eschatological dimension to it, in that it invites us to look forward to God acting on our behalf not only in the present but in the future. It invites us to put our trust in the God who makes and fulfills covenant promises. Many congregations, including my own, begin the journey singing the medie…

Seeing Jesus in East Harlem (José Humphreys) -- A Review

SEEING JESUS IN EAST HARLEM: What Happens When Church Show Up and Stay Put.By José Humphreys. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2018. 231 pages.
I am the pastor of a predominantly white suburban church that once lived in Detroit. This church moved to the suburbs, as did other congregations in the city, because most of the members had moved to the suburbs. The congregation tried to stay put, but in the end, it made better sense for the now diminished congregation to let another congregation make use of the historic building. The choice was probably correct, but I am attuned to stories of being present in the community. To be honest, suburban communities need congregations to be show up and stay put as well, so as to demonstrate God's love and grace, as well as challenging the status quo. Forty years after the move, this congregation is trying to stay put in the community we were replanted. I write this as a preface to my review of José Humphreys’ book, Seeing Jesus in East Harlem. One of t…

Ruling Justly - Sermon for Christ the King Sunday (2 Samuel 23)

2 Samuel 23:1-7

We usually begin the church year singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive, Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.” The season of Advent begins by remembering Israel’s exile. We do so in the hope that Emmanuel, the one whose name means “God is with us,” will usher in the reign of God. Then the “Desire of nations” will “bind all peoples in one heart and mind; bid envy, strife and quarrels cease; [filling] the whole world with heaven’s peace.” [Chalice Hymnal  119]. 
The journey that begins in Advent concludes this morning with Christ the King Sunday, and we’ll close out this journey by singing  “Rejoice, the Lord is King! The risen Christ adore! Rejoice, give thanks, and sing, and triumph evermore.” [Chalice Hymnal  699]
The title “Christ the King Sunday” is rooted in an earlier time when monarchies were the most prominent form of earthly government. Things have changed over time, but the concept of monarchy is still present in ou…

Jonestown in American Religious Life -- Sightings (Rebecca Moore)

It is the day after Thanksgiving, and all through the land, people are out shopping for great deals. So, maybe this isn't the time to share a story of an infamous anniversary. It is now 40 years since the murder-suicides of the members of the People's Temple community in Guyana. Because Jim Jones and the People's Temple were affiliated with my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) it is an anniversary that rocks our consciences. I remember the President of my college reading a statement trying to distance the college and the denomination from the event. In the aftermath Disciple' regions began to tighten requirements for ordination and affiliation. But what about the people who died? In this Sightings essay Rebecca Moore, a religious studies professor and sister of one of the members and thus participant/victim of that event invites us to consider the humanity of the people of People's Temple and not just the tragedy of Jonestown. She notes that …

Now Thank We All Our God -- A Song for Thanksgiving Day

It is Thanksgiving Day, and in my mind few hymns reflect Thanksgiving better than "Now Thank We All Our God." Enjoy this version, which was arranged by John Rutter, and  presented with orchestra and choir, at a church in Cape Town, South Africa.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

Giving Thanks for Multi-Faith Friendships

I was talking with two dear friends the other evening after our annual Troy-area Interfaith Group Thanksgiving Celebration. I am a white Christian pastor. My two friends are immigrants, Amin is a Muslim man who grew up in Pakistan, while Padma is a Hindu woman who was born in India. I have worked closely with both over the past ten plus years in interfaith efforts, and in the course of this work, we have become close friends. Both Padma and Amin have been a blessing to me, and it took a move from California to Michigan for friendships like this to be forged. Therefore, as we approach Thanksgiving at a time when nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment are running high, I want to celebrate their presence in my life (and not just Padma and Amin, but the many people I’ve come to know over these past ten years in Michigan). This face of our nation, which some feel the need to resist, often in the name of Christianity, was recently pictured on the cover of Time Magazine.The picture is an upda…

Living Under God’s Rule - A lectionary Reflection for Christ the King Sunday B

2 Samuel 23:1-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
23 Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse,
    the oracle of the man whom God exalted,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
    the favorite of the Strong One of Israel: The spirit of the Lord speaks through me,
    his word is upon my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken,
    the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly,
    ruling in the fear of God,
is like the light of morning,
    like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
    gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. Is not my house like this with God?
    For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
    ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper
    all my help and my desire?
But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away;
    for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
to touch them one uses an iron bar
    or the shaft of a spear.
    And they are entirely consumed in fire on the sp…