Archive for March, 2009

31
Mar
09

Tending the Garden

Not being accustomed to gardening in the Northeast, I am somewhat amazed to see perennials starting to shoot out green in March. Past winters, except for the one spent in England a few years ago, have been suffered in less hospitable climates than upstate New York. I remember the stares of incredulity as I planted Iowa gardens before Mother’s Day, as well as covering up those plants in early May to protect them from a deep freeze. Of course, there’s nothing to say that I won’t have to do the same here.

I view gardening as one part of participating with God, in some small way, in the act of creation, Continue reading ‘Tending the Garden’

31
Mar
09

Homophobia, Apartheid, et al

           Periodically, I suffer from the delusion that culture and society can actually be understood, and that I can speak with some knowledge towards that understanding. This fabrication in my mind, fortunately, passes with time, saving poor innocent bystanders the terror of witnessing the inner workings of my mind. Alas, this is not one of those times.

Reader beware! These may be nothing more than the ramblings of a madman.

           I am recovering from my former life – being a recovering addict, recovering economic exploiter, recovering sexist, recovering racist and recovering homophobe. In my newer life, I am a combatant in a war against all manner of exploitation, oppression, manipulation and dehumanization of any and all people. There is, as you know, no worse critic that someone recovering from a particular expression of a disorder. Continue reading ‘Homophobia, Apartheid, et al’

30
Mar
09

Wrestling with Personal Theology

Over the last few years, one of my favorite preaching topics has been the abandonment of self-interest, selfish ambition and conceit that is extolled in Philippians chapter 2. The call to humility contained within that passage culminates with “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (2:12) which, I remind the congregation I am addressing, is difficult to do with someone else’s theology tucked under your arm. To be free of your own conceit requires being free of theological tenets that establish authoritarian norms of belief. It is to acknowledge that certainty is the opposite of faith, not doubt. Continue reading ‘Wrestling with Personal Theology’

30
Mar
09

A Parable based on Gen 19:1-15

             Two gay men and two lesbian women came to Sodom in the evening as Rev Lot was communing with some local folk downtown. When Rev Lot saw them, she rose to meet them and extended her hands, because she saw, in the faces of these people, the image of God – the very tired and rejected faces of Christ.  Continue reading ‘A Parable based on Gen 19:1-15’

29
Mar
09

Covenant Stressed

COVENANT STRESSED – Why Ministers and Laity Leave Church

Much has been written, over the last several years especially, about the level of stress experienced by clergy. Stressors are cited as reasons for clergy infidelity, sexual misconduct, power abuse and the number of professionals leaving ministry. Conflict, usually at the local church level, is the most common type of stressor cited. Quite understandably, much of the work done in this area of study uses the techniques and language of sociology and psychology. Covenant, however, is not a concept strictly, or even commonly, associated with either of these disciplines, while it is a central tenet of the bulk of Christian pastoral effort. Covenant is a mutual relationship. Church members, clergy and officers are equally important in the relationships of the church, and can fall prey to exactly the same kinds of stresses. In my estimation, studying the role of covenants, or rather broken covenants, might yield far more meaningful results for understanding church stress generally, and the reason so many leave the church specifically. Continue reading ‘Covenant Stressed’

29
Mar
09

Road Trip to Love

When driving on a long trip, the route I take depends on whether I am driving for pleasure or expediency. If my schedule is tight, needing to travel a long distance in the shortest time possible, I prefer to travel on the interstate. I want to get where I’m going quickly; I print off a map, set the cruise control, zoom past the sights and stop only when absolutely necessary. But when time is not a big factor, and the sun is shining, my priorities change. Then, I avoid the interstates whenever possible – they’re boring. I drive on state routes and even occasionally back roads, enjoy the scenery and occasionally stop in interesting towns even if I don’t need to gas up. I always have several options for getting from one place to another.

When Jenna is with me, a third way to travel sometimes develops. You see, Jenna is kind of averse to going too far without stopping to see something interesting, or to enjoy a moment of peace. Generally, she reminds me that I also need this kind of break in the journey – generally. Continue reading ‘Road Trip to Love’

28
Mar
09

God’s Economy

Having accepted the challenge to discuss economic theology with a Presbyterian session of a large metropolitan church, and having overheard in conversation the “ideal” minister being described as a “CEO” type, I began with a simple exercise – one I had presented several times before to different audiences. The exercise takes advantage of the preponderance of business language and processes being used by sessions and boards of religious institutions.

Continue reading ‘God’s Economy’

28
Mar
09

Anatomy of Conflict

Any group of people, whether it is a club, company, church, synagogue, association or other entity, is a body or system. While very few of the people involved may relish conflict, it is a critical component of a healthy system. Absent opposing pressures, the system will cease to function. The body serves as the best example, as almost all muscles are formed in pairs. Movement of any kind, even as simple as changing the gaze from a near point to a far point, is accomplished by the opposing mechanical processes of muscles. A healthy system recognizes the inherent value of conflict, mitigates the normal human responses of “fight or flight”, and uses the opposing pressures to create healthy and viable action. That being said, most human systems or organizations have little to no capacity for utilizing conflict constructively. Continue reading ‘Anatomy of Conflict’

26
Mar
09

Critical Life Incidents – Entering Seminary

In August 2001, I began my seminary education as a “special” student. The special classification was because I had no undergraduate degree. I was allowed to take three courses for each of two semesters, after which the admissions committee would decide if an exception to the undergraduate degree requirement would be granted.

Two seminary professors I had met in different circumstances had originally told me of the exception. Each had been aware of my interaction with students who were experiencing difficulties – some while on an immersion trip in Mexico, and another while doing her internship at a church where I worked. In each case the exception was used as a trump card when I played my “I can’t go to seminary – I don’t have a degree” card. Continue reading ‘Critical Life Incidents – Entering Seminary’

25
Mar
09

The Nature of Prayer

 What do I consider to be the nature of prayer? I’ve been asked many questions about prayer and people’s prayer lives, but this one caused me to really think about my answer. As it turns out, I’ve written twenty page essays on less involved topics, but will do my best to address the high spots of my thoughts.

Prayer, for me at least, fits into three categories: personal, communal and liturgical. Admittedly the last two are not neatly separated, but in my definition communal prayer is that which occurs between two or more people outside of a formal service or liturgy.

Personal prayer varies considerably but generally fits under an umbrella of “conversation with God”. Continue reading ‘The Nature of Prayer’

24
Mar
09

The Fullness of Communion

For those who are unfamiliar with the significance of the Lord’s Supper or Communion, I’d like to offer my thoughts. Since Communion is a sacrament observed by the Church, it is a little risky to assume what someone does or doesn’t know about Church, Church Mission and Membership. So, before moving into the discussion of the Lord’s Supper, I’ll spend a little time unpacking the luggage with which it travels.  This is necessary because communion doesn’t exist as a separate ritual, but as an integral part of the life of the Body of Christ. It is also necessary because many ask for a quick explanation of the meaning of communion which, for the life of the church, is like asking for a short answer to the meaning of life. Without communion, church may largely lack meaning. Much of this is sourced directly, or interpreted, from the PC(USA) Book of Order. Continue reading ‘The Fullness of Communion’

23
Mar
09

Religions Put Emphasis on Least Theological Issues

Theologically speaking, God can be found in all situations. In even the most heinous of events, we can trust God to be at least suffering with those who suffer, mourning with those who mourn and crying with those who cry. So even in this trying economic time, we can envision God’s concern for those who are worst hit by our unfolding system of commerce – the worst hit, of course, being the poorest of the poor and not particularly those whose fortune may have been trimmed by a few billion. Given this, I find interesting the results of a Pew Forum survey of religious people in which they were asked where President Obama and the legislature should concentrate their efforts. Additionally interesting, although I have yet to find an explanation, is the fact that the categories include only white religious people. We are left to surmise the purpose of that decision.

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Continue reading ‘Religions Put Emphasis on Least Theological Issues’

23
Mar
09

Government Averse to Curbing Big Business Arrogance

In his commentary, AIG bonuses follow an American tradition, Julian Zelizer cites long-standing tradition as the real culprit in the AIG bonus scandal. While both parties are trying to paint the other as complicit, Zelizer makes the cogent point that the Fed’s long-standing tradition of avoidance when it comes to the management and profit-making of big business has been the real enabler.

Zelizer wrote: “In many ways, the bonus scandal was utterly predictable and would likely have happened regardless of which party was in power. And if history is a guide, the populist outrage over the bonuses may not fundamentally change the federal government’s relationship to private business. Traditionally, American politicians in times of crisis have resisted aggressive interventions by government into business which would tamper with managerial prerogatives and profits.” Continue reading ‘Government Averse to Curbing Big Business Arrogance’

21
Mar
09

Finally, Laying Blame Where it is Due

I don’t normally like the “blame game”. It is, many times, used to lay blame for negative outcomes on the lowest level of management possible, so that when heads roll they are insignificant. It is a process of scape-goating – finding the lowest person on the ladder of decision-making on which the corporate sins can be laden and then slap them on the behind and send them out into the wilderness of public scrutiny. When, however, there is a systematic strategy of avoiding responsibility, laying blame where it is due becomes the method by which healing can occur. Continue reading ‘Finally, Laying Blame Where it is Due’

20
Mar
09

Post-Exilic Community in Haggai & Zechariah 1-8

While there seems to be little disagreement over the dating of the prophesies of Haggai and Zechariah[1], the same cannot be said about conditions of the society to which they were delivered. To a large extent, the differences stem not so much from the content of these Biblical books as from varying ideas about the nature of the Babylonian exile of the Judeans. Knowledge of the number and societal standing of the exiles would, of course, have great bearing on the current understanding of both the returning exilic population and those remaining in Judah during the course of the seventy year dispersion. The details relating to the Judean society that can be gleaned from the pages of these prophetic books must be examined in light of the range of ideas that prevail about the previous period. Continue reading ‘Post-Exilic Community in Haggai & Zechariah 1-8’




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That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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