Archive for April, 2009

30
Apr
09

Mary & Martha – True Disciples

Reading: John 12:1-8 

Stark contrasts and interesting characters seem to be the order of the day for the readings this morning. Sandwiched between passages about life and death, we have a seemingly simple vignette of a dinner party. The hosts and guests of the party are intrinsically related to what has come before and what will yet be.

The setting:

Bethany – the home of Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus. There are a few scriptural references about Jesus, Mary and Martha – and most of them include closeness – an intimacy of friendship. Bethany, it seems, was a frequent stop for Jesus and, from what we are told, it seems like this is where Jesus may have come to regenerate – to relax a while – a place to be Jesus the person as opposed to Jesus the Messiah. Jesus still taught – people still listened, but there appears to be a kind of intimacy in this house that draws Jesus.

The story before the reading: Continue reading ‘Mary & Martha – True Disciples’

29
Apr
09

Racism, sexism, classism, et al

The great list of “-isms” could go on and on. As a society, we always tend towards separating – discriminating between people like us and those not like us. In the extreme, it is called xenophobia – irrational fear of the stranger. While it can be argued that cultures having European roots have perfected many of the “-isms”, they are in no way limited geographically. Even the most basic building blocks of society – tribes – were many times based on a sense of “them vs us.” The jury is still out on whether this is an integral part of human existence or a learned trait spanning hundreds of generations. It is clear, however, that it is part of the human condition that we must strive to overcome if we are to live fully in the coming Reign of God. Continue reading ‘Racism, sexism, classism, et al’

29
Apr
09

LGBT Equality and Justice Day – NY Capital

The caucus gathering

The activists gathering

Yesterday, the Empire State Pride Agenda held it’s annual E&J day – a day that includes both political activism and a very visible public rally. The turn out again this year was phenomenal. Having had same-day and pre-registation in previous years, there was already a full roster of activists before the actual day arrived. Anyone showing up on the 28th with the hope of being part of the lobbying effort were sorely disappointed. Many of those did, however, stick around for the rally. Continue reading ‘LGBT Equality and Justice Day – NY Capital’

28
Apr
09

Liturgy of Healing & Comfort

A SERVICE OF WHOLENESS

Call To Worship:            Ps 13 & Lam 3:21, 22, 24 (NRSV) adapted
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God!

But this I remember, and therefore I have hope: Continue reading ‘Liturgy of Healing & Comfort’

28
Apr
09

Sermon for Healing and Comfort

THIS SERMON, WITH ALTERNATING SCRIPTURE AND REFLECTION IS MEANT FOR A HEALING SERVICE.

Psalm 22:1-3a:  God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy.

Preacher:       Throughout Hebrew scripture, especially in Lamentations, the lament has a prominent place. They are not pretty; people in all kinds of pain express themselves in some very painful ways. The primary function of the lament is to give voice to human pain and suffering, and to seek the mercy of God. Lamenting to God is a form of confessing – God knows the pains, griefs and afflictions being experienced – and God knows the frustration, anger, discouragement and disillusionment usually accompanying them. Continue reading ‘Sermon for Healing and Comfort’

27
Apr
09

The Theology Behind Church Financial Practices

As a church administrator, I have been asked several times to “review” the procedures of larger churches. It has become my habit to write briefly about the financial systems and procedures, unless of course there are significant problems, and then spend a good amount of time telling the board or session what their financial reporting communicates in terms of theology and praxis. This has been, many times, unwelcome, but I have yet to do this with a church that has not taken seriously at least some of the items I pointed out and begun to take a hard look at their practices.

This report is from a couple of years ago, and is fairly representative. I offer it, not for what it says about this church, but for what it says about the general atmosphere of church “business”. While for some it is inconceivable, I contend that finances may be the truest indicator of a church’s practical theology. In this case, the message communicated was counter-productive to the goals expressed by the Board. Continue reading ‘The Theology Behind Church Financial Practices’

27
Apr
09

Administration Issues in Small Churches

This opinion paper is rife with generalities. Suffice it say that the opinions expressed herein refer to the majority of churches, as opposed to all churches. This, by the way, will be a very untidy post.

 The mainline church in the U.S. has long pursued adoption of “sound” business practices in its member congregations, spurred on by the increasingly rigorous legal and social demands that have resulted from a long and growing list of ethical transgressions. The two most prominent areas of concern are sexual misconduct and financial/property mismanagement. In my opinion, the interest in the first has been spurred not primarily by a sense of protecting and safe-guarding children and people otherwise at risk of sexual predation, but by the financial fallout that may consequentially occur. That which has garnered the full attention of concerned parties is the potential “price” of abuse. Increasingly, changes have occurred with the development of “sound” church business practices that have moved the basic ethical underpinnings of church oversight and administration from spiritual and social concerns to financial matters and risk management. Routinely financial, staff and property management are referred to as the “business” of the church, with the real business of the church – ministry, mission and education – receiving far less attention. Continue reading ‘Administration Issues in Small Churches’

25
Apr
09

G-6.0106b Amendment 08B


UNOFFICIALLY, The “NOs” have won with Northern Plains Presbytery being the 87th negative vote. While the voting of the remainder of the presbyteries may represent some interest, one more time the majority of PC(USA) members/churches have shown their blind adherence to tradition even in the face of evidence to the contrary, lack of informed theology and dearth of compassion. It is another sad day in a line of sad days. May God forgive us.

ALBANY PRESBYTERY IS ONE OF  SIXTY-FIVE SIXTY-EIGHT TO DATE (INCLUDING TWENTY-FIVE TWENTY-EIGHT THAT HAVE HISTORICALLY VOTED AGAINST)  VOTING FOR THE AMENDMENT.   

This will undoubtedly only be of interest to other Presbyterians – or maybe not.
 
 A full tally can be viewed here, courtesy of Presbyweb.
While not the nail in the coffin, so to speak, San Francisco Presbytery provided the biggest shock and disappointment when it became the first to flip from support of LGBT to opposition. This is less likely to be a sign of growing opposition and more likely to be a sign of complacency, laziness and arrogance on the part of usual supporters. 58 fewer members of the presbytery voted this time when compared to the last attempt at an amendment, presumably because many didn’t feel the need to show up and vote. How commendable!

Continue reading ‘G-6.0106b Amendment 08B’

24
Apr
09

Thanks, Emproph

cartoon-1

24
Apr
09

Soiled Goods – a Reflection on Acts 8:26-39

Reading: Acts 8:26-39

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went.

Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Continue reading ‘Soiled Goods – a Reflection on Acts 8:26-39’

24
Apr
09

The Parable of the Sower – Matt 13:1-23

SOWING OUR SEEDS

“Listen!”  That’s a word meant to prick up the ears of the hearer; a word meant to get people to pay attention. And where do we hear, “Listen!”, but in Jesus’ first parable in the Gospel of Matthew. (You can read the passage here.)

The parables, for me, represent in blazing color the fact that scripture is not to be taken simply at face value. It is meant to be worked through, to be wrestled with, to be mined for meaning and relevance. The parables not only defy an easy understanding, but they are designed to be thought about and reflected upon. How do we know that? From the word itself. The Greek is paraboley, and means to compare – literally “to put things beside each other”.

With this parable, we have a little easier time than with many. While the parables, in general, use concepts that would have been very meaningful to people of that time, but not so clear to us today, this one makes use of symbols that are just about universal. We hear about seed, paths, rocky soil, fertile ground – in short, we hear about agriculture. That should make it easy to understand – right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Continue reading ‘The Parable of the Sower – Matt 13:1-23’

22
Apr
09

Calvin’s Spirituality – Not an Oxymoron

Within the first few pages of Elsie Anne McKee’s John Calvin – Writings on Pastoral Piety, I was stricken with disbelief. Incredibly, McKee used ‘piety’ and ‘spirituality’ interchangeably.[1]  “Now I know piety and it’s not spirituality,” I said in no uncertain terms as I looked it up in my dictionary and read “having or exhibiting religious reverence; earnestly compliant in the observance of religion; devout.”[2]  Hmmm. I then thumbed to spirituality and found “the quality or state of being spiritual; pious; heavenly-mindedness.”[3]  It appeared my negative understanding of piety as rigid, dogmatic and judgmental belief was based far too much on my early experiences with the somewhat puritanical Christian Reformed Church in Australia. Continue reading ‘Calvin’s Spirituality – Not an Oxymoron’

21
Apr
09

Recovery – A Poem of Survival

RECOVERY

Children survive.
They seem to be built to survive almost anything.
The pain of loneliness, war, crime, rejection,
being ignored, being abused,
being smothered, being used,
predation, exposure,
abandonment, over-protection;
these are just some of the things kids endure.
Continue reading ‘Recovery – A Poem of Survival’

21
Apr
09

Integrity over Doctrine – A Brief Look at Erasmus

During the Renaissance, an age when tensions and aggressions were rising in the church, many were seeking to cling to their positions of power, prestige and wealth within the ecclesiastic structures. Reformation was brewing, both inside the Roman Catholic Church and outside, and a new age of appreciation for classicism and scholarship was developing. Critical alliances were being created and restructured between various feuding parties and the religious rift called the Protestant Reformation was materializing. Orthodox doctrine and traditional praxis were the most significant religious dimensions necessitating debates, with ecclesiology and sacraments being key elements in the discussions. At risk were the equally important treasures of eternal souls and temporal assets. Within this fray stood Erasmus, a great religious mind, exegetical thinker and biblical scholar, being courted by both sides of the battle but aligning himself fully with neither. Continue reading ‘Integrity over Doctrine – A Brief Look at Erasmus’

21
Apr
09

“Heterosexual with Issues”

I am stealing this link, unabashedly, from my good friend Daniel at Soulforce.org, who brought this to our attention. Of course, his post title, “Amen Brother – Rudnick on Haggard”, was just too much of a double entendre and too funny to copy. This piece is subtle at times, at others bordering on hilariously vulgar, but at all times funny and thought provoking. Thank you Daniel.

Just to whet your appetite, some excerpts:

“I became determined to change, to lead a wholly Christian life. In college, I began to date. At first, I took things slow, and I went out with only the most pious, virginal girls, who luckily often had strong, masculine jawlines.”

“But I knew that what Brad and I were doing was wrong, especially after the fifty-eighth time. That was when I told Brad, quite firmly, ‘Brad, our being together is sinful and will only impede our development as responsible Christian adults. And your mustache tickles.’ ”

“So, yes, I was flawed, but my commitment to my parishioners, my wife, and my family remained my primary focus, until finally I was caught on tape, attempting to buy crystal meth, sexual services, and a plus-size tube top from a male prostitute.” Continue reading ‘“Heterosexual with Issues”’




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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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