Archive Page 3

19
Jul
09

An Episcopalian Triple Play. Arms wide open – well, kind of.

It is unlike church hierarchies today to risk alienating anyone, especially large numbers of people, and to risk the secession of member churches and expulsion from a world-wide organization that gives them political and financial clout. It is even more unusual that decisions having those potential outcomes would be made in the name of justice. But, this past week, The Episcopal Church (TEC), the American branch of the Anglican Communion, risked all three possibilities by passing three of their own decisions that throw their doors wide open. Continue reading ‘An Episcopalian Triple Play. Arms wide open – well, kind of.’

16
Jul
09

Have you not heard? – Sermon on Mark 1:29-39

“The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news!” 

Verse 14 points to the message that Jesus is proclaiming in Capernaum, and that the gospel of Mark has at its core. The Good News is that the time of waiting is over and that the Reign of God has begun to take shape among them.  That is the message, and Mark – whoever she or he really was –  gave us in last week’s and this week’s text the effect the message has.

Without keeping that in mind, Chapter one appears to read like a choppy series of unrelated incidents.  While it is true that the gospel showed us last week Jesus’ power as an exorcist, and this week as a healer, it isn’t trying to tell us, “Hey, this guy Jesus is a great preacher … and exorcist … and healer!”  The gospel is telling us about the Good News in this opening summary – the gospel of the Reign of God – and starting to flesh out what it looks like from a purely Markan perspective.  Jesus is not only the bearer and herald of the Good News of the Reign of God; Jesus is the Good News of the Kingdom. Where Jesus is, the kingdom has drawn near. Continue reading ‘Have you not heard? – Sermon on Mark 1:29-39’

14
Jul
09

Lifesaving Stations (Part 2) – the Sermon

Continued from Lifesaving Stations – The Parable“.

In listening to the scripture in the first part of this post, we heard Paul’s hope for a particular church. Yes, it was written to a gentile church almost a couple of thousand years ago, but I think it still expresses some things that are valuable for churches today.

Churches, like any human organizations, can become exclusionary when they seek to insulate themselves from ideological or theological differences. Churches can accomplish this in at least a couple of different ways. Continue reading ‘Lifesaving Stations (Part 2) – the Sermon’

14
Jul
09

Lifesaving Stations – the parable

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and [Creator] of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

The gifts [Christ] gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

THE PARABLE OF THE LIFESAVING STATIONS  Continue reading ‘Lifesaving Stations – the parable’

10
Jul
09

The Community that is Soulforce

Two and a half years ago, as I was wasting away in deepest rural Iowa, I had an epiphanic experience. Jenna and I needed some time away from people just like us – white, middle class, middle income, heterosexuals living all together in a community of less than 1,000 people. In actually, we weren’t just like them, which people suspected and then decided it must be that we are strange. And, evidently, they weren’t wrong. Anyway, we went to a Holy Relationships conference in Iowa City, and there met Rev Dr Mel White who was one of the speakers. We also heard about Soulforce.org – a group Mel started to engage in non-violent activism for GLBT causes – especially for those damaged by churches. That day was pivotal for my survival – it saved my mind, if not my life. Continue reading ‘The Community that is Soulforce’

05
Jul
09

Summer Patriotism

The summer seems to be a great season for patriotism. It begins with Memorial Day and ends with Labor Day, well not officially, but certainly in practical terms. Both these holidays celebrate what has made and still makes the U.S. the U.S. – people. In between these holidays, of course, we have Flag Day and Independence Day. July does seem to represent the peak of summer and, I think, the peak of summer patriotic fervor, perhaps a lasting effect of the fireworks and cook-outs. Between the celebrations of people, we celebrate nationhood, freedom and this great land.

Just like a church, however, a nation does not exist without people. The land certainly does, but it is the people who make it a social, political and communal place. Freedom is an empty concept without people – the freedoms we celebrate are those that are the inalienable rights of the people of this land. But just who are these people, you know, the ones who have had this freedom? Continue reading ‘Summer Patriotism’

05
Jul
09

The Case of the Disappearing Assets

Background:

The BIA was established on March 11, 1824 and is subsumed under the Department of the Interior as the agency that overseas Indian Affairs. What does “oversea” mean? Essentially it is a policy of treating Native Americans as orphaned children. As long as Indians maintain an identity as primarily a member of a tribe, as opposed to an independent US citizen, they are dealt with differently. The BIA, among other functions, is charged with “holding” Indian owned assets (land and the proceeds from the land) for the benefit of the Indians.

The “land” is that which was ratified by the Congress in 1895 as owned by Indians tribes and their members. These assets are “held” in trust – therefore, there is a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the assets solely for the benefit of the owners. In the past, only if Indians removed themselves from themselves from collective ownership of land would benefits accrue to them.

The Bureau administers 43,450,266.97 acres of tribally owned land, 10 million acres of individually owned land, and 309,189 acres of federally owned land held in trust status. The BIA is also responsible for leasing the land for agricultural use and managing the land for the removal of natural resources from the land. The lease payments and mineral right royalties are collected by the BIA and held in trust to be paid to the Indians. At any given point in time $2.5 billion is in the combined Individual Indian Money and Tribal Accounts

On June 10, 1996, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), together with a number of attorneys, representing individual Native Americans, filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the government failed to properly manage Indian Trust funds. Continue reading ‘The Case of the Disappearing Assets’

03
Jul
09

Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches – Scattering the flock (Part 1)

While a church administrator, I had the unfortunate experience of witnessing profoundly disturbing spiritual abuse – not just once, but twice. In one instance, the abuser was a thirty-something-year pastor intent on maintaining control of what had become his church. In the other, the pastor was the victim of two elders who happened to be related to the former long-term pastor. In both cases, while there were the primary targets of the abuse, there was a system wide fallout upon many other victims. Both churches are recovering, but remain shadows of their former selves. As a result, and after much research, I am offering this paper. Continue reading ‘Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches – Scattering the flock (Part 1)’

03
Jul
09

Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21

Jesus is asked to intervene in an inheritance dispute, and responds by telling a parable about greed. Obviously, Jesus has decided that greed is the underlying motivation of the person who asks for their share of the inheritance … and that this is a good time for a lesson about greed in general.

Quite simple, really. Hardly much point in preaching about it, since it’s just so obvious, eh?

There is more here than is initially apparent, however. To find it we have to delve a little deeper into the text. And my job is to do that without turning this sermon into a geek fest of language and theological study that leaves you groping for the exit door in a bored stupor. We’ll see how I do.

There are many patterns in Luke, but one in particular is how Jesus answers questions. Rarely does Jesus give direct answers to direct questions. Jesus generally answers a question with either another question or a parable, and many times with both… and it strikes me that Jesus does this so people can learn to discern their own answers. Continue reading ‘Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21’

30
Jun
09

Liberation Theology and Globalization (Part 1)

Economic theology, or the place where economics and theology collide, is a favorite topic of mine. It is sometimes cumbersome, as it is an odd mix of subjects. This is an essay from 2005 that seems like it fits the times in so many ways. I may edit it as time permits, but offer it up for your thoughts.

GLOBALIZATION – THE THREAT

One of the primary characteristics of liberation theology is contextuality – the manner in which each specifically incorporates or combats the traditions, experiences, myths, histories and, of course, resulting worldviews of the populations for whom it is developed. Without the specificity of each theology to its beneficiaries, it would remain as foreign as the colonial or imperial theology whose cultural impact it is generally seeking to mitigate. The point of liberation theology is not simply to provide a theological framework within which each population could find its own liberating thought and belief, although undoubtedly a critical first step, but also to free them from the rampant marginalization, oppression and poverty under which they continue to live. Continue reading ‘Liberation Theology and Globalization (Part 1)’

29
Jun
09

God as Mother – More traditional than you might think

As a preface to this series, I would like to be open about my journey with feminist interpretation and theology. Because of my terrible relationship with my father, I could not grasp nor find comfort in the image of Father God, which is the language I grew up with. “Father” and “God” were not words that could go together, since “father” was the equivalent of abuser, torturer and imprisoner – concepts I could not reconcile with my concept of God. As a result, I spent a long time away from church. As I was being pulled back into church by God, I had to somehow deal with my cognitive dissonance. What helped me immensely were materials normally reserved for women who have experienced sexual abuse by a father or father-figure. I then began an amateur study of feminist and womanist theologies. Several years later, when I started seminary, I met the woman who is now my wife, Rev Jenna Zirbel. She was two years ahead of me in seminary and lightyears in thinking. 

ORTHODOXY – GOD THE FATHER, FATHER GOD, FATHER

Modern orthodoxy views God as male – basically through the various characteristics of Father-hood.  I don’t know about you, but my childhood recollections of God were as an old, white man with a flowing pure white beard, long white hair and distinctly European features. I always thought this must be the way the Bible describes God. Imagine my surprise when I found out that nowhere in scripture is God ever described like that. Continue reading ‘God as Mother – More traditional than you might think’

28
Jun
09

More traditional press about same-gender marriage

More and more stories are appearing in newspapers and mainstream internet news sources. Rather than sensationalizing the stories or taking conservative, liberal or biased stands, the stories are generally of human interest and bring real people with real lives into our living rooms. This, I feel, is a very good thing. The more people know others who are not like them, or feel as if they know them, the more accepting people tend to be.

Just as Massachusetts has not experienced an increase in marriage breakups, gay children or the breakdown of society generally, neither will the other states which have passed laws or whose state supreme courts have ordered the allowance of same-gender marriages. Iowa is yet another case in point. The sky has not fallen, although to hear the opposition it is on its way towards earth as we speak.

The following story (excerpted) is about specific people and tells their stories and those of the opponents fairly (even though I could do without the latter). In this case the very children who were supposed to be traumatized and stunted because of having same-gender parents speak about their lives and wishes for their parents. Continue reading ‘More traditional press about same-gender marriage’

27
Jun
09

Jesus Save Me From Religiosity

Lately, I’ve developed a renewed appreciation for Jethro Tull – a band hailing back to my drug-crazed youth. Back then, I never actually heard the words, just loved the music. While some lyrics are certainly cynical, two songs in particular call out to me right now – My God and Hymn 43. Below are the transcribed words and video of each. In the case of the live performance of My God, the differences between the recorded version and live version are in italics and brackets. The live version of Hymn 43 is a remarkable (in my opinion) remake of the original by Tull and I hope you like it as well.

Enjoy – I certainly do. Continue reading ‘Jesus Save Me From Religiosity’

26
Jun
09

Addendum to “Oooh – You’re Bipolar”

The original article can be read here.

The last few months have been particularly interesting.  My church, which had decided to close anyway, and my denominational leaders, decided medical leave was necessary because of a particularly bad time I was going through. At first, I resisted. I have always fought to keep my sanity and remain stable – it was a battle of wills which I won more often than not. My father gave into his mental illness and I was vehement about not doing the same thing.

After receiving the notice that not only was I on three months medical leave, but also was “terminated” after that period, I decided my previous approach to mental health was not going to work this time around – I was in too deep. Continue reading ‘Addendum to “Oooh – You’re Bipolar”’

21
Jun
09

The Bread of Life IV

I am having difficulty settling on a sermon for the third section of John 6, so I have decided to move into the fourth segment of John’s continuing Bread of Life discourse. The text for this is John 6:51-58. The sermon for John 6:1-21 can be found here and John 6:22-36 here.

If we read Chapter 6 superficially, it sounds like many, many words saying the same thing. It sounds repetitious and redundant. “I am the bread of life.” Five weeks of sermons saying the same thing.

There are two ways to read virtually any written work, however – literally and figuratively. Most of us don’t stop at the literal wording of John’s gospel – even literal fundamentalists. This gospel defies a literal reading. Jesus is not actually a light, a word or a loaf of bread. We are not literally sheep. The figurative reading, however, can be just as shallow and repetitious – leading many to think that all God expects is to accept Jesus as savior and put him into your pocket as a free “get out of hell” card. Continue reading ‘The Bread of Life IV’




... or, preaching from both ends

WELL, HELLO! YOU’RE HERE.

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.

Readers since Jan 2009

  • 129,450 posts read

Archives