Posts Tagged ‘Christ



08
Jun
09

The Economy of God

BUMP – Just because I like this one.

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 ‘The Economy of God’

27
May
09

A Personal Journey in Leadership

The attitudes about leadership that I brought into my first church assignment as an administrator were saturated with bias, largely because I equated leading with managing. In retrospect, I had witnessed very few examples of leadership, as I now understand it. I had, however, been privy to and used many management styles, most of which were based on the manipulation of people and situations to satisfy corporate and/or self-interest.

Eventually, I resigned from the business arena because I couldn’t reconcile my role, or generally accepted management practices, with a newly developing worldview after becoming a Christian. After a semi-reclusive period spent building furniture and helping develop small group ministries at my church, I re-entered the public world as a church employee, only to encounter the same management attitudes that had repulsed me in the business environment. On the first night of a class on church leadership some years ago, we listed words describing leadership. If I remember correctly, my only contribution to that original list of words was ‘manipulative’.

Any description of my leadership style will be somewhat nebulous, as I am still processing the significance of concepts contained in various books and discussions and, most importantly, experiences from life in church. This will not be an exercise that ends with my last call.

Continue reading ‘A Personal Journey in Leadership’

22
May
09

Being Prodigal

The Prodigal Son becomes a new creation – reconciled with his loving father. Among other things, this story is a wonderful story that exhibits the flow of worshipful life perfectly.

All the elements are there – the son turns his back on his parent and heritage – takes his material wealth as if it were his own just reward – squanders it on the things that the worldly things that he knows his father would disapprove of – eventually recognizes his own poverty of spirit – reluctantly returns in contrition to his father, prepared to confess and accept his punishment – and encounters a loving parent, willing to accept the slings and arrows of his culture for forgiving his child, and running to him with arms wide open to accept him back into the household.

If that is not the flow of life, what is? It is a beautiful parable, is it not? It is a true work of art being told by Jesus to illustrate a point. But, sometimes, in appreciating the beauty and warmth of the story, we neglect to realize the real purpose Jesus told it. We gloss over the most important aspects. Continue reading ‘Being Prodigal’

18
May
09

Scarcity Trumps Abundance Almost Every Time

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 – to find it we have to delve a little deeper into the text. And my job is to do that without turning this into a geek fest of language and theological study that leaves you groping for the back button in a bored stupor. Continue reading ‘Scarcity Trumps Abundance Almost Every Time’

17
May
09

Mary’s Song – Magnificat Not Just for Advent

Normally, we hear this passage in Advent. It prompts images of the gift of God that coincides nicely with our gifts at Christmas. The gift of God in the person of Christ, however, is not limited to one short period in the Christian year – it is ongoing 24/7, 365, year after year. It is the gift that keeps on giving no matter the season.

In return we are meant, as Christians, to be a gift to the world – again, not just at Christmastime, but in all times. This is not a passage for one season, but one for all seasons. Even though we tend to reserve Christmas for the anticipation of the coming Messiah, that too is a constant expectation.

So, this morning, we’re going to continue to wait, while listening again to the song of Mary. Read Luke 1:46-55. Continue reading ‘Mary’s Song – Magnificat Not Just for Advent’

14
May
09

Love & Forgiveness – Reflections on Romans 12

Romans 12: 1-3 and 9-18                                          

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

 What is “church”? What is its purpose? How is it meant to be or act in the world?

Recently, with a small church, we had to wrestle with the intended nature of the church – what the church should be, and how it should conduct itself – both inside and outside its own structure. For churches, these questions are no less monumental than, “What is the meaning of life?”  In many ways members of the congregation objected, some vehemently. There is no doubt that these are important questions for ministers. But they were equally important for the people of the church. Continue reading ‘Love & Forgiveness – Reflections on Romans 12’

11
May
09

Justice Prayer

Dear Loving Parent of us all,

As we continue to recognize your presence with us,

we pray we are not lulled into unconsciousness by our own comfortable existence.

In this time of waiting give us ears to hear and eyes to see

our sisters and brothers who need our love and care.

Give us the desire to be your hands and legs in this world Continue reading ‘Justice Prayer’

07
May
09

The Hero’s Journey – or, Ministry Suicide

When the word “myth” is used to describe foundational social or faith stories, the result is oftentimes a reaction of insult and anger. For most, that word conjures up images of fictional or embellished stories, perhaps compiled from many disparate sources – in short, myths are not considered to be truth. The word “myth”, however, is value neutral on the criteria of truth. Myths are society’s fundamental stories, usually involving heroes or major events and based on reality, fiction or some combination of the two that explain or validate traditional practices or belief patterns. Myths are the foundations of culture – every culture has them – the bedrock upon which social values, mores and norms are built.

There is, then, a tendency to romanticize myths beyond the level of ideology, adventure and chivalrous displays that already exist. Entirely common is the process of day-dreaming ourselves in the role of the mythical hero – to become so enamored with the myth, that our ability to see ourselves apart from it becomes blurred. Generally, this very act circumvents the intended message of the story, and creates a compound myth that is now approaching fantasy. Most times, this is quite harmless, but when a pastor crosses this line, faith can become a casualty. Continue reading ‘The Hero’s Journey – or, Ministry Suicide’

07
May
09

Empty Ritual

Mark 11:15-19 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 are texts about showing how empty some common practices have become. Jesus erupts seemingly out of nowhere, upsetting the civic peace that the Roman and Jewish authorities work so hard to maintain. hat is Jesus up to? Aren’t Jesus’ actions immoderate?

It strikes me that Jesus is blowing the whistle on temple practices that have taken on a life and importance of their own, and have no bearing on worshipping or promoting faith in God. Jesus appears to be acting recklessly, by attacking the status quo at the temple. At the same time, the temple practices themselves are deemed foolish and even abusive in the eyes of Jesus. Continue reading ‘Empty Ritual’

07
May
09

Prayer For a Caring Community

Bumped

A PRAYER FOR CARING COMMUNITY

(adapted from the Ten Commandments)

 Save your people, God who is our God:

From not loving you as we should;

From the worship of the gods of material wealth and comfort;

Continue reading ‘Prayer For a Caring Community’

05
May
09

A Vision of Inclusion

The crux of chapter 9 of John, which you’ll be reading shortly, is found at the beginning and end. In between, we find examples that illustrate the points being made.  The verses that make up the middle paragraphs are rich with symbolism, but there’s only so much that can be covered in one page. So I will concentrate mostly on the beginning and ending. This is a powerful testament to including rather than excluding those we deem unacceptable. Continue reading ‘A Vision of Inclusion’

02
May
09

Beyond the Cross – Mark 1:8-15

We can get so used to hearing the longer versions of this story in the other gospels that we forget how very brief, but fulsome, this version is. It is the paucity of words that this story of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness that opens it up to us to make it our own. We can at times so easily get caught up in the frantic performance and goal-directed activity of 21st century life. And then, perhaps, we have created a soothing routine that runs along automatically so that we avoid the need for decisions. Only the secure knowledge that on Monday there is chicken for dinner, friends to call in the afternoon, or news to watch at 6:00. On Tuesday it might be book club or classes. On Wednesday, maybe it’s the weekly shopping. We could rely so heavily on routine that it robs us of the times necessary for reflecting on our own journey – for spending our forty days in the wilderness. Continue reading ‘Beyond the Cross – Mark 1:8-15’

01
May
09

The Winter of Our Discontent

A SERMON BASED ON MARK 1:40-45 & 1 COR 9:24-27

“She came out … just in time to see her young son playing in the path of the gray, gaunt man who strode down the center of the well-worn road like a mechanical derelict. For an instant, her heart quailed. Then she jumped forward, gripped her son by the arm, snatched him out of harm’s way. The man went by without turning his head. As his back moved away from her, she hissed at it, “Go away! Get out of here! You ought to be ashamed.” Thomas’s stride went on, … but to himself he responded, “Ashamed? Ashamed?”

“He saw that the people he passed, the people who knew him, whose names and houses and handclasps were known to him – he saw that they stepped aside, gave him plenty of room. Some of them looked as if they were holding their breath. Women, who had at one time chosen to flirt, recoiled from him as if he were some minor horror or ghoul, and he felt a sudden treacherous pang of loss. His inner being collapsed, as it did every day.”

This is an account in the day of the life of a leper. Thomas is the lead character in Stephen R. Donaldson’s series, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and he is a fictional twentieth century leper – albeit one based on a real person’s experiences. When I read the series many years ago I remember thinking, “People don’t react that way anymore. The world is not that archaic.” But, perhaps it is. Continue reading ‘The Winter of Our Discontent’

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’

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’




... 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.

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