Posts Tagged ‘Christ



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’

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’

16
Apr
09

Witnessing to Our Own Culture

The reading: Luke 24:36-48.

The women returned from the tomb to tell the other disciples what they had seen and heard – Jesus was gone. They had been told by angels that Jesus had risen to fulfill what had been foretold in the law and the prophets. The women believed. But the rest of the disciples did not believe. Peter went to see for himself. We’re told that he saw the empty tomb and left questioning what had happened. Later it is recorded that Jesus appeared to him.

The disciples were still discussing this when the two disciples returned from Emmaus and related their interaction with the risen Christ. The man they met opened up the scripture – the resurrection foretold in the law and the prophets – he opened them up in their minds. They recognized the man as Jesus when he broke bread with them – they too saw, heard and ate with the risen Jesus. The disciples declared that, “Christ has risen indeed.” The fact of Jesus’ resurrection was incontrovertible – there were just too many people who had seen and heard – too much evidence.

Then in the midst of this discussion – immediately following the declaration that all believed in the resurrection of Christ – Jesus appears to them saying, “Peace be with you.” And, of course, all immediately recognized Jesus as the risen savior – they were all in wonder at this fulfillment of what had been foretold, they all saw for themselves what they knew to be true. Right?

Wrong! Continue reading ‘Witnessing to Our Own Culture’

12
Apr
09

Resurrection – Pain & Joy

Ah!  Easter Sunday!  Christ has risen.  Alleluia. 

I always imagine the early morning Easter sun breaking through the darkness of the night.  I picture the angels Mary saw dressed in white.  There she was, standing in a garden filled with the color and the smell of Easter lilies, hyacinths, and azaleas.  Okay! So it’s not exactly accurate, but it is, for me, a brilliant and dazzling scene – a scene that inspires me and brings hope.

There are substantial differences in the four Gospel versions of the resurrection story. Much has been made of these differences – perhaps more than has been made of the other differences that exist in scripture.  There are enough differences that, while each depicts a brilliant and dazzling scene, it is tough to know which, if any, may be historically accurate. Continue reading ‘Resurrection – Pain & Joy’

11
Apr
09

Post-Christian or Pro-Christlike

“A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us,” Mohler [R. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary] wrote. “The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture.” When Mohler and I spoke in the days after he wrote this, he had grown even gloomier. “Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society,” he said from his office on campus in Louisville, Ky. ” Quoted from Jon Meacham’s The End of Christian America.

My good friend, Daniel, posted a link on Soulforce.org to the above article in order to start a conversation about what “Post-Christian” might mean. Daniel, a former Assembly of God member now more comfortable with Buddha, has an attitude about Christianity that may best be descibed using Gandhi’s statement, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Continue reading ‘Post-Christian or Pro-Christlike’

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’

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’

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.

pew623

Continue reading ‘Religions Put Emphasis on Least Theological Issues’

14
Mar
09

Christology – Borg vs Wright

If I can be allowed a brief introduction, I have a comment about the perceived theological location of each of the authors. During 2003/2004, while attending Westminster College, Cambridge, I heard three out of four lectures given by N.T. Wright about “New Perspectives on Paul”. More interesting than the lectures was the diatribe from the various seminaries regarding Wright. The Evangelical Anglicans, conservative as opposed to traditional (self-description), denounced him as “apostasy on two legs”, while the Anglican Catholic half of the Church of England considered him a defender, albeit somewhat radical, of traditional theology in the current age. The United Reformed Church (Westminster), a mixture of very traditional (reformed) to very conservative, generally considered him to be a liberal Catholic. (All that being said, the lecture hall was packed to the rafters.) Overall, the book we’re now reading was described in Cambridge seminaries as a conversation between liberal (Wright) and very liberal (Borg). The book’s cover, claiming representation from liberal and conservative camps, seems to be heavily dependent on one’s point of view. Very few conservatives in Wright’s home country view him as anything but liberal. Still, overall it appears that both authors fit somewhere in the less-than-extreme centrist majority of the imaginary liberal-conservative spectrum and, as such, posit stands most Christians should be able to get their heads around.

Continue reading ‘Christology – Borg vs Wright’

14
Mar
09

Youth See Church as Judgmental

A majority of young people in the U.S. today describe Christianity, and the Christian church generally, as judgmental and hypocritical. Many have abandoned the name “Christian” altogether because of the “baggage” that accompanies the name. A new book released by The Barna Group, which does research of and for evangelical churches, found that church attitudes about many groups of people are driving people ages 16-29 to stay away from the church.

Even churches in the “liberal tradition”-otherwise called mainline denominations-have been heatedly embroiled in debate over the exclusion of a certain segments of the population. “The Christian community’s ability to take the high road and help to deal with some of the challenges that this perception represents may be the … defining response of the Christian church in the next decade,” said David Kinnaman, Barna Group president and author of the book, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. Continue reading ‘Youth See Church as Judgmental’

05
Mar
09

I Will Be Your God, and You My People

Following an oracle about a new ethic of personal responsibility, we find in Jeremiah 31 the announcement of a new covenant: a new picture of the relationship between God and God’s people. Something ‘new’ is not a frequent theme in the Hebrew Bible until it emerges with the prophets. Parallel to the new covenant of Jeremiah, two other significant references are the ‘new thing’ and ‘the new creation’ in Isaiah 43 and 65, and the ‘new heart’ and ‘new spirit’ of Ezekiel 18.

The style of Jeremiah varies – sometimes it reads like poetry, sometimes like prose. Jeremiah was a prophet – a preacher – and he had a scribe, Baruch, who took notes for posterity. We don’t know if they intended their work to end up being part of a timeless international best-seller, but that’s what happened. Continue reading ‘I Will Be Your God, and You My People’




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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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