Posts Tagged ‘Faith



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’

09
May
09

The Bread of Life I

This is the first of a multi-part post on the “Bread of Life” discourse in John, chapter 6. In the lectionary, and in the minds of many, this chapter is dealt with by breaking it into five parts and trying to understand each part as stand-alone text. This is one discourse, however, that is offered in sequence for a reason – each section builds on what came before and cannot be fully appreciated as snippets of scripture. To understand, as best we can, Jesus’ meaning behind “the bread of life”, we need to unpack the whole. This is just such an attempt.

Text for this section of the series – John 6:1-21.

“When Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” This was said to test Philip, for Jesus knew what he was going to do. Philip answered Jesus, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

Jesus tests Philip, one of the disciples. But, why? Well, in John’s gospel, the disciples have yet to get it – to actually see the light. They are still being taught and this becomes a teaching moment.

It’s not just that Jesus has been out among the people doing healing miracles, or that Jesus had turned water into enough wine for a large party, that should have clued the disciples in – but that a lesson about the bread of life had already been given. In John 4, the disciples has been concerned that Jesus hadn’t eaten, and Jesus told them that he had food to eat that they did not now about. He then explained that he was fed by “doing the will of God.”

Jesus had already drawn a distinction between food – bread for bodily sustenance – and the bread of life that feeds the soul. So now bread – food – becomes the subject of another lesson in faith. Continue reading ‘The Bread of Life I’

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’

06
May
09

The Elusive Promised Land – Gen 15

The Reading:  Genesis 15.1-12,17-18

This kind of ceremony is an ancient Hittite method of forming a contract. The participants in the covenant walk through the animals’ blood as it runs in the ditch. The one who breaks the covenant will forfeit their own blood – their very life.

Likewise, the smoking fire-pot and flaming torch are also Hittite images of gods. God, who figuratively walks through the blood twice, is guaranteeing both sides of the contract. For many this brings to mind how Jesus, God incarnate, lived out the covenant with the offering even of his own mortal life.

What I find interesting, however, is the reason for the covenant in the first place. Abram expresses concern over two things. Continue reading ‘The Elusive Promised Land – Gen 15’

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

Unequal Yoke

While this decidedly Christian phrase is usually reserved for marriages between people of different faiths, or a relationship where one partner has no faith, it can really refer to any relationship that should be covenantal. It should be used in church situations in which people who see the role of church as ministry are pitted against those who wish to follow a secular, business model. It should be used in the strained relationships between the various ecclesiastical levels. It most certainly should be used when describing the all too common broken contracts between governments and constituents. In decidedly counter-cultural fashion, I would like to suggest that it applies to all things economic – that, in a just society, all transactions would be covenantal and mutually equitable. Continue reading ‘Unequal Yoke’

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’

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’




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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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