Posts Tagged ‘God



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’

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’

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’

11
Jun
09

My Recovery From Homophobia

This post was actually written about two years ago, in response to the the musings of a Soulforce member about the nature of sexuality. It includes very personal information, but I think it’s worth the risk for the discussion.

I think Daniel’s notion of a continuum is immensely important. I also think it explains a lot of fear on the part of people who are concerned about where they fall on that continuum. I dare say that if we look at any line that represents a continuum, very few of us are found at either extreme. I am an introvert who is reasonably confortable being extroverted. I am an intellectual who is driven to do physical things – woodworking, gardening – in order to feel complete. There are so many scales that this kind of analysis could go on forever, but hopefully I’ve made that point. Continue reading ‘My Recovery From Homophobia’

11
Jun
09

Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Authority & Gen 1:26-28

THE CREATION STORY – well, sort of

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1, KJV)” In the beginning of biblical interpretation it meant just that – God made heaven and earth, and then all things in it, in six days. Eight creative processes in six days, with seven declarations of “and it was good.” The exception was the sky, which evidently didn’t deserve a nod of pleasure. Hmm. God made Adam, planted a garden for Adam to tend, made all the creatures so Adam could be entertained naming them, and then fashioned woman from Adam’s rib to be his helper. Of course, we all know how Eve sent all creation on the slippery slope to h… – well, we won’t belabor that point. Besides, it may have had something to do with getting story lines mixed up. Continue reading ‘Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Authority & Gen 1:26-28’

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’

03
Jun
09

Faith-Based Homophobia: ‘An Appalling Christian Moral Failure’

Lawrence from First Light provided the following article with brief commentary preceding it. At usual, there is no need to add commentary at this point.

You might expect such an evaluation from people in our own community, or from parents, family, friends and allies. But the conclusion comes from an unexpected source.

I’ve spoken about the organization “Faith in America” before, a group that, like Soulforce, attempts to communicate the harm done by faith-based bigotry against TLGB people. And I think I’ve also mentioned “Crisis,” the book compiled by FIA founder Mitchell Gold in support of that effort, which was published earlier this year. Gold has just sent an email alert to friends and members of FIA regarding a review of the book which has appeared — to his surprise — in the publication The Christian Century. The surprise isn’t that this progressive periodical printed the review; it’s that the review was written by a relatively conservative Baptist minister who teaches Christian ethics at Mercer University. Continue reading ‘Faith-Based Homophobia: ‘An Appalling Christian Moral Failure’’

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’

24
May
09

Twin Sons of Different Mothers

It is hard to fathom, at least for me, how two people with similar conditions can be so very different. To coin a title from a Tim Weisberg album we are in many ways “twin sons of different mothers.”

Not including age (unfortunately I am the older son), we share interests such as cars and woodworking, similar levels of intelligence, senses of humor, music, recreational activities, introversion (even down to Myers-Briggs results). Heck, we even pack our excess weight in the same place. And, as mentioned in previous post, Karl and I are both bipolar.

The differences in our personalities, lives and how being bipolar plays out in our daily existence are somehow perfectly mirrored in the conditions of our garages and workshops. I am left wondering if every person’s personality could be understood and analyzed based on the condition of their garages. Forget the house, the furnishings, the kitchen and the yard! If archeologists a thousand years from now were to delicately uncover our perfectly preserved work spaces, they could peg our personalities down to a “t”. Continue reading ‘Twin Sons of Different Mothers’

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’




... or, preaching from both ends

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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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