Posts Tagged ‘history

27
Sep
09

Generosity in the Belly of the Whale – Jonah 3:10-4:11

Jonah 3:10 – 4:11  &  Matthew 20:1-16

We hear two parables in today’s readings. The last one is the Parable of laborers in the Vineyard from the Gospel of Matthew. The first was the Parable of the Jealous Prophet.

Now, there are a range of thoughts about the original intent of Book of Jonah. Some understand it to be a narrative of both historic and natural fact. Others laugh and say that it is purely fantasy. There have been arguments about the Book of Jonah for millennia – from the time of the first Rabbinic interpretations all the way through to the present.

Arguments still go on about whether it was a marine dinosaur, a whale or a big fish that swallowed Jonah – that, of course depends on what you believe about creation and evolution. And arguments about whether it would be possible for a human to be swallowed whole by any of them and survive – which, of course, depends on whether you believe miracles happen. And then there are arguments about … Well, never mind. You get the idea.

Suffice to say that, as with so many things, the Book of Jonah presents yet one more reason for people of faith to fight with each other. And what is at stake in these arguments? Why the right to claim to be right, of course. It seems like, if any party can convince enough people that it’s right, their truth will somehow become God’s truth – that somehow God will be and act the way they think God should based on a majority vote.

And into this fight I am going to step and say, “I don’t care.” Continue reading ‘Generosity in the Belly of the Whale – Jonah 3:10-4:11’

16
Sep
09

IS THERE A DISTINCTIVE REFORMED THEOLOGY?

Around the world there are myriad variations of the churches that fit under the general banner of Reformed. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) alone boasts membership of 215 denominations in 107 countries with over seventy five million members, the majority of which are in the southern hemisphere.[1]  This vast number still does not contain all the denominations with roots in the 16th-century Reformation led by John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, and others. Many of these denominations, especially in the United States, developed after previous church bodies split apart over irreconcilable differences, while others exist separately because of geographic location, or ethnic origin. Some others have been drawn together into larger groups or denominations, such as the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom or the Uniting Church in Australia. While belonging to the WARC, to foster common mission and ministry, relations between some of these various ‘partners’ are tenuous at best. An example is found in the way many members of the Christian Reformed Church in the U.S. refer to the Presbyterian Church (USA) disparagingly as Neo-Reformed, while some of the latter refers to the former as Neo-Nazi. Among those that have recently united, there has been a blending of polity and theology, or at least a tolerance developed for varying beliefs and processes within the same body, that may leave some wondering whether they still possess a truly definable theological identity. Continue reading ‘IS THERE A DISTINCTIVE REFORMED THEOLOGY?’

13
Sep
09

Women’s Leadership in the Early Church

“Women’s leadership and contributions to early Christianity can only become historically visible when we abandon our outdated patriarchal-androcentric model of early Christian beginnings.” [1] 

 In many quarters there is a fascination with the “early church”, the model of church that existed in the first century C.E., exhibiting a romantic naiveté in believing that it had some idyllic, unified conduct. It is apparent that certain particularities of the early church have been considered normative by churches old and new. The mega- or meta-church movement in the U.S. and elsewhere has drawn on the practice of home-churches, as reported in Paul’s letters and Acts, to develop massive organizations, built on cell- or small-group ministries, that have little or no resemblance to the early church. Pentecostal churches have strived to emulate the Apostles in becoming filled with the Holy Spirit after baptism, leading to the proliferation of the once peculiar “born again” phenomena. Perhaps the single particularity of the early church to have been most widely adopted as normative by a great many of the world’s churches is the exclusion of women from leadership roles and, in many churches, a discomfort with or outright denial of the status of women as being made in God’s image. Rather than resulting from a naïve understanding of the Christian church in the first century, which would lack any intent to degrade women, the view of many feminist theologians is that male hegemony is the consequence of deliberate efforts to institute and maintain patriarchal language and systems within the early church and beyond. 

Continue reading ‘Women’s Leadership in the Early Church’

30
Aug
09

God’s Promise – Gen 15:1-12, 17-18

In 2004, while studying at Cambridge, I had the privilege of leading the Community Day worship hosted by my college. This was part of the curriculum for the sermon class, and I was just lucky enough to pull that date. I decided to take a chance – to push the envelope somewhat of what worship and sermon was like. The British church is a little famous for it’s staid and traditional approach to worship, so I didn’t want to blow them out of the water. The biggest complaint that I got was that I left the sermon with questions to which I did not provide the answers, which is the classic English preaching style. Follwing is the liturgy and sermon for that day. I hope it is meaningful in some way.

Continue reading ‘God’s Promise – Gen 15:1-12, 17-18′

25
Aug
09

A Cynics View of the History of Disciple-making

The adherents of Christian religions include upwards of 2 billion people – almost one-third of the world’s population, according to David Barrett, an Evangelical Christian who is the compiler of religious statistics for the Encyclopedia Britannica.[1] While Christianity began in the Middle East, it is generally considered a European/ American religion. Those areas, however, do not encompass the majority of adherents. More Christians, in fact, are found in the “third world” – those areas that were formerly colonized by various European powers.  The story of the spread of the world’s most prolific religion during the second millennia of Christianity is at least interesting, if not informative of the current political and military efforts of the West, most notably the U.S., seemingly aimed at making converts of another sort – disciples of Western democracy and capitalism. Continue reading ‘A Cynics View of the History of Disciple-making’

25
Aug
09

Women’s Equality Day – Liturgy and Sermon notes

Special Service Recognizing Women’s Right to Vote

 Service of Word and Sacrament                                                                                  August 26, 2009

Continue reading ‘Women’s Equality Day – Liturgy and Sermon notes’

29
Jul
09

Can the Church Reconcile with it’s Own Victims? (Part 1)

Like almost every human endeavor, the approximately 2000 years of Christianity have periodically been marred by brutal and violent events, and have been fraught with human failures.  Historically, the church[1] has been both oppressed by the prevailing society within which it existed and oppressive during the many times when it represented the dominant culture. Its checkered and sometimes sordid history has led to the propagation of an amazing number of denominations, with competing factions within them, which have varying levels of difficulty co-existing due to dogma, doctrine and/or practice. Within this history the church has perpetrated social violence, in the name of God, that has had lasting and debilitating consequences for the victims  – many times, if not all, in concert with the dominant political powers of the various cultures within which it has functioned. Can the church truly reconcile with the victims of its past, aiding in the healing of centuries of violence? The goal of this paper is to examine the possibilities that may exist for reconciliation. Continue reading ‘Can the Church Reconcile with it’s Own Victims? (Part 1)’

21
Jul
09

Marx on Religion & its Role in Oppression (Part 1)

Illusion that Numbs 

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”[i]Karl Marx, On Religion

Karl Marx has long been considered an absolute critic of religion in general, and Christianity in particular. Parts of the above quote are often used by Christians and non-Christians alike to fully express Marx’s attitude, but rarely are these snippets used within the full context of this excerpt. While this passage is, indeed, criticism it does not represent the scathing and total rejection of the value of religion that many people would have us believe. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature” does not convey the full meaning of the sentence within which it is contained, and it is rarely connected in context with the remainder, “the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation.” Marx’s stance is, I believe, more correctly interpreted as a critique of society that has become heartless and spiritless – one in which, however ineffective it may be, religion attempted to be society’s missing heart and provide some hope for those in need. Continue reading ‘Marx on Religion & its Role in Oppression (Part 1)’

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’

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’

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’

15
May
09

A Tradition of Equality?

flagThe 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 ‘A Tradition of Equality?’

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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