Posts Tagged ‘Progressive



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’

18
May
09

… to Each According to Need

While this exact phrasing is allocated to Marx, there is a biblical equivalent to “From each according to ability, to each according to need.”

The pericope from Acts 4:34 & 35 is:
“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

While I have attended churches that lived fully into this concept, one has made it into the news. CNN reports in “Church gives fresh meaning to ‘offering’ plate” that a Texas church has opted to follow this example in its Sunday worship. As the plate goes around, people are asked to give what they can and take what they need. Continue reading ‘… to Each According to Need’

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’

13
May
09

LGBTQ Young People & Risk of Suicide

From a report compiled by The Trevor Project:

StaticAfAmBoy300x250Although, practically, there is no way of knowing how many suicides are completed by LGBT and questioning adolescents, reliable research on the attempt rates of this demographic group  are available. In the 2005 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (MA YRBS) concluded that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are “almost four times as likely to have attempted suicide” and “more than five times more likely to have received medical attention for a suicide attempt” than their heterosexual peers.

The reasons for these disproportionate numbers are varied and many, but almost certainly include the lack of self-acceptance as the primary among them. In a 1995 study published in the Journal for Developmental Psychology (Herhberger and D’Augelli), the single largest predictor of mental health was self-acceptance. According to Remafedi (1991), highly feminine boys have also been shown to be at higher risk for suicide attempts because they are the ones perceived by others to be homosexual and behave outside of gender specific norms.

Because of this, feminine boys and “butch” girls are more likely to receive the brunt of bullying in school along with traditional society’s disapproval. As recent events have proven, the perception of being gay is enough to precipitate bullying and harassment, Continue reading ‘LGBTQ Young People & Risk of Suicide’

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

Leviticus – The Case For or Against LGBT – Part 1

[This post has been bumped by request. This is the first of a five-part series that sheds reasonable doubt on the traditional view that Leviticus labels homosexuality as an abomination. Each section is linked through the table of contents.]

ETHIC OF HUMILITY

       As someone who is strongly committed to Christian ethics, especially in conflict resolution, and to theological reflection as a defining characteristic of what makes a church a church, I am committed to the process of engaging in dialogue and conversation about the issues that divide Christianity. Honesty, theological reflection (both individual and communal) and knowledge are all essential components of Christian conversation. When scriptural evidence for particular stands or opinions is argued, experience has taught me that, many times, some or all of these components may be lacking.
Continue reading ‘Leviticus – The Case For or Against LGBT – Part 1’

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’

05
May
09

Litany for Mothers’ Day

Eternal God, on this day we lift up all mothers to you. Scripture has prepared us to recognize that by your grace, mothering takes many forms.

We lift up those . . .

… who have experienced joy and fulfillment in mothering

… who have known the pain of a child’s death

… who are facing motherhood again, or for the first time

… for whom childlessness represents a loss
Continue reading ‘Litany for Mothers’ Day’

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’




... 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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