Posts Tagged ‘Progressive



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

Racism, sexism, classism, et al

The great list of “-isms” could go on and on. As a society, we always tend towards separating – discriminating between people like us and those not like us. In the extreme, it is called xenophobia – irrational fear of the stranger. While it can be argued that cultures having European roots have perfected many of the “-isms”, they are in no way limited geographically. Even the most basic building blocks of society – tribes – were many times based on a sense of “them vs us.” The jury is still out on whether this is an integral part of human existence or a learned trait spanning hundreds of generations. It is clear, however, that it is part of the human condition that we must strive to overcome if we are to live fully in the coming Reign of God. Continue reading ‘Racism, sexism, classism, et al’

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’

27
Apr
09

Administration Issues in Small Churches

This opinion paper is rife with generalities. Suffice it say that the opinions expressed herein refer to the majority of churches, as opposed to all churches. This, by the way, will be a very untidy post.

 The mainline church in the U.S. has long pursued adoption of “sound” business practices in its member congregations, spurred on by the increasingly rigorous legal and social demands that have resulted from a long and growing list of ethical transgressions. The two most prominent areas of concern are sexual misconduct and financial/property mismanagement. In my opinion, the interest in the first has been spurred not primarily by a sense of protecting and safe-guarding children and people otherwise at risk of sexual predation, but by the financial fallout that may consequentially occur. That which has garnered the full attention of concerned parties is the potential “price” of abuse. Increasingly, changes have occurred with the development of “sound” church business practices that have moved the basic ethical underpinnings of church oversight and administration from spiritual and social concerns to financial matters and risk management. Routinely financial, staff and property management are referred to as the “business” of the church, with the real business of the church – ministry, mission and education – receiving far less attention. Continue reading ‘Administration Issues in Small Churches’

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’

21
Apr
09

Integrity over Doctrine – A Brief Look at Erasmus

During the Renaissance, an age when tensions and aggressions were rising in the church, many were seeking to cling to their positions of power, prestige and wealth within the ecclesiastic structures. Reformation was brewing, both inside the Roman Catholic Church and outside, and a new age of appreciation for classicism and scholarship was developing. Critical alliances were being created and restructured between various feuding parties and the religious rift called the Protestant Reformation was materializing. Orthodox doctrine and traditional praxis were the most significant religious dimensions necessitating debates, with ecclesiology and sacraments being key elements in the discussions. At risk were the equally important treasures of eternal souls and temporal assets. Within this fray stood Erasmus, a great religious mind, exegetical thinker and biblical scholar, being courted by both sides of the battle but aligning himself fully with neither. Continue reading ‘Integrity over Doctrine – A Brief Look at Erasmus’

20
Apr
09

Imperialism, Colonialism and “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 ‘Imperialism, Colonialism and “Disciple-Making”’

18
Apr
09

Still Called to Ministry?

They all had to be a little out of their minds. Asking a church business manager to deliver a message from the pulpit – not even a life-long Christian, but a converted one at that – seemed ludicrous in the least. It had been bad enough giving my testimony in the Lenten service. Not that I was embarrassed to reveal my colorful past. After all, my life was now an open book – all of the torn, ruffled, deeply stained pages as well as the very few that were tidy, clean and still legible. It was one thing to find that my experiences spoke to others’ hearts, and quite another to think I could somehow manage to prepare and deliver a sermon that had any value to a congregation.

Now they really had to be crazy. How can they possibly see a pastoral presence when they look at me? Twenty-five years in business, with nary a thought to scruples or ethics, and they want me to go into ministry. What would God want with one more recovering control freak in the pulpit? I’m positive there are plenty in churches already. Surely, when God touched my heart, changing my life that much could not have been in the picture. I have nothing to offer but my own brokenness and imperfection. I’m just meant to stay in the pews. Continue reading ‘Still Called to Ministry?’

18
Apr
09

The Perfect Pastor Chain Letter

I know this is old, but I recently came across it in my old files and couldn’t resist. If you ever gotten a chain letter, and who hasn’t, you know that you stop the circulation of it at your own peril. There is a price to pay – maybe not the gates of hell opening up, but a price anyway. So, I’m throwing it out there and dumping it on your lap. Should you decide not to continue the circulation – well, let’s just say, “I wouldn’t want to be you.”

THE PERFECT PASTOR

The perfect pastor does indeed exist – you’ve never met them, but you know they are out there. This is a sure-fire way of guaranteeing that you will be served by the perfect pastor, should you have enough faith to do what is necessary. First, just in case you have never dreamed of the perfect pastor, he/she must be defined: Continue reading ‘The Perfect Pastor Chain Letter’




... 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.

Readers since Jan 2009

  • 130,210 posts read

Archives