I posted my own brief prayer on Facebook Sunday after learning of the shooting in Orlando, and I’ve shared a few posts from others that moved or touched me. But I confess that I’m a bit tired of well-crafted prayers proliferating on my social media pages. At some point it starts to feel like a prayer competition. No doubt most of these prayers are heartfelt and helpful to many, but I’ve seen so many of them in recent years.
At the same time that thoughts and prayers have begun to grate on me, I am far beyond that with American society.
As a pastor, it is not unusual for me to hear people speak of their blessings. They may comment to me that they have been blessed, usually referring to what they appreciate in their lives, such as possessions, wealth, position, children, etc. In prayers people sometimes refer to their many blessings, often with similar meaning. What I've never heard is someone including the items that Jesus lists in the Beatitudes.
I think I'm getting a tiny taste of what it must feel like to be a typical Muslim at a typical mosque when people twist Islam to justify their hate or violence. It happens when I hear someone like Jerry Falwell Jr. encouraging Liberty University students to get concealed-carry permits so they would be able to "end those Muslims before they walked in."
The Old Testament book of Ezra tells of events when Jewish exiles in Babylon were permitted to return to Israel and begin rebuilding Jerusalem. Prophets had spoken of a day when exiles returned and Jerusalem became great again, surpassing the glory of David and Solomon. But it didn't work out quite that way. Jerusalem remained a shell of its former self, an insignificant, backwater town.
Over the years I've heard my share of complaints regarding the "prayer of confession" in weekly worship. Not everyone feels this way, but it's not unusual to get a critique regarding such prayers' negativity. "Why do I need to say I'm no good week after week?" people ask.
Diana Butler Bass was the preacher at the worship portion of a recent meeting of the National Capital Presbytery (the local governing body made up of pastors and elder representatives from congregations in D.C. and the surrounding areas). Prior to our meeting and worship, she also gave an extended presentation, "Where Is God? Spirituality, Theology, and Awakening," followed by a time of discussion.
During the discussion, she made a comment on how the priesthood of all believers is morphing into something else.
It has happened again; children slaughtered. This time it was a Taliban attack at a school in Pakistan, but it's an old, old story. It's part of everyone's least favorite Christmas-related story, Herod's killing the children of Bethlehem in an attempt to preserve his power. And terrorists and militias still use such tactics today. It's a time honored way to gain power, or to cling to it.
If you check out Bibles online or in a bookstore, you are likely to run across something called a Life Application Study Bible. As the name suggests, this study Bible is less about traditional Bible study and more about how to apply the Bible's teaching in everyday life. I saw a plug for this Bible that touted it for providing excellent "practical application."
I've been doing a lot of spiritual wrestling of late. A few months into a new position, I feel like I should be "doing" more, helping the church take bold, new steps, that sort of thing. But I don't have much clarity about what steps to take or in what direction.
The moving van arrived at the church manse on Saturday morning. (The storm that left us without power until today complicated this only slightly.) We are moving from a home with a garage, a basement, and a large shed into a church manse with a small shed, no basement, and no garage.
"The kingdom of heaven is like... The kingdom of heaven is like... The kingdom of heaven is like..." so says Jesus. I wonder if we modern folks wouldn't have gotten frustrated very quickly with Jesus. "Don't tell us what the kingdom is like! What is it?"
For a variety of reasons, Christian faith in America tends to be a private and personal thing. Faith is what we believe, and that can be safely tucked away in our brain somewhere. In the faith understanding I grew up with, you can be a faithful Christian if you go to church on Sunday and abide by societal norms for morality. So, in essence, if people don't check the church par
Graham Standish wrote in one of his books about the typical church
meeting. The committee or governing board gathers. Someone offers a
prayer asking God to bless the work they are about to do. And then God
is asked to wait outside, perhaps go get a cup of coffee, while they do
their work. After they are done, they will invite God back in as they
pray for God's
I think it is easy for modern people to read Paul and surmise that he
wishes we did not have to deal with physical bodies. To those of us
used to thinking of the spirit/soul and the body as totally separate
thing, Paul's "spirit" - "flesh" contrast can sound like "spirit good,
body bad." But I don't think Paul shares our spirit-body duality.
After all, he insists tha
"May I continue to find favorin your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly toyour
servant, even though I am not one of your servants." If you knew that
these words were from the Bible, but did not know the context, what
would you suppose they meant? In the Old Testament, Israel is often
Growing up in the church, I knew all about the three wise men (although the
Bible doesn't actually say how many magi were there). But I'm not sure I
had ever heard of Epiphany. Like a lot of people, we just had the wise men show up with the shepherds at Christmas. They're still there
with those shepherds at the manger in the nativity set on display in our
Giving thanks is a fundamental act of faith. The Psalms are filled with
calls the give thanks and offer thanksgiving. "O Give thanks to the
LORD..." In my own Calvinist tradition, gratitude is understood as the
prime motivator of a Christian life. And so this week when most all
Americans celebrate Thanksgiving would seem to be a moment when an
entire nation cou