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  • Luke 12:13-21Someone in the crowd was trying to triangulate Jesus who knows a thing or two about healthy relationships between three persons. “Tell my brother to divide the family inheritance” sounds like a sibling rivalry with a little history. Who knows maybe Jesus’ well known tale about two sons and a loving father comes from a chance encounter in the crowd with a real life prodigal? Of course Jesus does not take the bait (he never does) but speaking the truth in love goes to the heart of the matter. You have placed possessions in front of people which is the definition of greed. To seal the deal he tells the story of a rich man who appears to be acting prudently. Crops not stored properly will quickly turn into cr@p so building bigger barns and enjoying the fruit of your labor makes sense as the reward of hard work and sound investments. But then this is a parable and the details are not to be dissected because it’s all about the punch line and in this case the punch line is a...

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  • When I engage in public political critique, it comes from a discrete set of experiences: that of a straight, white, middle class American male who continues to be influenced by the New Left, the organizing principles of Saul Alinsky and Fred Ross, the American Civil Rights movement and the wisdom of E.F. Schumacher's "small is beautiful" practices. I came of age during the close of the Vietnam War and the rise of 20th century feminism. My theoretical foundation for social action was built upon the hard work of MLK and Malcom X, Germaine Greer, Dave Dellinger, Ann Moody, Cesar Chavez, Carol Hanisch, Tom Hayden, Frantz Fanon, Mohandas Gandhi, Karl Marx, Dick Gregory, Gustavo Gutierrez, early Cornel West, James Weinstein, Dorothee Soelle, Todd Gitlin and Michael Harrington. At different times I was a member of Democratic Socialists of America and/or the New American Movement.My worldview is neither unique nor more insightful than any other...

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We are often given a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of "Christian" countries that tend to be as consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else-- and often more so, I'm afraid.-- Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the 12 Steps

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  • Does it ever stop? No matter how much we pray for an end to the violence, again this week there has been more. We weep and pray with the families and friends of the officers killed in Baton Rouge, LA and of the victims of such horror in Munich, Germany. Where is God In all of this and what can we do?Remember last week’s gospel about Mary and Martha? Each represents 2 different, but equal characteristics of the Christian life. Mary faithfully listens to Jesus and Martha faithfully exercises hospitality. Mary exhibits being while Martha exhibits doing. The being and doing are evident in today's gospel. The first part concerns the Lord's Prayer. Because this is so familiar to us, as we pray, it is often by rote without even thinking about what we are saying. One thing I learned during my Clinical Pastoral Education in seminary, is what sticks with people, even when they are suffering from dementia. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Prayer are such things. When it...

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  • A few days ago, a parishioner of mine shared a video with me entitled, “What should Christians do if they dislike both Presidential candidates?”  The show, like most Christian talk shows sits right of center, but the message of discernment is worth hearing. As the Democratic National Convention nears its ending, with the Republican National Convention having done its work last week, I’ve been thinking again and again about what role the Church has in American Politics.  No, I’m not suggesting that we repeal the Johnson Amendment, but I am suggesting that perhaps instead of letting politicians and talking heads tell us what makes these candidates good or bad, Christian or not, that preachers have an obligation to offer our congregations a glimpse into the Kingdom of God and invite them to discern, prayerfully, which candidate’s life and platform more closely align to it. The reality is that faithful Christians are going to come up with very different...

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  • I was a member of the Lamar County (Georgia) High School class of 1976, the first class to graduate from the new high school. Yep, I still call a school building constructed in the mid-1970s “the new high school.” Well, take me to dinner and call me dated! I didn’t actually attend the new high school, though. I entered Mercer University after my junior year. But I did come back to

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  • Journeys Home

    Trying to stay off Facebook and the numerous political discussions this morning... yesterday I finished a devotion for a friend's website, which will be published there next week: http://suzannebratcher.com. The devotion addressed one of my all-time favorite Bible passages, Ephesians 3:20-21.Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.On one of my sites, I wrote other things about Ephesians: for instance, the palpable language used through the epistle: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us (Eph. 1:7-8)… the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints … the immeasurable greatness of his power … the working of his great power (Eph. 1:18-19) … the boundless riches of Christ (3:8)… the wisdom of God in its rich...

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  • Journeys Home

    Michael Haydn One of my favorite LP sets is a 1978, 4-disc set called “Orgelmeister vor Bach” (The Early German Organ School), performed by Helmut Walcha. Walcha (1907-1991) lost his sight as a teenager but nevertheless mastered a large organ repertory, including Bach’s complete organ works. This website discusses his achievements: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Walcha-Helmut.htmA friend who is a professional musician recommended this out of print set, if I could ever find it. While on a roadtrip to Tucson, I saw it for sale at the wonderful, now closed Jeff’s Record Shop. The set was 40-some dollars and I worried about the price, so I didn’t buy it, and of course I couldn’t find the set again, even on eBay. Finally I found it on that auction site. Then I saw it again on eBay just a few weeks later, at an even better price. Oh well.Buxtehude (the sound of whose name makes me chuckle, for some reason) dominates the organ masters on these LPs. Listening to the set while working,...

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    A guest post from my friend and fellow blogger, Ted Gossard:___We are in another United States presidential election cycle, and this seems to be the nastiest campaign in memory, probably in my lifetime. And the divisions are as hurtful as they are deep. Certainly the nation is divided.To some extent that can be expected, in fact people dividing to the point of war over differences is something the American democratic republic was built in significant part to avoid. No coercion by a state church, which actually took decades to become reality, and the recognition of all people being equals by their Creator with corresponding rights, still a work in process, though significant progress at great cost has been made.At the risk of oversimplifying a big and complex subject, this post is meant to make one point which I think explains a lot: World government and the politics that goes with it is a domain of the world, the flesh and the devil, and while God in his sovereignty is at work as well...

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  • Does the public believe that religious congregations including churches and synagogues do a good job in addressing social problems. Survey says that an increasing number say no. This is the message reported by Martin Marty.  I could give anecdotal evidence to the contrary, but is anyone paying attention?  For the past several years I've been involved in congregation-based community organizing. Our coalition was small, but we helped push the state government to better federal funds for foreclosure prevention, turn a vote on medicare expansion, bring to the attention of the broader community the problem of human trafficking, and raise awareness of the need for effective regional transit. My congregation partnered with a small congregation in Detroit to launch a ministry that assists people in making their homes more livable and their neighborhoods safer. I could go on, but this seems a sufficient introduction to Marty's essay, which I invite you to read and ponder!Social...

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  • I am attending a conference on liturgical worship.  It’s the Association of Reformed and Liturgical Theology. I’m not sure I’m Reformed in my theology (okay at least a little bit), but I do believe that liturgy is at the heart of the Christian faith. That is, without worship, and liturgy has to do with worship, Christianity becomes little more than either a social club or a service organization. Those might be fine, in and of themselves, but they’re not the essence of Christianity. That would be the God we know in Jesus and experience through the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit.Okay, with that as an introduction I get to the statement that titles this piece. Our plenary speaker for this conference is philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, who wrote an important book on liturgical theology (from a philosopher’s perspective) titled The God We Worship: An Exploration of Liturgical Theology (my review appeared on this blog in August).  In the book and in the presentation he...

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  • On Tuesday I posted an article called “12 Loving Ways You Can Ruin Your Kid’s Career,” which has gotten a bit of chatter. Most readers understood pretty clearly the satire. There is a lot of talk these days about the problems of millennials. I find the whole idea of a “millennial” to be largely a cultural hoodwink, a conversation meant to pull attention away from how Baby Boomers sold our society out to economic interest, and then managed the economy badly. But that’s just me. Still, on Tuesday I wanted to put the screws to the parents of millennials, suggesting that older GenXers and younger Baby Boomers had lost their parenting marbles. Our disquieting paranoia that our children may in any way struggle has led to what experts call “delayed adolescence,” a “culture of entitlement,” and, poignantly, “learned helplessness”—really the collapse of courage in the face of life’s trials, sometimes resulting in mental illness. Honestly, I am not terribly concerned for the children of...

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  • Journeys Home

    Bach's grave in Leipzig  On the Lutheran (ELCA) calendar, Johann Sebastian Bach, Heinrich Schütz, George Frederick Handel are honored today, the anniversary of Bach's death. Bach (1685-1750) was the Baroque composer, known during his lifetime for his organ playing, but in the 19th century, his many compositions began to be appreciated, so that now he is considered one of the greatest composers. Handel (1685-1759) is known for works like Messiah, Water Music, and Music for the Royal Fireworks, and he wrote many operas, organ concertos, anthems, and oratorios. Born in Halle, he emigrated to London and became a British subject. A few years ago we visited his grave in Westminster Abby. Schütz (1585-1672) was one of the most important composers prior to Bach and one of the greatest of the 1600s. His sacred music survives, and a few secular works, about 500 altogether. In Dresden, we saw a memorial to the composer; he was buried in the former Frauenkirche in that city. On the...

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  • Tamed Cynic

    Crackers & Grape Juice descended upon the Wild Goose Festival in the North Carolina mountains a couple of weeks ago and grabbed a party bag’s worth of interviews with an eclectic group of speakers. For those of you who don’t know, Wild Goose is like a Woodstock Hipster Paradise for Theology Nerds. If that’s not clear, then you can check it out here. This Wild Goose interview was interview was with Bec Cranford, the volunteer director at the Gateway Center for homeless people in Atlanta. Bec is a heavily tattooed progressive Pentecostal wonder-woman. On the interview, she shared powerful stories of a tough life journey that has left her full of empathy. Everything was going well until she started speaking in tongues. Download the episode and subscribe to future ones in the iTunes store here. Puppy Dog Eyes: Give us a review there in the iTunes store. It’ll make it more likely more strangers and pilgrims will happen upon our meager podcast. ‘Like’ our Facebook Page too. You can...

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  • I am not preaching this week, but I'm still tempted to write a sermon based on the Parable of the Rich Fool that starts with the line, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would wake up?" It's a joke, of course. It's funny because I've never heard that question in a sermon in an Episcopal church. I've heard it more than enough times in other settings, and I think it would be humorous to try it out with our congregation. It's the classic "get-your-life-in-order-in-case-you-die" appeal that well-intentioned though misguided preachers in the evangelical tradition use to scare people into accepting Jesus. This parable is about a rich landowner who tears down his barns to build bigger ones, enabling a leisurely retirement, but who is then caught up short by death itself. God comes to him and declares, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you." And, as the fiery preacher shakes his fist at the congregation, he exclaims, "What about you? Will you die...

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  • When we live superficially … we are always outside ourselves, never quite ‘with’ ourselves, always divided and pulled in many directions … we find ourselves doing many things that we do not really want to do, saying things we do not really mean, needing things we do not really need, exhausting ourselves for what we secretly realize to be worthless and without meaning in our lives.—Thomas MertonFrom Parabola Magazine"Photograph by Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton. In his twenty-seventh year at Gethsemani Monastery, wrote to his friend novelist John Howard Griffin, in 1968, shortly after he received the gift of a camera: “It is fabulous. What a joy of a thing to work with.The camera is the most eager and helpful of all beings, all full of happy suggestions. Reminding me of things I have overlooked and cooperating in the creation of new worlds. So Simply. This is a Zen camera.”

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  • Strangely enough, I remember my first couple of stops at the Golden Arches, not because everyone was going there but because the whole McDonalds food-thing was so amazing: walk in, order, and bang! just like that a bag of food is in your hands, a burger or two and a bag of worms, all of it for a pittance. Instant grub. Seems to me those fries, like those first malnourished burgers, were just 15 cents. Drive-ins weren't new--my sisters worked at one in the town down the road--but the "fast food" thing was amazing. My memory may be rusty, but you walked out of that northside McDonalds with a ton of stuff for a great deal less than you paid at Lloyds or Terry's or any of a dozen places where you could buy a butter-slathered burger on a hard roll. McDonalds went to war with locals and mostly beat the tar out of them. Who wanted local stuff when you could get instant hamburgers on the cheap? Besides, wherever you went in America, the burgers were the same cut of thin and...

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  • I have a memory of being at Mepkin Abbey, and talk turned, as it so often does, to alternate careers.  I talked about being a spiritual director.  My friend said, "Do you realize how often you talk about being a spiritual director?  Maybe you should look into that."I thought of that friend last week when I had a conversation with a different friend about what I would do if this job ended suddenly.  I said, "I would be a spiritual director."I always feel like I'm blurting out something shameful, but I'm guessing that by now, people who know me are not surprised to find my thoughts running in that direction.  I used to think that being a pastor was the way to do more spiritual direction, but I've come to realize that the duties of many pastors don't leave much time for individual spiritual direction.Yesterday, an Admissions person came to me with a transcript.  She wanted to see how many of the classes the student could use at our school....

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    We human beings are an interesting lot. Like so many species in the animal kingdom, we are very territorial. In some instances that is probably not a bad thing, but when a certain kind of inhospitable territorialism infects the church, it undermines the gospel invitation to all persons.One of the places where inhospitable territorialism can be seen most clearly is in worship on Sunday morning. Most folks enter the sanctuary for worship and sit in their same familiar place week after week. Some persons prefer the back, others the front, and others in between. I have been told that the reason people do this is that the more visually oriented persons like to sit in the back so they can see everything, while those who favor their listening faculty sit close to the front. The individuals who are more balanced sit in the middle.There is no doubt some truth to that, but that still doesn't explain why most people sit in the exact same spot Sunday after Sunday. I don't know whether it's...

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  • Stanley Rother experienced a life quite like that of many Midwestern Roman Catholic priests. He was born in 1935, attended seminary, and was ordained in 1968 (though he struggled with Latin enough to make this a challenge at times). He served as an associate minister at a few churches before being commissioned and called to the congregation of Santiago Atitlán in Guatemala. Stanley Rother, with his heart full of love and anxiety, left the United States of America and became shepherd of a people miles away in geography and culture.After some time, he had mastered the language of his flock: a Mayan dialect of the Tzutuhil. He was the first to translate the scripture into Tzutuhil. More than that, he offered services in the language of his flock and became greatly endeared to them. Soon, more than 3,300 people were attending the Sunday masses. Stanley did not accomplish this with flash and programs aimed at reaching the unreached but, rather, by slowly...

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  • The above image comes via a post on Jerry Coyne’s blog, “The Truth About Creationism vs. Evolutionism.” Would it be fair to say that the biggest reasons for the debates about evolution among Christians, and between religious fundamentalists of various stripes and everyone else, stem from people not understanding how either of the two books [Read More...]

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  • “. . . Our use of money and resources reflects our values. Or, in the language of the Gospel of Matthew – ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Every day our small choices are woven together into the whole cloth of our moral lives, and economic decisions and commitments, the stuff […]

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  • Anglobaptist

    This might take a bit. Get comfortable. I have to step back in for a moment and confess to you all that I have not lived up to my end of the bargain as framed by President Obama this evening. Instead, I have given in to fear and cynicism. I have let the rancor and demagoguery from all corners get the best of me. I trip over my own ego. Tonight, though, I was inspired. I had to go back and watch President Obama's convention address because y'all were tweeting and...

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  • In case you don’t know it or have forgotten it, young people are amazing! To be in the company of 3000 youth from all over the country is a gift I did not anticipate. Here in Orlando at the National Youth Event (NYE) of the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, I am with people who already know how to be the church. These kids are filled with passion and pain, hope and despair, faith and doubt. They are here in the Florida heat and they fill me with hope. I have served the church in one way or another for more than 30 years. I do this because I know the life-giving power of the body of Christ. NYE has reminded me of this power and this responsibility. It has been my privilege to co-lead a workshop on the issues of suicidality and self-harm from a theological perspective. Telling groups of youth that they are each a temple of the Holy Spirit, and watching them reflect on that possibility, brings tears to my eyes. This is church at its best. This is a reminder that...

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  • [From Aug. 3, 2006 archive]We hear a voice we had not known, a voice that promises relief from our burden. What voice is this? Is it like the sugary voice of Jael to Sisera, who offered the warrior a rug to hide under and warm milk to ease his fear, then while he slept hammered a tent stake through his temple? Or like the voice of Judas, whose love for Jesus did not preclude his serving as a guide for the arresting party?   No, it is more like the voice of women who followed Jesus and provided for him all the way from Galilee to crucifixion,then stayed with him even after.Lectionary Readings Ps. 143; 147:12-20; 81; 116Judg. 4:4-23Acts 1:15-26Matt. 27:55-66            Selected Verses Ps. 81:5c-6I hear a voice I had not known:“I relieved your shoulder of the burden;            your hands were freed from the basket.  …  ”Judg. 4:18Jael came out to meet Sisera...

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