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The CCblogs network is a community of independent bloggers exploring the Christian faith. The Christian Century facilitates the network but does not edit posts or take responsibility for them.

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  • Michial Farmer and Nathan Gilmour talk about banned books and the history of censorship.

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  • Beloved Spear

    Why write about the small church?  Why research it?  Why care at all?One primary reason was reflected in a recent article highlighted by the hipster Jesus publication Relevant Magazine.  It was entitled:  "Five Really Bad Reasons For Leaving Your Church," or somethin' like that.It was a blog-missive from a church-plantin'-pastor type, Aaron Gloy.  Gloy spent much of this article admonishing Christians for some of the less-valid reasons they find to abandon a congregation, structured into one of those nice neat little listicles that are a surefire way to drive web traffic.It wasn't terrible, and I found myself agreeing with it, mostly, with one notable exception.That exception came with bad-reason-number-two:  "The Church is Getting Too Big."   As a reason to leave, that tends to occur when a community is experiencing significant growth, and folks feel a sense of loss as the thing they valued disappears.That, frankly, can be a major problem for...

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  • John Vest

    Adam Walker Cleaveland is curating a blog series on pastoral identity over at Pomomusings. Yesterday he published a post I wrote about my shifting sense of pastoral identity as I prepare to leave parish ministry for a four year stint as a seminary professor. Here’s how I begin: When Adam asked me to be a part of this blog series on pastoral identity, I knew that my post would come about a month after announcing to my congregation that I will be leaving in a few months to accept a four-year appointment as a visiting seminary professor. In the midst of this transition, pastoral identity is certainly on my mind. When I was first approached to consider applying for this seminary job I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to get out of parish ministry, even for a position that is very much designed for an active practitioner. Years ago I concluded that my primary sense of call is to the church and not the academy. But now those lines of demarcation are getting...

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  • Journeys Home

    Today is the feast day of John Wesley and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist movement and renewers of the church. This site gives a good overview of their work and importance. The picture is from this site.

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  • The year was 1965. Madison, to a couple thousand high school small-town Wisconsin boys, was Babylon. Milwaukee was our vision of a big city, but Madison was mythical, seductive, our vision of a fantasy land outside anything any of us had ever experienced.But that was all part of the charm, really, part of the glory of high school athletics—two whole days off of school, a room in some family home, hours and hours of basketball, and Madison. Going to Madison made our team's having already lost somehow bearable.We packed our our shaving gear and slipped on our penny loafers, and then threw on the red-and-white letter jacket, gold metals hanging in clusters on the chest, chenille chevrons, one atop the next, lined up beneath our ’65 and ’66 as perfect as a line of geese.It was 1965, and we’d hang around the cavernous old UW Fieldhouse in identical haircuts straight from American Bandstand. We were cool, and we knew it because when we looked at everybody else they all looked just like...

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  • Psalm 19“Above all keep me from presumptuous sins “is how the NRSV translates “keep back your servant from the insolent” that gains dominion over us. We usually think of sin in terms of weakness but these sins are acts of avarice and pride. These presumptuous, “hidden faults” left undetected grow into the great transgressions from which the psalmist prays to be spared. It is when we live in ignorance of our complicity in the patterns of thought, word and deed that deaden the heart and whither the soul that our lives grow increasingly disconnected to the source of light and life. The trouble is we can become accustomed to life in the shadows and think that all is well when those around us can see it isn’t. As difficult as it is to hear the truth told about ourselves it is a means of grace whereby God returns us to the place of peace where the words of our mouths and meditation of our hearts are acceptable to our Rock and Redeemer.

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. Word came to Saul: "David is in Naioth at Ramah"; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul's men and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Secu. And he asked, "Where are Samuel and David?""Over in Naioth at Ramah," they said.So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 19:18-...

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  • John Wesley was the fifteenth child in his large English family. Their family was heavily influenced by the faith of the past and the present. John's grandfather has been a Puritan minister and his own father was rector in Epworth when John was born. It was important to the Wesley family to be involved in the life of the Church and it was in the stories and words of the Body of Christ that they found meaning and direction. The profound impact of John's early years in the Church cannot be fully understood or charted. In many ways, it would have been unsurprising years later to find John Wesley among the cultured and refined members whose faith has become little more than adherence to habits of attendance and patterns of speech. Yet, there was a particular moment when he was five years old that seems to have started him along a path away from bored and inherited faith and toward a life of discipline and spiritual formation. The rectory where they lived caught...

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  • The cartoon above is by Tom Gauld. It seems to me to do a good job of illustrating how people tend to exalt their own heritage and denigrate that of others.This relates directly to how Islam is being treated in the media. I’ve said it before: any Christian who reads the Qur’an differently than they would want people to read the Bible is ignoring what is arguably Jesus’ most famous and most central moral teaching: treat others the way you would want to be treated.Mark Sandlin has a wonderful post about this, looking at what would happen if people read the Bible the way that conservative Christians critics of Islam read the Qur’an. I suspect that the only way conservatives might be able to sidestep the point is to insist that they differ from Muslims in that they don’t obey those violent commands in the Bible. But that doesn’t really help their case much, in my opinion, since they still claim that the Bible is inherently better than the Qur’an,...

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  • Cindy Brandt

    If you thought I was going to be one of those bloggers who was above using the recent viral #dressgate as blog fodder, you would be wrong. In fact, as soon as the dress started trending, I knew I would be writing about it because it so perfectly encapsulates my message. By now you have […]

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  • Rev. Jeff Hood

    *These reflections are taken from pieces of the last words of the last 40 persons executed in Texas. Carroll Parr- “I’ll be back.” To believe in an afterlife is to believe that you will be back. Maybe you won’t be back to the exact same spot that you left. Since death is a tragedy for most people, I doubt that most people would want to go back to the exact spot of their death. I think that the back is actually where you started. If God is love and we started in the mind of God then I guess we just collapse back into love. I invite you to pray the last words of Carroll Parr: “I’ll be back.”   Amen.

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  • Rev. Jeff Hood

      The drugs were cloudy. Though I can imagine, I have no idea what that really looks like. With a question about bad drugs being what postponed this execution, I know that this is not just about Kelly Gissendaner anymore. This is a moment that could have real repercussions for the many other people on death row. I pray that this is the moment that abolitionists in Georgia have been looking for and that these cloudy drugs will slow down the entire process or even lead to a moratorium. Brian Terrell is scheduled to be executed on March 11. We need #kellyonmymind to start thinking in the direction of #brianonmymind and #deathrowonmymind. This could be the moment we have all been working for. I pray so.   Amen.  

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  • Lord Jesus, we do not want you to remember the sins of our youth or our transgressions: how we have exchanged the truth for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. No, we want you to remember us and the good we have done, though days without number we have forgotten you and the signs of your love.  Lord have mercy. Lectionary Readings Ps. 34; 146; 25; 91 Jer. 2:1-13, 29-32 Rom. 1:16-25 John 4:43-54 Selected Verses Ps. 25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;          according to your steadfast love remember me,          for your goodness’ sake, O LORD! Jer. 2:32 Can a girl forget her ornaments,          or a bride her attire?Yet my people have forgotten me,          days without number. Rom. 1:25 …because [...

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  • Don't Eat Alone

    The woman who wrote the article I talked about yesterday said one of the ways she tried to reach her daughter was to put poems in her shoes because, she said, “What I wanted her to know is: People have been in pain before, struggled to find hope, and look what they’ve done with it.” […]

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  • Question: is forgiveness and our encounter with God's grace conditional upon repentance? I was asked this question after worship and I've been mulling it over and again for the past 24 hours. (And, truth be told, for the past 35 years!)  There was a time when I would have said, "Yes, without a doubt. We are to forgive one another as God has forgiven us." And, in that mode, I would have emphasized examples from the Scriptures concerning God withholding forgiveness from those who willfully harm one another in sin. These would be texts of judgment. I might have also focused very narrowly on passages that celebrate human repentance as the necessary requisite for salvation.But my experience of grace - and my cautious study of scripture - suggests that repentance (a change of direction and behavior) is most likely a consequence of grace rather than a condition. God's ways are not our ways; so while theology is a human act of faith searching for understanding, I think it essential to...

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  • I am a big fan of the liturgical calendar. As someone who plans worship, knowing what season it is helps.  It helps us with the colors, the themes, the hymns, the scripture, the tone of worship.  That being said, I must also admit that the liturgical season is an entirely human construct.  We invented it to help us know God.  God did not invent it to help God know us. Yet I find myself in a seasonal muddle this year.  In the past week I conducted two memorial services and they were not particularly Lent-y.  The opening hymn at the first was “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”  The choir sang Beethoven’s “Hallelujah” from The Mount of Olives at the second.  A few weeks ago, our retired soprano section leader, a helluva woman in her 80’s, sang an introit and a benediction response that were full of Alleluias.  My own husband, giving the benediction at the Ash Wednesday service, spoke out his usual “Hallelujah, hallelujah, Amen.” What’s...

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  • Exodus 20:1-17I know that well-meaning people believe posting the Ten Commandments in public spaces will help society adhere to them but if clearly posting laws at regular intervals meant compliance there would be fewer speeding tickets.The Ten Commandments were given to the people of Israel after their cries for freedom were answered. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the house of slavery.” Relationship with God is the foundation upon which the commandments stand and the only way to begin to live them is to remember that God acted first. Which means every “thou shall” or “thou shall not” needs to be prefaced with a “therefore” as in “I am the Lord your God” therefore… When we understand the commandments from the standpoint of a loving relationship with the God who rescued people for no other reason than their desperate cries prompted merciful action the commandments can be understood as a gift to be lived and not a rigid rule to regulate life or a burden we must bear to...

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  • “It’s worth coming for the creative resources alone,” said a happy punter as they tucked the order of worship into their bag. Yesterday we kicked off at Uniting College another year of Leadership Formation Days. These aim to build community among individuals on the journey to ordination. So yesterday in small groups and with the […]

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    The procreative end of marriage is the way the church has maintained that one of the essential gifts of marriage is children. The term "planned parenthood" doesn't quite fit how Christians ought to have children, for children are not our choice as much as they are God's choice for us. Much harm has been done to children in our era through children being reduced to projects of the parents. Children are not our achievements, or our rights, or our projects. They are God's gifts. Of course, the gift of children is sometimes a gift that disrupts our lives, creating all sorts of anarchy. Sometimes our dull little lives need the gift of some divine anarchy. Christians know that our lives are not meant merely to be safe, therefore God gives us something more interesting to do with our lives than maintaining mere security. God gave us childrenMoreover, children pull us into time, demanding that we make time to enjoy the sheer wonder of their lives in a world that too often denies children...

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  • This isn’t a post about whether or not the 10 Commandments should be displayed in state or federal courthouses. This isn’t a post about whether or not Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, is off his rocker. This isn’t a post about whether or not this bumper sticker  is a poorly digitized violation of the second commandment. This is a [perhaps too analytical] post about whether or not, in light of Sunday’s Old Testament lesson, the disciples of Jesus should keep the 10 Commandments.  Spoiler Alert, the answer is yes.  During Lent, we’ve taken on the practice of starting our Sunday liturgy with the Penitential Order Rite I (BCP, 319).  We aren’t reading the Decalogue, as we have in years past, but we do hear the Summary of the Law every week. “Here what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  and...

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  • Spacious Faith

    In the Celtic spiritual tradition, people refer to “thin places”–spaces where the veil between the Divine and the earthly is especially thin; places where you can easily have a sense of the holy, a feeling of connection to God. There are places commonly recognized as thin, as holy. The places where Jesus is said to […]

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  • Yesterday it rained ice. It was both incredibly beautiful and incredibly dangerous. Roads were slick and limbs fell. Rachel attempted to capture our Narnia on film, but quickly desisted when the White Witch appeared in the form of a slippery walk and bruised tailbone. We stayed warm. We played games. We teased one another about books read, or not […]

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  • Audios of sermons and worship available on the FCPC website.

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  • Cultural critics of a certain persuasion will sometimes suggest that the Bible is a force to conserve what is most stable in human society, to call us back from our radical delusions and into a life that deserves not critique but preservation without much question or disturbance.  Not so Walter Brueggemann.  In his famous 1978 book The Prophetic Imagination Brueggemann introduced Bible students to a text that disrupts and confronts, that imagines a creation crying out for justice and mercy.  And in his 2014 book Ice Axes for Frozen Seas, Brueggemann once more returns to the Bible as a collection of texts that breaks up frozen ideas, making us see what we had ignored and to cry out when despair silences our cries.

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  • Years ago, I used to take writing classes out to an abandoned house just outside of town, an old four square and strong place with trees growing out the windows, sparrows for residents. I'd walk inside with them and tell them to listen to the stories the old place would tell. When the farmer happened along one day, I told him what I was doing and he nodded his approval, then called me a week or two later and said his insurance man had told him letting those kids walk around inside of something that rundown wasn't a great idea.That was it for the writing classes. We never returned.But I've wandered through a dozen abandoned farm places at least, all by my lonesome, still do. Once upon a time, I stumbled on an acreage a bunch of miles south and west of here, not all that far from the Big Sioux River, an old place with a barn and more than a couple sheds. I got out of the car and walked up to the broken windows of the house, looked in and found this. The stories here had a...

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