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  • It is testimony to God’s persevering love that God has blessed the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand with some wonderfully-talented young people. And with the conviction that God’s blessings are given in order to be a blessing to others, a number of these young troopers have banded together to make a wee album called Songs for the Road. There’s a couple of stand out tracks. Here’s one of them, by Hannah van Dorp:   Son of light, son of day Don’t believe that your hope’s gone away Friend of mine, how you shine, Don’t allow your heart to be afraid You’ve never seen anything like this before, Never been anywhere on your own. But you, my dear, see crystal clear this light So don’t be afraid of the night. You may not remember me But I know where your heart’s always been. Change your mind, you might fall behind but you know Your reality’s seen. You’ve never done anything like this before, Never known any...

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  • Available Light

    Dear Lynda,I was at your place yesterday. It doesn't seem so long since the last time, when I came and spoke about how all cathedrals are, in the final analysis, transitional cathedrals. I was gutted to be rung by Michael Hughes the other day and learn that deans are too. Shocked. Shattered. Unbelieving. I know your health was bad, and I know we are all temporary but you were so full of everything that makes life worthwhile that your death  just didn't seem right.You would have loved yesterday. As Garrison Keillor once said “They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I'm going to miss mine by just a few days.” You were there, of course; or at least your body was, and everything about the service spoke of you. I'd be really interested to know if you were conscious of all that. Perhaps one day we could talk?  The music was great: your choice, I understand, and Bishop Victoria spoke of you so movingly. The script of...

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  • [From Aug. 1, 2012 archive] You deliver those who love you, protect those who know your name. For example, you raised up a left-handed Benjaminite to deliver Israel from the Moabites. From our limited perspective, there are exceptions. Jesus knew your name, cried it out in a loud voice. (As he told the apostles, it is not for us to know what you have set by your own authority.) And we confess it was through Jesus, in our eyes forsaken on the cross, that you delivered us. Lectionary Readings Ps. 65; 147:1-11; 125; 91 Judg. 3:12-30 Acts 1:1-14 Matt. 27:45-54 Selected Verses Ps. 91:14 Those who love me, I will deliver;           I will protect those who know my name. Judg. 3:15a But when the Israelites cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. Acts 1:7 [The risen Jesus] replied [to the apostles], "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has...

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  • Anglobaptist

    Paul said, "the foolishness of the cross" not "the stable middle class lifestyle," if you want my opinion on seminary education, the changing economy, and baptismal identity in general. We bear a responsibility to care for one another as Christians (and beyond) that we have abdicated to the persnickety "marketplace." It's time to talk about holy poverty again, I think.I can hear my free church friends and colleagues now, "But we don't take a...

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  • In today's gospel, Matthew shows us Jesus on the cross. Crucifixions were very public affairs, meant as horrible deterrents to those who dared defy Rome. They were usually located for maximum exposure, on a main thoroughfare or at a crossroads, insuring lots of people would pass by and get the message. Matthew tells us that those passersby taunted Jesus. The gospel doesn't identify them. We don't know if they were opponents of Jesus prior to this point. We know only that they passed by and said things such as, "Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him."I don't know, but I suspect that taunting of this sort  was a common feature back in the days of public hangings. Such a person is, by definition, a "loser" of some sort, and we humans often take pleasure in piling on when someone is down."Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him." It's just a taunt, but I wonder if there's any truth to it....

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  • Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. Rachel Carlson The morning fog hangs over Dune Lake in Suislaw National Forest, near Florence, Oregon. Photo by Tim GravesFiled under: hiking with God, photos, Suislaw National Forest Tagged: beauty, fog, lake, nature, Oregon coast, Rachel Carlson

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  • Via Hemant Mehta:

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  • While away on vacation, I made the unwise move of keeping connected via wireless. So on the island of Isla Mujeres I was consistently reading the running commentary on Gaza. Remember this: if you want a good vacation, pack swim trunks, sunscreen, and – before leaving – create peace in the Middle East. I blame Netanyahu and Hamas for a terrible vacation. How can anyone have a good time when the world is burning? Next time, the wireless is off. First world problems. Now that I’m back, to work with the interfaith gatherings and protests. About a week ago, a group of local politicians gathered in downtown White Plains to declare their support for Israel. I’m not particularly offended, or surprised, by this activity: politicians cater to their constituents, and most Americans are pro-Israel. It is also one of those issues that the cost for support is little; the price for anything else could be disastrous, because there are enough individuals for which Israel is non...

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  • Journeys Home

    Several times over the years, something good happened to me but also, thereby, several things in my life fell into place and I discerned God’s guidance over a period of time. Prior to the time when the blessing came, I struggled and felt badly that things aren’t going well. Likely, I also felt hurt about some aspect of the situation. Then when the blessing came, it occurred in a way so interestingly timed that I could affirm God’s providence---and, likely, a divine sense of humor. This happened to me again this past week, after I’ve struggled with feelings of spiritual dryness and low-level discouragement for quite a while. (Some of my blog posts over the last couple years refer to these feelings, more than I realized.) I wish I could say that, from now on, I’ll trust God more consistently. At least I know the limits of my trust, confess my weakness to God, and continue to pursue spiritual disciplines while I’m feeling badly.I’m being a little hard on myself, because part of my...

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    In an editorial by David Brooks entitled, "No War Is an Island: When Middle East Conflicts Become One," writes,It's amazing how much of the discussion of the Gaza war is based on the supposition that it is still 1979. It's based on the supposition that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a self-contained struggle being run by the two parties most directly involved. It's based on the supposition that the horror could be ended if only deft negotiators could achieve a "breakthrough" and a path toward a two-state agreement. But it is not 1979. People's mental categories may be stuck in the past, but reality has moved on. The violence between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, may look superficially like past campaigns, but the surrounding context is transformed.What's happened, of course, is that the Middle East has begun what Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has called its 30 Years War-- an overlapping series of clashes and proxy wars that could go on...

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  • NOTE:  Here are my worship notes for Sunday, August 3, 2014. They are part four of an on-going summer series grounded in Walter Brueggemman's book Sabbath as Resistance:  Saying NO to the Culture of NOW. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Brueggemann's insights and quote him frequently in this message.IntroductionIn the United Church of Christ, our theological home and spiritual center, there is a saying that is widely shared: No matter who you are – no matter where you are on life’s journey – you are welcome here. This slogan – or even what some have called the distillation of our mission – is easily misunderstood.Some people have said that it is too simplistic and without theological depth.  Others have worried that it is too broad and general; without clear Christian bench marks or reference points.  And others still have written it off as a marketing gimmick that has a bit of a buzz to our postmodern sensibilities, but doesn't really mean anything...

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  • Rumblings

    Like many over the last few weeks, I’ve been following with a mixture of interest, despair, anger, hopelessness, confusion, and weariness the latest round of conflict in Israel and Palestine.   Like many, I have read countless articles and op-ed pieces trying to explain, advocate, condemn or make some kind of sense of a senseless situation. I have read impassioned justifications for the actions of Israelis and Palestinians. What would your nation do if it was surrounded by hostile nations dedicated to the elimination of your people?! What would you do if you were penned up and locked into a tiny space and deprived of dignity and brutalized at every turn?! I have read many words and words about words, but it all seems so futile, as I sit here on vacation, a world away from the unspeakable reality that so many are currently facing. Words, words, words… And still the killing goes on. A picture may or may not be worth a thousand words, but I came across an image a few days ago that I have...

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  • Brian McLaren

    In a previous post, I tried to address an important issue: that we need to address our precritical approaches to the conflict. If our line of approach is misguided, we will find it easier to be unhelpful. If we repeat conventional polarized/paralyzed rhetoric about the conflict, we will intensify misunderstanding and contribute to the descending spiral of violence … violence that escalates in nightmarish ways. People on each side of the conflict tend to see their counterpart as intellectually inferior (using words like "insane" or "irrational") and morally flawed. Religious people frequently use the Bible to justify this kind of pre-judgment. (In my most recent book, We Make the Road by Walking, I offer a way of reading the Biblical story that undermines prejudice and leads towards peacemaking.) Thus God is brought in to accuse one side and protect the other. Any conflict that is addressed from such premises has little chance of being resolved. Is there another alternative - to...

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  • This is the sermon from July 20 that I preached at Bethel Lutheran Church.  I got behind in posting as I prepare for surgery on my rotator cuff tomorrow. Last week besides trying to get office things in order and worship preperation for several weeks' out, there were numerous pre-op things that needed doing.The text is Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Last week I admitted my lack of skill when it comes to growing plants. I have a black thumb rather than a green thumb. I have another confession to make. I have a hard time telling weeds from plants and flowers. After all, some of the weeds are beautiful and look like something you might want to keep in a garden. And some plants don’t look as beautiful as the weeds. After all, are the wildflowers we see growing in fields along the side of the road weeds or flowers? In last week’s gospel, we heard about different types of dirt and how the planted seeds were affected by the ground in which they were planted. That was Farming 1.0. Today,...

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  • My summer as a faculty member at George Fox University has gone something like this: In early May, we commemorated the end of another school year with graduation, at which several faculty peers and I enjoyed taking selfies marking the transition to summer. We were happy: four months without grading essays!  A few days later, give or take, my own children were off for the summer, and I began fretting about how I was going to keep them busy while also working on our book project. One or two days after that, it seems, Kendra and I spoke at the Christian Feminist Today conference, sharing our research with an amazing audience of feminists who love Jesus, discovering a new folk duo called The Troubadours of Divine Bliss, and enjoying St. Louis at its hot and sticky finest. And then it was July. Emails started arriving about faculty meetings and some kind of “retreat” that really was no retreat, just meetings that last a little longer than normal, with better snacks than usual....

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  • When you think of Jesus, would you describe him as a compassionate fellow? What about God? Do you believe in a compassionate God?As best I can tell, there are eight verses in the four gospelaccounts that describe Jesus as compassionate or having pity (same Greek word), and two of them are repeats:Compassion on the Sheperdless Crowd (Matt. 9:36)Feeding of the 5,000 (Matt. 14:14 & Mark 6:34)Feeding of the 4,000 (Matt. 15:32 & Mark 8:2)Healing of Two Blind Men (Matt. 20:34)Cleansing of a Leper (Mark 1:41)Raising of a Widow’s Son (Luke 7:13) That’s six different occasions when the gospel writers record for us that Jesus was moved with pity or acted out of compassion, and two of those moments were precursors for the feeding miracles. I think it’s interesting that both Matthew and Mark set the stage for two different but parallel feeding stories by mention Jesus’ emotional state. Perhaps there’s something in the background there about a Jewish mother feeding her upset son large...

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  • I had lunch with an Anglican Ordinariate Roman Catholic Priest last week.  In our conversation, we talked some about the differences he has seen between his time in The Episcopal Church and Roman Catholicism.  One point that I found particularly interesting was the rubric within Roman rites that the priest, at his discretion, can shorten a scripture reading appointed for any given day.  Episcopalians can’t do that.  Instead, the rubric on page 888 reads “Any reading may be lengthened at discretion.”  While there are plenty of Sunday’s that I’d like the hack and slash the RCL reading, this week, I’m in total agreement with my Rector, who is preaching, that the Gospel lesson should be extended to include all of verse 13.  The opening should read something like, “After Jesus had heard this, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” The “this” which lacks a direct antecedent and would drive my homiletics professor...

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  • The old Timothy Christian School Late Sixties images should include a gallery of burning cities all over America, images most of us would rather forget. People died in violent street protests. People were killed. Shot. In the middle of the horror in Vietnam, National Guard troops were called up to police burning streets in Newark, Detroit, LA, cities all over America. The nation was torn asunder by racial hatred. In Cicero, Illinois, a small, community-based Christian school, faced its own racial crisis when African-American parents from one of its supporting churches asked to have their children enrolled in what had been an all-white school in an all-white section of the city. The board agonized but finally refused, claiming that admitting the black children to what had been an all-white school would put the entire student body and the school itself into jeopardy--no, into danger that was very, very real. Fifteen or so years before, a black family attempting to move...

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  • Larry Hurtado has expressed some frustration with some members of his blog audience. Here is an excerpt from his recent blog post on the topic:Scholarly work intended to have an impact on the field isn’t done in blogging. The amount of data, its complexity, the analysis and argumentation involved, and the engagement with the work of other scholars that forms an essential feature of scholarly work all require more space than a few hundred words of a blog-posting, or a few paragraphs of blog-comment. So, it’s rather unrealistic (not to say bizarre) for some commenters to assume otherwise…Blogging (at least this blog site) is for disseminating basic results of scholarly work, and alerting interested readers to publications where they can pursue matters further. But if you do want to engage the issues, you’re just going to have to do some serious reading . . . in books, and articles, and in the original sources on which scholarly work is based. The Internet and the “...

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  • G-D

    From This Isn't Happiness. HT Jeff Carter. 

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  • Larry Patten

    Matthew 14:22-33 – The 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 10, 2014 “. . . and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30) Jesus walked on water*. Yes or no? Fact or fiction? It’s in the Bible, so it must be true that Jesus performed miracles and ignored the laws of nature. Therefore, Jesus strode across the lake. The believers who wrote the Gospels wanted to demonstrate Jesus’s superiority over Roman power. Therefore, his water-walk was a metaphoric response to imperial arrogance. People in the ancient world of Jesus experienced the world differently than we moderns. For example, a storm destroying crops could be God’s anger at a person/village. Thus, it can’t be affirmed or denied that Jesus performed miracles since he lived in a superstitious, pre-scientific era. Walking on “water.” Which would you choose? Or what fourth explanation might you add to explain your faithful response to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s liquid stroll?...

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  • If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself, 10, 20 or 30 years ago, what would you talk about? I know I’d have much to say. When I was in high school, I was extremely lonely. I felt like no one really knew who I was. I was words like “too serious” and “too Christian” and “nerd” would be words other people used to describe me. Needless to say, I didn’t run in the popular crowd. I never had the right clothes or found myself in activities that achieved instant coolness. At school I only had one real friend. I think depression was something that I dealt with though I didn’t have the words to describe it yet. But, even with the awkwardness, I had some self-awareness. I knew I liked encouraging others. I knew I liked organizing and leading things with purpose and that validated others’ gifts. I knew I liked paying careful attention to the details of others’ lives so to connect with them intentionally. I knew I...

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  • Martha had a home in Bethany near Jerusalem and it was here that Jesus often rested and visited. Her brother and sister--Lazarus and Mary--are regularly mentioned with her. Often, the story that we remember of them is when Jesus visited and Martha was busy preparing and working to provide for Jesus. Her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus' feet.Martha chided Mary about not helping and Jesus corrected Martha saying that Mary had chosen correctly by being present with him. It's a popular scene for sermons and stories and, yet, it is not the only place we see Martha--whom Jesus loved.Mary and Martha had sent word to their friend Jesus that Lazarus was sick and likely to die. They expected him to come quickly because of his dying friend and provide the healing that they had seen with their own eyes. At first, their anxiety was high but their hope remained fixed on Jesus' intervention. They had seen him heal strangers so, surely, he would heal a dear friend like...

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  • [From July 31, 2012 archive]Jesus, you were wise in what is good, and you were guileless in what is evil. You were moved with pity by the groaning of those who were persecuted and oppressed. But with mischief in their hearts, workers of evil mocked you--if you saved others, why not yourself? We have often heard the answer, yet plaintively ask anew: Why did not God deliver you from the hand of your enemies? Lectionary Readings Ps. 54; 146; 28; 99 Judg. 2:1-5, 11-23 Rom. 16:17-27 Matt. 27:32-44 Selected Verses Ps. 28:3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,           with those who are workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors,           while mischief is in their hearts. Judg. 2:18 Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of...

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