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Showing posts from April, 2005

Saturday Plugs

I'm still working through The Message of the Psalms, which is coming along more slowly than I hoped. I think my interests lay elsewhere at the moment, and am wishing for other reading. It's a good book, and I'm about halfway through, but I think I might set it aside or at least read in conjunction with something else, maybe a psalm here, then a chapter or two from a different work altogether.

We watched Blade the other day. I had never seen it before, but when we sat down to watch it, it was pretty much what I expected: vampire hunter and damsel in distress try to stop vampire's plot to kill innocent people. Add in lots of blood, sprinkle in discussion of what does and doesn't kill vampires, stretch out over an hour and a half. Meh.

Near the very beginning of my seminary career a friend took me to see Robynn Ragland, who was playing in a small St. Louis venue. I pulled her CD back out the other day. In many ways she's a typical female act for this day and age: yo…

A few more blogs

The Pub asks the question, 'Wouldn't church be so much better if they had it in a pub?' The writer has aspirations of starting a pub for just such a reason. I have a similar dream concerning a coffeehouse, so I can relate well.

And then Monk-In-Training writes Monastic Mumblings. He's training to become a friar with the Episcopal Church, and they're good people. I've seen Monk around the blogosphere elsewhere, but hadn't visited his blog until the other day.

Check 'em out.

Living by faith

I'm wrestling with two lectionary texts for May 29. Yes, it's a while away but I was doing some planning ahead today.

The first is Matthew 7:21-29, where Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom, but the one who does my Father's will will enter in." (Slightly paraphrased) This does not sound like a 'pray this prayer and you're in' type of situation.

The second text is Romans 1:16-17, in which Paul quotes Habakkuk: 'The righteous will live by faith.' Now what's that mean? Where's the emphasis? Is it on 'will live,' and does that mean 'will not die' or 'will structure one's life'? Or is the emphasis on 'by faith,' and does that mean 'assent,' 'trust,' or 'faithfulness?' And if the proper rendering ends up being, 'shall not die because of one's assertion,' how does that square with Jesus' words in Matthew 7? Or…

A Day of Celebration

I had completely forgotten that today is recognized as William Shakespeare's birthday. So I DO have some movie recommendations for you: Laurence Olivier in 'Richard III,' the 1968 version of 'Romeo and Juliet' and NOT the DiCaprio/Danes version (a good concept, but it ended up being more flash and less substance), Kenneth Branagh in 'Hamlet,' Kevin Kline and Co. in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' Lawrence Fishburne in 'Othello,' and Kenneth Branagh again in 'Much Ado About Nothing' (and do your best to ignore Keanu Reeves).

In addition, I share my favorite sonnet, number 112:

Your love and pity doth th' impression fill
Which vulgar scandal stamp'd upon my brow
For what care I who calls me well or ill,
So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow?
You are my all the world, and I must strive
To know my shames and praises from your tongue;
None else to me, nor I to none alive,
That my steel'd sense or changes right or wrong.
In so pr…

Saturday Recommendations

I've finished Conversation as Ministry and have moved on to a Walter Brueggemann book called The Message of the Psalms. See? Almost two months after the fact, I found an Old Testament study book. He divides the Psalms into three categories: psalms of orientation (positive, serene, order, focused on God's goodness), disorientation, (negative, chaos, lament, asking why God is doing or not doing something) and reorientation (God bringing the writer to a new place). I finished his discussion of the psalms of orientation last night and found his points quite compelling. The psalms on which he focused deal with God creating order in creation (8, 33, 104) or creating order through the Torah (1, 119) or when Israel follows or fears God (111, 112). I share a paragraph on which I've been chewing since last night. It comes during a discussion of Psalm 131:

'The piety reflected in this psalm is directly opposed to modernity with its drive toward independence, self-sufficiency, and …

New Look

I just felt like changing things up a little bit and this was my second-favorite format provided by Blogger. Plus I wanted to lighten things up. Much as I like black, it was time to make things a little more cheery.

Cyberholics Anonymous

I've always had a love-hate relationship with the internet, more specifically with discussion fora. I first logged on to the UCC.org discussion fora over six years ago when they were just beginning, indulging in some light-hearted conversation and connecting with other UCC members across the country. At some point they added a theology discussion and more serious battle lines were drawn. My wife in particular can attest to my stewing (boiling, really) over some of the discussion that took place there. It was an addiction that I couldn't break that was informative as it was infuriating. For those who doubt that 'conservatives' are not always welcome in the UCC, I know of some who let me know once upon a time that I wasn't, in more 'conservative' days. Of course, that can hardly be chalked up to 'The UCC,' but pockets of members really don't want 'conservatives' here, and vice versa for 'liberals.'

I digress. Sort of. Long story sho…

'Be It Further Resolved...'

The United Church of Christ has made available the resolutions that will be up for debate this summer at its biennial General Synod, ranging from mildly debatable (advocating the sole use of fair trade coffee within the UCC) to overtly controversial (considering divestment from companies that support Israel, resolutions both for and against the blessing of same-sex marriage) and from the pretty uninteresting (recommending changes in how Synod meets in the future) to theologically significant (asking what it means to call oneself a Christian denomination) to the fairly overreactionary (making sure 'The Comma' doesn't replace the traditional UCC symbol). As a delegate I have much to study and think about. I'll share some of my thoughts on some of these resolutions in the weeks and months to come.

Enter Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY (April 19) - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the church's leading hard-liner, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium. He chose the name Pope Benedict XVI and called himself ''a simple, humble worker.''

Ratzinger, the first German pope since the 11th century, emerged onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, where he waved to a wildly cheering crowd of tens of thousands and gave his first blessing as pope. Other cardinals clad in their crimson robes came out on other balconies to watch him. ''Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me - a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord,'' he said after being introduced by Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estivez. ''The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers,'' the new pope said…

Axes to Grind

We all have 'em. You can watch them pop up regularly depending on who you read or listen to. Greg's has been megachurches as of late. Chuck's is whatever Bush does. Dave's is abusive fundamentalism. One of Nick's is Dave Matthews Band. That one hurts. But anyway, after thinking about this this morning, I began wondering if someone could pinpoint an axe to grind on my silly little blog. And I think you can, at least in recent postings.

Read here, here, and there's some in here. I thought there'd be more, but I guess that's been it lately.

I wonder how well the church lives it's faith, and how much better it could. Something clicked with me those three years that I constantly heard that 'the church is mission' and we are called by Jesus to go forth in love (as opposed to staying here and waiting for people who need love to come to us). The least of these aren't always, if ever, going to show up on our steps so we can start takin…

The Blessing and Curse of Journaling

I've kept one off and on since I was a camp counselor. At the time I'd been reading A New Kind of Christian and was inspired by the narrator's use of black Mead Comp books in his spiritual journey that I figured such a practice could be incorporated into my daily routine. The practice lasted maybe 2 weeks into my seminary career, floundered for a few months, was picked back up the following summer, was dropped again, was switched to prayer journaling, which was the best I've ever done with the exercise. Again, inspired by someone else's daily practice, I set aside an hour to light a candle, burn some incense, make some tea, and reflect on the activities of the day. This practice lasted past graduation and through my church search. And now when some of the best stories I'll (n)ever be able to tell are upon me, I journal hardly ever.

I figured that this silly thing would be a suitable replacement. It's really not. I use it for theological reflection, re…

A Special Welcome to Googlers

Reach Out and Touch the Screen has a good entry on people who stumble onto one's blog after doing a Google search. I'm afraid that those who have come here via a search are not nearly as disturbing/amusing as hers, but I offer some thoughts nonetheless to those coming across my trifle of a site looking perhaps for something else.

Wesleyan Quadrangle - I get a couple of these every week. Yes, it's comprised of four sides: reason, experience, scripture, and tradition. That's really all I got. Want origins, a backstory, doing a college or seminary paper? I'm not gonna be much help.

allintitle: Philosophy Coffee -You've come to the right place...I think. Welcome.

UCC Conference resolutions General Synod 2005 - Go to UCC.org. Best I can do.

ohio heidelberg college girl blog - You must be very disappointed.

"karl barth", "universal salvation" - Yep, he had a brilliant take on how everyone gets in. It really is a cool little argument on which to…

Saturday Recommendations

Here's Saturday, and here's some stuff to enjoy.

I've been breezing through two shorter books this week, the first being The Gospel According to Tony Soprano. Got a favorite TV show or movie? Wait long enough and someone will pick it apart to look for theological themes. The main theme on which Chris Seay focuses is human depravity, how The Sopranos actually mirrors our own lives more than we'd like to admit. But you have to look at the show as more as just 'about the mob,' and hone in on the characters. Still, it's not one I'm going to use for a study group any time soon. So I finished that earlier this week and am now in the middle of Conversation as Ministry, which is about exactly what the title says: how to enter into pastoral conversation, how to help guide it, the importance of meeting people in their own skin, and so on. It's a good read, complete with lots of anecdotes from over 20 years.

Widespread Panic's 'Bombs and Butterfl…

Prayers Over Coffee

V, undergoing surgery early this morning.

W, who just might be mad at me after what I said a few nights ago.

X, who I just found out is getting married early this summer.

Y, who might finally be close to finding a church.

Z, with whom I have no real grudge to bear any more but against whom for whatever reason I have kept one close anyway.

And for the church in general, I pray for authenticity, integrity, and conviction. Authenticity in word and deed--ESPECIALLY deed--to the two greatest commandments, authenticity to one another, for speaking the truth in love, IN LOVE, when another is being less than authentic, authenticity to one's own failures. Integrity to Jesus' message and a profession that his life was worth emulating in any way. Integrity to carry one's cross. Integrity to self-sacrificing love that pushes us outside our comfort zones. Conviction when we become too comfortable. Conviction when we are no longer surprised by God. Conviction when we lose our saltiness.…

10 Random Thoughts to Prove I Still Write Here

~Four committee meetings this week. What moron set THAT up? Oh, wait...

~I haven't seen the finale of The Sopranos Season 5. I know what happens, I just haven't seen it.

~I know that you want a new fellowship group, but you need to realize that you need to help start it.

~Putting up the flag in the morning and taking it down in the evening is mildly irritating. But I don't want it to get all ratty like the last one.

~How come every time I mention doing a hands-on mission project you just stare at the floor?

~My cat likes to climb on the keyboard. nb Like right now.

~The Phish CD is overdue.

~How long could I go before my readers completely give up looking for a new entry?

~Which do you think God cares about more: right doctrine or right action? Take your time before answering.

~My other cat likes to climb on...everything. Little weirdo.

An Ode to St. Louis...Sort of

Chuck has some thoughts to share on living in Missouri in general and St. Louis in particular. It prompted me to reflect on my time there a little.

I spent a little over 3 years there, having attended Eden Seminary, and I have to say that by the end of that time I had become pretty infatuated with the place, much to my surprise. I arrived there from Smalltownville, Ohio and was immediately repulsed by Big City cynicism, detachment, rudeness, and whining. Oh, how Big City folk like to whine about the rest of humanity.

But after I relaxed a little and realized that I myself ironically could detach myself from the detachment, my time became much more pleasant. Our group of friends became appreciators and patrons of local St. Louis establishments: museums, coffeehouses, bars. We'd wander Forest Park on a sunny afternoon and cruise University City in the evening. We'd catch some of the local musicians at Blueberry Hill or Cicero's. We visited the haunted Lemp Mansion and r…

Saturday Recommendations

Good morning. Here's your weekly list.

Hey, guess what? Yep, still working through From Beirut to Jerusalem. The end is near, though, and I have a few successors stacked on my nightstand. But I can't share those with you yet. So check out Dan Brown's Angels and Demons instead. Yes, he's the author of 'The Da Vinci Code.' This is a timely recommendation because a lot of it takes place at the Vatican and it's actually how I learned about what happens during conclave. It also deals heavily with the debate between science and religion.

We watched The Village this week. We'd both seen it before, but we wanted to share it with friends. The people with whom we were watching it 'figured it out' about 3/4 through, but they did better than me when I first saw it. It wasn't until The Thing happened that I thought to myself, 'Oh yeah...this is M. Night Shyamalan.' The Sixth Sense remains his best effort, but this is my second favorite.

Special Attention

What makes a church different from a country club?

We have a building we try to keep beautiful. We have membership rosters although visitors are always welcome, but usually only during open hours. There is at the very least an unspoken dress code. There are no proper membership dues, but people are encouraged to give of their own volition and ability to fund various programs. Maybe we'll do some community service or donate a fair amount to a handful of charitable organizations.

So what do we do here that country clubs don't do?

Part of it is our definition. We maintain a definition a theological definition of some sort: because we follow Jesus, because we are called by God, because we have experienced new life through the Holy Spirit, we are God's representatives on earth, we are an instrument of God's kingdom. Take your pick. Meanwhile, country clubs, the Lions, the Rotary, the VFW, the Moose Lodge, all those others, are 'just being nice.' We have a higher callin…

Musical morning musings

Toad the Wet Sprocket's 'Pray Your Gods' is a melancholy way to start the day.

If that's not your thing, you could listen to The Doors' 'The End' or maybe Dylan's 'Most of the Time' or half of Pink Floyd's catalogue. All perfect for a cloudy rain-threatening morning where ya just don't feel like doing anything.

But then what you do is you pop on Arlo Guthrie's 'Alice's Restaurant' and think to yourself, 'Hey...it could be worse. I could listen to this song again. I want my 18 minutes back.' Oh wait...that'll lead you back to 'Pray Your Gods.'

Ya can't win. Have some coffee, pull yourself out of your funk, and do something life-changing. And pop on something peppy while you do it. Try Phish or The Aquabats or Barenaked Ladies.

'You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant...'

Dangit.

The Christian Illogician

Hello. My beliefs seem illogical to you. I understand that. They seem illogical to many people. I'm a fool, you see. Many, even though they've never met me, think so. Even some who do know me think the same. Even some other Christians do. Weird, huh?

Yeah, I don't agree 100% with what some of my fellow Christians believe. I think they're wrong on some things, and they think I'm wrong on some things. We debate from time to time, and on most occasions we can still go out for coffee afterwards. Embarrassing, isn't it? How could I possibly expect you to follow Jesus when we're such messed up people ourselves? It only makes our beliefs seem that much more illogical, doesn't it?

Well, I can't talk long. I have to go have dinner. Hey, you know what? Why don't you come along? I'll buy. What? No, I insist. And that homeless man over there? Let's see if he's hungry as well. I bet he is. What's that? He might be an alcoholic? Well, alcoholics…

Changing of the seasons

For the past seven years, fall has been my favorite time of the year. I associate with the cool air, the crackle of leaves underfoot, pumpkins, the smell of autumn rain...you know the smell. For me, the past seven years have also associated fall with the beginning of a new academic year of college or seminary. There was something special about a new year of higher education for me. Not high school or lower, though. Summer was THE season then. No question.

So here I am at the beginning of spring wondering if a new favorite is emerging, or re-emerging, for reasons similar to what I associated with fall. Summer was the beginning of my first full-time ministry opportunity last June as I served at my home church. Sunny mornings spent in the church office yakking with whomever happened to wander in, humid afternoons spent visiting shut-ins and the hospitalized, and cool evenings watching an orange sun disappear over the trees while sitting out reading the book of the week. It was a good time…

Il Papa es Morte.

'To save means to liberate from evil. This does not refer only to social evils, such as injustice, coercion, exploitation. Nor does it refer only to disease, catastrophes, natural cataclysms, and everything that has been considered disaster in the history of humanity.

'To save means to liberate from radical, ultimate evil. Death itself is no longer that kind of evil, if followed by the Resurrection. And the Resurrection comes about through the work of Christ. Through the work of the Redeemer death ceases to be an ultimate evil; it becomes subject to the power of life.

'The world does not have such power. The world, which is capable of perfecting therapeutic techniques in various fields, does not have the power to liberate man from death. And therefore the world cannot be a source of salvation for man. Only God saves, and He saves the whole of humanity in Christ.'

Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope
Happy Saturday.

I'm still working through From Beirut to Jerusalem. I just finished the Beirut section and have read the first chapter of Jerusalem, which focuses heavily on the victim mindset that Israel has attempted to maintain. Naturally there's also discussion on U.N. Resolution 242 and the Six-Day War victory. While this book has been very interesting, I've added a second in order to break it up a little: The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within by Erwin Raphael McManus. Here are the first two sentences from the back cover: 'Two thousand years later the call to follow Christ has been repackaged to be smooth and trouble-free, filled with opportunity and promise but lacking risk, passion, and sacrifice. Is this really what Jesus died for?' That caught my attention, as I've been wrestling with similar questions of late.

This week has been heavy on Jack Johnson, a singer/songwriter/acoustic player from Hawaii. He's rock with a blues edge, …

'Where I'm At Sunday'

Look for this article eventually on the Christian Century website, but it was so good that I'm going to type it out for you to read. At first read I laughed, at second read I said, 'Hey, wait a minute...' and at third read I chuckled. Enjoy.


'Where I'm At Sunday' by Lillian Daniel (a UCC pastor in Illinois)

Treasuring the freedom that allows us to honor our unique traditions and keep up with the times, we propose these special Sundays in the church year and offer accompanying liturgical resources:

Where I'm At Sunday, May 8 (formerly Confirmation Sunday) - The youth of the church will reflect upon the hypocrisy of organized religion. They will show no interest in the Christian faith, but they will be invited to share their feelings and subsequently be received into full membership.

Denominational Apology Sunday, May 15 (formerly Pentecost) - Time will be reserved for the denomination to apologize for one or more of the following: a) historical wrongs; b) hurt f…

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