Showing posts from July, 2005

The Need for a Passionate Church

Christian Century has a review this week of a book entitled Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church by Kenda Casey Dean. The basic synopsis of the book and the review is captured here:

Practicing Passion begins with an exploration of the nature of passion and its connections with youth. Like Kierkegaard, Dean sees young people as especially well equipped for pathos. Because they are keenly aware of both love and suffering, they are particularly well suited to engage in passionate practices within Christian community. That is what living in deep connection with the passion of Christ means, she argues. But churches largely abdicate their identification with such costly love, leaving few opportunities for young people to participate in the church as a community that practices God's passion.

Naturally, as Dean explains in the book's second section, when the church does not live out passion in its practices, youth take their passions elsewhere. They commonly f…

Philosophy Over Beer and Chips

One of the best theological conversations I've had was during my second year of seminary. Every year, the seven seminaries in St. Louis come together for an annual Day of Theological Conversation. Eden is the resident 'liberal' seminary, along with two Catholic seminaries, a Missouri Synod Lutheran seminary, a Presbyterian Church of America seminary, and a budding Pentecostal seminary. The theme that year was war, and we first listened to professors from the schools make presentations on the topic before we all split into smaller groups in classrooms to discuss the topic.

After the official day had ended, a group from Eden invited some of the guys (and they were all guys) from the Lutheran school to a local pub to hang out. THIS is where the real conversation started. A couple of us talked about the meaning of the garden story in Genesis, humanity's sinfulness, and issues of Christology. All this was in between pool games and sips of beer. If there was any hostil…

Can't Quite Pinpoint...

A while back, I saw the movie Saved! for the first time. In case you aren't familiar with this film, it's about a group of kids going through life at the fictional American Eagle High School, a private Christian school. Over the course of the movie, topics such as homosexuality, premarital sex and teen pregnancy, divorce, Christianity's relationship with other faiths, and God's relationship to the world are touched on, among other things. Mandy Moore plays Hillary Faye, ever attempting to maintain the facade of 'model' Christian, who gives us gems of wisdom such as 'Of course [Jesus] was white,' and 'You're not born a gay, you're born again!' Jena Malone plays her sidekick, Mary, who tries to 'save' her boyfriend from being gay by sleeping with him and winding up pregnant. The pastor of the school attempts to speak in slang. A top-selling Christian band plays at their prom. The resident rebel (who also happens to be Jewish) goes …

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still working through Help: The Original Human Dilemma. There isn't a whole lot else to report on that right now. Reading has slowed this week.

I've seen no movies this week, but I did go see two operas last night as part of the Ohio Light Opera. We had tickets as part of my mom's birthday (plus we have behind-the-scenes connections, but if I elaborated on that I'd have my kneecaps broken). The first was The Island of Tulipatan. The basic synopsis is: two teenagers, a boy and a girl, have been raised as the opposite gender of what they actually are for various reasons. They fall in love, but there is some confusion among the parents as to how they could be in love because one is aware that half the couple is not the gender everyone else thinks they are. Did you follow that? It's quite funny, and if nothing else a conversation starter about 'nature vs. nurture' on the drive home. My wife and I didn't have such a conversation as we're relative…

Here and There

Rev. Kenneth Samuel was one of the featured preachers at General Synod, and his sermon can be found online here. Better to track down an audio or a video of it to get the full effect, though.

Prickly City is a comic strip featured in a local newspaper, and apparently is a nationwide thing. Its basic schtick is a little girl and what looks to be a dog arguing about politics. It's like if Calvin and Hobbes were merged with Doonesbury, only with a more 'conservative' bent and...well....not funny. Check out this strip from the other day. That's the sort of humor that's been featured for months: playing on lowest common denominators and jokes that were sort of funny a year ago when they were first told. Wanna seem edgy and satirical? Talk about the so-called 'Dean Scream.' Again.

I was originally going to present similar 'humor' from a more 'liberal' standpoint, but the example that I had (concerning Bush...who else?) might actually be agai…

Okay, sure...

Someone recently found my blog while looking up '2005 alliance ohio hog wrestling' on a search engine. S/he apparently didn't find what s/he was looking for, because no visit length is recorded. Sorry I couldn't be of more help, whoever you are.

Some Good News for the UCC

United Church News reports:

Denominational leaders said this week that as many as 15 different churches and church groups have inquired about affiliating with the UCC since the meeting of its General Synod earlier this month.

On the heels of a General Synod that dramatically spiked the church’s national visibility, inquiries have come from a variety of sources, according to the Rev. David C. Schoen, the UCC’s minister for evangelism.

Schoen said the inquiries include expressed interest from three significantly large congregations representing three different regions of the country -- with a combined membership of nearly 12,000 parishioners.

“Interest has been all over the map,” Schoen said. “The interest has ranged form people wanting to plant a church to churches wanting to affiliate with the UCC to groups of people wanting to know about the UCC and how they might become affiliated with the UCC as a new church start. It has all been very exciting.”

While at Synod, we were introduced to 1…

Unseparated, Unexpected

This morning's sermon pieced together from my outline...

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-50
Romans 8:26-39

I love a good surprise ending. There are certain movies that fall into this category, that are so well-written, so brilliantly crafted that you don't see the plot twist coming until it happens. And then everything you thought was going to happen needs to be discarded. They keep you interested and engaged with the story. Once a murder mystery establishes that it couldn't have possibly been the most obvious person, one becomes all the more interested in turning the page to see what happens next. You are hanging on the next word, the next scene, to find out how it will resolve.

What is the kingdom of heaven like? Jesus says it is like a bit of yeast, mixed in with dough. That doesn't sound strange to us. We're used to having yeast in our bread. But to a Jewish audience in the 1st Century, it would have been really strange. In Jewish custom, yeast is unclean. It is u…

Pop Culture Roundup

As I continue to fight my onset of writer's block, I'm making my way through Help: The Original Human Dilemma by Garrett Keizer. Keizer is a pastor wrestling with the questions surrounding helping others, such as when another is taking advantage of your help, when your 'help' is not helpful, not helpin gin the name of self-preservation, and so on. He heavily works with the parable of the Samaritan and brings out pieces of the story that may tend to be overlooked.

We watched Sideways last night, and it is a travesty that Paul Giamatti was overlooked for an Oscar nomination. And I haven't heard anyone else say so, but I'm a little perplexed that Thomas Hayden Church wasn't. Giamatti has all the heavier moments (which he plays brilliantly), save for one scene for Church. But by that point how can you feel sympathetic at all to Church's character? He plays an actor on the fast track to burnout, and immature to boot. But then again, he plays that well…

The Original Human Dilemma

I bought a man McDonald's while in Atlanta. He'd wandered up to me in a dirty white t-shirt and carrying an umbrella, his scraggily greying beard giving a little extra length to his chin. Here I was at a church conference where I'd been hearing about justice for the poor while I and my fellow delegates pretended to ignore the poor right in front of our faces as they asked for loose change. The man was hungry, and he'd approached me. Quick decision: let's go get a sandwich.

This was one of the more pleasant encounters I'd had with Atlanta's homeless. Actually, only one could really be counted as unpleasant to any degree. A man professing to be a preacher wandered up to me in the CNN Center food court and asked for some money for food. Having become more thrifty throughout the week (if thrifty is the appropriate term in this instance), I'd begun stuffing extra fruit or bagels in my backpack from my Conference's morning meetings. 'I have two apples …

Trying to Jump Start the Ol' Fingers

Greetings again. As I've been settling back in after a wonderful vacation, I've been preoccupied with certain things. Can you guess what some of those things might be?

I've had some respectful and honest conversations with parishioners this week about The Vote, with more to come. Of course, we're all just getting started on this issue and I wonder what the future holds. It's a complicated issue and even more complicated to try to address it effectively with 160-odd people. There will, however, be no sermon on it per se, as a 20-minute talk in the context of worship would be neither extensive nor appropriate. This is a matter of education and pastoral care and a sermon wouldn't address those needs.

I finished The Heart of Christianity, which is amazingly good, and Shepherd Leadership, which is not as good.

Greg has a great post up about worship.

As for my thinking out loud about shifting the blog focus, I've decided not to change much. This blog will end up focu…
Greetings. Apologies for the lack of posting lately. I haven't had regular access to a computer. Things will return to abnormal next week.

Blog Focus?

You may or may not be familiar with Shane over at Wesley Blog. It's an excellent blog, even if I don't agree with everything he says (but who agrees totally on anything?). Anyway, he's been profiled at Locusts and Honey and has this advice to beginner bloggers:

The first thing you should ask yourself is if you really want a lot of readers. That sounds silly at first, but some people look at their blogs as personal journals, and they may not want hundreds or thousands of people stopping by daily. Family and friends are usually who they’re targeting. But for those who do want to reach as many people as possible, I recommend finding a niche that no one is covering, one that you’re passionate about, and give it everything you have. General political and religious blogs are a dime a dozen, but well-done specialized blogs are a rare find. When I started Wesley Blog, I could not find a blog by a United Methodist that focused almost exclusively on Methodism. So I started one, and I…

Pop Culture Roundup

It just wouldn't be Friday without my recapping those elements in books, music, movies, and internets that I've been sampling this past week.

I made it through Walter Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination, finishing it in the Atlanta airport before coming home. He writes of prophets addressing the 'royal consciousness,' that consciousness that numbs us to the notion that how it is is not how it has to be, proclaiming that there is nothing new under the sun. Sovereign earthly entities want their rule, proclaim their rule, the way that they have established, as 'forever,' and when people resign themselves to that 'forever,' there is a loss of hope and loss of an ability to feel pain, to grieve the very real mortality of the situation. 'Forever' is not really forever, but the numbness of the royal consciousness keeps people from seeing that. Prophets give voice to that grief as well as hope in an alternative reality, which belongs to God, …

Rev. John Thomas' Prayer After the Marriage Vote

Lord Jesus, to you we live, to you we suffer, to you we die. Yours will we be in life and in death. Today, as in ancient Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in you. We give thanks for your presence during these days of prayer and idscernment, and especially for your presence here this morning. We have felt your warm embrace, stilling us as we tremble with joy, with hope, with fear, with disappointment. Remind us that as we are tempted to run from each other, so too we run from you. We know that every choice confers a cost, so let us attend in the coming hours and days to those for whom this decision confers a particular burden. Let us find words that comfort rather than congratulate; let us seek to be a community of grace and forgiveness rather than organizing constituencies of protest, let us use our hands not to clap, but to wipe away every tear. And in all this may we know in surprising new ways the comfort of belonging to You. This is our prayer. Hear…

Continued Thoughts on Synod

I write this in my hotel room a few hours since the final worship service, and long after the final gavel. Tomorrow I will travel back home and begin to face the inevitable questions about what transpired here. Those questions are a part of our life together at the local church level, as well as our life together as a denomination. The questions will likely surround one issue only: that of gay marriage.

I wish, however, to touch upon other issues discussed today. In particular, the other resolutions deemed 'hot button' issues for this assembly were discussed with, in my own opinion, a mixed bag of disappointment and willingness to give them a try.

First, the disappointment. The resolutions on divestment were condensed into one resolution on the general use of economic leverage to support companies that promoted peace IN GENERAL in the Middle East (rather than in favor of either Israel or Palestine), stockholder advocacy, and the like. The language of divestment had been re…

Live from Synod...Sort of

Wow. While here in Atlanta, I have access to the internet. I hadn't intended to spend much time with the blog while here, but I decided that I'd check on things just for fun. I have had more traffic here the past few days than average, and I credit Chuck Currie's Synod coverage on the UCC blog. So a warm welcome, no matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, to all of you. Hey, I don't use the Still Speaking jargon on this blog very often, so indulge me.

Also, a few thank yous and resultant plugs to Dwight at Religious Liberal for my official endorsement on his blogroll, and to William Brandes who helps with the website for First Congregational UCC in Mt. Vernon, Ohio for his endorsement, which reads as follows: 'Speaking of blogs. Philosophy Over Coffee is, well, just cool.' The only thing, William, is that my first name is Jeff, not Jim. Heh.

I had mentioned in my last post that I'd continue to work through Walter Brueggemann's Th…

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