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Showing posts from June, 2015

You're Allowed to Grieve the Church's Decline

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General Synod, the big biennial national gathering of the United Church of Christ, is happening in Cleveland through tomorrow. I hope to write more about that later this week. In the meantime, I wanted to highlight one other piece of news that has come out of the UCC national offices, which concerns the physical offices themselves:
In its continuous effort to bring in more financial resources to advance the mission and ministry of the United Church of Christ, the denomination’s leaders are signing a letter of intent today, June 10, to sell the national offices building and the adjoining hotel the church owns to a Georgia-based property management firm. The silver-lining in the agreement is that the UCC will continue to make downtown Cleveland its home by leasing the building back for another two decades.   "This is all very good news for all employees of the United Church of Christ, and cements the commitment of the church to maintaining Cleveland’s Gateway District as home to t…

June 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

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Five items for June...

1. I recently read Jennifer Knapp's memoir, Facing the Music, during which she recounts her childhood family struggles, rise to Christian music stardom and subsequent disappearance from the scene, reconciling her sexuality and faith, and her return to music. Knapp doesn't really hold much back as she shares the difficulty of walking the line as a CCM artist, and later enduring the judgment of former fans and other public Christians after her coming out. She's tremendously honest when sharing the darker periods in her life and how she's always wrestled with being in the spotlight, and offers a helpful insight into how one can be Christian without necessarily having to uphold certain beliefs and social positions. It's a genuine, vulnerable read that I couldn't put down.

2. I also read Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest this month, the final installment of her Clockwork Century series that I've enjoyed reading the past few years. She returns to …

Book Review: A More Christlike God by Bradley Jersak

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The Christian faith, at its core, is the gospel announcement that God--the eternal Spirit who created, fills and sustains the universe--has shown us who he is and what he's like--exactly what he's like--in the flesh and blood human we sometimes call Emmanuel ('God with us'). Conversely, we believe Jesus has shown us the face and heart of God through the fullness of his life on earth: revealed through eyewitness accounts of his birth, ministry, death and resurrection. We regard this life as the decisive revelation and act of God in time and space. That's still a faith statement, but for Christians, it is our starting point. To look at Jesus--especially on the Cross, says 1 John--is to behold the clearest depiction of the God who is love (1 John 4:8). I've come to believe that Jesus alone is perfect theology. - Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God

Years ago, I regularly read and enjoyed the writings of the late Michael Spencer, usually referred to by his blog ti…

Unspoken Expectations and the Welcoming Church

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It was a random Saturday a few years ago. We were out running errands, and we figured Burger King would be a quick and easy option for lunch. There was the added incentive of the play area for Coffeeson: after a morning spent trudging along shopping carts, he’d be able to burn off some energy.

I would like to share two things about the play area at Burger King. The first is that all those tubes through which kids can crawl seem to have shrunk exponentially since I played in them years ago. Nevertheless, I followed Coffeeson’s lead to ensure his enjoyment and safety.

The second is that those who choose to play on this equipment need to remove their shoes before entering, presumably to ensure that excess dirt doesn’t get left everywhere. I wanted to honor the requirements, so I set my shoes under the seat of our booth and began ducking and twisting my way through everything.

At one point, after we reached the top of the structure, I glanced down at our table to find that my shoes…

author, lowercase a

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Coffeewife and I were talking about my book the other day. I was telling her about the latest chapter I was working on and how much more I needed to do to finish it, which is quite a bit yet. Then she asked what might happen next; whether I'd want to write another one or if this would be it. I said I'd hope this might lead to another, which prompted her to ask whether I'm aspiring to be a full-fledged Author.

Granted, this book makes me an author by definition. That's kind of how it works. But I differentiate between being an author and being an Author. It's my understanding that the average person who writes a book isn't exactly Scrooge McDuck swimming in his money bin. You have to sell a lot of books to make even a modest living. Many authors have day jobs while doing what they can to promote their work.
Now, an Author, on the other hand, is quite different. They land on big important book lists, they fly all over to speak at conferences and lead workshops, …

Vintage CC: A Tale of Two Trees

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This post from May 2011 is adapted from an early sermon where I think I was trying to be too clever. I think it works much better here as a written piece than as something to preach to a gathered congregation. Realizing that it didn't really work in its original form as intended was one of my earliest lessons in what a sermon is and how to prepare it most effectively.

Two trees atop a mountain. One is said to be pleasing to the eyes, its fruit looking perfectly acceptable as something to be eaten. But it cannot be eaten. It is forbidden, for on the same day one eats of that fruit, one will die. The other…well, we don’t know much about the other. But it is somehow life-giving. And maybe that’s enough for us to know.

Two trees given to the first man and woman as we meet them. Two trees among perhaps hundreds of others. One gives life; the other, says God, death. Even still they are both available to the man and woman. We are told of no fence around them, no vault, no guard…

A Prayer for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

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Based on Mark 3:20-35

Faithful God, we come from families of all shapes and sizes. They may be small or large, close-knit or scattered by geographical or emotional distance. We may define family by a variety of bonds forged by love, connection, and circumstance. For those whom we consider family, no matter the configuration, we give thanks, as they provide for us places of safety, support, encouragement, and understanding.

We also recognize that you call us into a spiritual family, one that unites us across borders, customs, and languages. Through Christ, you make us a family, calling us brothers and sisters in faith and service. In this family that you call the church, we recognize our common connection in discipleship and divine love, and we pray this day that you will ever strengthen our sense of communal responsibility for one another.

O God, into your family we are called, and out of physical buildings we are sent to embody your peace, justice, and grace to all. Guide us by your …

Small Sips Considers the Next Career

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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. In a recent interview with Religion News Service, author and speaker Phyllis Tickle talks for the first time about being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer:
As she reflects on her life, Tickle says she has always seen herself as a listener, something she admits may surprise those who know her literary output and her gift of gab.   It’s an inner voice, she says, that has always told her what to do, what was coming next in a life filled with so much variety. And it’s a voice she has always obeyed.   “It’s the truth. Just like I’m told to do this,” she says, referring to her terminal illness. “Which is why it doesn’t bother me. The dying is my next career.   “You can call it whatever you want to. Spooky? I hate the word ‘mystical.’ It has such a cachet now. Like an exquisite and high-priced perfume. But if that makes me a mystic, so be it.” I have fond memories of hearing Tickle speak at Eden Seminary a few years ago. She wa…

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