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Showing posts from September, 2017

September 2017 Pop Culture Roundup

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Six items for September...

1. This month I read Washington's Farewell by John Avlon, a recounting of the history and aftermath of George Washington's "Farewell Address," printed in a newspaper at the end of his second term as president. I never heard of this until reading a shorter account of its development in Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis several years ago. It was never taught to me in school, which fits with Avlon's noting that while the Farewell Address had been quite popular for over a century after it was printed, the Gettysburg Address eventually overtook it. This was an interesting recap of the context of the Farewell's writing, including the struggles and disagreements playing out at the time and how it has been used to prop up political arguments on both sides ever since. Washington wanted to issue final warnings and encouragements on subjects such as the importance of education, independence from foreign obligations, and remaining united in po…

Pastoral Prayer for Our Common Need

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based on Matthew 20:1-16

Faithful God, we confess that we don't often understand or even like how generous you are. We read and hear of your reckless intention to share gifts of love, presence, and forgiveness with anyone who will receive them, regardless of who they are or what they've done. If it were up to us, we'd screen candidates more carefully, only letting in those properly vetted and most deserving to enter your kingdom. We would build big, beautiful walls to keep out the ones whom we believe will only abuse and exploit what you wish to give to all.

All of this only shows, O God, how much we are in need of those same gifts ourselves. Our inability to embrace your gracious regard for those unlike us means that we still have not yet come into full receipt of and appreciation for how your Spirit is changing us. We are so preoccupied with how you love others that we miss out on the blessing of that same love for ourselves. We want to do better, serve better, see othe…

When Autumn Arrives

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Summer was long.

From a strict passage of time sort of perspective, it was just as long as it always is. There are only a certain amount of minutes, hours, and days in the months of June through August, and nobody has found a way to add more.

But still, summer was long. As in, it felt long, and for more than one reason.

June was fine. I enjoyed my first vacation since December and after I got back turned right around and headed to Baltimore for the UCC's General Synod. That month was relaxing and rejuvenating and it was everything that I needed it to be as my first real break in six months.

But July and August were long. Again, no longer than usual measurement-wise, but existentially, it could not have been any longer. I usually have a lot more free time during this season of the year, and when I'm not keeping my mind occupied with the needs and tasks of ministry, my thoughts veer into everything I'm doing wrong, have done wrong, will probably do wrong in the future. And …

What Churches Can Learn from Doctor Who

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I've contributed a post to the Ohio Conference UCC blog, Holy Experiments, entitled What Churches Can Learn from Doctor Who.

An excerpt:

A few weeks ago, the BBC announced the newest person to play The Doctor beginning next season: Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to take on the role. When the show returns for its annual Christmas episode this December, we will see the current Doctor played by Peter Capaldi transform into Whittaker’s as-yet-unestablished version of the beloved character.

As you might be able to imagine, this has divided the fanbase. And even if you’ve never seen the show, you can probably make some educated guesses as to what those on each side of the debate are saying.

And you might be wondering what any of this has to do with the church.

Read the whole thing at Holy Experiments.

Vintage CC: All About Eve

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I wrote this in October 2013, shortly after we'd put down our beloved cat Eve. Four years later I still think about her quite often, and in certain situations catch myself reflecting on what she would have done. She truly was a member of our family, and I still miss her.

As soon as we walked into the kennel, she started putting on a show. She rolled onto her back, her head upside-down and almost pressed against her cage, while she stretched a paw toward us through the bars. All of this while a constant stream of meows burst forth, as if she couldn't get them out quickly enough to tell us everything that she wanted to say.

There really was no debate that day about who would come keep us company at our new apartment in West St. Louis County. We'd just moved off of Eden's campus and in short order wanted to take advantage of our newfound freedom to have a non-human companion help to transform our new space into a home. And she did, perhaps a little too enthusiastically, a…

What is the Liturgical Calendar?

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Previously: What is the Examen?, What is Lectio Divina?, What is Fasting?, What is the Labyrinth?

Both people who use the liturgical calendar and those who don't might not consider it a spiritual practice. Many familiar with it know it as the primary determinant for the rhythm of a church's worship life throughout the year, including how you decorate the sanctuary, what sorts of songs you sing, and the scripture texts that are read and preached on. And yet this in itself is the shaping of spiritual practice; how one moves through one theme to another, one calendar alongside others.

There are possibilities beyond Sunday worship of both communal and individual natures for spiritual formation as well.

First, what do we mean when we talk about a "liturgical calendar?" We mean a schedule of dates and seasons laid overtop that of the Gregorian calendar that commemorate different moments in the life of Jesus and the early church. Various cycles for reading and preaching ce…

Small Sips Made a Flowchart

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Wanna be the church? Then be the church. Aaron Loy shares his own struggles with depression, and calls for the church to do better when it comes to mental health:
Sadly, Christians still tend to make the mistake of only treating difficult issues like depression spiritually. As a pastor, I’m all for addressing the spiritual, but depression is far too complex to be treated so simplistically. Depression is more than just a spiritual issue. It is also a physiological one that can affect even spiritually healthy people in debilitating ways. If you are a Christian who struggles with depression, don’t make the mistake of thinking if you just pray enough, claim enough, repent enough, or believe enough you will be cured. That may be part of the solution, but you may also find you need to treat the issue medicinally and therapeutically as well. Each is a gift and an expression of God’s grace. Please ignore anyone who tries to shame you into thinking otherwise. We can no longer afford to ignore …

I'm on Pulpit Fiction This Week

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Once again, I have contributed the "Voice in the Wilderness" segment to the latest edition of the Pulpit Fiction podcast, which takes a look at the lectionary texts each week.

This time around, my assignment was Exodus 12:1-14. You can listen at their website or on iTunes.

Thanks to the guys for another chance to contribute.

Book Review: Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd

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My latest review for the Englewood Review of Books is part of their Fall 2017 print issue.

This time around I've reviewed Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd. You should check it out, along with all the other lovely contributions therein.

Click here to learn how to get your own physical copy.

And keep up with the Englewood Review in general. It provides a great way to hear about new books related to progressive theology, justice issues, spirituality, and popular culture.