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Showing posts from November, 2017

Advent's Magnificat as Political Reflection - Luke 1:46-56

As we move into the Advent season, it is appropriate to reassess our political leanings, along with the policies and platforms we support, endorse, or support. That is not simply because we are political creatures. It is also because Advent is actually a political endeavor.
Advent is waiting. Advent is expectation. Advent is looking to see God's reign brought to bear upon the earth. That has overtones and implications for our politics, since, at their heart, politics are about relationships. They are systems to order all of our relationships and interactions with one another. While God's reign may not be a political institution of this world, it has some very particular themes and demands upon those relationships codified in our legal structures.
One of the primary Advent texts is found in Luke 1:46-56, in which Luke places in Mary's mouth the essential meaning and importance of the message of God come to earth. We find here a statement on how God's reign would impact th…

Continuing Thanksgiving - Daniel 6:1-10

Each year, we set apart a special day to give thanks for God's provision. We celebrate as a nation in remembrance of how native peoples provided much-needed food for foreign colonists on the verge of starvation. These native peoples taught them to plant maize, squash, and beans, including strategies to fertilize the ground for better crop yields. We pause to remember a little of this history and give thanks to God for the blessings we continue to enjoy today, however, that provision might have been made. Often as not, we make or hear of lists of things for which to be thankful. We watch friends and loved ones post things for which they are grateful throughout the month of November. We join them and are right in doing so. It is too easy to fail in counting our blessings and miss the many reasons for which we should rejoice and be grateful. It is in our thanksgiving that we pause to recognize our dependence upon God and put life's difficulties in a more proper perspective. What d…

Pagan Christianity

While out following up on some business leads, a couple of years ago, I stopped into a store to speak with the owner to whom I had made a sales presentation. I wanted to check in with her to see if she had come to a decision with regard to a purchase and field any questions that might have arisen. We talked about business, we talked about family, and our conversation turned to religious themes. It was not a surprising turn, as I have served for over 32 years as a minister and missionary, and the store owner is into all things spiritual. She was sharing that she had just recently learned that Passover was a Jewish celebration, while she had believed it to be Christian. As we talked, she began sharing some of her experiences with people who call themselves Christians. She told me of issues with a landlord who has been harassing her in what would seem like an attempt to force her into Christianity. She told me of others who had entered her store with the express purpose of condemning he…

Pet Bible-Thumping Peeves: Self-Defense

"Jesus wants me to defend myself and my family, right? I mean, violence is okay as long as someone else started it, right?"
So, what part of "Turn the other cheek" did you misunderstand?
"Jesus would not have a problem with arming ourselves against intruders, robbers, muggers, and people trespassing on our property, right?"
So, Jesus said, "Do not return evil for evil, but repay evil with good. Bless those who curse you, bless and do not curse them. You shall do good to your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." What part of that is confusing?
"We don't need to concern ourselves with what Jesus said in relation to posting armed guards at church or packing heat in the pews. After all, we need some security. We had a shooter at a church recently, and then there was Dylan Roof attacking people at a church service. We need to make sure we are a safe place for children."
Remember that other saying of Jesus, "Why do you call me …

Faith and Magic - 1 Samuel 6:1-13

Faith and magic are intertwined in the minds of many. We consider religion and spirituality from a perspective that runs counter to Biblical faith. We associate superstition with faith and fail to grasp that God calls us to a relationship of dependence, rather than obedience to magical rites. God is far above any human ability to manipulate. While on one level we readily acknowledge that, on another we often attempt to follow prescribed formulas specifically to control God, directing God to perform our will over any other. That is the provenance of magic. Faith, on the contrary, calls us to submission and dependence. Why is it so hard for us not to confuse the two? Israel struggled with concepts of magic in its thinking about Yahweh. They tried to break out of the mold of using rite and ritual to manipulate God, but they routinely fell into the trap to succumbing to magical thinking anyway. In the finals days of Eli before Samuel became the judge and prophet over Israel, the people were…

Single-Issue Politics

I read an article this morning attempting to support an accused pedophile because of his stance against abortion. The author went through an array of mental calisthenics to find reasons to eliminate the grounds for crediting accusations against him based on the age of the accusers. As he determined they were women, not girls, he could ignore any substance to the accusations purely by not meeting his proposed definition of pedophilia. He never got to the issue of a grown man's unwanted sexual advances, since he had to limit his argument to find some way to support the candidate. He ignored issues of power disparity. He ignored that victims most often do not speak out of fear and intimidation. He used the limited number of allegations as a reason to discredit the one known (at the time) allegation that did meet his criteria for pedophilia. The author's point in writing was to find a way to make this candidate acceptable to his readers due to support for a single issue in the polit…

Adapting to Realities - Acts 17:10-22

Fundamentalism is characterized by a static concept of faith and belief. It is a tightly packaged system of belief more in keeping with a philosophical construct or a time-stamped cultural perspective than with a living faith. The structures and definitions of Fundamentalism make for a secure belief system in the short term. It can be appealing, especially to those who want quick answers to the complex issues of life. It offers hard and fast answers, an enemy to oppose, and the security of belonging to a group with a defined expression of the truth for all time. The problem is that it fails at adapting to the shifting realities of life. If life requires adaptation, fundamentalism seeks to restore life to a supposed golden age of some idyllic utopia or plan for some new implementation of the same. What it fails to account for is that as life changes around us the answers of another year do not respond appropriately to the struggles and questions of a new age. It also fails to account fo…

Pressing On - Philippians 3:4-17

Biologists tell us the life and growth go hand in hand. Cells multiply. Plants develop roots, stems, and leaves. Eggs hatch. Babies grow and develop. If this process of growth with its accompanying changes stops, life itself ends. All throughout life we adapt, change, and respond to the environment all around us as a matter of course, even if there are certain elements of life we would like to freeze at some moment in time or at least slow down for a period. Life, however, calls us onward to new experiences and challenges, whether we like it or not. Hitting the pause button is just not an option. As the biological world we inhabit responds constantly to change with growth and adaptation, so do our spiritual lives. God created the physical world we inhabit, after all. God created the physical aspect of our lives, and these same basic principles of growth, change, and adaptation apply to our spiritual selves just as much as to our physical nature. As much as we might like to simplify our…

Pet Bible-Thumping Peeves: God Created the World in Seven Days

People like to point to Genesis chapter one as an account of God creating the world in seven days. Actually, that account speaks of a six-day process of creation, not seven. That is not the whole story, however. Genesis chapter two is also a creation narrative. It does not present God creating the world in seven or six days. It speaks as though God created the world in one day. The issue, however, is not one of mathematics and counting. The issue at hand is that the Bible is not interested in how many days, years, millennia, or aeons God took to create the world. That is a question for the domain of scientific inquiry to investigate. The Bible's questions and concerns are not with addressing when or how God created, nor with when or where. The Bible is concerned with issues of theology. It addresses questions more akin to who and why. Genesis one is more concerned with how God fashioned order out of chaos. Genesis two is more concerned with God's purposes in creation as relat…