The Seeing, Believing Man: A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, 2017

 

Today we hear the third of four stories from the gospel of John in this season of Lent. So far we have encountered Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. Next week we will meet Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Each of the stories explores in detail the relationship between Jesus and these other people; each also offers a wealth of material for our reflection on who Jesus Christ is and how we might enter into deeper relationship with him. These texts are long and complex and it’s impossible to examine in detail the many themes on which they touch. Continue reading

The Jew at the well: A Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent, 2017

 

Part of my job as a pastor of a downtown church is dealing with the never-ending stream of people who come by looking for help. Often, their stories are heartbreaking. They’ve lost their jobs and are about to be evicted; they need money for a bus ticket or gas. Sometimes, it’s an elderly grandmother having to take care of her grandchildren because of their mother’s illness or incarceration. Or there’s the 19-year old Nigerian boy whose family was evicted for nonpayment of rent after his father abandoned him and his mother and sisters. I’ve had to develop a thick skin, and an ear for falsehoods, because often the stories aren’t true or are only partly true. Continue reading

David Gushee on the project of Christian Social Ethics in the Age of Trump

Progressive American Christian social ethics always operated within the framework of a political system that they believed in, a culture in which there were at least a few agreed facts and even values, and an electoral system that produced leaders that were believable as presidents and generally attained the office without chicanery. And so they (we) would write our earnest articles and make our earnest treks to Washington within a system that was basically working and in which we wanted to participate to “make a difference.”

This situation is more apocalyptic. What is needed in America today goes far beyond what a bit of public-policy tinkering might be able to manage. Both our political system and our culture feel broken, and in this round have produced a president, and a presidency, seemingly broken from (before) the beginning. We are limping along, badly wounded. Yet another white paper on climate change hardly seems like the answer. But no one exactly knows what the answer is.

Read the whole piece here.

Encountering Jesus in the Gospel of John: A Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year A

I wonder how many of you heard today’s gospel and began to cringe. Two verses from this passage have been enormously important in Christianity, especially among American evangelicals. Though our version, the New Revised Standard Version, translates it differently, the paraphrase of the old translation of John 3:3 “You must be born again” has shaped our understanding of the Christian life and experience at its most basic level, and John 3:16, even without the text of the verse itself, is a key marker for evangelical identity and a symbol of American Christianity. Continue reading

The Meaning of the Cross in the Twenty-First Century: A Lenten Study

The Meaning of the Cross in the Twenty-First Century
A Lenten Series
Tuesday Evenings—March 7-April 4
7:00 pm
Grace Church Guild Hall 

Session I. The Death of Jesus in the New Testament

            Preparation:

  1. Read Mark 1:1-16:8, or Mark 14-15
  2. Read Philippians 2:5-11, I Corinthians 1:18-31, I Corinthians 15:3-4
  3. Read Hebrews 5:1-10, 9:1-23

Reflection Questions:

  1. How would you characterize Mark’s portrayal of Jesus? What are some of the key aspects of his ministry and activity?
  2. Looking closely at Mark’s depiction of the crucifixion, what is the meaning of Jesus’ death for Mark?
  3. What are some of the central elements of Paul’s understanding of the cross? What sort of “problem” does the cross present for Paul?
  4. What are some of the dominant images and words used for Jesus Christ in Hebrews?

 

Session II. The Meaning of the Cross in the Christian Tradition

Preparation. Read the following hymns from the Episcopal Hymnal 1982

Reflection Questions:
1) What are some of the themes or images that dominate these hymns? What understanding of the crucifixion is reflected in the hymns?
2) Compare the imagery across the four hymns. What differences and similarities do you notice?
3) What attitude or experience of the crucifixion is implied for the writer/singer of the hymn?

 

Session III. The Cross in Feminist Perspective:

Preparation: Read the selection from Elisabeth SchusslerFiorenza’s Jesus: Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet.

Session IV. The Cross and the Lynching Tree:

Preparation: Read the selections from James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree

Session V. Exploring the violence of the cross

Preparation: Read the selection from J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement, 2nd Edition.