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Showing posts from August, 2014

Who Do You Say That I Am? -- Becoming Fluent in Faith

Once Jesus asked his close followers, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (In other words, “What are people saying about me?”) They answered with some of the prevailing theories of the day: “well, some say that you are John the Baptist, other people say that you’re Elijah-come-back. Still others say that Jeremiah, or one of the ancient prophets has arisen, and that’s who you are.” Then Jesus turned to his followers and asked, “but who do you say that I am?”   Who do you say that Jesus is?   It’s a personal question, addressed to those individual early followers and addressed to us individual followers now. Apparently, Jesus isn’t much interested in second-hand knowledge. And in fact, we can know a lot about something, but not really know it.    Think of the Spanish language: I can know a lot about the language of Spanish: I can know its origin:  I could tell you that Spanish is a Romance Language, that it developed from Latin in the Nort

God at Panera: Politics and the Pulpit, Part II

I wrote last week that throughout human history, and in much of the world today, the “given” is violence and poverty and sickness. The variable is, how do we human beings respond to it, and whose side is God on when we do ? – on the side of murderers, exploiters, and illness, or on the side of peace-makers, the poor and the oppressed, the healers, and their allies? The radical claim of Judeo-Christianity, so wonderfully encapsulated in the Magificat , is who God sides with. Who God intervenes for: “ God has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” But if we’re honest, it begs some questions, doesn’t it? Where is this saving God for those fearing for their lives on the mountaintops in Iraq who’ve fled the so-called “Islamic State” fascists? Where is this hea

"Your business is politics, mine is running a saloon." Politics and the Pulpit, Part I

This past Sunday, I did a rare thing for me (preaching-wise), which was to refer to current events. There is so much going on in the world that is overwhelming – Ebola; the so-called “Islamic State” fascists on the march; children fleeing across the U.S. border; Palestine-Israel; Russia. You turn on the television or read the paper, and it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Yet each week we hear the preacher read and preach on the Gospel. And “Gospel” means “good news.” So amidst all the suffering and need, what’s the good news? Preaching or writing about current geo-political events is unusual for me. Ordinarily I try to follow Karl Barth’s preaching advice, which is that “preachers should aim their guns beyond the hills of relevance.” I agree with preaching expert David Buttrick, who finds “nervous, topical preaching based on ever-changing headlines” deplorable. (Not to mention boring.) In fact, over the past twenty years of parish ministry, I have stayed out of pr