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Showing posts from April, 2009

Jesus Saves..and Saves...and Saves...

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In her recent book "An Altar in the World," Barbara Brown recalls a time when she was invited to speak at a church, and asked the priest what his suggestions were for a topic. "Tell us what is saving your life right now." he told her.

Lately, I have been asking myself that same question. "What is saving my life right now?" I'm developing a new understanding on what it means to receive God's salvation that is not based solely on one defining moment of surrender, but on a thousand or more of them. I am learning that the question so many Christians ask those they assume who are unChristian needs to be refined by this understanding. Rather than asking, "Are you saved?" we need to be asking, "How are you being saved?"

"What is saving your life right now?"

God is saving my life right now through stolen moments of peace, conversations and rest, hope that comes with notes of affirmation from people who offer me their ministr…

Bread of Life

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Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena. I wouldn't have known this, except I heard it on a podcast that I subscribe to that tells me about these kinds of things. It also plays beautiful music and there are people reading Scripture with beautiful accents from all over the United Kingdom. The podcast is called Pray-As-You-Go, and you should definitely check it out.

When I arrived back at my office, I dutifully looked up St. Catherine of Siena, and I found this prayer, which I will relate in part:

O blessed Catherine, turn thy benign countenance towards me, who confident of thy powerful patronage call upon thee with all the ardor of affection and I beg thee to obtain by thy prayers the favors I so ardently desire (mention your request). Thou wast a victim of charity, who in order to benefit thy neighbor obtained from God the most stupendous miracles and became the joy and the hope of all; thou canst not help but hear the prayers of those who fly to thy heart - that heart which…

Empty Handed Healing

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When I was in high school there was this televangelist by the name of Ernest Angley who I used to watch sometimes when there was nothing else on TV.
Wait. That was a lie. I used to watch him because I was fascinated by him. It was like watching a train wreck happen in slow motion. Ernest is a faith healer. I say “is” because he’s still at it. I just looked him up on the Internet and found that he has some “Cathedral” where he still holds his services, and apparently now sits atop some sort of mini-empire of faith healing.
I just remember him walking down a spiral staircase in the opening of his show, wearing a white suit and talking about how God gave him some Abrahamic vision that he was going to heal as many people as there were stars in the sky.
Oh, and he would stretch out his hand and say dramatically, “Put your hand on the television screen... HEE-UUUUHLLL! HEE-UUUUHLLL! HEE-UUUUHLLL!”

Once when there was no one around, I crept over to the TV and put my hand on Ernest’s as h…

Issues With Authority: Scripture & The Church

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I am attending the National Pastors Sabbath, which is sponsored by the Presbyterian Church (USA), the mainline Protestant denomination that I happen to call "home."
Our main speaker this week was supposed to be renowned scholar, teacher and preacher Walter Brueggeman, but he was unable to attend due to a family issue. One of the other speakers this week, Frances Taylor Gench (author, minister and professor at Union Theological Seminary) gamely stepped up to the plate to fill all of Dr. Brueggeman's speaking and workshop spots.

I am glad she did.

Now don't get me wrong. I would listen to Brueggeman any day of the week, and consider it an honor. But on this particular weekend, I needed to hear what Gench had to say.

Gench is the author of the new book "Faithful Disagreement: Wrestling with Scripture in the Midst of Church Conflict." She was also a member of the Peace Unity & Purity Taskforce for the PC(USA). Since I had just finished reading N.T. Wright…

Let Us Not Mock God With Metaphor

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Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

- John Updike: Seven Stanzas at Easter

Hope is what you get when you realize that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich and the powerful, and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word.

- N. T. Wright.

A few years ago, while on a mission trip to Mexico I had a sacramental experience in the middle of a trash pile.

We were working in a neighborhood quite far from our usual haunts, repairing a roof for a very needy family (which could be almost every family in the area where we were working). The neighborhood was full of people without running water, electricity and with no way to pay …

Save Us Now

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This past week marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The night before Reverend King was killed, he delivered his final sermon, which was strangely prophetic. "Like anybody I would like to live a long life," Dr. King preached. "Longevity has its place. But I am not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he has allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I have looked over, and I have seen the Promised Land."

I was an infant, not even five months old, when Dr. King was struck down by assassin's bullet outside of his Memphis hotel room. In my lifetime we have gone from that moment of national tragedy and shame, to one of celebration (despite party affiliation) and pride with the election of our country's first black president, Barack Obama. Someone said that Obama's election was the "down payment" on Dr. King's dream.

Dr. King once said, "Darkness cannot drive out…