Thursday, April 17, 2014

To the End, and Beyond

Ending Lent with a Buzz Lightyear reference...hmm.  But it sorta works, doesn't it?

It's Thursday of Holy Week, and I miss worshiping on Maundy Thursday.  Personally, I feel it makes a helpful transition into Good Friday and Easter.  Maybe someday again....

Wes Ellis posted a thoughtful Maundy Thursday meditation today, filled with all kinds of good stuff.

On the other hand, some churches may be experiencing a version of "Seder" as part of their Holy Week; I've participated in a few.  Tony Jones looks critically at the practice and raises some important points, for the sake of appropriate and sensitive relations with our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Over at Columbia Faith & Values, I reflected on the usual arguments that get recycled each year about this time:  did Jesus, or did he not, rise from the dead?

Finally, a couple weeks ago I participated in the founding convention of Faith Voices of Columbia, a new group that attempts to respond to issues of public policy and social impact with the resources of faith as a priority.

The event centered on an address by Rev. William Barber, who initiated the Moral Monday campaign in North Carolina.  Here's a video of the first segment of the evening.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bits, Bobs, and Bulletins

Just a lot of notes (and links to other places) on things that have caught my attention lately....

Brian McLaren excerpts the good parts of ethicist David Gushee's thoughts on the Hobby Lobby case being considered by the Supreme Court.  I think Gushee is spot-on in his analysis.

If Hobby Lobby wins, the door is thrown open to all sorts of specious "reasons" for employers who don't want to pay for this or that.  It seems to me that, once an employer offers a benefit (which is compensation in lieu of cash, so functionally equivalent to salary/pay), it's no longer really the employer's money, but the employee's.

Of course, as McLaren highlights, making contraception more difficult to obtain will end up increasing abortions, which is certainly not what Hobby Lobby, the Catholic Church, and other dissenters want.  Do they really realize what the consequences are?  And do they care, or are they more interested in scoring political points?

Jeff at Coffeehouse Contemplative linked to Matthew Paul Turner's reaction to World Vision's kowtowing to complaints about its short-lived policy supporting same-gender marriage.  As with the previous issue, opponents seem more interested in throwing their weight around, and not at all interested in the lives of the poor children whose life-support they so quickly removed.  How do they sleep at night?

Jeff also reviews Rachel Held Evans's latest, her disappointment/exhaustion/fed-up-ness with evangelical Christianity.  Sad to see a movement eat its own young, by driving them away even when they so desperately want to stay.

Of course, we in the liberal and oh-so-welcoming UCC have done it, too.  We trumpet our ordaining the first woman, Antoinette Brown, but we brush over the part where she couldn't find a church to call her and left us for another denomination.  And we've driven out many of our more traditional members with a no-holds-barred approach on certain social issues.

But try to find that in our denominational histories....

Thankfully, friend Wes Ellis, thoughtful as ever, writes about unity and where it truly lies.  I don't think I could say it any better:

      "We are not united by our love for God, we are united in being loved by God."

Because it's Lent and last week's Gospel lesson was the raising of Lazarus, cutting-edge Lutheran Nadia Bolz Weber shares her sermon on Lazarus, empty tombs, and surprises.  It's good stuff!  And I will surely be borrowing ideas for Easter.

Finally, the University of Missouri has had some big problems with a few of its athletes recently.  A basketball player was arrested twice in one day.  A football player was "questioned" but not arrested over an incident involving several women who chose not to press charges because they feared backlash from the media and the team.

And this isn't the first time in our short residence in Columbia.  Fortunately, the basketball and football coaches decided today to release both these players.

But there needs to be some serious discussion, at the university and in the community, about why women are being assaulted by athletes, why they're afraid to press charges in situations of obvious crime, and why it takes so long for university officials to remove the offending parties.

As a witness to the football-related situation noted, if it were him or his roommate (and not an elite athlete), they'd already be in jail.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

For a Friend

When I was in California, I met sensational bluesman Walter Trout.  He and his family started attending the church I served, and before long they joined.

I didn't know anything about Walter at that point, but I learned a lot in the short time we were together.  Walter has played with some of the greats, including John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Canned Heat.  He's got a huge following in Europe.

Near the time I left, Walter released a new CD featuring some of his early stuff, called Deep Trout.  He and his wife gave me a copy, and I've been listening to it for the last several days.

The reason:  I learned on Facebook last week that Walter's in need of a liver transplant.  While he has insurance, there are a lot of costs it won't cover.  Friends have put together a fund-raising website for him.

One of my favorite songs is "Kill the Monkey."  Right away, I could tell that Walter wasn't your typical bluesman; he had a moral sensibility about him that was deep and sincere.

In honor of Walter, and with hope for his recovery, here's "Kill the Monkey."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Christian Myths

Somehow, I'm always a few days late with news.  It's been that way all my life.  I finally found out about Rob Bell's blog series on the Bible (over 50 posts now) when he'd already written 40-some entries.

This week I discovered a new (thankfully, shorter) series of blog posts on Patheos, by history professor Kathleen Mulhern, who writes the Dry Bones blog.

Reacting to an article by Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz, Mulhern has responded with six entries on "Neo-Christian Myths."  The first myth she critiques is "Connecting to God has 'feelings' attached to it."

In other words, people often think they can determine their level of connected-ness to God in an experience (like worship - or a nature walk) by how good it makes them feel.

As we continue to wander through the Lenten season, Mulhern's ideas might be instructive and help us get to the place we really want to end up, rather than some other goal that doesn't actually feed, enlighten, or renew us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Everyone's a Little Irish

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here's a song I first heard almost 20 years ago in a coffee shop in Louisville, Kentucky.