At the end of each month, I link to some of the formative pieces I read throughout the month. Throughout my hiatus from blogging, I was still tagging pieces of interest with which to (hopefully) engage on the blog. I won't post all of them here, as it'd take months. Still, here's a sampling of some of the blogs, articles, etc. that have had me musing over the past few months.
*Yes, I know that on October 19, I'm using the term "Summer 2015 Edition" very loosely...
Jill Duffield, the new editor of The Presbyterian Outlook, used one of her columns to consider the topics of participating in short-term mission trips versus building long-term relationships.
It is a sentiment repeated after almost every act of service, “I went to give, but I got so much more.” It is said with sincerity, but often with a sense of surprise that verges on condescension. Who knew that “the poor” had something to give to me!? I have so much stuff, but they have so much faith. It is an honest revelation, but if we stop there we are missing the point of Jesus’ call to feed and tend and teach and disciple. [click to read full article]
Along the same lines as the previous article comes a post focusing on the western world's collective tendency to give "leftovers" to those in greatest need. This blog post was originally published in 2014, but through the power of social media and its ability for grassroots viral popularity, it reappeared was great force over the summer.
It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better (and cleans out our garage at the same time), doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need. Perhaps we should look a little deeper into our hearts and wallets when we can say, I don’t have money to give to the poor, but I have a lot of stuff. Maybe we need to buy less stuff, so we have more to give? - [click to read full post]
I've greatly appreciated following along with author Rachel Held Evans as she's chronicled her faith journey on her blog, and I enjoyed being a part of her launch team for her newest volume, Searching for Sunday [see my review of the book here]. The notion that Christianity is under attack in the United States is not a new one and often appears in December surrounding the so-called "War on Christmas." But this summer, with a ruling on marriage equality and the eventual arrest and jailing of a certain county clerk in Kentucky, the chants of "Christian persecution" reached a fever pitch. In this piece, Evans takes a look at how this rallying cry is at best factually incorrect, and at worst, damaging for the work of the gospel worldwide.
The persecution complex obscures the gospel of Jesus Christ. You know who was actually persecuted for their religious beliefs? Jews under Roman occupation in the first century. And you know what Jesus told those Jews to do? Pay your taxes. Give to those who ask. Do not turn people away. Love your neighbors. Love even your enemies. When Jesus spoke of “walking the second mile,” he was referring to an oppressive Roman law that allowed a traveling Roman solider to demand that a stranger carry his pack for up to one mile. No doubt some of Jesus’ first listeners had been forced to do just that, to drop their farming equipment, fishing nets, or carpentry tools and carry a heavy pack, losing hours of work in the process. The law allowed the soldier to demand from them a mile, no more. Jesus told his followers to walk two. [click here to read full post]
Turning from the areas of mission and current events, we turn to the important work of theology. Back in September, John Pavlovitz shed light on the absolutism of the Apostles' Creed and worked through the creed, line by line, in an effort to bring comfort to the many (most!) of us who sometimes struggle with a fear of doubt and a need for certainty in talking about such weighty topics.
And while I’ve said the words consistently throughout my life in thousands of gatherings (many times believing every word deeply), I’ve often been less than fully convinced of at least one bit or another at any given moment yet unable to reveal it, especially in the presence of my peers where my conspicuous silence would have outed me instantly. After all the Creed is a moral litmus test, a spiritual bellwether; a verbal line in the sand separating: the insiders from the outsiders, the faithful from the heathens, the saved from the lost, the saints from the sinners, the believers from the heretics, the rescued from the damned, the sanctified us from the morally broken them. (No pressure there). So even when I wavered, I always made sure my voice did not. [click to read full post]
As a teenager, one of the first newspaper columnists I read - and often discussed with my mother and grandmother afterward - was Sharon Randall, published weekly in the Gettysburg Times. My reading habits have changed, and I'm now opting for the RSS feed of her weekly column, but one thing that hasn't changed is my interest for her familial and reflective writing style. Her column from early May talked about visiting the church of her childhood. Her experience brought forth the recognition that while faces may change, the memories, traditions, and rituals of this sacred space remain engraved on the heart.
That’s when I saw the plaques on the stained glass windows. I’d been fascinated by them as a child. They said the windows were placed in memory of people who worshipped in that church almost 100 years ago. I grinned. If those folks came back today after so long away, would they feel like strangers? Or would they settle into a back pew and make themselves right at home? [click here to read full column]
Finally, from my friend and seminary classmate Shelby Etheridge comes a reflection on Mary Oliver's poem "The Journey." Honestly, I'm not usually much for poetry, but this one touched me. Whether she's writing a piece on spirituality or a sermon on gun violence, I'm grateful for Shelby's voice and honored to be a colleague in ministry in the PC(USA).
It had been a hard year, almost impossible really. Heartbreak started the year. Then came ordination exams, PIF-writing, interviews on interviews on interviews. I had filled my life with activities. With “leadership opportunities.” With commitments and yes’s all over the place. I was planning and helping and leading and coordinating and supporting and caring for everyone but myself. (I’m sure I’m the only one who gets myself into these situations… right?) And I heard these words, and I broke open. [click here for full post]
I'm a husband, a father, a news junkie, a theatre enthusiast, an amateur foodie, a wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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