Thursday, September 18, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace

Though "Peace" is not one of the words addressed by a full chapter of our book that is giving us our topic for this month--Speaking Christian--it is a key word in the story of scripture, and will be our word for this Sunday as we reflect with  many scripture passages, including Micah 4:1-4 and Luke 19:37-44.

I chose "peace" for this Sunday because September 21 around the world is "International Day of Peace," as declared by the United Nations. Since 1981, it has been recognized as a day set aside to focus on things of peace and to seek to root ourselves more deeply in peaceful relationships. Since 2001, it has also been a day that calls for a cease-fire, for a laying down of arms so that, for a day, people in places torn by violence may have the opportunity to live without fear.

I hope you'll be with us on Sunday as we consider together the things that make for peace through our own International Peace Day celebration. When you walk into the sanctuary, you will see that things look different--Peace Stations around the room will be part of our worship time, inviting us into reflection on God's shalom as a fullness of peace with God, self, others, and creation itself.

Take some time in advance of Sunday to read through a newspaper or a news site with an eye to peace--where do you see signs of peace? Where do you see a need for peace? Bring these celebrations and concerns with you to worship on Sunday. I hope and pray you will be with us for this very special and important time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Speaking Christian: Faith, according to Molina and Rohrbaugh

One more quote for you on the meaning of Faith for this Wednesday, this one from social scientists Bruce
Molina and Richard Rohrbaugh, who give us further insight into what the idea of faith was for the communities to whom the New Testament was addressed. What do you think of the distinction they make? Share comments below!

Faith as "assent to something or to something somebody says is not common in the New Testament...Also very rare is the use of the term to mean 'tradition,' as in the 'faith' which was delivered once and for all to the saints (Jude 1:3). In the New Testament, the words 'faith,' 'have faith,' and 'believe' much more frequently refer to the social glue that binds one person to another [emphasis mine]. They point to the social, externally manifested, emotional behavior of loyalty, commitment, and Matthew 21:21, the NRSV translates: "have faith and do not doubt." This translation puts the phrase into the first category above, assent of the mind. But this is not the normal use of the words in Matthew. They are better translated: "stay loyal (to God) and do not hesitate (in your fidelity or loyalty)." Similarly, in the next verse the obvious meaning is: "Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you remain loyal (to God)." In sum, "faith" primarily means personal loyalty, commitment to another person, fidelity, and the solidarity that comes from such faithfulness."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Speaking Christian: Faith, according to Marcus Borg

Happy Tuesday! Tonight we will gather at 6:30pm for our second Soup-Salad-Supper discussion of Marcus Borg's Speaking Christian, considering his chapters on Believing and Faith, John 3:16, and "The Only Way." As you continue to think about the meaning of faith in your life this week, what do you think of Borg's description about how faith goes, in many senses, deeper than and beyond beliefs? Share your comments below!

"My point is not that “beliefs” don’t matter. Beliefs matter very much. There are “bad” beliefs that can get in the way of faith, and worse. Bad beliefs have too often been a source of intolerance, cruelty, injustice, violence, persecution, and barbarism. So also “good” beliefs matter— they can help us to get rid of unnecessary intellectual stumbling blocks to being Christian, and, even more important, they can shape us into becoming more compassionate, just, and peaceful beings. So beliefs matter. But we should not imagine that “believing the right things” is all that matters. Faith is a much deeper movement of the heart, of the self at its deepest level. Christian faith is allegiance to and trust in God as known in Jesus."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Speaking Christian: Faith/Believing, according to Frederich Buechner

Good morning, church! As you continue to reflect on yesterday's second sermon in our "Speaking Christian" series, what are your thoughts about the word "faith" this morning?

For many, the words "faith" and "believing" are closely linked (we will talk about these words together in our Soup-Salad-Study tomorrow night). So give some thoughts to this description by Frederich Buechner of what it means to believe/have faith, and share your reactions in the Comments section:

"New Testament Greek speaks of believing "into" rather than believing "in." In English we can perhaps convey the distinction best by using either "in" or no preposition at all.

Believing in God is an intellectual position. It need have no more effect on your life than believing in Freud's method of interpreting dreams or the theory that Sir Francis Bacon wrote Romeo and Juliet.

Believing God is something else again. It is less a position than a journey, less a realization than a relationship. It doesn't leave you cold like believing the world is round. It stirs your blood like believing the world is a miracle. It affects who you are and what you do with your life like believing your house is on fire or somebody loves you.

We believe in God when for one reason or another we choose to do so. We believe God when somehow we run into God in a way that by and large leaves us no choice to do otherwise.

When Jesus says that whoever believes "into" him shall never die, he does not mean that to be willing to sign your name to the Nicene Creed guarantees eternal life. Eternal life is not the result of believing in. It is the experience of believing."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Speaking Christian: Faith

As we continue our series on "Speaking Christian," this week's word is another big one: faith. What is faith? The internet, as in most things, offers many answers--lots of quotes about faith, some pithy, some substantive. I have collaged some below, including a verse from this week's scripture, Matthew 17:14-20. If you had to write a statement about what faith is, what would you write? Give this some thought before tomorrow, and share your ideas in the Comments section below (and it is more than okay if your thoughts are REALLY different than these quotes!).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Salvation (Kathleen Norris)

In her book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Kathleen Norris tells of a conversation with a friend who had been on a destructive path when suddenly he realized he was over his head and needed to get out. Here's how she connected his experience to the concept of salvation...what do you think of what she has to say?

"The Hebrew word for 'salvation' means literally 'to make wide,' or 'to make sufficient,' and our friend had recognized that the road he had taken was not wide enough to sustain his life; it was sufficient only as a way leading to death. I was glad to learn from The Oxford Companion to the Bible that 'the primary meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words translated "salvation" is non-religious.' The Hebrew words usually come from a military context, and refer to victory over evil or rescue from danger in this life. And in the gospels it is often physical healing that people seek from Jesus, relief from blindness, paralysis, leprosy. When he says to them that their faith has saved them, it is the Greek word for 'made you well' that is employed. It seems right to me that in so many instances in both the Hebrew scriptures and the gospels salvation is described in physical terms, in terms of the here and now, because I believe that this is how most of us first experience it. Only later do the more spiritual implications of salvation begin to make themselves known."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Salvation (Frederich Buechner)

Happy Tuesday! Hope you'll join us tonight for our first Soup-Salad-Supper conversation at 6:30pm as we discuss this week's word, "Salvation." Until then, reflect on and post your responses to this description of salvation from Frederich Buechner's Beyond Words:

Who knows how the awareness of God's love first hits people. We all have our own tales to tell, including those of us who wouldn't believe in God if you paid us. Some moment happens in your life that you say yes to right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen. Laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. Waking up to the first snow. Being in bed with somebody you love.
Whether you thank God for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to business as usual, it may lose you the ball game. If you throw your arms around such a moment and bless it, it may save your soul.
How about the person you know who as far as you can possibly tell has never had such a moment—one of those soreheads and slobs of the world, the ones the world has hopelessly crippled? Maybe for that person the moment that has to happen is you.
It is a process, not an event.