Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven, According to Marcus Borg

As we come to the end of our "Speaking Christian" series today, one final quote from Marcus Borg's book of the same title, this one from his chapter on the word "heaven":

So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don’t have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.

What would you define or describe as "all you need to know?" Is Borg's conclusion enough for you? Leave your comments below.

And join us for our final Soup-Salad-Supper at 6:30pm tonight to talk about how considering these words has impacted your life over the course of this month--and will do so into the future!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven, According to Kathleen Norris

For your Monday, here's a thought on what, perhaps, heaven is really like, from the great Kathleen Norris' book Amazing Grace:

"My favorite definition of heaven comes from a Benedictine sister, who told me that as her mother lay dying in a hospital bed she had ventured to reassure her by saying, "In heaven, everyone we love is there." The older woman had replied, "No, in heaven I will love everyone who is there.""

Take a minute to reflect on the difference between these sentences. What would it look like to live this definition of heaven now? Respond in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven

For our last week in our "Speaking Christian" series, we will be focusing on the word "heaven." Read our stories for this week, Exodus 16 and Matthew 20:1-15, and pay attention to where and how the word "heaven" shows up in each of those stories.

Then, I would ask you to consider this question: what do you think heaven looks like? I leave that question super broad, that you might answer it any way you feel led. Below is a collage of images I found when I googled "What does heaven look like"--very interesting. I am honestly not sure if any of these are the image of what I would hope for for life intimately together under the reign of God! How do you respond to these images?

Then below the collage, I am posting two cartoons that relate to what our stories for this week seem to indicate that heaven looks like. How do they challenge you?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace, according to Dr. Martin Luther King

For our final quote about this week's word--"peace"--it seemed right to turn to one of my peace heroes, Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. Read these words from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964. What do we, as a nation and a world, still have to learn about peace from his words and the way those involved in the Civil Rights Movement went about seeking that deeper peace that is the presence of justice?

The word that symbolizes the spirit and the outward form of our encounter is nonviolence, and it is doubtless that factor which made it seem appropriate to award a peace prize to one identified with struggle. Broadly speaking, nonviolence in the civil rights struggle has meant not relying on arms and weapons of struggle. It has meant noncooperation with customs and laws which are institutional aspects of a regime of discrimination and enslavement. It has meant direct participation of masses in protest, rather than reliance on indirect methods which frequently do not involve masses in action at all.

Nonviolence has also meant that my people in the agonizing struggles of recent years have taken suffering upon themselves instead of inflicting it on others. It has meant, as I said, that we are no longer afraid and cowed. But in some substantial degree it has meant that we do not want to instill fear in others or into the society of which we are a part. The movement does not seek to liberate Negroes at the expense of the humiliation and enslavement of whites. It seeks no victory over anyone. It seeks to liberate American society and to share in the self-liberation of all the people.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

The nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: we will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace, according to Borg

As we prepare to come together for our Soup and Supper engagement with Marcus Borg's book Speaking Christian this evening, reflect on these words of Borg's about the full, radical meaning of peace. How does this speak to our wider needs for peace today? What do you see causing "unnecessary human misery" in our world today? Perhaps these are the places where peace is most deeply needed.

Like many images of salvation, peace has both a personal and political meaning. The personal meaning is peace of mind and, slightly extended, peace with those with whom one is in intimate contact— family, neighbors, associates. But peace in the Bible is also about the end of violence and the cessation of war. Along with economic injustice as institutionalized poverty and destitution, institutionalized violence was the other plague that caused the greatest amount of unnecessary human misery in the world of the Bible. There was the violence that the ruling elite used to keep the population in line. There was the violence of wars, which were most often started by the ruling elite against foreign elites for the sake of gaining their land and wealth. For the most part, ordinary people (90 percent of the population) had no stake in wars, even as they were often ruined by them by higher taxation; conscription; pillage of domestic animals; ruining of crops, resulting in famine; confiscation of land by an invader; and being slaughtered while fighting or as civilian victims of an invading army. Thus it is not surprising that the second primary political meaning of salvation in the Bible is peace and nonviolence. Not just personal peace of mind and nonviolence in our personal relationships, but peace as the end of war.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace, according to Daniel Simundson

Good Monday morning! Thanks to all who participated yesterday in our International Day of Peace worship at Broadneck. As you continue to consider the word "Peace" this week, consider these reflections and questions from biblical scholar Daniel Simundson, as he was reflecting on Micah 4:1-4 (which formed our Call to Worship yesterday). What are your responses to the questions he asks? Share them in the comments section!

What is the relationship between realistic, earthly, achievable hopes and those that stretch our imagination beyond what humans have ever been able to accomplish? Is world peace possible? The dust hardly settled on the end of the cold war before the United States and other nations were off fighting in some remote corner of the world that we hardly knew existed. Hostility and greed seem to exist as long as human beings live on the planet. Those who work to bring peace and security into this world, whether at the level of families, neighborhoods, or nations, have good reason to be discouraged and even to abandon their efforts. Are we to continue to work for goals that we know are not possible through purely human effort? Is Micah 4 a call to action, a reminder of our task and responsibility? Or is it something for which we can only wait patiently until God takes steps that are possible only for God? Or is it in some way a combination of both doing and waiting? (Simudson, "Micah." New Interpreter's Bible Vol 7).

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 solidarity...in 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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Salvation (Marcus Borg)

Happy Monday! As you continue to reflect on worship from yesterday, what are your responses to this quote?

To be saved is to be delivered/rescued from that which ails us. Salvation is also about more than deliverance and rescue: to be saved is to enter into a new kind of life—a life covenanted with God, the central theme of both the Old and New Testaments. Salvation is about deliverance and transformation.  
--Marcus Borg, Speaking Christian

Friday, September 5, 2014

Speaking Christian

This month, we will be spending time together with some of the "big words" of the Christian faith, engaging both these words in scripture and Marcus Borg's interpretations of them in his book Speaking Christian. This week, we will begin with "salvation"--certainly one of the biggest words of faith! In advance of Sunday, I would invite you to read our key text for this week--Exodus 14:10-31. Here's my question: If this was the only passage you had to teach you what salvation was, how would you define it? Post your comments below, if you dare, and we will get the conversation started!

In addition, during the week after the sermon each day I will post a different quote about that week's key word. I encourage you to sit with the quotes and post responses to them--do you agree? Disagree? How do they challenge your understanding of the week's word?

I am looking forward to this challenging journey on which we are embarking! Join us on Sundays and Tuesday nights this month to engage the conversation in person.