Saturday, December 26, 2009

St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr: The Work of Christmas Begins

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, the church reminds us that discipleship is more than songs and adoration. The annual remembrance of Stephen's martyrdom on the day following the Feast of the Nativity, leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the coming of the Messiah meets resistance and violence. Mary's song suggests that the social changes that are the inevitable results of the Incarnation will be resisted by forces opposed to the reign of God. Thus, in her wisdom, the Church reminds us of the cost of discipleship as we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation.

In the western church, this week which begins with the birth of the Saviour, includes remembrances of the first martyr, St. Stephen the Deacon (December 26), the sacrificial life and death of Saint John the Apostle (December 27), the unconscionable murder of children(December 28), and culminates with the Circumcision of Christ on January 1. James Kiefer writes that since,"we are more squeamish than our ancestors, modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older. Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us. It is a fit close for a week of martyrs, and reminds us that to suffer for Christ is to suffer with Him."

So as we celebrate the miracle of the holy night, let us remember that we are called to leave the manger and follow our Lord.

The African American theologian and mystic Howard Thurman wrote:

"When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent

O God of exiles and the lost, you promise restoration and wholeness though the power of Jesus Christ. Give us faith to live joyfully, sustained by your promises as we eagerly await the day when they will be fulfilled for all the world to see, through the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
(United Church of Christ: Calendar of Prayer)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Feast of St James the Just, brother of our Lord

After a few weeks of not blogging, due to a hectic schedule and a broken computer, I have return.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. James the Just. James, the brother of our Lord, like Mary, the Blessed Mother, had an intimate relationship with our Lord. Probably because of his close relationship with Jesus, James, as did Mary, misunderstood the mission and ministry of our Lord during his lifetime. How often do we think we know what is best for those we love?

After the Ascension and Pentecost, James became the leader of the first church, the church of Jerusalem. Was it because of his brotherly connection or his spiritual insight? It may had been a combination.

His decisive role in the first controversy the young church faced, the role of Gentiles, proved that he was chosen and gifted by God to lead the young church. He presided at the Council of Jerusalem(Acts 15) and delivered the definitive and decisive statement which allowed the church to become catholic and not remain a small sect which could have faded from history.

His martyrdom reminds us that faithful obedience to the way of Christ may lead us to conflict with those in authority, but that our response should be one of faithful prayer and witness.

Two hymns from the Orthodox tradition are fitting tributes to James, the brother of our Lord.

Troparion (Tone 4)

As the Lord's disciple you received the Gospel, O righteous James;
As a martyr you have unfailing courage;
As God's brother, you have boldness;
As a hierarch, you have the power to intercede.
Pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion (Tone 4)

When God the Word, the Only-begotten of the Father,
Came to live among us in these last days,
He declared you, venerable James, to be the first shepherd and teacher of Jerusalem
And a faithful steward of the spiritual Mysteries.
Therefore, we all honor you, O Apostle.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Arise My Love: God's love poem

So, I am puzzled that the Agnus Day comic changes on my blog when the writer creates a new strip. So, the strip on each blog changes, making the commentary somewhat unintelligible (the commentary may not match the strip). Ahh! a lesson in humility. Perhaps I will figure out the wrinkle, and discover how to keep the strip that matches the weekly lectionary text.

This week lectionary readings are potentially puzzling. This week, the gospel text moves from John to Mark. The Epistle is from St. James. Both readings force us to examine what does it mean to be religious. The Gospel text reminds us that we fail to live up to the law.

The Hebrew text is from Deuteronomy or the Song of Solomon. The reading from the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy) seems appropriate - an examination of the Law. But how does the Song of Solomon fit with the theme? A spiritual reading seems appropriate, with God as the beloved.

God is the lawgiver and God is the beloved. Perhaps when we focus on God as the lawgiver, we forget that God is our beloved. The beauty of the call is lost when we forget that God calls us out of love, and we know God when we respond to the call of love with loving action towards others.

Eugene Patterson's version (The Message) of James 1:27 reads:

"Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world."

"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away." Song of Solomon 2.13 (NRSV).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Is the Church beginning to open our doors?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA),our ecumenical partner, affirmed that they will accept pastors in monogamous same gender relationships this week, and approved a social statement on Human Sexuality. Earlier this summer, the Episcopal Church (TEC) affirmed that God has called and will called same gender loving women and men as priests, deacons, and bishops. Thus they join the United Church of Christ who welcome sexual minorities as members and pastors int heir communion.
For a while, the UCC seemed to be alone. When we passed the marriage equality statement at General Synod in Atlanta in 2005 it appeared to me that we were out there alone. The affirmations of TES and the ECLA say that we are not alone. We are still in a minority in the Christian world. Many of our sisters and brothers feel as if we have cut ourselves off from the tradition and the faith. But at least, I no longer feel alone. This journey may be difficult, and we may be isolated or exiled. But we are not alone. Perhaps this is the beginning of a long arduous journey to a future when the church universal may live up to its calling of accepting all. That is my fervent prayer.

One observation that I read this week that had an impact on me was that lgbt Christians and their supporters were asked to remain in the church while the church struggled to include us. We remained because of our commitment to Christ's vision of a church united. Now traditionalists must consider whether they will remain in communion. In a strange, yet only God inspired way, the traditionalists may gain some insights from the glbt community-how to remain in communion with people with whom you have fundamental disagreements. The ECLA's reflections on bound conscience may prove helpful for those on all sides of this and other controversial issues.

I conclude my remembering the church dividing debates on slavery. Those on both sides appealed to the bible, and many on both sides condemned those on the opposing sides. These many decades later the church has reached a consensus on slavery. Yet we need to acknowledge that for those involved during the struggles to discern the mind of Christ, the consensus did not happen in their lifetimes. Sincere believers on both sides lived and died arguing their deeply held convictions. The white churches in the United States were divided over this issue. Yet those most impacted by this debated, the slaves, my ancestors, were not allow to participate. So I will err, if I must, on the side of those who suffer injury, who are castigated, those who do not have a voice in official assemblies, yet who continue to transform the oppressors' religion into the glorious tale of liberation, who were vindicated not my might, but by their faith in a faithful Saviour.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven: John 6:56-69

Our friends from Agnus Day have posted their latest cartoon strip. The Gospel reading for this Sunday, August 23, 2009 (Proper 16 / Ordinary 21/ Pentecost +12) is John 6.56-69.

For several weeks the gospel lessons have been from John 6. These readings have caused us to reflect on the significance and meaning of the Eucharist. This is a difficult passage of scripture for Evangelicals who have a high view of scripture, but view the sacraments as 'ordinances". A high view of scripture should lead evangelicals to reflect anew on the apostle's writings in the 6th chapter of his gospel.

Soli deo gloria.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SOF: SoundSeen: Brooks and Dionne, Live with Krista | Obama's Theologian: David Brooks and E.J. Dionne on Reinhold Niebuhr and the American Present

In this age of much heated religious rhetoric on critical social issues, we should reflect on the words and legacy of a key American political and religious thinker of the last century; Reinhold Niebuhr.
When I was a student at Union Theological Seminary, I had a part time job as a security guard. When I was making my rounds late at night I thought to myself these were the same halls that Dr. Niebuhr walked. Perhaps he reflected on the critical social issues of his age late at night while walking through the halls. If walls could listen and talk.
I am posting a video of an event at Georgetown University. It is a conversation about UCC theologian Niebuhr's continuing influence on the American political scene. Two social critics, one a liberal, the other a conservative, engaged in a meaningful conversation that models civil civic discussion. Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett is a marvelous programme on public radio.

SOF: SoundSeen: Brooks and Dionne, Live with Krista | Obama's Theologian: David Brooks and E.J. Dionne on Reinhold Niebuhr and the American Present

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dormition of the Theotokos

First, AgnusDay's reflection on this Sunday's gospel reading:

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death."

Certainly few mainline or evangelical Protestants will celebrate this Feast Day, observed in the Roman Catholic tradition as the Assumption of the Virgin and in the Eastern tradition as the Dormition of the Theotokos. While Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption as dogma in 1950, the Dormition has been commemorated in the Orthodox Church as a Great Feast, although it has never been formally declared as doctrine by the Orthodox Church. The belief that God took the Virgin Mary to heaven bodily has been celebrated in the church since the fifth century.

It is a feast that affirms the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and Mary's special role in the redemption. Christians in other traditions who affirm these beliefs should consider joining their sisters and brothers throughout time in celebration this important Feast day.

My recent reflections and meditations about this Feast day has led me to ponder that Mary's devotion to her son, and our Lord's devotion to his mother, serve as models for intimate human relationships. Her Assumption testify that the human body is a divine gift and though tainted by sin(or if you prefer human imperfections), will be glorified.

From the Orthodox tradition:

Kontakion (Second Tone)
"Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lectionary Humour-Bread of Life

Agnus Day offers us an insightful commentary on the Gospel reading for this Lord's Day (August 9, 2009:Proper 14B/Ordinary 19B/Pentecost 10): John 6.35, 41-51.

For other reflections on the lectionary readings, I recommend

Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lectionary Humour

It is the first of August. The last 10 days have been very, very hot (over 90 degrees each day, with three days in a row of 100+ degrees). A compassionate friend gave my mother and me a three night stay at a local air conditioned hotel. Now that the weather is cooler (the high today will be in the low nineties), I return home and to the computer.

Many Christian churches share a common weekly scripture reading in worship on Sundays (known as the common lectionary). There is also a daily lectionary. Many Christian denominations publish the weekly texts on their websites. The United Church of Christ publishes "Weekly Seeds", a reflection on their weekly focus scripture. Vanderbilt Divinity Library provides the lections and texts on their website. Although separated by distance, theology, and heritage, the common lectionary allow the diverse body of Christ to reflect together on the holy texts.

The lectionary texts for Proper 13(18), August 2, 2009 are:
2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a or Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 * Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 78:23-29 * Ephesians 4:1-16 * John 6:24-35

I came across a lectionary base weekly comic from (God is still speaking and God is still laughing)!

I will post the comic weekly on this blog. This week's comic focus on the Gospel reading: John 6.24-35.

This week's comic:

Monday, July 20, 2009

OCC in the UCC?

When I sign my name, I add the letters "OCC" after my family name. Often I have been asked, what does it mean? The letter refers to my religious order, the Order of Corpus Christi.

That explanation leads to many other queries. Is it possible for a Protestant to be a member of a religious order? Is making perpetual vows to the Order an initiation into some secret society or cult? Are religious orders a repudiation of the insights of the Reformation and an attempt to return to Rome? Why would a pastor in good standing in a liberal Christian denomination submit to a rule that is rooted in the ancient practices of the Church?

The impulse for a disciplined spiritual communal life resonate with people within and outside of the church. It is not limited to one tradition, but finds expressions in many traditions-even in the United Church of Christ. The online UCC community has a forum discussion entitled " Monastic Community in the UCC".

The Order of Corpus Christi is one community in the United Church of Christ whose historical foundations include the Mercersburg Theology of the nineteenth century. This theological movement was an American ecumenical and liturgical movement which was a corrective balance to the popular religious revivalism of the era.

The Foundation Document of the Order of Corpus Christi states:

" Corpus Christi calls us to a life of common prayer and contemplation which
produces concrete action in the life of the Church and the world. At the heart of Corpus Christi we encounter the living Christ in Word and Sacrament in the community of the Church which nurtures us in the life of faith and in mission and ministry. Daily prayer, silence, and contemplation also inform the life of Corpus Christi. All these are not ends unto themselves. They are, rather, means of God’s grace through which the balance is maintained and life, growth, and development in the Christian life and mission are given.
The practices in which the members and communities of Corpus Christi engage are intended to express commonality of faith, worship and service. In the midst of diversity there is unity and commonality in Christ!
The common practices of Corpus Christ serve as a witness and a sign. They
witness to our oneness in Christ, and they are a sign of our communion with others in Christ through one Baptism, one Bread, and the call to discipleship."

This is my community, through which I seek to live out the calling to pray and work for the unity of Christ's Body.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Liturgy of the Hours

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Here are two reflections by Bonnie Tinker.
The video is a speech she gave this past winter that explains why she advocated for marriage equality for over thirty years.

The audio is an interview Bonnie gave a few years ago. Bonnie speaks about her family history and spirituality.
Bonnie Tinker - Love Makes A Family

Bonnie Tinker: mother, wife, daughter, visionary, friend, community organizer, peacemaker.

RIP Bonnie.

Monday, July 13, 2009

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Civil Rights and Marriage Equality

We interviewed the Rev. Sekou this morning on our radio programme, More Talk Radio on KBOO. We took as our launching pad for discussion his recent article in Killing the Buddha about the current marriage equality debate and how black Americans are engaged in these discussions. I will post the link to our radio interview when we put in on our site. In the meantime, you may be interested in reading the following article by Melissa Harris-Lacewell in the Nation that addresses some of the same issues. Ms. Harris-Lacewell examines SCLC (are they still around?) and the marriage issue.
Coincidentally, the national NAACP is also undergoing an internal debate on this issue. A recent CNN interview with the head of the NAACP makes clear that this historic civil rights organization has a long way to go to regain its moral vision and voice.
Where is the clear moral voice these days?
There is much to be done if the organizations seek to walk in the steps of people such as Bayard Rustin.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy 500 birthday, John Calvin!

Today is the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. I posted the comment on my Facebook page, a Quaker friend remarked that Calvinism is so toxic.
Perhaps we need to move beyond the stereotypes. The fact that many people with different ideological and theological perspectives claim Calvin as influential should be caused for us to stop and look anew, or look for the very first time.
I recommend reading the Institutes of the Christian Religion. An appropriate way to enter into the world of John Calvin.

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches issued a statement commemorating Calvin that acknowledges the continuing relevance of Calvin in the twenty first century. The president of my alma mater Union Theological Seminary, Dr, Serene Jones wrote a paper that takes as it's title the reformed motto, Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda, the church reformed, always reforming.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gays Are the New Niggers

Recently in Killing the Buddha, the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou wrote a thought provoking article entitled, " Gays Are the New Niggers ". I believe he offers an important perspective in the on going discussion of the relationship between the African American civil rights movement and the modern lgbt movement. As a straight black, third generation Pentecostal pastor, Mr. Sekou brings unique insights to this discussion.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

For some time, I have thought about joining the 21st century, and join the rank of bloggers. Perhaps now I will start.
Yesterday, my friend and colleague, Bonnie Tinker, died in a terrible bike accident. She was in Virginia at the Friends General Conference. I found out about it from a facebook post by someone attending the meeting. I then picked up the phone and called Sara, her spouse of over thirty years, to confirm my worst fear.
We spoke briefly, she was waiting to board a plane to VA. However, we never mentioned that Bonnie died. Perhaps, I thought, she was severely injured. I called Pam Monette, chair of Love Makes A Family, and asked if she had spoken to Sara. I mentioned that Bonnie had been in an accident, but did not say that I thought she was dead. Pam called Sara, and a few minutes later called me back and confirmed my fears, Bonnie was dead.
I woke up this morning, thinking that it was a bad dream. It is not.
We were last together at the Archbishop Tutu lecture at the University of Portland a few weeks ago. We have spoken over the phone frequently since that gathering.
Bonnie was a fierce advocate for justice, crying out for the voiceless, fearless, yet gentle. She was committed to the way of peace, which did not mean she avoided confrontation (I think she was energised by confronting injustice).
Pam mentioned to me that she was concerned about Bonnie's family, and not Bonnie because she believed Bonnie was busy organising the angels. I like that.
Farewell dear friend. Thank you for your love, support, and the lessons you taught me. May your work continue here on earth, as you enter into the bosom of God.
"Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May the souls of the faithfully departed,through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."