Archive for January, 2013

Reading Ramblings – February 3, 2013

January 27, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

February
3, 2013

Date: February 3, 2013 –
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Texts: Jeremiah 1:4-10 (17-19);
Psalm 71:1-6 (7-11); 1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13; Luke 4:31-44

Contextual Notes:
This Sunday isn’t considered part of a specially designated season
(traditionally observed as festival or fasting seasons) such as
Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter. Sundays in Ordinary time begin
early in the calendar year, then are replaced by Lent & Easter
until after Pentecost Sunday in late Spring and Holy Trinity Sunday –
the first Sunday after Pentecost Sunday. Readings during Ordinary
Time focus on the general teaching and miracles of Jesus’ ministry,
rather than on the particular events of his birth or suffering,
death, and resurrection.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (17-19):
This is the commissioning of Jeremiah as a prophet of God. The
first four verses give us some details about Jeremiah and the time of
his calling, placing him in the reign of Josiah, King of Judah, prior
to the exile to Babylon.

What a beautiful and terrifying set of
verses! How often have we longed to know God’s will for our lives,
and how often have we run from that will when we have discerned it!
God’s call on Jeremiah’s vocation and ministry is based in God’s role
as Jeremiah’s creator. Jeremiah is no accident, nor is he the
decision of a man and a woman. Rather, God knew Jeremiah from before
his beginning, and knew how He would use him.

This doesn’t mean that Jeremiah feels
capable to the calling he has received! His words are humble, making
use of poetic language to describe his sense of inadequacy. Jeremiah
is not literally a child who is too young to know how to speak. Yet
this is how he feels compared to the power of God.

God’s response is to reassure him of
his ability, and that ability is based ultimately in the power and
Word of God, not in Jeremiah himself. Because of God’s provisioning,
Jeremiah can and will fulfill the purpose for which God created him.

Psalm 71:1-6(7-11):
Our hope is in God! As his children through faith, we are not
promised lives free from challenge and adversity. Rather, we are
promised that our God is always with us. He gives us firm footing on
which to stand, even when the world swirls and shifts around us. To
God we cast our prayers for rescue and deliverance. In Christ, God
the Father answers our prayers for rescue. While we may pray for
rescue from temporal problems and challenges – and this is good and
proper! – our faith in God is anchored in the life, death,
resurrection, ascension, and promised return of the Son of God. We
have already been rescued from our greatest foes – sin,
Satan, and death! Therefore as we pray for rescue from other issues,
we can also give thanks to God for his mercy and love and
forgiveness. We celebrate our rescue in the midst of present trials,
and regardless of the outcome of those present trials!

1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13:
Paul has spent the last chapter talking about spiritual gifts, so
that the people of God may not be ignorant about them. However, Paul
doesn’t want us to be preoccupied with them, either. In typical
sinful human fashion, we are apt to not only ignore our gifts, we may
misuse them, or more accurately, sinfully assume that some are
greater and more powerful than others, and therefore more deserving
of emulation or adulation.

Rather,
Paul says, love is the greatest of God’s gifts to his people.
Nothing else that we do matters if we do not do it in love. Love is
what transforms everything that we do, and love ought to be the
empowering and motivating power in all that we do and say. While
these verses are popular at weddings, this is not the context that
Paul speaks them in. This is how we are all to guide ourselves,
every day, with everyone. This would be a hopeless goal if not for
the power of God the Holy Spirit dwelling within us!

Luke 4:31-44:
Jesus leaves his hometown of Nazareth again
because he isn’t wanted there. He goes to the place that becomes
like a second home to him, the seaside town of Capernaum. A small
village located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee,
there are ruins there today of the synagogue that Jesus likely
worshiped in, as well as ruins of what is believed to be the house of
St. John’s family.

Here, in the synagogue, Jesus
encounters a demon-possessed man. The demon knows full well who and
what Jesus is – something that the people of Nazareth, who
professed to be closest to him (and therefore entitled to special
honor from him), did not know. Jesus commands the demon to be silent
as to his identity. Jesus’ ministry is just beginning, and the demon
may seek to foil Jesus’ work by disclosing his identity and bringing
Jesus into conflict immediately with the religious leaders. The
demon has no choice to obey and to leave when commanded.

Note the response of the people who see
this – “What is this word?” (v.36). The man and the Word that he
speaks are synonymous. The people focus on whatever words Jesus used
to cast out this demon, but their question is more accurate than they
likely realize. The Word that Jesus speaks is the Word that Jesus
is – the very Word of God in human flesh. Can any power resist the
Word of God? Is it any wonder that demons – and then illnesses and
the natural elements – must obey?

The final verses of this chapter are
interesting. The Capernaums (Capernamites? Capernuminians?) go off
looking for Jesus. They want him to stay with them – the opposite
reaction of the people of Nazareth who wanted to kill him. But the
desire to have him stay is incorrect as well. They misunderstand the
scope of Jesus’ work. He has not just come as a local healer and
teacher, but rather as a Savior for all people. As such, it is not
his purpose to stay with them to be their private resource. He must
go to all creation. He will do this by going primarily to the people
of Israel during his life and ministry, and then by sending his
disciples to all nations after his resurrection. The Word of God is
for the blessing and benefit of all God’s creation who will receive
him as such.

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Reading Ramblings – January 27, 2013

January 27, 2013

VERY belatedly!

Reading
Ramblings

January
27, 2013

Date: January 27, 2013 –
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Texts: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6,
7-8; Psalm 191-6)7-14; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:16-30

Contextual Notes:
This Sunday isn’t considered part of a specially designated season
(traditionally observed as festival or fasting seasons) such as
Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter. Sundays in Ordinary time begin
early in the calendar year, then are replaced by Lent & Easter
until after Pentecost Sunday in late Spring and Holy Trinity Sunday –
the first Sunday after Pentecost Sunday. Readings during ordinary
time focus less on the life of Jesus and more on the application of
the Christian faith to the life of the Church and her members.

The readings this week focus us on the
power of the Word of God and the ways we can receive it. This week
we also return to the predominate Gospel for this year, the Gospel of
Luke.

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 7-8:
The omitted verses in this reading selection have been omitted
because they are lists of names. While I don’t think this in itself
is a good enough reason to omit reading them, it does make the
selection less intimidating as a whole! This reading takes place
after the remnant of the Israelites has returned to Jerusalem from
their exile in Babylon. The Babylonian empire has been absorbed by
the Persian empire, and Cyrus, the king, is allowing exiled and
transplanted population groups to return to their homelands. He has
been helpful in assisting the Israelites to rebuild Jerusalem,
including not just the Temple, but the city walls. Now the people
are gathered to hear the Word of God as laid out in the Pentateuch,
the first five books of the Bible. The people’s response is one of
guilt – their parents and they have lived in exile because they did
not obey these words!

But their feelings of guilt are to be
put away in the glorious triumph of God’s Word in his people. It is
a day of celebration, along the lines of the Prodigal Son that Jesus
will use as a parable hundreds of years later (Luke 15). The Word of
God convicts us of our sin and guilt and draws from the honest heart
and mind sincere repentance, which is met with the Gospel of
forgiveness incarnate in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 19: A
poetic treatise on the all together holy and wondrous and powerful
Word of God. It goes out in the general revelation of nature itself,
so that even nature testifies to the God who created it, forming
another kind of language or word regarding God. But the focus
returns to the revealed Word of God, which is the focus of vs. 7-11.
The general revelation of God may point to his existence, as vs. 1-6
testify, but it is only the revealed Word of God as mentioned in vs.
7-11 that can make us wise not only to the existence of God but his
nature and our position before him. This becomes the focus of vs.
12-13. God’s Word reveals our errors that we are blind to. In
learning this, we can hope for our words to be suitable and pleasing
to our God (v.14). We can respond to the teachings and admonitions
of God’s Word in faithfulness, adjusting our lives to conform closer
and closer to what He commands of us. This is pleasing to God, and
another way that his Word encourages and strengthens us.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a:
Because we are back in Ordinary Time, the Epistle lesson doesn’t
directly correspond to the Gospel & Old Testament readings. We
are thus engaging in lectio
continuo

– reading large portions of the New Testament.

This
section emphasizes the importance of each person and their gifts to
the body of Christ. We are often tempted to think that we do not
have anything to contribute but we are wrong. We may feel that our
contributions are minor compared to others. We are wrong. All of us
are needed as the body of Christ, because it is through the
individual members that the body is provided with all
of the gifts necessary. Does this mean that every community of faith
will have every spiritual gift? No – the gifts are given that are
needed in that part of the body of Christ.

As such, we are to see each other as valuable members of the Body of
Christ. We are to encourage one another in these concrete terms –
to look for in others gifts that can be placed in the service of the
body, and to allow our own gifts to be identified and utilized as
well.

Luke 4:16-30:
The Word of God can be misunderstood and
resisted, as well. Here the people of God gather together but are so
focused on Jesus and what He will do to and for them that they miss
the Word of God entirely. They can’t even here the claim that Jesus
has just made, a claim that should rock their worlds – that He is
the fulfillment of the prophetic promises of their Scriptures. They
want to be impressed. They want to be amazed. They want to be
healed and enlightened, to reap the finest and best of their local
boy’s skills and gifts.

Jesus has to draw them back to reality.
The gift of Jesus is not in the miracles that He does, but in his
identity as the Son of God incarnate. It is his fulfillment of
Isaiah’s prophecy that is the gift, and that gift is not exclusive to
his neighbors and friends, but rather extends to all people. And
just as the parable of the tenants, where the workers hired first
thing in the morning are angry that they don’t get paid more than the
ones who only work for the last hour of the day, so the people of
Nazareth are angry that they don’t get special treatment and
recognition from one of their own.

How far are they from the Word of God
and therefore the kingdom of God with all of its benefits and
blessings? Far enough away that they form a mob right there in the
synagogue, and attempt to kill Jesus. For blasphemy? No – rather
for offending them and treating them unkindly.

We can react in many ways to the Word
of God. Ultimately, we are to respond to it with joy and
thanksgiving, because it reveals to us that we are reconciled to the
Creator of the Universe through faith and trust in his Son, Jesus
Christ. While the Word needs to drive us to repentance, it never
intends to leave us in dismay, but to lead us to joy and hope, and as
such to be ready to be used by God the Holy Spirit in the work of his
kingdom which has already come and of which we are already citizens.
That work will manifest itself as we put the gifts that God the Holy
Spirit has given us to work – not for our own selfish gain, but for
the blessing of all God’s people, particularly the local community of
believers of which we are a part.   

Reinventing MLK

January 24, 2013

Not really reinventing, but simply choosing which aspects of him to convey historically.

Thanks to Lois for this article by Star Parker.  It simply points out what many of us are already all too well aware of.  Religious liberty is under attack in our country.  Freedom of religion is being replaced – at least temporarily – by freedom of worship.  The two are not even vaguely the same.  If freedom of religion is replaced by freedom of worship, it won’t be long before freedom of worship is eliminated as well.
There are those in the liberal ranks who insist that religion is the opposite of progress.  That true progress as a species, as a worldwide community, and as individual communities can only be had when religion is eliminated from the mix. The irony of all of this – bitter irony to be sure – is that such efforts are made on the backs of the deeply religious people who contributed mightily to the founding and shaping of this nation.  Certainly very little of their accomplishments would have taken place if they had been free to attend worship but not free to live out their faith in ways both radical and mundane.  And as Ms. Parker queries, how many of these accomplishments would have even been seen as necessary if not for the deeply held religious convictions of men and women throughout American history?  
Religious people are regularly denigrated as being intolerant and bigoted, yet it is the religious people in our history who fought hardest and sacrificed the most to achieve the levels of equality that we have today.  Hang on to your history books from high school and college – the ones that still talk about the role of religion in our country.  Odds are that more and more the textbooks of today and tomorrow will be leaving that aspect of our nation’s history out.  On purpose.  

Illness & Motivation

January 22, 2013

Sickness has struck our (new) home.  The wife and kids have had the worst of it – at least thus far.  I’ve been coasting by, comparatively, with the equivalent of an annoying head cold.  The kids surface, seem to be better, and then are dragged back under again.  It has been frustrating to say the least.  Not nearly the struggles that others are called to deal with, but still, frustrating.  

As such, motivation has been low.
As well, on Friday I reported for jury duty and, barring a hail-Mary-esque miracle tomorrow afternoon, am going to be serving on a jury for the next three weeks.  Wheee!  
As I tell anyone who brings up the topic of jury duty, I’m glad to do it and they should be, too.  It’s one of the relatively few obligations for being a citizen in our country.  This does not mean that it is pleasant, easy, or convenient.  It just means that I think we need to do our best to accommodate the summons when it arrives.
This is the first jury summons I’ve had in over 20 years.  It was mostly with curiosity that I reported to the courthouse and, after about an hour or so, was actually seated as Juror 12 out of 18.  The people who requested deferments from serving on this jury all seemed to have very legitimate issues – teachers at various schools and universities in the area, students at those same universities, small business owners.  Three weeks is a big chunk of time.  While I have no shortage of things to do each week, I can defer enough of them though that I didn’t feel I could justify asking for a deferment.  
As such, I’ll direct you to this very short posthumous blog post from a well-known (relatively) Internet theologian.  His point is one that I’ve come to rather surprisingly in the past decade or so.  Though my denomination is often accused of being very lackluster in the personal evangelism department, there is still enough collective guilt absorbed from our evangelical brethren (and perhaps from pastors and other congregational leaders looking for ways to get members more involved at church?) to foster a never-ending stream of programs and materials aimed at more effective outreach.
I’ve had more than one parishioner over the years suggest that I need to spearhead and outreach program.  My response has varied little.  Firstly, show me in the Bible where such approaches are even described, let alone prescribed.  Secondly, show me a program that has consistently produced anywhere near the results it promises.  Frankly, if the secret to growing our congregations was evangelism programs, there ought to be a glut of mega-churches throughout our country.  Unfortunately, despite the good intentions of writers, speakers, and program designers, these programs haven’t resulted in membership explosions.  
This doesn’t mean that we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief (I know more pastors than not who dread outreach programs and personal evangelism efforts every bit as much as all of you).  Rather, it points us to the very boring, very tedious, very difficult work of living lives renewed by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  It challenges us to take far more seriously famous passages such as Acts 2:42-47.  In other words, we aren’t to be about faking being loving and kind and concerned for others as part of an effort to get them to come to church to us.  We are to genuinely demonstrate lives of love and kindness and concern, and trust that God the Holy Spirit who is already hard at work in the hearts and minds of those around us will utilize this to bring those people to our communities of faith.
If you’re gifted with the gift of evangelism, you darn well better be putting it to use!  Paul certainly did.  But Paul never assumed that everyone else was supposed to do exactly what he was doing.  There is no guilt from Paul in this respect.  He’ll use guilt in other ways and for other purposes, (the very short book of Philemon is a great example of this!) but never to make people feel somehow inferior or un-Christian for not taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, or even the ends of their villages.  
It probably wouldn’t have surprised Paul that few people were motivated to evangelism the way he was.  Maybe it’s time for us to stop feeling guilty about what we aren’t doing, and focus more on the much harder work of being the people we are called to be as followers of Christ.  
I think I’m feeling sicker already.

Reading Ramblings – January 20, 2013

January 18, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

January
20, 2013

Date: January 20, 2013 –
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Texts: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm
128; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

Contextual Notes:
This is the second Sunday after Epiphany Sunday, and the first Sunday
of Ordinary Time. This means that the Sunday isn’t considered part
of a specially designated season (traditionally observed as festival
or fasting seasons) such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter.
Sundays in Ordinary time begin early in the calendar year, then are
replaced by Lent & Easter until after Pentecost Sunday in late
Spring and Holy Trinity Sunday – the first Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday. Readings during ordinary time focus less on the life of
Jesus and more on the application of the Christian faith to the life
of the Church and her members.

Isaiah 62:1-5:
The closing chapters of Isaiah deal with the glory and victory of the
Lord on behalf of his people. Those that have suffered from his
chastisement will be restored. There is uncertainty among scholars
whether the speaker in these verses is the prophet Isaiah or the
voice of the Lord himself. Either way, the words impart the surety
and promise of God. What the Lord will do for his chosen city &
people will be noticed by all the earth and all the rulers of the
earth (v.2). The names that are given to Jerusalem here are actual
proper names – Hephzibah was the mother of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1);
Azubah (which is translated most often as Desolate or Forgotten or
Forsaken) was the mother of Jehosophat (1 Kings 22:42). Beulah is
the Hebrew word for married. Overall the passage emphasizes
the blessings and gifts of God to his people.

Psalm 128: This
is one of the Songs of Ascent that are believed to have been recited
by pilgrims en route to Jerusalem. It is a Psalm of promise, laying
out the promises of God to those who obey him. Note the nature of
the promises – they should bring to mind the opening chapter of
Genesis (1:28). God’s two-fold directive to Adam and Eve is to be
fruitful and multiply, and to subdue the earth. These are the very
blessings that this Psalm describes, leading us to see this Psalm as
ultimately describing a time when the effects of the curse in Genesis
3 no longer hold sway. It is also reasonable to read this as a
promise to God’s people here and now, preceding the return of Christ.
While some might be inclined to argue that these promises are not
always fulfilled to every faithful follower of God’s will (since not
every Christian couple is blessed with children of their own), the
fact remains that such blessings, when they are received, are always
received from God. The Psalm wishes this upon the faithful
hearer/reciter, and it is a prayer certainly appropriate for all
God’s children at all times and places.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11:
This passage is instructive to Christian communities regarding the
nature of spiritual gifts. If we see in the Old Testament reading
and the Psalm a promise of the gifts of God, that theme continues
here. We are not to be ignorant about either the reality of
spiritual gifts nor about how they are intended. Paul begins by
explaining that the ability to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God is
a gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore those who exercise power and
make this confession of faith can be trusted in what they do at that
moment. He then begins teaching – while the gifts may differ, the
source and giver of those gifts is the same. Christian community
should not be expecting or insisting upon the uniformity of spiritual
gifts. We are rather to expect that they will look and act
differently, yet all are to be recognized and respected as gifts of
the Holy Spirit.

However, we need to remember that
spiritual gifts are not given for personal enrichment or
glorification, but rather for the common good. Which means they are
to be used, not hidden! They are given because the people of God in
a given place need them! Paul then lists a variety of different
types of spiritual gifts. He does not state that this is an
exhaustive list, so it is best to see these as at least some
forms of spiritual gifts. The important thing is less the type of
gift, and more the proper recognition of the source of the gift –
God the Holy Spirit – and the purpose of the gift – for the
common good.

John 2:1-11:
Understanding the gifts of God takes on an interesting aspect in
this, Jesus’ first miracle. This miracle is very interesting. It is
not a miracle to relieve suffering, to cure sickness or disease, to
raise the dead, to cast our an evil spirit, to feed the hungry, or
any of the other types of miracles we commonly think of with Jesus.
There is no greater need than the fact that the wine has run out.
While there were certainly embarrassing social repercussions for
failing to plan adequately for enough wine, it hardly seems like the
kind of need that would justify divine intervention!

Yet here is Jesus, providing wine for a
feast. Wine for people who probably have already had a fair bit to
drink (v.10). Yet even in this simple miracle, the glory of Jesus is
revealed (v.11). What lesson is to be drawn from all of this?
Particularly in light of readings that prompt us to consider the
gifts of God? Perhaps this – that the gifts of God are from a good
and loving God to his beloved creation. God is concerned not just
with our needs in dire situations, but ultimately with our joy –
joy in the presence and care of our God much as Adam and Eve must
have rejoiced in the nearness of their God prior to eating the
forbidden fruit.

We are often inclined to treat our
petitions to God as sort of worst-case scenario stuff. We are
reluctant to come to him with what we might consider less weighty or
worthwhile prayers. While there is certainly an argument to be made
for discretion and discernment in this, we must never forget that our
God intends our final, ultimate, and complete joy. That does not
mean constant merriment here and now, but this miracle serves to
remind us (perhaps) that our destiny as sons and daughters of God
through faith in Jesus Christ is true and lasting joy that can only
be found in right relationship to the creator God who deemed all
things good at the beginning of creation, and will settle for nothing
less than the full restoration of goodness in Jesus Christ.

Cold Cases in a Hot Land

January 17, 2013

Regardless of your particular point of view regarding immigration policy in the United States, this is a fascinating article.  

I think I empathize a great deal with how the article concludes.  If your options are watching your family starve to death at home, or breaking the law in order to try and save them, there aren’t many of us who will remain law-abiding for long.  Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem.  Any problems, actually.  But it’s good to remember that amidst the debates, there are real human beings who are risking their lives.  I am glad someone is taking the time and effort to try and let their families know when the person didn’t survive the journey.

Doping

January 15, 2013

There is a buzz about Lance Armstrong’s predicted admission of doping.  In other words, for years and years, while he won praise and accolades, he was illegally utilizing performance enhancing drugs to give him a competitive edge.  He has denied such allegations from the start, even as he continued them.  He was stripped of his wins retroactively last year, yet maintained his innocence.  

Two different perspectives on this.  The first is an article in the Wall Street Journal.  The implications of this article are troubling.  The article spends the most time regarding one of Armstrong’s motivations for coming clean (so to speak) – he wants to compete again, this time in tri-athalons.  The article hints at monetary problems.  How prominent either of these things actually is as a motivation for Armstrong isn’t clear even in this article, but the article spends some time talking about them rather than other possible motivations.  If there is a moral guilt, a recognition of wrongdoing, the article downplays it.  I suppose we’ll know more when his interview with Oprah is aired.
A Christian perspective on this can be found in this blog, which a colleague on Facebook shared today.  
The blog does a good job at reminding us that we all fall short of God’s expectations.  What it can easily sound like it’s doing though, is thereby reducing the devastation of sin.  If we all sin, but some of us get caught at it and others don’t, it might be easy to begin taking an easy view of sin.  This is just how we are and a loving God understands that.  He sent Jesus to save me.  Why stress?
I know this wasn’t the author’s intent, but it was my own (sinful) spin off of it.  What I find more telling is that I am angered by Armstrong’s selfishness even in admitting to his crimes.  I want to say that this makes him worse – I want to justify the kind of comparison that the blog author rightfully points out as being no good to a Christian.
What I need to recognize is that each Christian has sins that they may not be aware of, but more accurately are aware of and really have no intention of letting go of.  We talk about confession in general terms, but we know even as we confess that we will sin again in certain ways because we want to.  This is deadly stuff.  

Making Progress

January 15, 2013

Thanks to Lois for this article about a recent development in euthanasia practice in Belgium.  

For me the most chilling part of the article was the last paragraph, where it was noted that lawmakers are considering extending the right of euthanasia to patients of dementia as well as children.  In other words, the law that now requires that the person being killed be in their right mind and legally recognized as able to make (at least in theory) a rational choice could be basically thrown out.  This would allow other people to decide when someone else ought to die.  
Why should this make you nervous?  Once other people are deciding that you should die, who controls the criteria as to what would warrant such a decision being made?  What if the child doesn’t want to die?  Would the law still protect the parents’ right to euthanize the child?  How strong does dementia need to be before someone else could decide that you shouldn’t be alive any longer?
Ultimately, this serves to increasingly narrow our definition of what it means to be human, what it means to deserve to live regardless of your condition.  Yes, it’s Belgium now.  But it could be Oregon tomorrow.  

Friday Fragments – January 11, 2013

January 11, 2013
  • McDonalds in Great Britain will be distributing books rather than toys in Happy Meals.  15 million books, to be precise.  It would seem that this is being paid for in part by a government grant, thus making the issue more appealing to McDonalds, I presume.  Books are probably considerably more expensive to give out than the cheap plastic toys traditionally associated with Happy Meals.  I wonder if our government would consider such a program here?  Or better yet, some philanthropic individual or organization?
  • Another controversy regarding the role of religion in America.  The pastor who had previously been scheduled to offer the invocation for the inauguration of President Obama’s second term has withdrawn himself from the honor.  At issue is a sermon he preached 20 years ago or so against homosexuality.  Given the President’s stated support of same-sex marriage, and the deafening roar for the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle, the pastor understood the controversy his presence at the inauguration would cause.  Understandably, conservatives are outraged by this turn of events.  I’ll say first off that the Rev. Giglio seems to have made a wise decision.  He’s decided that this isn’t a fight that he wants to get involved in.  If that is truly his rational, I support his decision.  I disagree completely with those who claim that his presence would have been divisive – his presence would have been made divisive by those opposed to the Biblical stance on homosexuality.  It is ironic that those who demand unity and inclusiveness are insisting on just the opposite.  Only those who agree with them are deemed worthy of being included.  Predictable?  Youbetcha.  What I disagree with is the way Rev. Giglio seems to distance himself from his message.  He is being cast as being intolerant, and his response is not to dismiss this claim, but rather to distance himself from the sermon he preached.  What we need is for Christian ministers to be willing to stand by what the Word of God says.  No, I don’t believe that the Biblical teaching on homosexuality should be the front and center message of the Church.  But it is a part of the Church’s message.  We need to be willing and able to insist that it is possible both to love homosexuals and to oppose homosexuality – a message that, based on the brief description in the one article, Rev. Giglio seems to have conveyed very well.  He needs to continue conveying it now – even if stepping down from giving the invocation is a wise thing to do.
  • I think this is a very thought-provoking blog on the definition of care.  How do we care for others?  Is it a matter of things that we do for them – actions that we engage in?  Or is there an emotional aspect to it, regardless of what we do or don’t do?  Important things to think about in our increasingly technologized culture.  

Friday Fragments – January 11, 2013

January 11, 2013
  • McDonalds in Great Britain will be distributing books rather than toys in Happy Meals.  15 million books, to be precise.  It would seem that this is being paid for in part by a government grant, thus making the issue more appealing to McDonalds, I presume.  Books are probably considerably more expensive to give out than the cheap plastic toys traditionally associated with Happy Meals.  I wonder if our government would consider such a program here?  Or better yet, some philanthropic individual or organization?
  • Another controversy regarding the role of religion in America.  The pastor who had previously been scheduled to offer the invocation for the inauguration of President Obama’s second term has withdrawn himself from the honor.  At issue is a sermon he preached 20 years ago or so against homosexuality.  Given the President’s stated support of same-sex marriage, and the deafening roar for the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle, the pastor understood the controversy his presence at the inauguration would cause.  Understandably, conservatives are outraged by this turn of events.  I’ll say first off that the Rev. Giglio seems to have made a wise decision.  He’s decided that this isn’t a fight that he wants to get involved in.  If that is truly his rational, I support his decision.  I disagree completely with those who claim that his presence would have been divisive – his presence would have been made divisive by those opposed to the Biblical stance on homosexuality.  It is ironic that those who demand unity and inclusiveness are insisting on just the opposite.  Only those who agree with them are deemed worthy of being included.  Predictable?  Youbetcha.  What I disagree with is the way Rev. Giglio seems to distance himself from his message.  He is being cast as being intolerant, and his response is not to dismiss this claim, but rather to distance himself from the sermon he preached.  What we need is for Christian ministers to be willing to stand by what the Word of God says.  No, I don’t believe that the Biblical teaching on homosexuality should be the front and center message of the Church.  But it is a part of the Church’s message.  We need to be willing and able to insist that it is possible both to love homosexuals and to oppose homosexuality – a message that, based on the brief description in the one article, Rev. Giglio seems to have conveyed very well.  He needs to continue conveying it now – even if stepping down from giving the invocation is a wise thing to do.
  • I think this is a very thought-provoking blog on the definition of care.  How do we care for others?  Is it a matter of things that we do for them – actions that we engage in?  Or is there an emotional aspect to it, regardless of what we do or don’t do?  Important things to think about in our increasingly technologized culture.