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A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better

“Bessler makes an innovative argument about the question of the historical Jesus and he makes it well. He challenges my own skepticism about the historical Jesus, awaking me from my skeptical slumbers.” — Clark Williamson, Christian Theological Seminary emeritus

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Progressive Christianity Forum – An Update on a Community Building Experiment

Last month I wrote at some length about a series of gatherings my husband and I are hosting called Progressive Christianity Forums. We launched the first one on February 18, and our second session was last night, March 18. So far, we are extremely pleased with this experiment.

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Practicing Community

Some of the articles in last month’s exploration of sacred community lamented the difficulty in creating a community where one is supported and valued for who one is, where one can be vulnerable and real. Some had encountered such communities, usually when a group faced real issues together over a period of time. Usually the creation of such a community seemed just to happen. It was not planned. It raises the question of what, if anything, spiritual communities and groups can do to break down barriers between individuals and provide a place where participants can create a closer connection.

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Ten Ways EVERY Church Pastor and Youth Worker Should Use Social Media

Every church pastor, and youth worker, should be using Social Media. Every church should also have an online strategy, but church strategies need to be bigger than their pastors. Pastors come and go, and for this reason, I’m a big advocate for pastors to have their own independent online presence. While pastors are in particular churches, their presence will inevitably direct traffic back to the church, but beyond that pastors will develop a non-local online tribe who will support them no matter where they are.

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Spiritual Stretching

Progressive Christians like to stretch our minds. That means we can stay in our heads way too much. That’s preferable to not going there at all. As they say, many people are lost in thought because it’s such unfamiliar territory.

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Call to Worship for a Sacred Community

Welcome! One thing is for certain. We are all welcome. This is the Jesus way. He called people to him; he asked people to come to him; he welcomed them; he got cranky with his disciples when they tried to prevent anyone, anyone at all coming to him. He ate with outcasts, those despised; he befriended tax collectors, those regarded as thieves; he encouraged children, usually ignored in adult community, to sit on his knees; he had meals with the elite and the riffraff; he conversed publicly with women although that was taboo; unlike the religious leaders of his day, he sought the company of all kinds and types of people, to affirm them, to challenge them, to call them to an abundant way of life. So we are all welcome. This is the Jesus way.

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“Let me make this perfectly CLEAR … “

CLEAR is what I want to feel and be when it comes to something that means as much to me as FAITH. I want to be at peace with what I believe and choose to say and do, with regard to my way of living in faith. I want to own it whole-heartedly. I don’t want to apologize or make excuses for beliefs that don’t make sense, saying things like, “You just have to take that in faith. Someday it will make sense to me, even if it doesn’t now. God’s ways are not our ways.” With Clear Faith, I am at peace.

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Thesis for a New Reformation

The traditional Christian church with its traditional message and image is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It happened in Europe a long time ago, and is happening now in the US. More and more people who try to do good identify themselves as secular humanists rather than Christians. More and more Christians identify themselves as progressives for whom the traditional gospel story is meaningless. It really is time to rethink and reform how we understand both church and world.

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Redeeming the Bones: A Ritual of Participation

The dry bones raised by Ezekiel are a metaphor for those who died in the service of God’s justice: those who died working to restore God’s distributive justice-compassion to God’s Earth, and who themselves never saw the transformation. The army of dry bones is an army exiled from justice. Fairness demands that if Jesus was resurrected into an Earth transformed into God’s realm of justice-compassion, then all the other martyrs who died too soon should also be raised with him. “But in fact,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” It is the Christ – the transformed and transfigured post-Easter Jesus – who has started that general resurrection, which restores justice-compassion to a transformed Earth. The transformation has begun with Jesus, and continues with you and me – IF we sign on to the program.

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Lenten Prayer

In ancient times a woman from the streets of Bethany, emboldened by faith and gratitude, came into Jesus’ presence carrying a jar of fragrant nard.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Church Music

The lyrics of the hymns and praise and worship songs of the church are, outside of the Bible, the way most people establish their belief system, which is reflected in the way they think about and live their faith. The lyrics may be good or bad, perceptive or trite, and may or may not teach sound theological concepts. Christians should carefully consider what they are singing because it shapes their theological perspective whether they realize it or not.

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A Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek

“A clear and intelligent presentation displaying a linguist’s understanding without the linguist’s jargon. Our online Biblical Greek Forum treasures this work enough that its members have labored at digitizing it and making it available to the scholarly community. We are delighted to see it back in print.” —Carl Conrad, Washington University emeritus

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The Once and Future Scriptures: Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church

“This collection of essays by Brisbane Anglican scholars, pastors and teachers . . . leads us deeper into both our treasured heritage and the future which God s Word is still creating. We are indebted to them.” —Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane, Anglican Church of Australia

“… a courageous and thoughtful attempt to meet the need for ever-new and ever-fresh encounters with the biblical text.” —Focus

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – The Bible

We need to acknowledge that the final week in Jesus’ life is a blending of separate biblical accounts. In other words, the story grows and develops as each successive gospel writer imaginatively retold the story. There may be some historical memory in their stories, but the details are not historical.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Passion Week (or Holy Week)

We need to acknowledge that the final week in Jesus’ life is a blending of separate biblical accounts. In other words, the story grows and develops as each successive gospel writer imaginatively retold the story. There may be some historical memory in their stories, but the details are not historical.

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Jesus: The Ethical Teachings of a Social Deviant

Series on the Teachings of a Galilean Sage: The Sermon on the Mount, PART II

The social world order seems to erupt in chaos and violence on a regular basis these days. Regimes hold on to political power at all costs, while those who are more often than not economically oppressed demonstrate and confront government forces with little more than their willingness to stand in opposition.

If this all sounds like pure political commentary, consider this: The socio-political landscape in first century Palestine, CE, wasn’t much different. The practical means by which the imbalance of power was wielded by some over others may have been rather primitive by today’s technological standards; but the end game was the same.

The itinerant Jewish peasant teacher and sage who would long be remembered as uttering such impractical non-sense as “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy,” was the same historical figure that was executed as an insurrectionist, not a “resurrectionist.” As I’ve put it bluntly elsewhere, Jesus didn’t die for our sins, but because of them.

But the historical Jesus’s message deviated so radically from the “you have heard it said, but I say to you” literary device employed that it constituted a world view that did not simply turn everything upside down; but attempted to right what becomes a distorted “default” assumption of human nature that too easily concedes it is only human instinct to regard ourselves as prejudicial and self-centered creeps.

Jesus’ teachings to “turn the other cheek” and “love one’s enemies” is an invitation to an inward journey of the self; and a call to reclaim our true huma n nature.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – the Resurrection

We need to subject the resurrection stories of the New Testament to the same critical analysis as we did the crucifixion. So let us examine Paul’s writings and the gospels in an attempt to discover what the event we call Easter really was.

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