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The Belief Confusion

Probably few questions have led to more argument and more pain in modern religious life than the question, “Do you believe?” Today the question usually implies acceding to certain intellectual propositions. The tragedy is that the question is usually misapplied if we look closely at how certain concepts were used in our sacred texts.

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The Tie that Binds

The questions before us in this e-bulletin are two: How important are beliefs in an evolving faith? and, Does community need to agree on belief? More generally, the issues pertain to the tie that binds community and the experience that underlies that tie.

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Belief

I’ve been reading another smart and literate atheist arguing the absurdity of belief in God. Someone asked me once if I was threatened by the recent self-assertiveness of atheists and, surprisingly, I could offer a confident “no.” The fact is that I am heartened by the resurgence of atheism because I agree with almost all of it. The kind of shallow, or at least, immature systems of belief that atheism attacks, should be debunked and I feel like I play my own part in debunking them from the pulpit most Sunday mornings. But the arguments of the atheists never get to the real point or even address the heart of real faith.

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What Matters Most…Thoughts About God

Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary for an Emerging Christianity (Volume 2)

I grew up long before computers showed us how they could handle millions of requests all at once. So in college I began to have serious questions whenever our preacher asked everyone to bow their heads and say a silent prayer to God. And our preachers back in the 50’s and 60’s did that a lot. How could God hear all those prayers being offered up at the same time? There were several hundred at our church and many more throughout Tupelo who were in church from 11 until noon on Sunday, plus in our state and country and around the world. Lots of prayers were being offered up all at once, so how did God sort them all out.

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How Important are our Beliefs?

It’s interesting to see what Jesus thought about beliefs. Jesus, in his parable of the Good Samaritan, makes it clear that the righteous one is not the Pharisee or the lawyer, who are learned and who know about the law, correct belief, or so on. The righteous one is the one who cares for his neighbor, who reaches out to the stranger in need.

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I Corinthians 13 – A Paraphrase

For love is long-suffering and abounds in kindness. It is not arrogant or boastful. Love does not behave rudely. Neither self-serving nor quick to take offence, love never thinks the worst.

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From Belief to Faith

Belief is something you hold because you presume you have some facts. You believe in them. When I was in college studying chemistry, there was a chart up on the wall that had all of the components that make up matter. You could count them and some people actually memorized them. Those components were treated as facts and if you wanted to get a good grade you better believe that they were facts.

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Along the Way

The Right Moral Way has not changed over time and remains psychologically sound. In a “Psychology Today” article entitled ‘The (Only) Seven Spiritual Principles We Need to Succeed’, Karl Albrecht reveals traditional key values for moral living that are still crucial in contemporary times.

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Adiaphora

Two perspectives are changing recently among progressive Christians that dilute the concentration on “getting to heaven,” the most common definition of “salvation.” First, fewer people still believe in hell, that is, that an all-loving God would condemn anyone to eternal suffering and separation from God. (It is curious that the belief in heaven persists even among many who don’t really believe in hell.) A more important change in thought is that God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ is all-inclusive, meant for everyone, whether or not heaven or an afterlife of any sort exists. Diminishing is the view that there will be a sorting-out process depending upon each person’s “right beliefs.”

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Belief that Brings Life

To believe, or give assent to, a fixed set of beliefs, such as, “I believe in God the father almighty….,” or the inerrency of the Bible is to cut off the possibility of growth. If you have all the answers you are not open to new thoughts or questions. Communicating with a fundamentalist is very difficult, and we are all fundamentalist in a variety of ways. But Leonard Cohen reminds us that “there is a crack in everything, that’s where the light comes in.”

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Easter Essay: Believe the Story or Trust the Promise?

Easter calls attention to the traditional, fundamental “beliefs” associated with the Christian religion – if only for a day. The secular world pays little attention to the nuances of Christian “faith” in a post-Christian world. Easter is a liturgical season that lasts for seven weeks. In Christian tradition, the time between the resurrection of Jesus and his “ascension” into the sky (Pentecost) replaces the time between the Jewish Feast of the Passover and the giving of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Not only do most Christians concentrate on the resurrection story – often literally. Editorial writers for supposedly sophisticated secular media seem to feel obligated to attempt to find meaning in the traditional religious legend of a dead man walking out of his tomb. But “faith” does not mean “belief.” “Faith” means “trust.” “Faith” further means “confidence.”

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Beyond Belief: Spiritual Practice as the Focus of Christian Community

Dogma and doctrine should not get in the way of practicing Love, who is God. Doctrines can be interesting: they help us understand the origins and background of our religion. But repeating creeds is not the price of admission into Christianity. Instead of caring whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a fact or a myth, let’s look in the story for inspiration to turn from the way of death to the way of life. Let’s care about our neighbors without jobs or health insurance, face the resentment in our hearts that needs to be released, become activist citizens, and learn to bring our careers in alignment with our highest values. Let’s gather in churches, soup kitchens, work-places, living rooms, and cafés to support each other in doing things that matter, and let go of old doctrines that don’t.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – The Holy Spirit

The phrase “God-with-us” is normally ascribed to Jesus, but I like the phrase as a description of God’s spirit. In 1600 CE, Socinianism defined the spirit as “energy flowing from God to man.” I agree with that definition; God’s spirit is a power or an influence.

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What Does Easter Mean? (Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18)

The power of life that raised Jesus is accessible and available to all people, even those who have not heard of Jesus. The risen Christ, the cosmic Christ who is Lord of all can take many forms and answer to many names. Our text says that God shows no partiality, that anyone who fears God, and that does not mean to be afraid of God, but anyone who respects and honors God, and anyone who does what is right, anyone who does what is just and good and compassionate shares in the life of the risen Christ.

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Scapegoats and Lightning Rods (Matthew 27:27-44)

The image of a scapegoat recalls a ritual performed by ancient Israel on their holiest day of the year—Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. A goat was chosen by means of casting lots. Actually there were two goats chosen, one was killed as a sin offering to make atonement for the holy place, the other was allowed to live to make atonement for the sins of the people.

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Topics: Worship & Liturgy. 8 Points: Point 8: Compassion and Selfless Love. Seasons & Special Events: Advent, Holy Week, and Lent. Ages: Adult. Texts: Matthew. Rituals: Communion. Resource Types: Sermons.

“I Am…” – A Reflection for Holy Week

Being a child of God – for Jesus and for the rest of us – is a poetic way of describing our direct, personal engagement with Ultimate Reality. It is an artful expression of ourselves as physically integrated with the divine essence of the cosmos. Being the son or daughter of God does not mean that any of us can leap off the cross in a single bound.

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Faithful Action for Border Justice

In the afternoon we went to Tucson’s US Federal Court to witness Operation Streamline. About 70 migrant in chains, wearing the same sweaty clothes in which they were caught crossing, sat in the upper level of the courtroom, waiting to be tried for the crime of illegal entry into the United States. This proceeding happens in several border cities as a way to criminalize them in an attempt to deter them from entering the US immediately after being deported. “Culpable… culpable… culpable…” they said, pleading guilty, and then walking out in chains to be jailed and then deported. Students from around the country, also doing spring break border justice programs, were in the courtroom with us – many of them in tears as they witnessed the silent parade of misery before them.

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