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Advent Prayer

We crouch with Mary on the straw of our messy lives
letting go of everything but this moment.

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You Who Delight Me – Poems of love & Words of spirit and faith

“you who delight me” is in two parts:
poems of love—secular and spirited writing about people, places and events; and
words of spirit and faith—inclusive language, contemporary liturgies for individual contemplation and progressive faith communities.

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Admissions and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Jesus’ Followers

The four gospels divide Jesus’ followers into three groups. The Greek word “ochloi” refers to the crowds who gathered when Jesus preached; “Mathetes” refers to the followers who stuck around for more teaching; and “Apostolos” refers to the disciples, those chosen by Jesus as his inner circle.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Mary and Joseph

What does the New Testament tell us about Mary? Mark, the earliest gospel, did not include a birth narrative, so his mentions of Mary are vague and not very flattering. He says Jesus’ family (the family isn’t specified; does he mean Mary and Joseph or Mary and Jesus’ brothers?) attempted to restrain him because people were claiming he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21). If Mary was present, it seems strange that other gospel verses say she was visited by an angel who told her that she would conceive a special child or to whom Luke says shepherds came in wonder to visit her newborn child or to whom Matthew says wise men journeyed to bring gifts to welcome her wondrous child’s birth.

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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

From the internationally bestselling author of No god but God comes a fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched biography that calls into question everything we thought we knew about Jesus of Nazareth. Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the “Kingdom of God.” The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal.

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The Isaiah Plan

If you’re an overweight fundamentalist Christian, the Daniel Plan is for you.  Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch, fit this plus-sized demographic until he came up with a new twist on his religion.  Basing his weight-loss …

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Thanks for Nothing

A Commentary for Thanksgiving in an Age of Anxiety

American retailers have essentially pre-announced that the annual Thanksgiving observance — when we presumably pause to gratefully remember everything we have — has been cancelled so bargain shoppers can get an even earlier jump-start on their holiday shopping for all the things we don’t have yet.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world a typhoon of record proportion hit landfall only a few weeks ago; nearly wiping an island nation off the face of the earth, and leaving those who survived with virtually nothing. Then last week an unseasonable swarm of twisters flattened whole towns across the Midwest. By comparison, it all makes the plight of those first pilgrims facing the harsh realities of their first Thanksgiving in a brave new world look like a walk in the park.

And, all the while, the airwaves and media have been filled with docu-dramas and documentaries commemorating the half-century mark of those events that shattered an age of relative innocence for those of us old enough to remember it; ushering in an age of extraordinary upheaval and anxiety, starting with what social critics and historians alike attribute to the assassination of JFK. Juxtaposed and taken together, these events represent a seeming un-reality that hasn’t really abated much in the last fifty years. We live in an age of anxiety.

Jesus masterfully taught in the philosophical tradition known as Jewish cynicism, with such parabolic tales and quaint-sounding imagery as the “lilies of the field.” And he did so at a time and age that – while seemingly ancient to our modern way of thinking – may not have been all that different from our own anxious age. Consider then our fretful, misbegotten ways, and the wild lilies of the fields.

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The Case for a New Christianity

This paper addresses recent discoveries of previously unknown Christian scriptures which predate the orthodox canonical gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Surprisingly, these earlier writings reveal a totally different kind of Christianity – one which could very well speak to the needs of the lost Christians of today.

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Admissions and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Jesus, Part 3

Was Jesus the Christ?
The application of the title “Christ” to Jesus most likely did not come until after Easter. If any of the disciples understood Jesus as the Christ before Easter, their recorded behavior in the gospels was nonsensical.
Where did the word Christ emerge? Christ is our English translation of the Greek word christos, which means “messiah,” “savior,” or “redeemer.” But Christos is an attempt to put the Hebrew word mashiach, which meant “God’s anointed one,” into Greek. In early Israel history the king was also called God’s anointed one.

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Admissions and Confessions of a Christian Layman – Jesus, Part 2

There have been some interesting attempts to discover the “historical” Jesus, but the only Jesus we really know is the one in the New Testament, and those writers were not interested in historical accuracy.

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Admissions and Confessions of a Christian Layman – Jesus, Part 1

When I was a child growing up in the church, I believed everything I heard about Jesus, whether from Sunday School class, the New Testament, the creeds, sermons, or hymns. I was taught that he was divine, the only-begotten Son, God in human flesh, the second person of the Trinity and he thought he was all these things. It never occurred to me that such a person could not be human. If Jesus had superhuman knowledge and power, he cannot be a model for ordinary humans.

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Holy Families, Outrageous Possibilities

How do you see the Holy Family? What do they look like? “Ordinary”?—what does that mean? Iconic? A nativity scene or an artist’s impression? Surrounded by shepherds and angels and animals, or isolated and on the run from Herod—or from dubious family members still unsure of Joseph’s wisdom in marrying Mary? Perhaps you see a pageant—a filmstrip of images one after the other, screening numerous family scenes and mythologies and narratives. Hold them in your mind’s eye…

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Framework of Christmas – first Sunday of Advent in Aotearoa

In Advent, we build the framework of Christmas
together we put up scaffolding
signalling something’s being renovated
something new is being created.

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Come, let us walk the road (Advent Call to Worship)

Come, let us walk the road that Mary walked
the challenging road
from Nazareth to Bethlehem
not knowing what the future holds.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Part Four – God continued

Taking a extraordinarily brief look at the God of the Hebrews as revealed in what we Christians call the Old Testament, God lived on the top of Mt. Sinai, and when the Israelites traveled very far from the mountain they thought they have to carry God with them. The smoke of the burning censer, symbolizing God’s presence, could be seen during the daylight hours as a cloud, and at night the smoke looked like a pillar of fire. That’s the only way the ancient Israelites were able to believe that they had not been left their God behind. Even when they enter “the promised land,” by invasion and slaughter, God remained a jealous, vindictive tyrant, punishing the children for their father’s sins and thinking nothing of turning a terrified woman into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26), ordering massacres (Joshua 8:26), having a helpless old man hacked in pieces (1 Samuel 15:33), or visiting the devoted Job with disease and pain until he longed for death (Job 2:7-10). That is not the God I believe in or would ever consider worthy of worship. Worthy of fear? Yes, definitely!

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Part Three – God

I believe in God. I’m afraid to add anything to that brief statement, because I don’t want to do God an injustice by limiting God with an inadequate definition. God is the most important ingredient in my credo. Belief in God is so central to my creed that I have wondered if I am a Deist, which Webster’s Dictionary defines as, “One who believes in the existence of a God or Supreme Being but denies revealed religion, basing his belief on the light of nature and reason.” If by “revealed religion” they mean hypocritical religion, misguided religion, deaf, dumb and blind religion, unthinking religion, religion of rules and laws rather than love, then I wholeheartedly agree. Conversely, if they mean a religion that allows people to, as John Wesley put it, “think and let think,” then I don’t agree. The part of the definition that does not fit me is “basing his belief on the light of nature and reason.”

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