The place I want to begin is on an evening in 1993, a November evening in Chicago, where I had been invited to the Muslim Community Center on the 4300 block of North Elston, to meet with local Islamic leaders to talk about the emerging interreligious movement in metropolitan Chicago. This came four months after the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, which was held in Chicago for eight days at the Palmer House Hilton. Eight thousand people from around the world, representing one hundred twenty-five different religious traditions, movements, denominations, and sects had gathered there. Growing out of that, the local religious communities of Chicago had said that they needed to continue to talk and work together. I had begun visiting these communities, and I was going to meet for the first time with the local Islamic leadership to talk about their participation.read more
I’m going to be talking about three things in my lecture this evening. First, I want to talk about Jewish views of Christianity, historically, but with primary consideration of the modern period. And then second, I want to talk about certain contemporary American Jewish problems – what I see as the problems in the American Jewish community because I want you to know about them. And I want you to help us with them. Then I’ll end with something about the state of Jewish-Christian dialog: how it should develop, what we need from you, and perhaps what we would like to tell you in return.read more
Jesus cured blindness repeatedly. What happened to Bartimaeus, therefore, is not unique — except perhaps in one detail. I say “perhaps” because I can find no other reference in the Gospels to blind people who, earlier in their lives, had been able to see. One man we know about from John’s record was born blind, but only in the case of Bartimaeus is it explicit that at an earlier time he had been among the “sighted”.”My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him. “Go; your faith has made you well.”read more
as i approached the doors to the chapel, i saw that the entire congregation had been given palm branches and had been instructed to stand in a large circle, as they sang this song from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and wave their branches. the pastor and pianist sang alternating lines of caiaphas the high priest and whatever other various and sundry dramatic roles there are in that scene from the broadway musical. i turned and went immediately into the bathroom in order to avoid walking into the middle of this show tune gone awry. i looked at my face in the mirror and thought, “i’m never coming back here again.” why was i mortified?read more
we have taken liberties with many things You have created
the air we breathe is contaminated
the water we drink is polluted
the soil that nurtures us with its products is poisoned
the food we eat is genetically modified
we even try to alter the life you have given us
we forget how precious life is to You.
Interestingly, at least to me, the answers are similar. The perpetuation of an idea, the spreading, the evangelism, is always something that puts us at risk, personally. We live in a tension of wanting to make sure our friends find out something important but not wanting to confuse them in case it is irrelevant to them or misleads them if we are later proven to be wrong. This is related to what I call “the liberal person’s burden,” the burden of never being 100% certain of your own rightness. But to live in community we must share ideas (otherwise why bother to call it a community) so we risk, we reach out, we tell. Sometimes we miss the mark, many times we hit it when we attempt with a certain humility.read more
In times like these where many of the faith feel that there is a crisis among us, when we feel that there is a transition, we talk about paradigm shifts. Where there is uncertainty, in times like these, I think we find born so often apocryphal narratives. They provide us instruction, insights, and at least intuitive truth. And they are usually based on forms and events of other narratives within the canon of traditions, whatever those traditions may be. As we gather here in the whirlwind of times of transitions and uncertainty, we hoping to come out of it living a vision.read more
Why we have creeds, doctrine. Do they help or hinder? Are there new ways to express old truths?
In P.D. James’ novel. ‘Death in Holy Orders’ there is a bluff business man, Sir Alred, who unexpectedly asks Inspector Dalgliesh about the Nicene Creed. We know just the sort of Christian Sir Alred is: a few paragraphs earlier he has said that he ‘shows his face in church from time to time’. Dalgliesh, a vicar’s son, searches his memory and tells him the Creed was formulated by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, and that the Emperor Constantine had called the Council ‘to settle the belief of the Church and to deal with the Arian heresy’.read more
Here in our own gathering, in this place, for the past two days, there is a growing sense of good will. There is a sense of wanting to be here, to remain here, feeling good about being here, at least good enough to not want to get on the next plane flying out in the next five minutes. A sense of participation and, to that extent, a sense of buying into what’s happening, or at least participating in it. On some level there’s a community that’s begun to gather. Here we are beginning a journey together. Whether the journey will continue beyond this point, or end we don’t know, but at least we begin together. It seems to me that underlying all of that is the sense of a desire for connection, connecting, rather than orbiting as little individuals scattered through lots of space.read more
I’m going to tell you a little about myself by way of introduction and how I happened to get into the work that I do – of working primarily with congregations and occasionally with other religious organizations around issues of human differences. For about 15 years, I was the rector of a church in Washington, D.C., an Episcopal church, and that church, when I went there in 1979, was a very – I would call it – monochromatic congregation. It was interesting. Everyone liked to talk about how much we valued our diversity, but there was none to be identified.read more
That frolicking dance didn’t last long. That frolicking is no way to win a game or to keep score and we had to get back at it again. So we stopped that dancing and frolicking all together and got busy again.
God kept trying to find us and to slow us down. God kept saying things like “Remember, remember the strangers. Remember the widows and orphans. Remember when you cut your fields to leave some at the edges, to leave some for the sojourner in your land.” That was no way to get ahead.read more
These journal entries were written while Ivor, a priest in the Church of England, was studying as a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School.read more
Sometimes I think of God as being like the life energy that is in everything, that joins us all together. God is in everything. God is also in me and in you. I can be in tune with this life energy or out of tune with it. For me as an individual it has a lot to do with being at one with my true self. You know how sometimes you feel at odds with yourself or you know you’re not really being true to yourself? Well, for me, that’s the same as being true to God or it can be. I need to try to live in harmony with God and, if I do, then I’ll live in harmony with my true self and with the world around me.read more
When we were given this topic, we were pretty confused as to what to discuss. Identity is part of sexuality and sexuality is part of identity — both are big topics. So Chris and Jim talked and faxed back in forth for a few days to help us focus. Jim told us that this topic was based on the concerns of those who felt that core parts of their identities, especially their gender or sexual orientation, had been devalued, denied or excluded within much of the Christian tradition. So rather than talk about gender roles, gay and lesbian issues, etc., we decided to talk about what we saw as the basic concern in all of this – belonging, i.e., can I belong in a community and have my identity and sexuality supported and upheld? In our brief comments, we hope to give you a few building blocks on which to focus further discussion.read more
At the end of the Cold War, the United States, for the first time in history, had the only remaining first-rate military capability left in the world. We had the mightiest Navy ever to roam the seas, a supreme Air Force, the ever-prepared Marines, and the world’s largest and most mobile land army, all of which were equipped with pinpoint missiles and atomic weapons of mass destruction. No nation would dare to challenge such an arsenal. That was the hope and the dream. From our vantage point 10 years later, one can only wonder what happened to that dream. Welcome to the world of terrorism and suicide bombers.read more
In the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. this Sunday has been designated “Evangelism Sunday,” so I’ll make evangelism the focus of this sermon. In another sermon about evangelism, I noted that that word has become an embarrassment for some Christians, because the public has come to associate evangelism with smooth talking T.V. and radio hucksters who present an intolerant and anti-intellectual version of Christianity. I’ve said before that mainstream Christians need to take back the word, “evangelism,” from fundamentalists who have tarnished it in the public’s eye. But, to take back the word, we must have a viable alternative, and that’s a big order. It’s a big order, because if we hope to succeed in presenting the good news of Jesus to modern people we cannot simply reiterate ancient phrases. Evangelism could be done that way in Christendom, but Christendom is passing away in America, and religious diversity is increasing. We cannot take it for granted anymore that John Doe knows the Bible, so “telling the old, old story about Jesus and his love” requires much more creative communication these days.read more