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.read more
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.read more
The church sign can be easily read by anyone driving by: “You can’t be a devoted follower of Jesus unless you are part of a local church.” Does the church that posts this sign not trust the people with Jesus’s message? What is the meaning of “incarnation” if not “embodiment” by individual persons of the spirit of the Christ? Is the “Body of Christ” for members only?
The Apostle Paul created the metaphor of the “Body of Christ” as the community of followers. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, he explains the meaning of the ritually-shared meal: “The cup of God’s gracious benefits that we consecrate means that we are involved in the blood of the Anointed, doesn’t it? The bread that we break means that we are involved in the body of the Anointed, doesn’t it? That there is one loaf means that we who are many constitute one body, because we all partake of the one loaf.” In Romans 12:5 he says, “Just as each of us has one body with many parts that do not all have the same function, so although there are many of us, we are the Anointed’s body, interrelated with one another.”read more
Judas Iscariot, the anti-hero of the story of the crucifixion, has been heaped with scorn and ridicule over the centuries. “Judas” is not used as a child’s name because it became the synonym for betrayal, for being a back-stabber. In Christian art, he is portrayed in dark, sinister tones. Events in western Christian history from the Inquisition in the fourteenth century to the expulsion of the Jews from almost every country of Europe at one time or another, to Martin Luther’s call for the burning of synagogues, to the violence and killing frenzy of the Holocaust in the twentieth century are all rooted substantially in Judas and because he was a Jew, applied to all Jews. Even his name is identical with the name by which the entire Jewish nation was known… Judas is simply a Greek spelling of Judah.read more
Contrary to the custom of the period, Jesus accepted women among his followers. Although none of the women are ever identified as “disciples,” certain gospels passages indicate that some of them may have been equal to the disciples, particularly Mary Magdalene. Mark writes that women followed Jesus in Galilee and ministered to him (Mark 15:40-41). Like Mark, Matthew 17:55 refers to women who “followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.” Luke 8:1-3 mentions that Jesus and the disciples were accompanied by women and he specifically mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others, “who provided for them out of their own resources” (meaning that they must have had considerable wealth). Jesus’ death and the events accompanying it mention the presence of women and some of those women witnessed the crucifixion, Jesus’ burial and the discovery of the empty tomb. Pope Benedict XVI considered it an obvious fact that “many women were also chosen to number among the disciples.”read more
Most people assume that the Bible is filled with stories of supernatural happenings and miraculous interventions. The accounts of miracles in the Bible are generally limited to three cycles of stories: the Moses-Joshua cycle in the Torah, the Elijah-Elisha stories that are recorded between I Kings 17 and II Kings 13, and the Jesus-Disciples of Jesus stories that are found in the four gospels. There is an occasional supernatural tale in other parts of the Bible, but these are the only areas where they are concentrated. Our concentration is primarily on the miracles that are attributed to Jesus in the gospels.
The reported supernatural deeds performed by Jesus during his ministry can be categorized into four groups: cures, exorcisms, raising the dead, and nature control. Interestingly, each type of miracle that is attributed to Jesus in the gospels also occurred in the Moses-Joshua and Elijah-Elisha stories.
We know true joy when we experience the reality of God’s presence within. The word joy is used at Christmastime so often that it is almost synonymous with the season. When we have an inner awareness of the presence of God, we experience joy. When we celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate that living presence born on earth. Joyful day! God’s presence can be experienced in every moment of our lives when we become aware that the reality of God never changes; it is not dependent on circumstance or season.read more
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.read more
the full-text of the New Testament—and one of the only Bibles organized in chronological order and including explanatory annotations that give readers a more informed understanding of the Scriptureread more
God is all without being any thing, while being the all in every thing.read more
When we look at the entire story of Jesus, including his teachings as well as his life, it seems clear his path always presumed a spiritual death before one could experience new life or rebirth. His hodos required a death to the old before there could be a birthto a new way of seeing, a new way of understanding and experiencing life.read more
The recent mass murder of children in a Connecticut school has resulted in at least some redemption, in the form of the current effort by the President to introduce sensible gun laws. Banning assault weapons and imposing …read more
I try to carry God into all I do including parenting. This does not translate into threats or punishment about God watching but into teaching about kindness and love.read more
2) The Hebrew scriptures, or the Old Testament, represent a religious tradition that is independent of the later Christian faith. The Hebrew scriptures aren’t about Jesus, although the Christian scriptures include many references to the Hebrew scriptures. To honor the fundamental differences between the two sets of scriptures doubles the spiritual significance of the entire Bible.read more
I simply do not believe that at this point in time the distinctiveness of our different churches is more important than the values and common understandings of Scripture that unite us.read more
During the celebration of Christmas, familiar images are recalled in hymns and scripture about the birth of Jesus. In the popular mind, the appearance of herald angels, shepherds abiding in the fields, the star of Bethlehem, the virgin Mary giving birth in a stable, and the adoration of the Magi, have all been melded into one Christmas story. In reality, there are in the gospels, two distinct and at times contradictory stories of Jesus’ birth. A careful reading of the Bible itself reveals that so much about this celebrated birth is myth.read more
By: Gary Wiburn. Last week I spoke of our defining identity here at First Presbyterian as being four things: a Christ-Centered faith, a place of Creative Celebration, of Compassionate Caring, and Inclusive Community. These are some of the primary ways in which we understand ourselves as a Center for Progressive Christianity, which means nothing less than trying to embrace the essential teachings of Jesus.read more
In the Hellenistic world, writings were read aloud, heard and remembered. But modern exegesis assumes a silent text. The disjuncture between ancient…read more