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Monthly eBulletin – Teaching and Preaching in Sacred Community

This month we continue our discussion on Sacred Community as we discuss how, what, and why are we teaching when we preach? And, is there a difference between teaching and preaching? This was a fun and challenging topic. We hope you enjoy!

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A Little Self-Involved? Try Looking Outward!

The Gospel writer tells us that Nicodemus addressed Jesus with respect: “Rabbi” he said, “Teacher.” Then Nicodemus discloses his own heart, when he says, “We know you are a teacher come from God, for no one can perform the signs and wonders that you do, unless by the power of God.” Nicodemus heaps upon Jesus the kind of praise that many the Pharisee would have coveted for himself. Could Nicodemus have come under cover of darkness because he too wanted to be just like Jesus; a wonderful teacher capable of great things? Jesus, just like many the wise teacher before him and since him, delivers the blow that teachers all too often must deliver to their ardent admirers, Jesus pushes Nicodemus beyond his child-like ardor, to a vision of a life that is totally transformed. “The truth of the matter is, unless one is born from above, one cannot see the kindom of God.”

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What are we Teaching?

I sincerely believe one of the failures of the mainline churches is not taking religious education seriously for over a century. It is true that today more churches are taking advantage of excellent educational products provided by organizations like Living the Questions, publications and lectures by the Jesus Seminar and Westar and our own PC.org website and publications. Unfortunately they are probably too little, too late. Since most of these resources tend to focus on the deconstruction of the old Christian story, they are little more than a confirmation of what aging members of our congregations have suspected for decades. This new information may be interesting for them, but their children—and now grandchildren—who have never been committed to a community do not get it.

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Preaching

Preaching is a unique form of expression, probably more like a spoken op ed column than anything else. You get to speak, uninterrupted, for usually ten to twenty minutes, and it is your job to bring ancient scriptures alive in all their veiled, puzzling and even sometimes obnoxious voices. In the Episcopal and many other Christian denominations, there is a lectionary or schedule of selected Bible readings in a three year cycle. Each Sunday has its suggested texts, and you are to connect these readings with your own life and that of your hearers in a way that matters. A preacher must always face the “So what?” question about her work – why do people need to hear this? And finally, a sermon is supposed to be “good news” or Gospel in Christian terms. Underneath all that, at its best, our preaching should tell the truth about the way life really is, and where we all get caught, and how and why we need saving help. The task is daunting, and I love its fierce demands.

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Theology From Exile Volume III: The Year of Mark

The political, social, spiritual, and economic history of most of the Western world has been defined by the belief articulated in the literal application of John’s gospel to personal and social piety. If Christianity is to survive with any relevance to postmodern, twenty-first century realities, the theology of condemnation and substitutionary atonement associated with the fourth gospel has to be scrapped. Not only is the future of Christianity at stake. This theology threatens the further evolution of human consciousness, and life as humanity has known it thus far on Planet Earth.

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The Jewish Annotated New Testament

Amy-Jill Levine

Although major New Testament figures–Jesus and Paul, Peter and James, Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdalene–were Jews, living in a culture steeped in Jewish history, beliefs, and practices, there has never been an edition of the New Testament that addresses its Jewish background and the culture from which it grew–until now. In The Jewish Annotated New Testament, eminent experts under the general editorship of Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler put these writings back into the context of their original authors and audiences. And they explain how these writings have affected the relations of Jews and Christians over the past two thousand years.

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Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi

The renowned biblical scholar, author of The Misunderstood Jew, and general editor forThe Jewish Annotated New Testament interweaves history and spiritual analysis to explore Jesus’ most popular teaching parables, exposing their misinterpretations and making them lively and relevant for modern readers.

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The Advance of Love: Reading the Bible with an Evolutionary Heart

Through the lens of evolutionary Christianity, Sanguin works through moral, spiritual, and scientific issues raised in Mad Men, the writings of Richard Dawkins, tales from the Bible, and other stories that inform our views of the world. Sanguin’s reflections will revitalize your faith and leave you celebrating that you don’t need to sacrifice a rational, evidence-based worldview to be a person of faith in the twenty-first century.

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Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening Paperback

Diana Butler Bass, one of contemporary Christianity’s leading trend-spotters, exposes how the failings of the church today are giving rise to a new “spiritual but not religious” movement. Using evidence from the latest national polls and from her own cutting-edge research, Bass, the visionary author of A People’s History of Christianity, continues the conversation began in books like Brian D. McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity and Harvey Cox’s The Future of Faith, examining the connections—and the divisions—between theology, practice, and community that Christians experience today. Bass’s clearly worded, powerful, and probing Christianity After Religion is required reading for anyone invested in the future of Christianity.

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An aging maverick, Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has no regrets

At 82, retired and enjoying life, Bishop John Shelby Spong doesn’t have to be the liberal enfant terrible whose pronouncements for gay rights and against traditional dogmas once scandalized Christendom.

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