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Ritual – It’s in our DNA

Only recently I have come to realize that these were familiar and comfortable rituals, even if the words no longer had the same meaning for many of the attendees. These were rituals most of these folks in attendance had been repeating for decades. They were probably not paying attention to words or their meanings. But they were participating in something that brought them together with their church family or their denominational home. They were experiencing oneness, a connection of body and soul with the people who surrounded them. That is what rituals are supposed to do.

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Life Celebrations: New Language

Most Christians, however, have a different take on the monistic approach, and believe that a divine presence inheres in all that is. God is. And God is everywhere, although hidden except to the eyes of faith. As progressive Christians, this is where we must take our stand. The sacred and the secular co-inhere. The one is in the other. With this as our basis, the questions now become: what language do we use? to whom are we speaking? do we speak directly of God? Let’s assume that we are at a ceremony of some sort, perhaps a wedding, a Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas day gathering, a funeral. Let us also suppose that the crowd is mixed: some Christians, some Jews, some secularists. Is there a language that not only will not alienate anyone but will also communicate to them the depth of the moment? I believe there is.

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Our New Cathedral

What is the economic value, say, of Wells Cathedral? Or Notre Dame Cathedral? Or National Cathedral? They not only help us understand our humble place in the cosmos, but the grandness and abundance of that universe.

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What is in the Crystal Ball?

Traditional churches have resisted the substantive change necessary to remain relevant in the modern world. There is a huge chasm between the higher biblical criticism and liberation theology of most seminaries and what is actually proclaimed from the pulpits of American churches. This is true, in large part because ministers are afraid of losing their jobs and parishioners want to hold onto the magical thinking that has helped them to cope with the vicissitudes of life.

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Bringing Words to Life

As public speakers, you can reverse this history and bring life back to language. You can breathe vitality into words and send them forth to change the world. With the spoken word you can reach into the souls of other people and stir them to new visions and actions.

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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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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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Teaching and Preaching in the Koinonia Family of Friends

“Preaching” is a word much maligned in our culture- and justifiably so. It has the connotation of forcibly communicating the truth to others who are sinful or at least ignorant. How many times have we heard preachers rant and rave about how they have the answer and you don’t?! On the other hand, if we use the word with a tone that is confessional rather than dogmatic, preaching can be as enlightening as teaching. Often in gatherings the word used to describe the monologue is reflection, or meditation. The person delivering the message is not a preacher, but a speaker. Often there is the opportunity at the end of the gathering for others to engage in dialogue with the speaker. It is a time when one person can basically say: This is how I see it. What do you think? It is a laying bare of personal faith as well as a word to others asking them what they believe. It is a confession of trust that can enable the hearer to find comfort and consolation in face of adversity.

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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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Preaching with Heart, Mind, and Spirit

Preaching is, first of all, an act of the heart. In the biblical tradition, the heart is center of experience and decision-making. It embraces the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. It is embodied and incarnational as well as intellectual. Good preaching moves the preacher and congregation alike. The pastor dances with the text through his or her bodily movements as well as lively ideas. The goal of the sermon is not to provide a final destination, but as philosopher Alfred North Whitehead says, to invite congregants to be part of an “adventure of the spirit.”

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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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Why Atheists and Religions are Wrong

For the Oxford Philosophical Society 2014 Review

I shall argue in this essay that without the mind’s faculty of imagination there would be no philosophy, no art, no music, no mathematics, no science, no religions, and no freedom of choice; that the attempts of religions to limit its expression to habits of identity, aided by the atheistic belief, now common in secular societies, that it must be applied only to material discovery, is the cause of their conflict and religious terrorism; that the crisis in modern education is similarly caused and may be similarly resolved; that the natural function of this faculty is to find manifold ways for minds to communicate, as is demonstrated by its manifestations, as described above; finally, that it is not limited to human minds, for the history of philosophy, which is also the history of humankind, would not be as it is if this were true.

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