The traditional Christian church with its traditional message and image is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It happened in Europe a long time ago, and is happening now in the US. More and more people who try to do good identify themselves as secular humanists rather than Christians. More and more Christians identify themselves as progressives for whom the traditional gospel story is meaningless. It really is time to rethink and reform how we understand both church and world.read more
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
It is our village, our community, where we experience the most challenges, growth, support, and evolution. Whether you are a part of a thriving sacred community or would like to create one, we hope these eBulletins support you in your community journey. We encourage you to draw together, even just a few friends, find a common spiritual path, and share ritual, breaking of bread, music, discussion, and support on this journey of life and death, birth and re-birth. And we are thankful that you are a part of our larger community!read more
The social world order seems to erupt in chaos and violence on a regular basis these days. Regimes hold on to political power at all costs, while those who are more often than not economically oppressed demonstrate and confront government forces with little more than their willingness to stand in opposition.
If this all sounds like pure political commentary, consider this: The socio-political landscape in first century Palestine, CE, wasn’t much different. The practical means by which the imbalance of power was wielded by some over others may have been rather primitive by today’s technological standards; but the end game was the same.
The itinerant Jewish peasant teacher and sage who would long be remembered as uttering such impractical non-sense as “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy,” was the same historical figure that was executed as an insurrectionist, not a “resurrectionist.” As I’ve put it bluntly elsewhere, Jesus didn’t die for our sins, but because of them.
But the historical Jesus’s message deviated so radically from the “you have heard it said, but I say to you” literary device employed that it constituted a world view that did not simply turn everything upside down; but attempted to right what becomes a distorted “default” assumption of human nature that too easily concedes it is only human instinct to regard ourselves as prejudicial and self-centered creeps.
Jesus’ teachings to “turn the other cheek” and “love one’s enemies” is an invitation to an inward journey of the self; and a call to reclaim our true huma n nature.read more
Biblical scholars generally consider those teachings attributed to Jesus in that part of Matthew’s gospel, commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, with the corollary being theSermon on the Plain, Luke 6), as likely comprising much of what can be considered most authentically and historically the real deal. But reaching back as close as we can to who the historical Jesus may have been is not the end of it. At the heart of it, a Jesus ethic itself has little concern with what you believe about the man, but what you do about the message.read more
The background material and the questions of this Study Guide were designed to stimulate conversation and to raise issues that might not otherwise come up. None of these materials are intended to make a final theological, Christological, or canonical argument. The last thing we would want to do is to tell anyone how he or she should believe or approach their faith. We simply offer this as a starting point to the conversation and we look forward to the continual evolution of our faith.read more
Last September, Fred Plumer, a minister in the United Church of Christ, gave the Fall SPAFER* Lectures. The topic of his lectures was “Progressive Christianity – What Is It?” While Plumer cited statistics indicating a wholesale decline in church membership throughout the Western World, the refreshing thing was that he came with no program to implement for jump-starting congregations. Instead of programs, he offered insights into a meaningful way of life based upon the teachings of Jesus.read more
We all belong. We are each one a part of the Temple of God. Paul wants the church at Corinth to recognize that they all belong to one another, and that it is foolish to divide and polarize around certain leaders. Paul argues that there is no place in the church for petty jealousies and pride.read more
In his highly readable Living the Quaker Way, Philip Gulley graciously welcomes the curious reader into the Quaker faith. His introductory chapter, “What is a Quaker?” is friendly, open, kind, unpretentious, and folksy. I read on expecting a primer on Quaker history, beliefs and practices and was not disappointed. But then I was startled by the change in tone. As he begins to work through the core values of the Quaker faith – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality – Gulley becomes eloquently and passionately critical of modern American life, criticism that I entirely agree with.read more
Let’s stop assuming that a collection of individuals constitutes community. It doesn’t. In fact, it usually makes for disaster, as evidenced by the number of conflict resolution experts who are making their living off congregational members who are at each other’s throats. It’s not the fault of congregational members. We need to be teaching what it means to be in community, and that includes practices that are going to make us fit for community. Most of us got our training for community life in dysfunctional families. The moment anything approximating intimacy breaks out in congregations most people simply re-enact largely the unexamined history of our family of origin.read more