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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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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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Four Yogas in the Life of Church

Sometimes issues need to be reframed, and it can often be helpful to look outside one’s own tradition for a framework. So for those who may be struggling with similar misunderstandings in their congregations, I offer the Four Yogas as a lens through which to see things differently.

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The Power of WE

Compassionate Activism for Global Healing: New Thought is a spiritually motivated way of life that embraces the ancient wisdom traditions of east and west. We embody the belief that consciousness is elementally creative, reciprocates thought, and thereby shapes all manifestation. Our principles reflect a universal conviction that the community of all life is sacred; our practices of meditation and prayer enhance a worldview promoting reverence for, and service to humanity and planet earth. New Thought is committed to global healing through personal transformation, community-building, interfaith, intercultural, and interdisciplinary understanding, and compassionate activism.

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