Bishop John Shelby Spong ~ June 16, 1931 – September 12, 2021
Bishop Spong provided a much needed place for those of us who did not connect with traditional theology. We love you Bishop Spong. You will be missed! Funeral services will be held at St. Peter’s, Morristown, NJ and at St. Paul’s, Richmond, VA. Dates and times will be announced as soon as they are available

    • Sea Raven
    • For highlights from my commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary, please visit my website. I am a writer, harper, singer, and consultant for worship, music, and the arts in the greater Washington, D.C area, Frederick-Hagerstown, Maryland, and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. For my Doctor of Ministry in Creation Spirituality, I created The Wheel of the Year: A Worship Book for Creation Spirituality, offering earth liturgies based upon what is known about pre-Christian Celtic spirituality, post-modern cosmology, and the theology and four-path principles of Creation Spirituality as developed by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox. That project is also found on the Gaia Rising! website.

Theology From Exile Volume I: The Year of Luke 2nd Edition: Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary for an Emerging Church

The struggle for distributive justice-compassion continues into the first quarter of the twenty-first century and beyond in what may become a post-democratic world order. Whether Jewish-Christian scriptures continue to be relevant to contemporary “spiritual not religious” folk may determine what becomes of “Christianity.” This second edition of The Year of Luke is a valuable, contemporary resource for progressive preaching, teaching, Bible study, and resistance, grounded in postmodern biblical scholarship of Karen Armstrong, the late Marcus J. Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and the Westar Institute’s Jesus Seminar, as well as the transforming work of Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, whose theology of Creation Spirituality has reclaimed Catholic mysticism for postmodern cosmology.

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Go Down, Moses Racism: What to do?

We know what to do. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins: “Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” Unitarian Universalists claim the “inherent worth and dignity of all humanity.” Christians claim the Apostle Paul’s ecstatic revelation that “You are no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or freeborn, no longer ‘male and female.’ Instead you all have the same status in the service of God’s anointed Jesus.” Leviticus 19:18 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”

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The Radical Abandonment of Self-interest

Civilization defines justice as retribution – payback; an eye for an eye. But the deeper meaning of justice is distributive: the rain falls on the good, the bad, and the ugly without partiality. Civilization does not use that definition except in cases where there is clearly injustice if partiality enters the picture.

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Yes, Leviticus: Sacred Ecology

Good stewardship of the Planet is part of the movement for “Eco-justice”: leaving the resources in the ground; insuring a legacy of life for future generations; treating the Planet as an autonomous organism, whose continuing survival depends on the health of its interconnected systems: the earth, the air, the fire, the water.

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Power in the Blood – Easter Sunday

(Excerpt from Theology From Exile Vol. III, The Year of Mark by Sea Raven, D.Min.) Acts 10:34-43; Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8 For Christians who follow the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B’s readings …

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O Sapientia — Wisdom’s Feast

The butterfly lives in a seamless realm, a matrix, poetically in the palm of God/dess’s hand, not alien or estranged. Is it possible for us to find that kind of confidence, or trust in the nature of the Universe itself? Let’s take a moment or two to think about Wisdom, and our place in the Universe. What kind of liturgy, or worship experience, would celebrate the kind of inclusive, nurturing community the butterfly knows without thinking about it?

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The Met’s Klinghofer: Does Art have a “Contract with Society”?

Distributive justice-compassion, or “restorative” justice, argues that the rain falls on the just and the unjust, and that while the back-story may be compelling or repelling, violence is never the solution. When society’s protective systems “codify right from wrong, separating the holy from the profane,” who will call attention to the injustice that gets embedded in those very codes whose purpose is to protect and defend the safety and security of that society?

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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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On Prayer and Pentecost

When prayers in Jesus’s name go unanswered, and when unrelenting “knocking on heaven’s door” produces no result – even when bargains are offered (“I’ll stop smoking”) – instead of confronting the possibility that God is not going to intervene, the failure is treated as a “test of faith” that “God has a better plan for me.” But the transformation of human thought is far more powerful than petitions to a discredited god. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, first given by John’s Jesus, descends in tongues of flames on the Christian community gathered in Jerusalem. They are empowered to tell the story of Jesus in every language of the known world. Peter quotes the prophet Joel, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Paul proclaims, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” The imagery of fire represents the outpouring of the presence of sacred being and of creative power. No magic is required.

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Ritual in Sacred Community: Reclaiming Eucharist

The central focus for Christian liturgy is the ritual Eucharist. Traditionally Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) has reenacted the last meal Jesus ate with his followers before the blood sacrifice of his execution at the hands of the Romans, but with the dogmatic interpretation that Jesus died to save sinners from hell in the next life. Twenty-first century progressive Christians are concerned more with living a life of justice-compassion here and now (as Jesus taught) than reconciling with a god that demands blood sacrifice in exchange for a carefree afterlife. What is required is to act with justice-compassion in radical abandonment of self-interest. Suppose that instead of terrorizing ourselves with the Advent of violent judgment, we were to celebrate the Advent of the Christ consciousness; instead of a Eucharist mourning the personal holocaust of Jesus’s death, a Eucharist of Ordination, in which we recommit ourselves to the great work of distributive justice-compassion? We have the power, at any moment, to transform the way we live our lives. We can choose not to participate in the retributive system of imperial war and systemic injustice. We can step into the kind of ongoing parallel universe of God’s justice-compassion at any moment. We can change our consciousness, change the paradigm in which we live, whenever we have the will to do so. Jesus is not coming again. We are; and when the rare opportunity presents itself, we can break the alabaster jar in remembrance of her.

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Holy Week – An Exploration of the Meaning of Kenosis

A sample of Sea Raven’s work, a free PDF download of the Bible Study found in Appendix Two of The Year of Luke, is available: “Holy Week: An Exploration of the Meaning of Kenosis.”

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Easter Essay: Believe the Story or Trust the Promise?

Easter calls attention to the traditional, fundamental “beliefs” associated with the Christian religion – if only for a day. The secular world pays little attention to the nuances of Christian “faith” in a post-Christian world. Easter is a liturgical season that lasts for seven weeks. In Christian tradition, the time between the resurrection of Jesus and his “ascension” into the sky (Pentecost) replaces the time between the Jewish Feast of the Passover and the giving of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Not only do most Christians concentrate on the resurrection story – often literally. Editorial writers for supposedly sophisticated secular media seem to feel obligated to attempt to find meaning in the traditional religious legend of a dead man walking out of his tomb. But “faith” does not mean “belief.” “Faith” means “trust.” “Faith” further means “confidence.”

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Redeeming the Bones: A Ritual of Participation

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.

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Body of Christ: Body of Life

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.”

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Appalachia Poster Child for Systemic Injustice: West Virginia A Theological Challenge for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany

In Matthew’s midrash of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus tours all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, curing all kinds of diseases, and proclaiming that God’s kingdom has come. The verses in Chapter 4 selected by the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary for the third Sunday after the Epiphany are the preface to Matthew 5:1 through 7:29, the great Sermon on the Mount. Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, and invites his disciples to leave their nets and become “fishers for people,” traditionally interpreted to mean saving souls from hell. But John Dominic Crossan, points out that Jesus could have brought his message anywhere in Roman occupied Judea. Why Galilee? Why Capernaum?

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Food for Thought: February 2 – The Presentation of the Lord

In the midst of the liturgical progression from Epiphany to Lent, tradition calls the church back to the mundane details of Jesus’ infancy. Luke’s Chapter 2 fills in the story from birth to circumcision to presentation as the first-born son to the coming-of-age of a gifted religious leader anointed by God. In The First Christmas (HarperOne, 2007), Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan suggest that Luke’s purpose was to set up the birth of the Jewish Messiah as a counter to the birth of the Roman Caesar – also hailed as the “Savior, Redeemer, Son of God.” The scene in the temple in Jerusalem confirms the child Jesus as the expected one who would redeem Israel from bondage to imperial injustice and oppression.

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How Christianity Can Change, Not Die- Preview of 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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Secular Spirit: Samhain Sandy (Hallowe’en 2012)

Millions of children in the Northeast quadrant of the United States will have to miss their annual spook-fest and candy shake-down on October 31 this year. Something far more terrifying than any Halloween slasher film rose up from the tropics and swooped onto the mainland in the last few days of October. Like a fell creature from JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the “Frankenstorm” named Sandy, spinning counter-clockwise (the Devil’s own widdershins), spread its Nazgûl wings from North Carolina to the Great Lakes. What began as a late-season Hurricane (strange enough) was sucked into an early Arctic cold front, and created a weather system never before experienced in recorded human time.

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Theology From Exile Volume II: The Year of Matthew

Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary for an Emerging Christianity (Volume 2)

The Year of Matthew is the second in a series of commentaries on biblical scripture found in the three-year cycle of Christian liturgical readings of the Revised Common Lectionary.

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Guns, Fear, and Power

Beyond the stats, beyond the grief, beyond the finger-pointing, beyond the “culture wars” lies the solution to eleven thousand deaths by gunfire per year in the United States.

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Syria, Obama, and the Mark of Cain

Genesis 4:1-16; Romans 2:1-24, 12:14-21; Mark 3:31-35. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has clearly stated that so far as the U.S. government is concerned, crimes against humanity were committed by the president of Syria and his agents….Is there a war?

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State by State the Longest List Can Be Done

In “Where Have All the Flowers Gone? A Singer’s Stories Songs Seeds & Robberies” Pete Seeger reports that the words to this iconic union anthem were printed in the preamble to the constitution of an early coal miner’s union. In 1948, Pete set the words to an Irish tune from the 1840s, “The Praties they grow small.” Looking back over the past 50 years to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (“The Great March on Washington”) while progress seems to have been made, for 245 years (716 if we start with Magna Carta in 1297) the struggle for human rights – meaning equality under the law, and access to food, clothing, shelter, and education for all – has been raging, and shows no signs of abating any time soon.

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Zealot: Dr. Aslan’s Violent, Improbable Jesus

Book Review

A Google search for “Zealot Aslan” reveals 2,350,000 results in less than 35 seconds. Page two contains a run-down of the many scholars who either hate the book or shrug it off. Personally, I read it because I was gratified by Dr. Aslan’s skewering of Fox News reporter Lauren Green, who tried and failed to re-ignite the crusades of the 14th century by questioning Aslan’s motives for writing the book in the first place: Why would a Muslim care about who Jesus might have been, and how dare that person presume to be an expert?

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Theology from Exile: Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary for an Emerging Christianity: The Year of Luke

The Year of Luke is the first in a series of commentaries on biblical scripture found in the three-year cycle of Christian liturgical readings of the Revised Common Lectionary. Instead of interpreting these readings as a precursor …

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Money in Trust and a Failed First Harvest – Lammas 2012

Jesus’ parables tell us how use our creativity to subvert the putative rulers of Earth. Jesus got into trouble for suggesting that the way to assure that all of the people have food to eat is to share whatever they have. And don’t assume that your traditional enemy has no soul. The very powers that are supposed to have your best interest at heart will pass you by on the other side of the road while you die in the ditch (“The Good Samaritan” Luke 10:30-35). To love your enemies is to have no enemies.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Conclusion – That they may all be one

Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox worked out a theology that makes sense for post-modern, 21st century mystics who want to honor the Christ of John’s Gospel without forcing the text into impossible literalism. Fox’s “Cosmic Christ” evokes responsibility for the condition of all forms of life on Planet Earth, and confers the power to carry out the work that arises from that responsibility.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part XII – In Vino Veritas

Paul is not talking about life after death. Paul is talking about embracing the challenge of distributive justice-compassion –“the great work” – here and now. John’s Jesus assures us that “the spirit of truth will testify on my behalf,” not about the insane claim that he was God, nor about the resuscitation of a corpse.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part XI – Knocking on Heaven’s Door

In The Authentic Letters of Paul, the scholars define “sin” (Greek: hamartia) as “the corrupting seduction of power,” or the “seductive power of corruption.” Paul is not talking about rotting corpses. He is talking about the kind of corruption that arises between people, and in government or economic empires that leads to systems of injustice.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part X – Last Supper

The chapters following the last meal contain the heart of John’s argument that Jesus was the Anointed One sent by God to fulfill the longing of the Jewish people for deliverance from injustice, foretold for first century Jews in the book of Daniel.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part IX – Beginning of the End

The message is that God’s intention – the order of the universe – is distributive justice-compassion. To live in the light is to transform water to wine: to bring healing to everyone, whether they are the children of collaborators with oppression, or ingrates that game the system.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part VIII – Lazarus

Further, if John Dominic Crossan’s interpretation of Paul’s letters is correct – or at least on the track – the dry bones raised by Ezekiel become 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 transformed earth.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part VII – Blind Sheep

A connection that is not usually made with John’s Gospel in the context of the festivals of Tabernacles and especially of Lights (Hanukah) is the apocalyptic story told in Daniel. This story is set in the time of the Exile; but it was written during the Maccabean uprising and defeat of the Syrian-Greek invaders of the 160s bce.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part VI – Fire and Water

With chapter 7 the anti-Semitism that has haunted Christianity for centuries seems to become unavoidable.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part V – Bread of Life

For 21st century activists, from Occupy Wall Street regulars to poets such as Drew Dellinger,theologians such as Spong, Crossan, Borg, and Fox, the way to distributive justice-compassion for all beings on the Planet is our own flesh and blood.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part IV – Believers & Ingrates

Before any of this can speak to 21st century post-modern, post-enlightenment, post-Christian minds (if it can), first remember that John’s Gospel is an extended proof – an argument.

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21st Century Cosmology and the Gospel of John: Part I – Signs and Wonders

More than being a “human being” on this earth, John’s gospel calls for a transformed life: water into wine; a temple made of distributive justice-compassion, not gold and stone.

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