Prayers for Progressive Christians, A New Template

Morwood goes beyond “devotion and spiritual practice” in “Prayers for Progressive Christians, A New Template”. In the first part of the book he summaries the key theological shifts that necessitate changes to liturgical, group and personal prayer. In the second part he demonstrates how these major shifts in theological thinking can be incorporated into a new template for meaningful, contemporary prayer.

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Even Eunuchs and Foreigners are Welcome!

Easter 5B – Acts 8:26-40

What follows is a sermon I preached on the 5th Sunday of Easter 2003. In the 18 years since I preached this sermon, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has come a long way. The debate about the full inclusion of LGBTQ folk in the full life of the church has been resolved and we can truly say: “All are welcome!” But rule changes don’t always change practices. Sadly, there are still places in our church were not everyone is welcome. So, I offer this sermon to cybersapce as both a reminder of where we have been and how far we need to travel. Shalom.

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Who is God?

For eons, humans have viewed God as a huge, external, and all-knowing human-like figure who rewards some, punishes others, and ignores many, and whose actions in the world often seem mysterious and inexplicable. This is the projection model of God: we humans unconsciously created the figure of God in our own image and projected this image “out there.” Worse, this belief assigns the responsibility for change onto a fictional character to whom we keep praying, hoping that this “God” will someday hear us, or do what we ask, or show us why things are the way they are, or something.

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The Just War Tradition: A Useful Tool for Limiting American Militarism

Since the dawn of the Cold War in the late 1940s, American citizens have lived, with few exceptions, on a permanent war footing. We have spent trillions of dollars preparing for war and trillions more fighting them. These wars have led to huge costs in terms of soldiers killed and wounded, massive civilian casualties, and millions of people displaced. American citizens who are poor have also suffered because of domestic program cuts, and our children will be paying the debt incurred from this fighting for years to come.

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Hyper Change and Religious Trauma

After retiring as bishop, John Shelby Spong told us Why Christianity Must Change or Die, speaking as someone in exile from a church that was alienated from modern reality. I would like to add “Why is change so difficult?” and answer from the perspective of history in combination with science.

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Another Take On Blessing

Entrenched theists can go on believing that their God can interfere with the natural processes of existence by conveying her blessings on chosen individuals or groups. If you want to believe that God blesses America, you can, but be aware that it is an empty phrase.

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The Jesus Family Rift

As I suggested in last week’s blog, when Jesus went to preach in his hometown of Nazareth, he said or did something that made his fellow townies “filled with rage” (Luke 4:28). Whatever it was, they wanted to kill him. That’s when Jesus said that no prophet is welcomed on his home turf. Nothing more is said in Matthew, Mark, or Luke (called the Synoptic or similar Gospels) about Jesus’s family until many chapters later, when all three writers tell an almost identical story.

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The Most Overlooked Reason for Universal Healthcare

We are the richest, most productive nation on earth. Why shouldn’t we enjoy that? Why shouldn’t we make life better for both ourselves as well as fellow members of society? Health care is something everyone wants, and at some point or another everyone will need it. Let’s do it! We have public parks, public schools and public roads. Why not have public access to health care?

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Another black Harvard man arrested

Racial profiling immediately comes to mind when we hear of an incident with white police involving black and brown males. And with Ohene, a Harvard student, you wonder if he were a white student standing naked and obviously in distress along Cambridge Common in Harvard Square would he had been so dehumanized and humiliated.

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The World is Going Through a Powerful Shift

The world is in the midst of what Joan Halifax believes will be one of the most important and powerful phase shifts in her lifetime.

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Just as You Are – A Progressive Christian Welcome

We follow the way of Jesus.
He opens our hearts
To know that our true selves are one with God, who is Love.
Jesus saves us from fear, from selfishness, from meaninglessness.
He leads us to serve with compassion and act for justice.

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I’m Not With Stupid Anymore

Fascism, A Warning, Madeline Albright’s new book, asks us to seriously consider how many familiar elements of the growth of fascism in 20th century Europe are now evident in 21st century America. This is a sobering matter that demands that spiritual people to take it seriously. Bonhoeffer wrote in his letters from prison that stupidity made it possible for fascism to rise in Germany but isn’t it really complacency? And though Russia meddle in the American election in 2016, they did not hack our voting machines, they just appealed to our fear and racism and that was enough to alter the course of an election and of history. It is time for us to decide that we are “not with stupid anymore.”

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Meeting hate with love.

Be like the peacemakers. Be like those who do not fight violence with violence. Find common humanity and celebrate it. Talk with people. Love people. Because hate does not dispel hate. Darkness cannot take darkness away. Only light can do that. Only love can cure what ails us.

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Evangelicals join interfaith leaders in Washington to promote religious tolerance

As hundreds of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders from the United States and abroad descended on Washington for a conference on religious tolerance this week, attendees were quick to note an unexpectedly large delegation from one particular religious group: evangelical Christians.

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The Two-Way Mirror Analogy of Aging

The Two-Way Mirror was part of my early clinical psychology training in graduate school. Therapy rooms in our training clinic had been constructed with see-through mirrors. You’ve probably seen similar arrangements on television crime shows where those behind a mirror watch a suspect’s interview. What you see through a two-way mirror depends on which side is dark and which side is lit. In my clinical training, therapists and their clients sat in the lit side observed by faculty and other students from the unseen dark side. After the session, teacher and students would discuss how things went.

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Mother Teresa and Doubting Thomas

The story of Doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29) takes place at the end of the Gospel of John. Like the rest of the Gospel, the Doubting Thomas tale is not a true story but rather what we call religious history. The truth is inside the story. The surface story says that Thomas the Twin (rumored to be the twin brother of Jesus, but that idea has never been substantiated) was not in the room for Jesus’s first appearance to the disciples after his crucifixion. But Thomas was there for the second appearance a week later. Jesus insisted that Thomas touch his wounds, after which Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Thomas the Twin then became Doubting Thomas. His role in the history of the Jesus movement is to tell us that doubting is a no-no, and believers must have total faith in Jesus as God.

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Apostle to the Apostles: Mary’s Story

So here, let me honour Mary the Apostle to the Apostles with this my imaginary account of Mary’s story. Remember the power of our imaginations to breathe life into what appears to all the world to be dead.

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The Body Still Loves to Dance

I discovered that though gay sex may be verboten, some things never change. Camp humor abounded. People were caring and sensitive and carefully huggy. Haircuts and clothing, though not overly provocative, were still stylish and colorful; in a workshop on masculinity, I heard rumblings of discontent at a suggestion that they rid themselves of their wardrobes and patronize barbers rather than hair stylists. En route to a session, two ex-lesbians were kvetching about one’s lack of punctuality and the other’s lack of patience. And two ex-gay boys next to me in the opening worship were thrilled to find someone with a car: “We need to go to a mall really bad!” one emoted while in the next breath telling his friend, “I really want to be here; I’m longing to be closer to God.”

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Pastoral Thoughts on Decades of the Abotion Debate

At least from my perspective as a pastor, I think the abortion issue is one of the more complex moral problems of our age. It pits the rights of the mother against those of the child, such that if one takes one side over the other, one is perceived as compassionless by the other side.

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Can the human species really understand its source?

Has the latest telescopic view of the universe (universes?) had any effect on liberal thinking concepts of a creator, intelligent design OR ESPECIALLY on the capability of the human species to really understand its source? Are we attempting a task greater than our human intelligence is capable of?

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The Ghost Community (the one everyone talks about, but no one has ever seen)

The author of Acts describes (in the form of early church propaganda) an almost utopian beginning of the church. Of course, Luke was not there, and his musings are more imagination than history, but he gives voice to a vision that many of us have shared: the good community where everyone shares their belongings, and everyone has what they need. Like ghosts, everyone talks about an egalitarian society but few of us have ever seen it work for more than a flash in history. Still, we know that our present economic system is doomed to failure and something much more fair must emerge.

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A Native American Prayer of Gratitude

Chief Phil Lane Jr. shares one of the four songs of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman, which he says holds a message for our time in human history.

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Waging a War on Poverty

No Progressive Christian and very few others for that matter need convincing that poverty in America is a Christian issue. The focus of Old Testament Law, the preaching of the prophets, and the teachings of Jesus all speak to the importance of economic justice for the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable. This theme plays a dominant role in the Bible from Genesis 1 through the Book of Revelation.

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Theses Toward a Theory of Generative Death Anxiety: Thesis #3 (part A)

Thesis #3: Human beings have the intelligence to think abstractly, and to use symbols (esp. complex language, which eventually allows a human person to think of himself/herself in the third person.) This is in essence what sets human psychology apart from animal psychology.

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Musing of a Progressive Christian Layman: Women in Church Leadership

  How can any 21st century woman believe that only men must lead in the home and church and that a woman’s role is to submit to male leadership? How can a woman attend a church that …

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What Jesus Wants

I’ve been rereading Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry for a contemplative retreat I will be co-leading this spring. It’s amazing how much one can get out of what seems a simple little book each time it is read. This time I realized why Henri became popular among evangelical Christians. He emphasizes a very personal relationship with Jesus, so personal that “Christ…lives in us, that he is our true self.”

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Samaritan Care

A study guide for churches on health care policy in America

Here I offer a church “adult study” that can be completed in one after-worship program, or expanded to multiple sessions. It focuses on one of the most important issues facing voters in the upcoming midterm elections. Use as you wish! And please give me feedback on how you use it and how it is received.

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MLK’s assassination reminds nation of unaddressed gun violence

The 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination is sadly a searing reminder of unaddressed gun violence in America. And, because gun violence has gone unaddressed for half a century, future generations of children residing in a safer and healthier America MLK spoke about so dreamingly in his speeches now in 2018 live in fear of guns -when they are not running scared for their lives from them.

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The Brave New World

When science fiction writers describe the future, they tend to see the world going in one of two directions: one possibility is a life made easier through technology and the other sees a growing gulf between the super-rich and the majority of the world living with poverty, hunger, illness, and ignorance. The truth is that it could go either way, but unbridled capitalism will almost certainly lead to a horrible dystopian future that no sane person would want. To avoid that path, people of conscience must organize, unionize, network and collaborate to shape a moral universe for our coming generations.

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On the Dangers of Not Giving a Fig  

Watching the NBC broadcast of “Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE” on Easter night was jarring. Not because it was bad. The New York Times called it “thoughtful, challenging,” and a “conceptual and artistic triumph.”[i] What was jarring was what I already knew was there: the anti-Semitism inherent in the story. A review by Jeffrey Salkin reflected on the ominous portrayal of priests Caiphas and Annas: “The Jews look like they might have been Darth Vader’s homeys. Pure evil.”[ii]  But who’s to blame for that? Certainly not the producers. And certainly not Webber or Rice. They were just working with the “source material” – and that would be our anti-Semitic gospels.

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Modern Novelists Spread Unorthodox Christian Ideas – Part 7

Thief on the Cross

Lawyer and historian Cameron Thorne found an ancient Templar scroll that referred to Jesus as “The Thief on the Cross.” He and his fiancée, Amanda Spencer, try to uncover several secrets of early Christianity before a splinter group of Mormon zealots finds them and destroys them.

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Prayer and Progressive Christianity

I am puzzled about prayer in the context of Progressive Christianity which has replaced the interventionist God “up there” (or “out there”) with the God within. The typical conventional church service liturgy invariably includes an intercessions segment. What meaning does this segment have in the context of progressive thinking? Should it be abandoned?

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Prophets and Martyrs

This week we mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Last month was the 50th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre and this June we will reach the 50th anniversary of the killing of Robert Kennedy. These events remembered within the martyr account in the gospel’s passion narrative give us reason to look more deeply into the meaning of Easter, beyond a childish hope for eternal life, there is the challenge to be a prophet who refuses to be afraid.

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Patience, Anger and Compassion

Patience is not a beast we can slay and master.
Rather, patience is an adversary ever rising to do battle with us again.
The universe seems to conspire to always test our mettle.
We level up, we have more patience than we ever have had, and, again, yet and assuredly again, there arises a new situation that will demand yet more and more of us. We cannot win against patience.
At best, we can keep our calm for longer and longer than ever before.

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9 Reasons I Never Became Protestant

I have read a lot of articles from my Protestant friends and colleagues celebrating the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation this past year. They varied in timbre and tone—some were overtly triumphalistic while others offered a balanced treatment of the pros and cons.

Despite that, I was struck by how the Reformation just seemed to be taken for granted to be a universally good thing by virtually all Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals. I guess it’s to be expected that people wouldn’t call into question the origins of their own movement. I was still taken aback by how it was simply taken for granted. Whether it is spoken outright or simply implied, the idea that the Reformation was simply a good thing seems embedded within the American consciousness, even at the secular level.

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Preparing to Preach on RESURRECTION: Giving up the notion of a physical resuscitation.

This Sunday worship services will begin with the proclamation that: Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia! Let me follow that proclamation up with a good Lutheran question:“What does this mean?” What does it mean that Christ is risen? What does resurrection mean? The truth is that there are about as many different explanations of Christ’s resurrection as there are Christians. And that’s a good thing, because the question of the resurrection is a question that lies at the very heart of Christianity. So, is it any wonder that Christians have been struggling to come to terms with resurrection since the very first rumours that Christ had risen began to circulate. Over the centuries the various responses to the question of resurrection have divided Christians as various camps work out various responses.

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