“Who Do You Say I AM?” – Jesus IS? – Part 3

We cannot un-know what we have learned. In the past one-hundred years biblical scholarship has exploded. In the halls of academia, in the seminaries of mainline denominations the quest for knowledge about Jesus has born so very much fruit. Now thanks to the explosions of the information age, information that was once reserved to the carefully initiated, is available to everyone. Wander into your local bookstore, or turn on your computer and you will discover more information than any one person could ever digest on the subject of Jesus. And yet, despite more than 2000 years of scholarship, theologizing, speculating, preaching, and teaching, the question, put on the lips of Jesus by the anonymous gospel-storyteller that we call Matthew, remains a daunting question to answer.

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Who Do You Say that I AM? Part 2

Matthew 16:13-28

  This sermon is the second in a series of three sermons responding to questions about Jesus’ identity. You can explore the part one here Part Two of this exploration of Jesus’ identity includes three reflections interspersed …

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Who Do You Say that I AM? Part 1

Matthew 16:13-20 and Romans 12: 1-8 – a sermon

“Who do you say that I Am?” For most of my life I have been trying to figure out who I think Jesus was and is. Your very presence here on a beautiful summer morning, suggests to me that many of you have also tried to figure out who Jesus was and is. From time to time, I suspect that most of us have believed that we have worked it out; that we know just who Jesus is. But Jesus, just like every person we have ever known and or ever loved, Jesus keeps changing on us.

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Treasure Map: Christians United in the Search

For 2,000+ years, Christians have studied the words of Jesus, the Apostles, Ancient Israelite prophets, psalmists and lawmakers in the Bible. We have been locked in theological debate over the meaning of life and how to achieve the union with God we so desire.

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Faith Communities Rise in Support of Housing for the Homeless: Talking points for religious leaders

(I wrote this in my role with the campaign in Los Angeles to get neighborhood acceptance for permanent supportive housing projects, now funded by our recent successful campaign for City Measure HHH, which provides $1.2 billion for construction of thousands of units. It was one thing to convince voters to pass this ambitious proposal; it is quite another to convince citizens to support the construction of such units in their neighborhoods. We are mounting a sub-campaign to enlist religious leaders and communities to help lead this effort. These talking points also may be useful in other cities which are struggling to address the crisis of homelessness.)

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The Challenge of Community: Sermon by Rev. Roger Ray

The comedian, Dave Berry, observed that if the person you are with is kind to you but mean to the waiter, the person you are with is not a good person. For progressive communities to thrive and gain influence both in the world of religion and in public policy, we simply must stop engaging in liberal cannibalism and find ways to lovingly network with people who are something other than a perfect match with our own beliefs and opinions. Michael Moore has predicted a 2020 win Donald Trump, not because he deserves to be re-elected but because of the fractured nature of progressives in America. We really must do better.

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FaithandReason® presents The Challenge of Paul, featuring John Dominic Crossan

The D. L. Dykes, Jr. Foundation (DLDF), producers of FaithandReason®, will distribute, free of charge, The Challenge of Paul, an extraordinary video learning experience with John Dominic Crossan (Themes 1 and 2, plus a digital resource guide – a $150 value) to 1,000 or more churches across the country.

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Resistance Bible Study

(This is the introduction to a weekly Bible study I’m starting for students at USC. A few days ago, I finished reading a remarkable little book that my dear cousin Judy sent me: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, a Yale history professor who incisively diagnoses the present danger posed by Trump and the Republicans to the survival of democracy in this country, and offers prescriptions for action. I closed the book, took a deep breath, and resolved to do something new and different toward that end. This “Resistance Bible Study” is the result. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes! Any “musings” readers wishing to do their own version of this, please go for it – and keep me posted, too.)

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Race, Drugs, and Prisons

The War on Drugs has failed to reduce drug use but it has succeeded in the original plan of the Nixon administration which was to incarcerate minorities and political dissidents. In a magazine interview in 2016, John Ehrlichman confessed, “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

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What do you see as the ideal church?

If you were the moderator of the United Church of Canada with no restrictions… what would the church look like? What do you see as the perfect/ideal United Church of Canada?

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Why ‘Works’ Are Necessary

A recent Pew Research Center poll has reopened the old debate about faith vs works–the line of scrimmage of the Protestant Reformation. Whereas Martin Luther and the heirs of the Reformation have always held that it is through faith alone that salvation occurs, many Protestants and Catholics today have a blended view of the role faith and works–at least, according to this poll (“works” is defined differently by different denominations, but could refer to any effort on the part of humankind, whether it is doing good deeds or following any religious prescription that guarantees that God will act a certain way after we do it).

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Heeding messages. Whose messages?

This article about messaging is in three parts:

• Part One: Michelangelo’s Biblical Errancy
• Part Two: Meaning and Message Are Intertwined
• Part Three: Asking You to Choose to Believe in Awe

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Undaunted Grace

The earth turns, seasons turn,
and we turn homeward, seeking
a place we’ve never been.

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It’s Probably About Sex

Sexual mores evolve from generation to generation. We cannot reasonably assume that religion sets the rules for sexual relationships, after all, the preponderance of biblical references to marriage praise and promote polygamy. We must strive to find what is true, just, merciful, and liberating in our search for sexual ethics.

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An A-Theist Goes to Church?

Some folks might find it strange that an A-Theist even bothers to go to church where there is a great deal of talk about an UpThere God who isn’t UpThere—as far as he’s concerned. Wouldn’t it be easier just to stay home and do something more interesting? It seems so hypocritical to waste time hearing about God, Jesus, the Trinity, and all that other dogma and doctrine when you don’t believe any of it.

As many of you know, I call myself an A-Theist, but I still go to church every Sunday. There are myriad reasons why I go, but first let me clarify what I mean by hyphenating this word. In my mind, A-Theist has a very different meaning than the word atheist. I am not against the idea of there being a Higher Power, or as Paul Tillich—one of the great theologians in the twentieth century—defines it, “the ground of all being.”

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10 years ago a young Episcopal priest named Jimmy Bartz started an emergent mission church called Thads in Los Angeles. He wanted it to reach a multi-generational community of churched and unchurched people. Hunter Perrin and I began writing original music for the church not really knowing what would be acceptable but having to create music for the sermon each week. Hunter is a Texas guitarist and I am a singer heavily influenced by early southern R&B. We were encouraged to be original and no one tried to edit our musical approach so we wrote freely from what we loved and our musical influences came through in the songs. Other like minded musicians joined us and we became the Thads Band. Over the years the good songs have became the basis for the church hymnal and this website. The writing continues. We play what we’ve come to call Gospel Americana. Its a blend of gospel spirit and American roots music. ~Ian Jack, The Thad’s Band

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This Is Eternal Life

This idea that a part of us somehow persists after death implies some sort of immortality, or eternal life, doesn’t it? I don’t think there are many cultures or religions which profess that a part of us does live on after physical death, but only temporarily. In most belief systems the soul, or whatever you want to call it, is, by definition, immortal.

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Beneath the Surface: What difference does it make how we interpret this little story?

A sermon for Pentecost 10A – Matthew 14:22-33 and 1 Kings19:9-18

After a splendid month-long vacation, I have returned to work as two mad men toss rhetoric into the ether that is designed to to strike fear of a nuclear holocaust into the hearts of people everywhere. Looking at Sunday’s readings: 1 Kings 19:9-18 in which Elijah hears the still small voice of God and Matthew 14:22-33 in which Jesus walks on water. Somehow, this sermon that I preached three years ago seems appropriate to repost so as to encourage us all to look beneath the surface of what we see, hear, and read! Shalom…

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