Should Christian liturgies reflect reality?

Can Christian liturgies be made to reflect reality rather than nostalgia?

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Getting Old or Getting Better?

Our culture over values youth and devalues those who are elderly, bringing us to a point where the suicide rate is rapidly growing among those over 85. We must accept that while the mortality rate is 100%, there are qualities that are of value to every stage of life. We must always bear in mind the “why” we have for living even when the “how” of life is challenging.

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Why We’re Still Here

The Emerging Church held its first service 10 years ago today. The progressive movement is largely comprised of small, liberal, academically oriented congregations who are committed to expressing their faith in passionate social justice involvement. To make it to the 10 year mark in very conservative Springfield, MO is reason for celebration!

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From Common Sense to an Age of Reason

The progressive faith movement has deep roots in the 19th century in the writings of Voltaire, in France, and Thomas Paine, in the United States. Paine foresaw that a revolution in favor of democracy would lead directly into a revolution in religious beliefs and practices. Three major periods of revivals in America has kept evangelical faith alive in America while France moved more decidedly in the direction of a more secular approach to life. Still, Paine’s “Common Sense” inspired the birth of democracy in the USA and it led to his writing of “Age of Reason” to encourage religion to focus on moral living and to dismiss creedal or doctrinal theology. What we modern progressives call the primacy of orthopraxy over orthodoxy. Rather than beliefs about heaven, hell, salvation, and invisible beings, progressives believe in freedom, justice, equality, and working for the wellbeing and happiness of all.

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San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral’s Beyoncé Mass

Finding God at a Beyoncé Mass

Beyoncé is undeniably the most powerful force in pop culture. So it makes sense that someone decided to bring her music and philosophy into church, where it belongs.

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Eternal NOW! — BRUNCHtalks4

Can a first century understanding of Hell and Heaven free Christianity from its obsession with the next life and our cultural nonsense about heaven and hell? Exploring a progressive approach to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth opens us to a Way of being in the world that is eternal now. Our BRUNCHtalks continue to explore what it means to be “Progressive in Approach: Christ-Like in action!”

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Pride

It is obviously and indisputably true that “all lives matter.” However, this statement of the obvious, and its cousin, “blue lives matter,” are used to dismiss, shout down, or reject the “black lives matter” movement. No heterosexual ever had to pretend to be gay in order to be accepted at family gatherings, job interviews, or as school. We have gay pride weekends because every weekend is a heterosexual pride weekend. We have a Black History month because every month is a white history month. Black people are trying to explain what it means to be black in America in the 21st century and before we offer any replies at all, we white folks probably need to just shut up and listen.

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In This Life

While hiding in the failed hope of evading murder at the hands of the Nazis, Ann Frank was able to write in her diary that she believed that people were basically good and that peace would return to the world. This is a helpful statement of faith now that we are living through a dangerously turbulent time that threatens to see a return to fascism in countries that have formerly loved democracy. This season of history will pass and perhaps, if we are patient and compassionate, we can help it to pass a bit more quickly.

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BRUNCHtalks2 – Progressive in Approach

Whenever we try to articulate what God IS, language fails us. For the most part, the institutional church has defined God with words and expected that members of the institution will confess loyalty to those words. Many of the words, with which the institution has traditionally described God, craft an image of God as a supernatural being up there or out there who is responsible for creation and from time to time interferes in the workings of creation. As we continue to learn more and more about the magnitude of creation, both in time and space, our traditional words about God seem even more puny. While some respond to our ever-expanding knowledge about creation by attempting to make our notions of God fit into the tight little containers that were crafted by our ancestors, some are seeking new ways to speak of the CREATOR OF ALL THAT IS, WAS OR EVER SHALL BE. How might a progressive approach to religion enable us to expand our images of the Divine MYSTERY?

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Escape from Suffering

The 4 noble truths of Buddhism provide an path out of the suffering that defines human existence. Seeking the middle way is a spiritual goal that should be familiar to persons of all faith backgrounds, helping us to find a healthy way through a culture that is always pushed towards the extremes of consumerism, hoarding, addiction, pornography, and partisan bickering.

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Imagining a World Where Love is the Way (HT Bishop Curry)

By Morgan Guyton

n his sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry invites all of us to “imagine a world where love is the way.” So I thought I would take a minute to do that. I will say that my first instinct sadly is to dismiss it as an overly flimsy concept reserved for a shallow Beatles song, a fake, feel-good, liberal “revolution.”

But a world where love is the way is actually a lot harder and more complex than a world where my team wins everything since we claim to be the team on love’s side. A world where love is the way is a world where empathy is not a zero sum game. It’s a world in which disagreements are not resolved through the categorically invalidating ad hominem attacks of postmodernity. It’s a world where nobody gets shot because somebody else was feeling afraid, where nobody gets mocked for crying, and where nobody’s feelings are more or less important than anyone else’s. It’s a world where the goal is not to make our enemies shut up and disappear but to sit at a table together and see each other fully.

A world where love is the way doesn’t dismiss nuance, nor does it use “nuance” to wave away uncomfortable truths. It doesn’t oversimplify the parties in one historical conflict as being identical to the parties in any other historical conflict. It doesn’t tell people that their humanity can be explained away by academic theories or sacred texts. It doesn’t apply labels to entire populations universally like terrorist or imperialist though it does recognize the existence of systemic realities like white supremacy, patriarchy, and colonialism that cannot be adjudicated individualistically. It doesn’t see suicide bombs as any more or less tragic than missiles from F-15’s, though it does recognize the reality of power differentials. In a world where love is the way, nobody is dehumanized and nobody is shielded from facing the truth.

A world where love is the way does not have gated communities or walls to shut one group of people out so that another group of people can deny them as neighbors. It doesn’t marginalize suffering but allows the widest possible community to absorb and shoulder it together. In this kind of world, no one ever says, “I am not my brother’s keeper.” No one tries to write anyone else out of the story. In a world where love is the way, every story matters and stories that haven’t mattered are prioritized as a result.
There are plenty of ways that I fall short of that kind of world. Creating it would not be nearly as glamorous or emotionally satisfying as getting off on the outrage porn that has saturated everything today. But it’s never too late to engage in the tiny, banal acts of love that are infinitely powerful when they’re all gathered together by the God who is love. In every given moment, we are invited to resist the enemy who makes us all enemies and follow the lead of the savior who is our perfect model of the love that always takes sides and always works to create the best possible world for everyone.

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An American Creed

There have been visionary voices in America throughout our history (Jefferson, Paine, Whitman, Emerson, Sojourner Truth, Douglas, Thoreau) who described America in terms of equality, freedom, justice, and civil rights, and even though the vision has never been entirely realized we have made a lot of progress on many fronts, progress that is, very regrettably, presently at grave risk of being lost. Now is no time for progressive thinkers to consider international escape or domestic surrender. Now is a time when people who are spiritually awake must stand and fight (through voting, demonstrations, protests, and possibly . . . revolution) to defend a vision of America about which we can be honestly patriotic.

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Wake Up Jeezus! Wake Up!

Mark 4:35-41

The raging storms are all around us. Racism, poverty, disease, and violence; four winds that howl so ferociously that all we can hear is the sound of people’s fears as we see the very real possibility that the bottom might just fall out of the small craft we have fashioned to navigate the troubled waters that lie ahead.

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Because We Are All Connected

3 things: 1) We are all connected. 2) All partisan, racial, gender, religious, and national divisions are forms of deception and manipulation. 3) Spiritual people want to remain meaningfully engaged in changing the world without becoming a part of the problem. We may rise above the fray and maintain our centered and sane peace.

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Moon-Walking Bears, Jesus and Nicodemus: a sermon on John 3:1-17

I am indebted to Jim Kast-Keat, a pioneering preacher who inspired me to open this sermon with the video below. I am also indebted to Bishop John Shelby Spong for teaching me more that I can articulate with words. His excellent book The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic opened the Gospel According to John in ways that have helped me to see aspects of the Divine to which I was once blind. Much of the sermon consists of extensive quotes from chapter 9 of Jack’s book.

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Monetizing the Earth

The kind of despair that prompted ancient religious communities to write warnings of an Apocalypse that comes from the judgment of God is out of place in our modern era but it doesn’t mean that we cannot face an Apocalypse of our own making – an Apocalypse born of a breakdown of public conscience, a shift from the ethics of democracy to the violent oppression of a financially driven oligarchy that monetizes the earth and devalues human life.

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LOVE Has Died. LOVE Is Risen. LOVE Will Come Again, and Again, and Again! – Pluralism Sunday

Pluralism challenges us to move beyond all four of these responses to the other. As Pete puts it, “… in a genuine encounter with the other, at first I see you as weird and monstrous.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Social change comes about when a prophet or a small prophetic community advocates for a change to the status quo. Ethics is never subject to majority vote but is, instead, sponsored by tiny minorities who are willing to speak truth to power. Therefore, progressive churches will never be mega churches and very few large churches will ever offer substantive challenge to popular society. Those who are willing to do the work of a prophet must be willing to pay the price of being ignored, derided, even fought, but if your cause is right, time is on your side.

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