It is no secret that, in the past ten years, I have made some major changes in the way I perceive and practice the Christian faith. Not everybody is happy about that. For example, a Facebook friend wrote recently to express his dismay over what he referred to as “the decidedly liberal trajectory your pilgrimage has taken.”
“You used to preach the gospel,” he wrote. “I don’t hear that anymore. You used to love Jesus. I don’t recognize the Jesus you talk about anymore.”
Well, just to be clear, I still love Jesus. Further, I believe more strongly than ever that a person can be transformed through an encounter with Jesus. The marks of that encounter, however, are different than I used to suppose. Continue reading →
Have you ever noticed that, when you first identify with a new group and adopt its beliefs and tenets as your own, the members of that group commend you for your wisdom and discernment? Later, when your experience and careful consideration lead you to change your mind about one or more elements of the group’s shared beliefs, you are regarded as having somehow lost your ability to be wise and discerning. Instead, you have apparently succumbed to influences that have led you into error.
Or, as a friend of mine put it, “I was a prophet right up to the moment I became a heretic.” Continue reading →
Most people, including religious leaders, follow a course most suitable to their natural interests and inclinations. That is the path of least resistance where the surroundings are familiar and comfortable. A skilled leader can even make the pursuit of comfort, familiarity, and security sound noble while the path of suffering and sacrifice seems unreasonable, irresponsible, or possibly evil.
During his lifetime, Jesus was never popular with religious leaders. He was too honest, too self-sacrificing. He didn’t play the angles for his own benefit. And he loved being with people who could not enhance his social standing.
Instead of wringing our hands over the waning influence of religion in our culture, we should be looking for leaders like that. Show me a leader who cares more for the kingdom than for his or her personal interests and agenda, and I’ll show you fertile soil for religious renewal.
In the twilight of my life, I look for leaders whose principles have cost them something. I look for teachers and guides who have sacrificed comfort and security in the service of conscience and conviction. Not every leader suffers loss as a consequence of faithfulness. Only the great ones.
Here is an audio recording of the sermon I preached at the Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition in Plain City, OH, on Saturday, May 16, 2015. It is titled “God’s Right-Hand Man” and is just under fifteen minutes long. The focus of the service was our observance of the Feast of the Ascension. The homily addressed the ongoing importance of the ascension of Jesus for contemporary Christians and is based on the lectionary readings for Ascension Day, Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:44-53. Click on the references to read each passage in a separate window. For more information about “the gathering,” click on the tab for “A Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition” on the bar under the picture above.
Here is an audio recording of the sermon I preached at the Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition in Plain City, OH, on Saturday, May 2, 2015. It is titled “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and it is just over 15 minutes long. The sermon begins with a re-telling of the meeting between Jesus in Nicodemus, recorded in John 3:1-21. It ends with the account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, recorded in John 13:1-20, and it is mainly based on one of the lectionary readings for the fifth Sunday in Eastertide, 1 John 4:7-21. Click on the references to read each passage in a separate window. For more information about “the gathering,” click on the tab for “A Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition” on the bar under the picture above.
It’s interesting how our immediate personal circumstances make us more sensitive to the situations and conditions of people around us. For example, have you noticed that, when you buy a new (or newer) car, especially if it’s a different model from your previous car, you begin to see the new model on the road far more frequently than you had noticed it before?
When my wife was going through chemotherapy and was wearing a scarf to cover her hairless head whenever we went out, I know I was far more sensitive than I had been previously to physical signs that identified some trauma or testing that people were facing at that moment. The same was true when I lost my job six years ago. I began to wonder how many of the middle-aged men I passed on the street were facing similar circumstances. I still do. Continue reading →
I knew that the post I published yesterday might generate some reaction from those who enjoy arguing about issues like this. I did not wish to engage in arguments of that sort, so I did not include a comments section following the post itself. I promoted the post on Facebook, however, and I knew that some might leave comments there.
One of my friends (a real friend, not merely a Facebook friend) saw the notice of yesterday’s post on The Relentless Pursuit’s Facebook page. He left a thoughtful comment there. I believe it deserves a thoughtful response. I know that most of my Facebook friends and most of my blog readers never see the FB page dedicated to this blog, so I decided to use this follow-up post to address the issues he raised in his comment. Continue reading →
I am a pacifist. I don’t say that very often. I am annoying in so many other ways that I try to avoid making an issue of my convictions in this area lest I provide people with eitheranother reason to be annoyed with me or an explanation (at least in their minds) for why I am so annoying in the first place.
Once in a while I am pointedly asked, often as a result of something I have written, “Are you a pacifist?”. I usually obfuscate a bit in my reply, noting that pacifism is mainly a political position with philosophical roots. I prefer the term “biblical nonresistance,” since my objection to violence, including the violence associated with “justifiable” wars, is rooted in my understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Continue reading →
The older I get, the less time and tolerance I have for pure theory. When I was younger, I enjoyed discussing, even debating, theological and philosophical concepts and ideas purely for their value as intellectual stimulation. Not so much anymore.
At age 63, I no longer have time to ponder a lot of theoretical possibilities and abstract concepts that have little or no direct and practical application to my daily life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. That includes many of the assumptions upon which my once-well-defined systematic theology was based.
Oh, I still have opinions and positions on most theological concepts; I just don’t intend to devote a lot of my remaining time to defending my point of view to my critics or trying to change the minds of people whose perspective differs from mine. The potential for that endeavor to result in division and ill-will is simply too great. And hardly anything is more important to me these days than unity among the people of God and within the body of Christ.
Podcast No. 12 is now available. It is the second of two on the subject of the Christian mind. It is called “Learning To Think Like Jesus,” and it is around 10 1/2 minutes long. To download it as an mp3 file, click here. To listen to the podcast now, click on the button below. This podcast is also archived on the “Podcasts” page of this blog. Thanks for listening.