Regional Gatherings

Update on Regional Gatherings: this year we will have one regional gathering, at Johnson City, taking place on November 10. The deadline for registration was October 15.  Hopefully this event will lead to others in the future. Thank you for your interest. 

 

If there is sufficient interest, we have plans in place to continue the conversation on beauty (and to invite new friends into it) in three locations this fall: Indianapolis, Eugene, and Western NC/Eastern TN. These will be one-day events held on a Saturday.

If you are interested in attending one, please email the contact person listed below. The date for the Indianapolis Gathering is set for November 10; the other two are still pending. The contact person will have more information about the shape and content of these smaller, regional Gatherings that we hope might become more common in the Ekklesia Project.

Indianapolis: Chris Smith, Englewood Christian Church. englewoodreview@gmail.com

Eugene: Suzie Logan, Church of the Servant King. suzie@wipfandstock.com

NC/TN: Jim McCoy, Hopwood Christian Church/Milligan College. jimmccoy317@gmail.com

The Happiness Market

 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

When I was a child, the adult members of Pittsburgh society adverted to the Bible unreasonably often. What arcana! Why did they spread this scandalous document before our eyes? If they had read it, I thought, they would have hid it. They did not recognize the lively danger that we would, through repeated exposure, catch a dose of its virulent opposition to their world. Instead they bade us study great chunks of it, and think about those chunks, and commit them to memory, and ignore them. By dipping us children in the Bible so often, they hoped, I think, to give our lives a serious tint, and to provide us with quaintly magnificent snatches of prayer to produce as charms while, say, being mugged for our cash or jewels.

Annie Dillard, “The Book of Luke,” The Annie Dillard Reader, 276

By the twelfth chapter of St. Luke’s gospel we get it: Jesus and the kingdom he inaugurates turn everything upside down. The proud are scattered, the powerful are brought down from their thrones, the hungry are filled with good things, the rich are sent away empty, the poor find good news, the captives are released, the blind recover their sight, the oppressed go free. Blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who weep; woe to the rich, the full-bellied, and those who are laughing now.

These words of justice and compassion stir us, move us, inspire us. Occupying a place somewhere between the destitute poor and the obscenely wealthy, we want what Jesus wants. Preach it, Jesus. Read more

Loving Those People

Easter 5, Year C

John 13:31-35

She stood outside of the meeting room, a cigarette in hand–crying.  This was a weekend spiritual retreat, a time of renewal, but for this woman it was clearly painful, even degrading.  My wife approached the woman and asked what was wrong.  “I’m Baptist,” she said, “and everyone is just saying such bad things about us.”  The retreat was put on by the Episcopal Church and this being a southern Episcopal gathering “Baptist bashing” is bound to be the common sport.  The Baptist are the dominant denomination in the region, often conservative brands.  Many in the Episcopal Church grew up in Baptist churches or similar denominations and they consider their new status as Episcopalians to be an enlightened escape.  So they take cheap shots, ridicule the Baptists and feel self-satisfied.

The flipside occurs of course.  I migrated into the Episcopal Church from a world that found it unimaginable that either Episcopalians or Catholics were even followers of Jesus.  The Episcopalians were clearly apostate sinners who didn’t read the Bible.  The Roman Catholics were not really Christians since they didn’t believe in the Bible and they worshiped Mary.  I think it is fair to say that every Christian group or denomination has its Christian “other” that can be made the object of exclusion.   Read more

Between the Narrative and the Psalm

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 11:1-15 , Psalms

“I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic… I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I had a liaison with another woman. I was painfully honest with my family and I asked my wife’s forgiveness. I have been stripped bare….”

– John Edwards, August, 2008

“I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. There is no one else responsible for my sins. I am responsible…. I don’t think God is through with me. I really believe he thinks there are still some good things I can do, and whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what I’m hopeful about is all those kids I’ve seen…in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world that I can help them in whatever way I’m still capable of helping them.

– John Edwards, May 2012

In the summer of 2008 I departed from the lectionary to preach a sermon series on David. That was the summer the scandal involving then presidential candidate John Edwards broke. The David story is among the readings for this summer’s lectionary cycle, coinciding with the news of Edwards’ trial that filled North Carolina media.

Like it or not, I wonder how to read one story in the light of the other. Do we pass off Edwards as just another politician doing religious things? Do his emotional confessions stem from political expediency or from refiner’s fire? Are they expressions of hand-in-the-cookie-jar panic or scalpel-in-the-heart contrition? And if we hear John Edwards’ words with nothing but suspicion, can we hear the David story with anything other than the hermeneutic of suspicion? Read more