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Conjoined twins: faith and doubt (Readings for March 30, 2008)

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CarvaggioWhen Jesus appears to the disciples, that first Sunday eve of the resurrection, Thomas is not around. Later, hearing the story, Thomas is skeptical, refusing to accept the possibility without direct evidence—including, he insists, a DWE [“Digital Wound Exam“—you may not get that unless you’re a middle-aged male].

A week later, Jesus suddenly appears through the locked doors. I wonder if Thomas, remembering his reluctance, thinks “Eeyow!” and slips to the back of the group. But Jesus looks past the crowd into Thomas’ eyes, and says, essentially, “Here you go. Check me out. I’ll be your lab rat, if that’s what it really takes.”

It’s a moving story, to me. Jesus’ rebuke to Thomas is pretty light, and he merely offers a “blessed are they” (rather than a rebuke) to people like us who “believe without seeing.”

Isn’t doubt what makes faith, faith? This machine on which I type – its reality (at least to my western mind) is beyond question. No faith needed there. But our memories, our ethics, our conviction of what is or is not real beyond that which we see … are not those things that we choose to trust? I wonder if every atheist’s credo (or a-credo) is a little bit faithey. And if every Christian—dare we admit it?— is yet part agnostic.

We believe—God knows, we’ve seen plenty—but there are times when all that has seemed so clear is again hard to grasp.  And in those times, the resurrected Jesus does not condemn, but beckons.

Thank God.

Second Sunday of Easter March 30, 2008
John 20:19-31; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16

John 20:19-31
To Believe
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. Read the rest of this entry »

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March 25, 2008 at 1:58 pm

“You don’t need more faith” (readings for Oct 7)

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I don’t? Doesn’t Jesus say aggravatingly obscure things?
Read it for yourself, below—and I’ll see what I can learn this week. Your suggestions welcome!

Orange and Poppyseed Bun

Proper 22 (27); October 7, 2007
Luke 17:5-10; 2 Timothy 1:1-14;
Lamentations 1:1-6; Lamentations 3:19-26
To read these passages in another language (not a machine translation) or another English version, click Bible Gateway and select your choice from the drop-down menu.

Luke 17:5-10
The apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”

But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it. Read the rest of this entry »

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October 4, 2007 at 1:29 pm

An un-respectable faith (sermon for Sep 9, 2007)

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Henderson Lewelling HouseAnd something you might have in common with this old house.

Proper 18 (23); September 9, 2007
Luke 14:25-33; Philemon 1-21; Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6,13-18

We sang Forever, Your Great Name We Praise, The Potter’s Hand, and Jesus, All for Jesus

Last week, we watched Jesus at a dinner. Jesus told the guests to take the places of low prestige at the table, and he told the host to revise his guest list, inviting people with bad reputations next time he had a dinner. And why was that such a big deal?

It was a big deal because it was a high-context culture, in which there were many rules for how things were to be done, and failure to follow those rules meant putting one’s ability to get what was needed at risk. Especially, who one knew, who one was related to, who one socialized with was how people determined who was safe to be friends with, to marry, to do business with.

And Jesus told them to break it up and pursue relationships with people who aren’t players – who aren’t influential. You saw him doing it in chapter after chapter after chapter in Luke, touching people whom his world told him he must not touch.

And what was the result of it likely to be on Jesus and those who follow him? Bad reputation. “What kind of church have you got here?” Dads will say: “These are not the people I want hanging around my daughter.” Strangers will say: “They don’t have respectful decorum at that church.” “Did you see that so-and-so goes to church there? What a hypocrite! They just don’t seem to be able to attract good people.” And, “You know, they have people there who just don’t know how to discipline their children, and I have such a hard time paying attention to the sermon.” And, “That strange guy stood and talked today, and just wouldn’t shut up.” And some may leave. And income may be low.

There is a shame to it. It clashes with respectability.
But it says to those our society does not respect: You’re included in the Kingdom of God, just like me. And Jesus promised we’d be blessed for doing so, and then further repaid at the resurrection.

Now, with that as the context, we go on in Luke. How does that background affect your understand of this that happens next? Read the rest of this entry »

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September 18, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Sojourners’ Presidential Forum on Faith, Values, and Poverty

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Highlights of last night’s discussions with the three major Demos. Intriguing, helpful, and something of a watershed moment in American politics. Can you imagine this happening four years ago?

Written by Monte

June 5, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Politics, Poverty, Religion

A more ancient – and more recent – faith

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Those of us who struggle to find our way toward Christ—skeptical, on one hand, of systematic theology’s historic ties to transient cultural outlooks, and, on the other, of equally momentary (but welcome) new epistemology flooding western culture—are starving for ways to understand what our faith really even is.

How Not to Speak of GodMy friend Nancy (who, with others, writes at a snazzy new blog called The Echo Chamber) came across these thoughtful words from How (Not) To Speak of God* by Peter Rollins at Emerging Nazarenes. If such thoughts are your cup of tea, see how this one tastes:

“Here I picture the emerging community as a significant part of a wider religious movement which rejects both absolutism and relativism as idolatrous positions which hide their human origins in the modern myth of pure reason. … Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 30, 2007 at 12:50 pm