Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Call to Prayer

Let us remember our brothers and sisters in prayer.

O, that the we would hear God's call to be a people of peace...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Let Them Grow Together

On Sunday, I dared to preach on the parable that is commonly referred to as “The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Weeds)”. You know the one – a guy plants wheat, someone else plants weeds (that look exactly like the wheat) in the same field, and the two types of plants are allowed to grow together until the harvest… at which point, the weeds are gathered up to be used as fuel for the fire, and the wheat finds sanctuary in the barn. Yep… I think a lot of us like to read the parable that way – with the emphasis being on how the “nasty weeds” are going to “get it” in the end. We tend to read it as if it is one of Aesop’s Fables with some moral to be grasped by the time we reach the last sentence. That’s how I learned it decades ago at VBS: “Remember kids… don’t be a weed!”

But is that what Jesus is trying to say in this parable? I don’t think it is. It is a shame that we so often read parables as if they are Biblical Aesop’s Fables, with characters who represent certain kinds of people and a clear “moral to the story” to be learned with each. When we read parables in this way, I believe that we miss most of the point of parables. Parables – if we really read them, instead of reading into them – don’t give clear answers. Parables usually leave us with more questions than answers – and I think that is exactly why Jesus used parables to talk about things like the Kingdom of God. Why? Because by his using parables to teach, Jesus invites us into an ongoing conversation with him (as opposed to just giving us the answers – which we probably couldn’t handle anyway – and letting us live our lives without needing to be dependent on Jesus).

I believe that Jesus wants us to join him in wrestling with the scriptures instead of constantly wrestling with each other. Wrestling with each other isn’t going to get us anywhere. But, wrestling with Scripture as we remain in conversation with Christ gets us closer to the Word of God.

One of the questions that I have wrestled with as I read this parable is, “what are we supposed to do with the Wheat and the Weeds?” (We always want to know what to do, right?) The response to that given in the parable is “Let them both grow together.” For those who are fans of Greek, check out the word that is translated here as “let them”… it is also used in the Lord’s Prayer, but it is translated there as “forgive”. Forgive and grow together…? Oh, if we would dare to take this to heart and live this way as Christians! The world expects Christians to point fingers and place blame (check out chapter 8 of UnChristian). I hope and pray that we will dare to take the world by surprise and live as people characterized by forgiveness instead of judgment!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Growing Christ's Church Deep and Wide

Another letter has been sent to PCUSA congregations from GA Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, GA Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, and GAC Executive Director Linda Bryant Valentine. The letter highlights some of the actions taken by the 218th General Assembly that haven't made headlines as much as others (if at all).

Check it out!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thoughts About the Heidelberg Catechism

"Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness speaks deceitfully."

-- Proverbs 12:17

The 218th General Assembly decided to begin the process of revising the Heidelberg Catechism. The Theological Issues and Institutions Committee presented the overture from the Presbytery of Newark, asking the Assembly “to correct translation problems in five responses of the Heidelberg Catechism as found in The Book of Confessions and to add the original Scripture texts of the German Heidelberg Catechism.”

Translation problems. Sounds simple enough. But, of course, not everyone is happy about this desire to revise the Heidelberg Catechism. There are claims by some that this call to revise this catechism is purely a political move spearheaded by those seeking the full inclusion of GLBT church members. This is because one of the translation problems involves the answer to Question 87, which (in the current translation) includes the phrase "homosexual perversion". However, that phrase (as well as the phrase "Surely you know that the unjust will never come into possession of the kingdom of God. Make no mistake:") is nowhere to be found in either the Latin or German texts of the Heidelberg Catechism. As it turns out, the gentlemen who did the English translation of the text in 1962 later admitted that they had inserted these words.

Apparently, I'm not the only one thinking about this issue.

Whether you agree with the text as it stands now or not is - in my opinion - immaterial. Mistranslation is mistranslation. When you translate something, you don't add materials that you want to see included. Otherwise, it is a false witness. And I don't know about you, but my mama raised me different than that...

Friday, July 11, 2008

My New Favorite Book... And The Book I'll Be Reading Soon...

Ok... just a quick post to comment on my new favorite book, A Generous Orthodoxy.

I'm still reading, but so far I am really impressed with what Brian McLaren has to say. It is easy to read, yes... but that doesn't mean that it is an "easy read". It is actually pretty challenging. McLaren doesn't hold back. And it is rather refreshing, I think.

Now, this isn't the only book that I'm reading. I'm a true book lover, and I tend to read at least 4 or 5 books at a time. But one of the books that is on my list to read this summer is one that I got while I was at GA. It is not a book that I would have bought (EVER), but since folks were nice enough to give me a copy, I do plan on reading it. The book is Broken Covenant by Parker T. Williamson, the editor emeritus and senior correspondent of The Layman. Yes... The Layman. Not a publication that I endorse (at all). But... I am interested in what he has to say.

Maybe I will end up writing my own book in response... Who knows!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

“Get into the boat. Go across the lake. There will be a storm. You will not die.”

Three key leaders representing the 218th General Assembly have sent a letter to the 11,000 congregations of the PCUSA. You can read the letter here.

Back from GA

I just got back from General Assembly... and my head is still spinning! I am amazed at what we were able to accomplish as a Church! Wow! I'm sure that there are a few who are reading this blog who aren't as thrilled as I am, but that's okay... It is our diversity which can make us strong.

Now that GA is over, the real work begins. We re-affirmed our commitment to the recommendations made by the Peace, Unity, and Purity Task Force in 2006, which challenges us to be in conversation and communion with one another. While there are certainly some churches who will want to leave the denomination, I fervently hope that most churches will seek ways to be in dialogue with each other. The words of Psalm 133 continue to echo in my head. How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity. Maybe I will post the sermon I preached about a year ago that used that text...