Showing posts from June, 2019

Healing our demons

Last week, when I was walking through downtown at about 5 pm, a woman and I attempted to cross a street simultaneously, but from opposite directions. Heading directly toward one another, she angled slightly to her left and I concurrently angled to my right; then we did the reverse, she moving right and I left. We repeated our dance several times as we each politely sought to avoid colliding. When we were only a couple of feet from each other, she looked up; I chuckled bemusedly, realizing that our politeness had unintentionally created an impasse; she, after a moment, changed her expression from wary concern to a smile, and we passed pleasantly. The incident was memorable because she obviously expected some type of negative confrontation. The incident, in a small way, symbolizes the widespread polarizations of contemporary life. When somebody is different than we are, we too frequently stigmatize the person and treat them as an outcast. This happens, from both perspectives, betwee

Giving, tithing and other stewardship questions in an era of grace

An Ethical Musings’ reader sent me this question: I would be grateful if you can direct me to any of your sermons on [the issue of tithing and first fruit giving]. If no sermons, please what are your thoughts on these 2 tropical issues? Do they still have relevance in today’s era of Grace rather than Law? Some searching through my files and subsequent reflections led to two conclusions. First, since I no longer preach on a regular basis, I lack the incentive to preach stewardship sermons as part of a congregation’s annual stewardship campaign. Second, my thinking about the efficacy of stewardship sermons has shifted toward preferring a paragraph or two on giving in occasional sermons scattered across the year instead of an entire sermon devoted to stewardship. Jesus did not teach tithing. Tithing is an Old Testament concept. Incidentally, the twentieth century founder of a small Christian denomination, after a painstaking if severely flawed analysis of the Old Testament, c

Post-theism: A rationale and explanation

Many people find the intersection of science and religion highly problematic. The difficulty harkens back to when everyone read Scripture in a pre-scientific, literal way (except for those who read Scripture allegorically and even they presumed a pre-scientific worldview). However, by the sixteenth century, that started to change. For example, Galileo’s championing of Copernicus’ theory of a heliocentric universe evoked strong ecclesial opposition. The Church, based on its reading of Joshua 10, which says that God caused the sun to stand still for a day so that the Israelites could take vengeance on the Amorites, taught that the earth and not the sun is at the center of the universe. The sun standing still in the sky makes sense only in a geocentric, not in a heliocentric, universe. Not until the twentieth century did the Roman Catholic Church reverse its rejection of a heliocentric universe. Numerous, apparent contradictions between scientific theory and a literal reading of Sc

Moving toward unity while celebrating diversity

A couple were going out for the evening. They called a taxi and put the cat out for the evening. The taxi arrived, and as the couple walked out the front door, the cat shot back in. They didn’t want the cat shut in the house, so one person went out to the taxi while the other went upstairs to chase the cat out. The passenger, not wanting it known that the house would be empty explained to the taxi driver, “My spouse is just going upstairs to say goodbye to my mother.” A few minutes later, the spouse climbed into the cab. “Sorry I took so long. Stupid old thing was hiding under the bed and I had to poke her with a coat hanger to get her to come out!” The ability to communicate constitutes an essential element of being human. As philosopher Michael de Unamuno says, "Language is the blood of the spirit." Yet, humans often communicate poorly. The Genesis story about the Tower of Babel is an early attempt to explain why, if people supposedly descended from common a