Monthly Archives: October 2018

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

Blessed Spirit of God, come to us in all thy fullness and power, to enrich us in our poverty, to inflame us in our feebleness. Be closer to us than breathing, nearer than hands or feet. As the branches are in the vine, so may we abide in thee. Compass our minds with thy wisdom. Saturate our souls with thy righteousness. Fire our wills with thy might. Melt our hearts with thy love. Do everything at all times to make us wholly thine until thy wealth is ours and we are lost in thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.

-Psalm 41:13

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Jonathan A. Greenblatt on the Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh Area) Jewish Massacre–When Hate Goes Mainstream

This has been a very difficult 24 hours for the Jewish community — and for America. What started as a normal Sabbath for Jews — a time to be with family and community, celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs, hold baby namings, pray to God — ended with news of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history.

While the horror of this massacre is shocking, it is not entirely surprising.

At the Anti-Defamation League, we have been tracking and fighting anti-Semitism for over a century. And while Jews have enjoyed a degree of acceptance and achievement in the United States perhaps unrivaled in our people’s history, recent trends have been alarming.

While the overall trend in anti-Semitic incidents has been a downward one, last year we saw the largest single-year increase since the A.D.L. began this annual audit in 1979 — a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017. These incidents include high-profile ones such as neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va., chanting “Jews will not replace us,” physical assaults, vandalism and attacks on Jewish institutions.

Part of this sharp rise comes from a large increase in anti-Semitic incidents in grade schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

John Stott on what Christians are Called to remember

There are some things which Scripture tells us to forget (like the injuries which others do to us). But there is one thing in particular which we are commanded to remember and never to forget. This is what we were before God’s love reached down and found us. For only if we remember our former alienation (distasteful as some of it may be to us), shall we be able to remember the greatness of the grace which forgave and is transforming us.

–John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Bible Speaks Today) [Downer’s Grove, Ill. IVP Academic, 1984), p.56, quoted in this morning’s adult ed class by yours truly

Posted in Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Daily Prayer

O Eternal God, our heavenly Father, who hast given to us thy children an abiding citizenship in heaven, and, in the days of our pilgrimage, a citizenship also upon earth: Give us thine aid, as we journey to that heavenly city, so faithfully to perform the duties which befall us on our way, that at the last we may be found worthy to enter into thy rest; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Daily Prayer, Eric Milner-White and G. W. Briggs, eds. (London: Penguin Books 1959 edition of the 1941 original)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

–Matthew 18:15-20

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Terry Teachout on the Movie the “Best Years of our Lives” (1946)–The Once-United States

It wasn’t necessary to serve in World War II to know such fellowship. Well into the ’60s, many Americans grew up in towns that had no private schools or gated communities. They lived among, went to school with, worked next to and got to know all kinds of people. Starting in the ’70s, though, America started to undergo a demographic transformation that has since been dubbed “the Big Sort.” More and more Americans started seeking out people who shared their cultural and political inclinations, moving to regions that over time became populated with like-minded citizens. In the words of Bill Bishop and Robert G. Cushing, who identified and named the Big Sort in their 2008 book titled after the phenomenon, they chose to live in “communities of sameness…whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible.” The result is postmodern America, a walled-off land in which you need not spend time with, much less befriend anyone, who disagrees with you about anything of importance—and in which you thus become more likely to demonize the strangers with whom you do disagree.

The fact that we now live in such a country has, I suspect, something to do with the steadily growing popularity of “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Whether we realize it or not, Wyler’s poignant portrait of a nation recovering from war reminds all who watch it that America used to be a far friendlier place—and makes you wonder what will become of a land whose angry, distrustful citizens are increasingly choosing to live solely among their own kind.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces, Movies & Television

Saturday Food for Thought (II)–Frederick Buechner on what happens in the Moment right before a Minister begins Preaching

So the hymn comes to a close with an unsteady amen, and the organist gestures the choir to sit down. Fresh from breakfast with his wife and children and a quick run through of the Sunday papers, the preacher climbs the steps to the pulpit with his sermon in hand. He hikes his black robe at the knee so he will not trip over it on the way up. His mouth is a little dry. He has cut himself shaving. He feels as if he has swallowed an anchor. If it weren’t for the honor of the thing, he would just as soon be somewhere else. In the front pews the old ladies turn up their hearing aids, and a young lady slips her six-year old a Lifesaver and a Magic Marker. A college sophomore home from vacation, who is there because he was dragged there, slumps forward with his chin in his hand. The vice- president of a bank who twice this week has seriously contemplated suicide places his hymnal in the rack. A pregnant girl feels the life stir inside her. A high-school math teacher, who for twenty years has managed to keep his homosexuality a secret for the most part, even from himself, creases his order of service with his thumbnail and tucks it under his knee. The preacher pulls a little chord that turns the lectern light and deals out his note cards like a riverboat gambler. The stakes have never been higher. Two minutes from now he may have lost his listeners completely to their own thoughts, but at this minute he has them in the palm of his hand. The silence in the shabby church is deafening because everybody is listening to it. Everybody is listening including even himself. Everybody knows the kind of things he has told them before and not told them, but who knows what this time, out of the silence he will tell them?

–Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale (New York: HarperOne, 1977), page 22, almost quoted by yours truly today in an ordination sermon

Posted in Preaching / Homiletics

Saturday Food for Thought (I): Klyne Snodgrass on Ephesians 2:10

The purpose of God’s creative activity is not merely to have a people, as if he were constructing a work of art. Rather, this new creation is to be active and productive like the Creator. Christians are “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”…. Salvation is not from works, but it surely is for works, that is, living obediently and productively. In keeping with 1:3–14 on God’s planning, choosing, and acting, this verse shows God planned and acted not only to save, but also to mark out the way we should live. John Stott’s words are not too strong: “Good works are indispensable to salvation—not as its ground or means … but as its consequence and evidence.”

–Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary on Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 107, quoted by yours truly in last week’s adult education class

Posted in Books, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to begin the day from Henry Stobart (1824-1895)

Almighty God, Whose only-begotten Son…did burst the bonds of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it, raise us, we pray Thee, from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness, that, at the last day, when He shall come again in glory, we may be quickened in our mortal bodies, through the same Spirit that quickened Him, who was the first-born from the dead, and is now alive for evermore; in whose name we beseech Thee to hear us, O merciful and gracious Lord.

–Henry Stobart, Daily Services For Christian Households (London:SPCK, 1867), p. 110

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

To the end that [my] glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

–Psalm 30:11-12 (KJV)

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CT Pastors) Tim Keller: Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age–Clarity and compassion on Christianity’s toughest doctrine

My heart sank when a young college student said, “I’ve gone to church all my life, but I don’t think I can believe in a God like this.” Her tone was more sad than defiant, but her willingness to stay and talk showed that her mind was open.

Usually all the questions are pitched to me, and I respond as best I can. But on this occasion people began answering one another.

An older businesswoman said, “Well, I’m not much of a churchgoer, and I’m in some shock now. I always disliked the very idea of hell, but I never thought about it as a measure of what God was willing to endure in order to love me.”

Then a mature Christian made a connection with a sermon a month ago on Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11. “The text tells us that Jesus wept,” he said, “yet he was also extremely angry at evil. That’s helped me. He is not just an angry God or a weeping, loving God—he’s both. He doesn’t only judge evil, but he also takes the hell and judgment himself for us on the cross.”

The second woman nodded, “Yes. I always thought hell told me about how angry God was with us, but I didn’t know it also told me about how much he was willing to suffer and weep for us. I never knew how much hell told me about Jesus’ love. It’s very moving.”

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

Jonathan Turley–European Court Upholds Prosecution Of Woman For Comparing Muhammad’s Marriage To A Six-Year-Old Girl To Pedophilia

The Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled that the woman’s “right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.”

The ECHR engaged in what is now an all-too-familiar effort to deny its obvious denial of free speech by saying that freedom of religion did not protect religions from criticism but they upheld the punishment of someone for doing precisely that. It simply declared that the woman’s comments “could only be understood as having been aimed at demonstrating that Muhammad was not worthy of worship.”

The opinion is perfectly Orwellian in saying that you cannot get away with using free speech by simply claiming the right of free speech. The court rejected that people are entitled to free speech by simply “pack[ing] incriminating statements into the wrapping of an otherwise acceptable expression of opinion and claim that this rendered passable those statements exceeding the permissible limits of freedom of expression.”

That type of circular logic would be laughable if it were not so chilling.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

A WSJ Profile Article About life at Netflix: A Company where Radical Transparency and Blunt Firings Unsettle the Ranks

The Netflix way emphasizes “freedom and responsibility,” trusting employees to use discretion—whether it is about taking vacation, flying business class or expensing an Uber ride home. Virtually every employee can access sensitive information, from how many subscribers sign up in each country to viewership of shows to contractual terms for Netflix’s production deals. Executives at the director level and above—some 500 people—can see the salaries of every employee.

Employees are encouraged to give one another blunt feedback. Managers are all told to apply a “keeper test” to their staff—asking themselves whether they would fight to keep a given employee—a mantra for firing people who don’t fit the culture and ensuring only the strongest survive.

Staying true to Mr. Hastings’ vision, always difficult, is getting harder thanks to the breakneck pace of growth and change at the company. In little over a decade, Netflix has gone from a DVD-by-mail outfit to a globe-spanning Hollywood powerhouse with more than 6,000 full- and part-time employees, including nearly 2,000 added just this year so far.

“As you scale a company to become bigger and bigger how do you scale that kind of culture?” said Colin Estep, a former senior engineer who left voluntarily in 2016. “I don’t know that we ever had a good answer.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Movies & Television, Pastoral Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Alfred the Great

O Sovereign Lord, who didst bring thy servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also, we beseech thee, a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer