Weekender: June 17, 2017

Weekender: 06/17/2017

Welcome to the weekend! Each week, we like to offer a few quick highlights from our week that we think will give you something worthwhile to think about over the weekend. Enjoy this week’s Weekender and add to it in the comments below!

Quote Worth Repeating: “The word ‘Eucharist’ means literally ‘act of thanksgiving.’ To celebrate the Eucharist and to live a Eucharistic life has everything to do with gratitude.” In With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

Image to Interpret: “Road to Emmaus” by Duccio (which is also the cover art for With Burning Hearts).

Duccio’s “Road to Emmaus”

Interesting Insight: In The Bible in American Life (Oxford University Press, 2017: review forthcoming), Goff, Farnsley, and Thuesen note that 48% of Americans read Scripture (outside of a worship service) at least once per year. 9% of Americans (approximately 28,926,000 people) read the Bible daily. I’ve only read the introduction, but I am almost certain that this book is one every pastor should own, even if only to know what questions to ask about your specific congregation.

Here’s another freebie. The King James Version is still the most popular translation read in America.

Questions to Ponder:  How do you set learning objectives when teaching theology? For example, when considering an introductory Bible study for new Christians, what guides the kinds of things you hope they’ll know by the end? Do you do mostly intellectual learning objectives, or is there room for practical objectives? Do you find a specific catechism or method of catechesis especially helpful?

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend!


Another “Not-To-Do” List: For Pastors and Theologians

Tim Ferriss is obsessed with efficiency. On his podcast, Ferriss often invites the most successful people in the world, from athletes to scientists, to share their workflow. Today he posted a blog with a “Not-To-Do” list that is, for the most part, helpful. Pastoral ministry is not and should not be equated with running a business. Since Tim is writing primarily for businesspeople, some of the list doesn’t translate into a life of pastoral care. So, I thought I’d offer a slightly revised version for those of us who are pulled every which way as servants in the Church. Continue reading

Weekender: June 10, 2017

Weekender: 06/10/2017

Welcome to the weekend! Each week, we like to offer a few quick highlights from our week that we think will give you something worthwhile to think about over the weekend. Enjoy this week’s Weekender and add to it in the comments below!

Quote Worth Repeating: “It hardly needs to be argued that “kingdom” is a political term; the common Bible reader is less aware that “gospel” as well means not just any old welcome report but the kind of publicly important proclamation that is worth sending with a runner and holding a celebration for when it is received.” By John Howard Yoder in The Politics of Jesus (Eerdmans, 1994), p. 28.

Blog Post to Read: In “How Karl Barth Preached the Gospel in a Time of Crisis,” Walter Brueggemann reviews A Unique Time of God: Karl Barth’s WWI Sermons (translated and edited by William Klempa). “Barth’s time was indeed a ‘unique time of God.’ But Barth would surely have said that every sermon is a unique time of God. Beyond historical interest, these sermons invite reflection on preaching in our own context of crisis.”

Speaking of Walter Brueggemann, have you signed up for Homebrewed Christianity’s giveaway yet? Click here to enter to win TEN books by the highly acclaimed Old Testament scholar. (You will be redirected to Homebrewed Christianity’s website.)

Video to Watch: Some weeks, I need a reminder that God is good. This song takes me back to my time in Durham, worshipping with the folks at City Well UMC. Enjoy!

Questions to Ponder: In a review of two books about the pastors and ethics, I asked “How should we preach against racism in our congregations?” While we need to answer that question according to our own contexts, I think the insights could be valuable. How have you addressed racism in your own congregation? Whether in preaching, teaching, counseling, or activism?

Recent Posts on Theology Forum:

  1. Don’t Say Nothing: Preaching and Racism by Zen Hess
  2. A Pentecost Prayer by Zen Hess
  3. We Are Always Beginners: Barth on Discipleship by Kent Eilers

Don’t Say Nothing: Preaching and Racism

In the summer of 2015, I was a chaplain at a camp in North Carolina. I preached to hundreds of campers and mentored approximately fifty counselors. In the summer of 2015, about four and a half hours from my camp, Dylann Roof walked into a church and murdered nine black people who were praying. In my preaching and teaching at camp, I said nothing. I knew what happened and I chose to say nothing. Honestly, I cannot say whether I stayed silent out of fear or out of foolishness or, perhaps, because of my own inherent racism. None of those reasons are acceptable. Lord, forgive me for the things I’ve said and the things I’ve left unsaid.

In the summer of 2017, I’ve been gifted with another opportunity to preach. This time, the community is a wild group of all kinds of people called Anchor Community Church. And though Anchor is more diverse than many churches in Fort Wayne, racism is still alive in our neighborhood. Confederate flags fly from two different houses near to the church building. As I walk to my church’s building, those flags remind me that we need to keep preaching to confront racism. The question is how do we preach to confront racism?

Continue reading


Weekender: June 3, 2017

Weekender: 06/03/2017

Welcome to the weekend! Each week, we like to offer a few quick highlights from our week that we think will give you something worthwhile to think about over the weekend. Enjoy this week’s Weekender and add to it in the comments below!

This is a special edition of Weekender. Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreements has raised questions for many. The church needs to face these questions head-on. We worship God the Creator of All Things. What does that mean for us? How do we respond? How can we participate in the movement of God to make all things new? The resources offered below are not all specifically Christian. They are given for the sake of perspective.

Quotes Worth Repeating

“All life is interrelated…Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly…There is an interrelated structure of reality.” From “Letters from Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King Jr.

“Strange though it may sound, lament is something we need to learn to do…Scripture is altogether our best guide to prayer, but you have to ask: How can it guide us in this situation? How could an ancient text possibly shed light on a thoroughly modern oil spill? Of course the biblical writers did not know about this particular technological disaster. However, there is one biblical voice, the prophet Jeremiah, who teaches us to lament over the suffering we have caused the earth and calls us to be reconciled with both God and the created order. Jeremiah spoke to and for God in the face of a disaster as devastating as this one: a prolonged and deadly drought, which left animals and people desperate with thirst, and ruined the once-fertile land of Judah. We would be inclined to say that drought is a natural disaster, and therefore quite unlike this oil spill, but Jeremiah would say that the earth always and everywhere suffers as a result of human sin.” From a sermon called “Learning to Lament” by Ellen Davis.

Videos to Watch

  1. Norman Wirzba: “Why Theological Education Needs Ecology”
  2. Ellen Davis: “Christians and Creation”

Books to Read

  1. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
  2. From Nature to Creation by Norman Wirzba
  3. Shalom and the Community of Creation by Randy Woodley
  4. Making Peace with the Land by Fred Bahnson and Norman Wirzba
  5. Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis

Essays to Read

  1. Whose Earth is it Anyway?” by James Cone
  2. “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” by Wendell Berry
  3. “Jesus is Coming! Plant a Tree” by N.T. Wright
  4. “Globalization and the War against Farmers and the Land” by Vandana Shiva
  5. “The Uses of Prophecy” by David Orr

You might also find some of my (Zen) writing on the subject useful (and more accessible). Click here for a list of posts on Theology Forum. I’ve also written on these matters for The Other Journal and my previous blog Faith Commune. I’ve also abridged my thesis bibliography so that it contains only books, essays, and articles directly related to this topic. You can download the PDF by clicking here.

Websites to Visit

These websites are denominationally affiliated but are loaded with helpful resources.

  1. Mennonite Creation Care Network
  2. UCC Environmental Ministries
  3. PCUSA Environmental Ministries
  4. Catholic Creation Care

Add your resources, books, essays, videos to the list in the comments below!


Giveaway: Ten Walter Brueggemann Books

The good folks over at Homebrewed Christianity are giving away TEN books by renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. Whether you want to read them for yourself or give them to your nerdy friends (like me!), this is a giveaway worth entering.

Click here to enter the giveaway (you will be redirected to Homebrewed Christianity’s website). While you’re at it, subscribe to their podcast!


A Pentecost Prayer

We are well on our way to Pentecost. Let us pray!

Oh God whose breath makes all things new, you whose rushing breath made something out of nothing, be with us today.

Oh God of Israel, you whose rushing breath like wind made a way through the sea, a way where there was no way, be with us today.

Oh God of Covenant, you who came down like fire upon Mount Sinai and filled with promises the people you had chosen, be with us today.

Oh God of Israel, you talkative God who gave words to the prophets and to psalmists, who called the four winds of the earth to raise dry bones in a low valley, be with us today.

Oh God of Pentecost, who swarmed into the room where Christ’s disciples were gathered and gave them tongues ablaze, be with us today.

We gather in these days of trial and confusion, humbled by your presence, as the united body of Christ in a world so divided, so fractured.

We ask for your grace so that we might be made whole. Help us to know that we are brothers and sisters. In our baptism, we belong to you and to one another. Through you, Holy Spirit, may it be so.