The Sound of Sheer Silence — and Merton Meets Elijah (A Progressive Christian Lectionary Commentary on 1 Kings 19 for Sunday, August 7)

Whenever I hear commentators blaming natural disasters on God’s punishment for human sin (most typically on sexual sins like homosexuality, adultery, divorce, pre-marital sex, or abortion), this week’s Hebrew Scripture lesson from 1 Kings 19 comes to mind. We read in verses 11 and 12 that God is “not in the wind” of the hurricanes like Katrina which struck New Orleans. Similarly, God was “not in the earthquake” (or the tsunami) such as that which struck Japan back in April, just as God was “not i … [Read more...]

A God Who Will Wrestle with You until Daybreak (A Progressive Christian Lectionary Commentary on Genesis 32 for Sunday, July 31)

“The same night” as what? This week’s scripture begins by saying, “The same night [Jacob] got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.”  We’re led to ask, “‘The same night’ as what?”  Earlier in the chapter, we learn that Jacob, the great patriarch of Israel, is afraid. He is afraid of his brother Esau seeking revenge. If you remember the story, Isaac — the child of promise, born of Abraham and Sarah, and nearly blind at the time — ha … [Read more...]

BOOK REVIEW: "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream"

(David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, 2010, 231 pages.)David Platt, the pastor of a four-thousand member megachurch in Birmingham, Alabama, boldly highlights near the beginning of his book that Jesus, at the time of his death, was at best a “minichurch” pastor with far less than four-thousand followers (2). Even Jesus’ closest and most loyal followers fled when the Romans arrested him. This insight is one of many contrasts that Platt draws between the radical, a … [Read more...]

Paul, Evolution, and the Labor Pains of Creation (Romans 8: A Progressive Christian Lectionary Commentary for Sunday, July 24, 2011)

Paul writes to the church in Rome that, “The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” I invite you to consider that part of what Paul is hinting at in this verse is the process that we witness every spring as the barren landscape of winter bursts forth into the flowering of spring and into the lush green of summer in which we currently find ourselves immersed. We humans don’t do anything to make the flowers bloom; nonetheless, new life springs forth each year before our eyes wi … [Read more...]

BOOK REVIEW: "Mother Teresa, CEO"

When you think back on the life of Mother Teresa, the first words that come to mind might be “Saint of Calcutta’s Slums” or “Caregiver to the Poorest of the Poor,” but, I suspect, that your first association with Mother Teresa is not "Chief Executive Officer" or "CEO." Nevertheless, Ruma Bose and Lou Faust, in their recent book Mother Teresa, CEO: Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership mount a case for us to consider what lessons we may be able to learn by viewing Mother Teresa’s life thr … [Read more...]

Jesus’ Seed Parable and Merton’s “New Seeds of Contemplation” (A Progressive Christian Lectionary Commentary for Sunday, July 10, 2011)

I invite you to consider viewing Jesus’ “Parable of the Sower” — about a farmer sowing seeds — through the lens of the third chapter of Thomas Merton’s book New Seeds of Contemplation. Merton was a twentieth-century Roman Catholic monk, who lived in Kentucky and was a prolific writer.  I will share with you two separate excerpts from Merton’s words then briefly reflect on each one for some of the meaning I see in them for us today.Merton writes: Every moment and every event of every person’s li … [Read more...]

REVIEW: “Buddha Standard Time” by Lama Surya Das

(Lama Surya Das, Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now, HarperOne, 2011, 216 pages.)What time is it? Who decides? If I look at a cell phone, I am told 'AT&T Standard Time' or 'Verizon Standard Time.' To counterbalance or double-check this industry-approved time standard, I could look at my watch for a time that I calibrated myself, but I haven't worn a watch in more than a decade, and I don't know how to read a sundial! Moreover, I learned in high school … [Read more...]

BOOK REVIEW: The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals

(Laura Hobgood-Oster, The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals. Baylor University Press, 2010, 227 pages.)As a longtime owner of animals ranging from dogs to cats to rabbits (my wife and I currently own three cats and one dog and are on a list to adopt a second dog), I was pleased to be asked to review Laura Hobgood-Oster's new book which invites us to think theologically about animals. Also, our ethical approach as humans to our companion animals is one of the … [Read more...]

Lectionary Commentary: “Bring Many Names: Progressive Christianity on Trinity Sunday” (for June 19, 2011)

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso has written a wonderful children’s book called In God's Name that affirms the need to call God by many names:  Source of Life – Creator of Light –  Shepherd – Maker of Peace – My Rock – Healer – Redeemer – Ancient One – Comforter – Mother – Father – Friend.We call God by many names because we recognize the limits of our human language and that no one name for God can capture the fullness of God.  Sasso also reassures us at the end of her story that all of the individual … [Read more...]

By Whose Authority? (Progressive Christianity Symposium)

Editor's Note: This article is part of the symposium, "What Is Progressive Christianity?" presented by the newly launched Patheos Progressive Christian Portal and in partnership with the Wild Goose Festival (June 23-26). Like us on Facebook to receive today's best commentary on Progressive Christianity.I often begin any attempt to define Progressive Christianity by contrasting it with so-called “Orthodox Christianity.”  As a Progressive Christian, when I am presented with a theological ques … [Read more...]