Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Markets and Civic Life

Are there some things that money cannot (or should not) buy? This is a very succinct and thought-provoking talk from Michael Sandel. He raises some very good questions about markets, values, incentives, and meaning. If you've never seen Sandel before, I think you will find him to be a very effective communicator and teacher. I encourage you to watch the video and would appreciate any comments you might like to share in response.  Thanks.

An Excerpt from this TED Talk...
Over the past three decades, we have lived through a quiet revolution. We've drifted almost without realizing it from having a market economy to becoming market societies. The difference is this: A market economy is a tool, a valuable and effective tool, for organizing productive activity, but a market society is a place where almost everything is up for sale. It's a way of life, in which market thinking and market values begin to dominate every aspect of life: personal relations, family life, health, education, politics, law, civic life.

Now, why worry? Why worry about our becoming market societies? For two reasons, I think. One of them has to do with inequality. The more things money can buy, the more affluence, or the lack of it, matters. If the only thing that money determined was access to yachts or fancy vacations or BMWs, then inequality wouldn't matter very much. But when money comes increasingly to govern access to the essentials of the good life -- decent health care, access to the best education, political voice and influence in campaigns -- when money comes to govern all of those things, inequality matters a great deal. And so the marketization of everything sharpens the sting of inequality and its social and civic consequence. That's one reason to worry.

There's a second reason apart from the worry about inequality, and it's this: with some social goods and practices, when market thinking and market values enter, they may change the meaning of those practices and crowd out attitudes and norms worth caring about.
View Complete Transcript Here

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday Words - In Autumn

What affection I have for the earth,
for the meadow already gone to golden,

for the burnt-orange reeds of the cattails,
and the maple leaves etched in yellow

against a pale blue sky, and the black trunk,
and the black branches, and the small black twigs.

In the morning, I remember how much
I love the colors of the sky before

the sun rises, not any one day
the same, changed by the haze in the valley,

the ridges of clouds riding high and white.
In the evening I return––as the light

is caught on the horizon––a glow
of opulence through the soldiering corn.

"In Autumn" by Joyce Sutphen, from First Words.
© Copyright 2010 by Joyce Sutphen.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
I can't tell you how much I love this collection of poems. If you enjoyed the poem above, you MUST buy this book. Poem after poem, Sutphen adroitly weaves memory, introspection, heart, mind, past and present. First Words by Joyce Sutphen is beautifully written and has become one of the treasures in my personal library.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Who Is This Man?

Who Is This Man? by John Ortberg is the reading selection for my current book club at Valley Christian Church. Our second session will be next Tuesday night, Tuesday, November 5, at 7:00pm. We will be discussing Chapter 6 - 11, pp. 74-149.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Music - Jingles

Just for fun, I've pulled together a few of my old radio commercials to make a little collection called Jingles: Radio Fun from the 70s. Recording jingles really was a fun way to earn a living during my college days. Can't believe those days were 40 years ago. Yikes!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Faithful People

Almighty and merciful God, we want to be your faithful people and we want to serve you and honor you through our lives. We ask you to make this possible by your grace and guidance. Help us to press forward. Lift us up when we stumble. And help us to run to win the prize of your upward calling.

Lead us away from temptation. Free us from selfishness and pride. Give us the honesty and humility to recognize our need for your grace and mercy. Forgive us our sins and make us ready to forgive others.

Thank you, O God, for providing for our needs. Give us the wisdom and humility to recognize your provision. Give us hearts that are generous toward others. Make us ready and willing to help those in need. And may your grace and provision in our lives always result in us being more gracious and generous as we follow in the way of Christ.

Through Him, we pray. Amen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Family - Tyler and Leagues

LEAGUES is currently touring in the Great Northwest.
Check out tour dates HERE.

LEAGUES interviewed in PASTE MAGAZINE...
For even the most successful of musicians, there remain few experiences in their careers more satisfying than the days when they were jamming with their high-school buddies in a small garage, struggling to get through a song on tempo and having a grand old time doing it.
It’s this sort of pure dynamic that—after nearly 15 years of being a professional musician—guitarist and singer-songwriter Tyler Burkum sought to return to with his latest band, Leagues. Only whereas the aforementioned, theoretical garage band consists of amateur rock wannabes, Leagues boasts three music veterans at the top of their respective fields.
“In a lot of ways, I feel like it took me 15 years of playing music to actually just get to do what I want to do,” Burkum explains.  KEEP READING...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Intentional Marriage

Lasting marriages with healthy and deepening relationships require intentionality. Distance, blame, and miscommunication can diminish even the best of marriages. Just one person being thoughtful and deliberate can make a marriage a whole lot better.

Here are 15 essential tips from Dr. Harriet Lerner posted on the Psychology Today website. If you're married, you are likely to find something helpful here that could invigorate your relationship with your spouse.
1. Warm things up. Make at least two positive comments every day to your partner and speak to the specifics about what you admire (“I loved how funny you were at the party last night”). Make sure that your positive comments exceed critical ones by a healthy margin.

2. Dial down the criticism. Many folks value criticism at the early stage of a relationship, but become more allergic to it over time. Get more bite marks on your tongue, by letting all but the most important issues go by. When you have a criticism, make it in three sentences or less. Remember this: No one can survive in a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged than admired.
KEEP READING (There are 13 More Suggestions)

• • • • • • • • •
Mark your calendars! Valley Christian Church will be having our Married Couples Retreat on February 21-22, 2014.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday Words - A Week Late for Columbus

Columbus sailed the ocean blue
Back in 1492.
He sailed across and spotted land,
A beach, and people on the sand.

He called them Indians because
He had no idea where he was,
India was just a guess.
When in doubt, declare success.

"Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue..." by Ramon Montaigne.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Meditations for Skeptical Believers

Early last spring, I was reading The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor and subsequently did a blog post or two about it. A friend who saw those posts sent me a message that said something like, "Do you know Daniel Taylor? If not, you should. He lives just a couple blocks away from you."

So, I found a website for Daniel Taylor and sent him a message asking him if he would let me take him out for a cup of coffee and some conversation. He responded in the affirmative and we set up a time to meet at a nearby coffeehouse the following week.

It turned out to be a very snowy spring day, almost too snowy to keep the appointment, but we both showed up. The coffee was good, and so was the conversation. Before we left the coffee shop, I asked Daniel if he would sign my copy of The Myth of Certainty, which he graciously did. He wrote, "To David, a kindred spirit." I thought that was pretty nice and have since come to see it also as true.

Since our meeting, I've read Taylor's lastest book, The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist. I can't tell you how many times while reading I thought, "He's right. We really are kindred spirits." Honestly, sometimes my thought was more along the lines of, "Wow, he's as bad as I am." Which, to be completely candid, was a warm comfort to me (and pleasantly discomforting to my inner atheist).

The Skeptical Believer is a a fairly long book (388 pages) comprised of very short chapters (86 of them). While there is an overarching structure and direction for the book, each of the short essays could easily stand alone. For that reason, I would encourage readers to take their time and to read this book slowly over a couple of months, reading maybe one or two essays a day. You could practically approach this book as a collection of daily meditations for skeptical believers.

The one-hundred-fifty psalms of the Old Testament are best read a little at a time. Because of the similarities in theme and structure, the depth and meaning of individual psalms may be lost to the reader if taken in too many at one time. Better to read less, savor slowly, and think more. I suggest the same is true with The Skeptical Believer. Go ahead and plow through other books on your reading list, but take this one slowly. Treat it like a long series of conversations with a neighbor at a nearby coffee shop.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Music - Preoccupied with Pain

Is the tree that's pruned
preoccupied with pain?
standing with its wound
in the wind and rain....

Shrouded in cool mist,
kissed by the dew,
chosen for a nest
by a bird or two

Enveloped with fragrance
of rainwashed air,
bloodroots and violets
clustered round it there

gently transfigured
as sap begins to flow
flowers, leaves,
choicest fruit...

How I'd like to know:
Is the tree that's pruned
preoccupied with pain?

by Ruth Bell Graham, © Copyright 1977,
from Sitting By My Laughing Fire.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Reaching Across Barriers

O God, we are so thankful for your mercy and love. We thank you for your Son, Jesus, and for the life and salvation he has made possible for us. Help us, as part of your Church, to be a living demonstration of your power to save and transform and renew. Make us a true community of grace.

Forgive us our sins. Help us to turn away from darkness and to love the light. Make us willing and able to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Help us to think, speak, and act in ways that restore lives, nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Thank you, O Lord, for Jesus, who did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself and became a servant. Help us, like him, to reach across barriers, to welcome the weak, to serve, and to look to the interests of others.

It’s in His name that we pray all these things. Amen.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Family - Leagues Tour

LEAGUES is currently touring in the beautiful Southwest. If that's where you are, you should try to catch one of their shows! After that they'll be in the Northwest, so c'mon folks, get out there and support Tyler and the guys.

10/18/13 Phoenix, AZ at Pub Rock
Buy Tickets

10/19/13 San Diego, CA at The Griffin
Buy Tickets

10/22/13 Los Angeles, CA at The Satellite
Buy Tickets

10/23/13 San Francisco, CA at Brick and Mortar
Buy Tickets

10/25/13 Portland, OR at Bunk Bar
Buy Tickets

10/27/13 Seattle, WA at Barboza
Buy Tickets

10/29/13 Vancouver, BC at The Media Club
Buy Tickets

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Life after Death

Last week on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, Robert Siegel interviewed five different people on their beliefs about life after death. I found it interesting and thought I would pull all the links together here in case you wanted to check it out. The five interviews include an evangelical Christian pastor, a Muslim imam, a secular philosopher, a Jewish rabbi, and a Catholic nun. I especially appreciated some of the ideas put forward in the interview with philosopher, Samuel Scheffler.

Siegel introduced the series with these words: "A majority of Americans from all walks of life believe in life after death. Yet conversations about the afterlife — from what it might look and feel like to who else one may find there — often remain highly personal ones, shared with family members, clergy or others who share one's faith. To better understand how many Americans conceive of the afterlife, All Things Considered has spoken with leaders from different faith traditions on their views on life after death."

An Evangelical Protestant Pastor's Beliefs:
The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, a pastor of The Lamb's Church in New York City and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, tells NPR's Robert Siegel how faith in the afterlife informs Salguero's life and why he sees heaven as a place where diverse people coexist without the tensions that sometimes divide them on earth.

A Muslim Imam's Beliefs:
NPR's Robert Siegel spoke with Mufti Asif Umar, a Muslim scholar and imam of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, about what Muslims believe and about his own beliefs.

A Secular Philosopher's Beliefs:
Philosopher Samuel Scheffler doesn't believe in a traditional afterlife — that is, he doesn't think that a spirit or soul survives the body's physical death. But he does believe in another kind of afterlife: Regardless of what we think about our own life after death, Scheffler tells NPR's Robert Siegel, we all trust that others will continue to live after us. And, much like faith in a spiritual afterlife, that belief changes what we choose to do with our days on earth.

A Jewish Rabbi's Beliefs:
Millions of Americans believe in the afterlife, and author and scholar Joseph Telushkin is no exception. The Orthodox rabbi has written extensively about Judaism and says that the concept of God is incompatible with the idea that life ends at death. He holds that conviction so strongly, he tells NPR's Robert Siegel, because he believes that God is just — and he has to assume that a just God would provide some reward to a person who has lived his or her life well, while imposing a different fate upon those who do evil.

A Catholic Nun's Beliefs:
Perhaps it's no surprise that Mary Catherine Hilkert, a Catholic theologian, a professor at Notre Dame and a Dominican Sister of Peace, believes that people can find love, mercy and union with God after death. In her eyes, however, the concept of hell is far less definitive.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Words - Footnote to All Prayers

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskilfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

"Footnote to All Prayers" by C. S. Lewis, 
from Poems by C. S. Lewis.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Book Club Session One: Next Tuesday, October 22

Who Is This Man? by John Ortberg is the reading selection for my next book club at Valley Christian Church.

Our first session will be next Tuesday, October 22, at 7:00pm. We will be discussing pages 7-73 (Forward through Chapter 5). Copies are available at the church's resource center. Let me know if you'd like me to hold a copy for you. The church office is open between 10am and 2pm, Monday through Friday.

Publisher's Book Description:
Jesus' impact on our world is highly unlikely, widely inescapable, largely unknown, and decidedly double-edged. It is unlikely in light of the severe limitations of his earthly life; it is inescapable because of the range of impact; it is unknown because history doesn't connect dots; and it is doubled-edged because his followers have wreaked so much havoc, often in his name.

He is history's most familiar figure, yet he is the man no one knows. His impact on the world is immense and non-accidental. From the Dark Ages to Post-Modernity he is the Man who won't go away.

And yet . . .you can miss him in historical lists for many reasons, maybe the most obvious being the way he lived his life. He did not loudly and demonstrably defend his movement in the spirit of a rising political or military leader. He did not lay out a case that history would judge his brand of belief superior in all future books.

His life and teaching simply drew people to follow him. He made history by starting in a humble place, in a spirit of love and acceptance, and allowing each person space to respond.His vision of life continues to haunt and challenge humanity. His influence has swept over history bringing inspiration to what has happened in art, science, government, medicine, and education; he has taught humans about dignity, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Music - Resting Place

My faith has found a resting place
Not in device or creed –
I trust the Ever-Living One
His wounds for me shall plead.

Enough for me that Jesus died –
This ends my fear and doubt.
A sinful soul, I come to him –
He’ll never cast me out.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea –
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that he died for me.

My faith is leaning on the word,
The written word of God –
Salvation by my savior’s name,
Salvation by his blood.

My great physician heals the sick,
The lost he came to save.
For me, his precious blood he shed;
For me, his life he gave.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea –
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that he died for me.

Words by Eliza E. Hewitt in Songs of Joy and Gladness, 1891. 

Hymnals often show the author as Lidie H. Edmunds, Eliza's pseudonymn.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Grace and Glory

Almighty and everlasting God, you have revealed your grace and glory in this world through your son, Jesus Christ. We thank you for your mercy and ask that you complete your saving works of mercy in our world. Help your Church in all places to persevere with steadfast faith. Shape and use each of us as we find our place and purpose in your Church.

You know our weaknesses and you understand our limitations.  Our sins and failures are no secret or surprise to you. And yet, you are faithful to forgive, you are ready to renew, you are able to lift us up, and you call us to press forward in Christ. In the same way, help us to forgive, to encourage, and to bless others. You are gracious and merciful to us, and we ask you to make us gracious and merciful to others.

O God, help us to seek you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Show yourself to us through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Help us to desire and delight in your will and to walk in your ways to the glory of your Name.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Family - Rhubarb and Cactus Blossoms

Due to high winds up on the North Shore last Saturday, Cheri and I unexpectedly headed back to Saint Paul. We got back in time to catch our boys playing on The Rhubarb Show at the Fitzgerald Theater. We had fun and The Cactus Blossoms sounded great! "Happy Man on a Gloomy Day" is one of the new songs they played that night. Perfect for that day!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Writing Tips from C. S. Lewis

If you're interested in writing, you may find the Aerogramme Writers' Studio Blog to be as helpful and enjoyable as I do. One recent post on that blog included some advice for writing from C. S. Lewis.

It was Lewis' daily practice to spend an hour each morning reading his mail and crafting thoughtful replies. The following short list of suggestions for writers was excerpted from a letter Lewis penned to one of his correspondents named Joan Lancaster, a young American woman who aspired to be a writer.

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Read More Here

Letters of C. S. Lewis: Revised and Enlarged Edition (C. S. Lewis)

This volume collects C.S. Lewis’s correspondence with family, friends, and fans, and spans from his youth as a student to just a few weeks before his death. Witness his conversion from atheism to Christianity, as well as his thoughts on books, nature, humanity, and God.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Wednesday Words - Scaffolding


Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job's done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

"Scaffolding" by Seamus Heaney. © Copyright 1980 by Seamus Heaney. From Seamus Heaney Poems: 1965-1975 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Who Is This Man?

Who Is This Man? by John Ortberg is the reading selection for an upcoming book club I am leading at Valley Christian Church. The publisher's description is posted below. If you live nearby, I hope you'll consider participating. You are welcome to join us even if you are not able to attend all three sessions.

    Session 1: October 22, 7:00pm -          
    Forward through Chapter 5 (pp. 7-73)
    Session 2: November 5, 7:00pm - -    
    Chapters 6 through 11  (pp. 74-149)

    Session 3: November 19, 7:00pm -    
    Chapters 12 through Epilogue (pp. 150-202)

Publisher's Book Description:
Jesus' impact on our world is highly unlikely, widely inescapable, largely unknown, and decidedly double-edged. It is unlikely in light of the severe limitations of his earthly life; it is inescapable because of the range of impact; it is unknown because history doesn't connect dots; and it is doubled-edged because his followers have wreaked so much havoc, often in his name.

He is history's most familiar figure, yet he is the man no one knows. His impact on the world is immense and non-accidental. From the Dark Ages to Post-Modernity he is the Man who won't go away.

And yet . . .you can miss him in historical lists for many reasons, maybe the most obvious being the way he lived his life. He did not loudly and demonstrably defend his movement in the spirit of a rising political or military leader. He did not lay out a case that history would judge his brand of belief superior in all future books.

His life and teaching simply drew people to follow him. He made history by starting in a humble place, in a spirit of love and acceptance, and allowing each person space to respond.His vision of life continues to haunt and challenge humanity. His influence has swept over history bringing inspiration to what has happened in art, science, government, medicine, and education; he has taught humans about dignity, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Monday Music - Joyful, Joyful

Joyful, Joyful
Joyful, joyful, we adore you,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before you --
Hail you as the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.

All your works with joy surround you,
Earth and heaven reflect your rays,
Stars and angels sing around you --
Center of unbroken praise.

Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flowering meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Joyful, joyful we adore you. Joyful!
Joyful, joyful we adore you. Joyful!

Words: Hen­ry J. van Dyke, 1907.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Show Us Your Ways

Lord, we pray that your grace will always direct us, go before us, and follow us in all we are, in all we say, and in all we do. We pray that your grace will shape and motivate us that we may continually be given to good works.

O God, we humbly recognize our need for forgiveness and restoration. In our weakness and selfishness, we often fail each other, fail ourselves, and fail you.  We also recognize the hope and power we have in Christ.  Raise us and transform us by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. Forgive us our sins, and make us ready and able and quick to forgive others, even as you forgive us.

Lead us into truth, O God. Show us your ways. Teach us to follow your lead. Help us to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Our hope is in you all day long.

Help us to be faithful followers of Jesus and help us to become more like him each day. It's in his name that we pray. Amen.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Family - Burkum Boys at Work

The Cactus Blossoms are playing on Garrison Keillor's Rhubarb Show tomorrow night. I'm not able to be there, so I hope someone is recording the program.

LEAGUES has started their Fall Tour. They'll be at the Turf Club next Wednesday night. Get tickets for the show.

Leagues - Walking Backwards from Nelson Alley on Vimeo.

Have you seen the new Bose Headphones TV Commercial featuring the Leagues single, Spotlight? CHECK IT OUT.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Thursday Thinking - The Problem with Preaching

Preaching is one of the ongoing challenges of pastoring a church. It requires the sound interpretation of the Biblical texts, the pastoral discernment about what people need to hear, an awareness of current events, and the presentation ability to hold attention, provoke thought, and motivate action. In other words, preaching requires more skills than any one person can master. I know it's certainly beyond me.

I remember how relieved I was when I read the first pages of John Stott's book, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today. He wrote:

... I confess that in the pulpit I am often seized with "communication frustration,"for a message burns within me, but I am unable to convey to others what I am thinking, let alone feeling. And seldom if ever do I leave the pulpit without a sense of partial failure, a mood of penitence, a cry to God for forgiveness, and a resolve to look to him for grace to do better in the future.

My first response to that remarkable confession was, "Whew! Even John Stott feels that way about preaching." My second thought was, "If that's how Stott feels, I don't stand a chance."

I have a love/hate relationship with the enterprise of preaching. The truth is that preaching is more of a problem for me than a pleasure. I do, however, consider preaching to be an exciting problem. More than a challenge, I consider preaching to be a sacred privilege. I take it seriously.

My approach to preaching is more about faithfulness than talent or skill. I simply try to be faithful to the text, faithful to the people, and most importantly faithful to Christ and the Gospel. This inclination toward faithfulness does not always result in preaching success, but I hope and trust that it does produce something God can somehow use.

Recently, Ben Witherington, Asbury Theological Seminary professor, has been posting about "The Problem with Preaching" on his Bible and Culture Blog. These short posts have some helpful thoughts for those of us who are preachers and for those of you who may be interested in better understanding and appreciating the preachers in your life.

Here are some links and excerpts to get you started:

From "The Problem with Preaching" (Part 1):
Whatever Biblical preaching looked like in the first century, and whatever caused Eutychus to fall out of his window as Paul waxed eloquent, it isn’t much in evidence in churches today. This word just in, preaching in the NT era was not based on a lectionary of NT texts blended with OT ones. There was no NT in the NT era, and the word Gospel applied quite specifically to the good news about Jesus himself, not about abstract concepts or theological ideas found in letters written to people who were already Christians. We have four Gospels, they all tell the story of Jesus.

From "The Problem with Preaching" (Part 2):
It’s no good giving people an exhilarating experience and buzz in worship if there is little or no Biblical substance to chew on thereafter, little or no sound exposition of God’s word. Without Biblical and theological literacy you have no means to properly interpret your worship experiences, say, being able to tell the difference between a heart-warming experience and heart burn!

From "The Problem with Preaching" (Part 3):
...God can use you to convey his Word even if you are a blunt instrument, even if you are Balaam’s donkey! But frankly, God would rather not. He gave you a brain for a reason. He’d rather you have increased your knowledge and honed your skills, so you will be the sharpest knife in his drawer. Would you rather be like the two-edged sword referred to in Hebrews, or be like an ole blunt battle axe bludgeoning the congregation for the Lord?

From "The Problem with Preaching" (Part 4):
For preaching to be ‘good preaching’ it needs to be a word on a target. But if the preacher doesn’t know the target, he is unlikely to hit it. What this in turn means is that he or she must know his or her people. The more one knows one’s people, the easier it is to know what a word on target will amount to. Of course some preachers prefer the buckshot method– spray a variety things out on the audience and hope something strikes home. It’s like a game of paintball where you are aiming at moving targets and hoping something will hit them and leave a mark.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Wednesday Words - Blessing in a Time of Conflict

For Love in a Time of Conflict

When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.

When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.

When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May you souls come to kiss.

Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Toward the gateway to spring.

"For Love in a Time of Conflict" by John O'Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us. © Copyright 2008 by John O'Donohue.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tuesday Tome - When God Spoke Greek

Dr. Timothy Michael Law's new book, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible, arrived at my door just last week. It explores the fascinating subject of early Christianity and its relationship to Scripture. What texts did they read and how did they understand those texts? How is that similar or divergent to the Christians of later centuries and today? How did the Septuagint shape their view of the Hebrew canon? This is fascinating stuff with important implications for both historical and contemporary perspectives of the Bible.

The Publisher's Description:
How did the New Testament writers and the earliest Christians come to adopt the Jewish scriptures as their first Old Testament? And why are our modern Bibles related more to the rabbinic Hebrew Bible than to the Greek Bible of the early Church?

The Septuagint, the name given to the translation of the Hebrew scriptures between the third century BC and the second century AD, played a central role in the Bible's history. Many of the Hebrew scriptures were still evolving when they were translated into Greek, and these Greek translations, along with several new Greek writings, became Holy Scripture in the early Church.

Yet, gradually the Septuagint lost its place at the heart of Western Christianity. At the end of the fourth century, one of antiquity's brightest minds rejected the Septuagint in favor of the Bible of the rabbis. After Jerome, the Septuagint never regained the position it once had. Timothy Michael Law recounts the story of the Septuagint's origins, its relationship to the Hebrew Bible, and the adoption and abandonment of the first Christian Old Testament.

Back Cover Blurb from Diarmaid MacCulloch:
"Law overturns the assumptions of most Christians about their sacred scripture. He points out that the Greek text of the Septuagint was the early Church's Bible, that it predates the Hebrew Scripture now commonly accepted, and that it presents plural traditions of ancient Hebrew biblical texts, many now lost to us. Fundamentalists will find these unpalatable truths; others will find that Law points to new delights in their reading of scripture." --Diarmaid N.J. MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford University

About the Author:
Timothy Michael Law is founder, publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of The Marginalia Review of Books ( He is currently an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in the Seminar für Altes Testament in the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (with Prof. Dr. Reinhard Kratz) and affiliated with the Septuaginta Unternehmen. He spent 2009-2012 as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Oriental Institute at the University of Oxford, and until 2014 remains Junior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.