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This letter was written by a layperson to a woman who asked the only church-going person she knew his opinions about her trying to find a church.
A segment excerpted from the novel Home, by Marilynne Robinson. It gives insight into the relationship taking place between the unexpected return of a wayward son, his sister and their retired minister father.
Jesus took a coin and said, ĎWhose name and picture do you see there? All right then, pay Caesar what is due Caesar!í Now why would he say a thing like that?
The author talks about practices that address fundamental human needs: honoring the body, hospitality, household economics, saying yes and saying no, keeping Sabbath, testimony, discernment, shaping communities, forgiveness, healing, dying well and singing our lives.
The need for human organs is acute, and pastors should be able to broach the sensitive subject of organ donation during bereavement counseling. However, organ donation is best facilitated by confronting the question before a tragedy occurs.
Money mattered to Jesus, to Paul and to the prophets, and it ought to matter to the church. It is in its attitude toward money that the church is most likely to conform to the ways of the world rather than to transcend them.
John Webster believes historical criticism has value but is plagued by historical naturalism. It misses the history of Jesus that is rooted in Godís being in a direct and immediate way. Without the movement of God's unrestricted love and self-giving, without the Son's eternal obedience to the Father, there is no history of Jesus.
The author compares three levels of freedom: 1. Political freedom; 2. Moral freedom; 3. Freedom of living with God. Genuine freedom comes only when it is received by faith.
Christianity, rightly understood, seeks to unite people in common community -- not to raise barriers and separate them because of theological differences.
Christian family living does not refer to the form of the family in which one lives but to caring for the generations -- the generation before, one’s own generation, and the generations that follow.
The author, a Japanese Christian, tells how a Taiwanese Christian helped him to deal with the spiritual homelessness that he experienced by going to live in other cultures.
(ENTIRE BOOK) An analysis of the ethical dilemmas scientists and technologists actually face in the areas of science and religion.
The author reviews the poetry of Jane Kenyon and her husband, Donald Hall. Both in their search for God are led to create poetic landscapes that are highly charged, often lovely, sometimes frightening.
(ENTIRE BOOK) The fictional character of Ted Brown represents a young man who comes from a religious background, who is seriously trying to work out an intelligent philosophy of life, is sensitive to spiritual values, and who seeks a vocation where he can make the most of his best for the sake of others. This is not an attempt to give an answer those totally apart from a religious background -- "beatnik" contemporaries for example, that would consider Ted Brown a "square."
Common to all Christian life styles include: 1. Trusting in God, not in material possessions or political power; 2. Sensitivity to the needs of the poor; 3. Working for justice; 4. Concern for the maintenance of basic ecological support systems.
Having a vocation does not mean fulfilling who we are. It means becoming what God calls us to be. A vocation can sanctify the humblest kind of work. This does not mean that all work is automatically sanctified.
It seems to be part of our tradition (1) to believe in God; (2) to say that one doesnít need to go to church; (3) to go anyway.
Review of a book on courage. Does it take a disaster to rouse us to virtuous action? Is our ordinary common life hostile or indifferent to moral excellence?
Why waste your time making preparations for an end time you cannot predict? Live prepared.
Friendship finds its own distinctive place in a society where most other ties are commercial and programmed. A friend creates a haven of hospitality where you can regather your energies for a more open assault on less accepting portions an inhospitable world.
Our dilemma is how to rejoice in the Nativity without sentimentalizing it; how to praise with the angels this new Beginning without forgetting the tragic ending.
God has chosen to teach us to care in a practical way for the oppressed, the homeless, the ones with empty bellies. We are to allow the gnawing in our own guts to break our hearts, and the breaking of our hearts to lead us to break othersí yokes and repair walls.
From Julian of Norwich we learn we are made for love, to bring joy to God because God loves us, to be loved by the God who delights in us, and to love God and Godís world and Godís creatures and take a deep delight in them in return. Indeed, love is the courteous, familiar ground of our own care of them, for Godís love is the ground of everything.
(ENTIRE BOOK) Whatever must be borne can be borne by virtue of strength working in each and all of us which has immemorially been known as courage. This power is available and reliable. The best celebration of courage is to understand and affirm its common, constant presence in uniquely human life.
We sometimes find God in the most unexpected places.
Martyrdom is an eschatological claim about ultimate meaning, Martyrs are those who do not fail to be faithful when the world revolts against Christian claims. Martyrs make no argument, but they do tell a sort of truth: that there is something worth dying for.
Willard offers a simply-worded guide on how to be a disciple, covering a wide variety of related matters, including a definition of discipleship, the meaning of vocation, the basis of ethics, the cost of commitment, the centrality of prayer and Bible reading, and the clarity that comes from decisiveness.
We identify ourselves not by winning arguments in some religious marketplace but by living faithfully where God in Jesus has brought us to be.
Malcolm Muggeridge has suggested that maybe we cannot fathom Mother Teresaís meaning to our time because our language and faith are too weak. Perhaps she represents something that will not register on our sophisticated minds. Maybe, after all is said and done, our age is simply so far off the track, that it takes a near-saint to make us see our own moral blindness.
Jesus is a different kind of lord: he does not need followers. This makes him free to be a servant.
Attentiveness is a moral attitude that acknowledges the freedom of the other person--a person who is capable of changing. Jesus calls us beyond our present place of comfort into a life that is infinitely richer and more frightening.
There seems to be a growing preoccupation with personal salvation, with being "born again," with biblical literalism, at the expense of ministering to the neighbor. Religion in America is becoming more conservative just when Christís radical theology is most needed.
Authors Blankenthorn and his divisive and jabbing rhetoric on homosexual marriage and Fox-Genovese for her testy rebuff of feminism are severely criticized for their opinions in this review of their books.
Just because a person becomes famous, like a rock star or a movie actor, does not mean they are wise in politics or religion. The authors address the vocabulary of vocation.
The author examines the distinctions between Christianity and religion.
The author contrasts an ancient abbey with its traditions, history and rootedness, to the modern American megachurch without tradition, culture or weighted worship, to an ecological sound, modern, high-tech, all thought out community but where the state church seems of little consequence, yet in this latter place the gospel seemed to make more sense.
When caregivers empty themselves of their own preoccupations in order to be fully present to another, they are, in their own small way, following the example of Christ, who emptied himself of his equality with God in order to participate fully in our human plight.
The author reviews a book about a motorcycle gang -- bikers with a pious language easily dismissed as bromides rather than reflections of serious practices.
Kane summarizes his book, Through the Moral Maze: Searching for Absolute Values in a Pluralistic World, M. E. Sharpe Publishers, Armonk N.Y., 1994. (A North Castle Paperback), calling for a stage of consciousness that requires us to develop new kinds of spirituality and new understandings of religion and of ethics and values as well.
The author introduces the reader to four people who have significant roles in what they call "the simplicity movement."
A review of Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time, by Dorothy Bass.
Jesus is, for Christians, the decisive disclosure of God, but not "the only one." If we see in Jesus as a model of the Christian life, what does such a life look like? How we see these issues will indicate how we will live our lives.
Scriptural Reasoning is a movement that holds that the resolution of religiously rooted political tensions will be attained not by avoiding religion in public, but by initiating more and better religious conversations in public.
In these times, the central jeopardy is separation from God.
An attack by family members on the author's memoir taught her how flawed is memory in this fallen world.
(ENTIRE BOOK) Based on passages from the Gospel of Matthew, this book considers what it means to be "called" in a time when Christians have so many competing claims for their time, love, and commitment. Ten challenges to Christian living are explored, among them: calls to adventure, perfection, costly obedience and fidelity.
To select a community freely and then to submit to its authority and discipline, pledging to reform and renew it, is not a step backward to a medieval pattern of religious authority but a recognition that personal fulfillment is to be found in community, in contributing to the maintenance and life of a collectivity of individuals for whom “new life” is to be found in commitment to a common symbolic form.
The old doctrine of vocation is unrealistic, especially for people who work in the industrial plants of our nation.
To capture a robust sense of moral purpose, contemporary notions about self-fulfillment must be discarded along with romantic notions about inherent goodness. We are called to imitate Christ rather than try to be "ourselves."
This is a time of a major paradigm shift going on in the minds and hearts of millions of Christians in North America, a shift from an older and very widespread way of seeing Christianity, to a way of seeing Christianity again. In this movement lies the hope and the future of the mainline denominations. The older view emphasizes believing. The newer way is a relational understanding of the Christian life, and a sacramental understanding of the Christian tradition itself.
The function of spirituality is to enable us to leaven our times; to stretch our times, to bless our times, to break open our own times to the present will of God. And what does all that mean to us today?
Christians need to get themselves together on what spirituality is and is not, on what false conceptions they carry with them, and on what the spiritual challenges of our time are asking of them.
Gustafson suggests how those who practice Reformed Spirituality might respond to the tragedy of September 11, 2002--as well as to other acts of terrorism.
Several books are reviewed on the traumas women are unprepared to face in childbirth. Although they do not face the disadvantages of women in Third World countries, and although they have sophisticated facilities (access to the best medical help, committed husbands or partners, advanced educations, good health and economic comforts) they are unhappy, shell-shocked and angry.
The insight gained from the life of Jesus is that the task of becoming a human being, as God became a man, involves death. But only if God is viewed as unconditional love is it conceivable that he would become a man and live a human life. Only in this way, too, is it possible to understand why, rather than attempting to achieve a goal -- that is, attempting to become a god -- Jesus revealed that the way to become whole is to become a person.
Roberts analyzes the destructive nature of anger that Paul warned about using metaphors from psychology and computer language to clarify anger's positive and negative qualities, and to present a Christian model of how to master its destructive potential.
Athena, goddess of careers, is fast becoming the most admired deity in our contemporary American pantheon. American studies, biblical literature and Reinhold Niebuhrís social ethics focus on careerism, are issues consuming attention on American campuses, especially at predominantly womenís colleges.
(ENTIRE BOOK) An exploration of Christian attitudes toward play.
The author questions the Golden Rule, and suggests an improvement.It takes time, energy and a bit of imagination to know about somebody elseís situation in order to decide how best to treat that person, or how to judge him or her justly.
True humility is more like self-forgetfulness than false modesty. Both the neighbor's talents and one's own are recognized as gifts and, like one's height are not fit subjects for either inordinate pride or self-deprecation.
In the Ecuadorian Eden of Vilcabamba, the people live to an astounding old age. Their freedom from greed helps keep their environment pure, their wants simple and their lives purposeful.
Our sense of the "last things" must be tethered to Christ, who is present in the church and is the basis of hope.
(ENTIRE BOOK) Four English theologians describe how Christianity appears personally to them, not as neutral observers, but as committed believers. The results are clear statements about the nature of belief, the God of Jesus, the Christian God, and the nature of prayer.
Five books on the practice of "pilgrimage" are reviewed. The reviewer testifies to his own steps to holy places and the religious meanings that developed. These books give an invitation to deeper and richer pursuits in the potential of religious pilgrimages.
To dismiss Bible-based diet books for their shallowness is to ignore the pain and spiritual struggle behind them.
We are all children and clowns and fools, even in our most serious, sublime and frenzied moments -- perhaps especially then -- and most certainly when we pretend that we are not.
One goal of an irreverent spirituality challenges all ecclesial traditions to affirm that the God question can never be closed or fixed. Every church tradition, no matter how extensive or authoritative its dogma, must constantly be subject to a painful examination of its spirituality and theology.
Christiansí love for each other were baffling to others. Non-Christians said: "See how they love each other." In addition, the continuing state of the Christianís happiness added to the mystery.
To say that winning is not everything doesn’t make one a “poor sport” or a masochist. God accepts us despite our failings. This relationship is not earned; it is a divine gift. We can learn from our failures something of the profundity of Christ’s cross.
We must reclaim the use of ascetic practices as tools for the care of both body and soul, for we have ignored the bodily practices that recognize and affirm our incarnated life in which what we do is as important as what we think.
People are fed up with leaders and friends who talk learnedly and officiously about God but show little evidence of being interested in God. It has always been more difficult to come to terms with Jesus as the way than with Jesus as the truth.
(ENTIRE BOOK) Some fundamental tests of character which our new generation is tempted to forget. With many schemes for the world’s salvation, everything rests back on integrity and driving power in personal character.
We will never be able to experience the "Christian fellowship" that fundamentalists claim to cherish without a change in the political and economic patterns that are presently barriers to genuine reconciliation. However, the argument must also move in the other direction: a concern for structural change must be rooted in an experience of personal liberation.
When there is more talk of heaven in novels, television shows and pop songs than in sermons, Christians must shoulder some of the blame for the fact that visions of life beyond death fail to include God.
Behind discipleship and beyond the disciplines is love -- love of God and love of others. Radical commitment is fine, if it is fired by love. Spiritual formation is noble, if it produces love for God and others.
When it's the wrong person or time or reason for telling the truth, a white lie may have integrity. But unless we tell the truth we'll be nothing more than isolated islands in a scary, untrustworthy world.
Fasting is a useful tool only if it deepens our compassion and teaches us how to more fully love God and our neighbor Otherwise it is useless and even selfish.
The paradox is that while having some choice is necessary and healthy, too much choice -- too many options, too many decision points -- is debilitating.
So much of "spirituality" is lost in a sea of contemporary culture, the spiritual culture of self-help and self-sovereignty. The energy so professed is good, but when God is interpreted through fragments of ecstasy or strategies for happiness one needs to be cautious . These spiritual energies need to be harnessed in biblical leather and directed to Jesus.