Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-31-15


Scripture: 1st Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant…

Thought for the Day: In the ancient Greek, the word we translate as ‘arrogant’ in this passage means what we think it means — to be puffed up or inflated.  It could probably be translated as being full of oneself or full of hot air.  One of the great preachers of the 20th century was Harry Emerson Fosdick, and he once said,  “A person wrapped up in himself makes a small package.”  Actually, the package initially looks big, but there isn’t much substance and it easily deflates into an empty shell.  Love, on the other hand, is known in substantive ways.  Those who love are a weighty gift to the world, and when fully unwrapped, the gift never disappoints.

Prayer: O God, I ask for you to pop my big ego and help to set aside my pride, so that your loving presence might more greatly reside within me.  Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-30-15


Scripture: Job 38:1-4
[In response to Job and his friends presenting simple answers to complex problems, God enters into the conversation] Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding…”

Thought for the Day: Why is it that we live in an either-or society? I understand that in politics, we must eventually choose and vote, but it appears impossible to suggest that the person I’m not voting for may actually have a couple of good ideas. Not only are we incapable of saying so, but the tendency is to demonize the other. This same tendency is seen when it comes to solving significant social problems. In recent tragedies and acts of violence, including the heartbreaking murder of Deputy Goforth, there appears this immediate rush to cast blame in one direction or another. I understand the desire for simple answers, but at the end of the day, oversimplified explanations are getting us no closer to actual solutions to the larger problem. People point to personal responsibility, and YES…let’s be clear, an individual must be and will be held accountable. But we also need to ask broader questions about our social context that shapes an individual to make that decision. The counter point – there are those who believe we should blame only the social forces without talking about individual responsibility. To do so will also limit the capacity of our culture to solve the problem. At this point, we know very little about the recent tragedy suffered within our local sheriff’s department, and prayer for the family and for fellow officers is a priority. At the same time, let us stretch ourselves and rise above the human propensity for an either-or response. Let the judicial process do what it was created to do – prove beyond a reasonable doubt and seek justice within our current system of laws -AND- let us seek to ask tough questions about our social context, and all the cultural influences that help to create an environment where such horrific choices are made. It will be a stretch for almost all of us, but a stretch we must be willing to make if we desire real solutions.

Prayer: Have mercy on us, O Lord! We weep for a brother who has died in the line of duty. His death is senseless, and our community cries out for answers. Let us seek your will, God of Grace and Justice; let us rise above easy solutions that will solve nothing; let us have the courage to follow you in the difficult work of building your reign of justice and peace on earth. Amen.

Let Us Gather Together
for worship this morning
at 8:15, 9:30 & 11:00Doubt ChangesStudy - Prayer-Basic - Announcement

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-29-15


Scripture: Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Thought for the Day: One of my favorite people, Richard Rohr, writes that “transformed people transform people.” As I look around the world these days, I see a lot of people trying to transform others, yet their language and actions reflect a non-transformed life. They continue to speak from a place of violence and vindictiveness, prejudice and sanctimonious piety.  They are transforming the world, but not into anything that resembles the love and mercy of God. I recognize culture’s draw toward violence and vindictiveness, prejudice and sanctimonious piety. And I recognize how often I see within myself an untransformed life and the potential damage it can have upon the world – specifically the people around me. Transformed people are first and foremost humble, and for that reason, they are very cautious about arrogantly parading their transformed nature for others to see. In fact, it is in their humility that the transformative power of divine love and mercy begins to reshape others. Transformed people transform people, but rarely do the transformed people set themselves up as an agent of transformation. They just attempt to live faithfully, being the love and mercy of God, and transformation begins to happen.

Prayer: I desire to be less and less conformed to this world and more and more transformed by the renewing of myself through your love and mercy, O God. In humility, lead me to faithful living…and maybe, just maybe, to a place where my life my help to transform another life. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-28-15


Scripture: 1st Peter 3:9-11
Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.  For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it.”

Thought for the Day: My sister, Beverly, introduced me to these words from the Dalai Lama.  He wrote, “In daily practice, reflect on the benefits of love, compassion and kindness, then reflect on the disadvantages of anger. Such continuous contemplation, the growing appreciation of love, has the effect of reducing our inclination towards hatred and increasing our respect for love. By this means even anger can be diminished.” I find it interesting how every major religion places peace and love, blessing and goodness, above everything else.  In turn, every religion defends those ideals by using methods that demonstrate a complete lack of trust in those ideals.  We think defending them is the most important thing, when in fact living them is foremost.  And as we live them, we do more than defend them…we embed them in the very fabric of ourselves, our community and the world.

Prayer: Guide me, O Great and Good God, using what you have taught the world through the many expressions of your incarnate word.  Amen.


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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-27-15


Scripture: Proverbs 31:8
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday I did something stupid. Please, no commentary! But I was eating my lunch at my office desk, and I picked up the phone to call one of our church members. Immediately after dialing, I grabbed my sandwich and took a big bite. It was a peanut butter sandwich. The call begin to ring – I panicked. There was no way I could make a sound, let alone speak. I was so thankful when it continued to ring, never even going to voicemail. Had someone answered, it would have been nice to have a friend to speak for me.

The Proverb references those who cannot speak, and thinking of it as symbolic language, I believe there are a lot of situations in which people feel as if they have a mouth full of peanut butter. They feel as if their voice will not be heard, or speaking could cost them a job or promotion. It is hard when we feel as if we have something to say, but a mouth-full of peanut butter.

Let us pray that in such moments, God will provide us someone who will speak on our behalf. And let us be so bold as to ask God to guide us to those situations where we can speak for others who feel as if they have no voice.

Prayer: Give me your voice, O Lord of Love, so I may speak your glorious message.  And when I have nothing, please provide me a spokesperson who sees my need and speaks on my behalf. Amen.

Doubt Changes

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-26-15


Scripture: Luke 11:1-2
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…”

Thought for the Day: A week from today, I will begin a study focusing on prayer. In the above passage, we get a little taste of what will become the Lord’s Prayer and the context in which Jesus originally taught these words.  One of those words that catches my interest is ‘hallowed.’  It is not a word that makes its way into my daily conversations.  I occasionally use it when I’m watching Nebraska football and the camera pulls back to make Memorial Stadium visible.  I remember going there as a child, and I thought it was hallowed ground.  The word here means to be set apart, and so Jesus is suggesting that when we pray we should place the divine name on a pedestal of sorts.  Do we do it because God’s ego needs to be encouraged through our acclamations? I don’t think so.  I believe the name of God should be extolled and set apart as a reminder that God is the Holy Other (borrowing from Rudolf Otto).  We may claim to have within us the image of God or the divine spark, but we should not confuse ourselves with God.  God remains uniquely God and distinctive from humanity.  Though humanity has often tried to make God in its image, at the end of the day God remains the Unequaled Other…and this is good for both of us.

Prayer: Holy God, all of creation deserves respect as we are created in your image.  At the same time, let us never think of ourselves as equal with you, the One who gave us life. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-25-15


Scripture: Isaiah 40:28-31
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday was probably not my best driving day. There was no accident or even near accident, but on the way home from the grocery store, I came to a stop at an intersection only to have my wife point out that there wasn’t a Stop sign at the corner.  We laughed, drove a little further, and then I stopped again for no apparent reason just to be funny. We laughed again, drove a little further, and once again I came to a stop. This time there was a Stop sign, but as I pulled out in front of an approaching car, my wife pointed out that it was not a Four Way Stop.  Oops!

The scripture speaks of the everlasting and incomprehensible nature of God’s concern for humanity. In difficulty, we are to wait for the Lord, and in our waiting, we are to find renewal. The Hebrew word used here is Qavah, and it means to wait or linger or to look eagerly for what is to come. I guess it is always good to be cautious, but we do need to know when to wait and when to go, when to stop and when not to stop. But even when it is time to wait/stop, let us remember that it is for the purpose of renewal. Let us view it as a period of time in which we look eagerly for what is to come.  And once rested and reenergized, it is time to move forward with a sense of renewed faith.

Prayer: Stop me, Lord, when it is time to stop. Bring me to a pause for the purpose of revitalization. Let me wait eagerly, receive openly, and move forward faithfully. Amen.


Final Session
Dr. Mark Whitten’s Class

Critical Christian Thinking
About Homosexuality & Gay Rights

Doubt Changes


Based on: Matthew 20:29-34

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