Cherry Bream, Flickr, under Share-Alike License


Norm's Modest (yet Revolutionary) Idea to Increase the Quality of Preaching

From Jeff Munroe

                Then he said Amen and sat down.  I have never in my life wished so badly for pulpit police. I wanted someone with a badge to go up and arrest that guy, slap some handcuffs on him, and lead him away.

                But there is no one to stop us, you see. Some of our congregations may tactfully suggest that we take a little time off, maybe take in a preaching conference or two, but on the whole we are alarmingly free to do anything we want in the pulpit.

-          Barbara Brown Taylor, in When God is Silent

 I have a friend at Western Theological Seminary, let’s call him “Norm,” who has said to me on more than one occasion, “I wish my pastor had sent me his manuscript before he preached. I could have done so much to make it better.”

Have you ever had that thought?


Marilynne Robinson on Jonathan Edwards

From James Bratt

Lots of people are eagerly awaiting their copy of Marilynne Robinson’s new novel Lila. Me too, though realistically my schedule probably won’t let me get to it till Christmas. Meanwhile, I was intrigued to read Robinson’s essay, “Jonathan Edwards in a New Light,” in the November/December 2014 issue of Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The subtitle of the article (supplied by an editor, I presume, not by the author) is distinctly unpromising—no, downright irritating: “Remembered for Preaching Fire and Brimstone, He Was Actually One of the Great Intellectuals of His Time.” Talk about a ‘duh’! Every Edwards scholar since Perry Miller seventy years ago has been saying this. A graduate student two hours into seminar reading knows it. So why do we have to keep hearing this repeated, and as late-breaking, amazing news to boot? Well, maybe because the word just hasn’t gotten out. Ask graduates of a West Michigan Christian high school about Edwards and you’ll get “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Sigh. Lament. Beat professional head against the wall.


Stick to the Text

From Jason Lief


In class today I showed this youtube clip of Walter Bruggemann discussing the power of preaching. The class is on worship—the book we're reading focuses on the role of the arts in worship. The part we read for today is a presentation by Eugene Peterson that discusses the difference between the role of pastor as a job and the pastor as a vocation. I thought I'd bring in the voices of other excellent preachers and pastors reflecting on the art of preaching and pastoral work. What I love about Bruggemann is his emphasis on imagination. Imagination is a tricky thing to talk about in the context of theology and worship. Some students can't get beyond an understanding of imagination as "make believe." They get stuck thinking that Bruggemann wants us to make up stuff. Today, however, students seemed to get it. I could tell they were engaged with the question: How does a preacher, a worship leader, a pastor, cultivate an alternative way of seeing the world?


“I Stand Sunday?” Not Even Close to “Here I Stand”

From Theresa Latini

In case you haven’t heard, 2,500 congregations across the United States participated in “I Stand Sunday” last weekend, an event intended to support “the pastors and churches in Houston, Texas who have been unduly intimidated by the city’s mayor in demanding they hand over private church communication.” For readers who haven’t followed this news story, it all began last May when Houston passed an ordinance aimed at protecting the civil liberties of LGBT people. It’s an anti-gay discrimination policy that actually exempted religious institutions. (In other words, it did not apply to churches, non-profit ministries, and so forth.) Those who opposed this ordinance, including a group of Houston pastors, attempted to repeal it by gaining enough signatures to place it on a ballot. Though they obtained approximately 50,000 signatures, most of them were nullified on technical legal grounds. A group of Christians then sued the city of Houston. In response, Houston’s lawyers sent subpoenas to five local pastors who participated in the repeal effort. The subpoenas asked for “all speeches, presentations, or sermon related to HERO [the ordinance], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

Not surprisingly, this created a national uproar, with accusations of the violation of the first amendment and a fair amount of vitriol directed at Houston’s mayor. This is the point at which I first heard about the ordinance, the petition, the subpoenas. Facebook friends posted links that sounded the alarm about the eradication of religious freedom. Thankfully I’ve learned to read multiple sources before jumping on the bandwagon of fear and rage. So I did. More rational analyses indicated that the city’s lawyers had overreached their bounds with such a broad subpoena. At the same time, they also suggested that sermons could be legally subpoenaed in certain cases.


The Disappearing Blog

From Jennifer Holberg's the classic case of the "computer ate my blog." Yep, almost done and then wiped out.  I'll see if I can construct it for next time.

To fulfill my duty as a member of The 12, however, here's a video one of my former students shared with me yesterday. A short discussion by Brene Brown (apologies--I am further oppressed by technology by being unable to correctly insert the accent in her name)--she of the TED talk on vulnerability fame.

Here she is discussing one thing she learned when she went back to church.  In a season of mourning for so many, I thought this was worth a watch. And a discussion, too.

Brene Brown Returns to Church (And Finds Jesus Weeping)

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