Wednesday
Jul092014

Spiritual Vibrations

From Jes Kast-Keat

Inside the Grand Mosque in Muscat, OmanThe spiritual energy of a specific location I can sense pretty quickly.  Do you ever sit in a park in your town and wonder about the spiritual health of your neighborhood? I do, often. For me, New York City consistently spiritually vibrates. As a Quaker friend once said to me, there is a spiritual flow in NYC that many traditions plug into.

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and people of various religious identities, and people of no religious identities, live and work together. On a day-to-day basis we, overall, coexist. Kippahs, hijabs, ashes and the like display our faith for the outside world to perhaps peak the curiosity of others.

I was in Brooklyn the other day and the mosque by my friend’s house was bustling with people. It is Ramadan after all. I was waiting in line at the bus stop when the evening call to prayer was being sung. I love reverently listening. The first time I heard the call to prayer was in Oman with RCA pastors. The call to prayer reminds me, a Christian, to pray. I will usually pray a simple and quiet prayer “God, thank you for making so many different kinds of people. Teach us how to live together in peace. Amen.”

Tuesday
Jul082014

Conflicted

From Scott Hoezee

Much has been written and said about the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision last week.   And here's some more!   I doubt I will share anything particularly unique or novel but I write this out of a sense of some internal theological conflict.

After all and on the one hand, we Christians are called to witness to our identity in Christ and one way we do this is by not going along with every trend or whim of the wider society in which we find ourselves.   Christians are supposed to be different.  We are resident aliens, strangers in a world often hostile to our faith and even to our very Lord.  Just because the law of the land might call on you to renounce your faith, you would not do so even upon the possible pain of death.   If the laws of the land discriminate against a group of people (as happened in the era of Jim Crow in especially the American South), then religious people (on religious grounds) protest and resist.  Martin Luther King, Jr., and company may have done so non-violently but the resistance--rooted in biblical and theological beliefs--was real and warranted nonetheless.   It also involved the violation of the law.    The law might be unjust and dumb (people of color could not sit at a Walgreen's lunch counter, for instance) but it was nonetheless the law such that sitting at the counter anyway was an arrestable offense.  Yet those people were right to do so.

Monday
Jul072014

Kaboom

From Jeff Munroe

How did you sleep last Friday night?  Did you have a trembling dog whimpering close to you while bang after bang after bang sounded outside your windows well past midnight?  Chances are, if you live in Michigan, you did. I wouldn’t call what was going through my mind, as I wedged my head between a couple of pillows to muffle the noise, warm patriotism.

Thanks to a three-year-old law, the American celebration of independence has turned into a cacophonous free-for-all in Michigan. The fair legislators of my home state have, under the influence of the libertarians, eliminated restrictions on fireworks on July 3-5, and turned the streets of our cities on those days into something sounding like a war zone.  This is freedom?  Where’s my freedom from being aurally assaulted?

The Fourth of July was awful.  Organized professional fireworks exhibits had raucous amateur competition.  I drove by an entire street Friday night closed off for shooting fireworks.  It wasn’t closed by some civic authority, it was simply closed by a band of citizens who’d commandeered the street and were letting their nationalistic pride run amok. It looked like Lord of the Flies or something out some sort of anarchic, apocalyptic movie.

Sunday
Jul062014

Free Indeed

"In Christ and through faith in him we approach God with freedom and confidence." (Ephesians 3:12)

This holiday weekend we gather to celebrate and acknowledge our country's freedom. In many churches, there is an expectation by members that the flag will be flying and there will be a patriotic message that embraces both God and country. The challenge that exists is how to honor the many roads and struggles toward freedom from both an individual and communal point of view.

Nelson Mandela, in his book, "A Long Road to Freedom" captures the importance of the individual journey toward freedom. He writes, "I have walked the long road toward freedom, I have tried not to falter, I have made missteps along the way, but I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill one finds that are many more hills to climb.

I have taken a moment to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back at the distance I have come, but I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities and I dare not linger, for my walk has not the ended."

In Christ we are set free, free to approach God with freedom and confidence, and yet there are many world-wide whose freedom narrative longs for the day when they are free, free indeed.

This weekend, we stop, rest, linger and celebrate and then we start again on the journey, a journey that helps us examine our individual walk with God toward greater freedom and our responsibility in paving the road for others.

Rev. Kirsty DePree is an associate minister at Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York, New York.

Saturday
Jul052014

Three Passages

From James Bratt

I see that Wheaton College, the “Harvard of the evangelicals,” has been first out of the gate in riding this week’s Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court further down the track. Seems that the Wheaties won’t even have to try to pursue the workaround that the Obama administration has offered non-profit religious organizations who claim sincerely-held ethical qualms about certain sorts of birth control covered under the Affordable Care Act. They can simply tell the government to shove it.

Noble courage, and on the burning issue of our times to be sure. Such a helpful precedent for other evangelical shops to let their light shine for Jesus. Just think about issues where the oh-so-highly-revered standard of biblical authority actually has something to say. (Unlike, say, the moral standing of an IUD or the claim that a fertilized egg, any fertilized egg, has the status of a person.) One such matter of crystalline clarity is the curse of Ham. Well, a curse pronounced upon Canaan in fact, but for his father Ham’s transgression. And we know for sure that Canaan/Ham stood for all black people under God’s sun, and that therefore the charming chunk of Genesis in question (9:20-27), far from only legitimating Hebrew conquest of the land they took as promised, also warranted Negro slavery in the Americas. The best of Southern (and no few Northern) Protestant exegetes said so again and again in the mid-nineteenth century, and what they said held great sway. There were no more popular pro-slavery arguments than those based on religion.