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Showing posts from December, 2015

Spiritual, but not religious

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I read an interesting book review today by Anthony Robinson on the book
Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes:Finding Religion in Everyday Life
By Nancy Tatom Ammerman.

The review contains the following:

"So it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear the eminent sociologist of religion Nancy Ammerman conclude in her new study of religion in everyday life that the SBNR [spiritual, but not religious] is a unicorn—a species that does not exist in reality. For most people, Ammer­man found, organized religion and spirituality are not two separate realms but one. Respondents who were “most active in organized religion,” she reports, “were also most committed to spiritual practices and a spiritual view of the world.”... The other side of the coin is that those who invoke the distinction between religion and spirituality (“I’m spiritual but not religious”) turn out to be neither. For the most part, such language is what sociologists call boundary-maintaining discourse. It is a way that people wh…

Colossians and transformation

1st Sunday after Christmas-  Colossians and transformation
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 Colossians 3:12-17 Luke 2:41-52


We read in our Gospel lesson that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in years”. He sits in the temple among the teachers and is asking questions and giving answers. He is participating in learning the ways of the Law. There was a development in Jesus. He learned. His character developed. Jesus is at about the age when Jewish boys have their Bar Mitzvah. It is a time when they are considered to make a transition from boyhood to manhood. Before their Bar Mitzvah the sin boys commit is the responsibility of their parents. After their Bar Mitzvah it becomes their responsibility. So there is an expectation that not only will people grow older physically, but their character will develop. They will become wiser. They will develop virtue.

We read something similar about Samuel who lived in the Temple with the priest Eli. It says, “the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favo…

Christmas and doubt

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Doubt and skepticism are powerful in our culture. In some ways this is good because it can make us investigate and not believe something too quickly. For example, I’m glad I was skeptical of some of the products I saw advertised on some late night infomercials.
 … So doubt and skepticism can be a good thing, especially in a culture where we are dealing with a constant stream of advertising.

Religion is often a target by the doubting and skeptical. In the Bible, in the letter of Jude we read, “Have mercy on those who doubt” (1:22). The Bible allows room for those who doubt. … But, we can go too far with this. It can become a general attitude we adopt as a way of appearing intelligent. Dallas Willard, who was a philosopher from the University of Southern California once said, “We believe the skeptical person to be more intelligent in our culture. You can be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt” (Hearing God by Dallas Willard, Epilogue). A cheap and easy way of appearing intellige…

Make a U-turn- John the Baptist

Luke 3:7-18
John the Baptist sure puts you in the Christmas spirit, doesn’t he?

John represents the school of the prophets. He is dressed like Elijah. They both wore Camel’s hair garments with a leather belt around the waist (2 Kings 1:8 and Matt 3:4). Elijah was the prophet’s prophet. He was supposed to come before the messiah would arrive (Mal 4:5). John also had the words of the prophets on his lips (Mal 3:1; Is 40:3-5). The stereotypical cry of the prophet is “repent”, which means to turn. You repent when you head down the wrong road and when you realize it you make a U-turn. It involves both turning away from what is wrong and turning towards God and His ways. The prophets usually arose to call people back to the Law and Covenant. The people would stop following God’s direction in their life. They would become attracted to the cultures around them. They would start participating in the worship of other gods, and forget the moral and religious direction God set out for them. So the…

Repent! John the Baptist

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Luke 1:68-79

Our Gospel reading opens with a list of names, mostly obscure and hard to pronounce. We also know about these names outside of the Bible through ancient historians and archaeology. What Luke is trying to do is to place this story in history. We have a system where we give a number for every year (2015). That wasn’t really used until the 9th century AD. Before that historians would often say the year of an important ruler. Luke says this part of his story takes place in the fifteenth year of Emperor Tiberius. We know Tiberius was officially in power from 14 to 37AD.
We know Pontius Pilate was a governor of Judea from 26-36 AD.  Archaeologists have found his name engraved in the city of Caesarea on a plaque stating that Pontius Pilate built a pagan temple to the honour of Tiberius. 
 Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee from 4BC to 39AD. He was the son of Herod the Great. Another son of Herod the Great was Philip who ruled northeast of the Sea of Galilee. 
And Lysanias ruled a…