Thursday, June 22, 2006

Denominations.

Grace to you and peace, from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

This year is the PCUSA's 217th General Assembly. Although this is not a General Synod year for the UCC nor does the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly convene this year, during 2005 both those church bodies discussed and passed controversial resolutions, resulting in too many local churches and pastors breaking away from their now former denominations.

Just about every day for the past couple weeks, during the local early morning news I've watched headlines scroll across the bottom of the TV screen and yes, not only has the Episcopal Church's election of a woman as Presiding Bishop at this year's General Convention been sensational enough to make waves in the secular Mainstream Media (equivalent of Mainline Church, which is what all these denominations are considered—whether or not they actively consider themselves such, but I definitely would), news from the PC(USA)'s GA has been regarded worthy to be featured in the news headline loop.

These calamitous (you know my passion for words and how I love taking almost everything to its limits, but in using that word I have not over-spoke) goings-on in all these denominations (remember, denomination is an American invention) is particularly haunting given the Reformation heritage claimed by the PC(USA), ELCA and UCC—less directly Canterbury's kin make a related assertion. BTW, this cannot be a long blog since Design School still is taking much of my time and energy. But back to the Reformation, its ethos and especially its spirit! After all, during the 1600s the Spirit of God and of the Christ overwhelmed the Western World; although wherever and whenever we be Church or churches, despite our primary loyalty being (no brainer?) to Jesus Christ, the written, recorded Word's ultimate interpreter, in order to live as daughters and sons of the Reformation we need to continue reforming, which totally must include new scriptural insights. Remember the paraphrase of John Robinson's words to the pilgrims embarking (from Leiden? I'll correct that later if necessary) ? "The Lord has yet more light and truth to spring forth from His Word." Even the Roman branch of the Church recites the phrase Ecclesia semper reformanda! We Churches of the Reformation? How about us? I recall hearing Martin Marty preach on Reformation Sunday evening many years ago; throughout his talk he repeated the phrase, "We Churches of the Reformation." It impresses me that so much of the controversy centers and revolves around interpretation of scripture. Not remotely is that observation unique to me, but possibly to sound a little arrogant, over the centuries we've learned certain exegetical and expository methodologies that we in the protestant and Roman Catholic mainline assume lead to responsible (read: "faithful") outcomes.

Much of this debate not only is about reading the Bible as other than a product of the historical period and ethnic culture from which it sprung, but sexuality sensationalized keeps taking over! The earlier preoccupation with gender and gender roles may have diminished some – but then again maybe not – though still many people do not realize or won't admit every one of us functions on a gender continuum.

Possibly more than anything else, for me denominations are the way to be connected vertically and horizontally with the Church in all the ages. Are the dissenters (in all the denoms) saying they don't want to remain connected? In the ELCA, some of those who most have insisted upon staying and continuing conversation have been the Seminex guys (yes, all guys) who during the (late? I wasn't there, though for a while I dated a Seminex grad and knew a couple of others from ministerium) 1970s helped birth the AELC—Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches—specifically as a uniting church structured eventually to dissolve.

I wonder if Martin Luther is watching the recent and current goings-on in American Protestantism?! I wonder if Pastor Martin grieves the shuttings-out and exclusions?! How about reviving the tradition of historic condemnation and maybe even anathemas (just kidding – I do not believe that would be remotely helpful)? My heart aches with this burden not only because I'm a Christian in the Reformation Tradition but more than that, because continued conversation truly does build bridges and obliterate unessential differences. Oh, I know about myself: overdeveloped skills in reconciliation, accommodation and peacemaking, but how else can one live? Is Martin Luther himself an example of Christian faithfulness? Of faithfulness to Jesus Christ who showed us how to walk in trust, often in outrageous ways?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Word Claim

In bible order rather than according to purported chronology, here are some of my current favorite scripture passages, mostly NASB, because I just got a outstanding deal on a parallel NASB/Message Bible! I'm cross-posting this, and at another time I'll make a separate Isaiah list.

  • And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.'" Exodus 5:1

  • Into the land, into the land, into the land, into the land... Deuteronomy

  • Then the whole people assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there; the land lay subdued before them. Joshua 18:1

  • Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is nothing on earth I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forevermore. Psalm 73:25-26

  • O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD! Jeremiah 22:29

  • I will open your graves. Ezekiel 37:12

  • When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. Luke 24:30-31

  • Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. John 20:1

  • For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

  • Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

  • For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:13-17

  • Thou hast taken Thy great power and hast begun to reign. Revelation 15:18