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World Religions

Lesson 1: Make Faith Great Again

Lesson 1: Make Faith Great Again

If you asked me to list the two major dangers presently facing the Church in the United States, the first that would jump into my mind would be the lack of young people worshiping.  The second would be Evangelicals and conservative Catholics championing Donald Trump. Certainly, you could also mention incompetent, self-serving, and immoral leadership, […]

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Lesson 2: Holy Envy

Lesson 2: Holy Envy

Barbara Brown Taylor addresses the pluralism in our society by writing about her experiences teaching World Religions 101 classes. She traces leaving parish ministry after feeling empty, entering the classroom to find meaning, and finally returning to her faith refreshed and strengthened. Taylor assumes religions are different ways to view reality, speaking of them as […]

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Lesson 3: Hinduism

Lesson 3: Hinduism

I do not regard this as a series on world religions so much as some insights for Christians living among other religious traditions. Taylor describes this as allowing holy envy for some things in other world religions to transform her love for her own. In that spirit, I want to focus on Taylor’s use of […]

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Christian Lifestyle

Lesson 1:   Jesus

Lesson 1: Jesus

Welcome to the new course. It’ll be a little different than the first. I shall try to offer one- page, four- sessions series. Hopefully, that will help everyone to keep up, as the course will work best if we have participants sharing their ideas. The goal is to develop a Christian lifestyle appropriate for our […]

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Lesson 2: The Counter Culture Church – The Radical Life

Lesson 2: The Counter Culture Church – The Radical Life

This is the second of the four Christian lifestyles we’ll examine from our past. Remember we are talking about designs for living rather than theologies, histories, or even ethics. Some believe this radical lifestyle is the only genuine one, because it was the first. It is certainly exemplified by the first three hundred years of […]

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Lesson 3:  The Established Church – The Balanced Life

Lesson 3: The Established Church – The Balanced Life

When Constantine accepted Christianity in the 300s, the counterculture community became one of many institutions performing their functions for the common good. This Established Church took the role of providing religion for conventional society. She has been part of the establishment in some form from that time. The Established Church serves sometimes as the conscience […]

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Theology of the Cross

Lesson 1: Luther’s Theology of the Cross

Lesson 1: Luther’s Theology of the Cross

The pandemic has brought clarity to the current situation in Christianity. As it rages on, it has become apparent there are two incompatible camps not necessarily identified with denominational boundaries. One of these consistently speaks of fighting a battle against evil and clearly regards the other camp as the opposition. The anger and threats being […]

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Lesson 2: Freedom in the Theology of the Cross

Lesson 2: Freedom in the Theology of the Cross

Freedom has become a big issue during the pandemic. Many politicians claim refusing to wear masks is your patriotic duty for it opposes authoritarian mandates. They call on their followers to choose to live as free people. Some water down their position  by rationalizing that the COVID virus is not as deadly as scientists maintain, but […]

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Lesson 3: Uncertainty in a Theology of the Cross

Lesson 3: Uncertainty in a Theology of the Cross

A late friend who was a world class theologian used to insist that relevance is not a theological category. He had studied under Karl Barth and believed theology begins and ends with the Word of God, not the human situation. I would argue theology is useless unless I can relate it to my everyday life. […]

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Revelation

Lesson 1: An Introduction to Revelation

Lesson 1: An Introduction to Revelation

I decided to write a short series on Revelation after a number of onliners indicated that they were not aware that the book charted the fall of the Roman Empire. Once you begin reading it this way, it offers another perspective on the relation of church and state. Most of us think Paul’s instruction in […]

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Lesson 2: The Seven Churches of Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3)

Lesson 2: The Seven Churches of Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3)

Any decent understanding of Paul’s letters begins with an appreciation that they were written to particular congregations in a specific historical period. They were preserved in scripture, because the apostle handled their problems in a manner that remains relevant for us. So, too, any meaningful interpretation of Revelation depends on discerning the situation John was […]

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Lesson 3: The Heavenly Court in Revelation 4 -5

Lesson 3: The Heavenly Court in Revelation 4 -5

These two chapters lift the veil from heaven so we can see first hand what is happening there. When an angelic voice calls John and places him in his prophetic trance, he finds himself in a throne room at the time of Jesus’ ascension. The prophet describes incredibly magnificent cosmic phenomena and wondrously strange creatures […]

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Bodily Resurrection

Lesson 1: Cremation

Lesson 1: Cremation

One of the most frequent questions asked throughout my ministry was whether cremation was acceptable. So when one of our participants suggested we look at it and other end- of- life issues, I welcomed the chance. The issue centers on our belief in the Resurrection of the Body and illustrates how theological and practical issues […]

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Lesson 2: Natural Death

Lesson 2: Natural Death

Another practical concern related to the resurrection of the body is what modern technology has done to our concept of natural death. Most of our customs about the end of life were based on accepting God’s will for our natural deaths. Suicide was a major sin, sometimes defined as the unforgivable sin, because it rejected […]

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Lesson 3: Resurrection of the Body

Lesson 3: Resurrection of the Body

Each Sunday many of us profess we believe in the resurrection of the body. We assert Jesus was resurrected in body as well as spirit. He ate with his friends, allowed them to touch him, and showed them the marks of his crucifixion. The resurrected Christ was the same person who loved them during their […]

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Sacraments

Lesson 1: Sacraments as a Means of Grace

Lesson 1: Sacraments as a Means of Grace

Talking to Derek last week, I was reminded that I wanted to push myself to look at the commandments and sacraments from a modern perspective. All of us are conditioned to use old concepts when speaking of ancient traditions. They roll off our tongues without much thought. There is certainly no great harm, except when […]

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Lesson 2: Sacrament as God’s Bodily Presence

Lesson 2: Sacrament as God’s Bodily Presence

The sacraments remind us that Christians claim that God is more than spirit. Although most of us can remember having defined God as a spirit at various times, the Church has insisted God is a person. And we all know a person is body as well as spirit. I can appreciate what our theologians are […]

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Lesson 3: The Meaning of Baptism

Lesson 3: The Meaning of Baptism

Early Christians felt baptism was so important they built their houses of worship near running water whenever possible. Those who have visited ancient churches in their travels have seen many were constructed right over springs so that baptisms could be performed with living water. The importance of the sacrament is also reflected in the New […]

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What is Truth?

Lesson 1: Trust

Lesson 1: Trust

The present concern with fake news and a post-truth culture goes deeper than we usually acknowledge. I pulled out some quotes from Sissela Bok’s 1978 book, Lying, that I used when writing about trust decades ago. She wrote that “trust in some degree of veracity functions as a foundation of relations among human beings: when […]

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Lesson 2: Truth and Facts

Lesson 2: Truth and Facts

At first, I was taken aback when people read last week’s lesson as a political statement. My intention was simply to point out that a healthy society depends on being able to trust that people are telling the truth. The political examples were meant to show ours is ailing. This week, I wanted to suggest […]

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Lesson 3: Truth and Political Correctness

Lesson 3: Truth and Political Correctness

A few weeks ago, Father Jude reminded us that the given in a democracy is a reasonable, educated audience. “Absent that as the valid context, free speech in a democracy is just so much noise, at best, and, at worst, a detriment.” Knowing Jude, I am sure he did not mean that all reasonable and […]

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Ten Commandments

Introduction to the Ten Commandments

Introduction to the Ten Commandments

All Christians, all Jews, and even all Muslims agree the Ten Commandments are a basic statement of how to live according to God’s will. The disagreements come with how to codify these into specific laws. For instance, in our time you could argue all religious people are pro-life even though they do not agree on […]

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Lesson 1: The First Commandment

Lesson 1: The First Commandment

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. The command goes on to prohibit making graven images, a command that might appear to be simpler than it really is. It certainly does ban worshiping […]

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Lesson 2: The Second Commandment

Lesson 2: The Second Commandment

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. The ancient Israelites took this so seriously that they did not even utter God’s name in fear that they might use it incorrectly. They would insert “Lord” instead of the […]

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The Pandemic

Lesson 1: The Situation

Lesson 1: The Situation

I really ended the series on world religions because I was getting all sorts of emails that implied it was a good subject, but somewhat irrelevant in the midst of the pandemic. Along with this, I kept feeling a need to recognize what is going on in Christianity during this crisis. In general, the situation […]

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Lesson 2: What We Have Learned

Lesson 2: What We Have Learned

In a time when the Christian voice in the public conversation is babel and even cacophony, those struggling to follow Jesus must strive to be radically realistic. Jacques Ellul often describes this as being decisively honest. That would involve acknowledging the lessons that the pandemic has taught us and then making appropriate changes in our […]

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Lesson 3: Trust… In Government

Lesson 3: Trust… In Government

The pandemic has brought into focus all sorts of societal problems. The last lesson discussed only the large number associated with Smithfield Foods. Most of these have been festering for decades. The question is whether the pandemic will bring them to a head in a way that incites creative response. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in […]

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Friendship

Lesson 1: Changes in Friendship

Lesson 1: Changes in Friendship

When I was growing up in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, people spoke of “family and friends.” I had all sorts of “family” throughout the small city. When we would gather for annual reunions, we would be joined by some of the few who had moved away to seek their fortunes. I could also point to many “friends” […]

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Lesson 2: Professional Friends

Lesson 2: Professional Friends

Last summer, I participated in a conversation that illustrates the current situation of friendship. A man sat down beside me and revealed he worked at the Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas. When I asked what he did, he hesitated. “It is hard to explain,” he responded. “Many people can not understand. I am a friend.” […]

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Lesson 3: Facebook Friends

Lesson 3: Facebook Friends

Supposedly, I have 48 Facebook friends. I can easily pick up more by accepting the invitations that daily arrive on my e-mail, often from people I have a hard time identifying. And, of course, I can unfriend any of the 48 by simply pushing a button. These Facebook friends are another example of modern negotiated […]

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