Blog Entries

Short, Pithy, Deceased

Jake Bouma asked on twitter the other day:

“Friends: Suggestions for short (100-200pgs), pithy books by deceased theologians?”

Good question. I’ve been rolling this around a little while. Here are a few that come to mind. There are more of course, and I recognize some of the limitations of this list but these are the ones that have had some impact on my own thinking and practice over the last few years that fit the criteria.

  • Strength to Love, Martin Luther King Jr (a collection of his sermons)
  • Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman
  • Gravity and Grace, Simone Weil
  • Violence of Love, Oscar Romero
  • Body Politics, John H. Yoder
  • Biography as Theology, James Wm. McClendon
  • Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly

If you’re interested in finding these books online, I encourage you to shop at Powell’s Bookstore (rather than the conglomerates).*

What would you put on your list (And if not theology, from your own field of interest)?


*disclosure: I am an affiliate of Powell’s.

Blog Entries Quotations

The Present Work of Atonement

Came across this quote today by one of my favorite theologians and it sums up in a really nice way some of what I talked about on Easter morning:

“That Jesus died by crucifixion in first-century Palestine is as well established as any fact in his disputed life history. That his first-century followers testified to having been redeemed by him, and particularly his death and resurrection, is an even better documented historical fact. The issue is whether these facts are to be seen as mere antiquities, like the facts that Caesar crossed the Rubicon and was subsequently hailed as Emperor by the Romans, or whether the Christian facts just cited are to be seen in vital developing continuity with the living witness of persons of our own time. If the latter is true, we must hold that these lives tell us that the redemptive reality is not a mere phenomenon of the historical past, but is a significant way of life today. Of course, the mere existence of such testimony does not settle the issue – our witnesses just might be themselves deceived concerning Christian truth, or we might have misunderstood what their lives are really saying to us. The existence of their witness, however, makes Christian atonement a real issue, a live option, and confronts us with that issue here and now” (p. 148 Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology by James Wm. McClendon Jr.).

Sermons The Biblical

Jesus, the Risen One (Jn 20)

This is the message I gave on Easter morning.

This morning we celebrate and remember Jesus’ raising from the dead. It is not uncommon on Easter Sunday for those in the church to focus in on the “fact” of the Resurrection. For some, this is the perfect Sunday to bring friends to hear an apologetics style presentation and where their non-believing friends can once and for all be convinced of the “fact” behind the resurrection.

In an article I read this week called: God’s Resuscitations by Kari Jo Verhulst

Several years ago, just in time for Easter, Time magazine ran a cover story called “Fact vs. Faith: A Reporter Investigates the Hot Debate Over Jesus.” Among the points investigated was the factuality of Jesus’ resurrection. In response, many pastors saw fit to use their Easter homilies to redress the article, emphasizing the “literal fact of the resurrection.” But in doing so, they accepted that “factuality” is a suitable category for resurrection faith, thus reducing the “truth” of the resurrection to historically verifiable fact.

And this should concern us as Friends. There’s nothing wrong with bring your friends to worship on Sunday morning, but the real “Fact” of that matter here is that for Quakers, Easter Sunday happens every Sunday or not at all. The Quaker church, if there ever was one, is an Easter church. We proclaim that Christ Jesus himself is present with us, leading us and guiding us. Therefore we should be less caught up in whether or not the resurrection is a historical fact that happened almost 2000 years ago and be more concerned with whether or not the resurrection is a reality in our lives, and in our world today. Because the “fact” of the resurrection is a matter of faith that can only be accessed first not through reasoning and impressive philosophical argumentation, but by the real presence of Christ who is with us.

Blog Entries

Art and Protest: BP and Tate Modern

Saw this today and thought it was awesome (ht: GOOD). This art protest is from the liberate tate group.

YouTube – Human Cost – Tate Britain Performance, charcoal and sunflower oil.

Blog Entries The Biblical

Who is Raised?

I’m enjoying preparing for worship this coming Easter Sunday. What a great day to celebrate and reflect on. I came across this quote from William Stringfellow (from Sojourners in 1976) and love it. It made me think, who is it that we think was raised to life that Sunday so long ago?

Most churchfolk in American Christendom, especially those of a white bourgeois rearing, have, for generations, in both Sunday School and sanctuary, been furnished an impression of Jesus as a person who went briefly about teaching love and doing good: gentle Jesus, pure Jesus, meek Jesus, pastoral Jesus, honest Jesus, fragrant Jesus, passive Jesus, peaceful Jesus, healing Jesus, celibate Jesus, clean Jesus, virtuous Jesus, innocuous Jesus. Oddly enough, this image of Jesus stands in blatant discrepancy to biblical accounts of the ministry of Jesus familiar to everyone (by which Jesus is known to have been controversial in relation to his family and in synagogue appearances, to have suffered poignantly, to have known complete rejection of intimates no less than enemies, and to have been greeted more often with apprehension than acclaim).

Sharing from his childhood Stringfellow goes on to say:

Church in Mission Featured

Connecting with Poverty in Our Community

A week or so ago the Oregonian published an article about poverty in our neck of the woods. The article profiles the “subtle shifts” of poverty taking place in Clark County, the county of which our meeting is a part. The city of Vancouver has worked to push poverty out towards the east parts of the county (Camas and Washougal) which makes demographics look better for the city, but in turn people end up moving out where there are less services available. What is even more interesting is that we learned that the city of Camas actually sweeps people back into Vancouver for the same reasons. This back and forth is not only hard on the people it affects but it keeps anyone from owning up to the problem or seeking solutions. This is why we were told last year by the police in Camas that there are no homeless in our town. This thinking underlies the ideology: “If we don’t see a problem, there must not be one.”

However, for those who have eyes to see, there is something going on. What we’re seeing in Camas/Washougal is an influx of poor who have no place else to go and when the get here there is little support for them. The Oregonian article is a nice write-up not only about poverty, but actually talks a little about how our Quaker meeting here in Camas is approaching the issue. As I told our congregation the Sunday after this came out: “It’s nice to get some good press every once  in a while. After all this is the kind of thing Churches should be in the news for.”

Blog Entries

One of the blog I really like to read, Special Communion, just posted an upcoming event that I’d like to bring to your attention. Eda Uca-Dorn (You really need to listen to her recent interview here)  and others from People’s Seminary ( will be doing an online dialogue on building true community. Below is a taste.  For more information follow the links.

This is going to be an exciting opportunity to dialogue with people from across the country about how to build true community. Onleilove Alston will present her research on New Monastics and Critical Race Theory on May 9th! Special Communion guest contributor Eda Uca-Dorn will be presenting as well.

Join us for the first Hosanna! Communities Initiative learning/teaching circle, SEX, RACE, & MONEY: Rolling Away the Stone in the Beloved Community. In this four-part liberation training program we will begin dreaming together what would make for missions of mutual liberation, that is those built on Lila Watson’sinvitation: If you have come to help me, go home. If you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, let us work together. Eda Uca-Dorn will be facilitating with Chelsea Collogne presenting research on sex-positive community building and Onleilove Alston presenting research on race and class dynamics in Christian mission.

Hosanna! People’s Seminary Presents: SEX,RACE & MONEY Rolling Away the Stone in the Beloved Community. | Special Communion: The Blog.

I hope to join in the learning and fun.

Quaker Quotations

Prayers: Elizabeth Woolman

I’ve recently re-read John Woolman’s Journal and have found it to be very challenging and nurturing once again. If you haven’t read it yet I can’t recommend it enough (here is a free ebook version. It is also available via independent bookstores like Powells (see below) and Quaker Books). But one of my favorite parts of the Journal is actually the part where he writes out some of the prayers his sister had written in her Journal. While Elizabeth Woolman is not as well-known as her brother John, she clearly had a very deep sense of connection with God as well. Here are some of her prayers:

Oh! that my head were as waters and mine eyes as a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night until acquainted with my God.

O Lord that I may enjoy thy presence, or else my time is lost and my life a snare to the soul.

O Lord that I may receive bread from thy table and that thy grace may abound in me.

O Lord that I may be acquainted with they presence, that I may be seasoned with thy salt, that they grace may abound in me.


The Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman – affiliate Link.

Blog Entries Sermons

Jesus, the Prophet of Mud

This is the text from a recent sermon of mine taken from John 9 where Jesus heals the blind beggar. (We used the Message version of this story which seem to capture what was going on more clearly than the more literal translations).

Our text in John 9 is chalked full of things that could be addressed but I want to focus on just one of those things, the metaphor and riddle surrounding blindness and eyesight.

Up to this point in the Gospel, Jesus has been addressing various Questions about what it means to follow him, how we can become his disciples, or as John 1 says “Children of God.” Each episode and interaction Jesus has outlined receptivity or hostility to his overall demonstrations of his message. We become disciples of Jesus when we, like it says in John 1:12, extend hospitality to God and God’s message, opening ourselves up to those movements. Last week we witnessed a Samaritan woman who was able to receive Jesus as “the one who told me everything I have ever done,” the one who re-orients, and re-centers our lives.

Blog Entries

Waiting for Spring

DSCN7306 by C. Wess Daniels
DSCN7306, a photo by C. Wess Daniels on Flickr.

This was a picture I took a little more than a month ago, but when I saw it today it struck me. We have been waiting for spring to break here in the Northwest. It’s not that it’s running real late or anything, the first day of Spring was just a week ago. But given the amount of gray days we’ve had during this winter one can get a little antsy.

And then the past two days have been full of sunlight and beauty. Yesterday was even warm enough to go outside without a jacket. I am not sure whether or not spring is here, but the neighbors were outside, children were on their bikes, the parks are beginning to bustle again, and everyone here is ready to move outdoors again.

So hopefully these last couple days have been a taste of the new life busting up that we celebrate every spring.