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Prayer and Pointing the Finger (pt. 4)

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This is the last of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

Finally, and maybe this is so obvious I don’t even need to say it but, this parable is about taking responsibility for ourselves and coming to a place where our spiritual lives are not dependent on us blaming others or pointing finger.

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Featured Sermons The Biblical

Prayer: Identifying Our Blind spots (pt. 3)

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This is the third of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

Another thing this parable teaches us that prayer can help us to see ourselves more clearly.

We all know what a blind spot is. We have blind spots when there is “an obstruction in our visual field.” We talk about blind spots when we are driving. We talk about blind spots in all kinds of life.

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my guest post on the smitten word: an ounce of action

Engles Quote

Suzannah Paul of the Smitten Word has been hosting a series of guest posts on her blog about embodied faith this month. She was kind enough to accept a piece I wrote for the series called “An Ounce of Action.” Below is an excerpt. Jump over there by clicking the link below if it interests you.

My theories and ideals melted away before my very eyes only to be reconstructed in the tendons and ligaments of embodied community. By moving out of the confines of academic life and into the vigor of life enfleshed, I am challenged by what I learn within this diverse community that has been planted in one place for seventy-five years. I had to let the neatly tied theories and idealistic visions of “what the church should look like” be redefined within the everyday lives of people who experience and see the world differently than I do. In this case, my action led to a reshaping of not only of my theory but my entire life.

via suzannah paul | the smitten word: an ounce of action {guest post C. Wess Daniels}.


Image credits: Doug Neill at the Graphic Recorder.

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Featured Sermons The Biblical

Prayer: Don’t Trust the Labels! (pt. 2)

Flickr image: Thomas Hawk

This is the second of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

A second thing we might learn from this parable is by considering how the pharisee and the tax collector are worlds apart socially. The distance between these to characters is like saying the Wall-Street Exec. and a person living on welfare went into a church together to pray.

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Featured Sermons The Biblical

Prayers of Offense and Defense (pt. 1)

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This week I have four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

This parable is in many ways about prayer, but it isn’t trying to teach us what to say, so much as the kind of attitude, or posture we are to have when we pray.

Story

The Catholic football team was on its way to an important game. A reporter boarded the train and asked for the football coach.

“I understand,” said the reporter, “that you carry a chaplain to pray for the success of the team. Would you mind introducing me to him?”

“That would be a pleasure,” said the coach. “Which one do you want to meet, the offensive or the defensive chaplain?”

From Anthony de Mello’s Song of the Bird (p.150)

Many of us are probably familiar with at least the idea of the great lengths that sport fans will go to make sure their team is on the winning side. But there’s another way to hear this second parable and it is about the attitude in which we pray.

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Creativity Featured

#Sketchnotes and The Writing Process

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[This is an image of a sketchnote used for a sermon on Luke 13]

There’s a really interesting article about sketching that Mike Rohde linked too from Smashing Magazine titled Hand-Sketching: Things You Didn’t Know Your Doodles Could Accomplish. The whole thing is worth read if your interested in the topic. It is about the usefulness of handwriting and sketching as a way to help reorganize your thinking, remember things better, and be more creative. In the article, Laura Busche, offers some helpful research to buttress these points.

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On Opening Our Doors to Critique

This post was originally written in September 2013 and it reflects issues that were going on then.

Reflecting on the questions that relate to John Howard Yoder’s fall, I have been pushed to consider my own blind spots and complicity in the brokenness of the world. I have written some suggestions below for how we – male theologians, pastors, leaders, bloggers, authors, dads, etc. – might participate in this work and open ourselves up to critique. (This is by no means exhaustive or even the best list for how to be an ally.)

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When Peace Preserves Violence

War is Over (If You Want It) As I continue to think about John Howard Yoder’s sexual misconduct and the reality that within his theology there is either implicit or explicit justification for this kind of behavior, I am concerned that my own theology is not only susceptible to this, but has already been impacted.

  • How can I become more aware of my own blind spots?
  • In what ways am actively participating and benefiting from patriarchy within my family, my ministry, my friendships, and my teaching?
  • How am I allowing myself to be held accountable to other men and women?
  • Am I really sharing power or am I finding ways to put on appearances while getting my own way?

If I follow out the idea of “Biography as Theology,” then I really want to know, and reflect on, what it is that I could be building instead.

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Featured Poverty

Taking the Widow’s Mite: Economics from A Christian Perspective

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I think that economics is the bleeding edge issue of our time. I recently had the opportunity to hear Colleen Wessel-McCoy, a Poverty Initiative Scholar, talk on this subject and she helped me in framing some of these issues with the suggestions of this typology around poverty.

There are at least four ways that we can explain poverty in our society: accident, pathology, destiny, systemic.

  1. Poverty as accident assumes that our system is generally a generous and fair system and then bad things happen, like disasters or bad economic cycles that unfortunately enough impact families. Our response to this is to create short-term assistance.

  2. Poverty as pathology says that bad behaviors and choices people make create poverty. Our response to this is that what we need to do is stigmatize the poor so people don’t want to be like them, then they will be afraid to make bad choices and then we won’t have poverty.

  3. Poverty as destiny spiritualizes and romanticizes the poor because they are closer to God. The response here is often simple charity or no response at all. Why would we try to take away their destiny?

  4. Finally, A systemic view of poverty sees the system itself as creating poverty, it is tilted against against certain people, or better yet, it is tilted towards the benefit of a few. In the systemic view, poverty is not an accident but rather the consequence of the powers and principalities at work. Our response here is to empower the poor within our communities and churches to make change.

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On Healing Vs. Being Cured

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Trigger warning: Discussion around healing, being hurt, and other beliefs that have been used to wound people who are already wounded.

Meeting for Worship for Healing

In preparation for our “Meeting for Worship for Healing” I spoke to a couple of ministers who I like to learn from, I did my own thinking and writing on the subject, and continued to explore ideas that I have been drawing on as of late. One of my first steps is always to begin to sort out what experiences I have found helpful or hurtful (or if I haven’t had a first hand experience, consider the stories of others). When it comes to healing, I have participated in two types of healing services in my past: the “faith healing” kind in which people are expected to be “cured” (and there’s something wrong with you when you aren’t) and the second was something closer to what we did today in which people are invited to come forward for prayer and anointing of oil with the expectation that this is one point along the journey towards wholeness.