Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Protect Your Children!

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words: death (6x), corpse (4x), gay (2x), dangerous (1x)

Rapture Update!

Hi Everybody! I have a few minutes to catch you up on preparations for the Rapture! It is only a week away and all of heaven is in full-speed making preparations for the return of Christ. I am in heaven right now and the latest word is that Jesus is on schedule and he is thrilled about his visit.

When I say heaven, I mean Earth's heaven. Every planet has its own nice little heaven. Of course, there is a big super duper heaven, but folks who know its whereabouts are keeping mum. Earth's Heaven is just above the stratosphere (so we can avoid the planes). The neat thing about heaven is that we have a delightul view (on a clear day) of Earth below.

Now when the Rapture occurs on Saturday July 7th, at seven seconds after seven minutes after seven a.m. Jerusalem time (be sure to make calculations for your
time zone), don't be alarmed if you see bodies going up while you are not. Remember the dead have to rise first. So, be careful you don't get hit by those rapidly falling up bodies. Stay away from cemeteries. You also may notice a lot of ash and dust in the air. That is normal, each body is connecting with itself.

In Heaven, they are preparing a lovely banquet. Veggies, nice cheeses, meat trays, and everything is Kosher (for the Jews for Jesus). Once you are raptured, you will be processed. That shouldn't take too long and everyone will receive a white robe (modest yet sporty). The dead will go through the buffet line first (after being revived you know they will be famished!) But there is enough for everyone. After a nice leisurely banquet, Jesus will come and offer a few words of welcome. I'm sure there will be lots of laughs!

Now, I am going to check on the musicians. The trumpeters are vying for position--who gets a solo, who gets to be closest to Jesus--I tell you working with musicians can make you want to pull your hair out!

That's all for now! More reports to come! Just one week! Don't forget to save your neighbor!
John



Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Comings and Goings of Jesus

As many of you know, I am a Presbyterian pastor. I am also the calendar keeper for Jesus in our sector of the galaxy. I keep track of Jesus's appointments for all the planets around our Sun and the other 999 stars nearest to us. It isn't easy, but I love my job.

My job isn't nearly as difficult as Jesus's job. He has to come and go to every planet twice. If you want to know what an ordeal that is check out the Galaxy Song. But that isn't a billionth of it. His schedule is full, and I mean jam-packed. He is always on the go. The angels keep telling him to slow down, but he is a man on a mission.


As you know, the big news for us is that Jesus is scheduled to return to Earth for his second coming on July 7th, 2007. I am so excited! He was of course, scheduled to come a lot earlier. Paul, who had a vision, thought Jesus would come in his lifetime. Jesus kept telling him, "Paul, I don't think I am going to make it that soon." But, Paul, as always, a bit stubborn, tried to pin Jesus down.

Well, as it turned out, Jesus had too many other pressing appointments then and couldn't get Earth on his calendar until 2007. He thought he might make it in 1843, but it just didn't work out.

You have to understand his schedule. Not only does he have to make first comings, but he also has to make second comings. But that isn't the half of it. He has to be there for the creation of planets and he has to answer all of those prayers. Thanks to his various moms and saints, they take care of a lot of that for him, but some folks just want to pray to Jesus. He has to answer to each one, "Yes, No, or Maybe Later."

Sometimes Jesus doesn't even know if he is coming or going. I shouldn't tell this (although it should be public knowledge by now) but Jesus goofed once. He was scheduled to arrive at the Globfyst Planet in the NGC 4414 Galaxy about 1000 years ago (our time). Jesus turned himself into a zygote and was just about ready to pop into a virgin, when Gabriel reminded him that he had already been to Globfyst! Jesus was supposed to do a second coming, not a first! Boy, the angels have been razzing him about that ever since!

NGC 4414, a typical spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices, is about 17,000 parsecs in diameter and approximately 20 million parsecs distant. Credit:Hubble Space TelescopeNASA/ESA.



First comings take some time. Thirty-three years for us. He has to be born, grow up, tell people to love their enemies, get crucified, resurrected, appear to apostles, then take off for his next assignment. Now on some planets that can happen in a few minutes (our time) but for others hundreds of years or more. One day is a thousand years for Jesus!

The second comings require even more work. Not as much time, just seven years or so after the rapture, but it is exhausting fighting the devil and chaining him to the pit for 1000 years. Jesus can do other things while the devil is chained, but he has to keep an eye on him nonetheless.

So, you get an idea of this busy, busy, busy god-man's schedule? So it isn't that he doesn't care. Far from it! It is just that this universe is a big place!

Thankfully, we are on the calendar for July 7, 2007. That is seven a.m. and seven minutes, seven seconds Jerusalem time. 07/07/07 07:07:07 I hope he can make it. Check your time zone.

Now, I have to go and meet with the other keepers of the calendar and make final preparations for the return of Jesus. I have to say, I am kind of helter skelter right now. I mean this just came up. I had no idea Jesus was going to come next week! I tell you, he is like a thief in the night.

But it is set. So, make sure you get saved by July 6th at the latest. You might want to get saved earlier, but if you do, make sure you behave yourself until the 7th.

O.K. Let's see, anything else? We have the rapture for Earth on the 7th. This will be my last blog post then on Earth. Wow!

Now, if there is a glitch in the plans, I will be back July 9th. Hopefully, no glitches.


I do hope everyone on Earth reads this blog.

Alrighty then, see you in heaven!

Kisses,
John




The Rapture Will Occur on July 7, 2007


I have been busy as the secretary of Jesus working out his calendar (you know to plan his big events and appearances). I thought I would let you know that he plans to return to Earth in the clouds to gather the faithful on July 7, 2007 at 7 am and 7 minutes and 7 seconds Jerusalem time. 07/07/07 and 07:07:07. It will be a great day. So make your plans. Do all the things you want to do before the rapture and be sure and get saved on July 6th. Nasty stuff for those Left Behind.







The Rapture













Here is an interesting article from the
Christian Science Monitor that suggests that 59% of Americans believe that "the events in the Bible book of Revelation will occur in the future."


But that isn't all. According to the Christian Post, one in four Americans believe the party will begin in 2007. That's right! Twenty-five percent of Americans think that Jesus is returning in 2007!

One in four Americans anticipates the second coming of Christ in 2007. This is one several predictions made by Americans in a recent poll for the new year.

A poll by Ipsos, an international polling firm, found that 11 percent of respondents said it is "very likely" that Jesus will return to Earth this year and 14 percent said it was "somewhat likely."

Among white evangelical Christians, 46 percent said it's at least somewhat likely that Jesus will return in 2007 compared to 17 percent of Catholics and 10 percent of those with no religion. (Read More)


So Jesus and I thought, why disappoint them? So we've decided (this is from direct revelation so it cannot be questioned) that July 7th would be a fine day. Now make sure you don't get confused regarding the time zones. Jerusalem is seven hours ahead of us in East Tennessee (Eastern Time) and ten hours of our friends in California. So make sure you are one with our Lord by midnight EST (which will give you seven minutes and seven seconds leeway--just enough time to freshen up).

Here is another prediction. I bet the guy with the green head will be one of the first to comment on this post!

Monday, June 25, 2007

1782 - 2007

This year First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton celebrates 225 years of ministry. We are going to kick off a year-long celebration of our anniversary on August 26th, Heritage Sunday. After worship that Sunday we will enjoy dinner on the grounds and have an as authentic as possible 19th century service. We have some sermons from Rev. Horace Atwater who served this congregation in the 1870s. All attendees are encouraged to come in 19th century dress and I will preach one of his sermons.

I am curious as to what a typical 1870s Presbyterian service might have been like. Any ideas? Has your congregation done something like this? What hymns were popular? Was there an order of service? Let me know if you have ideas or where to go for inspiration.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

New Pics of Mystery Dog




Trying to figure out this Heinz 57. He is Snickers. He is a terrier of some sort.
















Here are Snickers and Shelby (A West Highland Terrier).














Long legs, a small head with big eyes. Small nose.










He might be close to a Patterdale Terrier. This is a pic of a
Patterdale. Snickers has a much smaller snout, however.





This is a description of a Patterdale which fits Snickers pretty well:

Patterdale puppies tend to be bold and confident beyond their capabilities, and responsible owners of working dogs will not overmatch their dogs or enter them to formidable quarry before they are around one year of age.

A Patterdale terrier is a working terrier, and terrier work requires a high-energy dog with a strong prey drive and a loud voice. As a result, Patterdales are very energetic dogs, and can be quite vocal. It is not uncommon for a Patterdale to be cat-aggressive, and homes with other small fur-bearing animals in them (pet hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.) would do well to think through the ramifications of bringing a working terrier into the house.


Due to their compact size, friendly and inquisitive nature, and intelligence, Patterdales are attractive as pets, but prospective buyers should be aware that while these dogs may enjoy sitting in a lap, they are not “lap dogs” – they are dogs that require training and regular and consistent exercise to maintain their temperament and to occupy their minds.

Patterdales which are not trained on a consistent basis, or are not exercised regularly, may exhibit unmanageable behaviour, including excessive barking, escaping from the yard, or digging in unwanted places inside and outside the house. Prospective Patterdale terrier owners are advised to do their homework, and those seeking working dogs are advised to focus on size and to make sure they are acquiring their dogs from true working homes.


Attending Church Does Pay!

Tonight the Elizabethton Twins take on Greeneville at 7 p.m. The Twins are one of the hottest teams in Rookie ball. They have started off well, 3-0 this season. Kirby Puckett played in Joe O'Brien Stadium along the banks of the mighty Watauga River. This is from their webpage:

Since 1974, the Minnesota Twins have been sending their first-year players to Elizabethton. This special relationship continues to this day as Elizabethton plays a key role in player development for the Minnesota Twins. With a population of a little more than 14,000 individuals this Minor League Baseball city has had its share of great success.

With seven Appalachian League Championships since 1974, the latest being in 2005, the Elizabethton Twins continue to produce quality teams. The Elizabethton Twins have not had a losing season since 1989 and through the years this franchise has produced its share of Major League talent. Notable alumni include: Butch Wynegar (1974), Jesse Orosco (1978), Gary Gaetti (1979), Kent Hrbek (1979), Jim Eisenreich (1980), Jeff Reed (1980), Kirby Puckett (1982), Jay Bell (1984), Marty Cordova (1989), Denny Neagle (1989), Denny Hocking (1990), Todd Ritchie (1990), Eddie Guardado (1991), LaTroy Hawkins (1992), Corey Koskie (1994), A.J. Pierzynski (1995), Mike Restovich (1998), Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer (2001).


Plus, tonight, since it is Sunday, bring your church bulletin and get in for free!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

What Does This Mean?

I am doing a series of sermons on the seven authentic letters of Paul. This week, Philippians. In Philippians we find 2:1-10 that concludes:

at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

What does Paul mean that every knee will bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord?

Possibilities:

1) Religious exclusivism. Jesus and therefore Christians got the right God, man. Get on board; turn or burn.

2) Religious exclusivism then, but not so much now. A liberal view of sorts. Paul was exclusive about Jesus but not exclusive that Christians are the only ones. Eventually we will all bow to Jesus.

3) Religious/political exclusivism. This is what I find myself discovering. Paul was countering Empire and Caesar who claimed lordship. Paul's view of the lordship of Christ (and the character of God and the subsequent behavior of Christ's followers) is the opposite of the character and behavior of emperors and of Empire, then or now.

This passage is about the future in God's kingdom. It will be one based on humility, compassion, sympathy, and love.
That future is present in us as we participate in Christ, as we seek to know him, and as we press on toward the goal as Paul writes later in that same letter.

This future is unlike the emperor (and the values of empire) that exploits, does everything from selfish ambition and conceit, and looks to its own interests.


The one God highly exalted, the one to whom every knee will bow, is a figurative way of describing the radical new existence that is coming into our awareness. Early visionaries such as Paul and Jesus saw something--a way of living and a way of being beyond domination and violence of any kind. More than seeing, they sought to put that vision into practice. One day, we will get it. One day we will honor justice for all living things and in seeking justice will find lasting peace.

Here is the text:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.








Friday, June 22, 2007

Turning Over in Their Graves

Here is a little introduction to church politics in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The so-called "Culture Wars" blaze through various church denominations. I thought I would take this time to introduce you to one of the movements in the Presbyterian Church. It has its cousins in other denominations such as the Methodist and Episcopal churches. On one hand, it is about internal denominational politics. But on the other hand, it is a larger part of a move toward theocracy in the United States.

In 2001, the PCUSA General Assembly sent to its presbyteries (173 or so regional governing bodies) an overture that would not allow clergy to perform holy union services for same-sex couples. It did not pass. A year previous, a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Dirk Ficca, presented a speech at a Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference entitled, Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a Diverse World.

In response to that, the Confessing Church Movement was formed. About 1,000 or so congregations of the 11,000 or so PCUSA congregations signed on to this movement. The Confessing Church Movement (CCM) declared that the denomination was apostate and needed to reform to "biblical" principles. Here they are in a nutshell:

1. That Jesus Christ alone is Lord of all and the way of salvation.

2. That holy Scripture is the Triune God's revealed Word, the Church's only infallible rule of faith and life.

3. That God's people are called to holiness in all aspects of life. This includes honoring the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, the only relationship within which sexual activity is appropriate.

Let's look at them one by one:

1. That Jesus Christ alone is Lord of all and the way of salvation.

(Meaning: All other religions are false. All followers of other faiths and all Christians who are open to other faiths as legitimate means to the Sacred are headed for Hell).

2. That holy Scripture is the Triune God's revealed Word, the Church's only infallible rule of faith and life.

(Meaning: All texts in the 66 books in the Protestant canon are the "Word of God" and all on a par with one another. Forget historical criticism of texts. Regardless of what the texts say, they are infallible. This means of course that the most horrific texts are often used as standards for all others).

3. That God's people are called to holiness in all aspects of life. This includes honoring the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, the only relationship within which sexual activity is appropriate.

(Meaning: No homos in the pulpit. All sexual activity in heterosexual marriage=good. All sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage=bad, regardless of the quality of the relationships).

There you have it. Three dogmas:

1) Our religion is right and the only.
2) The Bible is the infallible Word of God (which to them gives divine and absolute authority for positions #1 and #3).
3) Homosexuality (which is what it is all about) is wrong, sinful, and no clergy who are gay and happy with that should be ministers.

OK, so you call it harmless fundamentalist, homophobic nonsense. I agree. However, what I find especially insidious is the name of this movement. The Confessing Church was a brave movement by Karl Barth, Rudolph Bultmann, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others who resisted the Nazis prior to and during World War II. The Nazis, among their other atrocities, exterminated Jews, gays, and others.

If you read the
Barmen Declaration of 1934 you will find a strong emphasis on the lordship of Christ as opposed to the lordship of the Fuhrer. No emperor can claim to be God. As opposed to Empire and its values, the Barmen Declaration lifted up Christ and his values.

But that in no way meant the superiority of Christianity over other faiths, heterosexuality over homosexuality, or an insipid reading of the Bible as literal truth.
This modern movement among PCUSA fundamentalists is nothing less than using the name of a critical important resistance to Empire to further a narrow theocratic, homophobic agenda.

If Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoller, and Rudolph Bultmann knew what was happening in their names, they would turn over in their graves.

My thoughts on the matter,
john

More Jim and Fred!

First Presby member, Jim Miller, and his loyal friend, Fred, have a couple of new tunes for us on YouTube. Here is Turkey Baster in the Straw and Tater Patch!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Accordianly Yours









One of our church members, Linda Sorrell, was featured in today's
Herald and Tribune!








Linda Sorrell’s accordion, a Philharmonic, has her name on it. In her story “Chosen By A Squeezebox,” Sorrell tells of taking a trip over the mountain to North Carolina to look at an accordion for sell -- in hopes
of purchasing it for one of her students. Instead, she found the accordion that she now plays because, she said, when she opened the case to look at the accordion she saw “L, I, N, D, A” in lettering along the side. When she saw that it had her name on it, she had to buy it. H&T Photo by Charlie Mauk

Here is a little bit from the article:

Venture into the Cranberry Thistle for lunch on Wednesday and you’ll be treated to more than just a good meal. On Wednesdays you’ll also encounter the melodic sounds of Linda Sorrell and her accordion.

Sorrell’s love affair with the “squeezebox” began even when she was in the womb.....

...During her performance last Wednesday, Sorrell told those stories to the small but captivated audience. One story she told was about camping in Europe with her brother Roger. She said that she was homesick, and in the middle of Italy – and she didn’t know how to speak Italian. But, washing dishes one evening she heard a man sing a familiar song, “Come Back to Sorrento”. She began singing, but in English. “Other dishwashers started singing, too,” she said, “but they were singing in Italian, German, Spanish, and French.

“There we were in Sorrento, Italy singing the same tune in five different languages,” said Sorrell. “My homesickness disappeared and that is the first time I knew what it meant to say that music is the universal language.” (Read More)

The Cranberry Thistle is in Jonesborough.



What Kind of Dog is This?




We have a new dog. A friend could no longer keep him so we have taken him in. It his hard to get a still picture of him. We are trying to figure out what he is. Long legs, a barrel-chest, a little head, big eyes. Part rat terrier? What else?









And this is Shelby (named for John Shelby Spong) who has owned us for five years now. She is not quite sure about this new family member, but so far all is peaceful. She is easy to identify--a West Highland Terrier (Westy).









But what is this other guy? And a question for Miss Manners. Is it ok to change a dog's name if the previous owner will know about it?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Rev. Dr. John Macquarrie


I am disappointed that this passed under my radar. One of my favorite theologians in seminary, John Macquarrie, died on May 28th. He worked on bridging the gap between orthodox Christianity and the modern world. Here is his obituary in the Independent and in the NY Times.

Rev. Dr. John Macquarrie photo: SCM-Canterbury Press

For Macquarrie, God was neither personal nor impersonal , but supra-personal. This is from the NY Times Obit:

The God in which Dr. Macquarrie believed was Being itself, a definition that to him made it meaningless to suggest that God was dead or did not exist. In this, he adopted aspects of Heidegger’s search for the meaning of being, although he eschewed Heidegger’s pro-Nazi views.

Dr. Macquarrie wrote that all language about God was symbolic and not to be taken literally. But it must be taken seriously. To him, what separated believers from nonbelievers was that believers had experienced the revelation that the creation and its existence are good.

“Faith’s name for reality is God,” Dr. Macquarrie wrote in “Paths in Spirituality.”

He said that the New Testament was misread to make Jesus seem divine, a view cemented into the church’s early creeds. His Jesus was fully but not merely human, being the one human who most perfectly mirrored God’s presence on earth.

In a speech in Richmond, Va., in 1993, he characterized Jesus as “a human being who was the bearer and the revealer of a deity.” (Read More)


His Principles of Christian Theology was our central text for my Introduction to Theology at Princeton. He also published a fine book in 1991, entitled
Jesus Christ in Modern Thought.



A few sentences about Resurrection from Rev. Dr. John Macquarrie:


"...what is resurrected is not the dead body that has been laid in the grave, not the body of flesh and blood and carbon chemistry by which human beings live on earth. (This point raises furhter problems about the story of an empty tomb). That physical body is like an automobile--it has a built-in obsolescence, and though it may keep going for seventy or eighty or even a hundred years, it will eventually wear out and perish in death. So resurrection cannot be anything so simple as the resuscitation of a corpse, for that would be only a temporary postponement of death, which would come eventually. It would be quite different from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who, the New Testament claims, has conquered death and is alive for ever." (p. 408)

That is what Resurrection is not. What might it be?

We have to get beyond the thinking that 'body' means merely or even primarily the familiar structure of bones, flesh, blood and so on. Rather 'body' is that aspect of one's being whereby one is inserted into a world, and so empowered to perceive, communicate and act in the world. The bodies that we have insert us into this earthly world of space and time, and empower us to percieve , communicate and act in this world. But may there be other 'worlds', other systems of relationships into which we are differently inserted? Are there, for instance, personal or interpersonal worlds, in which persons would be related in a manner different from that which depends on the bodily senses? Do we already have some hint of the possibiity in our present experience, when peope claim to be in communion with one another, though not using words or touching or looking at each other?...The mystery of how mind and body are related in the human being is still far from being fully understood, and therefore the debate about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is still going on. Perhaps resurrection is transcendence to a new level in the being of the human person, a level which eludes are understanding so long as we are seeing it only from below. In any case, we are not confined to those visionary experiences recorded in the New Testament. Throughout the history of Christendom, men and women have claimed to have encounters with the living Christ, especialy ina eucharistic context. Are these all to be dismissed as illusory, or must they not be added to the New Testament witness as further evidences that the crucified one lives on today? (p. 408-9)

Still seeking the mystery...
john

Enrich Your Relationship

In addition to the provocative theological, social, and political posts I make, I am first and foremost a pastor and have been one for nearly fifteen years. As such, I care about relationships between folks, particularly couples. I am a certified Prepare/Enrich (now Life Innovations) counselor. I took the training in seminary and have had updates throughout my ministry. I have counseled with 150 couples I would guess by using the Life Innovations resources and some of my own.

I offer this counseling for folks in my congregation and for those who are not in my congregation, but who live in the area. The key is to enrich relationships. The couple takes an inventory that is suited to their situation (not married, married, married with kids, second marriage (or more), living together, same-gender, opposite gender, retirement age etc.)

The inventory comes back to me with extensive analysis of the relationship including strength and growth areas. Then we go through communication exercises such as assertiveness and active listening. I introduce them to the self-awareness wheel, the ten step method to solving conflicts, and many other helpful tools I have collected over the years.

This counseling is especially helpful for couples who wish to move to a new level in their relationship. I have done this work with several couples at once which is most helpful. It isn't just for folks preparing for marriage or a holy union ceremony, but for those who may have been together for awhile and would like to increase intimacy, understanding, and communication, or to make some enjoyable plans for the future.

I think that building healthy and exciting relationships is an important part of my ministry. So I urge couples to take advantage of this. Most clergy I know are involved in some level of training in this regard and are more than interested in helping. Get in touch!

I, of course, do not charge for this. There is a $35 fee for the inventory to be processed. If at the conclusion of the four to six sessions, folks think it was helpful, they can make a donation to the church or to their favorite charity. Nothing will be asked or expected.

If you are interested in finding out more, contact me johnashuck@earthlink.net.

Blessings to you and your partner!
john

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bultmann and Resurrection

What is the Resurrection? We had a fun discussion on my previous post. I like the quote from St. Anselm of the 11th century:

Theology is faith seeking understanding.

I have faith in Resurrection but I do not understand it. So I seek. On my quest, I have discovered numerous thinkers with numerous thoughts. This is from Answers.com regarding the idea by Rudolph Bultmann:

Another important aspect of Bultmann's biblical interpretation was his effort to separate the essential gospel message from the 1st-century world view. This "demythologizing" did not mean the elimination of the miracle stories or the account of demonic powers. Rather, it meant their reinterpretation "existentially" in terms of man's understanding of his own situation and its fundamental possibilities.

Here is the key sentence:

To Bultmann the story of the Resurrection is not an account of the reanimation of a corpse; instead, it expresses the possibility of man's entrance into a new dimension of existence, free from guilt and anxiety and open to all people in love.
Not bad. I should add this about Bultmann:

During the Nazi regime Bultmann was one of the most outspoken members of the "Confessing Church," which refused to follow the "German Christian" clergy in supporting Hitler's non-Aryan exclusion policies. Throughout his career Bultmann continued to preach as well as teach. Bultmann married and became the father of three daughters. He died on July 30, 1976, in Marburg, (then West) Germany.
I am getting to like him better already. Sounds like he lived the Resurrection. His Confessing Church was antithetical to the anti-scholarship, homophobic modern Presbyterian version. Check here.

For those interested in issues that Bultmann was discussing see Mahlon Smith's The Synoptic Gospels Primer, a nice on-line resource for issues of scholarly discussion of the Gospels. Mahlon has a nice bio and on-line reproductions of some of Bultmann's works (scroll down and click Bultmann).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Blowing Out the Light in Enlightenment

A question for reflection:

Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?

Garry Wills asked that question in a NY Times Op-ed piece just after GW Bush won the 2004 election. The political strategists banked on getting out the religious conservative vote. Wills' thoughtful article will take about three minutes to read, but I have been reflecting upon it for nearly three years. He asks a profound question.

The Virgin Birth, the resuscitation of the corpse of Jesus (and its subsequent travel through the Milky Way to heaven), the return of same body in the clouds in the very near future to take care of the infidels, dinosaurs and cavemen hanging out together in the Garden of Eden, Noah floating a boat with two of every kind of animal on board, Jonah spending three days in the belly of a fish (and being belched up to tell about it) are fun, funny, and entertaining tales.


Yet apparently according to polls, and Karl Rove would know, Americans think is it more pious to believe these tales as historically accurate and thus "true" than not to do so. People are taught that they are good, moral, and faithful to truth, beauty and God if they put these stories on a par (and even above par) with enlightenment thinking.

It is up to clergy to stop cowering to religious dogma and to the defenders of said dogma and to start preaching that it is no virtue to equate myths with history, superstition with science, and fantasy with reality.

Relying on "the science" of Creationism will not help you with your next flu shot. We did not learn to walk on the moon, cure diseases, and turn on the lights because we really, really, really believed that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

We have a lot of issues to deal with as a human race. The same science that brought us electricity also brought us nuclear missiles. Now, it is time for the voices of spirituality, morality, and ethics, to listen and to speak. The values of stewardship, compassion, wisdom, justice, sharing the bounty of Earth, non-violence, self-sacrifice, and love of neighbor and enemy, are the treasures in the field of our religious tradition.

But when the clergy are so afraid of fundamentalist bullies that they can't even help their congregations understand the historical roots of their own religious stories, we get what we deserve--a country that thinks it is virtuous to believe in the Virgin Birth as opposed to Evolution. To quote Wills:

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed. (Read More)

It may be time for clergy to encourage parishioners to tithe their income and give it to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The church is doing its best to blow out the light of enlightenment. Someone needs to keep it lit.






Friday, June 15, 2007

Why Isn't Stushie in the Consistory?

It has been nearly a year since Shuck and Jive has been on the net. My first post was July 4th, but I really didn't get started until this one in August. Since then I have made a great number of internet friends. (You can see my blogroll of pals on the right, scroll way down).

The internet is a wild world. I love it. Just for fun, I thought I would introduce you to some of my loyal opposition. My favorites are five bloggers who make up "the consistory." I had to look up the word. Here is Wikipedia's definition. These are Presbyterian ministers--or close to it. Here are a few of their posts about Shuck and Jive.

1) Chris is a candidate for ministry in Holston presbytery, where I serve. He thinks I am such a big threat to Christendom that he tattled to my Executive Presbyter and posted the EP's response on his blog!

2) Toby from Texas takes on the world. He has fun with the phrase "the rotting body of Jesus."

3) Here is the guy from the Bayou.

4) Dave has just started to get into the act.

5) Will, who keeps his private life to himself, was one of the first. His blog appears to be off-line.

There are a few others, not in the consistory who deserve honorable mention:

1) Tom, who decided the PCUSA was not conservative enough for his church so he moved it out of the denomination.

2) Alan from Oregon.

3) And the one I am rooting for, Stushie from Knoxville.

I don't know what it takes to be in the consistory, but darn it, Stushie ought to be there. He has worked hard. What's the deal guys? Why isn't he in the club? I vote Stushie for the consistory. Do I hear an "Amen?"

Now guys, you know I love you. I am teasing. Lighthearted, eh?

I think (and I really mean this) that we all ought to get together, pop a couple of sarsaparillas, and talk about theology, the historical/critical method, and hey, the future of life on Earth (what we should really be talking about!)

Peace,
john

Tabor and Crossan Together!

I wrote about James Tabor last night regarding how I liked Crossan's view of Jesus more than his (at least as it related to the idea of whether or not Jesus expected God to act in a violent way and overthrow Rome, etc.) This morning I was pleased to see a post about time he spent with Crossan just recently! It is a great post regarding the various methods of Historical Jesus inquiry. Here is a portion:

To those outside the field of critical biblical studies who read the Bible “literally,” it means what it says and it says what it means. But the historian must properly ask, given Mark’s core narrative of Jesus last week in Jerusalem, which sections most likely reflect actual history and which were created by Mark or his community for theological purposes. Did Jesus ride down the Mt. of Olives on a donkey, was he examined by Pontius Pilate, did Joseph of Arimathea take him corpse and bury it in a nearby tomb, and did women visit that tomb Sunday morning and find it empty? And when Jesus speaks or teaches to what degree do we have what he actually said and to what degree are we hearing the theological memory of his followers four or five decades after his death who are passing on traditions from Jesus relevant to their own concerns and times? In other words, to what extent is Mark, our core story, reflecting the situation related to the devastation of 70 CE and the first Jewish Revolt (see Mark 13 sandwiched within the narrative), and interpreting Jesus as the Christ he came to be, and to what extent is Mark’s story related to the historical Jesus and his own situation 40 years earlier–and how would one know? Further, since Matthew and Luke basically follow Mark’s passion narrative, what about John? Is John an independent source from Mark, or is his heavily theologized narrative of the last days of Jesus essentially Mark written over with his own vision of things?

I found this post very interesting as James Tabor introduces the similarities and differences between his method (and subsequent Jesus) from John Dominic Crossan's method (and Jesus) as well as the role of critical scholarship and archaeology in understanding early Christian origins.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"Not meeting demand is not an option. In fact, it is an act of treason,"

Still in denial about Peak Oil?

Check this out:

Scientists have criticised a major review of the world's remaining oil reserves, warning that the end of oil is coming sooner than governments and oil companies are prepared to admit....(Read More)
C'mon, Shuck! You are jivin' with us, right?

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his latest book, A Man Without a Country:

“Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn’t the TV news is it? Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.”
“ . . .All lights are about to go out. No more electricity. All forms of transportation are about to stop, and the planet Earth will soon have a crust of skulls and bones and dead machinery.
And nobody can do anything about it. It’s too late in the game.
Don’t spoil the party but here’s the truth: We have squandered our planet’s resources, including air and water, as though there were no tomorrow, so now there isn’t going to be one.
So there goes the Junior Prom, but that’s not the half of it.”

Did Jesus Expect a Violent Overthrow?

James Tabor is back from another trip to the Holy Land. He is an exciting biblical scholar who blogs at JesusDynasty. His book is out now in paperback with new information about the Talpiot Tomb. I reviewed his hardcover here.

I do have one disagreement with James Tabor. It could be a matter of semantics, but if so, a big one needing clarification. He writes on his latest post:

Jesus preached the imminent and violent overthrow of the religious and political establishment by the power of God himself. This revolution was cryptically referred to as “the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13-14, 26-27), and Jesus claimed to be the direct agent of this anticipated deposal.
What is a violent overthrow especially as it relates to "the power of God himself?" Does not violent overthrow ultimately mean human beings violently overthrowing one another, regardless of how God is involved?

I much appreciate James Tabor's views of Jesus. He has opened my eyes a great deal. But as regards to violence, whether from God or not, I have to say that Jesus was not violent. This is where I go with John Dominic Crossan God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now:


That leaves me with these conclusions. The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen soon. The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen violently. The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen literally. The Second Coming of Christ is what will happen when we Christians finally accept that the First Coming was the Only Coming and start to cooperate with its divine presence. (p. 231)

"We're #96!"

Got this from the chair of our peacemaking committee. It is a ranking of the peacefulness of nations from Vision of Humanity: Peace and Sustainability...the Cornerstone of Survival in the 21st Century. Here is the description:
This section lists the results of the analysis into each nation's peace. This is the prime table in the Global Peace Index section. The countries are ranked from most peaceful to least peaceful, highlighting their ranking as well as their score. You can click on a country to see the detail of its peace indicators and drivers.
The United States ranks 96 just ahead of Iran and behind Yemen.


"Peace is not achieved by controlling nations, but mastering our thoughts."
~ John Harricharan






TED.com Rocks!

One of my parishioners turned me on to TED. I hadn't heard of TED before, but it does rock. TED is a bunch of talks (all about sermon-length, incidentally, 16-25 minutes) about everything from nature to science to life to technology to our future to God. Here is a sample, Jane Goodall: What Separates Us from the Apes?

Check out TED!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Labyrinth and the Lama


This news just out from our Renewal and Outreach Committee:


On Saturday, July 28, we shall host our annual church retreat which will be held at the church where we shall be working on stones to build a labyrinth. What is a labyrinth, you may ask? Labyrinths are ancient paths that lead to wisdom and inner peace. They have spiritual connotations that lead us to inward reflection through meditation as we walk the labyrinth. Their one track path offers us a way through the wilderness of our stress-filled lives.



The design at the right is called "The Classical Seven Circuit Labyrinth" and will be the one we will use.


The retreat will have the following schedule:

9:30 AM: Gather at the church for coffee and snacks.
10 AM-12 PM: Lama Gursam, a Tibetan Buddist, will talk to us about "Precious Life".
12 -1:30 PM: Lunch Break--Be sure to bring a bag lunch to have on the grounds.
1:30 PM: Mandala presentation for ideas to use on our stones
2 - whenever PM: The making of the stones for the labyrinth




Here is Lama Gursam receiving special honors from His Holiness The Dalai Lama--Tibet Institute.







The stones for our church labyrinth will be constructed in the Tom Dixon room and each stone will be a reflection of that church member's life, a dedication to a loved one, a commemoration of a birth or wedding, or whatever that person wants to put on his or her stone. Stones can be added in the future since there will be blank ones that can be used as new members join us. We have lots of artistic talent in our church and I'm sure these members will be glad to help and offer suggestions as to the best way to express what you want on your stone.

Come and enjoy the fellowship as we work together to create a wonderfully unique labyrinth for our church.

WHAT TO BRING: A bag lunch and lots of creative ideas.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Paul and Garry Wills

I am on a quest for Paul. I am doing a series of sermons on Paul this summer; his letter to the Galatians is the focus for this week.




Sunday a parishioner introduced me to Garry Wills, What Paul Meant. It is a great read, easy to follow, and a fine introduction to Paul. Wills suggests that Paul may actually be closer to the historical Jesus than much of scholarship has given him credit.




He touches on the same issues that Crossan does with a slightly different focus. I would recommend this book if you haven't yet read anything--or much of anything--on Paul.



Garry Wills is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern. He won the Pulitzer Prize for
Lincoln at Gettysburg. If you want to read a great article by Wills, try this--"The Day the Enlightenment Went Out."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Historical Paul

This summer I am doing a series of seven sermons on the authentic letters of Paul. I presented a powerpoint today during the adult forum to introduce Paul and preached on I Thessalonians. I am going to use powerpoint for the remaining six sermons in worship.

Paul has been accused of being...
misogynist, homophobic, a suck up to Empire, a prude, an oppressor (slaves obey masters), a braggart, anti-Jewish, and focused on death and resurrection mythology rather than the teachings of Jesus. Who was Paul and what was he really about?

My working thesis is that Paul was very much like the historical Jesus. He held the same basic values as Jesus did: equality (ie. egalitarian table meals, women as full apostles, abolishment of slavery and oppression), anti-domination (Empire), and that while he didn't quote Jesus very often his ethics were linked closely to those of Jesus (ie. love of enemy, don't return evil for evil, peace, and a profound hope in the renewal of humanity and the creation itself).

Paul, like Jesus, was a product of his time and world-view, but he also transcended it and invites us to do the same as we participate in the new way of being and living.


Quiz: In Acts, we are told of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Was Paul on foot or did he fall of his horse?





Answer: Protestants think of Paul on foot. Catholics think of Paul falling off his horse. This depends upon whether one has learned the story through the text or artwork.


The Conversion of St. Paul by Parmigianino






Quiz: What did Paul look like?

El Greco, 1606

Answer: "And he went by the king's highway that leadeth unto Lystra and stood expecting him, and looked upon them that came, according to tbe description of Titus. And he saw Paul coming, a man little of stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked, full of grace: for sometimes he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel." Acts of Paul and Thekla



How Nerdy Are You?

Thanks to Kay for this one.


I am nerdier than 62% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!


I think I just wanted to appear nerdy. I am going to take it again. Who wants to be a low-rank nerd? I want to be a high-rank nerd!--Like most of my friends--if I had any.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

HOMOSEXUALITY, HOMOSEXUALITY!!!!!

Got your attention? This post is not about homosexuality, but sexual ethics. Read the first post here. I am reviewing Marie Fortune's book, Love Does No Harm: Sexual Ethics for the Rest of Us.


Relationship Ethics: Part II

Doing Least Harm-- a review of chapter two of Marie Fortune's Love Does No Harm: Sexual Ethics for the Rest of Us (New York: Continuum, 1998)

"Love does no harm to another." (Romans 13:10)

This is the basic principle of Fortune's book. It also sounds like the Hippocratic oath. "Do no harm." Fortune understands that this is a "negative" ethic and that "doing most good" might be a loftier and more worthy goal. This was my first thought as well. Fortune is a realist. She suggests that doing least harm is about what we might expect to actually achieve. But if we take this principle seriously, the implications are deeper than we might first realize.

Fortune suggests that within our patriarchal culture, there is a blurring between love and harm. Violence is sexy (television, movies, song lyrics). As much as I love to dance around the room and play my air guitar to John Cougar Mellencamp's "Hurts So Good"--"C'mon baby make it hurt so good. Sometimes love don't feel like it should...you make it hurt so good."--I wonder, "What is he saying?" Mellencamp is mild. In our culture, violence is sexy and sex (if it is good) should be violent. Where did we get this notion?

Fortune also points out that batterers explain violence as a manifestation of love. "I loved her too much to let her go." (p. 35) Women stay with abusive partners because, "I love him."

We need some clearer definitions of love and harm so that we do not confuse the two. One of the most disturbing quotes in her book was from a fifteen-year-old girl in a church youth group who said, "Well, all I know is that I don't think my boyfriend really loves me. He hasn't hit me yet." (p. 60)

Some definitions:

Love: "...a passionate, affectionate desire characterized by genuine concern for the well being of the other." She also says that love of self (as opposed to self-centeredness)means doing least harm to self, which includes self-respect and expectation of respect by one's partner.

Harm: "...that which inflicts physical pain, damage or injury and/or diminishes the other person's dignity or self-worth." Again, harm can be done to oneself. (p. 35)

Fortune then applies the ethical principle of "love does no harm" to some of the rules we have inherited. I will quote this next part in full:

"Does masturbation cause harm to anyone?
Not in and of itself. Like any other human activity, it can be misused and thus harm oneself or one's partner.

Does premarital sex cause harm to anyone?
Not in and of itself. But like any sexual activity, premarital sex could harm another if it is not authentically consensual, is not done with full knowledge, does not include protection against pregnancy and disease and is not engaged in by two persons who are emotionally and psychologically mature and are peers to one another.

Does homosexuality cause harm to anyone?
Not in and of itself any more than does heterosexuality. Any sexual relationship has the potential to do harm to self or to another regardless of the genders of the persons involved. But lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and heterosexuals have the capacity to engage in relationships which embody love, care, equality, respect, justice, etc.

Does dating someone you would not marry cause harm to anyone? I don't think so." (p.36-37)

Fortune then lists five guidelines for applying the doing least harm principle. Guidelines are different than rules in the following ways: (p. 37-38)

1) Guidelines are shaped in an ongoing process; rules are generally static.
2)
Guidelines are formed and carried out with others in community; rules are established by an authority (or a self-proclaimed interpreter of authority!)
3)
Guidelines provide a framework (an internal anchor) with which to make choices; rules are externally imposed and may not have a reasonable basis.

Here are Fortune's five guidelines for intimate sexual relationships. Again, I quote in full:

"1. Is my choice of an intimate partner a peer, that is, someone whose power is relatively equal to mine? We must limit our sexual interaction to our peers and recognize that those who are vulnerable to us, that is, who have less power than we do, are off limits for our sexual interests.

2. Are both my partner and I authentically consenting to our sexual interaction? Both of us must have information, awareness, equal power, and the option to say "no" without being punished as well as the option to say "yes."

3. Do I take responsibility for protecting myself and my partner against sexually-transmitted diseases and to insure reproductive choice? This is a question of stewardship (the wise care for and management of the gift of sexuality) and anticipating the literal consequences of our actions. Taking this responsibility seriously presupposes a relationship: knowing someone over time and sharing a history in which trust can develop.

4. Am I committed to sharing sexual pleasure and intimacy in my relationship? My concern should be both for my own needs and those of my partner.

5. Am I faithful to my promises and commitments? Whatever the nature of a commitment to one's partner and whatever the duration of that commitment, fidelity requires honesty and the keeping of promises. Change in an individual may require a change in the commitment which hopefully can be achieved through open and honest communication." (pp. 38-39)

Questions for discussion:

1) Can you think of ways in which violence is sexy in our culture?
2)
How do describe the differences between rules and guidelines? When might one be preferable to the other?
3)
What is your initial reaction to the five guidelines for relationships?
4)
Might these guidelines have any bearing on whether or not a particular sexual relationship is pleasing or displeasing to God?

A final thought. Fortune begins chapter two with this quote from John Stoltenberg, from his book Refusing to be a Man.

"What matters is the center inside yourself--and how you live, and how you treat people, and what you can contribute as you pass through life on this earth, and how honestly you love, and how carefully you make choices. Those are the things that really matter." (p. 33)