Friday, March 14, 2014

Recommended Reading: 3-14-16 Edition

Each week I send out a weekly e-mail of my thoughts to folks in my church.  I include in it what I found worth reading in the past week.  Here's this week's recommended reading:
  •  I have minister friends whom I respect greatly who offer ashes on Ash Wednesday to passersby outside their churches, but I have always felt that doing stuff like that wasn't for me--until now.  The act of offering ashes on Ash Wednesday outside of worship seemed like a stunt to me and not particularly meaningful apart from the blessings one receives in a community of faith.  I think my resistance is crumbling however, now that I read this column by Amy Butler, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.  She also thought the idea a bad one until she had a conversation with author Sara Miles who has done it in the Mission District of San Francisco.  Here's Miles talking about why the church needs to step outside its walls.  
  • This week we mourn the death of CCCUCC member Linda Kroencke.  I just found out that the church Linda belonged to when she lived in Maryland is Westmoreland United Church of Christ where a friend of mine from seminary (another former Baptist) is pastor.  His name is Timothy Tutt and he had a great piece this week in The Washington Post's OnFaith: "3 Free Tools for Church Growth."  Like me, Tim thinks most church growth books and seminars just make more busywork for people who are already too busy.  The three "tools" he mentions are essential, however.  Take a look and see how our church is doing on the three areas he lays out. 
  • A few weeks ago I wrote about my own personal "Woody Allen Moment" when I found out that a theologian whose work had influenced me, pacifist John Howard Yoder, had been a sexual predator.  I still struggle with whether or not it is possible to separate the writings or art of a person from how that person lived his or her life.  I read two more stories this week about famous thinkers who led less than reputable lives.  I learned a long time ago that Martin Heidegger had been a Nazi sympathizer, but it turns out he was a worse Nazi than we had previously thought.  I'm not really familiar with philosopher Paul de Man, although I have read deconstructionist Jaques Derrida who built upon de Man's work.  It turns out de Man was a Nazi as well.  These articles make me wonder if most of the philosophical underpinnings of 21st century thought were written by Nazis?
  • Speaking of Derrida and deconstructionism--which is foundational for what is more commonly called postmodernism--what does the idea that the meaning of everything is contingent and there is no fixed truth  have to do with Christianity?  This dialogue with Christian theologian John Caputo tries to answer that question.  
  • Speaking of deep philosophical conversations, did you watch the HBO series True Detective?  Unfortunately, I did not, because I don't have HBO, but I'm eager to watch it.  Apparently it is the most gripping treatment in TV history of subjects like the nature of evil, the meaning of existence and the existence of God.  Here's one scholar's take on the series presentation of evil.
  •  MORE2 (Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity) took volunteers to Jefferson City on Wednesday to lobby MO lawmakers regarding education reform.  CCCUCC's own Jan Parks went along and was quoted by Education Week. 
  • Most people think their job as a church member is to receive what the church offers--they are wrong.  Actually, their role--if they are following Jesus--is to serve.  Here's a good piece about this misconception by UCC minister Mike Piazza.  
  • When people die, loved ones who grieve the death often have to endure lots of well-meaning but still just plain awful cliches by those around them.  Such empty platitudes do more harm than good, and they reveal a lot about the speaker's discomfort with death.  The satirical newspaper The Onion reveals the shallow nature of such cliches with its "news" story "Report: Leading Cause of Death in U.S. is God Needing Another Angel."  (WARNING: the Onion story is satire and should not be viewed by anyone without a sense of humor when it comes to religion.)
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