• Outlook Features 53 mins ago

    Luke 23:34: Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing… .”

    Who are the 'them' that Jesus is forgiving?  In a moment of intense humanity, he appeals to God for those at his execution.  Besides the faithful women and some followers, Luke records three groups who were there: rulers, the soldiers and people who 'stood looking on'. It is fairly certain Pilate was not there and it is difficult to see the Sanhedrin assembled for the event.  But the Governor and the Temple Elders will have sent official representatives to observe and report.  There are soldiers doing their duty upon orders. … continue reading...
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  • Outlook Features 1 day ago

    A prayer for pastors on Easter

    by Brian McLaren
    Dear Lord, I pray for all the pastors today Who will feel enormous pressure to have their sermon Match the greatness of the subject And will surely feel they have failed. (I pray even more for those who think they have succeeded.” Help them to know that it is enough Simply and faithfully to tell the story Of women in dawn hush … Of men running half-believing … Of rolled stones and folded grave-clothes … Of a supposed gardener saying the name of a crying woman … Of sad walkers… continue reading...
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  • Outpost Blog 2 days ago

    A Lenten reflection on burden bearing

    A Lenten reflection on burden bearing

    Holy Week approaches, a week I love for the story it tells and how it enacts the story – with bread and wine on Maundy Thursday, with candles extinguished on Good Friday, with Scripture readings on Holy Saturday, and, on Easter, with declarations of “Christ is risen indeed!” Though Holy Week's retelling of Jesus’ betrayal, death and resurrection enchants me, I often feel distant from its meaning.  I've struggled over the years to feel the power of Christ's death in a personal way.  This Holy Week, after nearly six months… continue reading...
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Luke 23:34: Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing… .”

Who are the 'them' that Jesus is forgiving?  In a moment of intense humanity, he appeals to God for those at his execution.  Besides the faithful women and some followers, Luke records three groups who were there: rulers, the soldiers and people who 'stood looking on'. It is fairly certain Pilate was not there and it is difficult to see the Sanhedrin assembled for the event.  But the Governor and the Temple Elders will have sent official representatives to observe and report.  There are soldiers doing their duty upon orders.  And there are the people; Mark refers to them as passers-by.  Can we identify with any of these for whom Jesus pleads? Have we ever taken a smirky pride in accomplishing some punishment –  the harsher it is, the more  it seems warranted?  Are we troubled when we reflect upon the times we were righteous victimizers, when we bullied someone or excluded another from a social clique, insisting on punishment that satisfied our anger and fears or 'settled a score' … [Read more...]

Holy Week music sets a high bar, but one church rises to the challenge

by Mary Beth McCauley PHILADELPHIA (RNS) Think Christmas, and carols come to mind: “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” “The First Noel.” But think of the other great Christian season — Holy Week and Easter — and most people draw a musical blank. That’s a shame, say church music experts, because the great trove of Holy Week music is firmly rooted in church, where, depending on location, tradition and taste, believers hear everything from folk music to Gregorian chant, from classical requiem Masses to Passions by modern composers. “The music written for Holy Week is some of the richest in our literature,” said David Ludwig, dean of artistic programs at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. On Palm Sunday there’s “All Glory, Laud and Honor” by Theodulph, bishop of Orleans. On Maundy Thursday, many churches will sing the African-American spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified my Lord?” And often during Lent there’s “Panis Angelicus” (Bread of Angels) by Cesar … [Read more...]

A prayer for pastors on Easter

Dear Lord, I pray for all the pastors today Who will feel enormous pressure to have their sermon Match the greatness of the subject And will surely feel they have failed. (I pray even more for those who think they have succeeded.” Help them to know that it is enough Simply and faithfully to tell the story Of women in dawn hush … Of men running half-believing … Of rolled stones and folded grave-clothes … Of a supposed gardener saying the name of a crying woman … Of sad walkers encountering a stranger on the road home … Of an empty tomb and overflowing hearts. Give them the wisdom to know that sincere humility and awe Surpass all homiletic flourish On this day of mysterious hope beyond all words. Make them less conscious of their responsibility to preach, And more confident of the Risen Christ Whose presence trumps all efforts to proclaim it. Considering all the Easter choirs who will sing beautifully, and those who won’t, And all the Easter prayers that will soar in … [Read more...]

A Lenten reflection on burden bearing

Rachel Young

Holy Week approaches, a week I love for the story it tells and how it enacts the story – with bread and wine on Maundy Thursday, with candles extinguished on Good Friday, with Scripture readings on Holy Saturday, and, on Easter, with declarations of “Christ is risen indeed!” Though Holy Week's retelling of Jesus’ betrayal, death and resurrection enchants me, I often feel distant from its meaning.  I've struggled over the years to feel the power of Christ's death in a personal way.  This Holy Week, after nearly six months of a medical leave of absence, is different.  Meditating on Christ's death broke open for me deeper understanding about my pastoral vocation, especially in regards to pastoral care As a pastor, I am privileged to walk with people in moments of pain, grief, suffering and death.  This part of my vocation is packed with meaning.  I stand in awe of the invitations I receive to engage with people in the most difficult moments of their lives. This work of pastoral … [Read more...]

The way to the watering hole: Syria-Lebanon Mission Network keynote

Jan DeVries

Janet DeVries presented this essay on April 4, 2014, as keynote for Syria-Lebanon Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).   I live in a world I did not see coming.  When I grew up in the 1950s, the toughest issues were ones of race.  During those years, the church my father served in Washington desegregated and my experience of the church was that it would walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  Eugene Carson Blake marched on the amusement park in Baltimore, arm-in-arm with other national and church leaders.  The church was in the middle of the struggle for righteousness and justice and wherever we were headed as a church we would be courageous leaders.  We began writing a confession of faith which would talk about the world we believed Christ called us to, grounded in the powerful concept of reconciliation. During those years a couple in our church with the last name “Havinga” were Indonesian, my mother said.  With a Dutch name like “DeVries,” I asked “how can … [Read more...]

Pass the snakes: How Presbyterians read Scripture

earl-johnson-jr

Recently there has been quite a bit of discussion about the incident in the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Middlesboro, Kentucky, where a pastor died from handling rattlesnakes. According to his belief system he was being faithful to biblical injunctions found in a secondary ending of Mark’s gospel (Mark 16:9- 20) that those who believe in the risen Christ “will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them.” He said he took the text at face value. According to an article in National Geographic, the pastor refused treatment after being bitten and went home, expecting to recover fully. Despite the outcome, the reporter said that he was impressed by the pastor’s devout religious convictions and demonstration of unwavering faith. The reporter noted the congregation quickly moved to cover all theological objections: if the pastor lived he demonstrated faith in the Bible; if he died he would be with the Lord.  As Presbyterians we look … [Read more...]