Womb of All Creation Flowing: Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Womb of God pastor dawn

Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s hymn texts open us to new visions of the Divine! For details of where to locate her hymnal see my previous post on her work here

Atonement? – John Shelby Spong

Jack speaking at Holy Cross

Jack speaking at Holy Cross

Bishop John Shelby Spong’s weekly column continues to provide so very much wisdom. Today Jack responded to a reader’s question about “atonement” and the nature of God. Jack is succinct, insightful, wise and inspirational in his response. If you don’t subscribe to Jack’s weekly column, you can find the details here

Question:

God is defined as an Almighty being. An Almighty being does not require atonement (for “sins”). Therefore if God requires atonement as the Bible says, he is imperfect and not Almighty. Does this make sense? In other words, philosophically, the need for atonement indicates a lack of something, which detracts from the perfection which God should have. I would appreciate your thoughts.    

 Answer:   Dear Raymond,

I don’t think that elementary equations in logic are the way to do theology. So let me start my answer by looking at your givens. “God is defined as an Almighty being.” By whom and on what authority? The traditional idea of God present at the heart of Christianity certainly tends to express this, but is it accurate? Can God ever be defined by human beings? Are the limits of the human brain able to be transcended sufficiently so that the fullness and mystery of God can be embraced and articulated? I do not think so.

I consider the popular definition of God as “a being,” who lives in a realm that is external to this world and who is equipped with supernatural power, to be not only inadequate but idolatrous. That is the meaning of theism. If theism as the definition of God becomes inadequate, then the only alternative is atheism. If, however, theism is an inadequate or even inaccurate attempt to define God, then atheism is simply a conviction that the theistic definition, not God, but the theistic definition of God, is not a proper way to understand the holy. In that sense I am certainly not a theist, but I am not an atheist either. The fact that I reject the theistic definition of God does not mean that I reject the reality of the God experience.

Your second given assumes that atonement is the experience of bringing God and human life into a state of oneness, and that somehow this is the goal of religion in general and Christianity in particular. I think atonement theology is bankrupt in that it is built upon a definition of human life as sinful and fallen and then it proceeds to portray God as a rescuer and the savior of the fallen, sinful life.

When I look at the origins of human life, I do not see an original perfection broken by original sin and the subsequent need for divine intervention to save the sinner. I see rather evolving life that went from single cells to complex self-conscious human beings. If there was no original perfection, there was no fall from perfection and therefore no need for a savior and the whole system collapses.

I see God as a presence and a power that leads to expanded life, expanded love and expanded being, and even the experience of an expanded consciousness. Atonement is not the word to characterize this understanding of either God or life. So, rather than worrying about whether God can be understood in terms of atonement, I would prefer to remove atonement from the Christian vocabulary altogether. I hope these brief comments will serve to open up new possibilities in your theological thinking.

My best, John Shelby Spong

You Are the Salt of the Earth Oh People!!!

One of the joys of this blog is the community that gathers here in this virtual space. I am so richly blessed by your feedback, encouragement, and challenges!!! Thank-you so much for the comments, emails, cards, letters and even donations to Holy Cross Lutheran Church which underwrites the blog. Yesterday, a regular follower of this blog responded to the audio of Sunday’s sermon by sending me a link to the video below and encouraging me to post it! She encouraged me to challenge those of you who appreciate these blogposts to consider making a donation to Holy Cross Lutheran Church to encourage them to continue their generous support of this blog. While I generally shudder at the idea of asking for donations, I know that the good folks at Holy Cross have given generously to ensure that the progressive theology expressed on this site continues to shine a light on new ways of articulating Christianity!  So, if you’d like to help out, consider clicking on the link for Holy Cross’ address and do it old-school via a cheque and snail-mail, and support the many ministries of Holy Cross. Let it shine!!!

Valentine??? Who Knew???

rainbow heartsLegends abound! There are three individuals who over the centuries have been credited as being the St. Valentine for whom the upcoming saint’s day is named. My favourite Valentine legend concerns the radical Valentine who ran afoul of the powers that be when he insisted on preforming marriages between pagans, literally someone who lives in or loves the the country or nature, and a Christians. These kinds of marriages were illegal at the time. Other versions of this legend suggest that during the reign of Claudius II it was illegal for soldiers of the Roman Empire to marry. Valentius, a bishop, is said to have conducted secret weddings for Roman soldiers. However the story is told, the idea of a priest preforming marriages which the state and the church refuse to endorse speaks volumes. Cheers and blessings be upon all valentinian priests and officials who continue to engage in courageous acts of love.

Breakfast in the Temple

David Paul Kirkpatrick “The beauty of the practice of the Presence of God as outlined in “Breakfast In The Temple’s is reflected in the beauty in this short. Most of the imagery comes from the stop motion works of film maker, Louis Schwartzberg.”

The Social Media Gospel: Meredith Gould

Social media gospelMeredith Gould the author of The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Waysoffers insights for those of us engaged in the use of social media in as we try to communicate a new articulation of Christianly. Meredith Gould is a sociologist and digital strategist with decades of communications experience. I wish this book had been around when I was making my first forays into the world of social media. I offer it as a suggestion to those of you who are considering the plunge. To the reluctant church professional, Gould insists, “You can’t afford to continue to ignore social media. In one form or another, social media is here to stay. Social media is part of your congregants lives part of your community and neighbourhood and — whether you realize it yet or not —  part of your ministry.” 

Gould founded the weekly Twitter-based ecumenical Church Social Media Chat (#ChSocM) and serves as its lead moderator. 

Jesus, Gandhi, and MLK – A Very Salty Trio: a sermon for Epiphany 5A

Gandhi on Sermon on the Mt copy

This morning’s readings included Matthew 5:1-12, “What Jesus Means to Me by Mahatma Gandhi (found here) and Matthew 5:13-16. The full text of the Sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can be found here. 

Listen to the sermon here:

Prayer for the Earth: Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee draws together Christian and Sufi traditions of mystical prayer to offer up a prayer for creation from creation. His book Prayer of the Heart is a rare find which I treasure. I beg your pardon for the robotic voice in the youtube video review of the book.

More than Just the Be Happy Attitudes: a sermon for Epiphany 4A

jesusThe Beatitudes: Matthew 5:1-12

Listen to the sermon:

A Passionate Commitment to the Christian Vision: John Dominic Crossan

Advice to preachers from the best New Testament scholar I’ve ever met!!! What a preacher needs to have, at a bare minimum, is a “passionate commitment to the Christian vision!” If you don’t have that, stick to worrying about the church’s leaky roof and stay out of the pulpit! Perhaps, it’s his Irish lilt that allows him to make inflammatory statements sound like ordinary common sense.  Dom’s passion for the Christian vision comes through in his articulation of the Jesus’  vision of peace through justice.  Enjoy this interview recorded on Dec. 16, 2013