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Showing posts from April, 2008

Up in the Air - Sermon for Easter 7

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The following sermon was preached in James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary in New York City, at a communion service preceding commencement, May 17, 2002. While many of the references are particular to the setting, the general themes (where to look for God; the awkwardness of losses, in-between times and transitions;it remembering our own stories in light of vocation and mission) are transferrable to other settings.

One explanatory note: the chapel was decorated in part by cords hung at irregular places throughout the space. Graduates and other Union students had been invited to hang from these cords symbols from their time at Union (a backpack, theology books, a stethoscope, baby clothes, a chaplain's vest from the WTC recovery), requiring partipants in the service to take note of them and also negotiate their movements around the objects.

Up in the Air

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied…

Krister Stendahl

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I received news last night that Krister Stendahl has died. For many years, Bishop Stendahl was one of the leading lights of the Lutheran church. First known for his influential scholarship on the Apostle Paul, his academic work influenced his ministry. His understanding of a Jewish Paul working in the multicultural Mediterranean fed Stendahl's own passion for religious openness, tolerance, and friendship. As Bishop of Stockholm and Professor at Harvard Divinity School, his leadership role helped many in the church find legitimacy and hope in that kind of vision.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord: And let light perpetual shine upon him.

Few leaders of the church in our day - perhaps ever - have combined his depth of scholarship, pastoral discernment, and unfailing kindness and graciousness. While taking strong and controversial positions (on the full inclusion of women and gay people into the church, on the "Jewishness" of the early Christian movement, on the religious open…

Martin King, prophet & martyr

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We would like to claim Martin Luther King, Jr. as our own, and believe we stand with him. May it be so.

But King was controversial, opposed, and, at the end of his life, abandoned. As he became more radical, he sought to confront oppressive power in fundamental and far-reaching ways, challenging warmakers and poverty profiteers. His support, his approval, his reputation suffered.

Perhaps it is right that our nation, which justly wishes to celebrate Dr. King and claim him as its own, observes his birthday as a national holiday. But in the church, it is more appropriate to commemorate martyrs on the date of their death.

While we think of martyrs as those who have been killed for their faith, the word means "witness." A martyr is one who gives witness. Martin King gave witness to several things I would like to remember today.

King as disciple

King's oratory was, of course, shaped by his church tradition. But his preaching was in the service of his mission, called by God to procl…