Posts Tagged Christian

Hear What God Is Saying to the Church – Dr. Monty Knight

Glenn Hinson taught me how to read a book–any book–ethically (fairly). Did he teach you the same?Hinson said that for any book to be read ethically, it must be read in its own context, e.g. (speaking metaphorically) a love note is not a shopping list, nor a shopping list a love note.

At Circular, the ascription at the end of the scripture reading used to be, “Hear what God is saying to the Church.” Which, as you know, is partly true, since the Hebrew Bible (Jesus’ Bible) is Israel’s book, written and edited by, to, for, from and out of the life of ancient Israel. And again, as you know, both testaments (unless one is a Marcionite) are the Church’s book (anthological as they may be), the New Testament (the witness to faith of the first Christians) having been written, edited and canonized likewise by, to, for, from and out of the life of the Church between the first and fourth centuries C.E. When Susan Dunn or Bert Keller have preached in recent years, they have used as an ascription to the scripture reading, the UCC mantra: “Listen! God is still speaking.” Which (as I’ve just noted) is a less ambiguous ascription than “Hear what God is saying to the church.”

In recent years, the ascription has been changed (by whom?) to “Hear the wisdom in the words.” Which is, of course, likely so, since there is apparently, if not obviously valuable, important wisdom in the Bible. Most precisely, as you know, in the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, commonly referred to as “wisdom literature.” Which Bert Keller once termed “ancient psychology.”  Except there is also considerable wisdom in many other literary sources. Which raises the question (in this case, for “wisdom” purposes), what’s the difference between the Bible and The Brothers Karamazov or To Kill a Mockingbird, or the poetry of a Hopkins or an Eliot? Not unlike Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, much of Dr. Seuss or C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles, most readers would likely consider such works notably “wise” as well.

So why is the explicit reading of scripture so central to Christian worship, both in the Church of the New Testament and across Christian history? How is Bible reading in church any different from observing communion and baptism? Most people bathe, or at least wash a part of their bodies daily, and bread and wine are sacred gifts anywhere (at least for discerning Christians). What then is the significance of the context in which these rituals are observed?

Some years ago, I was invited to preach at the Unitarian Church, here in Charleston. (I say “church” in the sociological, rather than in the I Corinthians 12 theological sense.) In agreeing, I explained to the woman inviting me that I was a Christian minister and that I would like to take a text from the Bible and preach a sermon from that portion of scripture. I asked her if that was OK, or if she merely wanted me to give a speech or lecture on mental health or some other social or political subject (as I have so often presented to the Rotary Club, or some similar civic organization).

To which she replied, “Oh, that would be wonderful! We haven’t heard the Bible read here in our church in years.”

 

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Faith: A Journey for All – Jimmy Carter – ethicsdaily.com

 

Mitch Carnell – 

'Faith: A Journey for All' | Mitch Carnell, Jimmy Carter, Book Reviews, Baptists, Social Justice

Jimmy Carter comes down solidly on the side of social justice with our obligations to the poor and disenfranchised at the forefront, Carnell says. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)

One of my birthday presents this year was accompanied by a great compliment.

My son gave me Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Faith: A Journey for All,” and said, “Dad, this sounds like you.”

It was an over-the-top compliment, but I sincerely hope that it is true.

There is not much that surprises in this new volume, but it does remind me of the Baptist faith that surrounded me in my formative years.

Yes, segregation was in full flower, but, even then, it was beginning to fray at the edges.

My parents were products of their time and place, but to their everlasting credit, they never taught my sister and me to hate. They knew that we would not live in the same world that they had experienced.

The message of love for all people was preached from the pulpit every Sunday, just not practiced toward the local African-American population. One of the great ironies was that we took our offering to support missions for those living in Africa.

Carter touches on all of the hot-button issues, especially the struggles within the Southern Baptist Convention that moved this great body from a position where the Bible was the only creed to a hard-and-fast creedal denomination.

The before-unassailable belief in soul competence of the individual was trampled along with the time-honored independence of the local congregation.

Carter says that three words describe this type of fundamentalism: pride, domination and exclusion.

He contrasts these views with the teachings of Jesus: humility, servanthood of leaders and breaking down barriers between people.

The most important statement in the book is, “Christians should be known by our love and our laughter.”

Carter’s love for every human being and the planet shines through loud and clear.

Considering the current arguments against social justice, Carter comes down solidly on the side of social justice with our obligations to the poor and disenfranchised at the forefront.

The press often wondered how such a spirit like Jimmy Carter’s could emerge from what most considered a dark, provincial, unsophisticated background.

If one grew up in the same Southern Baptist churches at the time that Carter and I did, it is not a mystery.

The gospel lessons were presented in such a way that they took hold in a receptive soul.

There was no doubt in my young mind that God loves every human being. The problem was reconciling the teachings with the practices I saw around me.

Jimmy Carter had the great influence of his mother and her social involvement as a model.

In addition to his mother, he was greatly influenced by the theological writings of Karl Barth, William Sloane Coffin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Joshua Herschel, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich.

He also gives great credit for his way of thinking to Millard and Linda Fuller, Dr. Bill Foege and Admiral Hyman Rickover.

One name on his list of influencers that surprises me is that of his brother, Billy. He pays great tribute to him.

Carter has taught Sunday School classes for most of his adult life. He has written extensively about his faith and has practiced his humanity before the entire world.

In this book, he states his basic philosophy very succinctly, “My general attitude toward life is that of thanksgiving and joy, not anxiety or fear. In my weekly Bible lessons at our church, I teach that our Creator God is available at any moment to any of us for guidance, solace, forgiveness or to meet other personal needs.”

He also emphasizes the importance of prayer in his life. At 93 years old, Jimmy Carter states, “Faith is not just a noun, but a verb.”

I cannot recommend this book too highly. Reading it and reflecting on its contents constitute pure joy.

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.

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Say Something Nice Sunday June 3 Join the Movement

On June 3, all churches, all denominations and all faith groups are encouraged to join in the celebration of the 12th.  Say Something Nice Sunday. Originating at First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, the movement has gained followers from almost every denomination across the US and some in the UK.

The Rev. Marshall Blalock, president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and The Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, have both endorsed the program. There is nothing to buy.

Why Have a Say Something Nice Sunday? The simple answer is that words are powerful. Words have the power to build or destroy. Words have the power to heal or wound. With our words we have the power to build up a Christian community or to destroy it.

Nowhere are words more powerful than within the church. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Words take on a life unto themselves. Once they are given life they are on their way for good or evil.

This special day is an opportunity to build the community of faith, strengthen relationships and heal old wounds. Our national discourse has become so strident and even in religious circles the rhetoric is often far from Christ-like. In Philippians 1:27 we read, “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”

This is a day to say thank you to those who make our lives better just by being a part of them. This is a day to recognize those who contribute to our lives in specific ways. This is a day to apologize for words spoken in frustration, anger or disappointment.

One suggestion in addition to the main sermon is to use it as a theme for the Children’s Sermon as Robin Boston will do at the Circular Congregational Church in Charleston.

Mitch Carnell, Chair of the Ecumenical Committee said, “One day is one day, but perhaps we can stretch it to two days and then just maybe if we encourage one another and ask for God’s help, we might change the world!”

Free materials are available at www.fbcharleston.org. Click on Messages/Resources at the top of the page. Scroll down to Say Something Nice Sunday. There is also a Say Something Nice Day for secular celebration on June 1 every year.

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Green Lake Christian Writer’s Conference Refreshes and Inspires

In August I spent five wonderful days at the Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin. I had wanted to go there ever since my friend, Don Bynum, told me about it.  I was attending the 68th Annual Green Lake Christian Writer’s Conference. Green Lake is a beautiful place far away from any population center. It took no time to feel relaxed. Carol and Jan joined me on the trip. They toured while I attended sessions.

The people I met were gracious, interesting, thoughtful, and creative. I made wonderful new friends including Rev. Jim Wooten and his wife, Becky. Jim is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Beaufort, SC. and a fantastically funny story teller. The three of us were there for the first time. Jim is the former pastor at Earl Street Baptist Church in Greenville, SC where I attended as an undergraduate at Furman University long before Jim’s tenure.

Kris Wood did a great job organizing the conference. The speakers were both helpful and inspiring.  Lin Johnson and Wendy Walters both offered wonderful assistance.  Dr. Linda Locke, a former public school administrator, is a crusader against bullying. We talked a lot about the importance of words. She writes and speaks on the subject. I bought a recording of soothing piano music by fellow attendee Darlene Davis. I continue to play it. It is wonderful.

An unexpected bonus was the number of well-mannered college students there from Bethel University attending a leadership conference. One young woman took the time to educate me about Converge Baptists which is the former Swedish Baptist General Conference.

The morning meditations led by Rev. Karen Gygax Rodrigues, pastor of the local Federated Church were very thought provoking and instructive.  She also played the piano, guitar and sang. The church is supported by American Baptists, United Church of Christ and United Methodists.

I welcomed the opportunity to promote Say Something Nice Sunday. Before I left I was excited to learn that the Green Lake Conference Center (American Baptists) will join our movement as will the Immanuel Baptist Church in Minot, North Dakota. Rev. Brian Skar brought a group of volunteers from his church in Minot to do work on the buildings and grounds while he was in sessions. He led a series of devotional services for teenagers in the evenings.

I learned a lot. Met wonderful people, but most of all I was refreshed and inspired, I was reminded daily of the goodness of people and the splendor of God’s creation

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