Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal

Back in October '13, I reviewed  Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal by Milton Brasher-Cunningham.   I picked up the book the other day and have been thinking about it again...

One of my favorite stories in the scripture is the post resurrection story in John 21.  Most of the sermons we hear from this chapter center on the questions of Jesus to Peter - "Do you love me more than these?"  but for me the most important piece of the story comes earlier were Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples.  It seems to me that the meal is central to who we are as Christians beginning, of course, with communion but also including the other intentional meals of our lives.  There is deep truth in the old joke -
A teacher once asked her 3rd graders to each bring something to their class that represented their religious background.  A Roman Catholic child brought a crucifix.  A Jewish child brought a menorah.  A Sikh boy showed his kara.  The Baptist girl brought a covered dish..."
The book shares a strategy that I want with all my heart to try.  Every Thursday evening the author hosted a communal meal.  Whenever someone would attend, a place card with their name would be made which also served as a permanent invitation to attend every Thursday forever.  All one would need do is call by Thursday noon to RSVP so there will be enough food prepared.  They laughed, cried, told stories, challenged one another, and simply were together.  It isn't clear to me whether the meal continues but what a wonderful way to spend Thursday evening!   If it does still take place, I wish I lived close enough to get my own place card for the meal at his home...  Barring that, I look forward to a time when I can shape my life in such a way as to make this possible.

In these days of fast food when families all too often do not take the time to eat together and food is seen more as fuel for the body than as nourishment for the soul, Brasher-Cunningham reminds us of the holy time we spend with each other around the table.  I only wish the book was longer and shared a few more recipes.

One more story... about 15 years ago we did an exchange with a pastor in Leicester, England and spent a month in each other's homes, serving each other's churches.  We did a lot of day trips around central England and one day arrived back in Leicester too tired to cook dinner so we went to a restaurant.  We arrived about 6:00 and every table was empty.  One of the wait staff greeted us and asked whether we had a reservation.  She looked very troubled when I said "no" and ran off to consult with the rest of the staff.  A few moments later she returned and said, "Well, we can seat you but you need to be finished by 9:00 as we will need that table for another party at that time."  She expected us to sit, talk, and linger over the meal.  This little book reminded me again how important that is to do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

book review - Theology from Exile: The Year of Matthew, Commentary on the Revised Comon Lectionary for an Emerging Christianity

I've got a number of promised book reviews to get up here on my blog... and here is one.

Theology in Exile: The Year of Matthew is volume 2 of a series of commentaries on the lectionary readings.  Let me make a few disclaimers.  I preach from the Revised Common Lectionary almost every week.  For those who are unfamiliar with the lectionary, it is a selection of scripture readings including a gospel reading, epistle, psalm, and history (usually but not always from the Hebrew Scriptures) for every Sunday in the church year over a three year cycle.  The idea is that through that three year cycle all of the major themes of the Bible are lifted up.  The downside of using a lectionary is that there are some passages that are never read in worship.  The upside is that the lectionary pushes the preacher to consider passages which may be ignored because they are difficult or challenging to the preacher's theology.  It also does push the preaching in a certain arc.

some of my commentaries
I also love commentaries.  I understand that the books in the Bible were written centuries ago in situations radically different from the world in which I live.  I need to understand that setting to address those scriptures in a meaningful way.  I also know that men and women of great wisdom and deep commitment have spent centuries wrestling with the meaning of those words and applying them to their lives.  A wise preacher tries to listen for their experiences and advise.  So, I have lots of commentaries.  Some are on individual books, others are series, and I have one series that addresses the weekly lectionary readings.  Some of aimed at scholarly work while others are directed at preaching.  I am always looking for another to add to my collection.  When this one became available for free for review.  I jumped on it.

The author, Sea Raven, is an associate at the Westar Institute (home of the Jesus Seminar) and is part of the Unitarian Universalist tradition.  Her blog is found at

I was looking forward to getting a more liberal perspective as the vast majority of my commentaries reflect a mainline view.  That you get and it is very helpful.  She poses 4 questions that permeate the series and which I find very helpful...
  1. 1)  What is the nature of God? Violent or non-violent?
  2. 2)  What is the nature of Jesus’s message? Inclusive or exclusive?
  3. 3)  What is faith? Literal belief, or trust in God’s realm of distributive justice-
  4. 4)  What is deliverance? Salvation from hell or liberation from injustice?
She does choose a format that I find less than helpful though.  Rather than address the 4 lections for the week individually as is done in the excellent series Feasting on the Word, she treats the readings together, focusing on the common themes which presumably underscore the choices made by those picking the passages.  She does focus more on the gospel readings but I wish she had either just excluded any reference to the other passages or addressed them all separately.

All in all, I found the volume a helpful addition and it will be used when I come around to year two of the lectionary (beginning in Advent of  2014).

Disclosure of material connection:  I received this book for free from the author or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network.  I was not required to write a positive review and the views expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16CFR part 255.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Website... FINALLY!

I finally got the new website up for Cambridge Drive Church.  Constructing a website is an interesting exercise.  I tend to be verbal rather than visual so I would write way too many words and have too few images... which is exactly the opposite of what a website should have.  And then, there is the huge question of what to include in a website.

One of the big questions was whether or not to include a "We Believe" page.  Many/most church pages have them and I have to admit that it is one of the first places I go when I'm looking at a church website.  We did include one but I was hesitant for a bunch of reasons.  Often churches include these statements as a litmus test for members and for staff.    In our Baptist tradition that is a little tricky.  Soul liberty made it difficult to tell someone else what he or she should or should not believe.  Freedom of the Bible militated against someone saying this is what the Bible officially says or does not say.  These two thoughts were the foundation of early Baptist discomfort with creeds.  At the same time, early Baptists did write confessions which were consensus documents that essentially said, these are the areas about which this group of Baptists in this time and place has some consensus.  A few years ago one of our adult studies had the classes write a confession.  My favorite one began, "All confessions of faith must be written in pencil."  That is to say that while there are certainly some pieces that will not change, others will and the confession must be held lightly.  I can't imagine there is much that I could write that every member of the church would agree with 100%.  Indeed, our church board went around a good bit regarding the content of that page.  I'm satisfied with it... but realize it is written in pencil and very well may change at some point.

The second page I visit on church websites is the staff page.  Again I was hesitant to include one and again we did.  I didn't want to communicate the idea that the church is the staff.  We have volunteers who spend more time working on the church property than some of the paid staff and a significant percentage of members who volunteer in a variety of community ministries.   Then there was a real question of who to include even among paid staff and what order to put them on the page.  We have direct church staff - who we included on the page - and we have a nursery school with additional staff - we included only the director.  We ended up putting the staff in alphabetical order mainly because I didn't know how else to order them.  Each staff member wrote their own short bio.  It meant a slightly different voice on each but made it so I didn't have to worry about including something not wanted or leaving something out.

Graphics are tricky.  I wanted a clean style that was easy to follow and caught the viewers eyes.  We ended up with some unhappiness about some of the images.  They are there now but can be easily changed.

We were gifted with a new logo from Bill Kole at Digital Media Associates.  Isn't it wonderful!

FWIW, we used WIX to host our site.  Their software is very easy to use, there are lots of reasonably good templates, and the cost was OK.

Check out the page and let me know what you think...