Thank you Bill for your website and your comments posted there. I have not had time to read it all yet so look forward to that.
I wish I could introduce you to my own congregation. I struggle sometimes when I have a worship leadership role in how to include and express progressive christian theology.
I am enjoying reading Ian Harris’s book “Creating God …”, no doubt you are familiar with it.
On the matter of prayer and healing, I can report that a physician we have consulted for 20 years, ex GP practicing complementary methods, offers prayer as part of the very successful treatment. He claims to demonstrate (using muscle strength testing) the difference this makes to the influence of toxic organisms by “killing” them and enabling & speeding subsequent (mostly homeopathic) treatment. I have witnessed this many times and always welcome the prayers and suspend disbelief. I interpret the prayer as engaging with the innate powers of the mind and spirit to affect the body’s ability to heal itself.
Any text suggestions for liturgical use would be most welcome.
I am sure that experience of any form of prayer that brings comfort in times of worry or illness is bound to have a positive dimension. My uncle who was a physician used to tell me that being a doctor was dead easy because more conditions came right by themsleves anyway with or without prayer or medicine for that matter. ie regression to the mean.There may even be a biochemical component to prayer in that since the brain has sometimes been called the biggest gland in the body, chemical release in response to particular thoughts in theory should have the potential to affect the condition of the body. For example times of stress eg battle situations is often reported to diminish (or override) pain. the release of the feelgood endodorphins after exercise or even thinking the appropriate thoughts is now established as a phenomenon. I guess the skeptic in me would want to distinguish between this and what I like to call the Harry Potter effect whereby the prayer is used as an incantation to defy the laws of nature and produce healing or any other affect which works against the laws of nature. ie prayer might well help you feel less stressed – but not necessarily help you grow back a severed finger or walk on water. Have a look at the book “Bad Science” byBen Goldacre for some introduction to scientific evaluation of homeopathy.
Re Liturgy of the Progressive Theology type, you could do worse than start with Rex Hunt who has his own web site, liturgies and sermons on the internet. For some thoughtful reading I have found Richard Holloway’s books to be helpful as a start.
In the light of your request for responses re the value of “First thoughts” I am forwarding tomorrow’s sermon. It’s dependence on your first thoughts will be obvious. With respect to its brevity, our third Sunday liturgy at Wembley Downs (Perth Western Australia) has a three minute sermon and ten minutes of silence. Co-incidentally next month we appoint one of our number as our “local Minister”. She will continue to work two days a week in medical research.
Love and Peace
I am no expert on middle eastern agriculture, but I do know that darnel is a serious weed in that it is host to the ergot smut fungus that is deadly to people and animals. It is indistinguishable from wheat in its early growth.
The position taken by Jesus is quite clear “Don’t weed!” The weed will be distinguishable at the harvest. It doesn’t grow as tall as wheat. Today they put the crop through a sieve through which the smaller darnel falls. In those days, they would reap only the tallest plants.
What was Jesus pointing up in this parable? It is our practice of categorising people.
You see it in the national and international sphere where a common enemy unites disparate people and political daleks go about chanting “Exterminate!”
You see it in the personal sphere where we separate people into good and bad, friend and foe, holy and heretic etc
It is a common tendency, this defining ourselves by reference to others. It is an attitude which bedevils us today just as it did the holy people of Jesus’ day, whose constant criticism of him was that he associated with sinners and disreputable people. Jesus would have nothing to do with the “holier than thou attitude”.
This is evidenced not only by his life but also in one of his most striking statements “Love your enemy”. Relate to them, talk with them, don’t separate yourselves from them, identify with them, seek their welfare, relate to them with compassion and understanding.
Don’t weed! Identifying people as weeds has no future. Leave the gardening to God and get on with the growing.
I particularly like the notion of a very short sermon and a long silence for contemplation. Very like the Quakers who I have visited from time to time. I sometimes get the feeling that sermons are not expected to generate any form of response, let alone thought. I also liked the Dr Who imagery. I find the idea that someone is using some of the material I post very encouraging.
Are you saying my favorite apple, “Pacific Rose” was genetically modified? How exactly?
It is genetically modified in that it has different genetic structure to that say of a Granny Smith apple. However the point is that this was achieved by the somewhat hit and miss procedure of selection of chosen preferred cultivars from a breeding programme – rather than the precisely targetted method of genetic engineering. Nevertheless the outcome is essentially the same – a variant which has different chomosome structure. If it wasnt different in genetic structure it wouldnt be recognised as different in the way it grew – ie a Pacific Rose apple. If you are frightened by a different genetic structure how it was produced is irrelevant.
HI Bill. I have just sent you an email. I was wondering if you would be interested in being a guest presenter/leader at a Progressive service in Hamilton later this year?
I am sorry to say that the image you posted that you think portrays the Western saint Valentine of Rome IS NOT! The image is in fact St Valentin Sventitsky one of the many New Russian Orthodox Martyrs under the Bolsheviks. It is the only icon like it in which our monastery had commissioned many years ago by a local iconographer Gregory Melnick. We, the Orthodox Hermits of St. John the Divine, request that you honor the Russian Saint by removing it from the internet. cf.: http://hermitage-journal.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-martyr-valentine-sventitsky.html
The Least in our Lord’s Service,
Father Symeon salo
I will remove the image from my site. The last thing I wanted to do was upset anyone. Since I copied it from an internet picture I don’t have any idea who else has other copies.
As i sit here and struggle for relevance in a sermon i am to deliver tomorrow( I am a last minute person) i have come across your website. Your insite and connections between the human psyche, science and theology are a breath of fresh air to me. I am not sure what i am trying to say here but Thank you. I will be back for a more in depth look at your books and thoughts on science and religion ( deliberately didn’t use the word “versus” there)
Thanks Chris, I find it most encouraging when someone takes time to give positive feedback. Please remember that I would also welcome frank discussion on any of the posts. Since much of what I write is from a viewpoint shaped by a set of experiences and a particular background I get things wrong from time to time so constructive criticism and pointers to different views not only help me, they also help other readers. Regards Bill
Just curious if you have seen “God’s not dead” yet. I can embrace the idea that the big bang theorists took the idea from Genesis. It would make for an interesting interactive sermon for kids.
Thanks for drawing this to my attention. I havent seen this yet but I will chase it up. I suspect there is a possibility that the title suggests semantic confusion. Since thousands of different versions of God have been postulated through the centuries, the God is dead concept was originally meant to say that the death of God was death of the traditional Christian set of God concepts. If for example you read up on Einstein’s concept of God you would see that he has assumed that the traditional notions of God eg a personal God who changes natural outcomes on request was a non flyer, but a notion of God tied up with the mysterious and immutable laws of nature is the only one that matters. My vague memories of the history of the big bang was that it was first postulated to explain Hubble’s red shift of the spectra of galaxies – only explained if the galaxies were rushing away from the observer. Good luck with the Children’s slot!!! It is always a challenge. Bill
PS to Chris
I still havent seen the film but having read some of the reviews I suspect it was designed for a Bible belt audience who (if the reviewers are right) would enjoy the cardboard characters who need a simplistic definition of God, a portrayal of the academic critic as shallow and blind to the obvious and the liberal as too clever for their own good. I need to see the film before making up my own mind. However the wikipedia summary of the film plot is not encouraging.
I think you need to take a look for your self. The academic had his own issues that where explored in more depth toward the end of the film and it became apparent that he wasn’t a disbeliever but a misguided believer. I feel that this film would be a good one for people who aunt to sure or are at least questioning a belief. Sure the acting is stilted and wooden but they didn’t have a star wars budget. The underlying message is thought provoking ( for me at least),
1. You have more right to comment than me because thus far I have only read the reviews.
2. If the film raised thought provoking for questions for you, then it was helpful to you. I presume you do not assume it would be equally helpful to those whose faith is centered on an Einstein type God.
3. If you have read the book “four Gods” you may be aware that among Christians there are distinctly different views of what is meant by the word “God” From your viewing of the film, how would you describe the God that appears to have disappointed the lecturer. (google Four Gods Bill Peddie for a brief summary of the Four Gods idea)
4. Having seen some films claiming to present similar debates I will be approaching the film with a degree of caution because thus far the films I saw appear to be setting up straw men as opponents. In practice the conservative Christians dont always come out too well against knowledgable atheists.
5. In the meantime can I ask if the lecturer in he film appeared to have the sort of God in mind that those like John Robinson was unable to accept in his famous book “God is Dead”
Earlier this week while I was pondering how to talk about Palm Sunday meaningfully on Sunday this year, I came across your sermon. It is now Saturday and I’ve still not finished my sermon for Sunday, but I do find your sermon inspiring and helpful. Congratulations on putting into a coherent sermon some of the thoughts that I was trying to form. I hope you don’t mind if I use some of your thoughts in my sermon tomorrow. I’ve added your site to my Favorites and will be spending more time in it.
I am a retired Anglican priest who was in active ministry for 20 years after teaching school for 16. After retirement I spent 4 years renovating a house and writing a book. Then I decided to take a full time job as pastor of a rural parish in northern Newfoundland.
I like to think of myself as a progressive Christian, too, and have read some of the same books as you. Marcus Borg and Dominic Crosson have been two contemporary writers and thinkers who have inspired me. I was both sad and disappointed when I heard of Marcus’ death. But he continues to live and inspire me in his writing and especially in the person he was – such a humble, caring person and a brilliant mind.
I don’t want to say more about your writing until I have time to read more of your website entries, but I am looking forward to that and hoping that we will become friends from a distance even if we do not meet.
I greatly appreciate your friendly comments. Feel free to use anything from my site. If in the process I happen to encourage any new directions of thought in others this is an added bonus, but dont forget that because you bring your own knowledge set and will have explored different issues I would appreciate your contributions to any of the sermons or articles. The site itself is very much a work in progress. Welcome to the site and your thoughts (and disagreements when you think them justified) would be welcome. I have recently completed the three year lectionary cycle of sermons and have decided to update the year B sermons instead of totally rewriting them… Some of the Palm Sunday stuff from the other two years A and C might possibly be of some use as well.
Best wishes Bill
Nice to catch up with you again. I enjoyed your lectionary sermon for Easter (April 5), finding it thoughtful and challenging. How do you feel about Paul’s words “If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain”? I doubt if Paul was thinking metaphorically. As a corollary to this question, and in terms of the resurrection, how would you respond to the clever fellow who said that Christian teachings owe more to Paul than to Jesus Christ?
I agree that Paul, who had had some sort of deeply significant experience on the Road to Damascus that he appeared to associate with the presence of Christ, was unlikely to have considered that it was purely metaphorical. I note in passing that some have said that his experience may well have been an epileptic fit (and he certainly makes oblique reference to a significant affliction). On the other hand his lack of referral to the gospel details of resurrection may well have meant that he was unaware of these details. If the details in the gospels were correct I cannot believe that Paul would not have known the more significant details. He was well educated and well travelled so why did he not know for example Matthew’s story that the graves opened and many of the dead were walking about. By way of example he never mentioned Jesus’ virgin birth even although he claimed to be a friend of James and might therefore have been in a position to know this significant fact. After all the scholars seem reasonably sure that Paul wrote his material before the gospels. The “clever fellow” may well be close to being correct, although in all honesty I would have thought that Luke who is thought to have written the Book of Acts as well as the Gospel of Luke wrote more of the new Testament than the combined total of Paul’s contribution may have had a greater influence. To me one interesting aspect with Paul’s teaching is that it was designed with specific audiences in mind and I would wonder if his teaching was more culturally specific. For example his instructions to women, his instructions to slaves etc
On the other hand First Corinthians Ch 13 fits very nicely with the central thrust of the Sermon on the Mount, so maybe the main thrust of his teaching was close to the sorts of teaching associated with Jesus. Please remember I am only a student in such matters and not a master!
Specifically you ask me how I feel about the words: “If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain?” It will probably annoy some of the readers but in all honesty I am not sure that I agree. I can see what Paul is driving at, but surely the risen part is not what makes the truth of Jesus’ teaching valid. I happen to like Jesus’ teaching and think it is widely applicable to a variety of real life situations even if in practice it is hard to do eg forgiving enemies etc.
May I be cheeky enough to turn the question back to you. If Jesus is not risen, how does this change the validity of most of his teaching?
Best wishes Bill
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