Photos from the Holy Land

Some of you may know that I recently took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land through the generosity of the charitable work of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the United StatesHermit Commandery of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, of which I am a member, nominated me to go on an all-expenses-paid trip with 36 other clergy from across the country in February.  One of the charitable aims of the masonic order of Knights Templar, which is part of the York Rite family of orders of Freemasonry, sends clergy who have never been to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage as part of its mission and investment in Christian ministry in the United States.  I am going through the hundreds of photos I have taken, and I am getting ready to give my first public presentation of my photographs, and will be doing several more over the course of the year; and I’d lake to share a few with you.

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Too Good To Be True released 2/28

New Book Cover 1My first book of sermons, Too Good to Be True, is now published by Christian Alternative and is available through Amazon and good bookstores like Hearts & Minds Books.  The book features a foreword by Peter Rollins and an afterword by Thomas Altizer, and the opening essay, “Pentecosting: Preaching the Death of God,” is an edited and expanded form of my presentations at last year’s Subverting the Norm 2 and AAR/North American Paul Tillich Society conferences.

The sermons loosely follow the lectionary; a few sermons that have been previewed here at AUFS; and two were published separately in Knights Templar Magazine last year.

If you’re interested, the ebook sells for less than $5, so I hope you will find it to be a good value.

All in all, this is a book that wouldn’t have been possible without my association with this blog, without a larger platform for preaching, so thank you to Adam and Brad for supporting me here.  I am grateful to Pete and Tom for their support of the project, and to Bruce Epperly, Clayton Crockett, and Phil Snider for writing endorsements for the book.  And thanks to Christian Alternative, especially Trevor Greenfield, for supporting the project. Read the rest of this entry »

Call for papers: Living Theology: The Eucharist in Question


the eucharist in question

The 2014 Dallastown UCC Theological Summit

May 16, York County, PA


Description / Rationale:  In American Protestant churches, the practice of the sacrament of communion can vary intensively from crypto-Catholic and Anglo-Catholic repetition to a complete rejection of the sacrament and sacramentalism as a whole.  In the United Church of Christ, the Eucharist may be celebrated often, weekly, or very rarely, despite strong Eucharistic theologies in the Reformed, Congregational, heritages of the denomination. Within the UCC, however, there exists living expressions of the Reformed and Congregational theologies, as well as a myriad of feminist, liberation, African American, Mercersburg, process, personalist, liberal, queer, “ECOT,” postmodern, contemporary radical, and others.  Yet it is not really clear how this multiplicity of voices and interpretive modes engage the most public and repeated of all rituals, the Eucharist, beyond congregational banalities usually related to liturgical movement, or lack thereof:  “do we do ‘pew’ communion or ‘Catholic’ communion?” Read the rest of this entry »

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Sermon: Duck Dynasty and the Separation of Church and Hate

I preached this sermon this morning, the readings are the lectionary for Christmastide 2, Jeremiah 31:1-14 and John 1:1-18.  The sermon led into a celebration of communion.

The prophet Jeremiah’s words characterizes the captors of the Jewish people, the Babylonians, as bullies, and celebrates that God keeps his promises, but only after God’s people recognize that they just can’t pay lip service to God, but that following God requires a real sacrifice.

This is perhaps the most important message of prophesy the church needs to hear today, as it was one of the most pervasive themes of the Old Testament prophets to the Jewish people.  The message remains the same, but the circumstances are very different.

I will return to this, but I want to talk about some things happening in the past month, during the season of Advent, as we continue through these twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.

The philosopher Mary Daly’s most famous teaching is from her book, Beyond God the Father, written in the early 1970s, that “As long as God is male, the male is God.”  Her point is that the attributes we ascribe to God are often reflections of our own identities.  Read the rest of this entry »

Progressive Youth Ministry Conference: March, 2014, in Chicago

Two summers ago, at the Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity conference in Washington, DC, our U of Chicago Div school delegation–Thomas Bowen, John Vest, and myself–gathered for barbeque after Tony Campolo’s entirely disappointing presentation, asking, what if practitioners and scholars really gathered to talk about religious education that didn’t pander to evangelicals and their publishing sponsors, and was blatantly unapologetically progressive in their approach to teaching Christianity in the 21st century? Read the rest of this entry »

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Crib Notes from Bethlehem (Christmas Eve Sermon)


This is the draft for my short Christmas Eve homily, which will be delivered at the 11 PM service at St. Paul’s UCC in Dallastown, PA, tomorrow evening.  And, of course, I stole/cribbed the title from Laurel Schneider’s great essay in the volume Polydoxy, which she coedited with Catherine Keller.  The lection for the homily is Galatians 4:4-7.

St. Paul writes that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children,” continuing, and “because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father’!”  Therefore, we are no longer a slave, but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (NRSV)

This passage from scripture from St. Paul in Galatians 4 is probably everything we need to know about Christmas in just a few sentences, that God submits to the logic of sacrifice, to be sacrificed on the cross, by entering human form and submitting to the law or logic of humanity.  And as a result, we are all children of the same divine Parent:  no longer slaves to the ways of the world but heirs to inherit the Kingdom of God by building the Kingdom of God for ourselves and for future generations.

But is this really how it all works?  Read the rest of this entry »

Dreaming of a white Christmas?

The internets exploded in the past few days with the news story of Fox News reporter, Megyn Kelly, making an idiotic statement about Jesus and Santa both being white.

While I appreciate (former CTS President) Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s Washington Post piece on the affair, reminding us of Cone’s important point that “God is Black,” meaning that God is “with” the poor and the oppressed, I want to take this all a step further.

It seems to me that the impulse for Jesus or Santa to be understood as “white” by conservative talking heads and those who work for them is because Jesus and Santa are generally seen as gift-givers, whether giving Playstations, Furbies, candy, peace, goodwill, salvation.  These things are all best when they are products of American exceptionlaistic capitalism: handed out by white folks out of a sense of charity or no-strings-attached presents, yet arrive with the hope of complicit discipleship.  Here is an underlying hint of support for a welfare state, but with a Zwinglian move:  the welfare state that exists, headed by a black President, is always broken and imperfect in comparison to a utopian one where welfare is dispensed liberally just for the shits and giggles of it all!  All of those “ho, ho, ho’s” aren’t just verbal, you know. Read the rest of this entry »

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Methodist Church Trial This Week! Or: Nihilism, Homosexuality, Pennsylvania, Oath-taking, and Satan

In Sophocles’ Antigone our tragic heroine demonstrates to us what is regarded as one of the greatest moral principles of the Western world:  when the laws of the state require one to do something against one’s own religion, or when following one’s own religious beliefs become categorized as against the law, the right thing to do is to follow your religious practices above the laws of the state.  The legends of Socrates and Jesus, and their traditions, confirm and validate this virtue in the ancient world.

But what to do when religion causes one to break religious laws?  Christianity has always worked through the tensions of what happens when doctrine become dogma, and when either become enforced—sometimes enforced despite of or in spite of contradictory doctrine or flying in the face of tradition.

This is what is being played out in the church trial of a United Methodist pastor from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, Rev. Frank Schaefer.  Read the rest of this entry »

Robert P. Scharlemann (1929-2013)

I just learned from the announcement in the new Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society that Robert Scharlemann passed away on July 10.  Scharlemann is perhaps best known for his phenomenal, standout monograph, Reflection and Doubt in the Thought of Paul Tillich and as a key former editor of the JAAR.  I had the opportunity to have a few conversations with him at the AAR over the years, including lunch with him after he heard one of my papers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Schedule for “Living Theology: Reclaiming the Pastor as Theologian,” 9/13/13


reclaiming the pastor as theologian

the theological summit of the UCC 2030 Clergy Network

September 13, 2013, York County, PA

Schedule and Details

8:30 AM – Coffee

9 AM – Opening remarks; greetings

9:15 AM – Is Theology the Handmaiden of our Polity?:  Nihilism and the Return of the Public Theologian

Rev. Dr. Christopher Rodkey, St. Paul’s UCC, Dallastown, PA

10:15 AM – Theological and Ethical Considerations for Utilizing Psalms in Christian Worship

LauraBeth Jones Armstrong, St. Luke’s UCC, Trappe, PA

11:30 – Lunch

1 PM – Finding a Place in Church for the Unchurched: Is there Room for Doubt, Agnosticism, and Sincere Pursuit?

Rev. Courtney Stange-Tregear, Zion UCC, Nottingham, MD

2 PM – Narrative Practice in Interim Ministry: The Past is Still Speaking

Rev. Liddy Barlow, St. John’s UCC, Larimer, PA

3 PM – The New Knowledge and the Old Faith

Jared Ruark, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

4 PM – Group discussion and future plans; closing

Guest Facilitator: Dr. Jeffrey Robbins, Chair of Religion & Philosophy, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA Read the rest of this entry »


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