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January 19, 2020, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

Two quotes come to mind this morning. One is attributed to Mark Twain, although its origin is unclear. The other is from Baltimore’s own H. L. Mencken.


The first:


It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.


The second:


For every complex question, there is an answer that’s clear, simple and wrong.


Both of these quotes come to mind as we prepare to launch a new study of the Bible especially designed for people who are either new to its pages or who have been too scared even to read them.


For ages, people putting themselves forth as experts on the Bible (I know, mostly preachers) will say what a particular passage clearly (and simply) means. Back in the 19th century preachers did this with the Bible to justify the institution of slavery. A long time before that people did this to identify   women as witches who had fallen out of favor with the “in” crowd. Within the last hundred years (and still) in some traditions, the Bible has been used to tell women that they are not fit to be leaders in the church. And how often is the Bible pulled out to deny members of the LGBTQ+ community full inclusion. It’s right there. It’s in the book.


Each time something like this is done, the text from the Bible seems crystal clear on the subject at hand- until it isn’t. A closer reading of the text, with an appreciation for things like the literary style, setting and the intended audience, reveals layers of meaning.


And so, with the help of Peter Enns book, “How the Bible Actually Works” we will be spending some weeks looking at a more nuanced approach to  scripture. We will be doing this not only to gain a new appreciation for a much  maligned- but still holy book. But, also to explore what the pages of the Bible have to say to our world today.


This hour-long study will be offered two times during the week to accommodate various schedules.


We will have a daytime session on Tuesday afternoons and an evening session on Thursdays. Each session will be an hour. The only book you’ll need is the Bible, and we have a few copies of them here at church! AND…outlines for each session will be posted on the Christian Temple website. Stay tuned for specific times but we intend to begin the sessions on the week of February 9th.


Join us as we discover a bit more about the holy enigma that is the Holy Bible!


January 12, 2020, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

I remember thinking, “What? Are you kidding me?”, when my mom told me that my sister and I would be spending the next six Saturday mornings at the home- in the study, no less- of Reverend Burgess, the  minister of our church. Let’s be clear, this guy was not the warm and fuzzy type. He was more like the red-faced, bombastic type. His idea of a children’s moment was to pause his sermon for a moment to single out the children who were squirming in their pews. I learned from his son that Reverend Burgess had lost the use of one of his lungs in WWII. But that didn’t seem to affect his ability to project. And these classes definitely preceded the days when my sister and I decided it was okay to like each other.


“But why?” I’m sure we both asked in indignant astonishment.


And we were told that we would be going to his house- just the two of us- so we could learn all we needed to know to become a follower of Jesus and get baptized. The plan was that we would take the classes in the spring from Reverend Burgess. Then in the summer, during our annual visit with family through the Midwest, our beloved Uncle Kenneth, also a Disciples minister (but a much quieter one), would immerse us in the living waters of Holy Baptism at his church in Indianapolis.


To be honest I don’t remember much about the baptism except that Uncle Kenneth got us down into the water and back up again without dropping us- and that my sister made me go first. But, I have vivid memories of those long, awkward mornings sitting in Reverend Burgess’ study. Now that I think of it, he probably felt the same way we did.


So, there you have it. My baptism story. Not remarkable. No descending doves. No big crowds. And if there had been a voice from the heavens it probably would have said something like, “I guess he’ll do.”


Some of us have more remarkable baptism stories- more like Jesus’ story. For some of us there was a dramatic moment of decision and a spontaneous trip to the nearest source of water. For others, Godparents hovered near the priest, promised to help mom and dad raise us, and made good on that promise.


But wherever our own particular baptism story happens to fall on the cool spectrum, it is important to remember that it is only a story of the beginning. And beginnings are usually as unremarkable as they are important. The first steps we take as a child won’t define how far we can walk. The first day of class doesn’t usually determine how well we do on the final. But, without beginning, we wouldn’t be able to go very far.


And so today we mark Jesus’ baptism. The Bible makes it sound like it was quite a day. But I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point along the way Jesus’ mom didn’t have to say, “Get your nose out of that scroll son, John is here this weekend and we are all going down to the river”.


Welcome to worship!


January 5, 2020, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

The year was 1999. While the rest of the world was a buzz wondering if planet earth was going to survive Y2K, yours truly was preparing for an interview that would decide whether or not I would receive a full scholarship to take a trip to Israel and Palestine. The scholarship was overseen by an order of Masons with which we would not normally be familiar. But it just so happened that the chair of the scholarship committee was one of my Dad’s long-standing tennis buddies when he wasn’t doing Masonic stuff. I gave it a go, and it worked!

Fast forward one year. As the year 2000 rolled into 2001, we were finalizing plans for the trip which was to take place in March. On the second Sunday of January the Masons came to worship in full dress uniform to make the presentation. But by the time the third Sunday of January rolled around Dad had been admitted to the hospital suffering from ongoing heart problems. Things quickly went from bad to worse and by the first week of February- while all of Baltimore was celebrating a Ravens Super Bowl victory- dad had slipped from our view into the arms of Jesus.

In the wake of all the things that need to be done when the caregiver parent diesmwe decided to let the next person on the list take the scholarship. Instead of making the trip, I immersed myself in tending to Dad’s affairs and getting mom resettled. I never regretted this decision. It was very therapeutic to be about this important business. But since then, a trip to Israel and Palestine has remained a compelling possibility.

So, last summer at our General Assembly when Jayna and I met our Disciples missionary to Palestine, and learned of a trip he and his wife were organizing to the area, we took an interest. To make a long story short we will be boarding a plane in Newark, NJ, bound for Tel Aviv, on Friday, January 24th. We will be travelling with a group of 18 (mostly) Disciples clergy and lay folk. We will be seeing some of sacred sites from the cradle of our Abrahamic faith tradition. We will be learning about some of the peacemaking efforts between Israelis and Palestinians in and around some of those same sites. And we will return on Tuesday, February 4th, two days after the Ravens win the Super Bowl again!

Jayna and I will make a deal with you. If you promise to pray for us while we are gone, we promise not to overwhelm you with slideshows and stories of the Holy Land when we return! Having said that, we also promise to do all we can to learn about what might make for peace in this very special, very troubled part of God’s creation, and to share whatever hope arises from this experience.



December 8, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

Anyone remember a movie that came out a couple years ago called “The Florida Project”?


The film gets its name from Walt Disney’s vision to remake much of Central Florida with his iconic Walt Disney World. For all the years Disney’s massive project was on the drawing board, it was just “The Florida Project”.


The film tells the story of a different kind of Florida project, as it gives us a slice of life in and around a central Florida hotel called the Magic Castle.


During the late 60’s and early 70s the Magic Castle might have been used by people who were visiting Disney World on a limited budget. It was a simple place to stay…a Rt. 66 style motel on the side of the busy highway that leads right into the park.


Over the years, though, what was once a reasonably priced family motel became what a whole lot of hotels like it have become- a precarious place to live for people who may have subsistence level jobs (or maybe not) but who are essentially, homeless.


Stop for breakfast at Denny’s on your way into the Magic Kingdom to avoid paying the exorbitant price of eating with Cinderella and you just might be waited on by a woman who is living with her daughter in a room in the Magic Castle.


For those of us who love to go to the Happiest Place on Earth this film takes a little of the joy out of the experience. Right there, in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom where all is well, is a different kind of kingdom typified by the Magic Castle Motel where kids who will never be able to afford to visit the park run around unsupervised while their parents try to hustle up enough   money for their next night’s lodgings.


This Sunday’s scripture text is Isaiah’s vision we now call the Peaceable Kingdom- the Peaceable Realm. It’s compelling, but even Isaiah would admit that it’s a world dreamt up to soothe the troubled spirits of his people who were enduring the humiliation of being held captive. In other words, Isaiah paints a picture of a Magic Kingdom for those who were living in the Magic Castle.


And so, as we think about Isaiah’s Peaceable Realm, let’s remember that most of us live in realms that aren’t too shabby while some of us are forced to live in the Magic Castle. A whole lot of people can only dream of the lives we have. The Peaceable Realm is a beautiful thing too dream about. But while we are dreaming, we may want to pay attention to those forced to live just outside of its gates.


Welcome to worship!




December 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

It was two weeks ago Friday when we received a phone call from Julie Taylor asking about using our sanctuary for the funeral of her son Jordan. That was the first we had heard about Jordan Taylor’s tragic, brutal murder.

Over the next few days the news would tell the story of Jordan. We heard about how he was raised in Catonsville. We heard about how he was known as beloved Coach Jordan to everyone at the Catonsville Y where he worked. We heard about his wife and his plans to start a family.

And then we heard about how he was 295- the two hundred and ninety fifth murder victim in Baltimore City. One night when his home was randomly chosen as a place to break into, thirty one year old Jordan Taylor was killed. His senseless death leaves a family- and an entire generation of young people who came under his influence- deep in grief.

During this season of Advent, when we await the coming of God in the form of a child whose life was cut short by violence, we are wise to pay attention to all the forces at work that cut life short. And here in Baltimore we have a special opportunity to pay attention to the epidemic of gun violence, and how the availability of handguns combines with the desperation of poverty to form a deadly cocktail. Far too many families gather in mortuaries when they should be celebrating graduations, marriages and first jobs. And every time one more dies, a piece of God dies too.

Julie Taylor wound up wisely choosing a much larger sanctuary for her beloved Jordan’s funeral service. But, we can still do our part to honor Jordan’s life. As we worship during this season of waiting, we will remember by name the victims of gun violence here in our city over the prior week. We’ll do so not only to be in solidarity with those families whose holidays will be darkened by the shadows of grief. But also to remember that when God chose to become a human being, she chose to be born in a dangerous place where life was precarious. And this is still where God is to be found.  The flesh that was wounded in the life of Jesus is the same flesh that gets torn apart by flying bullets. Pledging to do whatever we can to end the carnage, is a tangible way of welcoming the Christ child into our midst.

Welcome to worship.

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