Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Discussing religion...

There are lots of places on the internet to discuss religion. When I first started writing on this blog, I was really sorting out my faith journey. I don't have much figured out yet, but I am at a place where I prefer to listen, learn and attempt to discuss without seeming to attack. That is not always possible though, because one person's perception discussion is often another person's perceived attack. What to do?

When discussing various facets of Christianity, you invariably end up discussing denominational differences. Calls for unity without examining the underpinnings of a denomination are not workable. Scripture calls us to examine teachings and avoid what is not compatible with scripture. Words of wisdom came today in an unusual place:

Secular Bible Study casts wide net

by JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
February 20, 2009

As if it's not unusual enough that Trinity United Methodist Church and the Minnesota Atheists have joined forces to promote a project, wait till you hear what the project is: a Bible study class.

Granted, it's not your normal one. At least, that's the hope. Called Secular Bible Study, the program aims to "foster and nurture relationships between folks who would otherwise avoid each other," said Chester O'Gorman, community outreach director for the northeast Minneapolis church. "Secular Bible Study hopes to attract a variety of people -- Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, Christians and even Jews and Muslims."

The weekly class will focus on the Bible's historical and cultural context. Organizers have drawn up a set of ground rules designed to keep participants from proselytizing, but that doesn't mean that they want to discourage disagreement. Just the opposite.

"We've discerned that people have lost or lack the skills to engage in constructive and respectful dialogue in the context of profound disagreement," O'Gorman said. "An emphasis will be placed on dialogue among the group of small groups (emphasis mine)."

I don't know the faith of Mr. O'Gorman, but I certainly agree with him that people have lost or lack skills to engage in constructive and respectful dialogue. That is a goal of mine which I imagine will take years to refine, God willing.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mom, sing me that song....

I'm not great singer, but I love to sing. Both my husband and I were in various choirs as youth and we have been blessed with a songstress for a daughter. Our son also has a fine voice, but has refused to sing since becoming a teen. When my kids were younger, I sang to them a lot at bedtime. We had a cassette tape of Michael Card's Sleep Sound in Jesus to go along with the book. I had all the songs memorized. I also would make up songs to sing them at night. The other night, my daughter called me from college and asked me to sing one of the songs to her. Later, her friends called and asked me to sing it to the whole gang. They must have been having a group hug session and needed a reminder that they were once children and are still loved very much.

A pastor once suggested I learn some of Paul Gerhardt's hymns for encouragement. I've been slow at that suggestion, but I still end up "discovering" Gerhardt's hymns again and again. Last night for Lenten service we ended with Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow. I found myself loving the words and wishing that I had been Lutheran when my kids were younger. This hymn would make a great nighttime song for a mom and her kids.

Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow
Words: Paul Gerhardt.
Music: O Welt, Ich Muss Dich Lassen, 15th Century German melody;
adapted by Heinrich Isaac, 1539;
harmony by Johann S. Bach, 1729 .

Now rest beneath night's shadow
The woodland, field, and meadow,
The world in slumber lies;
But Thou, my heart, awake thee,
To prayer and song betake thee;
Let praise to thy Creator rise.

The radiant sun hath vanished,
His golden rays are banished
By night, the foe of day;
But Christ, the Sun of gladness,
Dispelling all my sadness,
Within my heart holds constant sway.

The rule of day is over
And shining jewels cover
The heaven’s boundless blue.
Thus I shall shine in heaven,
Where crowns of gold are given
To all who faithful prove and true.

To rest my body hasteth,
Aside its garments casteth,
Types of mortality;
These I put off and ponder
How Christ will give me yonder
A robe of glorious majesty.

Lord Jesus, who dost love me,
Oh, spread Thy wings above me
And shield me from alarm!
Though evil would assail me,
Thy mercy will not fail me:
I rest in Thy protecting arm.

My loved ones, rest securely,
For God this night will surely
From peril guard your heads.
Sweet slumbers may He send you
And bid His hosts attend you
And through the night watch o’er your beds.