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How do we cultivate resurrection in community? This Easter season we examined Resurrection Stories. And how these ancient stories give us spiritual insight to the obstacles we encounter in our lives. Addiction, loneliness, cancer, mental illness, and injustice. Whatever tries to hold you back or keep you down or lock you up—the power of the Risen Christ exists to set you free, so that you too might rise up in power to live the life of fullness God has dreamed for you. On this Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Christian Church, when the power of the Holy Spirit descended... Continue reading
Earlier, we read responsively today’s Gospel lesson. Let’s pause to imagine what’s happening in this story—in that beautiful moment. The disciples are fresh from Jerusalem where they watched their friend arrested, tortured, and executed. They’ve cowered in fear and confusion. Then had a series of what must have been bewildering episodes of seeing and talking to their dead friend. Now, they’ve fled back home, to places and tasks that are familiar. They are in Galilee, on the shore, listening to the water lapping and the breeze blowing and the fire crackling. And here is Jesus, their dead friend newly revealed... Continue reading
Christianity as a Way of Life: A Systematic Theology by Kevin W. Hector My rating: 3 of 5 stars At times I wondered why he felt the need to give such an extensive argument for some point. Some times the understanding being developed was more traditional than I currently am. Some times it felt like aspects that should be left to metaphor and imagination were being over-analyzed. And then, some parts were profound, innovative, practical, preachable. View all my reviews Continue reading
Charge to the Pastor by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones Countryside Community Church 5 May 2024 Jenny, welcome to Omaha. Something strange happened to me in the last few years—suddenly I’m no longer one of the new guys, but am now one of the old farts. I don’t feel like an old fart, but the reality speaks for itself. Every local faith community we at First Central partner with, and almost every UCC church in the Living Waters Association, has a pastor, rabbi, or imam who has arrived here since I began my ministry in Omaha fourteen years ago.... Continue reading
Healed Mark 5:24b-34; John 21:1-8 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 28 April 2024 “Healing doesn’t happen passively. Often you have to seek out healing . . . to receive it.” So writes Marcia MacFee in her comments on this story from the Gospel of Mark. She continues, “Having the hope of healing may be as important as medicine . . . . And clinging to that hope can be hard when things feel impossible.” This Gospel story is about a woman who suffered for twelve long years with a flow of blood—we can presume... Continue reading
Found Psalm 84; Luke 24:36-43 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 21 April 2024 Have you read the beautiful children’s book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy? It was published in 2019. Our copy was given to us by Charlene Wozny, who often finds wonderful books she passes along to me and Sebastian. The book is about friendship and learning how to live well despite all that happens in life. The book is filled with wise tidbits accompanied by beautiful art. Near the end the boy whispers to his... Continue reading
Galore by Michael Crummey My rating: 4 of 5 stars Grateful for the church member who recommended this book (after I preached on Jonah last summer). What a fun use of magical realism to explore two centuries in a fishing village on the Newfoundland coast. So many memorable characters and enjoyable stories. View all my reviews Continue reading
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. Le Guin My rating: 5 of 5 stars Not only is LeGuin one of our greatest writers, she was a profound thinker. Part of the genius of this story is the way it explores and comments upon various human socio-political arrangements and the flaws that creep into any system, but in a way that's not even remotely didactic and always in service to character and plot. View all my reviews Continue reading
God Is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland My rating: 4 of 5 stars A fascinating and creative exploration of the Sacred Black Feminine. View all my reviews Continue reading
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner My rating: 3 of 5 stars I really liked the book and would have given it a higher ranking, except the final chapter was just awful and really soured the whole reading experience. View all my reviews Continue reading
Learning about Metamodernism for the first time, watching this video. Continue reading
I've often talked and taught about hermeneutics in my role as a pastor, but was pleasantly surprised to see the term appear here in an article on dating, and the coining of a new term "hermeneutic labor"! P. S. I can also talk about emotionally stunted men, but we'll save that for another time. The academic paper on Hermeneutic Labor is worth a perusal too. Hermeneutic labor is the burdensome activity of: understanding and coherently expressing one's own feelings, desires, intentions, and motivations; discerning those of others; and inventing solutions for relational issues arising from interpersonal tensions. *** Related to... Continue reading
Ross Douthat, not a Liberal (except in the classical sense), has a thoughtful piece in the Times about the attempt since the emergence of MeToo to construct a new sexual ethic that rejects the hedonism (and abuses of women) of the Hugh Hefner era. It's worth a read and some thought. Continue reading
Empowered by Love Song of Solomon 2:8-15 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 24 March 2024 One of the fun aspects of my work life the last few years has been the Millennial young women on staff who have opened my horizons to new things. For example, in the ups and downs of my adventures in dating, Lizzie Patterson will send me helpful playlists of Taylor Swift songs. So, as I’ve been working on this Lenten sermon series on love, I thought she might have some good recommendations, and she did. Thanks Lizzie for the... Continue reading
Promise of Home Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 20-25 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 17 March 2024 Through her TED Talk, podcast, and best-selling books, the psychotherapist Esther Perel has become one of America’s most trusted voices on relationships. Helping us understand how the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. As she writes, “We magnify the good qualities of those we love, and confer on them almost mythical powers. We transform them, and we in turn are transformed in their presence.” A pretty intoxicating experience. Something we obviously desire and long for. The... Continue reading
Love Heals Psalm 18:1-6, 16-19, 35 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 10 March 2024 Often, the relationships that should have been loving—should have been where we felt at home, fully alive, welcomed, understood, and embraced as our authentic selves—are also the source of our deepest wounds. Dysfunctional families, neglectful or abusive parents, unhealthy or toxic relationships, betrayal, infidelity, dishonesty, etc. What should have been loving can be wounding instead. And, yet, we maintain the belief that love itself is the power of healing. True love, genuine love, healthy love, divine love. That sort of... Continue reading
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty My rating: 5 of 5 stars The best of Rorty I've read. "The social glue holding together the ideal liberal society . . . consists in little more than a consensus that the point of social organization is to let everybody have a chance at self-creation to the best of his or her abilities." View all my reviews Continue reading
Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins by Jacob L. Wright My rating: 5 of 5 stars I've read numerous books on the Hebrew Scriptures over the decades, and this may be the very best. A summary of the current state of scholarship (and archaeological research), he presents the best understanding of ancient Israelite history, the development of the religion, and the writing, editing, and formation of the canon. Here was synthesized bits and pieces I'd encountered in recent years in various places, but never all put together. And some of it was also new... Continue reading
Shifting the Center of Our Lives I Corinthians 13:4-7; Genesis 3:19-24 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 25 February 2024 How did you spend St. Valentine’s Day? Some people really enjoy that holiday, others completely loathe it. Back in my twenties, when I lived in Shawnee, Oklahoma, I hosted an annual party on Valentine’s Day for folks who didn’t have a date. It became a very popular annual event. This year I was at home with a sick kid, who was upset to be missing the Valentine’s Day party at school. He had stickers he... Continue reading
Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Ralph Waldo Emerson My rating: 3 of 5 stars I first read a few of these essays when I was a sophomore, which seems like the perfect age to do so. When life is full of newness and potential, and we are making choices as to who we are going to become. I read a little Emerson again a few years later during one of the anniversaries, when there was some Emerson focused events go on. This reading comes in my very long project of re-reading through the canon in chronological order. And,... Continue reading
The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald My rating: 3 of 5 stars MacDonald was recommended to me by a new friend. Not my usual reading, but I did enjoy it. I did not expect the intense ending. So the story held some surprises that made me respect it more. I really loved his descriptions of various things. For instance, the scene when Lois crawls into Travis's bed was SO well written. And sexy. View all my reviews Continue reading
God's Monsters: Vengeful Spirits, Deadly Angels, Hybrid Creatures, and Divine Hitmen of the Bible by Esther J. Hamori My rating: 5 of 5 stars I thought this was going to be a fun read. It wasn't. More harrowing. Intense. Disturbing. And deeply thought provoking. Compelling one to reassess some fundamentals. View all my reviews Continue reading
A Shining by Jon Fosse My rating: 1 of 5 stars Eh View all my reviews Continue reading
Death Watch by Ari Berk My rating: 4 of 5 stars A mesmerizing tale, with fascinating characters and a rich setting (One always thrills to a map at the beginning of a novel). I was drawn in and captivated, and look forward to reading the next two novels in the trilogy. View all my reviews Continue reading
Finding Yourself in Chaos by James Newby My rating: 5 of 5 stars A rich, helpful guide to doing ministry, both as one grapples with personal crises and as one navigates with a congregation through our current polycrisis. There is a tender grace embodied in this book. View all my reviews Continue reading