Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column + New Summer Sermon Series

June 2016: The Annual Summer Reading List!

Dear Church,

Every June when school lets out, I like to be able to give you a glimpse of what I have been reading recently, and so for your summer reading adventures, here are three new (well, newish--each of these books are a couple of years old by now) reads that I commend to you!

Lean on Me, by Anne Marie Miller (Thomas Nelson, 2014)

Anne Marie Miller is--in my mind--a highly underrated Christian author and PK (pastor's kid) whose writing I have thoroughly enjoyed for years. Her earlier work focused on topics like burnout and self-care and drew largely from her own personal biographical experience, but in Lean on Me, she expands her inward-focused repertoire to discuss the value of community in a genuine, authentic manner rather than simply as a buzzword that churches like to throw around as something that they offer, no matter how true such a statement may or may not be. I've come to appreciate Anne's words with another reading of Lean on Me, and I imagine that many of you in our own genuinely loving and authentic church community might as well.

Our Great Big American God, by Matthew Paul Turner (Jericho Books, 2014)

Matthew Paul Turner has a fantastically compelling faith biography--which he documents in his touching, humorous memoir "Churched"--but he takes time in this book to write the faith biography of America, documenting our historic interpretations of God all the way back to Puritan New England in the 1600s after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, all the way up to the present day. Unlike many history textbooks, Turner writes with an accessible ease that makes his well-researched work a joy rather than a burden to read for layperson and religious professional or academic alike. While he definitely pulls no punches over theology he disagrees with, Turner's illustrative treatment of American religious history--and its consequences for some of the shortcomings of our own spirituality today--is well worth the time and attention.

The Bible Tells Me so, by Peter Enns (HarperOne, 2014)

I always found it ironic that the field of apologetics--of defending Christian doctrine and Scripture--often seemed so blatantly unapologetic to the point of being arrogant, standoffish, or downright un-Christian in its hostility towards criticism that ought to in fact sharpen our faith and make it stronger, more true, rather than weaker. And Peter Enns, a Bible professor at Eastern University, takes on the outsized importance of apologetics by detailing how our tendency to defend our interpretation of Scripture almost to a fault has made it more difficult for us to use those interpretations of Scripture to, well, actually understand the Bible for what it says, not what we want it to say or hope that it says. Enns's words are sometimes stark and uncompromising in their truth-telling, but they are words that we ought to hear and heed today.

So that is what is a sampling of what is on my shelf currently. How about yours?

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

Last week, we kicked off one of the lengthiest sermon series I will have ever done here--a multi-month series designed to take us through all of the summer months by taking a (mostly!) verse-by-verse look at the life, reign, and deeds of Solomon, David's son and the last king of a unified ancient Israel. Solomon's reign stands in the Bible as a sort of golden age of a unified kingdom, even if in truth there were serious challenges and obstacles below the surface, and we'll get to explore some of those by digging into some of the stories of Solomon's wisdom and genius here in June, which really portents the sharp turn his fortunes ultimately make as he almost becomes too successful for his own good. I realize such a notion is probably a foreign concept to us in a world in which prosperity, not sacrifice, is what is ultimately celebrated, but it is a lesson well worth heeding as we begin studying Solomon's life and reign as king.

Below is the entire outline of the sermon series, which will take us all the way into August (interspersed with breaks when I will be away for D.Min. classes).

Summer 2016: “The Dreaming Architect: Solomon, Son of David and Bathsheba, King of Israel” May 29: “At Gibeon,” 1 Kings 3:1-15
June 5: “Love Suffers Long,” 1 Kings 3:16-28, 4:29-34
June 12: “King Hiram of Tyre,” 1 Kings 5:1-12
June 19: “The Temple,” 1 Kings 6:1-14
June 26: Guest preacher TBA
July 3: “The Kohanim,” 1 Kings 8:54-62
July 10: “A Proverb and a Taunt,” 1 Kings 9:1-9
July 17: Guest preacher TBA
July 24: Guest preacher TBA
July 31: “Ruakh,” 1 Kings 10:1-10, 13
August 7: “High Places and Torn Kingdoms,” 1 Kings 11:1-13
August 14: “The Lord Raised,” 1 Kings 11:14-25
August 21: Jeroboam’s Rebellion,” 1 Kings 11:26-43

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