Allahu Akbar: A Christian Call to Worship

Photo Nadezhda Kevorkova

Photo Nadezhda Kevorkova

Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), 49, is the only Orthodox Christian archbishop from Palestine stationed in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while all other bishops of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Greeks. The Israeli authorities had detained him several times, or stopped him at the border, and taken away his passport. Among all Jerusalem clergymen he is the only one who has no privilege of passing through the VIP gate in the airport – because of his nationality. “For the Israeli authorities, I am not a bishop, but rather a Palestinian,” explains his Beatitude. When talking on the phone he says a lot of words you would normally hear from a Muslim: “Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah, Masha’Allah”. He speaks Arabic, and the Arabic for ‘god’ is Allah, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.

In this interview, the Beatitude discusses what it entails to be a Palestinian leader in a volatile political context and the significance of the phrase Allahu Akbar for the Christian community. He also speaks directly to the use of Arabic and the phrase that has gained an Islamic connotation following identification with violent extremists.

Do people say Allahu Akbar in church?

Of course. (more…)

How Do We Imagine Jesus?

Jesus heals paralized manIn a recent post, Christine Sine reflects on the images of Jesus that are popular among different communities, and how these conceptions can radically affect one’s discipleship and faith. She writes:

I have always been fascinated by how Christians perceive Jesus and love to chat to people from different theological and cultural backgrounds to explore this. I also love to collect images of Jesus from other cultures and have included some of my favourites in this post.

It is interesting to me that early Christians (and the Celtic Christians we so much admire) saw Jesus as a companion and a brother. It was only after the emperor Constantine became a Christian that the view of Christ shifted to more of an emperor figure. No surprisingly as Christendom took hold and wars became justified as holy wars we also started to see images of Christ as a warrior king. (more…)

15 Conversations the Church Needs to Have in 2015

Fuller Theological Seminary surveyed faculty across their campuses and departments to find out what conversations the Church should be engaged in during 2015 and provided links to further reading on the subject (books, articles, and blogs) to help inform those perspectives.

Five of the top six presented spoke about conversations related to diversity, equity, and reconciliation!

An edited screengrab of some of the responses from faculty.

An edited screengrab of some of the responses from faculty.

Read the full responses and see the reading recommendations here: 15 Conversations the Church Needs To Have in 2015

The Ocean’s Influence on Theology

This morning, I came across a quote from Paul Tillich that caught my attention.

tillich

It made me think of the influences that have shaped me into the person who I am today. Usually, we think of teachers, pastors, friends, family members, or authors who have contributed to our development, but Tillich’s quote reminded me of the environmental influences that may, more subtly, effect our perspective. (more…)

Christmas in Africa, Anti-Slavery Trees, and Downward Mobility: A Christmas Roundup

xmasThis week, we have several posts related to Christmas from different perspectives, from the Christmas Tree as an Anti-Slavery symbol, Advent through the lens of downward mobility, and Christmas traditions from several cultures within Africa (the image to the left are children in Ghana dressed up for the holiday!)

Have a Merry Christmas, from every part of our globe!

(Looking for the right gift for yourself or someone you love? Check out our bookstore, powered by Amazon)

(more…)

“Do Not Be Afraid”: A Palestinian Reflection on Christmas

AteekNIn the midst of the pageantry and cultural traditions surrounding Christmas, it is easy to lose sight of the profoundly political ramifications of the birth story of Jesus. In an era of history transitioning between empires and an area of near constant geopolitical turmoil, a baby is born that will alter the course of human history.

Naim Ateek, a Palestinian theologian draws comparison from contemporary political challenges to illustrate this historical reality as he writes in the Christmas Address of the Sabeel Ecumencial Liberation Theology Center (www.sabeel.org),

From a Palestinian world view, there are certain similarities between the political conditions in Palestine during the times of Jesus’ birth and the political situation in Palestine today. There is a flagrant occupation that dominates and oppresses people; and there are words that describe what people go through: fear, insecurity, instability, suffering, grief, despair, and other negative feelings that a repressive empire and an Israeli rightwing government can produce.

That is why the words of the angel to the shepherds in the Christmas story strike a relevant chord, “do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…” What constituted good news for the shepherds in first century Palestine and what would constitute good news for our Palestinian people today? It is nothing less than FREEDOM AND PEACE, because both can produce a life of dignity, security, and stability to people.

In the midst of these difficult times, the implication of the Christmas message to oppressed people is basically clear: God knows and sees the suffering of the oppressed and God is doing something not through the people of power but through the birth of a baby who ultimately holds in himself the answer to the human condition of injustice and insecurity; therefore “do not be afraid.” (Christmas Address follows at the link below.)

To continue reading Dr. Ateek’s Christmas address, click here. For more resources about Palestinian Christian theology, visit our bookstore (powered by Amazon).

José y Maria: Still No Room

In the United States, it is typical to rent a room temporarily while traveling. Mary and Joseph were not looking for a room for the weekend, as we are accustomed to doing around the holidays. They were looking for temporary lodging, to fulfill whatever obligations of the census and to be ready in case Mary went into labor. In a town that would have been filled with Joseph’s kin, none were willing to make room for him and his pregnant fiancee. Think less about a “No Vacancy” neon sign and more of being told that there are no guest rooms, no rollaways, no couches, no air mattresses, no floors that you are welcome to. “That girl” is not welcome in our town.

Illustrator Everett Patterson has an image that strikes this chord in scene preceding the nativity we are accustomed to decorating our homes, lawns, and churches.

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

In his commentary on the piece, he writes, (more…)

Ecumenical Progress: 5 Thoughts on Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration - AP

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration – AP

Leaders of two major branches of world Christianity joined together on November 30, 2014 to issue a joint statement about the need for shared theological reflection, commitment to common purposes, and dialogue with other religious groups to establish understanding and justice. Special consideration was also given to Christians living in war zones in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, are pictured here signing the resolution. Below are excerpts from the text (inset), with comments following major sections.

For more on these perspectives, see past posts The Impact of Pope Francis and How the East Sees the West.

1. There is a common lineage and history, even if they have been estranged for centuries. By establishing these models at the outset, the statement invites an atmosphere of familial ties.

We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

(more…)

“Listen, Smith of Heaven!” | An Ancient Icelandic Hymn

In 1208, an Icelandic poet named Kolbeinn Tumason wrote Heyr Himna Smiður, which would become a stalwart piece of Icelandic Christian tradition. Its imagery is dynamic to these northern peoples, using  the terms “Smith of the Heavens” to convey the craftsmanship and attention that God shows to creation; “mild one” which is a play on the word that means the generous tribal leader, or king; and “King of the suns”, capturing the spiritual significance of solar seasonality to the island just south of the Arctic Circle.

Listen to the poem sung in it’s original language with an English translation, performed by Ellen Kristjánsdóttir. (more…)

Good News for the City: Urban Apologetics

Friend of the blog, Ramon Mayo of Urban Ministries Inc. and UrbanFaith.com has an interview with Chris Brooks about his new book, Urban Apologetics: Answering Challenges to Faith for Urban Believers. In the interview, Mayo and Brooks explore the need for thoughtful articulation of the faith to respond to the distinct questions that people are asking. Doing Apologetics from an Urban Perspective opens a conversation about how best to engage the living contexts of our cities with the gospel–acknowledging that both the questions and responses may differ from those of prior generations of apologists.

Chris Brooks is the senior pastor of Evangel Ministries and also the founder and president of the Detroit Bible Institute. He also hosts a Detroit-aired daily radio show, “Equipped For Life,”and is the newly appointed Campus Dean of Moody Theological Seminary-Michigan. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Chris over about his new book “Urban Apologetics” and apologetics in general.

What inspired you to write a book on apologetics?

Two things. First it comes from a passion for the gospel in the urban community. People have intellectual barriers and need answers to their questions about life, so I wanted to provide the answers from Christ and scripture because most people assume that we don’t have answers.

Secondly it stems from our members being sent out to do evangelism and coming back with the questions and objections of the urban community they were sent to. I took it upon myself to develop a specific ministry of equipping Christians to answer people’s objections regarding the faith.

Why do you believe apologetics are important for the urban context? (more…)