Our 2017 Christmas Letter

Christmas 2017
It’s only December 1. I never write the annual Christmas letter this early! OK, here goes - just treat it as you usually do - the Delete file - well, at least it won’t add to your recycle bin.
We moved mid-year. Our new address, in case you need to track us down so we can right some wrong we may have committed against you, or to report us to the NSA (oh, wait, they already know) is: 1371 SW WINDSOR ST., OAK HARBOR, WA 98277.
We love our new home, 1600 sq ft., less than half the size of our dear old, still unsold house in Coupeville. All one floor, no outdoor maintenance, no stairs, much more convenient for yelling questions at each other (no pretending you didn’t hear that request that always begins with “Sweetheart, would you . . . .?), and in a senior living community of small houses labeled “55 and better”) called Whidbey Green.
I’ll have to get out my calendar for 2017 to remember what happened this year. I envy you if YOU can remember what happened more than a few wee…

Sexual harassment

Recently, a woman friend and former colleague asked me what insight I might have into the current sexual harassment issue in America. I have no special insight into what is happening in our crazy, sad world. Only God knows. There has always been a dark side to our culture, and every culture I know about, with regard to sexuality. I didn’t handle mine very well either. We make way too much of it, in both expression and repression, in flaunting and in denial, in shamelessness and shame. The example of our current president is of no help here.

Women have suffered more, but men too have been and are oppressed by cultural expectations and historic patterns that are not caring or kind. Sometimes, less often, women’s desires and actions have been and are disordered, and this has also contributed to men’s “permission" to be disordered too.

Both genders and all sexual orientations are responsible to be caring, faithful, and non-exploitive. This requires a degree of diligent self-awareness…

Protestant Barriers to Contemplative Prayer

Protestant Barriers to Contemplative Prayer Author:  J. David Muyskens
I am an ordained Protestant minister who has benefited greatly from contemplative prayer.  I speak from experience with a way of being open to contemplative prayer called Centering Prayer. I am well acquainted with some of the resistances Protestants have toward contemplation.
What led me to Centering Prayer was a physician asking me, “Are you trying to do it all yourself?” My symptoms were caused by stress. I was trying to do it myself, leaving out my dependence on God. I did not have a private practice of prayer. The question caused me to find that missing ingredient. As I set up a daily practice of prayer I learned that prayer is not only talking to God but also listening and very much a matter of being in faith and love with my Creator, Lover and Holy Spirit. In prayer I put into practice my relationship with the divine. I learned the practice of Centering Prayer by reading Basil Pennington and listening to tapes …

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector - a sermon

Luke 18:9-14                                                                                           St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
October 23, 2016                                                                                   The Rev. Dr. Thomas F. Johnson

                     The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
When I was reading this Gospel passage, I first noticed that Jesus was telling a story. It’s not a historical event; it’s a story, and so the characters are overdrawn, portrayed in almost comic or symbolic terms.

In telling this story, Jesus is aiming at his audience. He is talking to some of them, not all of them. He was intending to provoke and challenge the worldview of a few of his listeners. Luke describes this audience in two ways.

First, Luke says, they are trusting, not so much in God, as trusting in themselves, confidently self-assured, that they are righteous, that is, that they have a right standing with God. They know that they must be well pleasing to Go…

After Dallas, Orlando, Minneapolis, et al.

My priest friend, Mary Green, wrote this reflection in view of the wave of violence sweeping our nation. She speaks for me and Michele. Thank you, Mary.

July 8, 2016,  Reflection informed by recent meditation on Genesis 15:1-6 and Hebrews 11:1-3.
Abram believed in the promises of God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, right relationship with God.   Belief, that place of trust in God, even in the face of not seeing the fulfillment of promises.  
Today, just after the killing of 4 police officers in Dallas during protests over the killing by police of two black men earlier this week, in the wake of Orlando, in the wake of the obscene parade of violent and hate filled behavior and language that seems hell-bent on total destruction of this country, I have no words to pray.  I have no way to believe in the future.  I have no way to confront any of the problems that threaten to overwhelm this country.  No, wrong word.  The threat is long past.  The overwhelming is here now.  The des…

Homosexuality in Romans 1

Homosexuality in Romans 1 - Paul was right in one sense, but he was also not fully informed. Biblical authors assumed a geo-centric worldview. Were they wrong? Or, were they not fully informed? Morgan Guyton explains how Paul was right in principle, but was uninformed as to the best application of that principle. This should be no more disturbing for us than the discovery that the Earth wasn't the center of the universe. [Oops! People got excommunicated for believing that!! So, we may have a way to go yet.]

Morgan Guyton:

     “So here’s where my quarrel occurs with a strictly historical Biblical interpretation like N.T. Wright’s. Paul did believe that non-heteronormative sex was “unnatural” and that “unnatural” sex resulted in bad spiritual fruit. In Romans 1, he says that when people “exchange natural intercourse for unnatural” (v. 26), they are “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice” (v. 29). The reason Paul calls non-heteronormative sex bad is because…

Healing Church Strife in the New Testament and Today

New Title From James Christensen and Thomas F. Johnson Healing Church Strife in the New Testament and Today Beyond Matthew 18:15-17 When churches experience troubling conflicts, they are likely to be offered Matthew 18:15–17 as the only solution. This book opens our eyes to the rich variety of conflict solutions that are described throughout the New Testament. Healing Church Strife explores options for our time, and the reader receives practical suggestions that are biblically based. James Christensen MSW, PhD, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), specializes in helping churches manage conflict. During the past fifteen years he has worked with congregations in northwest Washington, Alaska, and in Vienna, Austria. In addition, he trains pastors and other church leaders and consults with church judicatories on policies and practices. Currently he serves as Conflict Consultant for the Northw…