Chris Mackowski on the American Civil War

Chris Mackowski on the American Civil War

The American Civil War is a pivotal event in the history of the United States. Fought between 1861 and 1865 is a story of a sundered nation, a battle of justice for African Americans, the end of slavery and the reconciliation of the American nation. We talk to Chris Mackowski of the Emerging Civil War Blog to talk about Civil War History and how it affects America today.

Emerging Civil War Blog

“Stonewall Jackson Is Down”

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A Great Cloud of Witnesses: A Meditation on the Chauvin Verdict

A Great Cloud of Witnesses: A Meditation on the Chauvin Verdict

For those of you who don’t know, I do a podcast called Spheres of Influence which focuses on religion, politics and culture. The following episode started as a blog post for the church website, was adapted to the weekly evening prayer on video and now is a podcast. I hope you give it a listen. I focus on the verdict of Derek Chauvin, and the witnesses who saw him killing George Floyd. They challenged the official story and made the difference in seeking justice. I hope you give it a listen.

Spheres of Influence

https://audioboom.com/posts/7851143-a-great-cloud-of-witnesses-a-meditation-on-the-chauvin-verdict

The following is the audio version of a meditation Dennis did for his congregation yesterday, looking at the murder of George Floyd from a religious standpoint.

Show notes:

Evening Prayer (Midweek Vespers) for April 21, 2021
Written Version from the Church website
Press Release from the Minneapolis Police Department

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Introducing Polite Company

For the last year or so, I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast. I finally decided to take the plunge and created Polite Company a podcast on religion and politics. I’ve made five episodes so far including the following one on finding common ground in the church. I hope you will listen to this episode and consider subscribing to future episodes. To learn more about the podcast, please go to www.politecompanypod.org.

What A Beautiful World This Will Be

What A Beautiful World This Will Be

The sermon podcast is below.

Genesis 9:8-17 | First Sunday in Lent | UnAfraid Worship Series | February 21, 2021 | Dennis Sanders, preaching

A few years ago when Daniel and I were back in my home state of Michigan, we went to the Grand Rapids Public Museum which is in downtown Grand Rapids.  They had this interesting exhibits about midcentury design in Michigan.  We are both suckers for midcentury modern anything so we were in our element.  I can remember seeing some examples of furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, pictures of the General Motors Design Center in Warren, Michigan which was built in 1958 and had this futuristic architecture that showed that the biggest manufacturer in the state was looking forward.  In fact, that exhibit screamed optimism.  There is this sense that the future is truly bright.  In fact this was the time of what was called the International Geophysical Year.  The IGY was a year-long event in 1957-58 and it was a time where the Communist East and the Democratic West participated in an international scientific exchange. That event launched many innovations that are still around today.  Both the US and the USSR used the year to launch their first satellites into space. Plate tectonics was also discovered during this time.  The musician Donald Fagen’s 1982 hit IGY is about the International Geophysical Year and he paints a future that is bright. It’s a future with high speed rail, spandex jackets, solar power and so on.  He says over and over in the song:

What a beautiful world this will be

What a glorious time to be free

What a beautiful world this will be

What a glorious time to be free

It’s a wonderful future, right?  Except, Fagen wrote this song as a critique of the future, not in praise of it.  Everyone was optimistic in the 1950s, and Fagen looking back from 1982 didn’t see a future that was so great.  In fact some of the inventions, like microfibers turned out to be detrimental to the environment.

But that’s optimism for you.  Optimism looks at the future with a sense of what it will look like.  You can look at the present and make an extrapolation about the future.  The scientists of 1958 saw the future in light of 1958. 

Hope is something different. The theologian Miroslav Volf says that instead of extrapolating the present, hope is about a future that has nothing to do with the present.  He quotes Emily Dickenson in saying that Hope is the thing with feathers, it is something that comes from the outside, not from what we think the future will be, but a dream of what could be.

The way that our culture looks at today’s text is very optimistic. There is what I like to call a “Sunday School” image of Noah and the ark, where we see the boat filled with happy animals and a happy Noah.  It’s a bucolic scene.

But is that a real picture?  When the waters recede from a flood, things tend to be in disarray. In this passage, the waters have just receded.  The arc has settled on newly dried land and the survivors leave the boat looking dishevled.  They also probably don’t smell so great with all those animals.  All around them is death.  Dead humans and dead animals are rotting all over the place it.

It is in this midst that God tells Noah and his family that God will never ever destroy the earth with floodwaters.  He creates and rainbow as a reminder of God’s promises.  God flooded the earth because of the sin of the people.  The thing is, sinning would still continue.  But God wouldn’t try to destroy the world.  The rainbow was a symbol of hope.  The world would not get better, the future was uncertain if not very bleak.  But Noah and his family knew that if they look at the bow in the clouds, they knew that God had not given up on creation.  And God didn’t give up; in fact the rainbow was a sign that God was working on a way to repair the relationship between creation and God.  

We live in a time when death is all around.  We are close to nearly half a million dead from COVID.  Millions more have become sick with the virus and many will deal with its effects for years.  We all saw the horrible image of police officer Derek Chauvin, as he placed his knee on George Floyd’s neck squeezing the life out of him. We saw the crowd that infiltrated the Capitol taking the life of one policeman and one insurrectionist.  There is death and decay all around.  But we follow a God of hope.  God hasn’t given up on us. The sign of hope for us is just as odd as seeing a rainbow in the midst of death and destruction: a cross.  It is on this instrument of death that we have our hope.  Salvation comes from Christ crucified. 

Hope is very different from optimism.  The Sunday School version of Noah and the Ark is an optimistic picture.  It is looking at some perfect present into a perfect future.  But the real version is one of hope because for one to believe things will be better you have to believe that it is going to come from the outside. Hope is about being patient and enduring knowing that change can come like a bird sitting in the window chirping a song and lighting the mood of everyone inside.

Miroslav Volf closes an essay on the hope he wrote for the Yale Seminary magazine by saying this about hope:

Our salvation lies in hope, but not in hope that insists on the future good it has imagined, but in hope ready to rejoice in the kind of good that actually comes our way. The God who creates out of nothing, the God who makes dead alive – the God of the original beginning of all things and the God of new beginnings – justifies hope that is otherwise unjustifiable. When that God makes a promise, we can hope.

In these uncertain times, we can hope.  We don’t have an optimism in the spandex world Donald Fagen lampooned.  We have a hope in a rainbow and ultimately in a cross.  Emily Dickenson is right, “

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

That’s something to look forward to. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Listen to the Sermon:

Lenten Reflection-Ash Wednesday

Lenten Reflection-Ash Wednesday

Luke 9:51-62

To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

In early 2002 I had the opportunity to serve in a nursing home as a student chaplain. After the Ash Wednesday service, I was tasked to go from room to room to give the imposition of the ashes to people who couldn’t make it to the service. The people in the rooms were in various states of consciousness. I dipped my finger in the ashes and placed it on their forehead as I said, “Remember You are Dust and to Dust You Shall Return.” That phrase had special meaning that year since most of the people were close to death.

That phrase seems to have meaning again in 2021. Between Ash Wednesday 2020 and today, we have seen death everywhere. We are closing in on nearly 500,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus and 2 million worldwide. Police brutality reared its ugly head again as we saw the names of so many African American men and women: Breonna Taylor, Armad Aubrey, Elijah McClain, George Floyd and probably others that have slipped into the background. Remember your are dust, indeed.

The text from Luke seems like an odd text for Ash Wednesday. But if you really think about it, well, it kind of makes sense. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem which is a nice way of saying he is on his way to his impending death. As he makes his way, a number of people come to him saying they want to follow him. I don’t doubt that they really want to follow him. But each of them has an excuse and if we are being honest, they made sense. The first guy wanted to follow him, but Jesus reminded him the road would not be easy. The second one wanted to bury his father and the next one wanted to say goodbye to friends. Each time Jesus took them to task. They wanted to follow Jesus, but they had other things to do. Like a lot of folk, they thought they had time. But Jesus’ response is saying that the time to follow Jesus is NOW. Jesus knew death was near, the three wannabe disciples were not aware of what might happen down the road.

We want to think we have all the time in the world to follow Jesus, but if last year has taught us anything is that tomorrow is not promised. If we are going to follow Jesus we have to be willing to follow him now. Life is too short.

In a culture where we don’t want to deal with the reality of death, Ash Wednesday and the last year tell us that we don’t have time to waste.

The gospel group The Winans had a hit in the 80s called “Tomorrow.” The very end of the song tells us “don’t let this moment slip away,” because, “Your tomorrow could very well begin today.” So, let’s not wait to follow Jesus. Tomorrow is sooner than we think.

*Cross-Posted at the website for First Christian Church St. Paul.

Worship From Home: February 7, 2021

Worship From Home: February 7, 2021

Welcome to the weekly worship service of First Christian Church of St. Paul a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Join us each Sunday for worship at 10:00 AM. www.fccsaintpaul.org.

First Christian Church of St. Paul is a small, open and affirming, and multicultural church located near St. Paul, MN in Mahtomedi. We are a local expression of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

We hear a lot about freedom in our culture. The freedom of speech, the freedom to express ourselves, the freedom to choose. But what does that mean if we are Christians? What does freedom look like in the body of Christ? Pastor Rob will be looking at this question today from 1 Corinthians chapter 8 and we hear music from the late Zimbabwean composer Dr. Patrick Matsikenyiri.

I hope these worship services are of help to you on your spiritual journey. I hope that they remind you that even as we are apart we are part of a wider part of humanity. Please consider sharing the video and audio with a friend or relative that needs to hear the good news of the gospel.

Below is the video and sermon podcast for this week’s service.   

God be with you in the week ahead.  

Dennis Sanders, Pastor

The February 7, 2021 Service

The January 31 Sermon Podcast

The Ups and Downs of Being a Writer with ADHD

The Ups and Downs of Being a Writer with ADHD

If you want to see what other topics I write about, check out NeoMugwump where I write about politics and other issues.

NeoMugwump

I remember sitting in my dorm room as I tried to finish my story. I was in my senior year in college and I was in the second semester of a journalism class at Michigan State that gives J-students real-world experience as reporters for newspapers and radio stations throughout Michigan.

It was always difficult, worked hard to make surethe story was correct. I had my notes out in front of me as typed, flipping the notepad back and forth to check over and over. It was so hard to remember what was said. Did I remember that quote correctly?

I loved writing a story and still do. But as I look back to that memory of me sitting in my dorm room on a spring day in 1991, I can remember how much of a chore it was to write. It took forever to write that story. Frankly…

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Black Jobs Matter

Black Jobs Matter

If you want to follow some of non-religious writing, check it out at NeoMugwump. Here is one that is a few years old, with new update.

NeoMugwump

Writer’s Note (January 10, 2021): I wrote this story nearly five years ago in the middle of a job search. I’m in the middle of another job search and I can tell you that things haven’t changed much.

There is a hesitancy on my part about sharing this because I don’t want to complain and I know that race is not as big a factor as it was say 50 years ago. I still want to believe that my skills will speak for themselves. However, discrimination still exists and it would be wrong to not share that gaining good employment is still a challenge for African Americans.

My dad, who passed away in early 2015, once told me a story about looking for work. Dad moved to Michigan in the early 50s to find work in the auto plants, but before he did that, he and some relatives drove from…

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Worship From Home: January 31, 2021

Worship From Home: January 31, 2021

Welcome to the weekly worship service of First Christian Church of St. Paul a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Join us each Sunday for worship at 10:00 AM. www.fccsaintpaul.org.

This Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Epiphany): Do we believe in God?  Really, do we believe that God is real, that God makes a difference in the world, in our lives?  In Mark 1 we encounter Jesus preaching in a local synagogue and casting out demons to the surprise of the crowd.  They saw God acting in a way they never had before.  What does that mean for us today? What does a living God mean for us now and what can it mean in our world today? Join us as we learn together.

I hope these worship services are of help to you on your spiritual journey. I hope that they remind you that even as we are apart we are part of a wider part of humanity. Please consider sharing the video and audio with a friend or relative that needs to hear the good news of the gospel.

Below is the video for this week’s service.  It will be available for viewing starting at 10:00 AM.  

God be with you in the week ahead.  

Dennis Sanders, Pastor

The January 31, 2021 Service

The January 31 Sermon Podcast