Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



The Gospel of Mad Magazine

Mad Magazine is ceasing its publication of the print edition. This is going to be a huge loss.

Mad Magazine used parody, caricature, and satire to lampoon the ridiculous elements of our age.
This was the role of parables in Jesus’s age.

We have been taught to read parables poorly. They have been neutered, sanitized, and de-fanged.

Many of us were taught to read parables as:

  1. Aesop’s Fables
  2. Proverbs
  3. Allegory

Parables are none of those things.

Parables are small stories about birds and farmers, widows and foreigners designed to come in underneath the listener’s radar to that their defenses are down … and then once in, to interrogate assumptions and undermine (subvert) the status quo.

Both Mad and Jesus’s parables utilized irony, skepticism, exaggeration, and satire to poke holes in the hypocritical and unjust elements of the establishment.

Mad’s legacy has now passed to TV shows like the Simpsons, South Park, the Daily Show, and even Saturday Night Live.

Here are two great articles about the end of Mad Magazine (one in the LA Times and one in the NY Times) .

Watch this video and let me know what you think.

Why Use NT Wright?

This September we are going through both the Gospel of Luke (Sundays) and the book of Job (Wednesdays). I had pointed people to NT Wright’s Luke for Everyone as a resource for our study.

It was pointed out that NT Wright is conservative. While he is certainly more conservative than I am (and most at Progressive Bible Study), it does merit a look at why we would use his work as a launching off point.

The key is that many of our participants are ‘post-evangelical’ and so we are being careful to not ‘define ourselves by what we don’t believe’. It is a danger that many ‘exvangelicals’ and former evangelicals (and even post-christian folks) are more sure of what they don’t believe than what they do believe.

We are on a journey together and so NT Wright provides us a launching off point because he is the foremost popularizer of contemporary Biblical scholarship.

It is not enough to know how you don’t want to read the Bible but we want to provide something to start with about what a passage may mean before we run it through our ‘progressive lens’.

I take the concern about NT Wright seriously. I have been critical of his approach many times.

It is also why I always pair it with a more adventurous (and usually academic) resource. For Luke I have chosen “Mark & Luke in Poststructuralist Perspectives: Jesus Being to Write” by Moore. It is a wild look full of daring ideas.

Admittedly, it is not for everyone. It does, however, allow me to come around the back door and sneak in some alternative perspectives. I also use Postcolonial Bible Criticism by R. S. Sugirtharajah

I hope that helps to clarify my comfort with utilizing NT Wright’s ‘Everyone’ series.

Here is a quick video explanation

Nobody Reads The Bible Literally

Nobody reads the Bible literally. We are all interpreting – and this is a good thing!

This admission allows us to say:

Since we are all interpreting, let’s talk about how we are interpreting.

I first realized this about the book of Revelation (apocalyptic literature). Then it became clear about other genres of scripture like wisdom literature (like Job) and the gospels (like Luke).

Here is a recent sermon that I gave on the subject. You can also listen to the full version of it (including a lot of joking at the beginning) on the VHUMC podcast.

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and concerns.

I will be saying more about the idea of ‘moving your application up to your interpretation’ in the months to come.

Preaching Luke Together

I am doing an interesting experiment this Fall. A group of us are going to preach through the Gospel of Luke together by collaborating the sermon prep. Some of us will be in a room together in Portland and others will join via Skype.

I have always enjoyed collaborative projects and I really enjoy sermon prep so I am hoping that it is doubly enjoyable to combine them!

There are two wrinkles that I am looking forward to:

  1. We are saving the nativity story for Advent (December) so we will begin the series in September with Chapter 3 of the Gospel.
  2. One top of the NT Wright ‘Luke For Everyone”, each of us is reading a different commentary and then bringing that unique resource to the prep table.
The 2nd resource can be whatever you want. We will compare notes each month at the planning meeting. All the resources and planning materials will be uploaded to a website and dropbox.
I plan on using two resources – one for my congregation and one for my sermon prep. 
The one for the congregation will be Luke for Everyone by NT Wright 
The one for sermon prep will be much more adventurous and daring
My sermons will be triple-layered: 
  1. What did Luke’s original audience hear?
  2. What has this passage come to mean since then?
  3. What is the most that this text can mean in the 21st century? 
I want to introduce both the historical context AND the progressive trajectory of the gospel. 
The hope is to help people consider a grown up version of Jesus, not just the ‘Mr. Rogers with a beard‘ version from Kids Sunday School. 

Luke: Preaching Gospel


8th                    1:1-4                Intro: 4 Gospels 1 Jesus

15th                  3: 1-20             Voices in the Wilderness

22nd                 3: 21-38           Where did you come from?

29th                  4: 1-29             Trusting God – Rejected by Humans


6th                    4: 31-44           Healing Inside and Out

13th                  5: 1-11             Go Deep (Discipleship)

20th                  5:12-31            Restored and Repaired

27th                  5:33-6:11         Rules and Religion


3rd                              6:12-36            Raising Expectations

10th                           6:37-49            Compare and Contrast

17th                           7:1-17              Life is Tough

24th                           7: 18-50           Two Different Lives


1st                              1:5-45              Setting the Scene

8th                              1:46-80            Songs of Hope

15th                           2:2-20              Event Horizon

22nd                          2:22-40            Promises Seen

29th                           2: 41-52           House and Temple


5th                    8: 1-21             Growing and Belonging

12th                  8: 22-39           Power and Grace

19th                  8: 40-56           Daughters Restored

26th                  9: 1-23             Mid-Term Exam (now you try)


Bad Bible Reading

I am having so much fun this Summer challenging assumptions. Every Sunday morning we tackle a different difficult topic.

This past week was ‘bad readings of the Bible’, especially as they relate to God and hell.

We used Matthew 10:26-31 and the parallel passage in Luke 12.

Below is the YouTube link to the Vermont Hills’ page. You can also listen to the podcast audio if you prefer or watch it on FB.

Let me know your thoughts, comments, concerns, or questions

Daddy God

More than masculine imagery is needed for health and wholeness.

The divine – transcendent – eternal is so much more than the metaphors and analogies that we utilize is worship and prayer.

“The rule of prayer is the rule of faith” has migrated historically from prayer to sacrament to preaching and, now in our musical age, to worship. See also Worship Words Determine Faith [link]

Our language about God functions – Elizabeth Johnson

This is why we must both account for and attend to a more well-rounded and balanced approach to our imagery about God.

Please support the work of Naked Pastor

Watch this video and let me know your thoughts about my nuanced and constructive proposal.

Here is the comic from Naked Pastor


My Methodist Take

The United Methodist Church had a big meeting for the last 4 days (Special Session of the General Conference) and on the final day, the Traditional Plan (TP) prevailed over 3 others.

The other plans were all preferable to me. The Connectional Plan (CP) was a region-by-region approach. The One Church Plan (OCP) was my favorite and it allowed us to ‘agree to disagree’ but remain in unity. The Simple Plan (SP) was simply to remove language about homosexuality and simply free us to do as God leads.

If this topic seems raw – please forgive us – it was a difficult 4 days.

Here is my take as someone who transferred into the UMC 8 years ago from an evangelical denomination (C&MA) after being raised Free Methodist.

Here are my 4 thoughts – with explanations below:

  1. 11 years ago I believed in the Traditional Plan (TP) that passed today. So there is lots of room for conversation and lots of room for growth with us ALL.
  2. For all intents and purposes, the traditional plan that passed today is basically the Book of Discipline (BoD) that we have been under for the past decades.
  3. We have really good people thinking about this. So I am sure that they are going to find a way forward.
  4. The One Church Plan (OCP) was announced at the end of today’s session as the plan for the Western Jurisdiction.  Aka: nothing changes for us


1) 11 years ago I believed in the Traditional Plan (TP) that passed today. So there is lots of room for conversation and lots of room for growth with us ALL.

I have been working to find ways to unClobber the Bible [Unclobber_One_Page_Cheat_Sheets.] I even wrote an map for my evangelical friends [An Evangelical Support for Same Sex Marriage]

2) For all intents and purposes, the traditional plan that passed today is basically the Book of Discipline (BoD) that we have been under for the past decades.

As difficult as today was … and it was difficult … we knew that some folks think that Christianity is conservative. It is not.

3) We have really good people thinking about this. So I am sure that they are going to find a way forward.

This might be the most important this I ever say: I left my former denomination over the Ordination of Women.  I was working on an internal and Biblical conviction, but it turns out that I was right! The Ordination of Women opens up life and faith for both women and men. My experience and ministry were both incomplete without my sisters in ministry.

I don’t know the way forward. But I know who I will follow forward:

My Bishop Rev. Elaine Stanovsky
My Dist. Superintendent Rev. Erin Martin
My Commission Leader Rev. Donna Pritchard
My teammates:
Rev. Beth Estock
Rev. Julia Nielsen
Rev. Karen Shimer
Rev. Eilidh Lowery
Rev. Becca Farrester
Rev. Karen Ward
Rev. Christy Dirren
Rev. Linda Tucker
Rev. Courtney McHill
Rev. Taylor Gould
Rev. Heather Riggs
Rev. Michelle McKinnon-Young

This is my tribe. These are my people. They will show the way that we should go.

4) The One Church Plan (OCP) was announced at the end of today’s session as the plan for the Western Jurisdiction.  Aka: nothing changes for us

At the 2019 Special Called Session of the General Conference, Rev. Donna Pritchard, chair of the Western Jurisdiction Leadership Team made this statement on behalf of Western Jurisdiction Leadership:

“We have long appreciated the richness of the global diversity of our United Methodist Church and have embraced opportunities to join with you all in the work of making disciples for the transformation of the world. Image 2-26-19 at 6.07 PM

“We also understand the purpose of the Church to be in mission and ministry. Consequently, we in the West have been functioning for years as One Church committed to full inclusion, seeking to be a home for all God’s people.

“Today we acknowledge the fracture of this body, yet we worship a God who tells us that the body of Christ has many parts, all equally valued. Rooted in Wesleyan tradition, grounded in Scripture and committed to mission and ministry, the Western Jurisdiction intends to continue to be one church, fully inclusive and open to all God’s children, across the theological and social spectrum.

We know from experience we are stronger when we live together as progressives, traditionalists and centrists in our Church. Many times during this Conference we have sung or prayed or blessed each other with the reminder that we need each other.”

May the spirit of the living God guide us as we walk forward in faith.

Poetic Language in Faith

Here is an 8 minute sermon that I preached last week about belonging, identity, and faith.

The Bible is full of poetic language – including metaphors and metonyms.

I have some fun with those examples before getting into the idea of “the Law” as a much bigger concept.

When you don’t understand the poetic language in the Bible, you can do some harmful stuff with the Old and New Testament.

There is a lot of grace in the ‘Old Testament’ – God is really gracious with the People. Likewise, the New Testament has a fair number of rules and standards for holy living. So you can’t say “the Old Testament is all rules and a wrathful God while the New Testament is full of Grace and kindness”. It is not that easy.

Paul in Galatians uses ‘the Law’ as a metonym for Jewish belonging, identity, and faithfulness. We do the same thing with “grace”, the cross, and “church”.

Check out the video and let me know what you think

Bible: Best and Worst

My friend Erika Spaet made this eye-opening video about the B-I-B-L-E.

I laughed. I cringed.  I was challenged.  It is a wonderful 6 minute video.

I hope that you find it as helpful and inspiring as I did.

Word of God from Erika Spaet on Vimeo.


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