Month: October 2018

Imagine that you are a guard at the gate of the Queen’s palace. Outside the gate are two groups of people: the Bezelites and the Qomans. The Queen has given you orders to invite all of the Bezelites into the palace and to keep all of the Qomans out. But there are two problems. First, you cannot immediately tell the difference between the two groups. They are intermingled. And while you can conduct interviews, you have no guaranteed way of telling Bezelites apart from Qomans or vice versa. Second, no matter what you do, some Qomans will try to…
  Today is Reformation Sunday. It’s a weird little holiday in Protestant churches. There are no greeting cards or mattress sales or big family dinners. But some Lutherans make a big deal out of it. And some Reformed churches make a big deal out of it. And some Anglicans make a big deal out of it. And some congregations of the United Church of Christ—being, as we are, heirs to many of the traditions that came out of the Reformation—dress the altar in red and take a Sunday to acknowledge that five-hundred-and-one years ago, on October 31st, a thirty-odd-year-old…
Excuse me for a minute while I get pedantic… and a little ranty. Not too long ago, I was listening to a political podcast, and they starting talking about the difference between policy and politics. And they talked about it this way: they said that representatives needed to do the right thing—choose the right policy—regardless of how the politics would play out. They made it sound like governing was one thing and politics was another. They made it sound like the politics of a moment was about how things would play out in the media, on the campaign trail,…
It is election season. I know this because I haven’t seen a commercial for a product in weeks. Instead, I’ve seen commercials for people: Fred Hubbell and Kim Reynolds and Dave Loebsack. And, because I live on the Iowa-Illinois border, J.B. Pritzker and Bruce Rauner. And I’m ready for it to be over. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the used car dealers. Now, we are a church and I am your pastor. So let me assure you that I’m not about to get partisan. I’m not about to tell you who I support or who…
A while ago, I was having trouble with a sermon that I was working on. I had read the scripture carefully and I had a message that I wanted to deliver, but the words just weren’t coming. Every story I tried to tell felt wrong. Every sentence’s feel was just a little off. And, weirdly, it all seemed very familiar. I kept feeling like I had delivered this sermon before… so why wasn’t it working now? So I went back and checked the sermons I had given in the past. And it turned out that I had given this…
Mariah and I had a pulpit exchange this week, with her preaching at First Congregational United Church of Christ in DeWitt, Iowa, and me preaching at Church of Peace United Church of Christ in Rock Island, Illinois. That means that I don’t have a recording this week. And that the sermon is a little more directly about Church of Peace. There used to be a building over on 9th street. It had a stone foundation and a wooden exterior and stone stairs leading up to its doors. And on top of the building was a… I don’t know the…
A while ago, my local NBC affiliate ran a news story about the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany (NABA). The story focused on NABA’s manufacturing program, which employees blind people, other visually impaired people, and sighted people. More specifically, the story focused on that program’s work making safety vests and neck tabs for women’s military uniforms; work that involves both sewing and ironing. The story makes it clear that there are challenges to this—the sewing machines need minor accommodations, and at least one of the employees was a little worried about using the iron when she started—but that…
I listen to a lot of podcasts and a lot of NPR. They’re nice things to have on when I’m driving, or in the background when I’m writing, or to pay attention to when I’m doing yard work. And I listen to the news sometimes. Other times, it’s stuff that’s funny and relaxing: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me or Ask Me Another or The History of Fun. But, the last couple of weeks, everything has been less funny and less relaxing. The podcasts and NPR, the evening news, the conversations, the social media feeds… everything has been about a…
Not too long ago, I finished writing my first book. Since that manuscript is now in the editing process, some thoughts that I already had about a second book are coming back to the front of my mind. The idea that I’m toying with for that book stems from this idea: church stewardship is weird. I’ve sat through a lot of church stewardship campaigns. I’ve helped run some of them. And, in general, they have a pretty simple argument. First, they point out that God has entrusted wealth to (some) members of the church. Second, they tell those people that…
There are people in the world who believe that the Bible is boring. Some of them are taking a confirmation class right now; not at this church, of course, but somewhere. And to those people, I offer a counterpoint: the Book of Esther. For those of you who don’t remember this story, a summary: The Jews were conquered by the Babylonians and exiled from their homeland. Then the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians and, as we open our story, the Jews are living in exile in Persia. Due to some palace intrigue, the King of Persia does not…

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