Month: January 2019

Recently, I was with a group of clergy when a dreadful topic came up: whether pastors should know what members of their congregations give to their churches. The room was about evenly divided. Some of the pastors insisted that it was important that they know. Others insisted that they should not know. Two things about the conversation struck me. First, that the pastors who said that they should know didn’t seem to know why they should know. Second, the pastors who said that they shouldn’t know gave a very specific reason for that; one that many parishioners give when…
A long time ago—before I was your pastor, before I was a fundraiser, before I even went to seminary—I was a cook. I worked in a little upscale restaurant in a midsize college burg. And while we were never going to win a Michelin star, we were pretty good. And while I’m never going to win a James Beard award, I’m pretty good. And I know a couple of things about salt. First, I know that salt goes in everything. A dish without salt is a dish without flavor. Grilling meat? Salt. Pepper. Sear. Roasting asparagus? A drizzle of…
There is a scene from The West Wing. You’re going to find that I bring up that show every now and again. Leo McGarry is the White House Chief of Staff. He’s also an alcoholic. A few years before the scene in the show, he was sober. And then he fell off the wagon. It was an important night during the president’s first campaign, and he was meeting with some donors, and they decided to have a drink. So Leo had a drink. And then another one. And then another one. And someone in the scene asks him how…
Roughly 1,000 news cycles ago—or at the beginning of January—Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offhandedly proposed a 70% marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million. The pro-wealth right wing responded in exactly the way that people expected. First, they deliberately misunderstood marginal tax rates. Second, they started complaining that a tax rate that high would be taking money away from productive people. And that really misunderstands what productivity is, who the producers are, and how capitalism works. That’s what David Kalb was getting at in his original tweet… and what I was expanding on in mine. You see, capitalism works…
Way back in June, we had a baptism. James and Brianne stood at the front of the church, and I held a kind of squirmy Kaelyn, and I baptized her in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And it was a wonderful day. We welcomed Kaelyn into our family… our little corner of the Kingdom of God. And, later, someone asked me how I felt about what was obviously my first baptism. And I laughed it off. But the truth is, that wasn’t my first baptism. It was just my first baptism that…
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” In today’s reading from Matthew, we hear this line from the prophet Jeremiah about Rachel, in the city of Ramah, weeping for her children. You see, a long time ago, there was a man named Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. And Jacob fell in love with Rachel. He was so in love with her that he agreed to work for her father for seven years in order to win her…
Let’s talk about entitlements. Americans don’t really like the idea of entitlements. We tend to think of entitlement as something that a person wants, but that they don’t deserve. At the best, politicians argue that we simply can’t afford entitlement programs. At the worst, charity skeptics lament the sense of entitlement that some people—especially people living in poverty—might develop.  And, of course, we resist the idea that we receive entitlements. We tend to believe that the only way to deserve something is to earn it. Other people might benefit from entitlements (that is, they might get something that they…

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