Today is the second Sunday of Advent, the season when we look forward to God coming into the world: long ago, as a baby, among a dispossessed people in an occupied land and on a day no one knows, in triumph and glory, to usher in the kingdom of God. Today is the second Sunday of Advent, when we light a candle for peace. There is a room in Building 87 of the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where there is next to no sound. A chainsaw makes noise at about 109 decibels (dB). Regular, prolonged, unprotected exposure for more than…
This is sort of a reworking of this earlier post: Why You Shouldn’t Worry So Much about #GivingTuesday. Every mid- to late-October when I was fundraiser, I would start seeing posts about #GivingTuesday. There are a lot of people who would love to give you—or, probably more often, sell you—advice about how to make this year’s #GivingTuesday the best #GivingTuesday ever. And they all use the hashtag. Giving Tuesday is a weird little holiday that started in 2012. It’s not even a decade old and it has caught on like wildfire in the nonprofit community. Almost every organization that…
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season when we look forward to God coming into the world: long ago, as a baby, among a dispossessed people in an occupied land and on a day no one knows, in triumph and glory, to usher in the kingdom of God. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, when we light a candle for hope. And, I’ll be honest, I’m… conflicted… about hope. A few years ago, I was working with an organization that was trying to choose a new mission statement. They wanted something short, punchy, and memorable; something they could use…
As you all know, before I became your pastor, I worked for an organization called Back Bay Mission. One of the things that we did was rehabilitate houses for low-income families. Sometimes, those were houses that had been through a flood or a fire. Sometimes, those were houses that had just fallen into disrepair. When a family needed help to stay in their home, we stepped in. I didn’t work with the construction team. I didn’t rehab the houses. I raised the money so that the team could afford to rehab the houses. But one of the things that…
Over the course of nine months or so this year, my congregation worked on a complete revision of our church by-laws. We adopted the new by-laws by an overwhelming margin on November 17. It was a huge process—involving every single committee in the church—and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Sometime in the future, I might write a little bit about our process and some of the best practices we are trying to implement, but for this post I want to focus on our new governance structure. I think it will work very well. And I think…
I believe that we have established that I am a nerd. I watch Doctor Who. I see Marvel movies and Star Wars movies pretty close to opening night. I play Dungeons & Dragons. My credentials as a nerd are well-established. So it might not surprise you to know that a while ago, I did something very nerdy. I went through our Sunday-morning attendance records and made a spreadsheet… for every Sunday service… since January 5, 1997. Because I wanted to see the trends. So I can tell you that on the third Sunday of February in 2003 there were…
I’ll start by putting this mildly: the church has an uncertain position in modern society. Fewer people identify as Christian, fewer people attend or otherwise support the church, and fewer people trust the church to exercise moral authority. There are reasons for that. Some of them are good, and some of them are bad. But it is indisputable that the church’s social position is uncertain. And yet… Every so often, I see requests for the church to simply solve—or make a major dent in solving—some big social problem. The most recent example is this perspective piece in the Washington…
Someone once told me about this pastor. Now, I heard this second hand, so I don’t know exactly where she was, or exactly who she was speaking to, or exactly what the context for what she said was. But someone once told me that this pastor was preaching a sermon. And she said, “If you’re going to pray for rain, you better have an umbrella with you.” And I take that to mean something like this: If we are going to pray to God—if we are going to ask the creator of the universe for something, if we are…
Years ago, my mom gave Mariah a Peruvian nativity set. You can tell that it’s Peruvian because of how the figures are dressed, and because one of them is playing a flute, and because there are llamas. And we set it up. And because we’re lazy about Christmas decorations, it stayed up. Hildegard’s favorite game is fetch, which she likes to play with a stuffed squeaky slipper. And, sometimes, when you’re throwing a stuffed squeaky slipper around the house and there’s a Peruvian nativity set on an end table… the slipper hits the nativity set and a llama falls…
Way back last December, on the first Sunday of Advent, I gave a sermon about hope. I’m sure you remember it. In that sermon, I quoted a line from Ghostbusters. It was just a little throwaway reference. It was just a little Easter Egg. I said, “dogs and cats… living together… mass hysteria!” And when I said that—in that tiny moment when I raised my voice little bit and said, “mass hysteria!”—someone, some kid, shouted, “Yay!” Because sometimes, you just gotta shout. I grew up in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, in Platteville, Wisconsin. I grew up…

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