I’ve had what feels like a rash of funerals (three in a little more than a month). That has meant conversations with families, back-and-forths with the funeral home, worship planning sessions, funeral sermon writing, and a bunch of other work that only shows up around funerals. It’s also meant hearing people laugh as they tell stories, funeral luncheons, working with other clergy, and occasional panic. You see, there’s a lot of pressure around funerals. I lead Sunday worship just under fifty-two times a year, plus worship services for Christmas Eve, Ash Wednesday, and other holidays. If I deliver a…
There’s a beautiful song by an artist named Gwyneth Glyn. It’s in another language, but the title, in English, is Home. She sings about the things people have said about home… …and all of the places she’s been all around the world… …and how her home is her haven and her homeland her world… …and how she’s still lost, without a map, or a sign, or a rough guide for the journey. And the chorus goes like this: “There’s no place like home,” is what they told me There’s no place like home, no. But home… is very much…
It was all supposed to be so simple. On my first or second Sunday here, I said to you that I had a plan. It was one of those plans that you read about in books about how to be a good pastor. I was going to call around and make appointments; I was going to come to your home, or take you out for coffee, or whatever. I was my big plan to meet each and every one of you. And I tried. I made some calls and left some messages and waited to hear back. And then…
Years ago, before we were married, Mariah and I went to visit Mariah’s parents for some holiday or another. And Mariah’s aunt and her cousin were also there. One day, Mariah and I were in the living room playing Jenga. And Mariah’s cousin wanted to play, too, so we invited her into the game. And, after a few moves, she pulled on the wrong block… and the tower teetered… and the tower came crashing down. Now, Mariah’s cousin was pretty young at the time. And she made that face—you know the one—that tells you that tears and wails are…
One of the best parts of being your pastor is the time with young worshippers right before a baptism. Those are the times when I get to stand in front of the chancel with our young people and bless the water that we will use to claim someone as our own, our privilege and our responsibility, the precious child of a loving God. Well, not exactly. In better theological terms, those are the times when we ask God to bless the water that we will use to recognize the claim that God has made on someone, and the call—the…
At my church, we’re approaching the beginning of our annual pledge drive. Like a lot of mainline churches, we spend a couple of months every Fall talking about the church’s finances and asking members to make a pledge for what they will give the next year. This year, the committee that handles my congregation’s finances wants to think a little ‘outside the box’. They want to try something bold and new to attract more donors and inspire people to increase their pledges (though, I suspect, not too bold and new). And I’m not against that. I have bold, new,…
This wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to be here. This wasn’t part of the plan… if there was even any plan at all. When I was a kid, I was an acolyte, just like all of the other kids in my church. We would wear albs that were a lot like the one I’m wearing this morning. At the beginning of worship, we would walk in with the light of Christ and light the candles on the altar. And at the end of worship, we would take the light of Christ, snuff out the candles, and walk…
In the beginning, God planted a garden. That’s not a scientific statement, it’s a theological one. It’s not about the material origins of the cosmos. It’s about the relationship between God and the world. And I understand that it might seem like a delicate distinction, but it’s an important one. And if you want to learn more about it, then please come to our next I Have Questions, at noon, on Saturday, September 28th, where we’ll talk about Genesis and science. (Bring a lunch). For now, we’ll have to settle for this. It’s not a scientific statement, but it’s…
I have been told that you can’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible you believe. It’s all or nothing. And that if I want to be a real Christian—a real follower of Jesus—I have to believe every chapter and every verse: the easy parts about love and grace; and the hard parts about sin and damnation. Just like those early believers did, the ones who had heard the good news of Jesus Christ straight from Jesus Christ. Today is the third and final Sunday in a short summer sermon series on generosity. Next week, summer comes to…
I am incredibly lucky. There’s a quote from the writer and theologian Frederick Buechner: “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger coincide.” It’s a quote that I heard a lot in seminary and continuing ed. Someone would bring it up almost any time that we started talking about being called by God. God is calling you to the place where your passions line up with the world’s needs. And I firmly believe that God is calling everyone to something. God is calling me… and you. God is…

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