Kyrie Eleison

Welcome to Lent. Lent is a strange season. Last week, I told you that it is traditionally a time of fasting and repentance. It is a time to think about who we are and who God wants us to be and how we get from the former to the latter. It is a time of contemplation… …a time to contemplate our mortality with ashes on our heads and the whispered words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” …a time to contemplate our transgressions with prayer and self-denial and the words of a voice calling us

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Hard, Troublesome, Dangerous Love

There are some things you need to know. Maybe some things you just forgot. A couple of weeks ago, I talked a little bit about numbers. I talked a little bit about the numbers that I obsess over. I talked a little bit about how I keep track of our attendance and membership and giving. And I talked a little bit about how I feel better about myself when those numbers are higher. That wasn’t the core message of the sermon, but still… I know that there are people in this sanctuary who dream of being a big church, with

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Black History Month

As Black History Month winds to a close, I thought I’d share my praxis for this year. I am, I’ll admit, cribbing from my church’s newsletter and blog a bit here. It’s no secret that I am the white pastor of a white church in a pretty white town in a pretty white state (DeWitt, Clinton county, and Iowa are about 97%, 92%, and 86% white, respectively). It is easy for me to go through my day without ever entering a predominantly Black space or having a face-to-face conversation with a Black person. And what’s true in my daily life

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A True Story

A true story: Sendhil Mullainathan is a professor of economics at Harvard, and Eldar Shafir is a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton. A few years ago, they decided to work together to study a subject that doesn’t get a lot of attention: scarcity.  They wanted to know what happens to our brains and our behavior when we don’t have enough money or food or time or whatever. And they wanted to know how we could help people who don’t have enough money or food or time or whatever. One day, they told an economist colleague of theirs

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Mustard and Yeast

The Kingdom of Heaven is like this: A mustard seed is a very small seed. It’s not necessarily the smallest seed in the whole world, but it’s small. And in Jesus’ time and Jesus’ land, it grew wild. It’s not the kind of plant that someone would plant in a well-kept garden, where you want your crops all laid out in nice clean rows. But a man took a mustard seed and planted it in his garden, and it grew. It grew so big that it became a shrub. And it grew so great that it became a tree. And

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Vox: Finland Gave People Free Money. It Didn’t Help Them Get Jobs — but Does That Matter?

The psychological stability afforded by a guaranteed regular paycheck also emboldened some of the Finnish recipients to be more entrepreneurial. Sini Marttinen, one of the recipients, likened her experience on basic income to winning the lottery. “It gave me the security to start my own business,” she said. This entrepreneurial effect has also been observed in the past with cash transfers in places like Kenya. Vox: Finland Gave People Free Money. It Didn’t Help Them Get Jobs — but Does That Matter? Read the whole article.

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Radical Charity Update

Some of you may know that I have a book coming out from the Cascade Books imprint of Wipf and Stock, Radical Charity: How Generosity Can Save the World (And the Church). The publishing process is a long process, and Radical Charity had to sit in the queue for a little while. But I’m happy to report that copyediting started last week, and I have received and returned author queries. With any luck, the book will move on to the typesetting stage soon. This is starting to get much more real!

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Judgment

I majored in philosophy.  Now, before you judge, I majored in philosophy during the philosophy boom of the late 90s, when there was a major philosopher shortage and all of the big philosophy firms were hiring. I had no idea that the philosophy market would collapse right before I graduated. Either that, or I majored in philosophy because I was in my late teens, and I like big questions, and it was interesting (and maybe even a little romantic). But regardless of the reason, I majored in philosophy. And one of the things that philosophers like to do is pretend

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Why Do Extremely Wealthy People Hate the Idea of Higher Marginal Tax Rates?

As I write this, Howard Schultz, billionaire and former CEO of Starbucks, is mounting an independent campaign for the presidency of the United States. And he seems to be running for that office because he’s horrified at the idea of paying a higher marginal tax rate on the part of the income that is over $10 million. And he isn’t alone in that horror. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, billionaire Michael Dell was asked about that tax rate and quipped, “Name a country where that’s worked… ever” only to be corrected when MIT professor Erik

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Do Not Worry

Way back at the end of November, when we were decorating the church for Christmas, we got the Advent wreath and the Advent candles out. I wanted to make sure that they were okay, so I lit them. Later, we finished decorating, turned out the lights, locked up the church, and left. And I was sure that I had blown out the candles… but there was a little itchy feeling in the back of my brain: what if I hadn’t blown them out? What if I burned down the church? I get that feeling—that itchy feeling in the back of

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