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…
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…