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…
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…