Who Would Go Back?

Sorry there’s no recording this week! You’re going to get a very short sermon today. Mostly because I off-handedly promised the confirmands that I would tell this story: When I was in college, I was in the jazz ensemble. And one of the things we did was travel to different jazz festivals to compete against other ensembles. We went to Western Illinois every year and crushed it. And while I was in the band, we went to Notre Dame once… and Elmhurst once… and Eau Claire once. For those who don’t know, Eau Claire is about an hour and a

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Radical Charity Update

I haven’t given an update on Radical Charity in a couple of months, but a lot has been happening very quickly! On the marketing side, I received blurbs and sent them into Wipf & Stock to be incorporated into the cover and the book. I also received cover art from the publisher. You can see both on the Radical Charity page of this website. On the more textual side, my index was completed and typeset. I had a few minor changes to the index and sent those in to the typesetter. This means that Radical Charity should be going into

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When We Were Still Sinners

I’ve said it before. I said it last week. I’ll say it again: You are loved and you are worthy of love. It doesn’t matter how you got here. You are here now. You are in grace. You are loved and you are worthy of love. I know that can be hard to believe. That’s why I say it so often. It is hard to believe… and there are so many voices in the world telling us that we are not loved and we are not worthy of love. Some say it outright. Some are more subtle. Some even say, “I love you,” while

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How We Got Here

How did you get here? It’s a question we ask each other a lot… and the answers matter. Way back when I was searching for a call to a congregation, I had to fill out forms—a ministerial profile—about how I got here.  I had to chart a journey through high school and college and seminary and a handful of jobs. I had to show you my sense of call and how that had developed. I had to find other people who would tell you about me. I had to show that I had gone through the approved process of the

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Can We Stop Using the Phrase ‘Frozen Chosen’?

Recently, I was perusing the workshops that will be offered at the United Church of Christ’s General Synod this summer and I came across one with this title: “Thawing the ‘Frozen Chosen’”. I have no problem with the content of the workshop, which is about using and teaching liturgical movement. But seeing the title made me realize just how tired of the term ‘frozen chosen’ I am. The idea behind ‘frozen chosen’ is simple enough. Different congregations and denominations have different traditions around movement and sound. Some churches are full of dancing in the pews, clapping during the hymns, and

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Other Gods

On my drives from Davenport to DeWitt, and from DeWitt to Davenport, I listen to a lot of NPR. Last Sunday morning, as I was on my way to preach a sermon that touched upon violence at a house of worship, some people on Weekend Editionwere talking about violence at houses of worship and security at houses of worship. A couple of guests—a Muslim imam and a Christian pastor—said that they had armed security at their mosque and at their church. They needed to have armed security in order to keep their congregations safe. And I’m not about to tell them

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Searching for Sunday

For Lent this year, I led a book study of Rachel Held Evans’ Searching for Sunday at my church. I picked the book for a couple of reasons. First, Held Evans can write. As a memoirist, she invites her readers into her life in a way that is both informative an intimate. As a storyteller, she brings her readers into her experiences. So, for example, when she writes about serving communion at a Methodist youth event, you can see the faces in front of her in all their variety and strength and weakness. Reading her work is like reading a

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Before We Are Anything Else

We have spent the last twenty weeks—every week since Epiphany, way back in January—reading the gospel according to Matthew. That’s a long time to spend in one gospel. Over the last four months, we’ve heard Matthew’s version of the life of Jesus. The call of John the Baptizer, the temptation in the wilderness, the beatitudes and parables and sayings, the miracles, the triumphal entry, the last supper, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the short time that Jesus had with his disciples after the resurrection. Today, we’re leaving the gospel according to Matthew and entering the time after Jesus left the

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Two Stories

Right before today’s reading from Matthew, there’s another story. In this story, some soldiers discover that the tomb where Jesus was laid is empty, and they go to the chief priests and the elders and tell them. And the chief priests and the elders give the soldiers some money and tell them, “When people ask what happened, you must say, ‘His disciples came in the night, while we were asleep, and stole the body.” And the soldiers did that. They had a story about Jesus. It was a false story, but it gained traction. Matthew tells us that it is

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God Loved the World This Way

God loved the world this way: she created it. We’re never told why. We’re never told for what purpose. Maybe it was just a joyful act of creation; the kind of thing an artist does. But, for whatever reason that she made a world, she made a world, and she made it good. And she gave it as a gift to itself. And then we broke it. And God saw that the world was broken and came into the world as one of us: a little baby born in a manger in a backwater province of a powerful empire. He

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