What Does this Mean?

Nine years ago--almost to the day--I sat in a small meeting room with a committee who would decide yay or nay on my upcoming ordination. It was only mildly stressful; I'd been meeting with this group quarterly for several years...I figured if they hadn't found issue with me thus far, there was little chance of them flagging me as crazy or unfit at this point. Mostly, it was just a conversation.So when one of the pastors at the table asked me what I thought really happened at Pentecost, I … [Read more...]

Rootless and Wandering

If you ever wonder what pastors talk about when we get together, the topics are, in no particular order:-Church people. I mean, we don't spill pastoral confidences, but we definitely talk about our people. It's mostly good news. Mostly...-Sermons; process, upcoming themes, recent triumphs and epic disasters.-Kids (if we have kids) and how we balance the parent and pastor acts. (The answer is: just barely, most days).-Which new tv show/band/book series has THEOLOGICAL SUBTEXT. We … [Read more...]

Recipe for Joy–Review


It's always fun when people send you free books.A few weeks ago, I got a package in the mail containing a couple of books that other Patheos writers were going to read and review, forming a  virtual book club. The fun part (other than getting free books in the mail!) was that both seemed timely for things I'm doing in ministry right now. I mean, I'm in the midst of a sermon series called "Manna: A Gospel of Food." And what shows up in my mailbox but a book called Recipe for Joy. It's like ge … [Read more...]

Psalm 23-and-a-half


The Lord is my shepherd,whether I like it or not.I shall not want.Except for a bigger house, a nicer car a slimmer waistline;a newer device, a little more power;and to always, always, every day, be right about everything.He makes me lie down in green pasturesas the world grays with concreteand browns with toxic fumesand bleeds with violence and rage.He leads me beside still waters                           even though I pull away, and make a run for the … [Read more...]

When Good People Say Dumb Stuff

In the wake of a tragedy like yesterday's bombing, we ask the age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people?And in the hours and days following such an event, we might also find ourselves wondering: why do good people say dumb things?Through our collective prayers, we seek understanding; we ask for God's comfort with the wounded and those suffering loss; we give thanks for our own loved ones, safe at home, by some stroke of grace or luck; we pray for justice and peace. These … [Read more...]

Head and Heart


When a church is dying, The Body wants to know why. When people are leaving (or just not coming), when no new programs emerge, when there's no money for outreach, and no passion for mission, we start asking questions: what are we doing wrong? what are we just plain not doing? It's a sad conversation, with fatigue and frustration involved. The physical weight of the unknown and unknowable...it sits heavy on the congregational heart, and smothers everything. Even--maybe especially--the spirit of wo … [Read more...]

Baby Jesus to Bloody Jesus: The Children’s Ministry Challenge

I'm finally letting myself believe it: the enormous pile of children in our sanctuary is not a fluke, and this is not just an Easter spike. These kids are coming, and they're staying.And we need to teach them about Jesus.Of course we've been teaching children about Jesus--in small, manageable increments. Now they have outgrown their space, seemingly overnight. Loaves and fishes up in here--but with children. 'New Program for Older Elementary Kids' just went from about #8 to numero uno on  … [Read more...]

To Witness

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I've got a testimony.That's a word we don't throw around in mainline progressive circles very often. Nor do we say things like 'give a witness,' 'get saved,' or 'invoke the Holy Spirit.' Sure, we may affirm/believe/enact those words, but we don't say them. They are icky, fundy words that reek of proselytizing evangelism and a judgmental language of faith. Think tri-fold brochures with comic-book drawings of non-believers...going down a fire-y staircase and straight to hell.In the effort t … [Read more...]

Don’t You Know Who I Am?

He is risen! Happy Easter, and all that. I don't usually post my sermons in the blog. For one thing, I don't always write them out in manuscript form; and for another, a good sermon loses something in translation from the pulpit to the screen. Also, I tend to write in a conversational style (think incomplete sentences), so even my manuscripts don't really read like polished term papers.That said--this is a timely message that the Church in general--and some folks in particular--need to hear … [Read more...]