Sharia law, capital punishment, and forgiveness

Sharia law. The name conjures up images of barbaric practices like stoning women for adultery or chopping off the hands of thieves. Lawmakers in the US have passed paranoid resolutions against Sharia law ever being used in their states. But a recent story from Iran about a mother who forgave her son's killer suggests that Sharia law may have something to teach us about capital punishment. … [Read more...]

Some Henri Nouwen thoughts on prayer

A woman from my church gave me a bunch of spiritual books because she was downsizing, including an old Henri Nouwen book about prayer called With Open Hands. Yesterday, I read this book by Lake Accotink since we had the only fifty degree day we're going to have for the rest of January. I underlined some quotes that I wanted to share on my blog. … [Read more...]

Two things I had to ask my sons’ forgiveness for

My wife is the one who follows the parenting expert books that teach you better techniques than the old-fashioned approach of yelling and spanking when yelling doesn't work. I tend to rebel against following what "the experts" say to do about anything. As much as I critique my fellow evangelicals for having a knee-jerk reaction against the "worldly wisdom" of "secular humanism," it's part of my DNA too. When my sons aren't obeying me, I want to put them in line with a look or my voice or my … [Read more...]

Lance Armstrong and the need for grace

I'm not going to argue whether or not you should forgive Lance Armstrong or not for taking steroids and lying about it. To me, it's a farce of the age of celebrity that we would even be asking ourselves that question anyway. It's comical to read the online comments from people who are angry enough to use ALL-CAPS at some guy they will never know for doing things that had nothing to do with them. Because I'm a pastor, I am going to take this opportunity to say something about grace because … [Read more...]

Sharing the gift of God’s forgiveness

Sermon preached at Burke United Methodist Church 2/4-5/2012 Text: Matthew 18:21-35Is everyone familiar with the term straw man? It’s a word you learn when you get into a lot of arguments like I do. A straw man is like the opposite of an imaginary friend; he serves as your imaginary opponent in an argument that you can always win because there is nothing right about what the straw man believes. Well my whole life is an argument against a particular kind of straw man. … [Read more...]

On preaching for the self-righteous bogeyman

It’s very easy to write a mediocre sermon about forgiveness. I’m already halfway down the road of doing it. The scripture text for this week seemed an obvious choice for “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s the parable of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18:21-35. It’s about a servant who owes his master thousands of dollars but has his debt forgiven only to go and throw a fellow servant in debtor’s prison for owing him a few bucks. The master finds ou … [Read more...]

What you meant for evil, God used for good (Joseph’s story)

Sermon preached 8/21/2011 at Burke UMC Text: Genesis 45:1-15How long does it take for the past to become water under the bridge? How do we handle bumping into people from our past who did things that still bother us today? I’ve been thinking about this question lately as I’m preparing to go to my fifteenth high school reunion. There will be some people there who treated me poorly once upon a time. Now the great thing about high school reunions for nerdy kids like me is that we tend to be more s … [Read more...]