Lessons from St. Patrick’s Day

“Our people know about coffin ships — boats that sink to the bottom of the sea with everyone on board.” Close your eyes and imagine the voice who said those words. Who do you a picture? An African-American describing slave ships on the Middle Passage? A Cuban refugee who knows what it is to cling to anything that will float 90 miles to a different world? A descendant of the countless Jews who fled Europe in the 1930s? A Syrian… Read more

Everything Must Change: The Past

Exodus 17:1-7 You cannot have grown up in the 1980s without having had your childhood shaped, at least in part, by Michael J. Fox’s hit 1985 film Back to the Future.  The film is the story of teenager Marty McFly, who is sent back in time to 1955.  While there he figures out pretty quickly that it’s probably not a great idea to try to change the past, even if you could.  Remember what happened to Marty?  Awkward things like:… Read more

Everything Must Change: Home

Genesis 12:1-9 Even if I had a blindfold on, I would know I was at home. There’s something unique about the air of the Hawaiian Islands, where I grew up.  For one thing, the air smells…sweet.  It’s a smell that’s a mixture of ocean and flowers that I have never smelled anywhere else. And it’s hard to explain, but there’s a quality in the air that is soft.  Maybe it’s because of the constant trade winds coming off the ocean,… Read more

Truth in a Post-Fact World

These days the words of the Psalmist keep coming to mind: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills; From where shall my help come?” I imagine that when he wrote these words, the chaos of his life was swirling around him, and perhaps the only way he could think to navigate his way through the immediate situation was to fix his eyes on something bigger, more enduring than the circumstances of the present moment. Even in times of relative calm,… Read more

Everything Must Change: Paradise

Genesis 2:5-17; 3:1-7 Controversy is swirling in conservative Christian circles this week over the release of the movie based on the best-selling book, The Shack.  The book, originally self-published by author William Paul Young in 2007 has sold more than 10 million copies and been translated into over thirty languages. Of course there’s a movie! The book is the story of a man named Mack who has suffered unimaginable loss in the death of his child.  Receiving a summons from… Read more

Ashes, Ashes

Last week I received several expressions of gratitude for making myself available to impose ashes at two Ash Wednesday services. People said the kindest things, like: “I know you have so very much on your plate. Thank you for taking time out to lead services today.” I found these comments a bit curious, as leading worship is a rather significant part of my job description. So I began to wonder about why people were thanking me. Ash Wednesday is typically… Read more

Overcome by Faith

Matthew 17:1-9 Transfiguration Early in my career I was responsible for planning and leading a women’s retreat.  I made up a carefully detailed schedule and lists of preparations that began the very first night with an ice breaker.  We went around the room and everyone was asked to describe and demonstrate, if possible, a special talent they have.  We were about a quarter of the way around the circle when I suddenly had the panicked realization that not only had… Read more

Some Uncomfortable Words

Just last week I participated in a panel of guests discussing religion and advocacy in the current political climate. This sort of experience is not that unusual for me, especially in these difficult days. What was unusual for me were some of the details of the gathering, details that were definitely out of my usual experience. For example, the evening was held in a very trendy new art gallery in a gentrifying part of Harlem. The walls of the gallery… Read more

Praying in Dark Days

Having trouble finding the right words? Here’s last Sunday’s prayer prayed by Riverside’s Minister of Justice, Advocacy, and Change, Rev. Bertram Johnson. “God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light, Keep us forever in Thy path we pray.”[1] Lord, no one has ever said that living into your teachings would be easy. To walk in your path,… Read more

The Hardest Commandment

Matthew 5:38-48 This week the senior staff spent a day and a half in intensive staff development.  This is notable, because we rarely have occasion to spend this much time all together in one place, and honestly most of us came into the experience pretty sure it would be a waste of time and definitely sure we had other, more important things to do. What we didn’t know was that only a few hours in, we would receive information that… Read more

Follow Us!