In Australia, a giant scandal has erupted when hidden cameras disclosed the captain of the national cricket team, Steve Smith, had conspired with several teammates to scrub balls with sandpaper, making it much harder for the batters on the opposing team to hit. It is a blatantly illegal practice. His response brought tears to my eyes: Disgraced in a blatant ball-scuffing scandal that has transfixed the cricket world, one of its most exalted players flew home to Australia from South… Read more

One of the pleasures of being retired is the gift of time to read the morning newspaper. I get the real ones: done with newsprint that sometimes makes my hands dirty and which must be recycled and with stories that I would never see if I only looked at online versions, although I do read some of them as well. As I did yesterday, I thought I’d offer some of the snippets of things I learned today. Soccer Scandal Please make… Read more

One of the pleasures of being retired is the gift of time to read morning newspapers. The real ones: done with newsprint that sometimes makes my hands dirty and which must be recycled and with stories that I would never see if I only looked at online versions, although I do read some of them as well. So most mornings, I sit down with a pot of steaming English breakfast tea, a piece of toast made from organic ancient grains (I… Read more

Holy week is about the forgiveness of betrayal. We don’t need the cross; we do need the betrayal and the response to the betrayal. Few of us face public execution; all of us will be wounded over and over again by the multiple betrayals we all endure. Remember, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they do.” Who has experienced betrayal this year? Well, Equifax handed over the personal and financial information on over 140,000,000 people to… Read more

Or as the good old King James Version puts it, “I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed.” That’s Donald Trump today. Dear Thoughtful Pastor: I know this is a generalization but all generalizations have a basis in fact. When Obama was President the conservatives in the country railed at anything and everything they saw as a transgression of some, very poorly defined, standard.  Now Trump is the President and represents the conservative side. His transgressions (such as having an affair… Read more

Yes, there is something profoundly wrong at the heart of The United Methodist Church. And it is called the Evangelical Takeover. I admit it: I’m fascinated by the fact that with the death knell of Evangelicalism now being easily heard, the UMC is about to become downright Evangelical. I also just don’t get it. The Issue Behind the Issue Anyone who has been following the drama in the UMC about the potential split of the denomination over the issue of what… Read more

But too many of us are ready to cast those who think differently into hell. I sometimes wonder if this is the unpardonable sin: the taking upon ourselves the right to judge others for all eternity instead of recognizing that this privilege belongs only to God, not to us. In a previous post, I reviewed the forthcoming Netflix movie, COME SUNDAY, which tells the true story of pastor/evangelist Carlton Pearson and his fall from grace when he realized he could… Read more

I do not think Pearson’s spiritual journey is uncommon. Many have formerly held tight to the idea that God, without compassion, purposes that most of humanity, the creme-de-la-creme of creation, will suffer their afterlives in hell, a conscious, unending torment. Eventually, they realize that this idea makes no sense. What’s uncommon is how publicly this particular theological move was played out in Pearson’s life and the soundness of the rejection he experienced. So what is it about hell that makes so… Read more

I don’t know what life would look like if one entered with perfection into the will of God. The problem? Jesus messes that up for me. Surely, he, if anyone, did indeed walk that path to the center of God’s will. And look what happened to him. I feel for them, the UMC Bishops. At considerable expense and after prolonged anguish, they appointed a commission, The Way Forward, that was supposed to take this off their plate, i.e., discerning will of… Read more

And what would it look like to “put God back in schools?” I’m old enough to remember filing into the lunch room at school, having a teacher ring the triangle chime, and either leading us in a sung grace or being silent when someone would offer a prayer. It had no effect on me. Dear Thoughtful Pastor: I have a question about the response to the mass shootings specifically and to the role of religion in our society in general.  I… Read more

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