Uncommon Common People

We all know the politicians and philosophers and powerful warriors shape a society. So, too, do the common people. The hard working farmers, artisans, government employees, school teachers, taxi drivers and train conductors, among others in societies like Japan, make a society run smoothly. I thought about this as we rode from famous historical site to site in ancient capitals by trains and taxis.Take for example the train conductor who apologized to the passengers for being late for two … [Read more...]

How Sorry Are We?

Last night, I arrived in Japan with members of my immediate family. My wife, who is a Japanese national, and I lived here years ago. That does not make me an expert of Japanese culture, but I am an interested observer. We have also lived in England as well as the States. I was reminded of something soon after the plane landed in Tokyo. Japanese often display great humility in their greetings and various social formalities. Take, for example, the words “I’m sorry.” In Japanese culture, I have foun … [Read more...]

Jesus and the Rabbit Hole

“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1993, 2-3)In Alice in Wonderland, curiosity gets the better of Alice. She pursues a talking rabbit … [Read more...]

Morality and Profit

Central to Confucianism is the conflict involving morality and profit. In The Analects, Confucius states, “The gentleman is versed in what is moral. The small man is versed in what is profitable.” (IV.16; D. C. Lau translation, Simon & Brown 2012 edition) Morality—regard for the well-being of others in society—should serve as the guide for one’s various pursuits. Profit through labor is not bad, but the means through which one gains profit and the aim of such profit is of the utmost importanc … [Read more...]

The Gentrified Church—Paved with Good Intentions?

Perhaps you have studied gentrification. For those who are not aware of the term, it entails developing lower income urban areas into places where the middle class and wealthier people (gentry) live. The north side of Portland, Oregon (known as North Portland) is experiencing a lot of gentrification. New buildings, including condos, bistros and shops, are going up. Young white entrepreneurs are moving in, including church planters. Should we call this progress? The answer to this question … [Read more...]

Share Jesus’ Prayer

Listen to this sermon.John 17 gives us an up close and personal disclosure of Jesus one on one with his Father, where he shares his heart with God. It is the longest of Jesus' recorded prayers in the New Testament gospels. One might be tempted to say that we are flies on the wall or on a tree in the garden. Better than that, we are participants in Jesus' prayer. Jesus includes us in his prayer. We are here because of it. What a privilege! Jesus shares his prayer for us with us. Let's share … [Read more...]


Crash is one of my favorite movies. It addresses the themes of objectification and fragmentation surrounding racial tensions in Los Angeles. The movie opens with a car crash involving two police detectives. One of the L.A. detectives (played by Don Cheadle) sits in a stationery car and reflects out loud upon how people in L.A. are always living behind glass and metal. As a result, they miss the touch of others; and so, they crash into one another so as to feel a sense of connection.At least … [Read more...]