The shape of the journey

We talked with dear friends who have a close relative facing the slow, certain deterioration that characterizes ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Quickly the conversation turned to the question of what our prayers can reasonably include and the purposes of God in a moment like this.  It resonated deeply with the news I received today that one of my students died at the end of last month from a rare, aggressive cancer that claimed her life after just 5 or 6 years of active ministry.If the purpose of … [Read more...]

Missed Opportunities: Spiritual Disciplines

The phrases “spiritual discipline” and “spiritual practice” are widely misunderstood.  For far too many of us, what we hear is “work” or “effort” and that immediately subverts our ability to connect with their purpose.  Even sports metaphors (which the Apostle Paul used) can skew our understanding of prayer, fasting, contemplation, and worship.These are not adventures in spiritual bodybuilding and the spiritual life is not the exercise of an unseen muscle.  Spiritual disciplines are about openi … [Read more...]

Missed Opportunities: Confession and Repentance

Some of life’s missed opportunities can be traced to the meaning of words.  Not the dictionary definitions --- the definitions we give to the words out of our experiences.Confession and repentance are two such words.  For many they are the dirtiest words in the Christian vocabulary.  They refer to practices that are designed to make people feel badly about themselves, drive them back to church, fill them with guilt, and force them to need God.Those are lies out of hell.The goals of conf … [Read more...]

Your Church has an Angel

It’s time to begin thinking in new ways about church.Clergy often focus on the numbers and problems: the size of the budget, the number of people who pledge, average Sunday attendance, and a long list of other numbers.  Beyond that, all too often the conversation among clergy turns to questions about the problems to be solved and the hurdles to be cleared.Lay people, on the other hand, often focus on the question, “What does this church have to offer?”  “How is the preaching, the music, and t … [Read more...]

Nukes in Japan

One of the fastest moving stories in the news and, in some ways, the story that has overshadowed the suffering in Japan is the news about its damaged reactors.  This, in spite of the fact that only one person has died (in a non-nuclear) and several others made ill, whereas by comparison the earthquake and tsunami have claimed thousands of lives and wiped away whole communities.  While it is unclear how the situation will finally be resolved, the measured, sane, scientific voices have pointed out … [Read more...]

Japan: Lessons learned in Vulnerability

There are a number of things that I believe about catastrophes of the kind that struck Japan yesterday:God does not cause disasters.God does not use them to punish people.God does not use them to teach us lessons.Disasters like this are not a blessing in disguise.They are not sent or allowed by God as a test of our faith.There is, in fact, no lesson to be learned from the tragedy itself because it is without content.But I do believe that we can learn in the midst of a … [Read more...]

The altar between heaven and earth

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In looking back over more than thirty years of conversations about the Eucharist most of what my colleagues and I have discussed has revolved around three things: the relationship between the church's practice and Judaism; the question of what happens to the bread and wine, if and when a priest blesses them; and the practice of the ritual itself.  All three are important.  But in retrospect, none of the three topics touches on the deeper assumptions behind the Eucharist.  Like the rituals in Je … [Read more...]

Holy Imagination

What most of us want is a God who will solve our problems. It is no surprise that petitions and intercessions top the prayer charts in most American churches.  Invite people to spend some time in silence opening themselves up to the will of God and folks will fidget.  Give them a chance to role out their list and there’s no stopping them.The same problem-solving God shapes the way in which most of us read the Bible.  There is a reason that the Gideons have long offered a Bible with a prob … [Read more...]


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