February 2, 2017

Back when I was a graduate student in the big city, I got befriended by a young Salvadorean Jesuit named Kaiser.  We started out studying New Testament Greek together (in Spanish, which pretty well crossed all my wires).  Our relationship grew from there, and Kaiser ended up inviting me to his thesis defense and later ordination in downtown Boston.  The Lord’s table factored highly in both settings.  Kaiser spoke of the “Eucharist,” a term that comes right out of the… Read more

January 28, 2017

Once, when my wife and I were returning to the U.S. after a visit to her home country of Peru, we were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the airport.  They never told us why.  As far as we could tell, the man who reviewed her passport on entering looked at the wrong page and saw the wrong visa and registered the wrong validity dates.  He must have pressed some hidden button while we stood there unsuspecting, all the… Read more

December 25, 2016

It’s Christmas, and the sky is zagged with lightning.  No one’s dreaming of a white Christmas around here.  It’s thunderstorms today.  But hey, we had our biggest snow of the year on Easter morning, so why not thunderstorms on Christmas? Lightning on Christmas seems like it should be a metaphor for something.  God’s kingdom breaks into the world with the birth of Jesus, the one who John the Baptist promised would come to baptize with “the Spirit and with fire”… Read more

December 14, 2016

It’s autumn.  Things are dying, and I don’t like it. Maybe it’s my lament that the tomato vines have crumpled and the beans succumbed and withered.  Maybe it’s my despair over the browning earth, scorched by frost and wind–winter’s shock troops.  Maybe I just don’t like being cold.  But I have a hard time letting go of autumn. It seems to me that you can let go of the season in two ways.  You can pray to push the frost back, stomp your… Read more

November 23, 2016

Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your Word. (Psalm 119:107 The Message) What do we do when things fall apart? Because they will.  We’ll snag on life’s gnarl and come undone, thread by thread by spooling cord.  Things won’t go as we planned or hoped.  I once knew someone who, reflecting on a struggle, said, “It’s like someone just pulled a string, and I fell apart.”  That’s how it feels.  Someone got hold of our string…. Read more

November 18, 2016

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought – Romans 12:3 Once, I was in a crowded grocery store, edging my way toward the checkout in a game of social checkers, when a couple slid in ahead of me.  It was a sly move, almost cutting.  I heard the man say in a surly whisper to the lady (who had the courtesy to be a little embarrassed): “What?  He’s no better than us!” I’m not.  But it’s easy to… Read more

November 1, 2016

I’m an amateur gardener.  I’m always figuring things out again for the first time, like that you can’t pack the tomato plants into the garden (so small and nonthreatening in spring, such monsters in August). This year, I tried growing corn and pole beans in my front yard.  It was my play on the Native-American “three sisters” technique where the corn supports the beans, and the beans fix nitrogen for the corn.  The third sister–squash–is supposed to trail along at… Read more

October 27, 2016

I’m not endorsing a candidate from the pulpit this year.  In fact, I never have.  Here’s why: By the time it hits the pulpit, I’m too late.  We need to be in the practice of forming people in Christian virtue and character.  If they haven’t caught on to virtue and character over the years of sermons, Sunday School, prayer, and long chats over coffee, they’re not going to get it from the pulpit.  People are mightily wrapped up in their cultures–the… Read more

October 23, 2016

As the 2016 US election rattles into its final stretch, rural people and communities have gotten an ill-deserved bad rap.  Commentators along the urban coastlines, seeking to understand rural voting patterns, cast rural communities as places of tremendous resentment, backwaters of poverty trapped in the past with all the past’s outmoded prejudices and fears.  Perhaps you’ve seen the caricatures. Take a recent NPR report pointing to “rural resentment” toward cities and perceived liberal elites as fuel for the rise of outside-the-mainstream political candidates.  A second article… Read more

October 11, 2016

Oh Lord, the whole earth is filled with your glory. Fire and hail, snow and frost, praise your name and obey your command. But do not forget the lowly zucchini, Oh Lord. Look down with compassion on the tomatoes, still just a shade too green to harvest. Remember, Oh Lord, how we thank you when we partake of the fruit of our little garden, And tell that frost to sing your praises somewhere else. Read more

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