“Helping those who have no helper”

helper“For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.”
—Psalm 72: 12

Psalm 72 begins “Give the king your justice, O God.” It implies that justice is a God-given matter, and though in our time we have no king, the seeking of justice remains one of the marks of authentic government. Continue reading

“Thanksgiving” A Daily Devotional

turkey“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”—Psalm 136:1

Our family gathers around the Thanksgiving table every year. The venue changes, but now the menu does not. Once I cooked a wild turkey our sexton had hunted. Another year I abandoned my bread stuffing for a chipotle corn bread recipe I saw in a foodie magazine. These innovations were met with the kind of murmuring that a pastor hears when she changes the words of the Doxology, and for much the same reason. Continue reading

“Childlike not Childish!”

astonish-us“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the realm of God as a little child will never enter it.”—Luke 18:17

Have you ever noticed that the adjectives “childish” and “childlike,” which have pretty much the same definition, carry very different connotations? Continue reading

“From Generation to Generation”

14947950_10153991262146787_2996963739551176385_n“One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” —Psalm 145:4

I treasure my faith in God, but faith hasn’t always been easy for me and I don’t take it for granted. It never stops being something of a mystery to me.

But one thing I do know about faith is that you don’t come to it alone. And by faith I don’t mean just belief in a set of doctrines, but deep trust that God is real and good and loving. Continue reading

“Cheering for Jesus!” A Daily Devotional

chering“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” —Hebrews 13:8

My friend John, an ophthalmologist and former congregant of mine, led several dozen trips to Ecuador on “eye missions.”

I went with him on a couple of them. Our team worked together with area churches, and one day he introduced me to a local pastor, who immediately invited me to preach at their Sunday evening service. Continue reading

“Wolves and Lambs” Devotionals for Advent 2016

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The United Church of Christ 2016 Advent Devotional, “Wolves and Lambs,” from The Stillspeaking Writers’ Group is now available. I have two devotionals in it.

Why “Wolves and Lambs”? Here’s a snippet by Quinn G. Caldwell from the Introduction:

We’re calling this year’s Advent Devotional “Wolves and Lambs” because we think that the image of a wolf and a lamb lying down together should be comforting, yes, even sweet.

But it should also be deeply unnerving.

As the first Christmas was. As this one will be, if Isaiah and God—and we—have anything to say about it.

You can order it here. You can see a sample preview here. Order soon. They only print so many and some years they have run out.

Andover Newton Theological School and “The Great Transition”

lorain-etcandover-newton(For several days this past week I have been at my alma mater, Andover Newton Theological School, at a reunion for alums. I have seen some old friends and experienced some moving addresses and worship. The school is in the process of selling its historic Newton campus and de-camping  to New Haven. CT, to become an “embedded school” within Yale Divinity School. About 165 of us alums gathered to have one last time together on “the Hill” as it has been known. I was part of a closing service that moved from place to place where we reflected and prayed before retiring to the chapel for the Lord’s Supper. I prepared the following notes, but spoke ex tempore, but these words are close to what I said. We were in front of Sturtevent Hall, and I was charged with reflecting on all the dorms, the halls and houses where we lived while we were there.) Continue reading

“Her name was Grace” Is God’s Love Unfair?

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“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:8

My Mom’s older sister outlived her by forty years. She never had children, but she doted on my brother and sister and me.

One of her abiding principles was fairness. If she gave something to one of us, she would make sure she gave something equivalent to all of us. She was fair.

Children learn to spot unfairness pretty quickly. “That’s not fair!” can be heard on any playground, and rightfully so, since fairness is an important part of what makes any society workable, be it the small society of a school playground or the large one of a nation.

So it was that many who heard Jesus’s teachings were scandalized by his assertion that the divine economy works on another principle. It is all about grace, which by definition is unfair, because the recipients of the gift are undeserving.

Recall his parable of the workers in the vineyard? Jesus says the ones who came late will get paid the same as the ones who worked all day. “That’s not fair!” Try explaining that policy to either union or management.

The waiting father runs out to greet his prodigal son and throws him a big party. “That’s not fair!”

Paul wrote to the Romans, “While we still were sinners Christ died for us.” So is God’s love unfair? You bet it is, and it’s a good thing too, for who among us deserves such love? Even my aunt understood this good news. After all, her name was Grace.

Prayer: Loving God, we thank you that you run to greet us even when we have run away from you.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotional for June 4, 2016. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: “The Laborers in the Vineyard” by Jacob Willemsz.)

“Out of the Mouths of Babes” A Daily Devotional on Psalm 8:2

“Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. -—Psalm 8:2

BabesIn our family “out of the mouths of babes” was proverbial, expressed when any wisdom or insight, even unintentional, came from one of the youngest members. Here’s an example: A married couple, bickering in the kitchen, was astonished when their young child walked in on them and said, “You should get counseling.” Out of the mouths of babes.

When my own children were very young our mealtime often had the feeling of a manic improvisational comedy troupe. Beverages were spilled with alarming regularity. One time my son turned to his little sister, and asked, “How do you know everything?” She quickly answered, “I don’t know!” Out of the mouths of babes. Continue reading

“And in a supporting role . . .” Hulda the Prophet

Hulda 2“Hilkiah (the high priest) and those the king had sent with him went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe.” —2 Chronicles 34:22

The prophet Hulda gets a scant 9 lines in the Bible, and in them we learn more about her husband than we do about her.

Nonetheless, she must have been impressive, for when King Josiah needed a prophet to authenticate the Word of God, it was to Hulda that he turned. Continue reading