“The Seven Last Words of the Church”

seven-last-words“Jesus said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” – Mark 7:6-8

Some of the scribes and Pharisees questioned Jesus as to why his disciples had not washed their hands before eating, as was “the custom of the elders.” He chastised them for their slavish devotion to custom, while neglecting their relationship with God.

Our customs and traditions are important for institutional continuity and for doing things in the church “decently and in order.” But customs followed for their own sake can stifle needed change and quench the flame of the Spirit. 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

“Displaced Persons” A Sermon on Jeremiah 29: 1-14

jeremiah“Home Sweet Home.” “Home is where the heart is.” “There’s no place like home.” But what if you must leave your home? What if you find yourself far from home?  I want to explore the theme of “home and exile.”

 We will look at an important letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the exiles in Babylon. It is a letter of hope and comfort to people who have lost their homes, whose lives have been turned upside down. They are dislocated, displaced persons. I think the letter has things to say to us in our time. 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

“The Time of Trial” A Daily Devotional on Luke 22:39-40

and-still-he-loved-them“Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’” —Luke 22:39-40

Since I was a child I have prayed the line from the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation.” Too often my “temptations” have been of the trivial sort, such as whether to eat that second cupcake. My mother liked to quote New Yorker writer Alexander Woollcott, “All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.”

But the newer translation of this line is “save us from the time of trial,” which echoes Jesus’s words here to the disciples. Continue reading

“Hinge Time”

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” —Ecclesiastes 3:1

northern-lightsSeptember always feels to me to be a new beginning. It marks time like a turning hinge, from summer to fall, from then to now, and from now to “what now?”

September’s cool weather reminds me of one memorable day back in 1982. We lived in Maine on a farm. We had a new baby, our first child, and we were in transition. I was about to take a new job and we would soon be moving to a new state. Continue reading

“Rich in Things and Poor in Soul” A Sermon on Luke 12:13-21

self storageI don’t know about you, but I have too much stuff. Eleven years ago we moved from a sixteen-room house (a big old parsonage) to an eight-room house. Before we moved we had a huge yard sale. Still, it was a good two years before we could put both our cars into the two-car garage. This may sound like what my daughter calls a “first world-problem,” and it is!

We Americans have too much stuff, and it is not good for our souls. I grew up in a middle-class American family of five. We had a one-level ranch house with three bedrooms, two of them very small, with small closets. My brother and I shared a bunk bed. We had a one-car garage. Our house was built on a concrete slab, so there was no basement. We had an attic, just a crawl space, and my Dad had to climb up there every year to get the Christmas tree stand. Not much room to store stuff.

How things have changed! Look at the four square feet around you. That is the per-capita share of the American self-storage industry, according to the Self-Storage Association, a trade group. They say that “the country now possesses some 1.875 billion square feet of personal storage. All this space is contained in nearly 40,000 facilities owned and operated by more than 2,000 entrepreneurs, including a handful of publicly traded giants like Public Storage, Storage USA, and Shurgard.” (From Slate, “Self-Storage Nation” by Tom Vanderbilt) Continue reading