“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

Advertisements

“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

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

Jacob_Willemsz._de_Wet_d._Ä._002

“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.)

Coming Soon: A New Bible Study on Romans

RomansP1I am pleased to announce that the Bible study on Romans that Mike Bennett and I have been working on for so long can now be ordered through UCC Resources and will ship on March 1.

Romans, Part 1, Romans 1-8 and Romans, Part 2, Romans 9-16 are titles in the United Church of Christ’s LISTEN UP! Bible Study series.

Romans, Parts 1 and 2 are not ground-breaking new works of original Biblical scholarship, but rather teaching tools to be used by small groups in Bible studies. A leader’s guide is included in every workbook.

Mike and I together bring over a half-century of experience as pastors leading Bible studies in local congregations. Romans Part 1 and 2 brings our knowledge of how to make Bible study come alive.

Behind these studies we bring our own understanding of Romans from a lifetime of engagement with this important book. Mike has been influenced by two important commentaries on Romans by Professors at his alma mater Yale Divinity School, Leander Keck and David Bartlett. Mike is also a contributor to the Feasting on the Word series. Continue reading

“Taking the Long View” Reflections of a Retired Pastor

Presiding(This is a talk I gave to “The Saints” which is the United Church of Christ retired clergy group in the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. The talk was in Cromwell, CT on May 14, 2015)

I’d like to thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I have great respect for ministry as a high and holy calling, and I enjoy the company of ministers. I am proud to be a minister, and this year is the 40th anniversary of my ordination. And it is good to be in the Connecticut Conference. I never served here, but my daughter, Rebecca Floyd Marshall, is an ordained minister here in CT, serving in Westport. If you bump into her at a Conference meeting introduce yourself.

My talk today is entitled “Taking the Long View” which was the title of a UCC STILL SPEAKING Daily Devotional I wrote for March 14 of last year. I see it was re-printed in your newsletter. I’m going to share with you some of my personal back-story behind the writing of this particular devotional.

I began the devotional with an anecdote about Ralph, a congregant of mine in my first church, who owned an apple orchard: “I drove over to see Ralph at his hilltop orchard a week after I had presided over his wife’s funeral and burial. He was well into his nineties and they had been married for seven decades. I was all of twenty-seven. It took me awhile to find him, because he was out planting apple trees. He seemed glad to see me and said, “You may wonder why I am planting trees that I will never live to see bear fruit. But it’s what I have always done, and I am not going to stop now. There were apple trees in this orchard when I came here that somebody else had planted, and there will be apple trees here after I’m gone.”

I’ve held onto Ralph’s words for forty years, and lately they have helped me as I think about what it means to be a retired minister. That hasn’t been easy for me. Because when I left my role as a pastor it seemed, at first, and for a long while, like the loss of my calling as a minister. Now I have come to realize that, although I am no longer a pastor of a congregation, I am still a minister. When I turned 65 the UCC Pension Boards mailed me a good little book by Paul Clayton entitled Called for Life (Perhaps you all got one, too). I love the play on words in the title, and I do believe we are “called for life” in both senses of the phrase.  Continue reading