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Showing posts from February, 2008

Shadow of Denial (Luke 22:54-62)

I spent one semester of my seminary education at a school in England. In addition to adjusting to the cultural differences there, I also had to think about how to explain my program of study to people who were most familiar with the Church of England structure. To them, a seminary education means studying to be a priest, not a phrase I use often. Not to mention the fact that I truly felt uncomfortable at that time when someone asked me what kind of work I planned to do. It is not that I did not want to be a pastor or harbor hope in my heart that it would work out, but more I dreaded the look of shock on people’s faces and then the inevitable flood that comes after such an admission. By freely confessing to my profession, I have opened floodgates to hear about dislike of church structure, confusion about church history, questions about religious practices and, most frightful of all, desire to question someone about God. The potential for this deluge made me keep my finger in the di

House of Prayer

So the church at which I work has been broken into and vandalized twice in the past week. This is in spite of the alarm system that was installed after six similar break-ins last year. The recent entries resulted in smashed windows, but no theft. The perpetrator is probably seeking cash, but there also seems to be an element of power-wielding and vengeance. The clean up from each break-in is more than simple removal of broken glass and replacing windows. We also have to look for healing in our hearts and our community that feels ever more violated and hurt and numbed by each experience. This week when I was praying about this situation, I thought about Jesus cleansing the temple. As he threw out those who were selling offerings, providing monetary exchanges and making the temple into a general store, Jesus cried out, "My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations; you've turned it into a hangout for thieves." These break-ins have not only violated ou

Shadow of Betrayal (Sermonette 2/13)

Mark 14:17-21 I am starting to feel kind of frustrated at the darkness of the sermon texts that always seem to fall into my lap. This past Sunday, I preached on suffering, temptation and endurance. I believe one of the last times I stood here for a Wednesday night service, I preached about doubt. And today, we’re looking at the shadow of betrayal, the first of our Lenten series on shadows. Where are the light-hearted sermons I thought I would be preaching? The ones about feeding the five thousand, the lame walking and the blind seeing? Where are the texts that make me imagine Jesus laughing and the disciples nodding their head in understanding? I feel a little betrayed. How did this happen? Before I became an intern pastor, your vicar, I feel like I had a good understanding of what it meant to be a pastor and it’s not like the Bible changed. In the past year, there has been a gentle dawning of comprehension in my eyes about what you might expect from me, especially i

February Newsletter

As I was sitting here thinking about my newsletter, a piece of gossip is burning in my mind. I keep thinking about how I want to share it and how the person who heard it would react. I can hear their laughter in my head and the news in my mind burns all the more. Yet I know in my heart it would not be the right thing to do, to share this piece of information since it would result in tearing down the gossiped-about person, instead of building them up through affirmation. This dilemma brings to mind a letter Martin Luther wrote to Phillip Melancthon- a letter that contained one of Luther’s most famous phrases, “Sin boldly…” Does this mean I should just share this gossip, in the spirit of bold sinning? No, because then I would be ignoring the whole sentence from the letter, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death and the world.” In its context, the famous phrase seems a lot less like an exhortation to do wha

Suffering produces Endurance (Sermon 2/10)

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Romans 5:1-11; Matthew 4:1-11 Some of you may know of the British humor series Monty Python and might have heard of their sketch “The Four Yorkshiremen.” The four men sit around reminiscing about the “good old days,” as people are wont to do, and their listeners wonder just how good those days really were. One man would say, “In those days, we were glad to have the price of a cup of tea.” And another will respond, “A cup of cold tea.” “Without milk or sugar.” “Or tea.” “In a cracked cup, and all.” “Oh, we never had a cup. We used to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.” “The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.” “But you know, we were happy in those days, with what we had…” We all know people like that, who throw out their story of struggles as a flag to their neighbors. So when I was thinking this week about how to preaching about suffering producing endurance, I tried to think about a story from my own life to share with you. But

God's Business Card

I've been thinking about that scene from Exodus, when God (in the burning bush) says to Moses: "I am who I am." Why didn't God just say God's name? Yet I think about this scene as related to the first commandment, "You will have no other gods before me." Many idols in our lives try to convince us of their goodness, their salvific properties, their awesomeness and our intense need for whatever it is that they offer. These products, people, places promise to make us relevant, cause our story to endure, cement our relationships. But this is all just wind and it eventually returns to ashes. The only solid rock we have is the great I AM. God doesn't need to announce Godself or what God's profession is because God simply is. God meets the gap where others fall short. God's relationship with us isn't broken through God's actions. God's promises are so solid, they could be insured by Lloyd's of London. The gods of this world prey