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Showing posts from May, 2008

When silence is golden (because it's not always)

Recently, I've been around a lot of grieving people. Last week, I was in North Carolina to be with my family after an uncle committed suicide. I have another friend whose best friend was killed in a motorcycle accident last weekend. Then there is the couple I know who are separating after several years together. In each of these situations, I've listened to or sat with those who were grieving. In some cases, we sit and talk about mundane things. At some points, we talk about the sadness of the situation. And, for some time, there is just nothing to say- so we sit in silence. I've had many people tell me that they don't know what to say to someone who is grieving, angry or distraught. Often they would like to show that they care or demonstrate some support, but they remain distant or silent for fear of making a mistake. The thing is, most people just want someone to be there for them. They aren't going to ask hard questions, they won't expect you t

Wait...There's more! (Trinity Sunday sermon)

How many of you have seen an infomercial before? You know, one of those long commercials on television selling something like a rotisserie oven, a set of knives, a 14-piece vacation-wear set or a juicer that does everything but change your bed sheets. In an infomercial, there is always the studio audience as well. They applaud at the miracle of a moist roast or the Ronco worm trimmer that makes a sound like a real worm. The audience also always knows the punchlines for the presenter, the best of which is “But wait… there’s more.” That line is what I kept thinking about this week while trying to write a sermon about the Trinity. In trying to describe how our one God is three separate and significant persons and yet one holy unity, I kept writing and thinking, “But wait… there’s more!” In the first reading today, that lengthy section of Genesis, we get a glimpse of the creative power of the Trinity. As some of you have heard me explain before, the Hebrew word for that void, the

Healing Service Sermon

There are two lessons about healing in the gospel story today. The obvious one is the actual healing of the paralytic man. This part of the story shows that all things are possible with God. The second aspect of the story, the more important part, reveals more about the regular work of God through Jesus, then and now. After the man’s friends lower him to the floor, Jesus looks at him and says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Many people in the room were shocked and offended at this statement, but Jesus points out that it is much, much easier for him or for anyone to acknowledge the forgiveness of sins than to heal a paralyzed person. So that they might believe in God’s power in Jesus, he heals the man of his physical infirmity and then people were amazed. Even before Thomas, people needed to see and believe. And we’re a lot like that today. It’s easier to believe when we hear miracle stories, when we see our friends healed, when children are born with no problems, when someone

May Newsletter

Many of you may be familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins: lust, anger, greed, envy, sloth, gluttony, and pride. Of course, I am not implying that your familiarity comes from an experience of one of these categories of human weakness; I am assuming that you’ve just heard about them, in passing, at some point in your life. In March, the Roman Catholic Church issued a list of seven, more modern “deadly sins”: environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, accumulating excessive wealth, inflicting poverty, drug trafficking and consumption, morally debatable scientific experiments, and violation of the fundamental rights of human nature. This is an extremely inclusive list of flaws and the details of each “sin” will have to be saved for another discussion- one regarding tenets of the Roman Church. Nevertheless, this new list is interesting because it moves beyond the first list, dating back to the 6th century (but not to the Bible), and points to sins that affect people around you a


Well, dear friend, I'm home sick for the second day in row. I'm not sure what the problem is, but I'm going to a doctor today. I sort of hate going to the going to the mechanic, I'm always afraid they'll find something to fix that I wasn't expecting. However, it is clear that I need to see someone. The irony (see the title) is that, for work this week, I'm supposed to be working on a healing service. I'm writing a new order for confession and forgiveness, a dialogue and a homily (short sermon) all around the theme of healing. I am praying that all will go well at the doctor's, but right now that means, to me, that I will find out what the problem is and what can be done to solve it. Appreciating the gifts of doctors is part of my understanding of how God works in healing ways in our lives. But there are many other kinds of healing: we can pray for and expect physical healing, but we also have wounded hearts, tired spirits

St. Monica of Hippo

Monica was the mother of Augustine, the famous (!) Christian author ( Confessions ) and apologist who was major influence of on the reformers of the Roman church in the Middle Ages. Monica is well-known for her deep prayers and solid faith that led to the conversion of her husband and her mother-in-law to Christianity. Her prayers and confidence in the work of God were a contributing factor in Augustine's own eventual conversion and embrace of Christianity- turning away from the wild lifestyle he had previously embraced. Monica's deep faith is major building block in the church as it is today because of her prayers for change within her family. Monica's saint day is observed on 4 May, but I thought it was also interesting to consider her in this week before Mother's Day. Not everyone is a mother, though everyone has one...somewhere. Regardless of how you feel towards your mother or how you, as a mother, might feel toward your children- we have all experienced that

Awkward Silence

I've been thinking about this post for a while, but it's hard (even for me) to put it out where you will read it. I think my two-month struggle to write this exemplifies the reticence in our culture to discuss the following issue... but that also means that it's crucial that we do discuss it. Sex. There I said it. Discuss. Maybe it's not that easy, but that's a place to start. The youth director at the church where I work recently put out a request for parents to talk to her about sex. She was hoping to begin a conversation with parents, so that we (as a church) could create opportunities to discuss sex with our children and youth. The youth director received no responses, no replies, no rants, no raves, nothing. The thing is, we almost universally acknowledge the bombardment of sexual imagery that we experience and we know that our children experience. However, sexual imagery is not the same as sexual information. Information is not the same as encouragement

Holocaust Remembrace Day

Today is a particular day set aside to remember the Holocaust perpetuated by the Nazi party of 1930s Germany (and their compatriots) against their fellow human beings. At least six million Jews died in the atrocities of that genocide, along with many, many, many other "undesirables" including disabled people, "gypsies" (Roma), left-handed people, social undesirables (impoverished people), homosexuals and others. What I would say is important to remember on this day is not just those who died, but how that situation came to be. How governments, social organizations, churches and other groups did not speak up to counter racism, sexism, religious discrimination or the growing eugenics movement and so the atrocities began and very, very few people moved. We all think we would speak up if we knew something like that was happening now. But... Do we? Thanks be to God for forgiveness for things done and left undone , for when we do not love our neighbors a