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Showing posts from June, 2014

Balm of Gilead

Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul
Acts 12:1-11; Psalm 87:1–3, 5–7; 2 Timothy 4:6–8, 17–18; John 21:15–19

How many of you have heard of Balm of Gilead? Did you know that you can make it? It’s a kind of salve made from olive oil combined with the resin of a certain tree’s buds.Guess what tree is used to make Balm of Gilead? Cottonwoods. The frustrating trees that make us sneeze, which blow their fluff around in the summertime, which we consider little better than weeds. The buds of the cottonwood tree can be steeped with oil to make an antiseptic and healing balm. From such a frustrating tree comes a magnificent medicine.
In the Bible, the land of Gilead is where the family of Gad (one of Jacob’s twelve sons) had settled. They traded in spices and balms. By the time of the prophet Jeremiah, however, most of the children of Israel were struggling and had lost sight of God’s own role in their healing. Jeremiah wrote, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not th…

Sweet Charity

Yesterday, my cell phone rang as I was packing my bags in my office. A breathless woman began to tell me the story of how her young son had been on a trip with friends, but they left him in a town about 250 miles from Anchorage. She left a big pause in the conversation after that.

I sighed. I hate doing this, but I said to her, "I need you to tell me what you need or how I can help you." We don't have cash in the church and every situation is a case-by-case basis of how I can figure out if and how to help someone.

"I'm trying to collect money for gas to get to [place] to pick up my son. I have about $20. I go to [church in Anchorage], but no one's there. I've been driving around, trying to get money together."

I peeked out my office window. I can see her sitting in the church parking lot, in her car, looking frantic.

Here comes the part where people either hang up on me or take me up on an offer. "Okay," I reply. "We don't have any ca…

Book Review: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death at a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

I frequently find myself with good intentions for finishing one book, only to be sidetracked by another book. I eventually finish the first, but if the latter is amazing or absorbing- all bets are off until it is done. So it was this week in preparing for book review time. I have a stack of things that are finished or almost finished and ready for review, when I just happened to check out Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death at a Storm-Ravaged Hospital. Frankly, it’s amazing that I still paid attention to my family, work, and personal hygiene while reading this book. So it passed all other comers for today’s review because it is both an excellent book and because it raises some serious ethical questions that must be considered. 

Sheri Fink (M.D., Ph.D.) is a correspondent for the New York Times on a variety of issues, but especially on medical issues and crises. Five Days at Memorial is six years of painstaking research, interviewing, backtracking, and piecing together what happened a…

Psalm 8 Revisited

One: O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! All: Majestic, magnificent, marvelous, mysterious is our God.
One: The angels sing of your glory. All: Children recognize your power.
One: Your enemies do not prevail. The fortress of your love lasts forever. All: Majestic, magnificent, marvelous, mysterious is our God.
One: When I think of all creation- space, animals, plants, All: People, music, fish, mountains, oceans, and deserts.
One: It is more than I can comprehend- that I am born out of the same mind as whales and galaxies. All: Who are we, that you have thought of us, made us, loved us, saved us?
One: Majestic, magnificent, marvelous, mysterious is our God. All: You made people- all people, all kinds of people
One: You gave people, us, the work of caring for, of stewardship over All: Flocks and herds, fields and forests, lakes and rivers, the wild and the tamed.
One: O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
All: Majestic, magnificent, marvelous, m…

Cutting the Cord (Trinity Sunday)

Matthew 28: 16-20

A few weeks ago, I was crocheting a baby blanket during text study, the weekly get-together where pastors chat about all kinds of things (sometimes, even, the Bible). I was using two skeins of yarn at the same time and, somehow, a horrible snarl had happened. Thus, most of my time on that particular day was spent untangling the snarl, attempting to salvage the yarn. I pulled at the tangle, carefully weaving one free end over and around, up and down, through and back again.
The other people thought I was crazy. One pastor thought I should cut it and be done with it, knotting two free ends back together and then going from there. I didn’t want to do that, I reported. I wanted to undo the knot. I knew that I could. It just took patience and a lot of effort. I knew untangling that hideous knot would be worth it in the end, I just had to stick with it.
I worked on it for two hours that day and for an hour and a half during a meeting the next day. Of course, during the time…

What Matters Now

This was originally posted for The Pastoral is Political here at RevGalBlogPals.



A few years ago, Holy Trinity Sunday was my favorite Sunday of the church year. I welcomed the chance to frolic in the mystery and share my enthusiasm for God’s beyond binary boundaries. Sometimes I would write blog post after blog post, in addition to a sermon, to have space for my effervescence to overflow.
Then, due to travel, I didn’t preach on Holy Trinity for two years. Now I’m facing it again, but stirring up the old fervor is not happening. Why can’t I get excited about this?
Frankly, I think it would be a waste of time in the pulpit. Should I allot 15 minutes to a dogmatic statement that eludes and excludes more than it welcomes?
David Brat, primary winner in Virginia 7th Congressional district, does not believe in the common good. So, it is every man, woman, and child for him or herself? With no common good, there can be no agreement on general civility. We’re essentially living a large-scale Surviv…

Humble Thyself (Sermon)

Philippians 2:1-13

A few weeks ago, I watched a great local production of the play Charlotte’s Web, put on by TBA. The play, based on the book, is about a little pig named Wilbur whose bacon is saved by Charlotte, a spider, who spins words in her web that describe Wilbur. Coming up with the words requires some help from other animals.
When Wilbur has been carted off to the fair, because he’s not just some pig, Charlotte and Templeton the rat go with him. Charlotte tasks Templeton with finding piece of paper with a good word on it that she can use as inspiration. Templeton comes back with a paper scrap that he asserts has a great word, “Humbl√©”. (“Hoom-blay”- like it’s French.)
Charlotte rolls her eyes, “The word is humble!” There is a big audience laugh at that moment. Humbl√© sounds like the categorical opposite of what we understand “humble” to mean. In particular, we do not have a great cultural love of humbleness (or its partner, humility). When humble is used to mean “subservient” …