Archive for March, 2016

Got Doubt?

Consistency seems to be one way we measure the integrity of a political candidate: Hillary said one thing about nuclear weapons last week, but in 1986 she said something different! Ted Cruz favors a certain policy on immigration, but ten years ago, he is on the record saying the opposite! Oh no!

Changing your opinion – perhaps because of new information that comes to light or advancing your thinking – is interpreted as “flip flopping,” and not to be trusted.

Oh please.

Maybe we should bring out the fact that Bernie had an overdue library book in fifth grade. This might indicate a frightening disregard for rules.

Instead, I think we should be frightened of those people who embody moral certitude, who claim with righteous indignation the inferiority of one group of people, who preach the primacy of national security for America no matter who or what it tramples, who insist that unless you “believe in” Jesus, you are lost for eternity. No flip-flopping here.

I don’t think that doubt is the enemy of faith, but blind fanaticism is.

In my thirty plus years as a preacher, no topic has drawn me more than doubt. Raised as a conservative Lutheran, I was taught that I would be “saved” by faith. So I tried very hard to “believe” but often failed.
So do many of you, I would expect. And we feel guilty about it.

Once again, I am presented next Sunday with a Scriptural text about doubt: it is the story of wonderful Thomas; in my opinion, the most discerning and mentally nimble of the disciples. The one who asks the tough questions. Certainly my favorite of the Twelve.

Actually, God seems pretty doubt-tolerant! However, who does not crave the comfort and direction of more faith and wonder how to get there…..

More on Sunday….

See you in church.


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Smell is one of those thing that has moved into the realm of political correctness.

IN preparing the sermon for Sunday on Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume, I couldn’t’ help but realize that this wouldn’t have played well today with many people I know. They have allergies. They have physical conditions that make them react terribly to certain odors.

For others, it’s preference. They don’t want to sit next to someone at a concert and smell the perfume that someone else likes for the whole evening. It’s a boundary thing.

The same thing with incense in church. While some Episcopalians don’t like the High Church (and Roman Catholic) associations, others seem to have physical reactions to it. In the early church, incense was used to cover up the smells of daily life as much as adding to the worship experience. In our sanitized world we don’t seem to need that feature! Indeed, the daily shower is a recent occurrence and foreign to those in most other developed countries!

We have a thousand sense receptors in our brains so it’s all a pretty intense process.

Smell is also the sense that is most likely to trigger memory. The writer Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Smells are surer than sights or sounds to make your heartstrings crack.” My mom’s “signature” Jergen’s hand lotion and Emeraude perfume bring me back in an instant to an earlier time. The fact these products were bought in a drugstore and not a snazzy department store makes the whole memory that much dearer for me. She worked with what she had. We would all have our own list of the smells that trigger the best memories for us.

In Sunday’s Gospel we have an intimate portrait of Jesus with his friends, not his disciples (well, except for one). The “wanted” posters for Jesus have gone up in Jerusalem. He is a threat now and not a nuisance. But for this one evening his three friends provide a kind of “safe house” away from the danger. And what an evening it is….

See you in church.


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