Archive for May, 2016







Arrogance. Anger. Mockery. Violence.

No, these are not only words that might describe the current presidential campaign, but also this Sunday’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures! This lesson is stunning in its its description of a high-stakes wager and its aftermath. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that our Scriptures contain all of the elements of human life and of ourselves at our best and our worst.

It is also a weekend of memories: of those in the military who died in service; of the murders at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston one year ago, and of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as our president visits Japan. And of course, all the good memories of picnics, barbeques and the arrival of summer.

We need to find our way not only through memory but also navigate the present and the ugly climate elections can create—even if months away, to temper our outrage with civility, our anger with respect, our fear with hope. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” Jesus said. It’s just that “what is Caesar’s” is where we live. It is the future for ourselves and our children.

Church is a place where we can go to sort it all out to listen to the Spirit, to calibrate our moral compass, to be fed, and the worship the One who promises to lead us out of the darkness.

See you there…(I’ll be the one in the pulpit not talking about politics. Directly.)


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If I had been preaching last Sunday, I would have found the reference irresistible: The Gospel refers to Lydia, a woman converted and baptized by Paul. She was a dealer in purple cloth! Given the events of the previous two weeks, I would have had to mention the coincidence.

All preachers make judgment about how much “secular” material should be included in a sermon and these judgments vary. My own inclination is to incorporate frequent secular references because sometimes these can put the other “religious” material in a new light. There are also times when cultural events become so pervasive and intense that people bring that sensibility with them to church, looking for connections and perspective.

But some times this can go to far. One webside says this about Lydia:

Lydia had the honor of being Paul’s first European convert—the forerunner of a mighty host to honor the Lord. Becoming a Christian did not make her less of a successful business woman. Now she had Christ as her Senior Partner and with Him we can imagine that trade remained good…

Oh please.

Mother’s Day is not a church holiday yet it will be present in the background next Sunday. This secular holiday, if referenced at all, must be handled with great sensitivity: many are not mothers or parents; others have difficult and painful memories. But we all have or have had a mother, or a parent; that condition is universal and also useful in understanding the Gospel assigned for the day. It is about unity –certainly a problematic idea for our day and time!

The still-fresh experience of Prince’s death produced a kind of communal experience that the Church might envy, bringing so many throughout the world together in a unity of grief. Writer Madeline L’Engle’s statement seems to apply here: “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.”

See you in church.


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