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Showing posts from April, 2013

Sermon for April 21, 2013 / Easter 4

Trading Sorrows
April 21, 2013

Back when Newsweek was still with us, the magazine ran a poll asking what people thought about heaven. At that time, 76 percent of Americans said believe in heaven, and, of those, 71 percent thought it’s an “actual place.” People could not agree on the specifics, though Nineteen percent thought heaven looks like a garden, 13 percent said it looks like a city, and 17 percent had no idea.  The New Testament’s fullest descriptions of heaven were also battle cries. After the Romans crushed Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Middle Eastern cities teemed with festivals honoring the Roman emperors. The earliest Christians had a dilemma. “To what extent do we join the mainstream culture?” they wondered. “Do we attend without participating, participate without believing, or believe without embracing?” The Book of Revelation drew the battle lines. Revelation’s descriptions of thunder and lightning and lakes of fire, as well as its promises of pearl gates and jeweled walls, were …

A Pastoral Letter

It has been a very difficult week for our country -- the bombing in Boston, an explosion in West Texas, flooding in the Midwest, tornado watches here in the D.C. area and the failure of cowardly senators to pass sensible gun background check legislation. I sent this letter to my congregation before Tsarnaev was apprehended in Boston, but I thought I'd still publish it on the blog. Terrorism will continue, so we will continue to find ways to respond as people of faith.

Sometimes I ready to give up on humanity. Really, I’ve had enough of the shootings, bombings, and grisly death scenes. The Boston bombings reveal my own deep-seated feelings: I am angry and I am scared.  Terrorism is designed precisely to do that -- to scare people far out of proportion to its actual danger. Since these events will not stop, my personal growing edge is to learn how to empathize while refusing to be terrorized; to be angry without being scared.

In response to the Boston Marathon bombings, comedian P…

Sermon for April 14 , 2013 / Easter 3

Revelation and Liberation: Lamb on the Throne
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, "To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5:11-14 The book or Revelation is a strange and wonderful gift. Much of the imagery of the modern horror film industry comes from this unsettling book of scripture. These hallucinogenic and ominous images all come from the pages of the last book of the Christian New Test…

Sermon for March 31, 2013 Easter Sunday

What Brought You Here?
Luke 24:1-12

So, what brought you here? Because, the truth is many people don’t bother with Sunday morning worship. Years ago, Willow Creek Community Church, a mega-church near Chicago, did a door-to-door survey asking: If you don’t go to church, why? The five biggest reasons: 1) Church is boring, 2) Church is irrelevant, 3) They’re asking for money all the time, 4) I’m too busy already, 5) I feel awkward at church. Let me add another reason: It’s just easier to stay home on Sunday. You only get two days off. Sometimes it’s hard to get the kids fed and dressed and your partner or spouse to cooperate. Or you are up at the crack of dawn bringing kids to sports practices and games. Wouldn’t it better to sleep in and read the paper, or get up and hit the tennis courts or the golf course and enjoy a leisurely day?

Mainline Protestant denominations like the UCC have lost millions of members over the last 30 years. Nobody knows why, although sociologists, theologians, con…