In the summer of 1979, I left Harvard for the priesthood. I was twenty-four years old, newly married, and had been a first-year graduate student working towards a Ph.D. in American History. I was a restless student, less interested in history than I...
God Is Dead
Twenty years ago this spring my father died from Alzheimer's disease. It had been a slow, agonizing end to a good, long life. The worst part of it was a stage, two or three years into the decline, when Dad realized that something terrible was...
Written Within You
It's been many years ago now, but I still remember the scene: Just a few days before I was to start my first-year classes at Vanderbilt Divinity School, my sister and I were riding in the car together, somewhere in rural, far-western Kentucky; and she...
The Appropriate Response
Today's lectionary passage from the Gospel of John begins in the wrong place, because for us to really discuss it, we will need to back up a few verses. The beginning of the third chapter of John is the better place to start, for there we meet a...
Driven from Distraction
In a church I once served as pastor, there was an infrequent attender who was always chasing after various get-rich-quick schemes that never amounted to anything much. Most of her pursuits involved little work and little investment, especially on her...
One of my all-time favorite cartoons comes from the New Yorker Magazine. It shows two businessmen sitting in a bar, one clearly despondent. The unhappy one says to his companion: "I was on the cutting edge. I pushed the envelope. I did the heavy...
Angels in the Wilderness
There were angels in the wilderness. It's important to remember that. After the same Spirit that descended on Jesus at his baptism like a dove, then turned into a dive bomber and drove him out to the desert, there were angels in that wilderness. Along...
Trust the Transfiguration
They must have been filthy by the time they reached the top. All four of them--Peter, James, John, even Jesus--covered in dirt from head to toe. Smelly, too. You can't climb a mountain in Galilee without breaking a sweat. Of course, they always...
When Life Comes At You
At the church I pastor, a Sunday School class for parents of young preschoolers decided to rename itself. They kicked around several possibilities, such as Seekers or Searchers or maybe Learners. But all of these seemed too removed from the everyday...
Right-Minded or Big-Hearted?
"People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." These familiar words come from legendary adventurer and leader Theodore Roosevelt...but it is a safe bet to say that a certain first-century adventurer and leader named Paul...
No Time to Lose
"Doc, are you telling me that you built a time machine...out of a DeLorean?" A memorable line from the popular film Back to the Future. Let's face it, time travel has been a recurrent theme in movies, in books and short stories, in television episodes...
A Fresh Read
In a 2010 biblical commentary entitled The Africana Bible--Reading Israel's Scriptures from Africa and the African Diaspora, published by Fortress Press, Dr. Randall C. Bailey, a noted Old Testament scholar from Atlanta, writes: Traditionally, the...
Torn Open, By God
Sometimes, I wish it were harder to join the church. I mean, honestly, sometimes I think it's harder to get a membership at Costco than it is to become a Christian. And that's a bad thing. It's bad, specifically, because if the church is easy to join,...
The Troubling Star
We've come to love the Christmas star so much. Even in the weeks before Christmas, you start seeing it everywhere. It's on bulletin covers and Christmas cards and the stole hanging around the preacher's neck. A Christmas crche may be part of your home...
The Struggle to Believe
At this season of the year we live between two worlds: one is dying and the other is struggling to be born. To live this way is as dangerous as eating wormy figs in the dark. Our scripture focuses on Simeon and Anna, two faithful servants of God who...
The Reality of Christmas
If your house and your life are anything like my house and my life at this time of year, then maybe we should spend these next 15 minutes in silent meditation. It is four days before Christmas. Many of us have family coming into town if they are not...
I Am Not the Messiah
No. No. No. So begins the public ministry of John the Baptist according to the Gospel of St. John. It's not what we have come to expect. Spend much time around Christian congregations during any Advent season, and John tends to come off as loud,...
Beginning Before It Begins
From our booth at the Shoney's, we had a clear view of the Malco Twin movie house. It was 5 p.m. on a Thursday evening in early June of 1977. At this hour, the parking lot of the Malco Twin was still empty. The three of us had all ordered Big Boy...
Waiting in Lag Time
"Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down!" The cry goes up from the prophet and the people of Israel in Isaiah 64, the Hebrew Bible lection for this first Sunday in Advent. This lament has been echoed by individuals and entire peoples...
God Has Left the Building
It's Reign of Christ Sunday, Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year. Today we reflect back upon the mighty acts of God proclaimed every Sunday of this year. We celebrate that, because Christ emptied himself of the authority of...
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