“The only thing I know to come back to is love God, love my neighbor, and love myself. Everything else I am just not sure about right now.” That was the first time I doubted. I made that declaration in my Christian Theology first year undergraduate class. It was not meant to be provocative, but you can bet my colleagues moved their chairs a little farther away from me to separate themselves as true believers from my audacious doubts. I had marked myself as a doubter and they were scared that my doubts would poison their strong convictions.
The resurrected Jesus is one of my favorite glimpses of Jesus. Even after his resurrection he is so very...human. I don't understand the mystery of our faith which we proclaim is 100% God and 100% human, but that is just the essence of faith. A mystery of wrestling with God and with each other in the assurance of things hoped for.
One of the hardest things to handle is when someone offers “constructive criticism” and it’s clear that the intent was never to be constructive. Their goal wasn’t to help you become a better you. It was to create a “worse you” so they feel better in comparison.
When this happens, your instincts tell you to respond with equally hurtful words. You want to return a little “constructive criticism” their way, and you imagine how good it would feel to unload on them!
We’re down to the last of the seven deadly sins: greed. In preparing for this Sunday’s sermon, I came across a quote that arrested my attention. Graham Tomlin said, greed “takes over when I begin to imagine that my needs are the only ones that matter, and I don’t have to balance mine with those of anyone else.”
Michael Bos is doing a sermon series here at West End on the Seven Deadly Sins. Believe me, it’s not easy finding choral music that fits the topic, but there is one for this week’s deadly sin, Anger, that I think is perfect. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” by T. Tertius Noble will be sung by the West End Choir on Sunday, October 1. The anthem is a setting of Ephesians 4:30-32 and opens wit...h a tenor solo that will be sung by our newest member of the tenor section, Benjamin Robinson.
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." – Seneca
Long ago there were ten people with no plan who changed the world. They began a new religious order without a strategic plan, timeline, SWAT analysis, or brand position. Their vision was simply to “help souls,” and their motto was “more,” to strive for something greater. Within forty years of their founding they grew from ten members to five thousand and had established one hundred Christian colleges. This is the story of Ignatius Loyola and the group who founded the Society of Jesus.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20
This month contains some very special days. Saturday is World Fiddle Day. Monday is Accounting Day. Tuesday is Title Track Day. And Thursday is Wine Day. Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not making this up!
We are so overrun by “special days” that we often don’t pay attention to them. However, there are some special days coming that we should pay attention to. Tomorrow begins the Mental Health Weekend of Faith in NYC. Its purpose is to help communities of faith highlight the needs of those who are struggling with mental illness or substance abuse.
This week we read John 10:1-10 and we hear one of my favorite lines from the Gospel "I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly." The ministry of Jesus is all about life. Life that starts here and now. Life that ensures the rights of the most vulnerable, life that protects and defends those who are being abused, life that stands up for the under represented.
Jesus has come to bring life, abundant life. Our work in the world, as followers of Jesus, is to ensure that we are serving the world to help work for abundant life by God's grace.
In a few hours we’ll have our Good Friday service, and it has me thinking about the importance of the journey to Easter. Before I say more, let me share a quick story about something that happened to me.
I’ve just returned from Pakistan where I participated in a conference sponsored by the US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium, which Intersections International helped launch. Being home less than twenty-four hours, I’ve already been asked many times, “So what did you think of the experience?” My answer, for now, has to be “I don’t know.”
There’s a great story in 1 Samuel about the search for a new king. God sends Samuel to the family of Jesse because God has told him that the next king is among his sons. The problem is that Samuel doesn’t know which one it is!
When we hold a newborn child, it’s a sacred moment. I think this is in part because there is an awareness that we’re holding the future. As we gently cradle an infant in our arms, we can’t help but wonder who they’ll grow up to be. It’s amazing how a tiny little bundle of joy is able to spark our imagination about where life will take them.
Hope springs forth when it seems like all is lost. This is the message of the Christmas story. Jesus is born in the most difficult of circumstances. There was no fancy birth plan for the Son of God, but instead it was the courage and faith of Mary and Joseph and the Holy Spirit’s guidance that brought new hope into the world. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” Indeed, Joy to the world! The despair, the government, the frustration does not have the last word. It is the hope that God is consistently in the work of loving and redeeming the world.
We are people who don’t like to wait. We race to the subway turnstiles so we don’t get caught behind others. We breeze through crosswalks even when the glowing red hand is telling us to stop. We honk our horn at the car ahead of us the second the light turns green. We charge up the left side of an escalator because we don’t want to standstill. We’re always in motion so that we don’t waste time waiting.
The voting is over. The election has been decided. The politicians on both sides have said the conciliatory things they are expected to say. Yet emotions abound. Protests have begun. And the “divide” in our society remains. This is when it’s hard to be a Christian.
Why? Because Jesus calls us “to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We are to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:2). For many, the instinct to love and pray is not what’s on our minds.
There are certain days I have marked on my calendar that represent my loved ones who have died and gone on to glory. Their presence lives in the stories and pictures I share with my living loved ones. Sometimes the days come and go and sometimes the days are very hard and I feel sad all day, even in my gratitude for the person I love.
As we continue the sermon series “Redefining Friendships,” we’ll explore why we need friends who affirm the gifts we’re afraid to claim. As it says in scripture, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Knowing this, why are so many of us afraid to claim the gifts and talents that God has given us?
Often when we talk about faith we talk about it as a personal and private matter. It is about our personal spiritual journeys, and faith is something we must discover on our own. The truth is that many of us have trouble discovering faith without the help of others.
It was August of 1989, and Tena and I, along with our six month old daughter, were getting ready to board a flight to move to the Netherlands. Both of our parents were there sporting the saddest, most somber faces you’d ever seen. They couldn’t understand why we would want to move, and they had many questions. What would our lives be like? Would we be safe? What will this do to their precious granddaughter? One of the hardest things we’ve done is to say “good-bye,” and then turn the other way and board the aircraft.
There’s this wonderful little story in the Gospel of Luke 10:38-42 about Jesus and two women. Jesus and his disciples are out traveling when a woman, Martha, extends hospitality to Jesus and invites him in to the house where she and her sister, Mary, reside. Martha is busy and has many tasks at hand to accomplish and grows annoyed that her sister, Mary, isn’t helping her out but instead is just sitting with Jesus. Annoyed by her sister... (I guess some things were true back in the Bible as they are today) she inquires with Jesus why he isn’t annoyed that Mary isn’t helping out.
While participating in a ceremony this week, someone used the South African term “ubuntu.” It’s a popular term. It’s the name of a cola as well as software. People like to use it because of its meaning. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is from South Africa, said that the heart of ubuntu’s meaning is this: “a person is a person through other persons.” We are who we are and will be who we will be because of the people in our lives.
This year I sent our tax information to our accountant early--partly because I was optimistic about a refund! And then I waited… and waited… and waited…. As April 15 came closer, I became perturbed that it was taking him so long, but there was nothing I could do about it except pester him. Unfortunately, he was impervious to pestering, so I continued to wait. I began to wonder, do I need to get a different accountant? What if our returns are filed late? I need him to deliver!