Preach it!

On vacation in Philly, I asked our Lyft driver if she liked the work, and she asked what kind of work Chris and I do. After a while, she took a big breath, said she understood I was “off duty” – are we ever? – but wondered if she could ask me for some advice. Sure, I said, wondering what was coming next.
She told me she’d been a Christian for 25 years, and she still believes in Jesus, but lately she’s been having a lot of trouble with Christianity because of the way it’s being used to justify things that don’t seem Christian to her, and she named some examples. I won’t repeat the entire conversation, but we did think a little about what Jesus would say if he were standing at the border today.
She said she prayed every morning for God to fix this sorry world, and then she prayed for God to tell her what she could do about it. I told her I thought she was asking the right questions, and the only “advice” I had was to keep praying and stay true to her faith in Jesus.
Later, I thought about how much courage it would take to start a conversation like that with a stranger, especially when that stranger just admitted to being a Christian preacher.
And later still, I wondered which one of us was actually doing the preaching.
She does like the work, by the way. Because, she said, I have conversations like this.
Me, too.

A sermon for the third Sunday after Pentecost

If any of you have ever had that feeling that your family, your own family, doesn’t really understand you, you’re going to sympathize with Jesus in today’s Gospel. His family thinks he’s gone crazy. He’s been out preaching and curing people and driving out demons, and everywhere he goes, he’s attracting these huge crowds of people, and his family is worried about him. They basically plan an intervention, and when they hear that he’s come home again, they go looking for him. Their plan is to restrain him, to take him away and make him stop what he’s been doing.

But when they get to the house, the crowds are so thick, the family can’t get to Jesus, so they send in a message: “We’re here!” They want him to come out so they can take him away. And he’s not exactly glad to hear that they’re there. In fact, his response is quite insulting. He asks the question, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” and then he points to the ragtag bunch that he’s got sitting around him and says, “These are my mother and my brothers. This is my family.” He turns his back on his own biological family.

Oh, family.

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Do you see what I see?

Carrying the camera day after day through familiar territory is just a way to practice looking. Sometimes you find yourself taking the same picture over and over again, like the rise, just to see if you can get it better. And sometimes you come across something you’ve never seen before, and you know you better be ready, because there won’t be a second chance.

A sermon for the second Sunday after Pentecost

So here we are in this morning’s gospel at the very beginning of third chapter of Mark, so it’s still early in the story, and already Jesus is a marked man. The Pharisees and the Herodians are conspiring to destroy him.

And what has he done to make them so angry? Well, first of all, he watched his disciples pluck some grain as they walked through the fields. Presumably they were hungry, and they ate what they picked. People get hungry on the Sabbath, just like any other day. But picking the grain was considered harvesting, and that was considered work, and in the eyes of the Pharisees that was a violation of the Sabbath.

And the Pharisees were there in the synagogue watching when Jesus healed the man with the withered hand. And they thought of that work as healing, too, another Sabbath violation, so now the Pharisees and the Herodians are conspiring to destroy him.

I think maybe for us, it’s just weirdto think that either of these things would be enough to make anyone want to conspire to destroy Jesus. We’re not part of that culture, we don’t get it. Sometimes religious passion can take people in unholy directions, even when they’re basically good people and they mean well.

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Life in the city

The rose has been cultivated beside a city sidewalk, a block or two away from the men sleeping on a grate in yesterday’s photo. Some forms of life deserve that kind of care, it would seem, while others are problem whose solution eludes us.


A sermon for Trinity Sunday

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.                                                                      ~ Romans 8:14-17

So the Royals continued to be in the news this past week, and Presiding Bishop Michal Curry made the rounds of the talk shows, and for all their gushing over what he said at the wedding, you’d think none of them had ever heard a good sermon before. Which if that’s the case, I’m glad we gave them Michael Curry to make up for it.

One little item in the continuing wedding reporting was the heartwarming rags-to-riches story of Guy the beagle—and I know some of you saw this one. Guy is the little dog who was found wandering in the woods in Kentucky and taken to a shelter where they were going to put him down, but he was rescued and eventually adopted by an actress named Meghan Markle, and last seen riding in a car near Windsor Castle with the Queen of England, who is known for her love of Pembroke Welsh corgis but apparently has some room in her heart for American beagles, as well.

It’s a wonderful story: a little lost dog goes from being homeless to being an adopted member of the royal family, which presumably guarantees a life of privilege and comfort even for a dog.

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