Showing posts from February, 2018

Lenten Preparation

The liturgical calendar likes periods of preparation. In Advent we mark off four weeks to prepare ourselves for celebrating the importance of Christmas and the coming of Jesus. Ash Wednesday kicks off a period of six weeks of preparation for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter.
We don't do preparation all that well, but there is wisdom in that history of preparing ourselves. We want to run directly to Christmas and Easter, skipping over our need to pause and reflect on our own lives and our dependence upon God's provision we celebrate on those high holy days.
We set aside forty days of preparation in memory of Jesus taking 40 days to fast in preparation to being his three years of ministry. There is nothing specifically special about 40 days. It was just a round number used in Biblical times to express something like a month. For Jesus, it was a time to focus. It was a time to determine priorities for his ministry. It was a time to focus on being present with God and allowing God…

Why Do We Rank #1 in Gun Violence?

Why does the US far outpace every other developed nation in rates of gun violence? What makes us so special that our per capita gun violence rate is 3x higher than the next developed nation? Why do we have more mass shootings than Yemen in a time of war?
-Is it a mental health problem? It would seem that women and men of color are not affected like white males. Maybe it's something in our water supply that Canada and Spain don't have.
-Is it a societal ill based on bad parenting and discipline? We are the only developed nation with the symptoms of gun violence, mass shootings, and school shootings. Are we that much worse at child discipline and parenting skills than the Europeans and Aussies?
-Is it a result of Hollywood and video games? The rest of the developed world watches the same shows and plays the same video games. They don't act out the same way. The Japanese traditionally watch much more television than we do.
-Is it a result of the US abandoning God and "taking…

Choosing Life - John 8:2-12

We like to talk about life. We celebrate pregnancy, the birth of babies, kittens, puppies, and recovery from accidents, illness, and surgery. We celebrate the rebirth of leaves on the trees, the sprouting of flowers, and the fresh green after the drab of winter. We hold parties and bake cakes to celebrate birthdays, marking off the progression of years in celebration of life. There are, however, aspects of life we fail to celebrate. Where life does not progress as we would prefer, we tend to focus elsewhere. Jesus came preaching a gospel of life. He spoke of an abundant life. He spoke of a life for the ages, stretching into eternity. He spoke of life with the Father. He brought attention to life with the resurrection of Lazarus and bringing others back to life from death or certain death due to illness. Jesus addressed life in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and restoring the broken. He also intervened in using legal recourses to end life. It was a test. They were seeking an excus…

Ash Wednesday Prayer: Our Sin of Violence

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.
We have allowed anger to rule our hearts.
We have prized violence as the solution to our conflicts.
We have given priority to the right to bear weapons of death over the lives destroyed in their use.
We have failed to be the peacemakers you charged us to become.
We have loved ourselves to the exclusion of the lives of others.
We have brought about and allowed death as excusable and an acceptable cost for the freedom to wield tools of violence and war.
We have ignored the plight of children caught in the midst of domestic conflict.
We have turned aside the cries of victims of domestic violence.
We have spurned those who call for an end to a culture of violence.
We have allowed the number of victims of our apathy to continue to grow unabated.
We have not stopped to say loudly: too much!
Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.
Transform us into agents of your change.
Fill our lives with your grace.
Grant us the courage to work for peace.
Give us the confidence to …

Spiders, Snakes, and Our Ranking of Sin

I've met lots of people who don't like spiders and snakes. Many of them proclaim they are deathly afraid of these creatures of God. If we talk about it, some will tell me they know deep down that snakes and spiders are not the dangerous beings of their inner fantasy life. Regardless, they are not willing to confront those fear or put their science to the test.
I served a church in which the former pastor had one of those irrational fears of snakes. He was not the only one, however, as there were plenty of his parishioners who shared his fears. He never would have survived 30 years in the parsonage if he had been as afraid of spiders as he was of snakes.
None of them ever attacked him. The wolf spiders so prevalent all over, under, around, and in the parsonage were never a danger. The black snakes constantly patrolling the woodshed and hay fields never harmed him or anyone else. The fear remained, however irrational it might be considered.
In many ways that is how we approach o…

Buying Real Treasure - Mathew 19:16-30

Treasure is a word centered on our values. As the saying goes, “One man's trash is another man's treasure,” because we place different values on items and issues. We see different possibilities in the opportunities and resources around us, and we impute different values on them in accordance with our desires and the use we have for the resources at hand. When it comes to the gospel of Jesus, however, there are a whole new set of priorities with which we are called to assess life and those things we might consider worth treasuring. Nationally, we are in conflict with Jesus' gospel. We have several conflicts, but one perhaps stands out above the rest. Our economy, the “American Dream,” and the priorities of our business interests center around profit-making as the highest of our public values. Jesus, on the other hand, simply refuses to allow economic profit and amassing wealth be centerpieces for those who would be faithful to his life and teaching. While we crave wealth for…