A few months ago a friend of mine sent me a message, “OK… it’s Saturday night and I have planned your future!” Sometimes God’s call comes in the midst of silent prayer. Sometimes God’s call comes during vibrant worship. And sometimes, apparently, God’s call comes through Facebook Messenger. Or at least it starts there. Continue reading
Once a week I set up my office in one of our local coffee shops. I’m not a huge coffee
drinker, but occasionally I’ll have a coffee drink of some sort. Some days, like today, I just get some lemonade or water. I rarely make it through my visit without a cookie or something from the pastry counter. But that’s all beside the point.
The way a story ends can make or break the impression we carry of it. Think of some of the all-time great TV shows and how they ended. Do you have any favorites?
M. A. S. H.? Cheers?
I very clearly remember the end of Family Ties as a good ending to one of my generation’s favorite childhood TV shows.
One of the things we tend to like about a good series finale is when it leaves us feeling like there aren’t too many loose ends. There can be some wondering about what comes next, but all in all we like to know that even if our favorite characters don’t come out alright in the end, their lives and the story had a purpose.
The Song of Zechariah found in Luke 1:68-79, are some of the first words the priest uttered upon the birth of his son, John, the cousin of Jesus, the one we know as John the Baptist. Zechariah had been made mute by the angel Gabriel at the start of his wife’s pregnancy because of his fear and disbelief, but when the child was born and Zechariah and Elizabeth named him John as Gabriel had instructed them, his tongue was freed and filled with Holy Spirit John’s father, Zechariah, spoke this prophecy. Listen now for the words he proclaimed.
Zechariah had been silent for the entire duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Silent. He spoke not one word. He didn’t ask how she was feeling. He didn’t wonder aloud with her when the child would come. He also didn’t stick his foot in his mouth asking inappropriately about just how big her stomach would get, so maybe there were some advantages. But Zechariah had been silent the entire pregnancy, unable to speak at home or in the temple. Continue reading
As I sometimes do when I’m preparing for Sunday, early last week I went back to read a sermon I wrote on this same text several years ago. I always do so with fear and trepidation because I never know what I will find – a memory of a difficult time or a special celebration in the life of the church, a sermon I don’t think I can top this time, or a trainwreck I’m embarrassed I ever delivered.
By the time I read my 6 year old sermon on Tuesday afternoon last week two men in their twenties had been arrested for shooting five people involved in the protests around the recent police killing of an African American man in north Minneapolis. Two more were later arrested, all four were suspected white supremacists. It was just hours before the dashboard cam video of the horrific killing of teenager Laquan McDonald in Chicago was released worldwide. Add these recent events to the recent terrifying tide of violence and centuries old systemic racism against African Americans in this country and in this week of giving thanks instead I was asking, along with throngs of others online and around the country, “How long, O Lord?” Continue reading
In 2014 marriage equality came both in the denomination I serve, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the state in which I live, Wisconsin. While my congregation had slowly but surely been talking about marriage and sexuality in one way or another for the previous 12-18 months, this convergence of opinions made the conversation even more important to our context. Now that same sex marriage was legal in Wisconsin, would our congregation be willing to host such weddings on our property? Continue reading
There wasn’t a whole lot on the schedule for today which was good because my absence on this blog reflects how much has been on my calendar in recent weeks. I’m not worshiping at the altar of busy. Just stating a fact.
But anyway, there wasn’t a whole lot on the schedule for today except for two visits – one with a retiring pastor in my presbytery who had invited me to come take what I wanted off of his bookshelves, and another with one of the oldest members of the congregation I serve who had some music to share. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, and in a sense both of these visits were about the same thing – telling and hearing stories.
As worship began at First Presbyterian Church of Hudson, WI two ruling elders who serve on the session, Sheldon and Attie Kay, reported to the congregation a decision that had been made a special meeting of the session the previous morning, April 11, 2015. The action taken at that meeting approved the following statement.
“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. At First Presbyterian Church of Hudson, WI requests for Session consideration of marriage will not be denied based upon sexual orientation.
 Language from PC(USA) General Assembly Amendment 14-F (approved by a majority of PC(USA) presbyteries for inclusion in the Book of Order as of March 17, 2015)
I want to begin this morning by thanking Sheldon and Attie Kay for their careful sharing of the news that came out of the special session meeting yesterday. I imagine that decision, whether it is one you personally celebrate or question or maybe even mourn, has not moved far from the front of your mind as we have worshiped together this morning. It hasn’t moved from mine nor, I imagine, the minds of the session members here this morning even though we have been sitting with the decision almost twenty-four hours longer than the rest of the congregation.
And I don’t think it necessarily should because it is a decision that carries great weight for many in our church and community. It is a decision that came after months of intense session discussion and really two years of congregational study in a variety of different formats and venues. It has been an emotional discussion for many, and yesterday it was an emotional decision, in some way or another, for every person
sitting around that meeting table.
As the meeting drew to a close, following almost three hours of discussion and prayer, sharing and wondering aloud, discernment, but very little, in fact absolutely none of what I would categorize as antagonistic debate, I knew my original thoughts on Jesus’ Great Commission would have to be set aside. I knew what the Spirit was calling me to talk about instead was the decision we had just made. The question that remained, however, was “*What* was the Spirit calling me to say?” I guess in that sense the sermon title I had picked for entirely different reasons five or six days ago still fit. Now what? Continue reading
His reputation certainly preceded him. Adoring crowds accompanied Jesus and gathered ahead of him, while the anxious city awaited his arrival. His supporters had been building around him for some time. His ministry started of more like a small group than a megachurch, but after the word started to spread about the healings he provided, the miracles he performed, the blessings he procured, he wasn’t traveling alone much anymore. Coming down from the mountain of the transfiguration, a crowd was waiting for Jesus, out of which he cured a boy with demon. Traveling to Judea beyond the Jordan where he was tested by the Pharisees on the intricacies of religious law, crowds gathered to hear and see Jesus, even to be healed by him. Leaving Jericho and turning toward Jerusalem, having just predicted his punishment, death, and rising to new life, a crowd is determined to follow Jesus, even into the unknown.
It’s no wonder the city was stirred up in turmoil when this crowd of Jesus’ supporters was heading straight for Jerusalem. They came marching toward the gates, waving branches, offering even the cloaks off their backs to honor this him, talked of prophecies being fulfilled and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” The city was expecting devout pilgrims for the Passover observance. But now they had either a parade or a protest. It may have been hard to tell the difference. The teachings of this Jesus were not the normal teachings. He di something with them. He didn’t counter them, but someone reapplied them. He took the law of Moses, kept the core, and expanded on it for a new day. It was challenging to some, to say the least.