I’m throwing you a curve this morning. We have two choices for our first reading: the reading from Genesis in your service booklet and the reading from Jeremiah I’m going to preach on in the insert. Truthfully, I knew what I wanted to say about Jeremiah (and had no idea what I wanted to say about any of the other readings). So I switched us to the alternate reading.

A prophet’s life is not an easy life.
I could pull up any number of examples. But let’s just take Jeremiah from this morning’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures.
Jeremiah says that God has enticed him. In the Hebrew context, he’s basically saying that God has seduced him. He was first seduced, and then overpowered. The imagery here, in the Hebrew, is really suggestive of rape! In our own world, something like date rape comes to mind. (more…)

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This was my first “official” sermon at Auburn:

Some years ago, a young professional woman living in New York City told her priest, in the wake of yet another breakup, with yet another man, that she was “so … very very … tired of always having to try to change who she was to try to please some … very very trying … man. Why,” she asked, “couldn’t someone simply love her for herself?”
To hear some Christians, you’d think that God is a rich, powerful old man who lives in a mansion outside of town. He invites us to be honorary members of his family. Which means, in practical terms, that once a week, we all have to put on our very best clothes and our very best manners for a formal tea at his mansion. And we’d better watch out. Because if we offend him in any way, he keeps a fully staffed torture chamber in his basement. And once once someone goes into the basement, they are never seen again.
Neither the endless stream of boyfriends (or, if we reverse roles, girlfriends) nor dear Uncle God with his torture chamber really love us – do they? Because they do not accept us for who we are.
Our God, the God Jesus calls Abba, actually loves us. (more…)

Reading the Hebrew Scripture assigned for yesterday I was struck by the words “… on that day [that is, on the day of judgement] … the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruits of their doing.”  And I found myself thinking about gardens.  The garden of Eden, the paradise of the creation story.  The song, Woodstock, where “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”  The garden worked by members of this congregation to feed those in need in this community. (more…)

When I woke up yesterday, I was thinking about your FaceBook posting asking prayers for folks in the Oklahoma City area.  Then I found myself thinking about the recent death of my father-in-law.  Basically, I was thinking about the question “why is there suffering or evil in the world?”

I mean, this wouldn’t be a question at all.  Except we believe that God made the world we live in.  We believe that God is good.  We believe that God loves and cares for us.

If all this is true, then why do bad things happen?  Why do people suffer?  Why do people die?

Mind you, at least in my mind, a good deal of this can be put down to a combination of human free will and human perversity.  But even that is part of God’s creation.  Why would our God make that part of creation?  And certainly the facts of disease and natural disaster and death are part of God’s creation too – even if we sometimes contribute to all of the above.  Why did God make the world that way?

I don’t really have answers.

But I do have thoughts.  There are some things I think are true. (more…)

I normally begin my preparation for my sermons in a lectionary study group with Lutheran pastors.  Generally speaking, we use the same readings on Sunday (sometimes with some slight variation in verses or one reading which is different).  But today they are celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, and we are not.  And our readings are completely different.  So after we looked at their readings, I made them look at our gospel reading:  “On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to [the disciples], ‘Let us go across to the other side.’”

I’m not really sure why, but my mind stopped as soon as I heard those words, “Let us go across to the other side.”  I can’t speak for you.  But it seems to me that my temptation is always to stop where I am, in my comfort zone, and not cross over into the unknown.  And I think that Jesus is always calling me into the unknown. (more…)

I don’t have too many more opportunities to share my thoughts with the folks at St. George’s.  Here’s what I thought was important to share today:

Imagine the hottest person you can, man or woman, whatever floats your boat.  For me it would be a woman.  Imagine that she’s the most alluring thing you’ve ever seen.  She’s everything you’ve ever wanted, and more.  She’s smarter than you are.  She’s better read.  She’s more athletic.  She’s kinder.  She see’s right through you.  She looks at you, and she just knows everything there is to know about you.  Are you going to approach her?

I’m betting you don’t.  She’s simply overwhelming.  She puts you to shame. You know, on a basic level, that she’s simply out of your league.  There is simply no way in hell you’ll ever measure up to her.  We are simply ashamed to approach her. (more…)

[This is something I have used for Palm Sunday/Good Friday off and on for years.  With retirement looming June 1, I’m not sure I’ll have the opportunity to use this again.  So I’m sharing it here.  Permission is given to use this, but only if I’m given credit as the author.]

After dinner, you and your friends go for a walk, and stop in the park.  You ask them to wait for you, while you go away by yourself and think about what’s coming down.

It’s not a pretty picture.  It fills you with dread.  Your soul is so filled with sorrow that it almost leads you into despair.  If only there were some other way …  “Father, take this cup from me …  But no, this is why I’m here:  to do your will.”

In your distress, you return to your friends, seeking some comfort from them, from their presence — there is so little time.  And they’re sleeping for God’s sake.  Couldn’t they be there for you this once? (more…)